Jan 242010

An article about a new bar in the financial district (read: Wall Street) caught my wife’s eye today. Vintry Wine & Whiskey has a very extensive list of both beverages, ranging from the moderate to the multi-thousand-dollar. Spend those bonuses well, my friends.

Anyway….. they mentioned the signature drink of the bar: the Strawberry Fields, a tribute to John Lennon. Wielding my awesome power as a writer for National Martini Day, I called them and they readily relinquished their recipe.

3 oz. Yamazaki single malt
3 strawberries
3 basil leaves
1/2 oz. lemon juice
a smidge of simple syrup

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Muddle baby, muddle. Strain into drinks glasses with ice (this will take many inversions, as the strawberry sludge clogs the holes).

A couple factors did not make it into our phone conversation. So I made
my own call, serving it in a drinks glass, on the rocks.

Tasty. Complex. The basil it what really defines it in the end. So, that said, go with a cheap blended scotch instead (Yoko doesn’t really deserve the nod). Consider a splash of soda on top, which Miranda quite liked.

 Posted by at 8:50 pm
Jan 222010

With winter clementines available, my wife took notice of this recipe in Bon Appetit.

Good, but we thought it was still a little too bitter. Those of you who are big fans of Campari may wish to stick with the original recipe, but we found that adding some Grand Marnier adds just enough sweet and makes for a truly delicious cocktail. A sugar rim can do the same trick.

I made a pitcher of them for friends and found that using a juicer instead of muddling the clementines did the drink no harm whatsoever.

Final recipe (makes 2):


    * 3 clementines, peeled
    * 3 dashes of orange bitters (Regan’s)
    * 1/4 cup Hendrick’s Gin
    * 1/4 cup Campari
    * 1/8 cup Grand Marnier
    * 3 tablespoons sweet vermouth
    * Ice cubes
    * 2 clementine slices (for garnish)

special equipment

    * Cocktail shaker


       Place 3 whole peeled clementines and orange bitters in cocktail shaker and muddle until clementines are broken down. Add gin, Campari, Grand Marnier and vermouth. Fill shaker 3/4 full with ice. Shake vigorously 30 seconds. Strain into 2 Martini glasses, dividing equally. Garnish each with clementine slice.

Dec 142009

Mmmm. Love the Manhattan Cocktail.

Chance came on Thanksgiving Day, 2009, to try a couple variations on the basic bourbon manhattan. I had two companions in the tasting – my brother in law Rob, and his friend Dean. Forgive me if I cannot recapture in words all the subtle nuances of all the flavors, but we did sample six different recipes.

The classic recipe:
2 oz bourbon or blended whiskey (that night, all Maker’s Mark)
1 oz sweet vermouth (Martini & Rossi)
2 dashes Angostura bitters
1 maraschino cherry for garnish

Round 1

A set of simple variations:

  1. The classic manhattan
  2. The perfect manhattan (substitute 1/2 oz of the sweet vermouth with 1/2 oz dry vermouth (Noilly Prat here)
  3. The classic but with 1 dash Angostura bitter and 1 dash of Peychaud’s bitters

Between these three, it was a very close race. I had a slight preference for the classic  recipe’s balance with this bourbon, with the perfect manhattan coming a very close second. The Peychaud’s added a bit of an unfamiliar twist – one most welcome in a Sazerac, but not quite right with the manhattan.

We each tasted each of the three options, then each chose one to drink.

Round 2

Three slightly more creative recipes:

  1. The classic, but replace all the bitters with Blood Orange Bitters from Stirrings.
  2. A recipe described in Gary Regan’s The Joy of Mixology – “Kentucky’s Best”. See below.
  3. One that I dreamed up, splitting the vermouth to 1/2 oz sweet vermouth and 1/2 oz Campari

These three all drifted much farther afield from what my mouth was prepared for. Not quite bad drinks, but not “to style”.

The one that, to me, bordered on unpleasant, was the 3rd. 1/2 oz of Campari was too much in there. I loves me the Negroni (equal parts gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari – we’ll talk about this drink in another post), but it destroyed the balance here. I’ll try again using a dash or two of Campari to replace the bitters at some other date.

The second was also a little unusual. In fairness, I did use a “vintage” port instead of a ruby, and Maker’s Mark instead of Knob Creek. Both Maker’s and Knob are on the sweeter side for bourbons, so kinda comparable. There was just too much going on in this drink.

Finally, the orange bitters didn’t quite taste right in this. I’ll mix it up again some time, but Round 1 recipes all were preferable to the Round 2 drinks.

The variables that we left for future testings:

  • Bourbons – Knob Creek, Maker’s Mark, Heaven Hill, Woodford Reserve, Wild Turkey, and so many others…
  • Blended Whiskies/Whiskeys – Canadian or not, with varying amounts of rye
  • Sweet Vermouth balances – reducing by 1/4 or 1/2 an ounce when mixing with sweeter Bourbons or increasing

So, as you may have guessed by the “Part 1” in the header, this will be an recurring project, with time to “clear the palate” (i.e. recover from the hangover) in between.

Finally, that recipe for “Kentucky’s Best” Manhattan recipe – it’s available through Google books, but here it is directly:

2 ounces Knob Creek bourbon
1/4 oz maraschino cherry juice
3 dashes ruby port
3 dashes Martini & Rossi sweet vermouth
2 dashes creme de cassis
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 maraschino cherry, for garnish
Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Add the garnish.



Oct 072009

National Martini Day
7 November, this year and every year

How to celebrate: Find a friend, sit down and have a drink. Doesn’t have to be a martini. Doesn’t even have to have alcohol in it.

My father, James Allen Riddell (7 November, 1932 – 6 August, 2004), used to love to share martinis with his closest friends. It was a minor event with the ritual of making and serving a drink.

If you want a martini the way he (and I) would make them:

5 or 6 parts Gordon’s London Dry Gin (he claimed to have sampled all of them)
1 part dry vermouth (Noilly-Prat is a favorite)
1 pimento stuffed olive

Mix liquid ingredients in pitcher with ice (preferably rinsed to get rid of freezer-burn flavor).
Stir (don’t shake) for 40 to 60 seconds.
Strain into martini glass (Orrefors, if you have one).
Garnish with olive on a toothpick.