Monday, February 28, 2011

Vanilla Whiskey Skin

Sounds oddly salacious, don’t it? Thanks to Nancy of The Backyard Bartender for hosting this Mixology Monday. Her theme is Some Like it Hot—“make anything you want to, so long as it’s hot.” OK—I’m feeling a little worn out from the recent adventure in New York so here’s an easy one. David Wondrich says a toddy with lemon peel is a skin. Vanilla syrup sounded soothing after reading about Tiare’s Vanilla Smash.

Vanilla Whiskey Skin
  • 2 oz Rittenhouse rye (100 proof)
  • 2 tsp vanilla syrup
  • lemon peel
  • 4 oz hot water
Combine in a heat-proof glass.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

NYC Cocktail Roundup

This weekend I was back in New York visiting, and my friends and I tasted so many good things it’s hard to remember them all. We went to Painkiller, Char No. 4, Maialino, Clover Club and Saul Restaurant, and in all of them, I wanted to order everything. (We wondered which would be more expensive, the check or the trip to the emergency room.) My only regret is that I didn’t get to meet more bartenders, but everywhere was busy and we ended up at a table almost every time.

Painkiller is an interesting surprise for a tropical bar: it is also urban. You’re still on Essex Street, but suddenly it’s Tiki. The list is very long and dense, resembling a Cantonese takeout restaurant. (Can I get a large Pearl Diver’s Punch to go?) Arranged according to type, many drinks have no other description, but the folks there are very helpful and ready to talk about what you want. And there’s something for everyone. I was in full crushed-ice Beachcomber madness but my buddy was ordering great rye cocktails I hadn’t had anywhere else.

Char No. 4, Cobble Hill’s great bourbon house is also good for brunch, and features bourbon cocktails, naturally. The bourbon apple toddy is good for taking the chill off a February morning.

I love hotel bars and get cranky when they change one I like, but the new Gramercy Park Hotel makeover is good. The restaurant bar in Maialino is comfortable and has a classy cocktail list. And they’re very nice behind the bar though I may have driven one guy crazy. I ordered La Luna Violetta, essentially an Aviation with Lambrusco instead of crème de violette. I didn’t read carefully—I just assumed it would have to have violet of some description. Before I tasted it, I kept asking the bartender what the violet component was. He must’ve thought I was nuts.

The current list at Clover Club has a great julep-style item, the Louisville Cathouse, an unlikely combo of Ancho chile infused bourbon, crème de cacao and Fernet Branca that comes over all leather and tobacco. Also great is the Duke Leto, rich and caramel-like with Old Tom, Dubonnet, green Chartreuse and salt tincture served over (around?) a big cylinder of ice.

This roundup wouldn’t seem complete with at least one scotch cocktail, Saul Restaurant’s Torino Fog, a mellow glass of Martell V.S., Punt e Mes, cinnamon and walnut bitters and a Bruichladdich Peat rinse. I wish I had one in my hand right now.

Thanks to everybody who made us feel comfortable and served us the best. It was an awesome visit.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Two nights ago, I made up this drink, the Calaveras, a smoky calvados-mezcal variant on the Sidecar. The housemate and I liked it. So I made it again to photograph on the following night. At the same time, it just happened that for dinner I needed some broth, and substituted Schlenkerla, a smoked beer from Germany. It perfumed the whole house appetizingly, blending with the other cooking aromas, making us very hungry. But we could no longer taste the smoke from the mezcal. I dumped another half ounce in my glass. Still didn’t seem smoky. The drink was completely overpowered by the smoke flavor in the air from the food.

  • 1 1/2 oz calvados
  • 3/4 0z Cointreau
  • 1/2 oz lemon juice
  • 1/4 oz mezcal
  • 1 dash Fee Bros Aromatic Bitters
Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Air Mail

In a different era in my boozing, in another incarnation of this town, I used to spend my time in the grand old rooms of San Francisco, remote roosts attainable only by cable car, staircase or Air Mail.

Air Mail
  • 1 1/2 oz gold rum
  • 3/4 oz lime juice
  • 1 tsp honey
  • Champagne
Dissolve the honey in the lime juice. Add rum and shake with ice. Strain into a chilled flute or tulip glass. Fill with Champagne.

Puerto Rican rum would be the usual thing here, though I made this one with 10 Cane with fine results. For the honey, I used lemon blossom, which went nicely with the rum.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Tamil Nadu Cocktail

My housemate has headed off to an Indian dinner with an old friend. I’m babysitting the dog and playing in the bar. (The canid is a little impatient and grumpy.) I have a drawer full of citrus, and the Mandarine Napoléon is already at hand from the previous cocktail. I’ve mixed two versions of this, one with the addition of gin, one without. Still deciding.

Tamil Nadu Cocktail

  • 2 oz North Shore aquavit (variation: 50 percent Tanqueray)
  • 1/2 oz Domaine de Canton
  • 1/2 oz Mandarine Napoléon
  • 1/2 oz lime juice
Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

North Shore aquavit has a cumin note that is incomparable in every sense of the word. It is perfect in Red Snappers (a.k.a. Bloody Marys) and in Indian-themed cocktails such as this one.

The gin version of this drink is lighter. The pure North Shore one is more intense.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Peach Bitters for Happy Days

When I bought peach bitters, I was excited on account of a vague idea that they were used in drink recipes of some bygone era when they really knew what a drink was. It’s not clear now at what point I started wondering what to do with them, but they were really exciting all the same. Eventually it occurred to me that maybe there was a recipe that called for peach bitters—a recipe I could use them in. Maybe I might look for one that sounded good, and even enjoy tasting it.

The recipe for Happy Days in the CocktailDB appears with a note that it was invented by E.L. Horton. OK, I said, I’ll bite. So I looked up old E.L. too, and found the recipe for Happy Days on page 93 of The Café Royal Cocktail Book. This still told me nothing about Horton except that he was probably an English bartender working between the wars. Beyond that, the scent seemed to be totally cold. Maybe he could’ve been something awful, like an axe murderer, but it doesn’t seem too likely since he invented such a swell cocktail. (He could’ve poisoned you instead.) It also has tangerine liqueur, and I was hunting around for something else to do with that too.

Happy Days

  • 1 1/4 oz London dry gin
  • 1 oz Lillet (Cocchi Americano)
  • 1/2 oz Van der Hum (Mandarine Napoléon)
  • 1/4 oz lemon juice
  • 1 dash peach bitters
The recipe says to shake. I stirred. (Sorry, E.L.) Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

This is nicely balanced: lightly sweet and fruity without being cloying, and you can detect both the gin and the peach. Sort reminiscent of the Barnum but milder. If anybody has more info about Horton, let me know.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Smoking Banana

It’s been a while since I last went crazy and made a mess of the place Tiki-style. This one is a little Mexican in feeling from a dose of mezcal, which brings out a subtle plantain note in the banana. I used Demerara rum but you could probably substitute something like a gold Jamaica.

The Smoking Banana
  • 1 1/2 oz Demerara rum
  • 1/2 oz mezcal
  • 1/4 oz pimento dram
  • 3 oz pineapple juice
  • 1/2 oz vanilla syrup
  • 1/2 ripe banana
Blend with a cup of crushed ice on high for 30 seconds. Serve in a large glass or mug.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Laphroaig Rob Roy

The first Rob Roy I tasted was made by a bartender who had no idea what it was supposed to be like. I was served a weird, wimpy drink so vile that it took years to get over before trying another. (And that was lousy too.) Light blended scotch drowned in a sea of melting bar ice and thin, nasty vermouth, no bitters. You want a cherry with that? How about one of them little plastic stir jobbies?

For a cocktail as simple as this one, the base spirit should have enough guts to define the drink, and from the moment I saw gaz regan do the Laphroaig Rob Roy, I knew I had to have one. It just sounded right. There was smoke and velvet, anise and iodine. A wild, regal, intense Rob Roy that might wield the bagpipes as a deadly weapon. Aye.

Laphroaig Rob Roy
  • 2 oz Laphroaig 10 Year Old
  • 1 1/2 oz sweet vermouth
  • 4 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. I serve this with a broad, thin, rough-edged orange twist (sharp vegetable peeler), and express the oil lavishly over the drink. For the vermouth, I like Punt e Mes, though lately I’ve been doing it with Dolin.

For a kickass post on the same drink, visit The Sugar House Blog.

You can also see gaz himself in action on YouTube.
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