How to measure a dash of bitters.

I was emailing a caterer this morning about batching a cocktail for an upcoming event.  I wasn't happy with how the internet explained dashes of bitters for batching, so I made a chart to explain it.  The chart is in the format of a Dungeons & Dragons players' guide page, you know, so your innkeeper NPC can use it too.

 

How to Measure a Dash of Bitters The Homebrewery - NaturalCrit.jpg

Sambuca part 1: sambuca defines a bar

Sambuca doesn't really matter.

So why am I writing about sambuca? 

Because I love it.  Anise is a strange flavor in America, and sambuca only has three ingredients: spirit, anise and sugar.  Sambuca is the vintage polyester, fast food uniform found at a thrift store of the spirits world.  But you know what? Vintage McDonald's uniforms are fucking dope. Aside from sambuca being an out of date underdog, for me, it's the perfect example of "the way you do anything, is the way you do everything."

For example, most bars, even fancy bars, only stock a low-cost & low-quality sambuca, created for the American market.  Sometimes you'll see a higher quality brand that I personally boycott due to their use of Columbus day in their marketing.  I choose Meletti because it's $20 a bottle, family owned, very good, high proof and Matteo Meletti is my buddy.  And that is precisely my point, why did any given bar choose their sambuca?  Let's be honest, it was chosen the same way a stray cat is chosen— it shows up one day and it won't leave.

So, does the bar serve and an inauthentic brand? A brand that is outdated in a moderately genocidal way?  Me, I think avoiding genocide is a safe bet in marketing.  Or does the bar make an educated decision on their stock, you know, the same way they treat every precious "small batch" whiskey?

How does the bar serve sambuca? You know how a lot of bartenders serve sambuca? On fire.  Fire, while exciting, sexy and cool, is so, because it's also quite dangerous.  In my time behind the bar, I found that a glass on fire for just ten seconds gets hot enough to put a herpes blister-ish mark on a guest's lip.  This is often how sambuca is served when it has a Sinatra chaser.

extinguish before serving AND allow time to cool

extinguish before serving AND allow time to cool

Plenty of bars, well, actually more clubs, will serve sambuca in a shot glass without asking.  Sambuca has long been bro shot in places that are loud enough that guys yell things like "LET ME GET, THREE NO WAIT.... WHAT SLATER?  NO, YEAH, THREE SAMBUCAS," he bellows, making the American sign language sign for "OK" that assholes also use to signal the number 3.

Bars that I frequent, almost exclusively use sambuca in caffè corretto (a drink I'll cover later in the week) and the bottle is left out, bereft of glassware, next to the espresso machine.  Frankly, it's mostly for employee use.

Consider these things as I discuss sambuca going forward.  If you are a bar, did you choose your sambuca with the same care as the other things on your menu?  If you are a drinker, have you considered revisiting this glorious Italian liqueur?  Like most anything worth doing, the first try, the novice's take, is only a tiny part of what sambuca is and what it can do.

 

Tiki classic, "The Nui Nui" is the perfect Christmas cocktail

It's that time of year, a signal like the "Mensch on a Bench*" on the shelf at Target, tells us, it's Christmas.  I love holiday cocktails. For me it all started years ago, on a month long, winter consultant in trip to Alberta, land of the bloody caesar.  Over and over, bartenders told me how much they loved to drink Bailey's, and some where, after my second cheese fondue and my third standoff with a moose, I started to love Bailey's and all winter cocktails too. Winter drinks aremostly obvious, warm or sweet, high production cocktails, that you should drink sparingly. But a cocktail too often ignored in cold weather is the Nui Nui.

Let me first say of the Nui Nui, never have I made one that the guest didn't love. It's a Creedence Clearwater Revival greatest hits record in a glass— you know all the words even if you don't give a shit about John Fogerty. The Nui Nui's appeal as a winter drink seems obvious at first, it's a mix of cinnamon, vanilla and allspice that smells like a delicious $75 scented candle you only light for company, but, a candle that can get you tipsy.  Here's what bar owner and syrup stirrer Blair Reynolds, has to say on the Nui Nui 

The Nui Nui is a cocktail well suited for Christmas drinking. Not only is it another great use for your spice cabinet, and the oranges from the bottom of your stocking, but a big kick of rum really helps make it a happy holiday.

But the other reason the Nui Nui is such a great winter cocktail is that it's orange and citrus heavy. And northern hemisphere citrus as just beginning to reach perfection in November. 

Here is a basic recipe** for the Nui Nui before we go any further 

The Nui Nui 

2 oz rum 1 oz orange 3/4 oz cinnamon syrup 3/4 oz lime 1/4 oz vanilla syrup 1/4 allspice Dash bitters Shake and strain over crushed ice,  garnish like on a cooking competition show **tips on changing recipe to follow**

2 oz rum

1 oz orange

3/4 oz cinnamon syrup

3/4 oz lime

1/4 oz vanilla syrup

1/4 allspice

Dash bitters

Shake and strain over crushed ice, 

garnish like on a cooking competition show

**tips on changing recipe to follow**

To continue with the less obvious reason to indulge in the Nui Nui for the holiday season,  listen, remember and tattoo upon your arm if necessary: 

 

Citrus is harvested in the fall and winter.


 

What’s that you say? What about those crazy finger limes and exotic citrus that show up in the summer?  Well, those are grown in the Australian winter of June and July.  Those oceanic folks are crackers, putting their winter in the wrong months, calling large marsupials “skippy,” and having universal healthcare. Anyway, up here where water flows the right direction, our best citrus comes into season in the late fall and winter that we call "November through February". Those are the best months for citrus cocktails.  Note your local grocer’s stock of tiny sweet oranges, vibrant blood oranges and, just a bit later you’ll see Texas oranges and grapefruits.  The Nui Nui benefits greatly from bold, fresh and this time of the year, sweet citrus.  

To consider the Nui Nui as a template, it basically has three flavors: citrus, baking spice and rum.  And to truly enjoy this cocktail, start substituting those flavors with seasonal analogs.

Rum

No need to ever use 2 oz of just 1 rum.  Whenever possible, blend your rums for a better cocktail.  The spice flavors with hold down the base of this cocktail, so you needn’t rely too heavily on a dark rick rum, I’d instead to go with tropical flavors from Jamaican Rum, Cachaça or Agricultural Rums. 

Spice

You can make vanilla syrup by buying fresh vanilla beans from a local spice store (your grocer likely sells old beans), gently simmering them and stirring in high quality Demerara sugar and letting cool.  This mixture can be repeated with cinnamon.  Both will not grow mold for almost 2 weeks in the fridge and won’t taste as fresh after a couple days.  Conversely, but the syrups from a professional.  For vanilla syrup, look for syrup in which you can actually see particulates of vanilla beans.  Obviously B.G. Reynolds is designed to hold up in complex tiki cocktails.  As for cinnamon, the original Nui Nui called for various secret "Don's mixes," that have since been decoded and are no longer secret. These mixes were pre-batched flavor compilations designed to add efficiency to the bar and prevent bartender’s knowing the real recipe.  The recipe above basically contains that mix “exploded.”

Citrus

Get some.  Get crazy.  Meyer lemons are in season for you to blend with lime juice.  Blood orange can be substituted for navel orange even though November Texan navel oranges might be the best an orange can be.  Satsumas, though hard to juice and a mysterious sweetness when muddled into a cocktail. And the aromatic peel of a buddha’s hand is an intoxicating garnish.  Drink all of the winter citrus.

 

You can basically riff on the Nui Nui if you have equal parts rum, spicy sweetness and citrus.

 

With all that in mind, this is how I would make a Nui Nui to get the best of winter flavors


Winter Nui Nui

1 oz Jamaican Rum (perhaps Appleton VX or Hamilton Black)

1 oz Aged Cachaça (Perhaps Novo Fogo)

3/4 oz Blood Orange Juice

3/4 oz Lime Juice

1 smashed satsuma

1 oz Kraüterlikör of your choice (perhaps Becherovka, Bittermens Hiver Amer or Pür Blood Orange)

1/4 oz Vanilla Syrup

1/4 oz St Elizabeth’s Allspice Dram

2 dashes Scrappy’s Cardamom Bitters

shake and strain into tiki mug


Tiki is travel without traveling.  Tell your family you love them enough to stay in.  Have a Nui Nui, chase it with and eggnog, get a cab and go to bed early.

 


*I love him so much. I mean, Hanukkah doesn't really need a mascot, but c'mon, equal opportunity commercialization right? And, this the mascot is just "you know, like a good guy,  someone who would help you move a sofa."

 

** No, this isn’t the original recipe of secret Don’s mixes and it’s not blended, this is a flavor template you can follow along with, adapt it for yourself.  It is unreasonable to make Don Beach’s Nui Nui, make your Nui Nui.  If you want to make it like Don, g pick up a copy of Jeff Berry's book Potions of the Caribbean  or The Cate's Book Smuggler's Cove.  Otherwise, visit a tiki joint near you like:

Latitude 29

Smuggler's Cove

Hale Pele

Archipelago

Rumba

Lost Lake

Mother of Pearl

 

What is Kräuterlikör? Where is Boonekamp?

You have been drinking Kräuterlikör for years, even if you didn’t know it.  Chances are, you’ve cursed and bemoaned the St Hubertus stag, even if you didn’t know what that is.  Those past two sentences make me think I’m being a pretentious fuckwit, alas, I like a detective story.  Does this picture ring a bell? By which I mean, does it ring your bell like a the morning after a bachelor/ette party? 

Get it? Yes, you have had Jägermeister before. Krauterlikor isn't obscure, you might know the most popular one in the world as Jägermeister, a brand making a sincere and legitimate come back in the cocktail community.  Some of you just stopped reading.  Younger folks might think "well, Jäger is really just like a German Amaro."  By which that hip youngster is comparing the herbal tones in Jäger with the bitter flavors in the Italian liqueur family AMARO.  This is an accurate comparison, but it is so in the same way that crudo is Italian sushi, Ramen is Japanese noodle soup or that pad thai is peanut butter spaghetti.  None of those statements are false, but they ain't too smartsy neither.

I asked Willy Shine, Brand Meister for Jägermeister about the category and he offered: 

"KRÄUTERLIKÖR origins date as far back as the beginning of distillation. Distillation may have been a gift of the Arabs but perfecting the suspension of the medicinal properties of plants in alcohol we can thank the monks through the dark ages for that. Beer & Wine may be the oldest alcoholic beverages in Germany but KRÄUTERLIKÖR is a huge part of the German drinking history. Jägermeister KRÄUTERLIKÖR of Germany pays homage to its history & predecessors with family heritage, integrity & process."

Kräuterlikor is a German portmanteau, (and come on, the German language, for better or for worse, is the language of the portmanteaus) for "herb liqueur."  Thusly, goodbye "German Amaro," and hello "kräuterlikor."  

Good ahead, just yell it a couple times, it's fun. "KRÄUTERLIKÖR!" In German these bitters are often called "halbbitter," meaning "half bitter."  Germany, Austria, basically all those cold countries with rich sausage traditions have bitter herbal liqueurs.  Some recipes are centuries old, monastic or abbey bitters while others, like the Danish Gammel Dansk, despite being in an old timey bottle, was founded in 1964.  Though the word kräuterlikor is german, it refers to a very large family of spirits and German speaking people sometimes use it as a generic word to refer bitter spirits from other countries.  Perhaps calling Cynar an "Italian kräuterlikor."  Liqueurs commonly known in America that fit into the kräuterlikor category are Hugarian Unicum, German Aromatique from H.P.S.Epicurian or the Czech Becherovka .  Kiki Braverman of Pür Spirits has recently created a contemporary kräuterlikor in her liqueur Zamaro, which feature various secret alpine botanicals that I'm not supposed to mention here. 

The even smaller category of kräuterlikor that I am obsessed with is boonekamp bitters AKA stomach bitters or the glorious category that contains Underberg.  Boonekamp bitters have less that 3 grams of sugar per 100ml which makes them significantly drier than most all liqueurs.  As for Underberg, I've been a daily advocate for about 10 years now.  The swag I have accumulated from saving the caps is enumerable.  I also scored a vintage bandolier at an estate sale.

The Underberg Glass and the sign for Underberg

The Underberg Glass and the sign for Underberg

 

Underberg is a bitter kräuterlikor, specifically, a boonekamp bitter. Though it is 88 proof, the FDA classifies it as “non potable bitters” in America, it is food and you do not need to be 21, or sober, to buy it. However, to attempt inebriation with it, may make one poop one’s pants. But to use it to soothe the tummy, it makes one READY FOR MOAR FOOD! But what is it?

When you don’t know what a liquor or liqueur is, first ask yourself:

“What is written on the bottle?”

By law, and marketing, bottles are chockfull of great information. This little green bottle reads…

Underberg is an herb bitters taken for digestion, it is not a beverage. Not to be supped, but taken all at once and quickly because of its aromatic and strong taste. It is also used as a flavoring.”

 .67 fluid oz, 20 ml, 44% alc

Ingredients: Water, alcohol (44% by volume) and natural flavors from the genus gentiana.

Natural Herb Bitters — To feel bright and alert —Made in Germany

What does it all mean? Well, let me tell you a bit about all that jargon and glory. Hubert Underberg-Albrecht in 1846, began selling this bitter made of what they claim to be herbs and spices from 43 countries. The genus gentiana, or gentian, contains over 400 different alpine flowering plants, so, it can’t be too hard to span 43 countries. And another fun bit about it, the extracts used to create these bitters are aged in Slovenian oak. I’m no arborist, but from what little I’ve read of Slovenia, it seem that it is certainly inhabited by gnomes and fairies making the oak pure magic.

I offer you both Hamlet and Underberg’s marketing tag to further explain these mysteries of boonekamp bitters, digestion and booze like Underberg.

Hamlet:

“And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

Marketing:

Underberg, it cannot be explained… it must be experienced.”


Though all of that was Underberg specific, the point to remember that holds true for figuring out boonekamp or kräuterlikor: read the label on the bottle– good info there.  Unless it's in 2 point type like the bottles featured below.  Northern Europe has countless other boonekamp bitters. In grocery stores, I use all of my willpower to bypass chocolate and dig out tiny bottles of boonekamp.  Sure, many of these come in full size bottles, but I like them "fun size."

Grafenau

Grafenau is that classic disconnect between aroma and flavor that is rarely found outside of gin.  On the nose, it seems astringent and harsh and while it's thin on the palate (likely from a lack of sugar) it has about the best balance of baking spice flavors and complete finish you could ask for.  I didn't like it on the first sip, but upon revisiting, it has great structure.  I would assume that the base spirit in this is very poor but the herb balance, well, I found it enjoyable.


Jagfürst

Jagfürst means "the hunting prince." And while the bottle makes you think it has great provenance, I can find none.  Save to say, it is popular to mix with Redbull.  I doubt that is what they were going for.  I very much enjoy this anise forward boonekamp.


Kuemmerling

Kuemmerling is another iconic bottle.  I might clown on others who offer after tasting "it tastes like Jägermeister with..." Well, that is accurate here, it tastes like Jäger with a big, sweet orange peel in it.  And I love that flavor.  I think pretty much any spirit with an orange peel is great.

 


Mümmelmann

Mümmelmann Jagtbitter I suspect, though am afraid to ask, is Underberg, sweeter and at a lower proof.  It is owned an produced by the Underberg company.  And perhaps after tasting a dozen bitter liqueurs in a row, everting starts to taste like the fennel washed goodness of a post sausage dinner.


St. Vitus

I couldn't find much about St Vitus, a Danish boonekamp.  However, I could find out, that I love it.  It has all the greatest hits flavors you'd come to expect by now but adds a mouth numbing punch of mace.  Like getting hit with a mace studded mace for all those botanically inclined midieval history fans. After digestion, it seems that the people of Denmark like to play a serial number based drinking game with St Vitus.

  

Calvados: Everything about spirits explained one handy subcategory.

Calvados: Everything about spirits explained one handy subcategory.

We aren't talking about Calvados, but everything we are talking about is part of Calvados.

What if I told you there was a magical land in the clouds, protected by a sea and white cliffs, a place with undulating hills of fruit orchards, a place whose citizens live to make butter, cheese and artisanal spirits? 

Bitters Stain Everything

To know bitters is to be marked by them.  Many bitters are colored artificially or with caramel.  I'm not too upset about this because those fake colors prove that the cocktail I ordered, actually contains the prescribed bitters.  I am a fan of the airport Manhattan— if I see a bottle of bitters, I know that the worst think that can happen is just the need to strain some fruit flies out of the vermouth.  Flies, though indicative of oxidized vermouth, are acceptable when you are on a redeye flight.

I painted this bottle to remind me of the countless neckties and buttondowns that have been marked by bitters.  And, because income streams, you can get a Bitter Stain t-shirt here.


It's pre-stained, how low stress!

It's pre-stained, how low stress!

Amaro by B.T. Parsons, a bitter book my buddy wrote

My buddy Brad wrote a bitter book

 

I was in Brooklyn last week to eat pizza with an old friend.  He and his wife are more than 100 pies deep in complete from scratch Sunday night pizza parties.  Pre-Greenpoint-subway-oddessy, wanting to be a reasonable guest and thinking of pizza, I decided to bring a bottle to dinner. So I popped down to a swanky village liquor store and asked 

 

“Hello, do you have any grappa that is any good ?”

 

They pointed to the same dusty 3 brands of, “no grape named”grappa in pretty bottles yet are poorly distilled shit that makes people hate grappa.  Smirking like a first class elitist asshole, I queried

 

“How’s your amaro selection?”

 

They then pointed out what I’d call a “bitter Milano candy store,” and I picked up a bottle of Sfumato Amaro Rabarbaro, a good tonic and grapefruit.  I thought, “yeah, this hasn’t been in America too long, sure to impress.”

Revealing my spritz bounty to my hosts I was told,

 

“Oh yeah, we just got a bottle of this.”

 

Because that is where we are with amaro in America right now.  In just 10 short years, we’ve gone from frowning while downing and mispronouncing Fernet Branca to civilians being up on new imports in toasted rhubarb liqueurs.

 

And that is why Brad Thomas Parsons wrote AMARO: The Spirited World of Bittersweet, Herbal Liqueurs.  Well that and that like me, he is a member of the clean plate club and good eaters like a little something to punctuate a meal.

had a "reading party" when it came in the mail yesterday

had a "reading party" when it came in the mail yesterday

 

AMARO is a checklist & shopping list, a road trip that gives voice to creators of amari, a greatest hits cocktail book of the past few years of the resurgence of bitter drinking and it’s photographed beautifully by Ed Anderson.  Brad, Ed and I met up about a year ago (because that is the time frame the publishing world) to make and photograph a few cocktails for this book.  One of mine featured inside is the Elena’s Virtue— a drink created to emulate the flavors of a Mai Tai yet is bereft of rum.  The Elena’s Virtue is made solely with Italian liqueurs.  AMARO chronicles a shift in thinking for the bar world in which cocktails can be lower alcohol, use a spectrum of bitterness to bring guests in and add a new base spirit to cocktails: bitter liqueurs.

An amaro Mai Tai: Elena's Virtue

An amaro Mai Tai: Elena's Virtue

 

If you have had praise for any “brown, bitter & stirred” cocktail over the past few years, need to understand how we went from a taste for Manhattans to lop sided Torontos or want to know what the former part of this sentence means, then by Brad’s book.

 

Also, if you think that writers should still get paid to do research and that books have value, buy this book, I did.

The Playmate Cocktail- a simple aperitif that is really complicated

I'm going to make drinks this weekend for about 60 people at a wine dinner. I love wine, and I love that wine people share their wine that is truly admirable trait.  It's just that, unfortunately, wine people are frequently the most slapdash when it comes to cocktails, their knowledge, their love of province and history goes out the window when you start talking about spirits. I don’t try to convince wine people to make cocktails with spirits they haven’t heard off— I offer them wines they haven’t heard of. 

 

Instead of trading too many emails I just drew a picture of the plan that I have for the weekend's cocktail.  It's times like this, where I really understand new job titles like "science communicator" because while I can explain everything going into the drink, frequently on a historic level, it's hard to briefly communicate why what I'm saying is very specific.  And it's why smart people like Neil Degrasse Tyson and Brian Cox have such valuable careers because they can speak to normal people. I don't have that skill, but I can draw pictures.

 

Pinterest the fuck out of this

Pinterest the fuck out of this

 

This is a simple cocktail I came up with years back. Mostly, I used it to make money on the happy hour menu. But I also think that it's a drink as lovely, diplomatic and universally praised as Beyoncé. It has just three ingredients, and if the citrus is very fresh, you can forgo the bitters. I call the drink the "Playmate." I had originally wanted to name it after a 1970s playboy model; I thought it would be a cheeky nod. However, the 1970s seem to have been an era pre “nom de nudie” when models had sincere names like Ursula Buchfellner, Anulka Dziubinska and Ingeborg Sørensen, none of which are's particularly good cocktail names. However, with simplify in mind, the three ingredients in this cocktail each tell a story about how much of an ass pain making a three ingredient cocktail really is.

 

Pineau des Charentes

 

Pineau des Charentes is a beautiful aperitif which is also a great example of the United States government, and for that matter, most wine people, having no idea what they are drinking.  Pineau des Charentes is not a fortified wine. TWIST! It is a fortified grape juice (unfermented juice & grape eau di vie) that is then aged after the fermentation has been arrested.  It’s a fortified wine in the same way that adding cognac to a toddler’s juice for extra nap-time is a "fortified wine."  This is a common practice in my imaginary French countryside.  Pineau des Charentes is normally a grape you know, like merlot or cab franc that starts off juice of the aperitif.  And while you can make great cocktails and enjoy $20 bottles that have seen 6 months in barrel, you can also go big with expressions aged for many years. There are 3 things you should know though: 1. it ain’t wine, in America we’d define it as a liqueur though at 18% ABV it’s frequently sold as wine, 2. most people don’t know what it is, Be ready for "uh, is that like a port?" and 3. no, you can’t sub something else for it— never ask “what can I sub for blank blank,” just use the internet and put in some effort.


 

Grapefruit Bitters

 

Grapefruit bitters are not just grapefruit peel soaked in spirit.  That would be a tincture.  Grapefruit bitters will have a label reading “grapefruit bitters,” they are likely to be on a base of 40% ABV and be blended with other herbs and bittering agents.  Scrappy’s, which happens to be my preference, is flavored with gentian for bitterness, some type of cardamom that I can not reveal, various parts of grapefruit that I can not reveal and other herbs that my friend Miles won’t tell me because secret ingredients are fun.  However, you can buy them here if you want to figure them out.  What can you substitute for grapefruit bitters? Well, try other brands of grapefruit bitters, perhaps orange bitters & a grapefruit zest, but, I’d just go with a sampler pack to see what bitters will do to your cocktails.  When you try to sub these for each other, you'll see that while every bottle offers something new, they are not interchangeable in recipes.


 

Tonic Water

 

I frequently say “use good tonic water, “ and yet, what that really means is “use real tonic water.”  Quinine, the bittering agent in tonic water will require sugar to make it palatable, but accept no tonic water without the word “quinine” on the label.  Otherwise, it’s just the effervescence of tonic with the squeeze of a lime needed to balance the sweetness.  Should you use tonic syrup? Sure, if you charge it with CO2, an ISI charger, soda stream or something.  But you you think you can mix syrup with club soda and get anything other than tan, flat bitter water, you are fooling yourself.  Fever Tree is what I normally go with but Q is great too and often easier to find in large, 750ml format.


 

And then after all of that, the technique required to make a drink this simple gets overly complicated. I find that adding water, a.k.a. chilling with ice ingredients that go into royal style(in a champagne flute) cocktails ruins them. While this drink would technically be a highball, it's served without ice so it drinks more like a royal. The Pineau des Charentes and tonic water need to be ice cold for the effervescence to hold together in this cocktail. However, it's better for the grapefruit bitters to be room temperatureand dashed on top. At room temperature, they are more volatile and their aroma will show better. 

 

Furthermore, it's basically worthless to put a zest inside of a flute. When a zest is almost completely surrounded by fluid, it does not affect the aroma of a cocktail in anyway. This is a case for zesting the outside of the glass, making the outside of the glass smell like the citrus and then dropping the citrus into the glass. I guest might think that they are smelling the actual citrus and the glass, but they're actually smelling the oils they have wiped off onto their hands each time they lift the glass for a sip.

 

This is a glimpse behind the neurotic curtain of me trying to make cocktails. The 3 ingredient cocktail, is the most troubling and requires the most care. No mistakes are allowed. It is the sumi ink painting of cocktails, no do overs and each ingredient must balance perfectly.

How to build and balance the best cocktail menu.

Up front, this one is for the nerds.  
Follow along if you are into puzzles and I'll at least start you off with one of my trademark "ramblin' Andrew" stories, but this one is a logic problem.

 

So I'm finishing up my post lunch glass of rosé, 'cause I'm a classy fucking guy, and I'm talking to my old buddy Eli.  He and I used to work together 10 years back. He is a great bartender, great bar manager and was about to open up his first bar program from scratch.  Eli, that guy, well he is actually the real classy guy because:

1. He picked up the check

2. He's letting me talk at him about menu design

3. He's actually asking me questions 

Do you know how kind it is to ask an old person questions?

That is saintly stuff.  In between grenache sips, I start plucking coasters off the bar and writing cocktail recipes on them.  I mansplain to him (yes, men can mansplain to other men too!) that the way I used to design menus was to take every trendy idea I had, every trendy ingredient I wanted to use, each piece of glassware, special technique and cocktail family and write them on coasters.  I grab a stack of a dozen coasters from the bar, you know, not unlike taking $3 off the bar, and start drawing examples for Eli.  Fast forward a month and Eli has successfully opened Foreign National— not that he needed any help from me. And I decided to formalize the "Coaster Method" of cocktail menu design.  Eli has a greater accomplishment to show for a month after our lunch, bars are hard to open, but I did design this coaster so I don't have to take them from other bars in the future.

 

Front of Coaster

Fill this out loosely, exacting recipes change brand to brand and seasonally with produce. 

Fill this out loosely, exacting recipes change brand to brand and seasonally with produce. 

 

Back of Coaster

List the applicable drink families, supporting ingredients, circle the glassware and note the base spirit.

List the applicable drink families, supporting ingredients, circle the glassware and note the base spirit.

 

Let me say here, for those of you that have overly democratic bars that solicit recipes from the staff, this new technique will be your new best friend. After you've filled out all of your potential menu items, throw them all on the floor.  Now that you are surrounded by dumb lil' cards, it's time to undergo the artist's tradition of découpé or as the english speakers would say "the cut-up technique." This technique is rooted in the dadaist movement and is what museum docents call an "aleatory art technique," meaning, "shit glued together." Examples of it's original use would be writing poems from random words drawn from a hat, making collages, and perhaps in some modern cases, "making a vision board."  I think a modern example is more the person that writes the platitudes plastered on t-shirts that people wear to the gyms but, I'm a cranky old so & so. However, for our purposes, to do this at full random wouldn't really serve to "balance" a menu.  Full random is the patron saying "dealer's choice."  The goal of this cut-up technique is to achieve the following:

Not repeating ingredients-

"Guess what? I hate this brand/flavor/category, so that's 1/3 of your dead to me." 

Not repeating glassware-

"Um yeah, I know it looks like I have a lot of glasses but I only ever use the rocks and cocktail glass so you'll need to wait until this load of dishes is done for me to strain your drink."

Showing the full depth of the techniques you've mastered-

"I think the extent of your knowledge is weakly shaking or stirring viciously, so, I'll probably stick to beer."

 

Sostart spinning a vinyl pressing of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, (because you know this is a classic David Bowie technique) and begin sorting out your new menu.  The concept is simple, try to avoid having any 2 corners of a coaster have the same word in them.  When you run out of non-repeating corners, then you have a cocktail menu.  If you want a bigger menu, and you have repeating corners then you just need to be more creative and not put St Germain in everything, what is this, 2010?

Another trick to creating a menu this way is to expand the definition of base spirits used in the cocktail you are choosing.  For example, within the category of whisk(e)y, you don't just have bourbon, rye, Irish and Scottish, you also have Canadian, Japanese, corn whisky, oat whisky, grain whisky or even moonshine (when made from grain, not the sugar cane bullshit they sell in suburban grocery stores).

Here are a few galleries loaded with 70 classic and neo-classic cocktails.  

Try literally using them like "dials" to create a menu that doesn't repeat glassware, ingredients or base spirits. Furthermore, try to avoiding having all of any 1 particular spirit family; sours for example, be all from 1 spirits category. For example, if all of your gin & vodka drinks are sours "because they are for girls" you are a misogynist, or if all of your strong drinks are the "amaro crutches" so popular these days, then, you are a hacky ass clown. Moral of the story: DIVERSIFY YOUR SHIT. 

 

Vodka & Gin Cocktails


Cane Cocktails


Agave Cocktails


Whisk(e)y Cocktails

Brandy Cocktails


A few menus I might write using this sample set would be:


Aperitif Menu

Corpse Reviver No 2- in cocktail glass

Hemingway Daiquiri- in coupe

Rosita- on the rocks

Seelbach- in a flute

Bitter Sling with Armagnac- on a BFC


Ironic Menu as in, the opposite of what's expected

Genever Martinez- much flavor!

Batida- cachaça not in a caipirinha?

Armillita Chico- wait, some of the ingredients of a margarita, but not a margarita?

Blinker- how you gonna mix juice and whiskey?

Pisco Punch- outside of San Fransisco? I'm freaking out.


Poolside Bar

Cosmo- So good! WOOOOOO!

Rum Punch- MOAR, WOOOOOOOOO!

Vicious Virgin No 2- sex **giggle** WOOOOOOOOO!

Avenue- I don't know, it's whiskey but it's still fruity WOOOOOOO!

Jack Rose- It's named for a flower maybe WOOOOOOOO!


Dessert Menu

Clover Club- made with Lingonberry Reduction

Corn & Oil- served with scoop of Madagascar Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Shot of Mezcal- with Sal de Gusano and Candied Orange Slices

Irish Coffee- with fresh whipped cream of course

Diamondback- on Hand-Carved Ice

 


You get the point. Obviously, this would be easier when mixing in house cocktails or more modern inventions. These foundational cocktails almost all call for "cocktail glasses."  Also, in their original printings, many of them would have been part of cocktail families that are now somewhat defunct— like "bracers," a cocktail to be taken in the morning.  But when you look at this problem through a modern lens, with new ingredients, centuries old baking projects like egg nogs, mid century tiki, or the hits from the cocktail renaissance then you'll find that creating a dynamic menu this way becomes much more easy.  

For example, here is a video of me using this technique on a few of my old menus from MistralKitchen.

Love this idea? Then you should hire me to give a workshop to your staff.  

If you really like it and you are a bartender, email me and I'll give you a copy of the PDF so you can make your own coasters, because I didn't get into the writing to sell coasters. But you can buy me a drink next time I'm at your bar.

If you really like it and you are brand/company, c'mon, just don't steal my shit without giving me credit.  I mean, I have a lot of intellectual property lawyer friends, really, I do.

And if you just think it's moderately interesting, tell a friend, and tune back in later for something less heady, more funny and probably more entertaining.  

In the summer, make punch instead of cocktails. OR: The 5 best ever punch recipes using a list of 7 hacks to you'll regret not knowing until, seriously, is this how people title things these days?

My friend Jenny had a complicated pregnancy.  She had twins a few years back and I think that is complicated enough.  I don’t know anything about childbirth, so what she did was twice as complicated as what was already a mystery to me.   A doctor or nurse had stamped her chart “elderly,” to let other caregivers know about her potential problems and seemingly, to embarrass her.  But these callous rubber stamps aside, after a few close calls and 3 years, she has a couple lil’ heathy toddlers.  However, because of the complications during birth, we had to have her baby shower in a hospital.

Few hospitals are set up for banquet service.  I’m sure the ER in Monaco has an excellent wine list and vending machines that serve tasting menus but even those posh medical monuments aren’t set up for parties.  When tapped to bring drinks to the maternity ward, I knew that bespoke cocktails draws too much attention from the nurse station— this is a job for punch.

The kids turned out fine, this is my take on Jenny's Christmas card proving as much. Only bad parents have kids that are fine sitting on giant red stranger's lap.

The kids turned out fine, this is my take on Jenny's Christmas card proving as much. Only bad parents have kids that are fine sitting on giant red stranger's lap.

I smuggled 2 Coleman jugs into Jenny's baby shower.  These were slightly more discrete that a huge punch bowl and silver ladle.  Both of these punches were non-alcoholic (at my wife's request) but I also brought a flask, that was well shared.  Which on a side note, share your flask or don't bring one.  I'll discuss more about how to make N/A punches at the end of this, but for now let's discuss transporting your summer punch.  Because if summer BBQs and maternity wards have but 1 thing in common, it's that it's dumb to set up a big bar at them— just make a punch and get back to horse shoes.

The tricky thing about punch is that it has yet to enjoy the elevated transformation that most cocktails have.  Your average Old Fashioned or Martini have come miles in the past few years.  And though guys like David Wondrich and Dan Searing have drowned us in punch recipes, most barfolk don’t get a lot of opportunities to hone their punch skills.  But as I said before. when making drinks for a group of 40 in the corner of the maternity ward, that giant baroque crystal dome and matching ladle aren’t the right choice. The Coleman jug is your friend on this mission.  The 2 gallon Coleman jug specifically, is the best $20 you can spend on your entertainment arsenal.  The 1 or 2 gallon Coleman jug is a dispenser for punch, keeps punch cold and is also a jumbo sized cocktail shaker if you are strong enough.  I call this brand out by name not because I’m their shill, but because I have a soft spot for high functioning, durable yet value priced American made goods.  Typing that sentence put a tear in my eye.  That's one of the many reasons the Coleman jug is the most important accessory for 4th of July celebrations. 

 



Basic Punch Recipes for the 4th


Template for Punch

This template yields 106 oz of punch, use the remaining 22 oz to adjust for sweetness, strength or acidity. 1 gallon of ice and 1 gallon of punch will fit perfectly in a 2 gallon Coleman jug.  Always chill all ingredients before mixing the punch.  Also, almost any punch benefits from tossing a fistful of mint it the jug and shaking just enough to bruise it.  However, for a smarter person, not needing to prove their masculinity, I think I'm describing a woman, the same effect can be achieved by rolling the jug and letting the ice bruise the herbs.  Perhaps not as fun as shaking a 22 lb cooler over your head, but this offers a less, "stupid" way to get the job done.

  •  1 bottle spirit
  • up to 50 oz of a wine or a weak or subtle flavor

  • at least 13 oz acid, sour or something tart

  • at least 13 oz sweet, simple syrup or liqueur

  • about 6 oz some crazy flavor AKA "spice"

Independence Punch

Rye, applejack and bourbon are the American spirits.  Very spicy rye, the kind that hurts to sip, it great in punch.  This punch is a simple sour, but if you are looking to give it more depth, cut back on the apple juice and blend in dry Madeira— one of George Washington's favorites.

  • 1 botte Rye

  • 50 oz apple juice

  • 13 oz lemon juice

  • 13 oz Benedictine

  • 30 dashes Angostura


Steuben Punch

Just because gay pride was last week, that's not a reason to stop celebrating it for the 4th of July. This German punch is inspired by Major General Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben who helped win the American Revolutionary War by creating the "Blue Book" for military training (still used today), promoting health and hygiene, (poor hygiene was as deadly as bullets) and using superior military tactics.  Also, he was a gay dude.

If you want to mature this punch, seek out unsweetened cranberry juice to beef up the acidity and remember that each dash of Peychaud's added removes sweetness.


 Lafayette Punch

Continuing the 4th can an international celebration, let's include Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette.  Lafayette has a few lifetimes of achievements, but one of those lives was used in aid of American independence. When he returned to what became America in 1825, celebrants ate themselves to death at feasts in his honor— this punch is more restrained.

  • 1 bottle Cassis

  • 2 bottles sparkling wine

  • 13 oz pineapple juice

  • 13 oz Green Chartreuse

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

This is a punch that gets a lot better when shaken up with a bunch of mint in the jug.  Also, pineapple gomme syrup is great in punch to replace the pineapple juice.

Pirate Punch

Well, I had to work rum in there somehow.  Though the golden age of piracy was over by the revolutionary war, pirates would be a consistent presence in America's development be they adversaries in the Barbary wars or or allies like Jean Lafitte helping in the war or 1812.  Romanticizing pirates is part if America's history too.

  • 1 bottle Jamaican Rum

  • 40 oz strong spiced tea

  • 13 oz lime juice

  • 1 bottle orange liqueur

  • 6 oz grapefruit juice

Generally speaking, in the world of orange liqueurs, the more money you spend the better product you get.  The cheap stuff isn't even fit for pirates.

 

 


Punch Ratios for 1 Gallon

makes 106 oz of punch, allows for 22 oz to adjust strong/sweet/ sour ratio

The standard punch ratio

Above I pointed out that this template offers 22 oz of room to fix the punch.  That is extremely important because punches are full of variables.  Sparkling wine for example ranges from bone dry to manicure shop sweet.  Not all liqueurs have the same level of sweetness and few quality liqueurs are as sweet as simple syrup.  And most importantly, citrus flavors tend to take over punches.

 The commonly accepted rule for punch is to use 75% of the acidity that you'd use for a cocktail.  

So, the 22 ounce of cushion to "fix" your punch allows for you to add almost 1 whole bottle of sprit, or as I'd prefer, a liqueur.  It allows you to fix a punch that went too sweet from the juice/weak component having too much sugar. And, it allows you to fix a punch that has been sitting for a while that might have changing flavors.  If you think that your recipe is pretty solid but needs just a little body, don't add sugar, just top it with a beer: a little bubbles, a little savory adds just the right touch to finish punches.

N/A Punch Template

water, perhaps sparkling or flaovred takes the place of spirit

Non-alcoholic ingredients are great for all punches

When I worked under Kathy Casey, doing beverage consulting and menu development, I think the hands down most important thing she taught me was:

Don’t try to get all of the sweetness for your cocktails from liqueurs.

Even though in the template above I suggested that you could do this, you should know that buttressing liqueurs with simple syrup makes cocktails and punches better. This is something that I somewhat knew but didn’t have the discipline to make dogma.  Mastering non-alcoholic sweeteners, will make all of your cocktails and punches better— it will also stretch the usefulness of liqueurs and the budget for your punches. N/A Punch ingredients fall into 5 categories: water, sweetener, acid, weak and spice.  For alcoholic punches, the 5th category would swap “water” for “spirit,” but remember, most bottles of spirits are actually bottles for 40% alcohol and 60% water.*  And in case the trivia had missed you, the word “punch” has it’s origin in sanskrit word: पञ्च  “pañc” meaning “five.” While punches aren’t limited to 5 ingredients, good punches with use their ingredients to address the flavors: spirit, sour, sweet, weak and spice.

To add flavor without alcohol, these are my favorite ways to stretch my dollar.  Also, when you are making those maternity ward drinks, this is how you avoid something tasting just like hummingbird nectar.

Herbs

Herbs have bitter oils that help balance sweetness, bruise them in a punch bowl, pitcher or shake them in a jug.  I don't recommend making syrups out of herbs, it deadens the aroma.

Real Juice

Punches are a great opportunity to use juices that you wouldn't normally have a glass of; apricot, papaya, pineapple-coconut blend all come to mind.  Cloying alone, when cut with acidity and blended with other flavors these are great.  I have always appreciated the Santa Cruz brand.

D'arbo Syrups

Many companies make high quality fruit syrups, I love D'arbo because of their lack of preservatives and their use of mature flavors.  They make an excellent, inexpensive cassis and elderflower syrup for about $10 a bottle.

small hands food

Everything that small hands foods does is as good as is gets.  Everything they make, make every cocktail better.  For punches, using gomme syrups will improve the body and palate of the drink.

B G Reynolds

These tiki syrups are bold.  When liqueurs and subtle ingredients can get lost, B G Reynolds will standout and add structure to a long drink. 

Tippleman's Syrups

Odd flavors that add depth to punches, Tippleman's is all natural and throws a curve at the flavor you'd be expecting.

Scrappy's Bitters

I said "Angostura & Peychaud's" earlier but I did so for you, not for me.  I mentioned them because they are easy to find, but I pretty much always use, organic, quality and fresh Scrappy's Bitters.  All of them are great and bitters maker everything better.

Flavored Water

From just infusing cucumbers into water to La Croix, topping punches with a touch of "not sugar" flavor is always helpful.


Ooof, really running out of steam and I need to get back to my own punch preparations so there is only one more tip to offer

USE BIG ICE

When making punch, you could buy a bag of chipped ice from the gas station.  And, frankly, it's a rule of mine that you should bring a bag of ice to every party weather asked to or not, but your punch deserves better than the gas station's finest.  About a week before I plan to make a punch, I use insulated coffee mugs and deli containers to make big ice chunks in the freezer.  This is based on techniques that I learned from Camper English's exhaustive ice research. Also, freezing your own ice at home allows you to freeze fruit, herbs or plastic dinosaurs into the ice for those occasions upon which you are using a glass or transparent drink dispenser.  Alright, I'm off to go buy plastic dinosaurs. Celebrate well, drink independent beer, make great punch and if you are going to play with fireworks, I'm sure my brother-in-law, the ER doctor will tell me about it on Juy 5th.

 

 

I reject the Jammie Dodger: A case for understanding fruits instead of brand name products.

Though it was years ago and I was certainly hungover, I vividly remember waiting to board a plane in Auckland bound for LAX.  I am not a nervous flyer, but the plane had been delayed because of storms and, on top of that hangover I had Gilligan-esque anxieties about getting stranded in the south seas.  But the kiwis around me, those returning to America, were disturbingly jubilant.  The transatlantic flight was no bother to them, they had gotten though duty free with armfuls of their favorite biscuits to take home.  They had childlike dream caches of snack treats.  ToffeePops, MallowPuffs, Gingernuts and, a few brave souls, perhaps traitors to their people, had bags of Tim Tams.*  They all had an intense love of these biscuits.  And I get it, I have shortboard with Earl Grey and listen to the Answer Me This! podcast— it’s comforting.  But the love of these biscuits reminds me of something I do truly despise: comparing their flavor to spirits.

 

Start digging around in tasting notes for spirits and things get “poetic.”  You might say “in vino veritas” but really its more like “I was drinking and started using lots o’ words and couldn't stop.”  The Scotch Malt Whisky Society bottlings are labeled and named with homeric epics that I wish I could get drunk enough to write.  Many, if not most of them, will at some point make reference to a brand name candy, confection or tea biscuit.  I consider myself a citizen of the world, though I have yet to have the Jammie Dodger biscuit that is cited in tasting notes for almost all non-Islay**  whiskies.  I won’t spend too much energy pointing out that this habit is lazy, hacky,  Anglo-Saxontastic, and brand-whore way of writing tasting notes.  Nor will I ever purchase a biscuit to better understand tasting notes  because I feel like that would promote this exclusionary and flawed way to explain flavors and aromas.  But I will buy fruit.

like softer, less deadly durian

like softer, less deadly durian

 

Another crutch of the spirit judge is saying “notes of tropical fruit,”  which is not unlike saying, “meat intended for sausage,” it’s a bit vague.  Tropical fruits include durian and dragonfruit, a spectrum that encompasses both rotting corpses and new car smell.  Banana comes up quite a bit in tasting notes, as does papaya and sometimes mango but I think that perhaps the most relevant aroma and flavor to spirits is that of the jackfruit.  The flavor of jackfruit shows up in plenty of malt whiskies and the aroma peaks out of agricole rhums and cachaças.  

Before I also get accused of being exclusionary, I’ll offer this:


India, by itself, annually grows about 100 lbs of jackfruit for every person on earth. 


So while you might have to go to a specialty grocery to find jackfruit, I assure you, it’s out there.  There are 2 ways to understand what a jackfruit offers to your sensory perception and I’ll begin first with the one I am ill equipped to understand: chemical compositions.  According to The Journal of Food Composition and Analysis, ethyl isovalerate, propyl isovalerate, butyl isovalerate, isobutyl isovalerate, 3-methylbutyl acetate, 1-butanol, and 2-methylbutanol are volatile compounds found in jackfruit.  That’s a science way to say "how something smells at room temperature."  But, this is an extremely objective way to to understand spirits.  You will occasionally hear that Juicy Fruit gum is jackfruit flavored.  The original package for Juicy Fruit boasts “A Fascinating Artificial Flavor,” which, may have been inspired by jackfruit, but way more likely inspired by the scientific understanding of  ethyl isovalerate, propyl isovalerate, butyl isovalerate, isobutyl isovalerate, 3-methylbutyl acetate, 1-butanol, and 2-methylbutanol.  If your version of showing off is to have the ability to name volatile compounds emanating from distillates, you will impress me and perhaps a few distillers but I can’t make guarantees for the rest of the world.  And if you want to know more about this, I suggest you ask a scientist.  Darcy O’Neil has done excellent work on this subject and I have attended a seminar he has given on it.  For those of you, perhaps a bit less “beaker and flask” and a bit more “knife and cutting board,”  I’d say you should call your local Asian market and request a small jackfruit.

I say small because apparently the smallest jackfruits ripen quickly and are less likely to be exported.  The larger fruits are packed in shipping containers to better survive long trips.  As they ripen, they get softer and change from a spiky green thing to more of a yellow-brown Godzilla turd.  But this Godzilla turd is what you are looking for, you may need to allow the jackfruit to ripen for a few days in your home before cutting it up. This is a good thing because they smell amazing and remembering that scent is an important aspect of understanding and communicating better tasting notes.  Should you decide to butcher a fresh jackfruit, here is a video on how to do it.  But the main tips are simple:


Cutting up a jackfruit

  1. Wait for the fruit to ripen/turn yellowish brown

  2. Put plastic wrap down on your workspace for easy clean up

  3. Wear gloves

  4. Oil your knife to avoid the natural latex

  5. Quarter the fruit and remove the core

  6. Remove the flesh from the arils and seed from the flesh

  7. Repeat for another half hour

 


fire up the blender to add jackfruit to cocktails

fire up the blender to add jackfruit to cocktails

The Jackfruit aroma encompasses most everything you can think of in "tropical fruit."  Though most often mango and pineapple are cited as explaining the scent,  this is muddling the difference between aroma with flavor.  The aroma is floral, citric, banana like and smells like baked confections amongst the  light tropical scents.  These aromas show up in rum, agricultural cane spirits and gin.  The flavor is similar to  mango,  pineapple, sugar apple and most interestingly the savory notes of soybeans, or barley.  These flavors show up in whisky, agave and  agricultural cane spirits. Dividing this fruit’s aroma from its flavor is also a good skill to have when evaluating spirits— specifically botanical spirits like gin that have aromas and flavors that are often different.  If you are having a problem acquiring jackfruit or finding a place to make a huge mess while cutting it up, note that jackfruit is also sold canned, frozen, pre-packaged and even in chip form at Trader Joe’s.  

However to return to the title of this piece rather than just the point of it, it's completely fine for novices to proclaim "it taste like a Tootsie Roll."  It's intimidating for new tasters to to say the first thing, which is often the most correct thing, that comes to mind when evaluating wine and spirits.  For example, my wife who gives zero fucks about whisky, will smell something I'm drinking a say,

"vanilla flower, not bean, dried spruce, kola nut and toasted cacao nib"

I offer

"would you like to taste it?"

She reminds me

"gross, no."

But professionals need to avoid brands.  Brands bring forward incredibly strong feelings, outside of sensory perception that can change the entire tasting experience.  Aside from being exclusionary and perhaps childish, it also promotes the concept that brands don't change or aren't different across borders.  Ask any spirits nerd if booze brands change over the years and get ready for nap time because they will go on for a while.  That same nerd might call out "Jaffa Cake" in tasting notes as if that is some sort of congenital truth about biscuits humans are born with.  So, I encourage seeking out as many fruits, spices and culinary experiences to better understand spirits and to save the biscuits for catching up on your BBC dramadies.

 


*Tim Tams are fucking amazing, though from Australia.  For a New Zealander to admit the worth of an Australian product belittles centuries of rivalry like that of Brazil and Argentina, America and Canada or France and everyone.

 

**Islay whiskies are traditionally peated and thusly taste smoky.  These whiskies are actually, often quit fruity thigh it’s hard for novices to tell through smoky aromas.  Most lazy tasting notes do not mention the fruity aspects of these malts.

 

It’s time to include the Stonewall Inn as part of bar history.


I struggle for a first sentence because who needs another middle class, straight, white guy to lecture about someone else’s culture?  I might as well begin writing Wu-Tang Clan fanzine— because the world needs another white guy’s opinion on 90’s hip-hop.  However, we are overdue to to fold the Stonewall Inn and subsequent Stonewall riots into bar history.  The Stonewall Inn and its eponymous riots are touchstones in civil rights.  As a physical location, it is on the National Register of Historic Places, a National Historic Landmark, a NYC Landmark, and is a place where you can drink beer.  That distinction makes it more impressive that many of the National Parks I visited with my family when I was young where I would say “Mom, when are we going to see something that isn’t ruined?” Because Pueblo Grande is so boring.

 

“Did you know it’s still illegal to be black in Arizona?”

Tracy Morgan from 30 Rock

Tracy exaggerates a little, but this could be said of homosexuality for most of America’s history. In 1779, the liberal for his time Thomas Jefferson, penned a law in Virginia for sodomites to be punished by castration.  Most American colonies had adopted the 1533 death sentence that Henry VIII had made law. The big ol’ softie and revolutionary Jefferson sure was calming things down. The government’s interest in legislating in blowjobs and buggery would continue for over 200 years.  With a foundation in hate or at the least “otherness” it’s easy to understand why the LGBT community would be the subject of public scorn and just a dash of extra hate from public officials.  This is a community that would need a sanctuary.

Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop built in 17something?

Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop built in 17something?

Though built in 1798, The Atlantic House wasn’t really a gay bar until a bunch of artists and actors started moving to Provincetown MA in the 1920’s.  Note for hate groups, removing artists and actors from the world will still leave you with gay accountants, gay lawyer, et al.  Cafe Lafitte in Exile, opened in 1933 claims the title as oldest continually operated gay bar in America.  Its name comes from its original location at Lafitte’s Blacksmith shop, owned by War of 1812 hero/pirate Jean Lafitte.  There is an entire college level American history class in those last 2 sentences. San Fransisco’s Black Cat Bar started back when there were only 45 stars on the flag in 1906, closed during prohibition and reopened 13 years later.  In 1951, it would become the subject of a California Surpreme Court decision allowing homosexuals to assemble, legally.  However, such assemblies, home rental leases and cohabitation would continue to be illegal for years in other parts of America.        

Cafe Lafitte in Exile these days, open since 1933

Cafe Lafitte in Exile these days, open since 1933

 

These are just 3 bars, of dozens around the world, that are intrinsic to gay history, bar history and thusly— history.  Here is of list of historic bars to add to your travel schedule.  The Stonewall Inn however, has much more humble beginnings than the afore mentioned bars.  In 1966, 3 mafia guys took the old burned out Stonewall Inn Restaurant on 51 & 53 Christopher Street, covered everything with cheap black paint, removed the word “restaurant”  and opened up a gay bar under the front of being a “bottle club.”  A bottle club being the term for a private club, in which members own the bottles on the bar (labeled with members’ names) rather than the establishment selling the booze.  The mob would pay off the cops weekly to pretend this was a real business and the owner, Fat Tony, would kick up a share of profits to Matty the Horse who controlled the West Village for the Genovese family.  If you’ve read a Mario Puzo book, this is probably pretty simple economics to you.  

Though the Stonewall Inn was a gay bar mob front, without a liquor license and no running water, it was made legitimate through bribes. Many historians believe that homophobia is the only reason that it became illegitimate. 

In 1960’s America, when the FBI kept records on suspected homosexuals, every gay bar was a speakeasy. 

Police raids on bars where “homosexuals illegally congregated” were very common.  Liquor licenses were seized (apparently some gay bars gave up fake licenses, hiding the real one so that they could resume operations quickly), employees were arrested and patrons were arrested and or brutalized.  It’s a fun ironic twist that raids on legal gay bars, protected by the right to assembly in the first amendment, would eventually come to an end because of a legal police raid on a mafia front.

Stonewall Inn circa 1969

Stonewall Inn circa 1969

 

In the early morning of June 28th, 1969, six police officers rushed into the Stonewall to arrest employees for the lack of tax stamps on alcohol (young people, ask Texas about these) and arrest patrons for gayness and crossdressing, you know, standard ATF/ bigot stuff.  While guests and employees were being shoved into squad cars, some, perhaps upset at the accusations of sexual assault against the lesbian patrons, some upset about going to jail for being themselves, and perhaps others, reacting to a lifetime of oppression, the tension broke.  It broke by yelling, then fighting, and lighting cop cars on fire, you know, standard riot stuff.  A crowd gathered, a mob grew and cops barricaded themselves inside the Stonewall with protesters using parking meters as battering rams.  Violence continued sporadically for a few days with protesters and rioters on one side and the New York Tactical Police Squad on the other.

There isn’t really anything romantic about this.  A dirty mafia front bar got violently raided and that violence begat violence.  And though the Stonewall Inn is a remodeled icon now, it closed a couple weeks after those riots in 1969.  What really became important about the Stonewall riots is what would happen on their one-year anniversary.  June 28th, 1970 would become Christopher Street Liberation Day, activist Craig Schoonmaker would put forth the word “Pride” saying, “The poison is shame. The antidote is pride.”  This would start the first a gay pride march beginning at the Stonewall and simultaneous gay pride marches in Chicago and Los Angles. ”  And that boys and girls, is why we celebrate gay pride during the last week in June.  But seriously, it's not like some rowdiness in 1969 flipped a switch that killed bigotry, the Stonewall riots are just a another point on the timeline of civil rights— but a point that started in a bar, winky emoji.

    


The bar adage “no religion, no politics” is equal parts avoiding fights & creating an inclusive place. That is every bar’s job.


Stonewall Inn, ready for your historic pilgrimage 

Stonewall Inn, ready for your historic pilgrimage 

It’s good the the LGBT community doesn’t have to be tied to bars the way that it once was.  Gay folks, are now offered more options for community building outside of the alcohol community.  That said, bars provided the sole, semi-public sanctuary for a culture for decades if not centuries.  The spirit of accepting others and concept of sanctuary is essential for bars and well explained as part of this civil rights movement.  Belief in the inherent worth and dignity of every person is something that is tied directly to hospitality.  Today’s Stonewall Inn is just another bar, a bit touristy, but it’s also a tangible part of bar history, the gay rights moment and American history. I might put forth that all of that makes the Stonewall Inn more important than the $30 Singapore Sling at Raffles that everyone is always complaining about.  Or, perhaps, if you’ve had a Seelbach cocktail at the Seelbach Hotel, a Cosmopolitan from Toby’s Long Island Bar or a White Lady from Bar High Five,  you should make the pilgrimage to the Stonewall Inn for another glass of history.  But not during the last week of June, that’s amateur.  You want people visiting you for car bombs on St Patty’s day?

 

 


Normally I wouldn’t bother to cite sources because I’m part of the bar and cocktail community.  However, the gay community, the gay history community and even cooler, the gay bar history community has already contributed so much information on the Stonewall Riots, the history of gay bars and American law.  Some sources I used for fact checking and that I’d recommend are:

 

outhistory.org

The Pop Up Museum of Queer History -click this link for the best hipster photo ever

Louis Crompton’s paper on homosexuality in colonial America

foundsf.org

Do Ask Do Tell by Bill Boushka

Stonewall by David Carter

The Allusionist episode 12 by Helen Zaltzman

PBS American Experience

Civilrights.org

And also read this about the Rainbow Lounge Raid to see that this bullshit keeps happening.

The history of the Gimlet cocktail is hazy, as if told by drunk sailors.

The Gimlet cocktail sails upon a sea of lies with sails fueled by lazy journalism.


no garnish cocktails need fancy glasses

no garnish cocktails need fancy glasses


 

When I started tending bar there was a lot of talk about squeezing fresh lime juice.  As in, should we? Should we, bartenders, bother squeezing fresh lime juice?  I remember watching the conversation develop, that squeezing lemon and lime fresh are important but canned orange and grapefruit are fine.  The latter half of that reasoning I still believe has merit, an example being places like Canada where grapefruits taste like fresh squeezed gasoline-citrus-spite.  After juicing grapefruit and oranges became de rigueur, canned pineapple was, and often still is, accepted though this sweetened yellow goo robs the fruit's essence of all subtlety and acidity.  All of this to say, when we, bartenders, juiced fresh, everyone agreed it was better.  Everyone agreed it was better until we made fresh squeezed lime Gimlets.

 

I wouldn’t say that Robert Hess was mad, but I saw him “greatly impassioned” while stating that the the Gimlet calls for lime cordial, and not lime juice and sugar.  He said, and with this I completely agree, if one changes or replaces an ingredient, it is a new drink.  That is to say, a Negroni with Cynar instead of Campari is not a Negroni and I will send “your interpretation” on it, back to the dump sink.  And the Gimlet is indeed a “branded cocktail.” But before continuing a meandering trail ride of a story that may someday get to the oasis of “a point,” let me offer first the perfunctory Wikipedia legends that we tell ourselves about the Gimlet cocktail. We tell ourselves that British Royal Navy Surgeon Rear-Admiral Sir Thomas Gimelette first added lime cordial to gin (or rum, depending whose selective memory is working) to prevent scurvy in the British Navy.  Great story, let’s tell everyone that while we hand them a drink across the bar.  Unfortunately, like all legends, it’s an over simplification of numerous other more likely factors.  Doubly unfortunate is that the legend isn’t a fable, if it were, the Admiral could be an otter in charge of a bunch of scurvy-prone seals.

The premise of this piece was not to draw an otter in a naval uniform but it became all that mattered.

Rear Admiral Gimellete, reporting for cutie

Rear Admiral Gimellete, reporting for cutie


Gimelette was born in 1857, just 10 years before it was law for all British ships, merchant and naval, to provide, essentially daiquiris (lime, sugar, rum and water) to all crew every day.  This is another point in which it would be useful for this to be a fable, as 10 year old boys rarely achieve the rank of admiral however a 10 year old otter is quite mature.  The Gimlet was already a well known cocktail at the time of Gimelette’s death but he seemingly never claimed a connection to it.  Some people point to Laughlin Rose’s 1867 patent of Rose’s Lime Cordial, a method to preserve, without alcohol, the vitamin C in a lime, as the reason for the Gimlet’s advent.  However, British Naval ships had already long required lime or lemon juice (lemon has more vitamin C) as part of daily tots.  You’ll also read that Scottish physician James Lind (1716-1794) discovered that vitamin C cured scurvy.  By now, hopefully you have noticed a pattern.  Vitamin C wasn’t discovered until the 1930’s by Hungarian Albert Szent-Györgyi, who was awarded a Nobel Prize for doing so in 1937.  James Lind was a pioneer in understanding that preventative medicine, nutrition and hygiene were the 3 most life saving factors for soldiers in his day.   Were he alive today, he’d probably have dreadlocks and own a kombucha brand.  While Lind observed that lime juice was an antiscorbutic, he did not know why, nor would his findings be validated in his lifetime.  So yeah, Admiral Gimelette invented the Gimlet because he knew things, that is clearly, all you need to know on the subject.  

 

This is very much like Mark Twain’s saying that “A lie can get around the world before the truth can get his boots on.” In fact, it’s literally like that because that isn’t actually a Mark Twain quote.

 

That gordian knot* of information aside, the Gimlet cocktail was first in print in 1922 in Harry MacElhone’s ABC’s of Mixing Cocktails.  And what can certainly be said of the Gimlet is that it is a "branded cocktail."  Like the Galliano float on a Harvey Wallbanger, the Campari third in a Negroni or Bacardi base in the Bacardi cocktail, the original Gimlet called for quite specific brands: 50% Plymouth Gin, 50% Rose’s Lime Cordial, stirred.  Depending on how passionate you feel about branded cocktails, and assuming you could make a Negroni with 100 other red aperitifs, you must at least recognize that the Gimlet calls for lime cordial and not lime juice.  Any Jerry Thomas quoting bartender would say that grapefruit juice is not a substitute for grapefruit liqueur.  This leaves most Gimlet devotees with an unfortunate reliance on a bottle of artificially colored, high fructose corn syrup and lime concentrate. Rose’s lime might not be your first choice for a craft cocktail but in buying a bottle and using it as directed (refrigerating it and not leaving it out for a couple years) I must report that it is much better than I remember.  It has a good consistency, aroma, acidity (aroma and acidity are key in judging liqueurs) and most importantly, a gentle punctuation of bitterness.  Science made Rose’s Lime Cordial good.  But nature can make cordials better.

better than adequate if your goal is adequate

better than adequate if your goal is adequate


Rose’s makes me think of the growth in coffee pod culture.  Nespresso or Keuring are a godsend in my hotel room, adequate after dinner, but unacceptable in a city center that has a ratio of 1 barista to every 3 citizens.  Science can get a foodstuff to about a 70% effectiveness, but will generally lack the art to cross the chasm of adequacy to achieve greatness.  The art of greatness is where my buddy Neil Robertson comes in.  Back when I actually was a bartender, he and I worked together at MistralKitchen and I learned many a chefly techniques from him and the rest of the kitchen crew.  We actually did a seminar about this: A Cook Walks into a Bar. Each time I cook, I hear William Belickis saying “nothing on your cutting board that isn’t being cut.”  I take a lot from chefs.  Anyway, Neil still teaches me about food.  On a recent pastry jag at Crumble + Flake, he gave me a bottle of his house lime cordial.  Unsurprisingly, it was amazing.  It was a recipe that he got from a Serious Eats article by Stella Parks and I can certainly say that it applies to limes as well as meyer lemons.  To summarize her recipe in brief: pour sugar over your juiced citrus and the sugar will pull all of the juice out of the rinds and pool into a bowl of cordial. This easy method can also allow for very simple variations on infusing syrups.  For example, outside of meyer lemon season, I might toss a little oregano in with the lemons to herb it up a bit.

 

What is perhaps the most striking thing about this technique is how it addresses the chef’s ethos regarding waste—as in, don’t.  The garbage, or hopefully the compost bins of a craft cocktail bar is like 50% citrus by weight.  This recipe offers a way to get all of your money's worth out of the volatile priced limes by technique, time and cheap sugar.  Furthermore, this recipe for lime cordial offers a new lease on cocktails that are forgotten due to reliance on “under-prized ingredients” like lime cordial.  By which I mean, the Gimlet is a key prohibition-era-speakeasy-please-write-about-this-bar-in-Eater style cocktail, but I assure you that 10 out of 10 of this style of bar cannot produce you the true Gimlet.  You will have a better chance getting a real Gimlet at a bar with a flat screen TV the size of a drive in, that is playing ESPN Ocho’s coverage of Luxembourg Olympic hopeful ping pong finals.  “CAN YOU PUT SOME SPORTS ON SO I DON’T HAVE TO INTERACT WITH OTHER PEOPLE” robotically blurted the man to the bartender.  Oof, I’m back from that rant.  So, yes, this lime cordial recipe allows for the Gimlet drinker to regain dignity in ingredients and pay nothing for the privilege of having the finer things.

However, were you a home mixologist, that would like to pay for the privilege, there are many other companies, with commercial kitchens, that are looking to help you up your lime cordial quality.  Here are a few of them.



I would be remiss to not address Plymouth Gin in the original Gimlet cocktail.  I love Plymouth Gin.  I'll even take it a step further and say if you don't like it, you are dumb, have an ugly face and your mouth doesn't work. I don't think it's essential for making a Gimlet but I would strongly encourage you to try Plymouth if you haven't had it and to choose a high-proof, or even navy strength gin when making naval cocktails.  Remember, if you can spill it on gunpowder and it still ignites, then it's good enough for sailors.

 

*gordian knot is a fancy way to say “clusterfuck” 

What is in a no-age-statement whisky?

A modest proposal, dear Scotland, keep your age statements but give me the proof.

 

 

Saturday afternoon my charge was to bring the drinks for a catch-up session with an old friend.  Sure, I’ve got Pimm’s Cups on the brain right now, but I didn’t want to hit a grocer to buy an entire salad to garnish them with.  Instead, I dug a single bottle out of the cabinet, a no-age-statement* bottle of Talisker 57° North, an at-the-distillery-only-bottling of eponymous proof.  It was the perfect choice for a breezy Bay Area afternoon.  We sat around a battered wooden picnic table, pretending that the screams of children playing were the cries of seagulls circling the Isle of Skye and that the Matchbox cars were, well, we just kind of played with them.  I'm thinking of getting some. Vroom vroom.  I was concerned that taking an oddball, no-age-statement* bottle over would be ill received because those expressions are less understood.  But they will be increasingly more common.

 

Age statements are disappearing from scotch bottles and status-minded-white-guys are freaking out.  But they shouldn’t be, Johnnie Walker Blue seems to have been doing fine for them this whole time.  Let us gather the electron microscope to view the tiniest orchestra playing “sad, status-minded-white-guy concerto in b minor.”  Just to refresh, an age statement, in most English speaking countries, refers to the youngest spirit blended into that bottling.  And remember, unless the bottle is labeled “single barrel”** it is blended with other barrels.  Almost everything is blended.  Blend is not a bad word.  Blend is dynamic, but more on that later.***  But many distilleries are releasing whiskies bereft of age statements for several reasons, some sympathetic and some shameful.

 

To rip off the shame band-aid quickly, when single malts really came into popularity in the 80's, age statements became synonymous with quality.  This is true enough for price when it is set by supply and demand, slightly less so for actual margin, but has nothing to do with quality.  You’ll be hard pressed to find a whisky writer or just a writer, that will turn down a free dram, but when no one else is listening, you’ll hear them admit that they prefer whisky much younger than the crystal decanters of 50-year-old-go-fuck-yourself whisky monuments.***  Sympathetically, whisky demand has gone way up.  The whisky industry is a victim of success, the kind of victim that cries all the way to the bank, but still a victim.  Planning takes a long time in the whisky world, a simile about steering an oil tanker comes to mind. But it’s probably more like steering an oil tanker that is locked in ice and instead of a steering wheel, you only have curling brooms to brush in your desired direction. And that kids, is how you “torture a simile.”

 

Neither sympathetic nor shameful would be the complexity of learning a new whisky lexicon.  When I started tending bar, it was simple, you drank the age statement you could afford.  Some bars would even price scotch at $1 a year.  Some bars still do and I seek them out.  But an age statement is, just as a newly divorced, Ed Hardy clad 50 year old would say to a cocktail server “ain’t nothing but a number.”  In whisky, that isn’t a creepy saying, rather, it is quite accurate.  Age is just another fact and it’s increasingly one of the least important facts.  New no-age-statement whiskies require that consumers and bartenders figure out why they are (or aren’t) worth the price.  When I reach for a a no-age-statement whisky I consider 4 factors

 

Proof 


 

Higher proof means more whisky in the bottle.  Almost every bottle of liquor is actually a bottle of 60% water.  A cask strength whisky can easily flip that ratio.  While that raises the cost, it will also give you more of the 3 things you want: whisky, flavor and aroma.  It also means that the distiller/blender wants you to have the full flavor of the whisky.

 

Color 


 

Judging whisky by its’ color is like looking where a close up magician tells you to look, and then, “voila, where did your wallet go?”  Caramel coloring is very common in the whisky world.  This is a video of what spirit caramel looks like.  Brands say it’s for consistency and I’m sympathetic to that because it’s difficult to explain that whisky is a natural product.  Whisky has different colors the same way that salmon grow to different sizes and asparagus to different shapes.  But my more sinister view is that consumers and brands view caramel color as a value multiplier.  Brands that aren’t using it will generally proclaim it on the bottle.  And they will likely explain the color by listing that barrel type.

 

Wood


 

Wood, or barrel type, is exactly as it sounds: it's wood.  It’s easy to make jokes about frugal distillers wanting used barrels but that’s not exactly the case.  A used bourbon barrel can retain 70% of its value.  A used sherry barrel will often cost 4 times as much as an american oak barrel.  Better brands use better wood, fewer times.  Wood is responsible for most of whisky’s flavor so know more about what is being used is important.  Here as a too long video explaining general corollaries about wood. 

 

Text 


 

I like to see a bottle with a lot o’ words.  When the words are facts, I quilt them into a warm blanket and swaddle myself in comfortable information.  This is were you’ll find information about chill filtration AKA: the flavor thief and caramel coloring AKA whisky’s bronzing lotion.  A great example of providing information is High West Whiskey. Each bottle has a novella in 8 point type printed on the back.  You will have few questions when are done reading it.  But sometimes, in scotch whisky, this information can’t be passed along.  For example, the whisky makers at Compass Box want to tell consumers what is blended into their whisky. But the Scotch Whisky Association has decided that some of that information being passed along is illegal.  If you would like more information about what goes into your whisky, visit Whisky Transparency.


Fold this up for your pocket next time to are choosing in a liquor store

Fold this up for your pocket next time to are choosing in a liquor store


Whisky is just grain, water, wood and time.  

But the real truth on the cost of whisky is demand, age, status, reviews and marketing.  I was recently asked how much is too much to spend on a bottle of whisky.  And while I have several bottles that cost more, there are too many amazing expressions for $100 to really seek out something more costly.  Past the $100 mark you are paying for rarity in outrun, an award that drives up the price for sycophants or even worse, a lazy TV writer that googled “expensive whisky” and mentioned Pappy, again, in some hacky shit show.  In choosing how to spend that $100, look for a bottle that packs on information like a supply mule on the Oregon trail.  Also, look for proof. 

 

 

*No-age-statement NAS-  Bloggers will abbreviate no-age-statement as NAS.  I try to avoid acronyms because I think of them as exclusive.  Acronyms are for nerds that hoard knowledge and a nerd that hoards knowledge is not a nerd, that, is an asshole.

 

**Single Barrel-  God damn it, unless it says single barrel and what bottle of the barrel it is, then it’s a bunch of barrels blended together, of various ages, quality and perhaps types.  EVERYTHING IS BLENDED, BLENDED TO BE MADE BETTER.

 

***Talisker-  Ok it wasn’t later, it was “below.” I am not a shill for Talisker but I’d love a few bottles if they’d like to ship ‘em.  I chose Talisker because the 57° North is truly amazing but also because that brand and distillery have been subject of several other points in this little think piece.  The Talisker 18 won “Best Whisky in the World” in 2007, one of the first to be given that award, and it tripled in price thereafter.  I assume that is because awards are so delicious. Talisker 10 year is their standard expression and while it is great, and it tastes like the fishing trip I want to be on, it’s a bit “one note.”  Talisker Storm is a recent release in the no-age-statement world and while I didn’t like the blend of old and young whisky, I can certainly say that it is vastly more complex than the 10 year. Perhaps an easier and more strait-forward example is this: I like the new Hibiki no-age-statement more than the now extinct 12 year, because, without being bound by an age, it’s more interesting and dynamic.  But I wish it cost less dough.

 

 

****50 year old whisky-  50 year old whiskies are trophies and investments.  You can drink them, and they might taste good, but that is not their job.

 

 

The Correct Ammout of Ice for a Cocktail

I was recently on a flight— I am always "recently on a flight" but I thought I should start out that way.  I was recently on a flight with Alaska Air, the last airline with dignity and ordered a Sun Liquor Hedge Trimmer gin & tonic.  I asked for a "little less tonic," knowing that the glasses are huge, the flight attendant gave me a flirtatious wink and he returned to me with a double gin & splash of tonic.  The G&T that Brain made was highly functional, the "secret botanicals" of Hedge Trimmer really came through but the cocktail was only OK.  The problem wasn't Brian's heavy hand with the gin (winking back at you Brian) it was with the light hand on the ice.

To put it simply:

If ice is floating in the glass, there isn't enough ice in the glass.


To better explain that idea, here is a video that I shot on the plane after my 2nd cocktail, to better explain the idea for floating ice vs ice resting at the bottom of a glass. Video: getting TSA pre-check status revoked. 

The proper way to make a highball, a long drink, or a drink that has ice in it, is to first fill the glass completely with ice.  That is what dictates how much "cocktail" you can actually fit into the glass.  Failure to follow lighted placards and ice safety rules with result in a drink that is watery, warm and purely functional rather than enjoyable.  Please follow along with the Ice Safety Card located in the seat-back pocket in front of you.


how much ice do you put in a cocktail

Rocks Glass


You will notice that when using a "BFC" in a rocks glass, if the "BFC" floats, then the "BFC" may indeed be a "Cube" but it is not "BIG FUCKING" enough.  A "BFC" that floats, is hardly a "BC" at all.  A true BIG FUCKING CUBE will rest at the bottom of a glass that it just barely fits into, and the cocktail or spirit will be poured around it.  The same is true for smaller cubes in a rocks glass, there must be enough of them for the spirit to rest around the cubes.

 

Red Solo Cup


When making cocktails in a plastic cup, you are already at a quality deficit.  You are likely at a BBQ thrown by a young person, perhaps someone's starter home, the ice is from a gas station, and it is only the asshole that says "hey, can I get this in glass?"  Let's make the best of this: don't skimp on the gas station ice.  In fact, bring a bag of ice to a BBQ, just show up with it the same way you'd put on pants.  So use as much ice as you'd like, but then pour in a punch to match.  Don't pour 17oz of hooch and then add 2 cubes.  But the real pro tip? Red cups are for beer. Bring a flask for your whiskey.

 

Julep Cup


The julep cup is made for crushed ice.  That said, same rules apply: more ice, less cocktail.  After smashing up fine ice in your lewis bag, you will find it difficult to put more than 3oz of cocktail in a 12 oz cup.  Too little ice? It will melt immediately. Floating ice? The cocktail will be cold, but will spill over the edge at every sip, leaking like the faucet in your 1st apartment.  When making a julep, leave up to 1 inch for just ice at the top of the cup.  This will also hold your aromatic garnish in place.  The aromatic garnish on the julep is very important because ice doesn't have an aroma.  If your ice has an aroma, you are either in the first schizophrenic stages of olfactory hallucinations and should see a Dr immediately or you need to replace your water filter.

 

Ice


Ice is made from water.  Water falls from the sky.

Don't skimp on ice.

Borage is the reason to start Pimm's Cup Season.

Poor Pimm's, they have to make all of their money in just 4 months.  You could say the same of many spirits, but, I'll still have a martini in the winter, a scotch in the summer and worship at the tiki bar all year.  But don't feel too bad for Pimm's, they have the title of Wimbledon's official cocktail, the cocktail least likely to get you arrested in NOLA and the love of writers that need a hacky premise for summer drinks.  But, Pimm's also has a special place is my heart for 3 other reasons.  


Bitter

It's the diplomat of bitter to pedestrians' palates.  Pimm's isn't truly bitter, but it isn't really sweet or neutral—  it introduces the concept of herbal and the idea that cocktails needn't all be inspired by confections from the sweet shop.  It's a stretch, but you could call Pimm's "baby's first amaro."


 

Borage

A real Pimm's promotes gardening.  Though the cucumber lobby performed a  bloodless coup on the cocktail world a few years back, I would still offer that you try a Pimm's Cup with borage.  These little fuzzy flowers put the "b" in subtle.  The cukes that we fill Pimm's Cups with are supposed to imitate the aroma from these anglo herbs.  So why not cue up a Black Adder marathon and start a window box of borage and garnish your cocktails with flowers that actually do something.  Buy borage seeds.   


 

Style

I've opened 2 bars in which I've had no interest in nickel & dimin' guests.  I don't think the guest should be concerned with price.  I worked fancy joints, so cocktails I started cocktails at $12— no matter what.  $12 White Russian, $12 Manhattan and $12 Pimm's Cup, the onus is on bartender to provide every cocktail at that premium level.  The challenge is to make a $12 Pimm's Cup and to pick up that gauntlet one needs finesse, garnish and creativity.  I want to pay $12 for any and every cocktail, and I want that level of effort to go into any and every cocktail.  Value multipliers for a Pimm's Cup?  I'd like to see a recipe like this:

$12 Pimm's

*I could give a fuck about your "new-world-micro-distilled-new-botanical-boutique-Montessori-no-wrong-answers" gin, but, I like a dash of curious gin to accent a Pimm's