Thursday, June 23, 2011

Summer and Smoke: Smoky Martini

There are several versions of this out there—some have vermouth, some don’t. This here’s my usual Martini but with a little scotch and a lemon twist. Mark Kingwell in Classic Cocktails calls it a Dashiell Hammett. I haven’t run across that name for it before, but as a fan, I could easily see Nick Charles or even the Continental Op enjoying several of these.

Smoky Martini
  • 2 oz dry gin (Bluecoat)
  • 1/2 oz dry vermouth (Dolin)
  • 1 tsp smoky scotch (Peat Monster)
Stir with ice and strain into cocktail glass. Lemon twist.

Like the last one, this has just a touch of smoke to accent the other flavors. For one in which the scotch is intense, see the Dorini.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Summer and Smoke: Smoky Margarita

We’re having one of our infrequent heat waves here in the San Francisco Bay Area, and I’ve been making intense drinks for the intense weather. Here’s a mezcal-scented Margarita, our recipe for chili night at the Lounge. You could go smokier here, but for this I like to use mezcal as an accent to the basic Margarita flavor.

Smoky Margarita
  • 2 oz reposado tequila
  • 3/4 oz Cointreau
  • 1/2 oz fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 oz mezcal
  • kosher salt, for rim
Rim a chilled cocktail glass with cut lime and kosher salt. Shake remaining ingredients with ice and strain into prepared glass.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

MxMo LVIII: Favorite Niche Spirit

Thanks to Filip of Adventures in Cocktails for hosting this month’s Mixology Monday. Filip’s theme is Favorite Niche Spirit, and he’s challenged us to post a drink based on something other than the standard options: gin, rye, bourbon, rum, etc. Friends reading this might expect me to do an aquavit post, but I’m suddenly inspired by a bottle of Maraska kirsch. It’s an assertive and fairly funky cherry eau-de-vie, and I thought it might stand up to and compliment the strong nut flavors of amontillado.

Solar Radio
  • 2 oz kirsch
  • 1 oz amontillado
  • 1-2 dashes Angostura bitters
Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Amarena or other sweet, dark cherry garnish.

A complex, dry cocktail. The sherry seems very forward at first, but the kirsch becomes increasingly pervasive. The dessert cherry gives some contrast at the end but still relates to the cherry and almond notes in the drink.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Arnaud’s Special Cocktail

As I think I’ve said once or twice, I love scotch cocktails. Ever since I posted the Laphroaig Rob Roy, I’ve been looking for a similar drink to do with Ardbeg, another very peaty malt. This evening, I was leafing through Dr. Cocktail wondering what to do with my Dubonnet, and the Arnaud’s Special caught my eye. I’ve given it the peat treatment.

Ardbeg Arnaud’s
  • 1 1/2 oz Ardbeg single malt
  • 1 1/2 Dubonnet
  • 3 dashes Regans’ No. 6 Orange Bitters
Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail shaker. Orange twist.

This was, at least in its original iteration, a signature drink of Arnaud’s Restaurant in New Orleans in the 1940s-50s. I’ve changed the proportions to balance the intensity of the malt. I tried it with Angostura Orange Bitters too, and a dash is ample.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


I’ve been itching to play with my Demerara rum. This one draws some inspiration from another rum cocktail with Campari, the Jungle Bird. (See Tiare and Frederic editions.) It’s all about a setting for the rum, with bitters, fruit and cacao bringing out lights and complexity. A nice strong one for the middle of the week.

  • 2 oz Demerara rum (El Dorado 5-year)
  • 1/2 oz dark Jamaica rum (Coruba)
  • 1/2 oz dark crème de cacao
  • 1/2 oz Campari
  • 3/4 oz lime juice
  • Dash Angostura Bitters
Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Lime wheel.

Monday, June 13, 2011

This is a Sidecar?

Someone who walks up to a bar and orders a Sidecar is likely to want something quite specific—a known quantity. The customer ordering that drink by name without consulting the list is probably not interested in what someone added just to be different any more than a Rum and Coke customer wants Pepsi. (Sorry if this all seems pedantic but lately I’ve been served some pretty nasty things.)

The Sidecar is a three-ingredient classic cocktail than anyone can make and every professional should know. The proportions are a matter of taste, but the ingredients are brandy, Cointreau and lemon juice. Lime is a reasonable substitution without changing the basic personality of the drink. Some people like to add things to the formula, which are sometimes very nice, but the Sidecar cannot be improved upon. And if you substitute an ingredient, it is no longer a Sidecar but something else, and also not an improvement, however tasty it might be.

Some unsuitable things that have turned up in my glass when I ordered a Sidecar:
  • Orange juice
  • Muddled orange slices
  • Bourbon
  • Simple syrup
  • Sweet and sour mix
  • Soda
  • Some unidentified substance smelling of bowl freshener
It seems to me that the easiest way to deal with the problem of making a drink you don’t know is to ask how it’s made.

  • 1 1/2 – 2 oz brandy
  • 3/4 oz Cointreau
  • 1/2 oz lemon juice
Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

The proportions above are what I happen to prefer, pouring a little on the strong side. Like so many of the best things in life, Sidecars are best rich and boozy. Gautier VSOP cognac makes a great Sidecar, as does Courvoisier VS. A good drink reveals the spirit. To those who have served me bad Sidecars, I simply say fear not the booze. Let it be your friend.

Thursday, June 9, 2011


This combination of flavors has been in my head for a while: off-dry, gin and lime, a white wine note. As much as I’m taken with Fever Tree ginger beer lately, I used Reed’s for this to compliment the subtlety of white vermouth. You could use a spicier ginger beer but reduce the amount.

  • 1 1/2 oz gin
  • 1 1/2 oz dry vermouth
  • 1/2 oz lime
  • about 4 oz ginger beer (Reed’s Extra Ginger)
Stir all but ginger beer with ice cubes and pour into a 10 oz glass. Fill with ginger beer. Lime garnish.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Fogged In Fog Cutter

We have our own version of the classic Fog Cutter here at the Lounge, based loosely on the Beachcomber recipe found in Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails by Ted Haigh. The Fog Cutter typically calls for lemon but I do this one with lime. It also calls for orgeat, but finding that I’d run out, I substituted honey.

Any rich, dark, mellow honey should be fine for this. The Capay Valley wildflower honey I’ve used in the one shown was another weekend find at the Ferry Building. It’s about the density of a popsicle. It bent the measuring spoon and I had to get a regular teaspoon from the silverware drawer to moose the stuff out of the jar. Worth it, though.

The Fogged In Fog Cutter
  • 2 oz gold Barbados rum
  • 1 oz pisco
  • 1/2 oz gin
  • 1/2 oz East India Solera sherry
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • 1/2 oz orange juice
  • 1/2 oz dark honey
Soften the honey for a few seconds in the microwave. Shake all ingredients with ice and pour unstrained into a tall glass.

This is an evening in San Francisco: smooth and opaque, it just rolls along, not fighting the weather.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

A Pair of Pimm’s Cups

Summer’s sort of here, more or less, so yesterday I headed off to the farmers market at the Ferry Building to buy herbs. (It was in a driving rain, but never mind. Keeps the crowds in check.) My haul included some lemon basil that I didn’t really have a plan for, but it’s generally true that if you come back with some weird herb you don’t know what to do with, stick it in a Pimm’s Cup. Truly, this works with just about anything. (Avoid those garlic chives.) Lavender? Throw it in there. Hyssop? Have at it. (What is hyssop, anyway?) There ought to be Pimm’s Cup bars, where you can choose your garnish, choose your mixer, and then head out onto a lawn to stumble around till you get hit with a tennis ball.

For those who haven’t had a Pimm’s or haven’t even heard of one, this is a classic English long drink with a gin-based, bottled concoction called Pimm’s No. 1 (there have been other numbers with different bases) and bitter lemon, fizzy lemonade, ginger beer or the like. The traditional garnishes include cucumber, fruit and fresh herbs. Personally, it was the cucumber that got me. As someone with a deep, compulsive desire to stick weird stuff in his glass, I knew I had to have this thing.

Pimm’s Cup is not particularly strong, which is nice, I suppose, if you want several of them on a hot day. Of the recipes I found in the house this afternoon, Gaz Regan’s has the best feeling for form. (He’s English, of course.)

Pimm’s Cup
  • 2 oz Pimm’s No. 1
  • 5-7 oz ginger ale, lemon-lime soda or club soda (Fever Tree bitter lemon)
  • 1 sliver cucumber rind, for garnish
Build in a 16-oz glass. Add the garnish.

Basically, you grab a beer glass of ice, pour in two ounces of Pimm’s No. 1 and a bottle of bitter lemon and your garnish. I did a long spear of English cucumber. Scoring the cucumber with a zester is a nice touch and gives you more of the peel aroma. I added my lemon basil and a few slices of Meyer lemon. For the photo, I used a battered old pint glass to demonstrate that you don’t need fancy glassware to make this look good.

I’m sipping this in a closed bedroom right now. A butterfly settled on the glass. It’s sort of like Tiki only imagine you’re sitting in the garden with someone who chain smokes and has a voice like Marianne Faithfull.

Not everybody likes cucumber. I am reliably informed that a small minority find it unbearable. My housemate happens to be one of them. No matter. Stick something else in there. If you feel like it, you could go really crazy and add liquor. I recommend gin, which makes the drink a Turbo.

Pimm’s Turbo
  • 1 1/2 Pimm’s No. 1
  • 1 oz gin (Tanqueray)
  • bitter lemon or ginger (Fever Tree ginger beer)
  • garnishes to taste
Build in a pint glass over ice. Add garnishes.

I used ginger beer this time—my favorite soda for any Pimm’s drink. I also went crazy with the citrus, which looks cool and makes for a very fresh drink as the flavors develop—if you can resist sucking the whole thing down in one go. For the leafy part, I had some mint, which smelled good with the ginger. (Note the bee, who liked it too.) Remember to spank your mint—not just because Pimm’s is sometimes associated with the boarding school set, but to release the aroma. Slap the sprig once gently between your hands and arrange it in the top of the glass.

Saturday, June 4, 2011


I’m on an herb kick lately. (Or do I mean a herb kick? I live with a Canadian. So confusing.) I woke up thinking about the ingredients of this cocktail, and headed straight for the farmers market.

  • 2 oz bourbon (Knob Creek)
  • 3/4 oz Aperol
  • 2 large basil leaves (use 3 if small)
  • 3 drops absinthe
In a shaker, muddle basil well with bourbon. Add Aperol, absinthe and ice. Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. I garnished this one with a spring of basil flowers, though you could use a leaf too.

Friday, June 3, 2011

White Sage

I have to admit that I don’t really get the White Lady Cocktail, at least as it appears in most recipes. For my money, I’d rather have the complexity of a Pegu Club or a Sidecar instead. But on a visit to Clyde Common several months ago, they had a nice cardamom-scented version that got me to thinking about herbal additions to this classic.

White Sage
  • 2 oz dry gin (Junípero)
  • 1/2 oz curacao (Seniors)
  • 1 tsp Poire Williams
  • 1/2 oz lemon juice
  • 3-4 fresh sage leaves
Muddle sage leaves in lemon juice. Add remaining ingredients and shake with plenty of ice. Use an assertive gin for this, and avoid over-dilution or you lose the edge. Strain through mesh into a chilled cocktail glass.

Juniper from the gin accents the sage, which dries down the pear and orange. I tried leaving little broken bits of muddled sage in this, which looked good but were a little leathery in such a light-bodied cocktail. I strained them out. I also considered a sage leaf for garnish, but didn’t like the way it sat in the glass. Maybe I’ll try an egg white version.

Since I called this cocktail White Sage, I guess I should note that the recipe refers to culinary sage—the soft, velvety, green kind you buy with the other culinary herbs—and not the white sage that gets burned like incense. Different plant. Don’t use a smudge stick to make this drink. It just wouldn’t be the same.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Golden Hind

This is a riff on the Ur-Tiki, the Singapore Sling, but with chocolate in place of cherry and ginger beer instead of plain soda. I’m a big fan of long drinks with lime and ginger beer—especially with Fever Tree ginger beer. Never thought I’d be able to say this of a product: it has that bright, sharp, clean ginger flavor for perfect highballs every time.

The Golden Hind

  • 2 oz gin (Tanqueray)
  • 3/4 oz oz crème de cacao (Joseph Cartron brun)
  • 1/2 oz cognac (Courvoisier VS)
  • 1/2 oz Bénédictine
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • 1 1/2 oz ginger beer (Fever Tree)
Shake all but ginger beer with ice cubes and strain into a tall glass. Top with ginger beer and add fresh ice. Garnish with cherry sprinkled with a bit of coarse sea salt. (Named for the Golden Hind.)
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