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Today’s Cocktail Advent Calendar is another one of those, “you have to look it up every time some one orders it” cocktails. I’ve only made the French Connection at a few different points in my bartending career that seem like they’re shots from B movies. Like, two people walking up to the bar seem to be arguing, something about missing diamonds, then walk up to me and say,
“Boujour, French Connection sil vous plait.”
Then they wander back into some noir haze. The French connection is another one of those great cocktails from the 70s that’s just a two-fer. Though we added Angostura to make it into a three-fer so you think we we’re working. And, if by any chance you missed the amaretto of Monday you get another shot at amaretto again – right now. But, unfortunately, this is the last amaretto on the entire Cocktail Advent Calendar menu.
To really bring home the feeling of this cocktail coming – from a bar wrapped in Naugahyde, red lights and slow jam music – we will be serving it at room temperature with hot water on the side. It will be gentle enough to sip that way, or could be warmed up to improve the aroma, either way you can spend the entire evening doing your best ladies man impression.
The French Connection
- 1.5 oz Cognac
- .5oz Amaretto
- 2 dash Angostura
Serve with an old fashioned glass of warm water and some Bill Withers tunes on the side
Last Friday the Cocktail Advent Calendar gave us Vin Brule, a warm wine based drink, a potent tipple to share with your kin. This Tuesday is a cannon blast of Grog, a hot rum blooded gulper to get lit up punch a police horse in his big ol’ teeth. Our Grog is less pirate minded, it has civility; it is a “Privateer’s” drink. Because as Wayne Curtis would point out in, “And a bottle of Rum,” Grog was invented after the days of all the best pirates. The British Navy would give us rum to make drinking water potable, with the addition of lime sugar and spices, Grog became a, “proto-West Indian Cocktail.”
In times of backbreaking work, sickness and complete lack of women, Grog was the best possible respite. In a modern world filled with all the hassle of TPS reports, office politics and non-dairy creamer you deserve respite from your masters, too. But, because your work life has improved over that of an 18th century sailor, your grog has followed suit. Seems that “Jack Nastyface” was a common nickname for the Grog dispenser on a ship, today at Rob Roy you’ll have the charming Bryn instead. And to replace kill-devil, stagnant water and “other(s)” you’ll have a fine blend of rums and spices.
- Appleton V/X
- Fresh Lime
- Demerara Syrup
- And a good time to experiment with a few dashes of some type of bitters.
Hopefully you’ll taste our Grog and remember that “a fine blend of rums and spices” is why humans traveled across the globe in the first place.
Because of today’s Cocktail Advent Calendar, let December 4th forever be known as the Day of International Spanish Coffee. DISC = December 4th. I’m not a stupid bartender, I know that it is a total rookie move to prepare just *one* Spanish Coffee, make *one* and you’ll be making them all night. To admit you can make *one* is a commitment to keep going until you run out of coffee. One time this ass-face said, “Can’t you go out and get more coffee?”
I squinted at that fucker with my best Eastwood, and after I let my pupils sear his flesh for a second, I said,
But not today. Today, it’s Spanish Coffee Amnesty Day — all day. Hooray! The drink that is an under-appreciated pain in the ass will have its day of glory. Anu and Zach, with ear to ear smiles, shall craft you one of the most labor intensive, on fire, smoothing and luxurious cocktails one could ever hope to quaff. Rather than explain this cocktail, I would like to explain what will be special about ours.
- Stumptown Hairbender Coffee – Great fresh roasted coffee beans brewed to perfection.
- Fresh Whipped Cream – Much like chicken soup, with whipped cream, you can’t get love from a can.
- Lemon Hart 151 Rum – Ed Hamilton might be proud, or angry, but no bullshit lighter fluid rum to toast our Spanish Coffee, only the finest demerara put to great use.
- FIRE! – Like Homer (Simpson, not the guy who wrote the Odyssey) said, “Fire makes it good.”
- Fresh Ground Spices – Not from the 128 spice rack we got on sale at Target.
- Caramel Rim – We’re not afraid of spending all day cleaning glassware, we’re going to give you a honest to goodness ring of sugar fused to the glass using the Maillard reaction.
Shooting over to Ed’s site reminded me of the 7 daily toasts the British Royal Navy. They are a hit or miss blend of misogynistic what nots, but Sunday’s is good. It’s a toast to “Absent Friends.” A solid toast for gathering with your friends over a Spanish Coffee or two. But only if you really need two, have a cellar-temp Porter, or finish up your crossword puzzle while you wait.
- .5oz Lemon Hart 151 lit aflame inside
- 1 sugar rimmed glass
- A few sparkly sprinkles of cinnamon
- .5oz Kahlua
- .25 oz Cointreau
- Top with Fresh Whipping Cream, (because it’s better)
- Garnish with Nutmeg and an Oranger Zest
“to absent friends
to those we have met
to those we have yet to meet
to those who have left us for a while
and to those who have left us forever
let us lift our glasses
and drink a toast
that they may abide in our hearts
to absent friends”
Most commonly I rant on how to fix drinks. I know I sound like I must be a raging asshole when it comes to drinking. You must think, “How can that fucker ever enjoy anything?” One word: compromise.
The margarita is the most ordered drink in the world. Wait, scratch that, the *real* margarita is ordered roughly four times per year. However slop left over from Slimer’s screen-time in Ghostbusters, poured into a pint glass with a salt rim, is the most ordered drink in the world. And a pint glass of neon green goo is as much a margarita as Boston crème doughnuts are part of a healthy breakfast. Rather than give you the 1,200 word essay on why any bartender should be able to make a 3-part drink with ease, I’d like to point out two other things.
#1 It is really the consumer’s fault that the margarita is so shitty. They want this aforementioned giant crap fest and wonder what the hell a non-blended “up” margarita looks like.
#2 When given the insipid pre-batched, no Cointreau, mixto tequila abomination, it is often easier to fix it yourself than to retrain a bartender on-the-spot. Plus, bad bartenders are not allowed to touch Cointreau the way bulls aren’t allowed to touch demitasse tea-cups.
We all find ourselves in shitty Mexican restaurants, if lucky, we are at least in Mexico when this happens. Chips, guac and a sunset need a properly paired cocktail. But, it’s easy to forget one’s self, accidentally ordering what you know will be the worst cocktail possible.
But you, on your own, can fix this tragedy.
I’ll show you how.
When you are a little British kid in the pub lager and lemon is a Shandy, but in South America fruit in a beer is called a Chelada. Good luck ordering one of those, but you can use a shitty margarita to make one that is a touch on the stronger side.
If your margarita ever appears to be more than 5 oz’s you know that it is indeed filled with artificial sweeteners and fake juice. This drink will be overly sweet, tacky, thick and problematic to your palate. Much like the curse of having too accurate a memory or too sad a day, beer can help fix these problems.
You see, you were served a big glass of gooey crap, frankly its like the inside of a diaper. They make them thick and sugary to stand up to all the melted worthless ice watering down your margarita faster than you can drink it. With great sugar comes over the top acidity, the kind that burns the next day.
Here is what you do in three easy steps:
1. Procure an empty glass or just dump your water glass on a nearby plant.
2. Pour half of your failure margarita into that glass.
3. Top with beer.
Now you basically have remixed your cocktail table-side; some places charge big bucks for this.
To sum it up:
There were problems: The texture was too thick, the sweetness was too cloying and the acidity was too high.
There was a solution: Beer. The effervescence thins the texture, the beer adds a savory note to mellow sweetness along with adding a bass-note to just chill the whole mother fucker out. Adding an extra shot of tequila fixes a lot of these problems too, but let’s face it, if you get served this shit-house margarita, you probably don’t want to buy any more tequila from this bar anyway.
So there it is, how to make a Tex-Mex Shandy, or as the Mexicans say, a Chelada. A Chelada just being a fruited beer with a Mexi-Lager the Michelada being the most common (with tomato) but it also works with all kinds of fruit and spice, even just half of a shitty margarita.
I must take a break from my generally offensive (to unfunny people) “10 Rules of Drinking like a Man series” to offer to new readers this treatise on Mai Tais. You see I am In a Mai Tai competition next week, and on TV to explain it later today, and you see, I want explain more than the 3 minute TV spot can offer.
The Mai Tai is shrouded in mystery. The bad news is that you probably don’t like it. But the good news is… you probably never had one! Hooray! Did you know the sugary pancreas exploder that you had that one time in Cancun is not indicative of the true Mai Tai? Good news, it wasn’t! And there is a whole new world of Mai Tais waiting for you. Because the Mai Tai story is so complex, because the Mai Tai recipe is so simple and because the Mai Tai technique is so high, I offer instead to Henry David Thoreau this (simplify, simplify). After I (don’t) explain the Mai Tai’s history, all you need to know is there are:
- 4 Mai Tai Recipes
- 4 Mai Tai Fundamentals
- 4 Mai Tai Secret Ingredients
And, if this is your first time to my blog, you should probably know I’ll, “accidentally,” likely use some, “crass,” language, like I might say, “four letter words,” even though, no part of the expression, “smelly pirate hooker,” for example , is a four letter word.
Mai Tai History
The way you should know the Mai Tai was invented by Trader Vic in 1944 and it was awesome. The way you would like the Mai Tai more was adapted in 1954 by the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. Both of these were likely a combination of stolen/inspired drink called the QB Cooler invented by Don the Beachcomber in 1937. But the Mai Tai you know is likely mostly interpreted by bartenders following the R.A.L.T.P.M. recipe (I’ll explain later).
Which is right? Which is best? The answer is quite simple, the one you like the most is the most. To explain further would involve me quoting – verbatim – Jeff Berry’s recent book along with old interviews from Trader Vic and Don Beach that most people don’t care to hear. But If you DO CARE FOR SPECIFICS, I very strongly suggest that you purchase, for money, from your local book store, both, Sippin Safari, and, Beach Bum Berry Remixed. Remixed, is mostly a recipe book for any tiki enthusiast, but, Sippin Safari, is a truly fascinating account of the tiki craze that was arguably the most successful food and beverage trend of the last 100 years. Sippin Safari, is well written in a way that anyone can enjoy and be transfixed, and it has pretty pictures and brevity that makeit perfect for plane travel. Jeff Berry is the guy you should ask about the Mai Tai’s history. Buy his books, and read his blog. That’s all you’ll need to know history-wise, except that, Mai Tai, is Tahitian for, “The best, out of this world.”
Mai Tai Recipes
QB Cooler -1937-
|There are 4 Mai Tai Recipes, and the first is not a Mai Tai at all. Depending on the history you choose to believe, Trader Vic’s Mai Tai was based on the flavor profile of Don Beach’s QB Cooler. This begins the path of the Mai Tai being about flavor more than ingredients. This drink is pretty good; it’s just a bit sloppy. But blending it does help the sweetness get toned down.1 oz Orange Juice
.5 oz Lime Juice
.5 oz Honey Mix
.25 oz Falernum
1 oz Soda
1 oz Jamaican Rum
1 oz Puerto Rican Rum
2 Dashes Angosrura
.25 oz Ginger Syrup
4oz Crushed Ice, Blend and Garnish with mint
Trader Vic’s Mai Tai -1944-
|It is said that Vic based this on the QB Cooler. True or not, they do taste very similar despite sharing only one ingredient. Vic won in history, but he also won in creating a simple drink full of balance. When practicing this Mai Tai, spend a lot of time trying different brands of rum, this drink is for showcasing rum, not hiding rum.1 oz Dark Jamaican Rum
1 oz Martinique Rhum
1 oz Lime Juice
.5 oz Orange Curacao
.25 oz Simple Syrup
.25 oz Orgeat
Shake with crushed ice, pour into a double old fashioned, garnish with mint, also optional, pineapple wedge and dark rum float
Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai -1953-
|Though this is the Mai Tai that lead us down the dreadful path of the over sugared tiki drink, if fresh juice is used, fear not the deadly sweet pancreatic explosion. Instead you will be refreshed, and full of vitamin C.1 oz Dark Jamaican Rum
1 oz Demerara Rum
1 oz Light Puerto Rican Rum
1 oz Orange Juice
1 oz Pineapple Juice
.5 oz Lime Juice
.25 oz Lemon Juice
.25 oz Orange Curacao
.25 Simple Syrup
Shake and strain with crushed ice, dump into a huge glass, garnish with excess
R.A.L.T.P.M. Mai Tai –unfortunately common-
|Then our craft (bartending) died and though it has had a renaissance thanks to tireless nerdful efforts, it is still weak in influence over all bars. Maybe things are better that way. Anyway, when I first learned the Mai Tai, in a bar that didn’t smell great, I was taught the mnemonic device, “run after leggy tall pretty models.” And though that is just as hard to remember as it would be to, oh I don’t know, OPEN A FUCKING BOOK AND LEARN HOW TO DO YOUR JOB RIGHT, it has always stuck with me. It has mostly stuck with me in the way that one might have the sentiment, “remember when we were kids.”Run= Rum, whatever you got, caramel colored Monarch works
After = Amaretto, tastes of almonds, even better if you have neon red crème de noyaux, some bartenders add a dash of grenadine to simulate this
Leggy= Lime, if you only have Rose’s Cordial, you can skip it, don’t muddle fruit, this is a low effort drink
Tall= Triple sec, an orange liqueur, don’t use Cointreau, your boss will get mad
Pretty= Pineapple, for this drink, the can is fine
Models = Myers, the only aged rum in the bar
Some Rum, Less Amaretto, A Squeeze of Lime, Triple Sec (half as much as rum), Pineapple (half a can, ‘cause you might need to make another one), Myers (you better make that bottle last for years) Build over ice, garnish with a cancer colored cherry.
Mai Tai Fundamentals
The secret to making any of these Mai Tai’s is, even the slapdash one at the end, that there is as much in technique as remembering that long list of ingredients. The 4 fundamentals are 1. Technique 2. Flavor 3. Fresh and 4. Aromatics. Across any of those Mai Tais, this is how you make them better.
1. Technique: For technique the biggest things to consider on the Mai Tai is the crushed ice and the viscosity of the ingredients. Most importantly, the ingredients of the Mai Tai are far too thick to mix just by pouring over ice, they need to be shaken every time. Otherwise the drinker will just, “not,” enjoy one unmixed layer after another and likely quit when they arrive at the layer of straight lime juice. I recommend shaking the ice over cubed ice and then straining it over crushed ice. Room temperature ingredients also do bad things when poured over crushed ice. As for retaining the crushed ice you shake with, sigh, I hate that, but it is OK at the BBQ, get it?
Mai Tai Technique: Always shake, strain over fresh ice
2. Flavor: Though lime juice is the only ingredient that all of the above 4 Mai Tais share, there are common flavor profiles. When made correctly, people swear that Trader Vic’s Mai Tai is full of juice. But what about the rum? They all specify rums that taste very different, Demerara rum tastes nothing of 20 year old Jamaican and that tastes nothing of some light well rum. Think of the flavor components-almond, spices, citrus and fresh. The Mai Tai should taste like an exotic fruit that was just picked from a tree more that any one ingredient in it. And you can trick the taster if you work with something spicy, something tart and something almond-ish. Some say the tiki template is“1 sour, 2 sweet, 3 strong, 4 weak + spice.” –thanks Craig Herman. -see comments
3. Fresh: You can make a drink with poor sloppy technique and it will still be OK if you keep it fresh. But if you tighten up that technique and keep it fresh, therein lies greatness. But when thinking of fresh, understand how far it really goes. Ice, how long has it been out of the freezer? How long has the crushed ice been sitting around melting faster? Lime juice, is it from a bottle, or from A LIME? Orgeat, if you made your own, it is OK in the fridge for a month or 3, but it won’t be very good after a week. Even pineapple juice, when painfully fresh squeezed will taste like an elixir for long life. Don’t buy good rum and mix it with canned juice and bad ice and wonder why your Mai Tai doesn’t pop.
4. Aromatics: The Mai Tai is a thick drink and as such doesn’t have a lot of aroma. This is the job of the garnishes. There are three common garnishes for the Mai Tai and boat loads of others less common. Mint: mint should be big, bushy and bright, when given a light tap or, “shocked,” it should release a huge aroma. Put the sprig right next to the straws. Pineapple: when fresh and ripe the pineapple wedge smells of melon and citrus, it confuses the palate when added to the Trader Vic’s Mai Tai. Dark Rum Float: though not part of the original, it is a common addition, it adds hints of spice and vanilla to the drink that will float at 80 proof above the drink the whole way down.
Mai Tai Secret Ingredients
The Mai Tais above have several ingredients that you may be unaware of. 1, 2 and 3 most people don’t know are Orgeat, Falernum and Orange Curacao. The fourth secret ingredient is rum, most people think they know rum, but they don’t.
Orgeat: An almond based liqueur or syrup flavored with orange flower water and lots of sugar.I can recommend 2, Fee Bros, which despite and to spite my peers I enjoy and Trader Tiki. These are very different but I enjoy both because of their no alcohol content; they are great for mocktails. Both can be found locally at Delaurenti’s in Pike Market, online at Keg Works or even better a fun and simple project to make your own. Check out this recipe on Art of Drink.
Falernum: A spiced lime liqueur, popular in the Caribbean and a classic tiki staple. It is flavored with almond, citrus, cloves and sugar. This time I can’t really recommend Fee Bros (even though he gave me a ride to the airport that one time) but I will recommend John D. Taylor’s Velvet Falernum and if you want to spice it up, try Paul Clarke’s no. 8 Falernum, it is what I make and love. All praise be to the Cocktail Chronicle.
Orange Curacao: Specifically is a liqueur flavored with dried laraha citrus peels from curacao. Like many fancy boozes, we can’t really get a good one in Washington, seek them out on the net, but use Grand Marnier in the meantime. Even though the bottle looks like a grandma, it is still quality.
Rum: There are 2 main types of Rum, Rum Industrial and Rhum Agricole. Cachaca is neither but is close to Agricole. Nix Cachaca for now. Rum Industrial is made from the byproduct of refining sugar, and thusly is generally has more of a caramel flavor and tastes of molasses. Rhum Agricole is a French method of making rum that is from fresh pressed sugar cane. It will have a fresher, green, grassy flavor, be lighter in flavor and body and be more delicate. Then to top off those two main schools, every little island and nation that makes rum has a wide variety of styles and techniques to make their rum special. To not list those here, please take it on my word that rum is considered the broadest spirit category and can take a long, slow, happy, flip flop clad life to understand them all. Good luck. But I would also recommend this book by Wayne Curtis called, And a Bottle of Rum.
Mai Tai Competition
Did you know that I am in a Mai Tai competition and that you should VOTE FOR ME. But what? You have integrity? You want to know why? You want to try my drink first? Then come down To Mistral Kitchen for Happy Hour on Tuesday the 14th and I will sell you a drink for money. It would be easier to take my word for it. But let me explain my drink as well. When I heard there would be a Mai Tai Madness Competition, my first thought was, “nobody knows what is in a Mai Tai anyway.” It was with that sentiment, and my generally contrarian nature, that I contrived to do what Vic may have done to the QB Cooler: take the flavor and make it my own. So I set out to make a Mai Tai that tastes like a Mai Tai that contains no rum. I planned on doing this by only using Italian liqueurs, many of which are bitter. I call it Elena’s Virtue, and it is indeed a lightly bitter, herbal, Italian Mai Tai.
1 oz Amaro Nonino
.5 oz Amaro Montenegro
.5 oz Lime
.25 Luxardo Amaretto
Shake ingredients and strain over crushed ice, garnish with an orange zest and basil, then pour
.25 oz Ramazotti Amaro into a decanter, fill with hickory smoke and pour over the drink
If this impresses you, (and on an intellectual level it should) come on down and try one in person at Mistral Kitchen. Cheers, thanks for making it through the lecture.
You aren’t a bar unless you have bitters. That’s a like a kitchen without spices or sex with only that missionary position. Bitters are to cocktails what fire is to steak, but even more so. Steak tartare is delicious but technically, a cocktail is a spirit with bitters. To have a bar, you need Angostura, second are Peychaud’s, and third are orange bitters. After you see what those do for you cocktails, you’ll likely go batshit crazy collecting them like any bartender, then, you’re going to start making them. Before we go any further with bitters there are a three very important things to understand.
1. Bitters aren’t necessarily bitter and frequently they add sweetness to a cocktail. “But why are the called bitter?” good question reader, the etymology of “bitters” comes from “small concentrated drink.” Which brings up part 2
2. There are basically 2 types of bitters, this is more an FDA definition but I will list exceptions later. They are potable and non potable bitters. The easiest way to explain that is there are bitters that are generally low proof and meant to be drank as aperitifs or digestifs. And non potable bitters, these are meant as food or drink additives, and not intended to be drank alone, it could cause injury to your face. This is the one we’ll be focusing on.
3. Bitters also have two brothers named tinctures and essences. While bitters are concentrated mixtures, tinctures are high proof alcohol infused with a single flavor. The easiest way to make bitters is by mixing tinctures. An essence is one of two things, either the direct extract or the distillation of a single substance. Rose flower water, orange flower water or vanilla extract are the most common, but I have a prize in my collection that is the essence of Thai water beetle. I’ve also tasted some amazing wood (sandal wood, pine) distillations.
Angostura is paramount, dive bars have angostura, and your mom has angostura. Seriously, look in the pantry at your mom’s house, it’s there. Angostura is the most common bitters, you could say, they won the bitters’ war. Over a hundred years ago there were over a hundred commonly found bitters on the market. Though several have been reverse engineered by new modern bartenders (such as Robert Hess with Abbotts bitters and Jamie Boudreau with Bokers) Angostura remains steeped in mystery, as it’s a secret recipe. I did however make the recipe listed in Charles Baker’s The Gentleman’s Companion. It’s pretty accurate, so much so that when I made it I found that I had basically a lifetime supply. That recipe will be listed below. The real Angostura was invented in 1820, by Dr Johan Gottlieb Benjamin Siegert. It was invented to be used as a tonic to help the tummy. And it still does that for me today when I work long shifts in the summer heat and need to drink a lot of water with out hurting my tummy. That is the closest I’ve ever come to fighting off malaria and fighting for independence in 1821, in Venezuela (Angostura’s original purpose). Angostura tastes of cinchona, ginger cinnamon and cloves. I have been told that the over sized label was a mistake that was never fixed and later became tradition.
Angostura’s has stayed an essential behind the bar for “bar ginger” and the Manhattan. Bar ginger, is basically Sprite and Angostura; you can spice it up with a little muddled ginger, coke and fresh lime. The Manhattan is pretty much the best drink, and I’m going to take a minute to set two huge myths straight. Bitters don’t make a Manhattan bitter; Angostura adds spice and takes off the sweet edge of vermouth. Vermouth is nothing to fear either; a good Manhattan is 1/3 Vermouth. When a Manhattan tastes bitter, it’s because of the lack of vermouth. The water from the dilution masks the sweet notes in bourbon and rye. The higher the proof, generally the less sweet. An exception is the sentence I hear the often “I’ll have a Maker’s Manhattan, not too sweet.” Well then DON’T FUCKING ORDER MAKER’S! Understand when you say that you have become a brand whore. Outside of McCormick or Old Crow, Maker’s is a sweet bourbon. If you don’t want a sweet Manhattan, order a Manhattan with a dryer bourbon. Sorry about the rant, I just want you to get what you like. Angostura also stains clothes like nothing else can, makes your tummy feel better when drank with water or soda and cures the hiccups. The next time you hiccup, put 2 dashes of Angostura on a lemon and bite down, this works 90% to all of the time. Curing hiccups is really important because all credibility is lost when you hiccup during conversation.
Peychaud’s remains in bars because of the Sazerac, though the Sazerac is becoming a staple cocktail again, Peychaud’s still remains under used. And though others may be older, Peychaud’s was likely the one of the first bitters to be sold commercially, and internationally in 1840. Antoine Paychaud Senior invented it, though Jr made it famous and the necessary ingredient for the Sazerac Coffeehouse’s signature cocktail: the Sazerac. Like many early medicines, Peychaud’s was mixed with brandy as a stomach tonic. And perhaps similar to any medicine, it treats symptoms just as much as anything. Peychaud’s is very complex, it lightly tastes of vanilla and nuts, and there is a light anise flavor. Its bright red color adds fun to any cocktail, especially clear cocktails. Anytime you learn a classic like the Sazerac, try to learn another drink that time forgot like the Incognito, recipe below.
Orange bitters are the bitters of the original martini, assuming the original martini was the Martinez. I use Gary Regan’s Orange Bitters. Gary doesn’t care if you know the recipe to his bitters, he puts them in his book: The Joy of Mixology. But frankly, I like having a photo of that crazy beard on a bottle behind my bar. Orange bitters are very subtle, as such; I sneak them into drinks all the time, Lemondrops, Manhattans or Vespers.
While I try not to write too much about just me, when my interest in bitters spiked, I decided to start making my own. You’ll find most recipes require over a month and a great deal of preparation, for example Artofdrink.com has an excellent page listing standard bitters recipes, as does the back of David Wondrich’s Imbibe! If you are interested in making your own bitters the main advice I’d give you is to team up with others. Over the summer, I invited 15 other bartenders to all make their own bitters and exchange them at what I called the “Bitter Meeting.” This is a great way to get more bitters and learn more about making bitters without spending years practicing and having more than you’ll ever need. This is a sewing circle for bartenders, but let’s face it, making your own bitters is the core of cocktail nerd times. As for filtering, I do the chinois strainer then put bitters through a Britta filter. If you are in Seattle, I recommend Tenzing MoMo in the Pike Place Market to pick up anything you need to make bitters. Where to put them? Try specialty bottle.com . I’d recommend getting all of the bitters you can buy, and then trying to make everything you can’t buy. The reigning king of bitters and tinctures right now is the Tear Drop Lounge in Portland Oregon. They have over 50 different bitters and tinctures on the bar.
Aforementioned Drink Recipes
The Peach Monster - Phil Ward of Death and Company
2 oz Oban 14 Single Malt
.75 oz St Germain
4 Dashes Peychaud’s
Stir and strain
Incognito- Invented by J. E. Johnson
1 oz brandy
2 oz Lillet
.5 oz apricot brandy
1 dash Peychaud’s bitters
Stir and strain
Rinse rocks glass with absinthe
1.5 ounce rye whiskey
.25 simple syrup
2 dashes Peychaud’s
Stir and strain twist of lemon
The Martinez Cocktail Variation
1.5 oz gin
1 oz dry vermouth
1/4 oz maraschino liqueur
1 dash orange bitters
Stir and strain
And one from me:
SPF 10 (a mocktail)-Andrew Bohrer
6 oz Aloe
2 oz lime
1 oz orange
4 dashes Peychaud’s
Build over ice in a Collins glass
(FYI: a drachm is 1/8 of an ounce, or 60 grains)
Cinchona bark, 8 drachms
Orange peel 2 drachms
Lemon peel 2 drachms
Cardamom seeds, crushed 1/2 drachm
Chaomile flowers, 2 drachms
Bark cinnamon, 1/2 drachm
Raisins 1/4 lb.
Best grain alcohol 2 qts
Best grain alcohol 2 qts
All ingredients must be ground or pounded fine except the raisins, and these are first chopped fine, and then mixed thoroughly with everything else. Seal tightly in a 2 qt jar and pour enough of the finest grain alcohol obtainable, to fill-, which will be a scant 2 qts. Let stand at an even, fairly warm temperature for 6 weeks, stirring or shaking vigorously twice every day. Strain, then strain through a cloth; pressing at the last to extract essentials from the sediment. Stir and strain once more, and bottle for use. Andrew’s notes, I also tried using Tokay wine instead of Raisins, I liked the texture more, I also used a rum base. When I finished and I found the recipe too close to Angostura, I added, orange, lemon, beets, smoked tea, lavender and hibiscus.
Gary Regan’s Orange Bitters No. 5
8 oz Dried Orange Peel
.5 tsp Caraway Seeds
1 tsp Cardamom Seeds
1 tsp Coriander Seeds
1 tsp Quassia Chips
1.5 tsp Powdered Cinchona Bark
1/4 tsp Gentian
2 Cups Grain Alcohol
4.5 Cups Water
1 Cup Granulated Sugar
1. Combine the dry ingredients in a large jar with alcohol and cup water
2. Ensure all of the dry ingredients are covered by the liquid
3. Shake the jar vigorously once a day for fourteen days
4. Strain the alcohol from the dry ingredients through a cheesecloth
5. Squeeze the cheese cloth tightly to extract as much alcohol as possible
6. Place the dry ingredients in a strong bowl or mortar
7. Reserve the alcohol in a clean mason jar and seal tightly
8. Muddle the dry ingredients with a pestle the seeds are broken.
9. Place the dry ingredients in a nonreactive saucepan and cover with 3 cups of water.
10. Bring to a boil over a medium-high heat, cover, turn the heat down, and simmer for 10 minutes.
11. Allow to cool, still covered (about 1 hour).
12 Return the dry ingredients and water to the jar with the alcohol and seal
13. Leave for seven days, shaking vigorously once a day.
14. Strain the water from the dry ingredients through a cheesecloth.
15. Discard the dry ingredients and add the water to the alcohol.
16. Put sugar saucepan and place over a medium-high heat.
17. Stir constantly until the sugar becomes liquid and turns dark brown
18. Remove from heat and allow to cool for two minutes
19. Pour the sugar into the alcohol-and-water mixture
20. At this point the sugar may solidify, but it will quickly dissolve
21. Allow the mixture to stand for seven days.
22. Skim off any bits that float to the surface and carefully decant the clear liquid to separate it from any sediment resting on the bottom
23. Measure the bitters; there should be about 12 fluid ounces
24. Add 6 ounces of water, and shake thoroughly
25. Pour the bitters into a bitters bottle. Store for up to twelve months
So I was in a conversation with what will continue to be an unnamed bartender from a very exclusive French joint, and he was explaining the high-end fuck buddies that he cultivates through his position. Less than 2 sentences later, he slammed his fist on the table and said, “Why do people shoot Chartreuse? It is to be sipped, slowly, and appreciated after a meal.” I bring this up to illustrate that Chartreuse is mysterious and frequently confusing.
Another mysterious thing about chartreuse are the myths perpetuated about it, why would people spurt random things about it while holding a bottle that says otherwise, to make a rule right now, read any and every bottle before you drink it. Info you’ll find on the bottle (listing only the true things): Chartruese is an intensely herbal 110 proof liqueurs made near Grenoble France from 130 herbs according to a recipe from 1605. In America it is sold in 4 varieties a green, a yellow, which is sweeter and milder, and an aged version of each bottle that is called V.E.P. The secret recipe is never known by more than 3 monks at a time and is protected by their vow of silence.
There is much more information on the bottle, but that information is incomplete or misleading. First I’ll list the bottlings before I explain the rest. There are 5 bottlings, 1 of which is not imported into America.
1: Green Chartreuse 110 proof
2: Yellow Chartreuse 80 proof
3: Green Chartreuse VEP (Vieillissement Exceptionnellement Prolongé)
4: Yellow Chartreuse VEP (Vieillissement Exceptionnellement Prolongé)
5: Elixir Végétal de la Grande-Chartreuse 142 proof
The elixir is not sold in America and is basically green in its original non-bottle strength form. Sometimes people say there are 2 chartreuses sometimes 4, what’s important: there are 5 different bottlings.
Next, monks do not make Chartreuse; it was, for centuries, by now it’s made by what we call “factories.” After centuries of production by monks, demand is too great for them to keep up with. The recipe however, is still blended secretly by monks. 1605, that’s also kind of true, the monks were gifted the marshal of King Henri IV, Francois d’Estrees. This elixir for long life wasn’t perfected and put into production until 1737. So it’s not really 400 years old. Bother Brother Gérome Maubec was the brother who made this public. 1838 brought Yellow Chartreuse to the market; its sweet flavor is very similar to that of Licore Strega. Chartreuse’s production has twice been halted, in 1793 and 1903. This was because of the French revolution and later the government seized their land and exiled the monks to Spain where they continued production until they were allowed back in 1935. It is said during this time, the monks’ brandy reserves, (dating back to Napoleon) were all destroyed. But it’s all roses and sunshine for the brothers now, even with no add campaign outside of death proof by Quentin Tarantino, Chartreuse is selling better than ever.
That’s probably enough fact checking. To make Chartreuse make more sense, some of the generally assumed ingredients are: sweet flag, orange peel, peppermint oil, hyssop, balm, angelica, tonka bean, wormwood, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom and mace. Though some of those ingredients are considered poisonous, the monks did indeed consider this an elixir for long life. I have had an opportunity to take a bug tug off of the tiny bottle of chartreuse elixir, unlike almost all liquor I’ve tasted of that proof the flavor is distinct and moreover life changing. Honestly, it felt like god was using a pepper grinder at the base of my skull, I began to sweat immediately and lights were created halos around non-moving objects. I can’t recommend this enough.
As for the general flavors for chartreuse it’s the opposite of what you would call diplomatic. However, it enhances many flavors, it pairs very well with coffee, chocolate and stone fruits. It’s also a test; I have overheard many bartenders say, “No, you don’t mix chartreuse.” I have heard this said of single malt scotch, anejo tequila, fernet branca, or anything confusing or difficult to understand. This is a cop out; there are only three reasons to not mix anything, 1. If you can’t afford it, if you can’t handle fucking up a $400 sidecar, don’t. Which leads to 2. If you don’t have the skill, and then very rare 3. If you are mixing with something that will never be available again. It bet you can wake a great Bobby Burns with Port Ellen scotch, but that distillery doesn’t exist anymore, you may not mix with it. That’s the test, can you mix? Or do you not even try?
Here are a few Cocktails for you
The earliest I have it is the Savoy Cocktail Book 1930, Unaccredited
.75 Yellow Chartreuse
2 dashes orange bitters
Stir and strain into a cocktail glass
The Last Word- Detroit Athletic Cub, Before 1951
Shake and strain
And one from me
Penelope’s Pit stop
1.5 El Tesoro Platinum Tequila
.5 Yellow Chartreuse
.5 lemon juice
.25 of a muddled pear
At present, eggs aren’t part of standard bar service, but by the time I finish this book they could be. After leaving tales of the cocktail, I feel that it’s a good time to get people hyped on drinking chickens.
I was introduced to egg whites in cocktails by reading the gentleman’s companion. Unfortunately, I worked in college and did not spring break in peru and chile. Though I have found that schwhag swilling spring breakers have brought this classic cocktail back to north America. If I can thank date raping backwards cap wearing frat boys for anything, it would be that. But you know who else I’ll thank? Old people, old people remember when drinkers trusted bartenders, to well, make go drinks. Still, egg whites are complicated to get people to drink as well as to just mix with. That being said, the biggest obstacle, bigger than any technique, is getting over fear. The fear has a name, Mr Salmonela J. Vomits and Pukes.
You are going to die. It’s important to understand that to be a healthy normal person. You are going to die, but its not going to be from drinking egg whites. Here are the facts on salmonela, you just aren’t going to get it from eggs, the odds are way off, I’ll take all bets. One in twenty thousand eggs contain the so feared bacteria, making the odd of your exposure extremely low, once per every 42 years of egg consuming. Furthermore, just because an egg contains this bacteria doesn’t mean that it will be contracted. And if you are really worried, ask the health department, they will likely tell you that bean sprouts and green peppers are the biggest culprits. Most bacteria that would be on an egg is indeed on the shell, a simple dunk in hot water or spritz with vodka kills most things. And furthermore, 8% alcohol kills salmonella, if you make a drink with that little booze you can just fuck right off. And on top of that a ph of less than 5 kills salmonella, I understand almost all fruit fits into that category.
To address freshness, American eggs are packed with 2 dates, the Jullian date (numbers I through 365 showing which day food was processed) and the sell by date. The sell by date is 48 days from the pack date, for the freshest date go for eggs that are less than 28 days old. For the freshest eggs, get a chicken. Don’t get a rooster, roosters are for baristas or soccer moms or anyone else who likes to get up at the crack of dawn. For me, I could get a rooster once a week and kill it every week for annoying me. Visit a farm: learn to hate roosters.
To address “grossness,” first off, I triple dog dare you to read the ingredients on any of your favorite foods. If you’ve read the “Jungle” or “Fast Food Nation,” you’ll know what I mean. But wait, whats that? You shop at whole foods and only use all natural products? Well, people are slipping you eggwhites everyday like lies about the tooth fairy to children. Custard, merengues, crème brulee, eggs benedict, gomme syrup sour mix, these all have uncooked egg bits, and with the exception of the last one, are all delicious.
But the real point here isn’t food safety or poultry slamming (that’s Ira Glass’ job),the point is the drinking. I’ve always said that eggs adds a texture and a mouth feel that carry flavours throughout the mouth very well. Then I saw a woman suck the prairie oyster cocktail off a dude’s stomach and I realized that she was more accurate when called egg cocktails “sexy.” Hot and sexy or traditional and lost arts (all?) egg cocktails are amazing and need to be experienced. Many recipes you’ll find for egg whites are from the moldy old tomes with bizarre measurements. Dave Wondrich points out in the book Imbibe! that eggs like modern people are bigger than they used to be. But frequently so are drinks. Most modern drinks are going to be twice the size of their fore fathers. Being that a useful egg white is flavourless all you really need to be cautious of is not using so much that it dilutes other flavours.
The drink recipes you’ll encounter in the old tomes will fall into categories, mostly noted in the name of the drink, such was the style at the time. If you ask me, I’ll rant a while and say that cocktails are intimidating because “the family” isn’t in the title anymore. That being said, you’ll find sours,: a spirit that has a sweetener, lemon and or lime and an egg white, shaken, strained and up. Yes, a whiskey sour, an ameretto sour and a pisco sour are all supposed to have egg whites. You’ll read about flips: a whole egg, shaken and stained. Perhaps you remember egg nog, with cream. Or heard of a fizz: when you have a white and add carbonation. The Ramos Gin Fizz being the most popular, like drinking a cloud, you haven’t made it right unless you almost pass out after shaking it as hard as you can. I understand platoons of young me were hired to shake them in the past, up to 12 guys, one minute each per drink. And if you’re from the british isles perhaps a possett: egg yolks, (insert booze of choice) cream and spices super heated with a red hot cherry poker. People still drink them at Scottish weddings but they were very popular 400 years ago.
But these days, you’ll be doing mostly flips and sours. There is veritably an egg revolution in cocktail bars, each bar having there own technique. Rather than list them all (which I can’t) I’ll offer the 3 techniques that I’ve found the most useful.
1 and 2: The dry shake. If you shake a drink with normal ice from a freezer or regular ice machine, you’ll find that you can melt half of its volume in a couple minutes. Meaning: yes, you shake a drink hard, but the longer you do it, the greater the potential to serve watery booze and that’s no way to win friends. The dry shake I’ve best seen executed two ways, measuring all ingredients and placing the spring from a hawthorne strainer in the shaker, shake vigorously then add ice, shake quickly and done. Easier is to get a frother, a battery powered dirnk mixer that will blend the eggs in the glass, then add ice and shake. Sadly, I have done the “john Henry challenge” with the frother and, I have lost. But, its cooler to do it by hand.
3. On a molecular level, alcohol and acid (fruit or vinegar) break an egg down and sugar emulsifies it. So, when time is not an issue, add the egg to the booze and acid, shake or froth, this will break down the egg’s molecular structure. Then add sugar and mix again, this puts it all back together in a tidy fluffy cloud of joy. The new mixture is less likely to separate.
Oh, and 3.5: When cleaning up after egg drinks, use cold water. Hot water will “scramble” the eggs right on the glass.
Some cocktails for you
Ramos Gin Fizz- Henry C Ramos 1888
1 lemon juice
.5 simple syrup
1 egg white
1 dash orange flower water
shake and strain into a Collins glass and top with soda
White Lady – (a sour) – Harry MacElhone 1919
I egg white
Shake and strain into a cocktail glass
Lord of Carlisle’s Sack-Posset-Sir Kenelm Digby 1671
Take a pottle of Cream, and boil in it a little whole Cinnamon, and three or four flakes of Mace. To this proportion of Cream put in eighteen yolks of eggs, and eight of the whites; a pint of Sack; beat your eggs very well, and then mingle them with your Sack. Put in three quarters of a pound of Sugar into the Wine and Eggs, with a Nutmeg grated, and a little beaten Cinnamon; set the Bason on the fire with the Wine and Eggs, and let it be hot. Then put in the Cream boiling from the fire, pour it on high, but stir it not; cover it with a dish, and when it is settlede, strew on the top a little fine Sugar mingled with three grains of Ambergreece, and one grain of Musk, and serve it up.
Well, there is more than one, but not many more. Think of it as half and half drinks, 2 thirds to 1 third, equal thirds, equal forth’s and “other.” You’ll find to make drinks “good” or “not all taste the same” you’ll need to tweak these ratios a bit, but start with simple ratios to understand how flavors work together. Shortly there after, you’ll be subbing sugar for St Germain and adding dashes of bitters to everything. For this example I’ll say “sugar” to mean simple syrup or sweetening agent. Follow these examples:
Two Fourths to a couple others
Caiphrinia 2 oz Cachaca 1 oz Lime 1 oz Sugar
Daquiri 2 oz Rum 1 oz Lime 1 oz Sugar
Papa Doble 2 oz Rum 1 oz Grapefruit 1 oz Maraschino
Margarita 2 oz Tequila 1 oz Lime 1 oz Sugar
Bartender’s Magarita 2 oz Tequila 1 oz Lime 1 oz Sugar splash Cran
Cosmo 2 oz Vodka 1 oz Lime 1 oz Sugar splash Cran
Kamakaze 2 oz Vodka 1 oz Lime 1 oz Sugar
Lemondrop 2 oz Vodka 1 oz Lemon 1 oz Sugar
Aviation 2 oz Gin 1 oz Lemon 1 oz Maraschino
Bay Breeze 2 oz Vodka 1 oz Cran 1 oz Pineapple
Madras 2 oz Vodka 1 oz Cran 1 oz Orange
Sea Breeze 2oz Vodka 1 oz Cran 1 oz Grapefruit
Half and Half
Greyhound 2 oz Vodka 2 oz Grapefruit
Salty Dog 2 oz Vodka 2 oz Grapefruit salt rim
Chihuahua 2 oz Tequila 2 oz Grapefruit
Salty Chihuahua 2 oz Tequila 2 oz Grapefruit salt rim
Paloma 2 oz Tequila 2 oz Grapefruit top with soda salt rim
2 Thirds to 1 Third
Manhattan 2 oz Rye 1 oz Sweet Vermouth 2 dashes bitters
Rob Roy 2 oz Scotch 1 oz Sweet Vermouth 2 dashes bitters
God Father 2 oz Scotch 1 oz Amaretto
God Mother 2 oz Vodka 1 oz Amaretto
Vesper 2 oz Gin 1 oz Vodka Splash Lillet
This is just a basic bartender’s short list, its much more important to note that these are really just ideas on how drinks evolve and how changing one ingredient makes a new drink. I would also like this table to show “list of 5,000 new cocktails,” books as utter bullshit. Seattle local hero chef and restaurateur Tom Douglas would sell you his cookbook, but that doesn’t give you the skill to execute on all recipes nor secure the bank loan to open 6 or 7 restaurants. Do buy, these “5,000 new cocktail” books for ideas, and because they are indeed pretty, but mostly they are only for reference and ideas. There are too many variables and too little information in these books. Take the Manhattan, one of the best right? If you answered no, you might consider how odd it is that you have an incorrect opinion.
The Manhattan is a ratio of 60-85% bourbon, rye or whiskey, to 40-15% sweet vermouth to 1-4 dashes of bitters. If that’s not enough of a variable in ratios, consider the rich complexity of rye, to the earthen smoke and maturity of bourbon or the caramel sweetness of a Canadian blend to a dry Irish whiskey. The quantity of vermouth matters but lets not forget, they have more brands than I could list here. When it comes to bitters, everything changes, normally you’d get Angostura, but it’s not unusual to get a different brand of aromatic bitters, orange bitters and sometimes Peychauds. Then there is my fave: a Bookers (126 proof cask strength bourbon) Manhattan with heavy Punt e Mes (very grape-y sweet vermouth) and 3 dashes of Angostura bitters.
To flog a horse be it not already dead: take Pernod, an 80 proof anisette liquor that is an aperitif in not America but commonly used as an absinthe substitute in old timey recipes. Though not dissimilar in flavor, characteristics and ingredients, it is half the proof and is nowhere near the pervasive flavor of absinthe. The use of more Pernod just results in anis like watery mélange. Brands and ingredients matter but what matters more if the end result of the flavor. Unfortunately there is only one way to insure that drinks taste right, or that the recipe needs to be tweaked for the brands being used: taste the drink. The pro way and the sanitary way to do this is to dip a straw into the drink, then put your finger on the top of the straw to taste a sample. Any bartender worth a damn does this all shift long if not to every drink. I use a straw if some one asks me to taste any drink even at a party. Why? Because I have no intentions of getting herpes whilst answering the question, “does this taste funny to you?” I hope you aren’t laughing.
What you should have learned:
Most recipes follow very simple formulas
Change those formulas to achieve the specific desired results
Recipe books are pretty, slick packages of ideas, not rule (including these)
The tasting straw is one of the most useful bar tools
The Manhattan is the best drink
Campari is where it started for me (and Larry Flynt). On my first solo bar shift I took down all of the bottles I didn’t know and tasted them, and I don’t think its surprising for an American boy to make to 24 years or until the viewing of The Life Aquatic to meet Campari (Steve Zissou orders up Campari from his interns, the interns confirm, “rocks?”). Actually, thanks to Salma Heyek’s, “Hotel Campari” add campaign, men may be introduced to Campari at a younger age. But more about me, with the first sip, I was shocked and seduced, I have never looked back, the first cocktail I ever invented (later that shift) was in honor of The Life Aquatic, the Esteban, equal parts vodka, lemon, Grand Marnier, with a 1oz sinker of Campari that was to be his blood, garnished with a wedge of lemon, sprinkled with cinnamon. And this drink that did not catch on, is the principal example of why new bartenders should be forced to work slow Sunday shifts, alone and stay open until 2am. How else will you learn the history of Campari?
Gespare Campari invented, in1860, as a bittersweet 70 proof apertivo to serve to the patrons of his coffeehouse this was Campari, and the recipe we still serve today. In fits of elitism, with fists balled, I will grumble, “its not a bar if you don’t have Campari or Rye.” I’ll come back to the Rye, but Campari is recognized the world over, its only in the United States that we don’t love it. But as I said before, Salma will help. Campari was very popular in America during prohibition due to it being legal and called a digestive aid. After prohibition, it fell away to a taste for mediocrity and homogeny. What is it? Well, its bittersweet and red, otherwise it’s a secret. A sexy secret. However, it’s commonly known that some of the secret is quinine, (which comes from the bark of the Cinchona) rhubarb, ginseng, bergamot oil, Seville orange peel and ginger. And yes it is colored (along with many other products) with Cochineal. I’ll save you a trip to the Internet and go ahead and tell you that Cochineal is a little Central American cactus-eating bug. Thus, Campari is not vegetarian nor is it for the chosen people (kosher). But that’s just history, all you really need to know are Negroni, Americano, and soda.
Campari will likely be ordered one of 3.5 ways. On the rocks or with soda, is the classic Campari way, in not American its common to see pre-bottled Campari and soda. Unfortunately, in many states its illegal to sell pre mixed spirits outside of liquor stores. Shift gears momentarily to James Bond, a man who drank almost every important drink there was to drink. Among those are the other two important Campari drinks.
The Americano: Campari, sweet vermouth and soda, I will never forget the Americano, because of a story a fellow bartender told me. He had answered what we call a “cattle call,” and open call to fill a bartender position. The interviewer asked him what was in an Americano, upon answering correctly; he was told that he was the only bartender that knew the ingredients. Why? Because most bartenders are actually beertenders.
The Negroni is equal parts gin, Campari and sweet vermouth (though, don’t be surprised to get a little extra gin). Count Camillo Negroni was real, and frequented a bar called Caffe Rivoire in Florence where he ordered an Americano with gin substituted for soda. I frequently say subbing champagne for soda is wise but in this case gin works well. Which brings another lesson, swapping two ingredients is the easiest way to make a new drink. The Old Pal for example is a dry vermouth Negroni sub bourbon for gin. Lastly, when ordered in Europe or Italian restaurants, expect to get it on the rocks due to the genealogy, whereas in America it will be served up. The Negroni is my Favorite drink, much like “crunk” is getting “drunk” up in the club, I am trying to introduce “negronked” as a term for getting drunk on fancy drinks, specifically the Negroni.
What you should have learned:
Thanks be to Salma and Steve Zissou, but more to Salma.
To be a better bartender, work lame shifts that allow you to learn at your own rate
Campari is bittersweet, not completely bitter
Campari is an apertivo, that is to say, before dinner
Serve it with orange and know :
1.5oz Sweet Vermouth
splash of club soda
Garnish: orange slice
Build over ice into a collins glass.
1.5oz sweet vermouth
Garnish: Orange Zest
stir and strain into a cocktail glass or over ice in an old fashioned glass
And here is one from me:
1oz grapefruit juice
Garnish: Rosemary sprig
Shake and strain into a cocktail glass