Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Modern Irish Cocktail?—Molly Bloom

This one’s for a friend who was having trouble with Irish whiskey in the classic Manhattan formula. While distinctly more floral and fruit-forward from the inclusion of Cocchi Rosa, the bitter-sweet balance seems the closest to a Manhattan or Rob Roy of my recent Irish adventures. Maybe my favorite so far, too.


Molly Bloom
  • 2 oz Irish whiskey
  • 1/2 oz Cocchi Americano Rosa
  • 2 dashes orange bitters
Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Lemon twist.

There’s something Modernist era about this one, and the pronounced rosé character of the aperitif made me think of James Joyce’s Molly.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Another Irish Whiskey Cocktail (or Two)

The second of my recent attempts at an aromatic Irish whiskey cocktail. So far, I’ve done two subtle variations, one with sweet vermouth and the other with Cocchi Americano Rosa, and both are more successful than my last try with an aromatic cocktail. (See previous post.) Curaçao turns out to be a great addition, rich yet bright.


John McCormack
  • 2 oz Irish whiskey
  • 1/2 oz Cocchi Americano Rosa (or sweet vermouth)
  • 1/4 oz curaçao
Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Lemon twist.

This is where I wanted to end up: fresh, light and lively, red citrus and herbs complimenting the whiskey. The vermouth version is good but I’m liking the Cocchi a lot at the moment.

Monday, December 9, 2013

A Pair of Irish Whiskey Cocktails

I came home with a bottle of Tyrconnell Single Malt a few days ago, and this post ought to have been written sooner but the whiskey was so charming that it took me a while to settle down to work. Maybe that’s the nature of Irish whiskey, and why experimentation seems limited. And then I bought a nice bottle of barley beer thinking it would compliment, Almanac’s Honey Saison, and that was pretty and quaffable too, and was soon sucked down without a thought to cocktails.

Raising the Stakes
  • 1 1/2 oz single malt Irish whiskey (Tyrconnell)
  • 1 1/2 oz amontillado sherry
  • 2 dashes peach bitters
Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Amontillado is a great compliment to this whiskey, emphasizing vanilla and caramel. The peach bitters open up fruit aromas without adding sweetness on the palate. I tried playing with spicier flavors but they only got in the way.

Double Barrel Barley
  • 1 oz single malt Irish whiskey (Tyrconnell)
  • 1 oz amontillado sherry
  • 3 oz Almanac Honey Saison
Stir whiskey and sherry with ice and strain into a wine glass. Add beer.

Eventually, I managed to hold onto a bottle of beer long enough to make a cocktail with it. Almanac is a local brewery based in San Jose. The barley and honey compliment the gracefulness and flavor profile of the spirit. Rich but light.

Friday, November 29, 2013

When Black Friday Comes

If you’re reading this in the United States, you probably know it’s a big shopping day here. Whether you like that sort of thing or don’t, a tropical drink might help.

tropical drink

When Black Friday Comes
  • 2 oz amber Martinique rum (Saint James)
  • 2 tsp allspice dram
  • 1/4 oz absinthe
  • 2 oz lime juice
  • 2 oz ginger beer
Shake all except ginger beer with ice and strain into a 10-ounce glass. Top with ginger beer and fresh ice. Mint sprig.

For the rum, I went with Saint James Royal Ambre. It’s mellower than some other Martinique rums but the funk is definitely there, and it plays subtly with the absinthe and allspice. This drink should be good with Caribbean or Chinese food.

I use a lot of Fever Tree Ginger Beer—my favorite. It has the light body and clean flavor I prefer. The little market where I do most of my daily shopping stocks Bruce Cost’s Ginger Ale, tasty if a bit rich for highballs. It’ll work in the above recipe.

Maybe someday I’ll get it together enough to make Erik’s luscious-looking fermented ginger beer.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Let’s Eat Home

There’s something soothing about the tastes and aromas of fall and winter. I’m really getting into cooking with potatoes and roots, mushrooms, shallots and cipollini, apples, rosemary—often just cutting it all up to sauté or simmer a while, then throwing a little baked fish or smoked tofu on top. I want a cocktail that’s going to wake up my palate and harmonize with all the umami goodness in the pan. Dry sherry does this very well, as does calvados, the traditional apple brandy of Normandy. They’ve both been favorite subjects with me lately so it was only a matter of time before they got together in a cocktail.


Let’s Eat Home
  • 2 oz amontillado
  • 3/4 oz calvados
  • 1 dash Bitter Cube Jamaican Bitters #2
Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

A classic three-part structure but “inverted” in that the base is wine and the accent is spirit. Nice and light, good for before a meal of related flavors. The apple brandy is a natural compliment to the nutty acetaldehyde of the sherry. Hints of ginger, allspice and black pepper from the bitters round out the cider-like profile of this dry aperitif cocktail.

Monday, November 18, 2013

MxMo LXXIX: Resin—Mister Moose

Hey folks. It’s time for another magical Mixology Monday. I’d like to thank our hosts Christa and Shaun of BoozeNerds for their inspiring and intensely aromatic theme, Resin. They write:
We thought hard about a theme that would work well for this time of year, and after contemplating the food, booze, and decor we like for the holidays, we settled on “Resin.” From savory rosemary in a stuffing, to a delicious juniper-y gin in a martini, to a fragrant fir ornament or garnish, our friends the evergreens have a lot to offer. The challenge: come up with an ingenious creation using the resin-y ingredient of your choice. Zirbenz, retsina, hoppy IPA, pine-nut puree, even? Sure! Spirit, garnish, aroma, all are fair game. Whatever resin means to you, we want to hear it.
It’s definitely late autumn in San Francisco. It doesn’t freeze here, but the days are noticeably shorter and there’s a scent of of wood smoke in the chilly evenings. What better way to prepare for the coming Thanksgiving holiday than an evergreen-scented drink?


Mister Moose
  • 2 oz gin
  • 1 oz Zirbenz Stone Pine Liqueur
  • 1 oz sweet vermouth
  • 1 oz lemon juice
  • 1 oz ginger beer
  • 1 generous dash Bar Keep Baked Apple Bitters
Lightly shake all except ginger beer with ice. (Don’t over-dilute.) Strain into a double old fashioned. Top with ginger beer and add fresh ice. Rosemary sprig garnish.

The Zirbenz is a surprisingly easy, versatile ingredient, adding a unique balsam spice. Here it’s accentuated by the ginger, bitters, and the earthier herbs in the vermouth. The gin works as a background taste to lengthen the evergreen notes and dry the whole thing down.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Second Honeymoon

There’s a classic cocktail called the Honeymoon Cocktail, a calvados-based number with Bénédictine and Cointreau, sort of like a Sidecar. The recipe below ain’t that one. No, folks—no honeymoon here.

Let’s celebrate with a bottle of bubbly!

Seriously, though, the basic ingredients for the Honeymoon make a dandy royale with the addition of brut sparkling wine. I left out the Cointreau.


Second Honeymoon
  • 1 1/2 oz calvados
  • 1/2 oz Bénédictine
  • 1/2 oz lemon juice
  • sparkling wine to fill (about 4 oz)
Shake all except wine with ice and strain into a wine glass. Add sparkling wine, lemon twist.

Lately I’ve been on the lookout for cocktails that can pair with food, and wanted a balance of sweet, tart and savory elements without being excessively strong. For the wine, I used L’Hereu by Raventós i Blanc from Spain, a great compliment to salty foods and crisp apples. Not surprisingly, it marries very well (heh—see what I did there?) with the fruit and herbs in the spirits. And if you don’t quite finish the wine when making the cocktails, it’ll be great with cheese at the end of dinner.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


A friend came in for a nightcap after a day of eating and drinking around town. The drink I came up with has the end-of-meal elements without getting too heavy or sticky. It works on a smaller scale too. The ones we drank were half the recipe.


  • 2 oz brandy
  • 1 oz port
  • 3/4 oz nocino
  • 1 tsp Laphroaig (approximately)
  • 1/2 oz lemon juice (or less)
  • scant pinch fine sea salt
Shake with ice cubes and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

The port is a natural compliment to the walnut of the nocino, as is the salt. I like to stir my salt in before the ice to make sure it dissolves. The port gives this some acidity to help balance the sugar, so if you try this, you may want to under-pour the lemon a little.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Monday, October 21, 2013

MxMo LXXVIII: Intercontinental—Time of the Saison

Howdy folks! It‘s another fine Mixology Monday. Today our host is my San Francisco Bay Area neighbor Stewart Putney of Putney Farm. I can always count on Stewart for inspiration and an adventure in the experience of taste, and his theme for this MxMo, Intercontinental, is certainly no exception.
Everywhere we travel these days we see cocktails on the menu. And not just here in the USA, but all around the world. And that’s not only the drinks, but the ingredients as well…. So let’s celebrate the global reach of cocktails with an “Intercontinental” Mixology Monday challenge. Create a cocktail with “ingredients” from at least 3, but preferably 4, 5 or 6 continents. And if you can include Antarctica, then you get a Gold Star.
OK, I missed Antarctica. And Oceania. (There was a well-intentioned Vegemite experiment. Not so good.) But as usual, I was thinking of my own current preoccupations and wondering how they related to the theme at hand. Lately, I’m most interested in fermented beverages, brandy cocktails and food pairing, and this MxMo offering could represent all of these things. It’s based on a saison (Belgian-style farmhouse ale) made here in the U.S. with the addition of grains of paradise, an African spice reminiscent of black pepper, ginger and citrus oils. I pumped up the alcohol with calvados, a Normandy apple brandy—not too much. There’s a ginger liqueur to represent Asia, and allspice liqueur and Peruvian bitters to represent the Americas.


Time of the Saison
  • 1 oz calvados
  • 1/2 oz Domaine de Canton
  • 1/2 oz lemon
  • 4 dashes Amaro Chuncho
  • 1/4 tsp St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram
  • Ommegang Hennepin (about 4 oz)
Lightly shake with ice all except the Ommegang. (Just box it back and forth 2 – 3 times.) Strain into a stem glass. Top with beer.

Delicate fruit, spice and little bubbles, this is bright and light enough to accompany a meal of seasonal related flavors. Here in North America, it happens to be autumn but don’t let that stop you from mixing one up if you’re somewhere entirely different.

Many thanks to Stewart for hosting and for his great theme.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Apple Brandy Cocktails for Autumn

Calvados, the great aged cider brandy from Lower Normandy, is sometimes served in the middle of a meal to re-awaken the appetite, and I can see why. Complex and refined yet still bright with apple, the aroma alone makes me hungry. It calls to mind all the tasty thing apples go well with, like salty cheese, honey, legumes, cabbage, herbs, root vegetables, caramel. I definitely see some pairings in my future, but for now, here’s a couple of drinks before dinner.

Cocktail, stemmed glass, late afternoon garden, stone patio, moss

The Butterfly and the Bee
  • 1 1/2 oz calvados
  • 1/2 oz ginger liqueur (Domaine de Canton)
  • 1/2 lemon juice
  • 2 dashes lavender bitters
Shake with ice cubes and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Lemon twist.

The apple-lavender combination is intense and complex, amplified by brightness of the lemon and ginger. Orchard and field. Last breath of summer.

Cocktail, stemmed glass, sunlit garden, stone walk

On a Lark
  • 1 oz calvados
  • 1 oz dry vermouth
  • 1/2 oz Averna
  • 1 scant pinch fine sea salt
Stir salt in vermouth until dissolved, then add remaining ingredients and cracked ice. Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

More autumnal than the previous one. White wine and herbs from the vermouth bring out crispness in the apple and add savory notes. Subtle caramel from the Averna. The salt heightens everything and helps bring it together.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Dinner with Your Cocktail? Pairings at Maven

The more thoughtful and imaginative a cocktail menu, the more excited I get. So I was like a little kid opening presents at Maven, a Lower Haight restaurant with an entire list of food and drink pairings. And not only is each of the ten dishes—including desserts—paired with a cocktail, it’s paired with a wine or beer as well, so you can both mix and match. The flip side of the menu has a selection of unpaired offerings: beer, wine, a few cocktails and classic bar eats. I wanted to taste everything.

Somehow, I’ve contented myself with two visits so far. On each occasion I got a food item with its cocktail pairing, and one of the unpaired cocktails from the other side of the menu after my plate was cleared. Each time, the paired items were both special but even better together. The earthy, autumnal butter bean salad with chicory and onion gastrique was complimented by related flavors in What Ale’s You, a combination of rum, Asian pear, ginger, lemon and saison beer. The rainbow trout pairing had been just as successful the previous visit, and when I looked for it again, the dish had changed with the seasonality of the produce, and was paired with a totally new cocktail. How awesome is that?

cocktail, collins class, ice cubes, cross-sectional Asian pear slice garnish

Also amazing and a great way to spend my time at the bar was watching the dexterity and verve of bar manager Kate Bolton, a ninja cutting through an advancing army of orders. Special thanks to Kate, and to everyone at Maven for a wonderful cocktail and dining experience.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

All the Colors Are Changing: Nocino Sour

It’s starting to feel like fall in San Francisco. The afternoon air seems clearer, sharper—the sky a more tender blue. In the spirit of autumn, I reached for the nocino, an elegant walnut liqueur, and then had to admit I couldn’t think of anything to put it in. Nut liqueurs are very tasty but seem like late-night knockout drops. Luckily, I remembered Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s Amaretto Sour, the perfect squirrel potation for any time of day, and substituted the main ingredient.


Nocino Sour
  • 1 1/2 oz Nocino della Cristina (Monteverdi)
3/4 oz cask-strength bourbon (Noah’s Mill)

  • 1 oz lemon juice

  • 1 tsp simple syrup, 2:1
  • 1/2 oz egg white, beaten
Dry shake ingredients to combine, then shake well with cracked ice. Strain over fresh ice into an old fashioned. Cherry.

This is what I was looking for. The walnut and bourbon together suggest maple syrup and falling leaves. The lemon balances the sweetness, also kept understated by the bourbon. Interestingly, the Nocino Sour recipes you see around the web call for gin, and I’m game, but the bourbon is so delicious here.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Light, Bright Brandy Cocktails at Bar Agricole

More brunchtime cocktails, though if you really want to explore the kaleidoscopic variety of fine brandy drinks at this beautiful SoMa restaurant, go for dinner. (The bar opens at 5:00.) But on to the beauties I had Sunday morning.

Brandy, ginger, mint, sparkling wine. A chalice of tiny golden stars. So soft and elegant, it was like I stayed in bed.

Apple brandy, lemon, orgeat, grenadine. Not merely a Jackrose with orgeat, this is made with a glorious, slightly higher-proof calvados they brought back from France, giving this both richness and snap. Pear and caramel notes in the spirit complement the big, earthy orgeat.

Many thanks to Colin for his charm and grace behind the bar and to everyone at Bar Agricole for making my visit a memorable one.

Monday, September 23, 2013

MxMo LXXVII: Smoke!—Smoky Mountain Boogie

It’s time again for another Mixology Monday. A big Fogged In thank-you to our host Elana of Stir and Strain for a theme close to my heart, a flavor I crave intensely—smoke. There’s any number of exciting ways to work with smoke in cocktails. For this round, I thought of an ingredient I like a lot, smoke beer. Today I’ve used a favorite oak smoke doppelbock by Schlenkerla in a riff on a classic bourbon cocktail that normally calls for champagne, the Seelbach Cocktail. The original version is a house specialty of the Seelbach Hotel in Kentucky.


Smoky Mountain Boogie
  • 1 oz bourbon (Buffalo Trace)
  • 1/2 oz Cointreau
  • 7 dashes Regans’ No. 6 Orange Bitters
  • 7 dashes Bar Keep Baked Apple Bitters
  • 5 oz smoke beer (Schlenkerla doppelbock)
Stir bourbon, Cointreau and bitters briefly with ice and strain into a chilled pokal or other slender pilsner glass. Fill with smoke beer. Orange twist.

Smoke, fruit, spice and refreshing bitterness. Both bitters are perfect complements to the doppelbock.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Swingin’ Brandy Cocktails

Fruit is among nature’s purest, most virtuous wonders—especially when distilled. For those unaccustomed to drinking fruit spirits, just remember that if you can mash it, you can distill it, which makes for a rich variety of cocktail ingredients. These are all fruity in aroma but dry on the palate, and they are all identified as eau de vie or brandy, though we tend to use the former term for the unaged types and the latter for the brown stuff. To further complicate things, brandy by itself usually means aged grape brandy, like cognac, and the apple brandies and so on are forced to explain themselves every time they enter a room. And then you’re supposed to understand that none of these should be confused with the sort of liqueur with brandy in the name, like apricot brandy or blackberry or whatever, as brandy in that case merely means brandy-based. (Sometimes they tell you the brandy used for the base. Often they don’t.) Those drinks have sugar in them and are not the same sort of thing at all. Still with me? Would a drink help?


Mr. Rosewater
  • 2 oz cognac
  • 1/2 oz lemon juice
  • 1/4 oz grenadine
  • 1/8 tsp rosewater
  • 1 1/2 oz soda
Shake all except soda with ice cubes. Strain into a double old fashioned. Add soda and fresh ice cubes.

Now there’s a brandy drink with a familiar brandy. I could’ve used a California one of the same general type but it wouldn’t be cognac. Only brandy from the wine-growing region around Cognac is called cognac, so you know what you’re getting. French brandy, like all agricultural products from France, is departmental, and a handy thing that it is, too.

The other big aged grape spirit in those parts but from the southwest is armagnac. (If French sounds make you nervous, the gn is just like the one in cognac. That both brandy regions should have the same ending is kind of cute.) It’s a similar sort of spirit but from a different department and with a character of its own. Like cognac, armagnac is easy drinking, delicious and good in Sidecar cocktails. In the recipe below, I’ve combined it with a totally different type of brandy, a pear eau de vie. This spirit is known as Poire William or Poire Williams, after the Williams pear, a Bartlett. There’s a very nice liqueur by the same name but it’s not brandy. (We’ll ignore the question of whether it might be a brandy-based pear liqueur.) Also note that the Cointreau in my recipe is a brandy-based orange liqueur, but we never ever call it orange brandy. Sometimes it’s better not to ask and just keep drinking.


Armagnac-Poire Sidecar
  • 1 1/2 oz armagnac
  • 1/2 oz Poire Williams eau de vie
  • 3/4 oz Cointreau
  • 3/4 oz lemon juice
Shake with ice cubes and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Eau de vie tends to come in pricey half-bottles, but it delivers a fairly concentrated blast of fruit aroma and can be used sparingly in mixed drinks. The fruit spirits combine very nicely for symphonic effects like you get with multiple rums in Tiki. Some fruit brandies are snappy like applejack; others are lush and round like cognac. You can pair them for the best of both brandies.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

More Sherry: Jasper’s Corner Tap and Kitchen

Another fun bar visit and another awesome pair of sherry cocktails. Jasper’s Corner Tap and Kitchen is an oasis in San Francisco’s downtown hotel district where the harried can stop hurrying and get something really nice to drink. Still collecting sherry cocktails, I was excited to find these two by bar manager Kevin Diedrich, one wine-based, the other with scotch.

To The Window, To The Flor is a subtle balance of oloroso and Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao lightened with Lillet, served up. I wanted another but it was the perfect prelude to the Smoked Peach, an impossibly elegant combination of different whiskies and sherry, peach and honey on the rocks. I’m already wondering how soon I can get back for more.


Special thanks to Adrian for his grace and vitality behind the bar, and to everyone at Jasper’s for a great visit.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Ferryman

More fun with St. George Spirits’ Dry Rye Gin, one of the grooviest things out of Alameda since the China Clipper. And here’s another Cynar-fueled vegetal cocktail. I’ve said before that I can’t do cucumber drinks for my housemate, but the Cynar-celery combo is really working for him. This one has ginger too.


The Ferryman
  • 1 1/2 St George Dry Rye Gin
  • 1 oz Cynar
  • 1/4 oz Canton Ginger Liqueur
  • 1/2 oz lemon-lime juice
  • 2 dashes celery bitters
Shake with ice and strain into an old fashioned. Ice cube.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Strawberries and Absinthe: Brunch in North Beach

An interesting variety of options on a brunch cocktail menu is so important. (I’ve always been a morning person.) And for those of us asking for something besides a Mimosa or a Bloody, the choices are getting increasingly inventive. This morning in North Beach, I had two totally different strawberry-absinthe combinations, each at a very different and equally enjoyable establishment.


Hophead Vodka, Ninkasi IPA, strawberry, absinthe. Everything supports the strawberry in this pleasantly dry treatment. The refreshing tartness of the beer made me ask if the strawberry was syrup or shrub. (The former.) No straw, which is just as well or it would be gone all too soon.

cream-style fizz

St. George Absinthe, strawberry-thyme shrub, cream, egg white, seltzer. A magical sort of 19th-century pink absinthe milkshake that’s almost a brunch in itself. I asked for a little taste of the shrub neat, and finished it. The Famous pairs well with the nifty Waffle Shot. My-oh-my.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Tempus Fugit Liqueur de Violettes

This is a fine, Swiss-made violet liqueur from a company in Petaluma, California. Their media points out the lower sugar content of this product compared to crème-style violet liqueurs, and how this showcases the delicate florals. I’d probably care more if I were drinking the stuff neat except to taste a bit. That said, a sip is definitely intriguing. There’s a subtle musk note I keep chasing but never catch up with. The color is interesting too, and appears to be from the flowers, a lilac-pink. Let’s try a cocktail with the stuff.


Erik Satie Cocktail
  • 1 1/2 oz St. George Dry Rye Gin
  • 3/4 oz dry vermouth
  • 1/2 oz Tempus Fugit Liqueur de Violettes
  • 2 dashes absinthe
  • 2 dashes lavender bitters
Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Lemon twist.

The liqueur is based on a French recipe from 1868, and has something both old and Old World. I composed the above cocktail from the Violettes’ logical compliments, the other tastes of the Belle Époque, with which it goes perfectly. The mauve—“pink trying to be purple,” as Whistler would say—turns rosé in the company of dry vermouth.

Monday, August 19, 2013

MxMo LXXVI: Fire!—Voice of Temptation

Sliding this one in under the wire for our superb host, Muse of Doom. It’s another Mixology Monday, and our theme is Fire! The Muse writes:

Tiki-philes have their flaming spent lime shells and scorpion bowls. Classic cocktailers have the magic of a flamed orange zest. Molecular mixologists have their Smoking Guns. (And yes, frat boys have their flaming shots.) Even brunchtime drinkers have spicy Bloody Marys.

You don’t have to go full Blue Blazer, not nearly—heck, you could go full Fireball Whiskey! (Or Fire Rock Pale Ale, etc.) You could riff on the Old Flame or come up with an inventive name of your own. You could even use a good firewater or burned wine. (And if you’re grilling fruit, save some for me, will ya?)

In essence, bring the heat! Bring the Fire! Bring your inspiration!

Well, I like a little barbecue as much as the next cocktail enthusiast—maybe more. I had limited time for this challenge but mezcal with a flamed fruit garnish would give me a little smoke and a little fire. So I pulled out my trusty Lemon Hart 151 and a steel bowl, and cut a slice from an apple.

Flaming anything should be done with caution, especially if in a hurry, so I put a bowl of water underneath my crucible, and a potholder under the whole setup. Three pinches of brown sugar on the apple slice gave it a little caramel, and there was just enough rum to wet the apple but burn itself out after a bit.

The cocktail to go under this burnt offering is a pairing of straight apple brandy and the Lemon Hart mellowed by molasses and lemon, rich and intense—almost an apple gastrique effect.

Voice of Temptation
  • 1 oz straight apple brandy
  • 1/2 oz Lemon Hart 151 rum
  • 1/2 oz lemon juice
  • 1/4 oz molasses
  • 1/4 oz mezcal
Shake hard with ice and strain into an old fashioned. Ice cube. Flamed apple garnish. (See above.)

Sunday, August 18, 2013

SF Pub Crawling: Trad’r Sam; Trick Dog

Lots of running around like the proverbial decapitated chicken lately, tasting beverages of every description. There were two must-trys from my list that I finally squeezed in: one old, one new.

Trad’r Sam is the comfortable old favorite everyone hopes to find—so much so that I blinked a couple of times when it emerged from the deep silver fog of a Richmond morning, wondering if it could really be there. Still there. My cohort and I had a chance to chat with the affable barman Fred before a rush, and it was swell time. Try a Monkey’s Tail or a Planter’s Punch.

Tropical drink, hurrican glass, umbrella, compound curve bar

Trick Dog is the latest of the greatest, a cocktailian bar with food where everything’s exciting and fun. When I walk into one of these places, I try to order the drink with the strongest element of surprise, a strategy which could prove challenging at Trick Dog. But for this visit, I decided to see how my current fascination with wine cocktails might play out in their list, and was happy to find two sherry items, Bad Girl (no winking at the bartender, please) and I Am… I Said. And of course they were great, and totally surprising.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

MxMo LXXV: Flip Flop—Chancery Cocktail

It’s that happy time again, Mixology Monday. Our host is the incomparable Frederic of Cocktail Virgin and our MxMo moderator. Many thanks to him for stepping in to host when many other cocktail writers tend to be becalmed, whether from Tales of the Cocktail or from the heat of summer here in the Northern Hemisphere. Fred’s theme is Flip Flop, which he describes thus:

I thought of the theme for this month’s Mixology Monday shortly after making the Black Rene, an obscure drink from Pioneers of Mixing at Elite Bars: 1903-1933. The combination of brandy, amber rum, lemon, and Maraschino was tasty, but I felt that the recipe could be improved if I swapped in different ingredients. Taking a page from Max Toste of Deep Ellum who converted the Black Devil into the White Devil, I flipped around the ingredients to be pisco, white rum, lime, and Maraschino instead. With this combination that I called the White Rene, the drink really sang but it was still recognizable as being an alteration of the original recipe. Others have done similar swaps with grand effect including the Bluegrass Mai Tai that that changes the two rums to two whiskeys and swaps lime for lemon from the classic while holding everything else the same.

We enjoy substitution games here at the Lounge, and we love classic cocktails and their variations. Flip Flop reminds me a bit of Stewart Putney’s excellent Inverted theme, so I’ve worked with the same cocktail as on that round, The Chancellor. I’ve had fortified wines on the brain, and thought right away of the white port I’ve been so fond of lately as an exchange for the ruby of the original recipe. The blended scotch became a single malt, the dry vermouth turned sweet, and the orange bitters transformed to apple.


Chancery Cocktail
  • 1 1/2 oz single malt scotch (Laphroaig 10)
  • 1 1/2 oz white port (Quinta do Infantado)
  • 1/2 oz sweet vermouth
  • 3 dashes Bar Keep Baked Apple Bitters
Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Caramel and wood from the barrels had me drinking this a little too fast, like the flavor descriptor I was trying to think of was just around the bend. I guess I could have used a milder and less iodine malt, but the Laphroaig I bought this afternoon called to me. Since it was intense enough to trample the other stuff in the glass, I used an equal amount of port. (The balance seems roughly like the classic Chancellor recipe when made with my preferred base, Johnnie Walker Black Label.) The apple bitters are a perfect complement to this gold-hued version of the highbrow classic.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Grapefruit Aperitif Cocktails with Wine

Two great and geographically related fortified wines combined with fresh pink grapefruit and bitters for light cocktails to begin a summer dinner. The first one features madeira and allspice notes from Jerry Thomas’ decanter bitters; the second is made with white port and lavender bitters. I just got the Bar Keep Lavender Bitters and really like them.


  • 2 oz madeira (medium-rich)
  • 2 oz pink grapefruit juice
  • 1 dash Jerry Thomas’ Own Decanter Bitters (Bitter Truth)
Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Grapefruit twist.


  • 2 oz white port
  • 2 oz pink grapefruit juice
  • 2 dashes lavender bitters (Bar Keep)
Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Grapefruit twist.

One grapefruit does two drinks. Strain the pulp. It seems like I ought to say that fresh juice is essential here, but if you’re cooking the sort of dinner these things would go in front of, you probably knew that anyway.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Hold the Cucumber

The above title does not refer to a wild party game but a request I have received from a few folks—my housemate among them—to avoid using any cucumber in the preparation of food and drink. Apparently, there is a small number of people who have an intensely disagreeable response to what for most of us is a fairly bland item. Go figure.

But the cooler below creates much the same green, vegetal impression as a cucumber drink, and should avoid setting off whatever the offending receptor might be.

Cucumber Choke
  • 1 1/2 oz pisco
  • 1 1/2 oz Cynar
  • 1/2 oz lime juice
  • dash celery bitters
  • 1 1/2 oz soda, or to taste
Shake all except soda, and strain into a double old fashioned. Add soda and fresh ice. Lime wheel, mint sprig.

Cynar and celery bitters seem like a natural pairing. The mint garnish contributes to the overall aroma of pseudo-cucumber-ness.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

More Fun with Smoked Tea Syrup: Rain Cloud Tiger

It seems like whenever I tell people I’m taking a vacation they ask where I’m going. Go? I’m going to go home, lock the door and shudder. “Just a little moment away. I’ll be fine—really.” (Eesh.) So I’m holed up here in the Fogged In Lounge with plenty of nice things to get interested in that I don’t otherwise have much time for. It’s gray and rainy, perfect weather for listening to records, eating cereal out of the box and writing my blog.

And of course it’s perfect weather for a sherry cocktail! Recent visitors will note that I’m on a fortified wine kick, going at the amontillado like a crazed lemur. (It is a scientific fact that lemurs love Spanish fortified wines. Trust me, I’m an expert. I’m also guy who sits around on his vacation eating dry cereal.) And liking a little smoke flavor with my sherry, I’ve paired it with the rich and tasty Russian Caravan tea syrup I’ve become fond of. It’s a very versatile ingredient, adding subtle depth and complexity. I’m always on the lookout for new ways to get smoke flavors into cocktails.


Rain Cloud Tiger
Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Powerful tang of the sherry-tea-lime combo up front accentuated with the hint of salt, subtle smoke and aguardiente notes rounding things out in the background.

Monday, June 17, 2013

MxMo LXXIV: Cherries—Silver Spurs

A very warm Fogged In thank-you to Andrea of Gin Hound for Hosting this month’s Mixology Monday, and for her excellent theme, cherries. These stone fruits are essential to so many great and varied cocktails that it took me a while to decide on a direction that I hadn’t explored before. But lately I’ve been working with wine-based ingredients, which suggested a cherry-sherry combination. Tequila seemed a natural compliment to both.


Silver Spurs
  • 1 1/2 oz blanco tequila
  • 3/4 oz amontillado sherry
  • 1 barspoon Maraschino liqueur
  • About 1/2 tsp mezcal
Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Lemon twist.

Off-dry; delicate fruit and florals. Black pepper from the tequila softened by the sherry.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Booze Up Your Sherry

When it comes to wine cocktails, I find there’s no flavor compliment more felicitous than a good slug of liquor. The drink below by yours truly is an equal parts trio like Whispers of the Frost except with rum instead of port. Puerto Rican rum is a good choice for this Manhattan-type drink, though a more full-bodied style like Pampero Aniversario seems appropriate and would add interest.


W 67th St
  • 1 oz rye
  • 1 oz gold rum
  • 1 oz East India Solera sherry
  • 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Brandied cherry.

For the sherry, East India Solera was what I happened to have though anything in the medium-to-cream zone would probably work. Or use madeira.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Bamboo Cocktail

All right—this here’s the Bamboo Cocktail. It’s another sherry drink in this wine series I’m doing. A classic 19th-century thing, I had it just this weekend at Comstock Saloon here in San Francisco, a fine place to drink in Barbary Coast style. The next day, I tried my hand at the Bamboo as well.

Bamboo Cocktail
  • 1 1/2 oz dry sherry
  • 1 1/2 oz dry vermouth
  • 1 dash orange bitters
  • 2 drops Angostura bitters
Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Twist a strip of lemon peel over the glass and discard. Stuffed olive.

I worked from David Wondrich’s Imbibe! which recounts the creation and naming of this light, dry cocktail by saloonman Louis Eppinger. The recipe calls for two dashes orange bitters, though results vary considerably with the brand. Fee Bros seemed better at one dash. Regans’ added a nice cardamom note. And because I’m a scotch nut, I tried a dash of single malt as well, which didn’t hurt a thing.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Fred’s Sherry Mai Tai

This is a great wine cocktail remix by the incomparable Frederic Yarm of Cocktail Virgin Slut. The recipe follows the basic Trader Vic template, changing the Jamaica and Martinique rums for two styles of sherry. These wines as well as the classic Mai Tai are house favorites here so of course I jumped when I saw this item on Fred’s blog. Rich and flavorful, the crushed ice held onto the sherry flavor to the last.

tropical drink

Sherry Mai Tai
  • 1 1/2 oz amontillado
  • 1/2 oz Pedro Ximenez (subbed East India Solera)
  • 1/2 oz curaçao
  • 1 oz lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz orgeat
Shake with ice and strain into a double old fashioned full of crushed ice. Mint garnish. (Used a cherry.)

Sorry to be all out of mint last night when making these but the sweet almond aroma of the (naturally) candied cherry worked well enough with the other nutty flavors in the drink.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Manhattan Transfer

Someone’s surely made this before though I couldn’t find a recipe: the Manhattan cocktail formula transposed for sherry and port. It’s bright with the acidity of the wine, and definitely lighter in alcoholic impact than spirits, like you’d expect. But for an aperitif cocktail, it seems kinda like a New Yorker.


Waverly & Waverly
  • 2 oz amontillado (Lustau)
  • 1 oz port (Churchill Reserve)
  • 2 dashes orange bitters (Regans’)
Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Orange twist.

Paper design: Vibe, Jean Orlebeke, eieio

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Sherry Cocktails

Sherry—so delicious! Only a few years ago was I startled to learn that others might not consider sherry a morning beverage. Can you imagine? Anyway, when I saw that the incomparable Frederic of Cocktail Virgin Slut posted a Sherry Mai Tai, I made it as soon as possible, and then made another. A sherry cocktail is probably going to be an easy sell around here. Wanting more, I was inspired to think of a recipe of my own using another favorite ingredient, apple brandy. It’s a bit like Todd Maul’s Joe Bans You, also blogged by Frederic. I feel a wine cocktail series coming on.

Muy Linda
  • 2 oz straight apple brandy
  • 1 oz East India Solera sherry
  • 3/4 oz lemon juice
  • 1 tsp orgeat
  • 1 dash Fee Bros Whiskey Barrel Aged Bitters
Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

MxMo LXXIII: Witches’ Garden—Reynardine

It’s time again for Mixology Monday. This month, Mark Holmes of Cardiff Cocktails invites us to show off our mad herbalist cocktail skillz with his awesome theme, Witches’ Garden. I was expecting this challenge to help me welcome in the summer time with something light and bright, but ended up with a velvety room-temperature potion of rosemary, sage, and port wine goodness.


  • 1 1/2 oz cognac
  • 1 1/2 oz port
  • 3-4 sage leaves
  • 1 sprig rosemary (an inch or so)
Bruise the herbs lightly but thoroughly in a splash of the cognac. Add the remaining cognac and the port, stirring well. Strain through mesh into a snifter or other balloon-shaped glass.

The herbs bring out savory notes in the port and brandy. Rich and subtly aromatic, this would be just the thing for a winter night. On a May afternoon, it’s contemplative and still, and casts a strange spell.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Pumpkin Waltz

The return of the squash-chili syrup. It’s a pretty good ingredient, though I’m thinking I could turn up the heat of the chilies a little. I’ve played more with the savory side of the squash this time with dashes of balsamic vinegar and salt, and a little Laphroaig for smoke. Sorta Sidecar-ish.


Pumpkin Waltz
  • 2 oz cognac
  • 1/2 oz squash-chili syrup
  • 1/2 oz lemon juice
  • 3 drops or so balsamic vinegar
  • 3 drops or so Laphroaig
  • pinch sea salt
Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
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