Fernet Branca’s Cocktail of the Week

In February of last year, I was contacted by Fernet Branca, and asked if I’d like to be featured as one of their “cocktails of the week” on their social media sites. Obviously, I jumped at the opportunity! I came up with this variation of a drink I’d created almost a year earlier called “The Little Man”. With this variation, I emphasized the Italian origin of the famous amaro digestif, with the name “The Ragazzino”.

The Ragazzino

1.5oz Still 630 rye whiskey
3/4oz lemon
1/2oz Fernet Branca
3 dashes simple syrup
1 dash orange bitters
1 dash lavender bitters
shake/strain
garnish w/ an orange twist

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Two of My Favorite Drinks

They’re like twins… sometimes hard to tell apart, but definitely different.

A “1794” cocktail

2 parts rye whiskey
1 part Italian vermouth
1 part Campari

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A “Boulevardier”

Equal parts rye whiskey, Campari and Italian vermouth.

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Two Veterans and a Rookie

  

Well, I hope everyone had a great Memorial Day holiday weekend.  I sure did!  Today was my first day back to work after a really nice, long 5 day weekend.  I really didn’t make many new cocktails over the holiday weekend however, instead focusing more on drinks best suited for brunches and do-nothing relaxation such as the Bloody Mary and Mimosas.  Now that I’m no longer just lounging around with nowhere to be at any certain time, and back to keeping a schedule, I need drinks better suited for enjoying after a long day of work, unwinding in the evening time.

In this post, I have 3 good cocktails to share with you… two of them, the “Blinker” and the “Xanthia Cocktail”, being very old drinks from books of mine and the 3rd being one of my own creation, named 5 minutes ago after my St. Louis neighborhood – the “Clifton Heights Cocktail”.

“Blinker”

I found the Blinker in my PDT Cocktail Book, which coincidentally comes from a book I just recently picked up at a used book fair, Patrick Gavin Duffy’s “Official Mixer’s Manual”.  The Blinker’s a pretty good drink, and a very easy one to drink.  It’s a cocktail that’s heavy on the fruit flavor, but in a very smooth, subdued and subtle way.  The raspberry preserves add a real big fruit punch, while the simple syrup tones it down and keeps the fruitiness in check.  The grapefruit also keeps the fruitiness in check with its light characteristic mellowing it all out.  And as you may or may not have picked up along the way, reading my blog, I love rye whiskey and I also love a drink with grapefruit juice!  All-in-all, a pretty darn good drink.

2 oz. rye whiskey

1 oz. grapefruit juice

1/4 oz. simple syrup

1 bar spoon of raspberry preserves

Shake well with ice, then strain in to a chilled cocktail glass.

(“PDT Cocktail Book” and “The Official Mixer’s Manual”)

“Xanthia Cocktail”

The Xanthia Cocktail is not one of my favorite drinks, but it’s a decent one.  I picked this one out of “The Savoy Cocktail Book”.  The yellow Chartreuse definitely takes center stage in this aromatic drink with a kick.  The cherry brandy and gin hang in the background, blending nicely and both slightly mellowing and propping up the Chartreuse front and center.  If you want a Chartreuse drink, this is it for you.  If you’re not in the mood for a Chartreuse drink, this is not it for you.

1 oz. Cherry Heering

1 oz. yellow Chartreuse

1 oz. dry gin

Shake well with ice, and then strain in to a chilled cocktail glass.

(“The Savoy Cocktail Book”)


“Clifton Heights Cocktail”

Last but not least… actually this one’s my favorite of the three.  I’ve been experimenting lately with modifying one of my favorite cocktails, the “Blood & Sand”, by tinkering with its 4 ingredients (1:1:1:1) and switching out different ingredients a couple at a time.  Rather than starting a completely new drink totally from scratch, this tinkering method is a nice, easy and safe foray in to creating my own cocktails.  The “Blood & Sand” is made of equal parts scotch, Cherry Heering, orange juice and sweet vermouth.  In follow-up to my recent reminder of the fact that I love rye and I love grapefruit, surprise…  I worked those two favorite ingredients of mine in to the classic B&S recipe!  I swapped the scotch with rye whiskey and the orange juice with grapefruit, keeping the Cherry Heering and the sweet vermouth.  And it turns out to be a really great drink!  It’s still got the rich, dark sweetness of a Blood & Sand because of the Cherry Heering, but because of having grapefruit instead of orange, it’s not quite as sweet.  It’s less of an “out there” flavor combination than the Blood & Sand, and more of a familiar, common sense flavor mix.  While I love the Blood & Sand because it’s kind of a crazy mixture of unique, vibrant flavors, I like this drink a lot because it’s got some of the same elements while being a really great balance of a smooth, no-nonsense flavor combination.  I’m proud to say that I really like this cocktail.  And since I couldn’t think of a clever name that’s a fun twist on the Blood & Sand moniker, I stuck with just naming the drink I made up, derived from one of my favorite cocktails, after the St. Louis neighborhood I live in and love, Clifton Heights.

Equal parts…

-rye whiskey

-Cherry Heering

-grapefruit juice

-sweet vermouth

Shake well with ice, and then strain in to a chilled cocktail glass.


Springtime Splurge Activated!

            

In my last post, I declared winter to be officially over and introduced some new ingredients that I splurged on to inspire some new springtime drinks.  Well, these ingredients are gleefully being used!  I’ve got four new great cocktails for you featuring anejo tequila, Aperol, Rothman & Winter orchard pear liqueur and rhubarb bitters!  All four of these cocktails are top notch, and so fortunately, I’m now sitting back, enjoying the beautiful weather and feeling very good about my bulk booze purchase.

(Side note: In my last post, I mentioned how I don’t normally drop that kind of money to buy this much alcohol all at once.  So to see how I’m digging myself out of the debt I now owe to the household budget, see my new business venture selling vintage cocktail glasses at http://www.etsy.com/shop/ScientistMcGee?ref=si_shop)

“Eclipse Cocktail”

The first cocktail, and definitely my favorite of the four, is the Eclipse Cocktail.  This drink is SOOOO good!  It kind of reminds of me of the Blood & Sand cocktail (one of my favorites!) in that the smokiness of the anejo tequila reminds me of the B&S’s scotch with lemon instead of orange, Aperol instead of sweet vermouth, and of course the Cherry Heering as Cherry Heering.  This drink is mighty good. It’s got a fresh kick of tequila shrouded in a velvety curtain of citrus and cherry… mmmm.

2 oz. anejo tequila

3/4 oz. Aperol

3/4 oz. Cherry Heering

3/4 oz. lemon juice

Shake well and strain in to a chilled cocktail glass.

Garnish with a lemon peel.

(“The PDT Cocktail Book”)

“Rhubarb & Rye”

This next drink is an interesting one for me.  It’s very heavy on the rhubarb, which at least in my town of St. Louis, is not the most common flavor.  Yes, I see a rhubarb pie from time to time, but when I do it’s usually a pleasant surprise and seems like a rare opportunity.  In fact, I’d never tried rhubarb until I was an adult.  I like rhubarb though.  Something… maybe its obscurity, maybe the fact that it’s a vegetable but it tastes like a fruit, I don’t know… but something about it kind of freaks me out in a good way.  I like it though, and I like this drink that is definitely heavy on the rhubarb… an entire half-ounce of the rhubarb bitters in fact!  The first time I made this drink, I scaled the use of the bitters back to 5 dashes (which is still typically a liberal amount of bitters).  The second time I made it, I went for the entire half-ounce, as the recipe calls for, and it was a good call.  The rhubarb definitely takes a front seat, but that’s the point I guess.  It’s a very refreshing, springtime whiskey drink.  The rye definitely plays in the distant background and the rhubarb, along with its citrus friends of lemon and orange, takes center stage. Very nice!

1.5 oz. rye whiskey

1 oz. Aperol

1/2 oz. lemon juice

1/2 oz. rhubarb bitters

Shake well and strain in to a chilled cocktail glass.

Garnish with a lemon peel.

(http://www.kindredcocktails.com)

“Statesman”

This was an interesting drink too.  It reminded me of a Martini.  It was good, and had the crisp bite that a Martini delivers.  The Chartreuse, oddly enough, takes the place of the Martini’s olive(s), and the pear liqueur smoothly and effortlessly takes the place of the dry vermouth.  If you like a Martini, but are open to something new, give this one a try.

2 oz. gin

1/2 oz. Rothman & Winter orchard pear liqueur

1 bar spoon of green Chartreuse

1 dash of orange bitters

Stir well with ice and strain in to a chilled cocktail glass.

Garnish with a lemon peel.

(“The PDT Cocktail Book”)

“Improved Whiskey Cocktail”

Last, but definitely not least, is the “Improved Whiskey Cocktail”.  This is a very good drink!  The maraschino and absinthe rinse add a real depth and very subtle complexity to the nice and smooth whiskey base.  The whiskey’s nice and smooth because of the simple syrup.  This is a very good whiskey drink that goes down very nicely.

2 oz. rye whiskey

1/4 oz. maraschino liqueur

1/4 oz. simple syrup

2 dashes of Angostura bitters

Stir well and strain in to a chilled, absinthe-rinsed rocks glass.

Add a few ice cubes and garnish with a lemon peel.

(“The PDT Cocktail Book”)

Money well spent indeed!  Spring is here!


A very, very good book

Hey everybody, I’m excited for this post because it’s sure to feature the first of many drinks from a new book I picked up called “The PDT Cocktail Book”.  I really felt like I had hit a lull of inspiration and needed a new, quality book to perk me up.  I tried buying a book that I’d really enjoyed flipping through at the bookstore called “The Four Seasons Book of Cocktails”, but it turned out to be just a very attractive book, a fun read and flip through.  But when it came down to wanting to make any of the drinks, I wasn’t inspired.  It’s nicely organized, and has some great pictures, but nothing too exciting.

Then a couple weeks later, at the bookstore again, I came across just what I needed… a book I had seen online before, but nothing I never really paid much attention to – “The PDT Cocktail Book”.  This book is pricey for a cocktail book at $25, but worth every penny!  It’s a book put out by Jim Meehan, head bartender at PDT (Please Don’t Tell).  The actual bar and locale of PDT is a pretty cool story, but I’ll leave that for you to read if you pick up a copy.  Basically, this is a modern version of the Savoy Cocktail book, in that it’s a manual of the day and features many cocktails from PDT, but also many classic cocktails, along with drinks from contemporary drink-slinging peers.  Just like the Savoy book, it’s a snapshot of what drinks are being drank at this time in history.  Also like the Savoy, it’s got no pictures of the drinks themselves, which may sound annoying but it’s not.  Instead it features illustrations inspired by the drinks.  That may sound like a negative to many, and I’m the first to admit – I usually need photos to get inspired, but trust me… these drinks are generally basic enough, with typically only 3-5 ingredients, that you don’t need a picture to get the idea.  Plus the illustrations are kind of more inspiring than a snapshot of the drink could be.  That’s another big reason I love this book… the drinks themselves.  Yes, there’s a few unusual ingredients that I’ll probably never have, and therefore never try, but for the most part, the drinks featured, some may be new, some may be old, but they all resemble the stripped down simplicity of all the classics.  Instead of having a list of 7-8 ingredients, 2 or 3 of which need to be infused or what not, like some current cocktail books… most of these drinks feature all classic, stand-by ingredients… brandy, rye, maraschino, orange juice, bitters, absinthe, simple syrup, etc.   Another great similarity to the Savoy is its simplicity in just organizing the drinks alphabetically.  Only the PDT fixes the one major mistake about the Savoy – it features an index by ingredient as well.  That’s the one annoying thing about the Savoy, it’s nearly impossible to look up drinks by ingredient.  I can’t say enough good things about this book.  It’s an instant classic, and I’m so glad I bought it!  Nearly every page is rabbit-eared because there’s a drink I want to try, and I’ve already started…

This post features 4 of the drinks I’ve tried since buying this book.  They come straight from the pages of the PDT.  Two of them feature apple brandy, I just realized that three of them feature Benedictine, and my favorite is a combo you can’t go wrong with – tequila and Chartreuse.

“East Village Athletic Club Cocktail”

I’ll start with my favorite of the four, the East Village Athletic Club Cocktail.  This is only the 2nd drink I’ve had that has both tequila and Chartreuse, and both drinks are up there in my favorites (the other being the Loop Tonic, made with the green stuff).  I need to scour the internet and books for more drinks with these two troublemakers in it.  (Anyone have any suggestions?)  This drink is a creation of Mr. Meehan’s and he explains it as as a variation on the “Last Word” cocktail (one of my favorite drinks), and it’s amazing!  Tequila and Chartreuse go so nicely together – they hit each other head on and create a real zip!  It’s also the first drink I’ve tasted since buying my first bottle of yellow Chartreuse where the yellow stuff really holds its own and steps up to the plate.  The curacao really adds a nice element too.

1.5 oz. white tequila

3/4 oz. lemon juice

1/2 oz. yellow Chartreuse

1/2 oz. orange curacao

Shake well with ice and then strain in to a chilled cocktail glass.

(“The PDT Cocktail Book”)

 

“Honeymoon Cocktail”

This was a good sour with a nice orange and apple combo flavor, a really nice balance between the two.  I recently bought a bottle of Laird’s applejack, and often recipes will call for applejack specifically, but most call for apple brandy.  I know that applejack is not 100% apple brandy, but it was cheap and I like it.  Now that I know I like it though, I want to buy a bottle of apple brandy and give it a go.  I’m not sure how different the two will be from each other.  I’m assuming the 100% apple brandy will be much better, since the applejack is only 35% apple brandy (65% grain neutral spirits).  In the meantime, this $13 bottle of applejack was a nice introduction in to the apple brandy world.  I like it, and will be returning.  This drink’s almost like a daiquiri, but a little more “mature” in its taste… not as “childish” as rum (no offense to rum) but not as “manly” as whiskey.

2 oz. apple brandy

1/2 oz. orange curacao

1/2 oz. Benedictine

1/2 oz. lemon juice

Shake well with ice and strain in to a chilled cocktail glass.

(“The PDT Cocktail Book”, from Hugo Ensslin’s “Recipes for Mixed Drinks”, 1916)

 

“De La Louisiane”

This was a very good, warming drink with a hint of refreshing absinthe…

2 oz. rye whiskey

3/4 oz. sweet vermouth

3/4 oz. Benedictine

3 dashes absinthe

3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters

Stir well with ice and then strain in to a chilled cocktail glass.

Garnish with a maraschino cherry or 3

(“The PDT Cocktail Book”, from Stanley Clisby Arthur’s “Famous New Orleans Drinks”, 1937)

 

“Widow’s Kiss”

This was another good drink.  This drink wasn’t all that special, but it’s not bad if you’re looking for a nice, smooth stiff drink…

2 oz. apple brandy

1/4 oz. yellow Chartreuse

1/4 oz. Benedictine

2 dashes Angostura bitters

Stir well with ice and then strain in to a chilled cocktail glass.

(“The PDT Cocktail Book”, from George Kappeler’s “Modern American Drinks”, 1895)


Trips back and forth to the booze merchant…

Greetings friends & patrons!

I’ve made a few too many trips to Friar Tuck’s over the last week or two, and picked up some Peychaud’s bitters, Grande Absente absinthe and Luxardo maraschino liqueur…  Great purchases if you ask me!

The mini bottle of absinthe was the way to go (pictured in the Sazerac photos) because it was only $12 or so, and so I didn’t have to fork out around $70 for a regular sized bottle.  It was a great way to go to since absinthe is so strong, most drinks I’m finding recipes for only call for a splash of it to coat the inside of a glass.  So this little bottle will last me a long, long time.  But even if it doesn’t, I now know how highly I think of this green elixir, and won’t mind shelling out the big bucks for a big bottle.  I’d tried absinthe several years ago, but just straight (well, with water and sugar and what not, but still…).  At that time, I thought it was just OK.  But now, using it in cocktails, I think it’s the tops!  Like I said, a little goes a long way, and the anise flavoring of absinthe really lends a cool and refreshing note to any cocktail it’s added to.  It makes a whiskey drink seem summery!  And that’s something to sing about!

The Peychaud’s bitters was a pre-requisite to buy in order to make the Sazerac.  Peychaud’s bitters is from New Orleans and its creator is credited as the creator of the Sazerac cocktail.  So, there wasn’t much choice there.  But it’s really good too.

The Luxardo maraschino liqueur is something I’ve wanted to buy ever since I fell in love with Peter Heering CherryLiqueur (for a photo of Peter Heering, see my blog’s gravatar image… What a guy!).

Once I got the Cherry Heering, I started noticing that there weren’t all that many recipes that called for it’s rich, tart flavor, and instead most drink recipes called for maraschino liqueurs, which are made from the Marasca cherries and are lighter and bitter-sweet, and have a note of almond flavor from the crushed cherry pits.  One of the most revered maraschino liqueurs is the Luxardo brand.  At first taste, I wasn’t that thrilled because it was quite different from the CherryHeering which I love.  But after a few tries and a few different recipes, I’m hooked on it too.  It’s typically used in very subtle ways in drinks, and it plays more of a background role, lending a nice support to the ingredients in the forefront.  It’s the Steve Buschemi of the cocktail world.

In addition to the acquisitions of these new ingredients, I also picked up a great book from the library… “The Craft of the Cocktail” by Dale DeGroff.  I already have a great book by Mr. DeGroff, called “Essential Cocktails” which has been featured many times in this blog with recipes pulled from it.  This book however, is a nice compliment to that book.  I think it came out before “Essential Cocktails” and is more of a “complete and everything” guide to cocktails, from basic explanations and histories of each type of liquor, to a guide to unique measurements, to recommended websites and further reading, to an alphabetical list of tons of cocktail drinks.  Where as “Essential Cocktails” is like a greatest hits album which nicely organizes all the best drinks in to their proper categories (Classics, Moderns, Sours, Highballs, etc.), this book is more like the “Bartender’s Bible” which is almost like a dictionary which lists tons of drinks alphabetically, but has much nicer pictures and descriptions than the “Bartender’s Bible”.  Each book is unique to itself and offers a benefit, and so I’d recommend both books if you have the time and money to spend, or a library where you can borrow it for a few weeks.  The nice thing is that there are drinks featured in “Essential Cocktails” that aren’t in “The Craft of the Cocktail” and vice versa, and even some drinks that are listed in both have slightly different recipes and therefore you can select which one fits your palate better.  Both are top notch books and great resources to have… Reading them is so fun that they inspire me to run to the kitchen to mix one up!  That’s why I recommend reading them in the evening time, rather than in the morning before going to work.  They can be frustrating if read when you can’t go mix a drink.

Well, enough dribble-drabble… On to the drinks you can make for yourself at home in your bar, or call me up and come on over and I’ll mix one up for you myself…

“Sazerac”

What a drink!  I love it!  It’s perfect for when you want the nice, stiff taste of a whiskey drink served up, but it’s hot outside and you need some refreshing thirst quenching.  The rye whiskey adds spice, but the lemon and absinthe make it cool and refreshing.  Plus the sugar makes it a little sweet.  When preparing, you only coat the inside of the glass with absinthe, but it’s surprising how much you can taste the absinthe in the drink.  Top notch!

1 sugar cube

3-5 dashes of Peychaud’s bitters

2 oz rye whiskey

Splash of absinthe

lemon peel for garnish

Combine the sugar and the bitters, and muddle to dissolve the sugar in one old fashioned glass.  Add the rye and some ice, and stir gently to combine.   Take the chilled serving glass and add a splash of absinthe… Swirl the absinthe around to just coat the inside of the glass, and then pour out (in to my mouth) the excess absinthe.  Strain the chilled rye, sugar and bitters in to this prepared glass.  If you’re a purist, rub the rim of the glass with the lemon peel, and then discard.  If you’re not a purist, twist the lemon peel over the top, or rub the rim, and drop it in to the drink for a garnish.  (This recipe is a combination of 2 slightly different recipes from 2 different sources – see references below)

http://www.theartofthebar.com/html/index.html and http://www.amazon.com/Essential-Cocktail-Mixing-Perfect-Drinks/dp/0307405737

“Captain’s Table”

Here’s a drink that features Campari, an aperitif bitters made with herbs and fruits.  It’s often described as an “acquired taste” due to its bitter taste.  I’m still not a huge fan, but this was one drink I did really enjoy.  It’s perfect for when you want a refreshing and summery, back porch drink without wanting a “sweet & fruity” drink.  All the flavors are very muted.  The drink’s refreshing with the gin, orange juice and ginger ale, but it’s dry at the same time because of the Campari.  Very good – Campari… you’ve served your purpose in life well.

2 oz gin

1/2 oz Campari

1 teaspoon grenadine

1 oz orange juice

4 oz ginger ale

1 maraschino cherry

Combine gin, Campari, grenadine and OJ… Shake well and pour in to a collins or a highball glass filled with ice cubes, and top with the ginger ale… Garnish with the cherry.

http://www.amazon.com/Bartenders-Bible-Mixed-Drinks-Everything/dp/0061092207/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1299558901&sr=8-1

“Aviation”

This is a great, simple showcase and use of the maraschino liqueur.  Very good drink.  It has a very unique, nutty taste that you don’t taste everyday in most cocktails.

2 oz gin

3/4 oz Luxardo maraschino liqueur

1/2 oz lemon juice

http://www.amazon.com/Essential-Cocktail-Mixing-Perfect-Drinks/dp/0307405737

“Club Cocktail”

Great drink!  I found it to be very delightful to drink while sitting on the back porch on a lazy Sunday afternoon…  Initially, I thought it was a little too heavy on the taste of the brandy.  The caramel taste of the brandy surprised me being side-by-side with the maraschino liqueur and the pineapple juice.  But by the second glass, I really began to love its unique flavor.  It was another refreshing drink that’s not too fruity or sweet.  I guess that’s almost the them of this particular blog post… refreshing drinks that aren’t sugary sweet and fruity.

2 oz brandy

1/2 oz maraschino liqueur

1/2 oz pineapple juice

2 dashes of Peychaud’s bitters

lemon peel for garnish

Shake well with ice, and strain in to a chilled cocktail glass… garnish with the lemon peel

http://www.craftofthecocktail.com/

“Waldorf”

This is an awesome alternate take on the classic Manhattan!  This drink’s perfect for when you want a Manhattan, but want a more refreshing drink… The absinthe livens it up a bit, adding a fresh kick.  Very good cocktail.

1/8 oz absinthe

2 oz bourbon (or rye whiskey)

3/4 oz sweet vermouth

2 dashes of Angostura bitters

The recipe I found said to swirl the absinthe in the glass to coat the inside and then pour out the excess, before adding the remaining ingredients… I was, however, in the mood to have some more absinthe in the drink, so I actually just mixed in about an 1/8 oz of absinthe with the bourbon, sweet vermouth and bitters, and then stirred with ice, leaving all of the absinthe in the actual drink, and then strained in to a chilled cocktail glass.

http://www.craftofthecocktail.com/

“The Last Word”

Now that I’ve got my maraschino liqueur, I was able to taste what this drink was supposed to properly taste like.  (I’d originally only had Peter Heering Cherry Heering to use, and in one of my previous posts talk about how it didn’t work well and how it actually led to me creating my own variation called “The Counter Argument”.)  This classic cocktail was reportedly brought back to life by a bartender in Seattle (Zig Zag Cafe) who disovered it in some old cocktail recipe books.  Since it’s re-discovery, it’s enjoying quite a revival in popularity all across the country.  It is indeed a good drink.  It too has some really unique flavors and the Chartreuse really shines through and takes center stage, with a really nice accompaniment of the maraschino liqueur.

Equal parts…

Gin

Green Chartreuse

Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur

Lime juice

Shake well and strain in to a chilled cocktail glass

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/restaurants/2008837441_zres11lastword.html

Cheers!