The Righteous Cocktail, the Bitter Handshake and bridging the gap of craft bartending to shots of Jager

The Righteous Cocktail, the Bitter Handshake and bridging the gap of craft bartending to shots of Jager

The most ordered drink on the cocktail menu at Mistral Kitchen is a drink called the Bitter Handshake,  In case you prefer less rambling, the recipe is such (but if you don’t read on you won’t know how to serve it).

The Bitter Handshake

The Bitter Handshake

The Bitter Handshake

1oz Fernet Branca

1oz Blood Orange Reduction*

1oz Rye Whiskey Simple Syrup** (I have also subbed .5oz rye and .5oz simple, pretty much the same)


Heavy Orange Zest

I serve it on the rock for aesthetics, and to make the strong flavors last for fernet beginners, but a cocktail glass would work too

Tools: icepick, spoon, jigger. Ingredients: 3 bottles, ice and an orange

But the real way this cocktail came to be is 3 fold, I was working on a cocktail that had a Fernet Branca base, similar to Kaiser Penguin’s Fernet Old Fashion, Keiko, one of the Sous Chefs gave me blood orange reduction to work with from her station and lastly, I had to make a drink for this douche that only drank jagermeister, I mean only, ever, no beer, it was all he drank.

Cut a sphere

1 A Fernet Based Cocktail

These don’t really exist yet.  I think there are three final fronts in the mixology world that have yet to be achieved, specific product knowledge, ability to anything as the true, “base,” spirit, meaning 1 oz is in that drink and balancing of strong flavors.  The last is the most important because as bartenders we could quite dangerously find ourselves making cocktails for only each other, you shouldn’t have to be skilled to find the balance in a drink, the balance should be apparent and the sublety is to be sought after.

Pour over good ice

2 Thanks for the leftovers

When Keiko gave me the leftover blood orange reduction, a  saw the possibility for magic.  This is when having a kitchen behind you really pays off.  Fact:  I will never experiment with juicing and reducing expensive and time consuming products.  But, I will take all leftover expensive jiblets from the kitchen and re-use their scraps.  Another great example was the foie gras fat washed cognac, again, I’m not going to cook off a lobe of foie just to get the leftover fat.  And before you even get upset about that, Fact: geese are jerks.

Juice must be fine strained before and after being reduced

3 Bridging the Gap

Telling a guy that only drinks japer, “you are a close minded fuckwit that never left college though your triple chin and bald spot tell a different tale,” doesn’t really win the dude over to the, “trust tree.”  Show, don’t tell*.  I could tell you I am a sorcerer able to pull infinite rabbits from hats, but least you see me do it, you’d be a fool to believe me.  This insipid fool will never believe that I can make him any good cocktail unless I show him I can work on his terms.

Just a quick stir to fully mix the different viscosities

The jager drink, the, “Righteous Cocktail,” as chef William calls it, is good.  A friend of mine came by with his lady and I served her a jager and blood orange, and she liked it so much that he had to take it away from her, fearing that she could lapse into jager drinking. After making the Righteous Cocktail, a simple 1.5 Jager to 1.5 blood orange, I just mashed that into what I was already working on for the un-named Fernet Cocktail, a variation on a true old fashioned with whiskey syrup instead of simple.  The blood orange then made it a variation on what many would call a, “crappy 1950’s style,” old fashioned with muddled juice and what not.

Keep that shaved ice for absinthe frappe

The rock is for the presentation and the preservation of the cocktail.  It is designed to be an after dinner digestive cocktail.  When the drink is just lightly and briefly stirred, it remains cold and generally undiluted for up to an hour.  Meaning, you get to take your time this way, and enjoy the meal and the conversation.  Also, this drink only has 1 oz of 80 proof liquor in it, making it an easy going cocktail for a last drink at the end of the night, and an amazing adition to keeping a balanced pour cost.

When I say "heavy orange zest, " I mean the whole thing

The name, “Bitter Handshake,”  refers to Fernet Branca being the, “ bartender’s shot,” or as I call it, “the bartender’s handshake,” a blessing an/or a curse that another bartender may send you at any point, a greeting, a good bye, a handshake.  All that being said, the Bitter Handshake is not quite as bitter as it sounds, people that have never had Fernet Branca find it enjoyable and upon tasting a sample alone, have no idea how they like the drink.  Those who love Fernet, find the drink, “Dangerous.”

Wrap the sphere with the peel

And lastly, before you ask, yes, I do make these all night.  I can carve an ice ball in 42 seconds and jigger the rest in normal time.  Which is about as fast as a crappy bartender can make a crappy cosmo while trying to get a phone number.  I can get the number too, or in my day anyway. I have been spoken for for 2 years and will be old (30) in 4 days time.

The Bitter Handshake

*reduce fresh juice by 1/3, add a touch of glucose for mouthfeel and a splash of fresh juice for flavor and brightness

**cup  ‘o rye, cup ‘o sugar, boil

***Telling does work to a point, but only when your reputation preceeds you and when you use slight of hand.  When I ask people what the like to drink and they say, “vodka,” I reply, “I have a great drink for you.”  Then I make them a cachaca drink off my menu and walk away, if they ask later, I’ll tell them, but most of the time they don’t a few drinks into the evening, when you reach for a bottle of rum o make their next drink, they won’t question you.  I had another patron who always liked his, “martini,” as just gin on the rocks, he was so confident in ordering his martini in his W.C. Fields manner, he never knew I always put good amounts of fresh vermouth in it.

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11 Responses to The Righteous Cocktail, the Bitter Handshake and bridging the gap of craft bartending to shots of Jager

  1. Casey Robison says:

    ….. and as stated in hitherto text messages; that is one ridiculous drink! Ridiculously good, that is. See you sunday brother.

  2. I.M. says:

    what sort of blade(s) do you use for cutting ice spheres?

  3. A.J. says:

    This drink is fabulous. But you, old? At 30? And with your youthful demeanor? That’s insane talk. You must have typed that after having about 10 of these (though, in saying that, I must admit I wish I was on my 10th right now).

  4. brent butler says:

    andrew, first of all glad to see you posting again, i really look forward to the updates on caskstrength. anyway, i was messing around with the bitter handshake at work last night and made a sort of dumbed down version. i used 1 oz. averna, .5 oz. pikesville rye, .5oz. simple, and 1 0z. fresh oj, shake and double strained neat. a couple of my customers loved it so thank you! a question, how do i get started carving ice? or more specifically how do i convince my boss, great guy by the way, to let me order one of those beautiful ice monoliths? keep up the great work and come visit blackbird in sf sometime.

    • caskstrength says:

      For carving ice I’d start with the crappy blocks of “compacted” ice that you get the grocery store. Compacted ice is exactly what it sounds like, leftovers from making ice cubes that are packaged into a a cube. While these are bad for drinks, they will give you an idea of how to shape a sphere and let your hand get used to the cold. When I first started, it was nearly unbearable, now I am the hardest man, -10 f ice out of the cooler or reaching in to get eggs out of dous vide, temperature is no problem.
      As for making ice, I would recommend a full size hotel pan, filled with near boiling water, frozen at the coldest temperature possible. This will take 3 days to freeze. The only other tips I can give you are to :
      puncture the top of the frozen ice every 6 hours or so, this will let the water being displaced in the middle of the cube pour out of the top, decreasing the chances of cracked ice
      freeze the pan deeper than you need the cubes, often the bottom of the pan will be bubbly and un usable which brings me to my last point

      cut away ice that isn’t clear, this can lead to 1/3 waste on a black, but it is just water

      one your boss sees an almost clear sphere, he will spring for the 300 pounder

  5. belltowngirl says:

    Having been to Mistral Kitchen, I definitely need to try this cocktail! Very informative and to the point post! Thanks!

  6. Definitely this drink will be next on my list when I hit Mistral Kitchen! Thanks!

  7. wasabi prime says:

    Beautiful drink, as always. The cold-tempered bartender’s hand seems akin to a chef’s heat-tempered/asbestos hand, seemingly unfettered by the heat of a hot burner or oven. Either way, that’s some serious kung fu.

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