Sunday, February 27, 2011

Moscow Mule

If you're going to drink vodka, may as well be a recipe with a little history. As for flavor, you must have a good spicy ginger beer for this one - regular ginger ale won't cut it, and vodka, even one with lots of "character" is so characterless on it's own that it relies solely on the merit of the mixer for flavor.

This is an easy drinker that should be enjoyable to anyone that would enjoy a good ginger beer on its own but dislikes the taste of alcohol.

An advert for the "Smirnoff Mule" which "bucked" the ginger beer for 7-Up.

If you are interested in a history of  the Moscow Mule, Google away! There is a lot of info on the origins, much of it is even correct.

The copper mug commissioned to promote this drink undoubtedly had as much to do with the drink's popularity as anything else. You can find originals regularly on ebay, or buy a faithful replica for a fraction of the price from Cocktail Kingdom here.


1 1/2 ounces (45 ml) vodka
1/2 lime
Ginger Beer (spicy and strong, like Fever Tree)

Build over ice in highball glass (or copper Moscow Mule mug), squeezing in lime and dropping it in for garnish. 

I really like the Fever Tree ginger beer, I prefer it in my "Dark n' Stormy's" too. I was surprised to find a bottle of vodka in my fridge the other day, I honestly didn't think I had any around any longer.

I have nothing personally against vodka or vodka drinks, as long as the drink is made well and tastes good. The made well is the tricky part to find.

After the "(insert adjective)-tini" craze that we thankfully now seem to be emerging from, it is not surprising to me that the same people that helped to pull us from those depths would have a distaste for vodka, the main base spirit used in most of those monstrosities.

After seeing the vodka shelves explode with new "ultra-premium" brands year after year, I think the backlash is overdue and well deserved.

If vodka is in a good recipe though, I'm not going to turn away just because the recipe contains vodka. I'm not going to shell out big bucks for an un-aged neutral spirit, but I'm not reaching for the bottom shelf either. I'm reaching for a Russian vodka off the beaten path, something you might actually find on the shelves of a Moscow liquor store.

Today that bottle is "Moskovskaya", the label of which proclaims itself to be "the most distinctive vodka in the world". Don't they all.

So, trying it on its own I found that on the nose, it smells Soft vodka though and not overly vaporous. It was soft on the tongue too, mild like Stoli but not as sweet with a light grassy flavor mid-palate.

My wife, who has never gotten along with vodka, opted for a variation with rum. Since the Moscow Mule was largely responsible for bringing vodka back to popularity after the onset of the cold war, what better rum to use for her drink than a Havana rum to keep with the cold war theme.

So even though this would be known as a Jamaican Mule, I'm calling her variation a "Havana Mule"...well maybe not - that probably means something different in Miami. How about a "Havana Buck"? Will have to work on that one.

By the way, the Moscow Mule is really just a cleverly marketed "vodka buck" and the Jamaican Mule would have been known as a "Rum Buck" to a pre-prohibition imbiber. The "buck" being a subclass of fizzes, daisies and the like and where ginger beer was used for the sparkling "element" to be used to cut the liquor with. 

The "Moscow Mule" itself was all lime and ginger beer, I could not find any hint of the vodka. On a hot day it would be a good refresher and it would be well suited to a mild brand like Smirnoff. The rum variation was sooo much better though. 

The rum came through just enough and worked really well with the spicy ginger beer. 

You can like vodka if you want to, I mean, it's not like there's anything wrong with that! Give me some added bitters, maybe a chartreuse float and it would be sufficiently spiked that I could make my way though a bottle of vodka and some good ginger beer happily. A gin buck, whiskey or even scotch buck would be tastier and so much easier though. 

I like my new "Moscow Mule" cups quite a bit, they were a lot of fun to drink out of and kept the drinks ice cold. The rum buck with Havana Anejo Reserva was really, really good - I may not wander too far from that path anytime soon. I'll be using them a lot this summer, but I'm going to use them more for "mule-ish" drinks.

Rum Drops (NY Times, 1853)

Here's a gem that I came across in the NY Times archives that was originally published August 3, 1853...rum drops anyone??

Rum Drops.

   Our mothers, free from guile and in their child-like innocence of heart, looked out, long years ago, from their virtuous farm-house homes upon the crime-famed City of New York. They believed that here the enemy of their race had exerted to the utmost his dire abilities for the invention and display of temptations whereby the groundwork of morals and religion, in the character of the young, could be undermined or obliterated ; whereby their prospects of prosperity here, and hope of happiness hereafter could be destroyed. They were mistaken. And well they might be; for who of those who have lived on the scene, and watched our mighty strides in commerce and in crime, would not, if asked his opinion, at any given period within the past twenty years, have said, “Crime in the City of New York has reached its culmination." But it still goes on increasing. Its progress is only equaled by the other and more desirable advancements of the City. This fact is one with which our readers are painfully familiar. It is only used here as preliminary to a word upon a comparatively new and more than ordinarily skillful trick for bringing beauty and innocence, the most unsuspecting victims, within the reach of evil.

   The allurements of the Club, and of the occasional glass withafriend, have been sufficiently characterized. They have acquainted our young men with the evils flowing from such indulgencies. Women, young and old, convinced of the impropriety, and of the injurious consequences of female wine-bibbing, have, as a rule, ceased to sip. In fact, all the evils whose origin lies in the two free use of strong drinks, are read and known of all men and women equally, and the libertine now looks in vain, or, at best, but seldom finds an unnaturally flushed cheek on which to imprint his passion ; a disordered imagination, in the ear of which he dares to whisper. He has grieved at the change, and, as the opportunity for sinning became less frequent, had almost resolved to make a virtue of necessity, and be an honest man. But he need not do it now. The devil seldom leaves his friends, until their day of usefulness is over. The libertine cried out for victims, and the CONFECTIONER answered the call. Rum-drops, brandy-drops, and wine-drops, appeared, and were spread out temptingly on the tables of our fashionable saloons; and through them, the girl who would have been insulted by the other of a glass of the sweetest Wine, becomes familiar with the taste and exhilarating effects of the strongest and most common alcoholic drinks.

   As many of our readers may not have seen the article to which we refer, it may he well to say that these drops are made in the form of the ordinary peppermint-drops, and are about live times as large. The sugar of the peppermint drop, however, is impregnated with the essence, and the moment the tongue touches it the presence of the essence is apparent. Not so the rum-drop. The outer composition, poisonous though it he, is free from taste or smell of ardent spirits. It is but the envelope. The ruin is concealed within, so that before you are aware of its presence the sugary coating has prepared the way—the alcohol comes upon a tongue already covered with sweets; its unpleasantness to the unused palate is destroyed; its strength is not apparent, and any idea of its quantity confused.

   No more ingenious method could be conceived for the purpose of producing alcoholic effects upon those who could not be persuaded to touch it in any other form.

   These drops are not to be found in the saloons where men alone resort. They are not intended for the use of men. If you want them, go to our magnificent and respectable saloons—to those to which your daughters are conveyed for refreshments, at the close of the concert, when the play is over, or after promenade on Broadway. There—in the afternoon, or from evening to nearly morning,—you will behold scores of couples seated comfortably at costly tables. Wait until the ice-cream is set aside, and you will see the willing waiter return with a mint-julep for the young gentleman, and “ a dozen rum-drops " for the lady. Beholding this, is it any wonder that so many young women are led astray !

   This is no imaginary scene. We have witnessed it, and know that such are presented daily and nightly in the places we have described. it may be said that we are mistaken in supposing that the females who are thus seen are respectable. We answer, we know them to be. But how long they will remain so, under such influences, cannot easily he told. The indulgence increases in ratio with the improvements of the exterior and interior embellishments of these saloons, and ere long many a tale of sorrow will commence with the introduction of the “ Rum-drop. ”

The New York Times
Published: August 3, 1853
Copyright © The New York Times
(Transcribed by Ethan Bailey)

Saturday, February 26, 2011


The Brooklyn cocktail comes from a very rare 1908 title by Jacob Abraham Grohusko entitled Jack's Manual.

Jack's Manual, J.A. Grohusko, 1908

The drink's merit is obviously endorsed by how quickly the recipe spread, and it's continued popularity to this day...well...maybe I shouldn't be that hard on it. In fact, this drink, though it has had its followers, was never that popular of a Manhattan variation and it shows up only here and there over the years.

Since this recipe is a personal favorite, I'm going to go into a little more depth with this one. I'll feature the  Jack's Manual recipe later as the base for my recommended recipe, so let's start with Jacques Straub's 1914 recipe in Drinks (once thought to be the earliest recipeand work up from there, checking in on the recipe here and there as it has aged.

Drinks, Jacques Straub, 1914

Next we'll check in on Harry & Wynn's Barflies & Cocktails version from 1927:

Barflies & Cocktails, Harry & Wynn, 1927

In 1930 it makes an appearance in The Savoy Cocktail Book by Harry Craddock:

Brooklyn Cocktail (Savoy 1930)
1 dash Amer Picon
1 dash Maraschino
2/3 Canadian Club whiskey
1/3 French vermouth.
Shake well and strain into cocktail glass.

(I guess Straub lifted this one from Jack's Manual as it does not appear in 1931's Old Waldorf Bar Days...the Brooklyn apparently not having been popular enough with that crowd for its inclusion.)

It was included in the original UKBG from 1934:

Approved Drinks United Kingdom Bartender's Guide, 1934

Frank Meier took a stab at it in 1936 in The Artistry of Mixing Drinks, interesting for a Paris bartender to leave out the Amer Picon!

 Artistry of Mixing Drinks, Frank Meier, 1936

Billy Tarling made sure to include in his 1937 update of the UKBG:

Cafe Royal Cocktail Book, W.J. Tarling, 1937

By 1948, Embury's take indicates that the Brooklyn's popularity had obviously begun to fade.

The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks, Embury, 1948
It appears in a few modern books, though not many. Robert Hess changed the dry vermouth to sweet in his 2008 title Essential Bartender's Guide. Though I'm sure it would work, I think it would technically be a "Sweet Brooklyn". Mr. Boston's also lists their recipe with sweet vermouth.

Most of the recipes though time call for a 1:1 or 2:1 ratio of rye to vermouth. Ted Haigh in "Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails" includes a recipe with dry vermouth, but his adaptation calls for using 2 oz of rye and only 3/4 oz of dry vermouth, using enough vermouth I suppose to make it a Brooklyn - but we're getting further away from this drink's roots.

Rye and dry vermouth...apparently not the most popular mix! That's really what this drink is all about though. If you are not into the base spirits, then this drink is likely going to fall flat for you.

If you are lucky enough to have a bottle of real Amer Picon, then you can make a real Brooklyn. At only 1 dash though, its flavor is really in the background.

A century ago when these recipes were written, Amer Picon was made stronger than it is now. So you can add more of it if you like, and remain true to the original creations, which is why the amount of Amer Picon in my recommended recipe below is larger than the amount of maraschino liqueur.

So, ready to try one? Let's see where it all began and look at the Jack's Manual recipe from 1908:

Jack's Manual, J.A. Grohusko, 1908

Brooklyn Cocktail

1.5 ounces (45 ml) Wild Turkey 101 Rye Whiskey
1.5 ounces (45 ml) Cocchi Americano
3/4 tsp (3.75 ml) Amer Picon
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur

Stir and strain into cocktail glass, garnish with an orange twist.

I'm going to follow suit here with previous authors through time by making a few slight adjustments to make this drink more to my liking - while trying to stay as true to the 1908 original version as possible.

I'm not sure what the flavor profile of "Ballor" was, but I did some experimenting to help me dial in my own preferred ingredients.

I've enjoyed this drink many times on its own, but here was a chance to make a batch for side-by-side comparisons.

I started by making this recipe with Noilly Pratt, Lillet Blanc and Cocchi Americano against Rittenhouse bonded.

The Noilly was of course the driest of the bunch.  Though I had a better sense of the Rittenhouse with this combo than the others, and liked how it allowed the rye's flavors to shine through the mix. The Noilly's flavors managed to hold up well to my "generous" dashes of the Maraschino and Amer Picon. This combo is perfectly enjoyable. Especially if you have developed a taste for dry vermouth, as its flavor comes through well in this variation.

I would recommend Lillet blanc for the wine lovers out there, as the sauvignon blanc and semillon grapes in Lillet's base show up nicely here. It was a a mid-point between the Noilly Prat & Cocchi in terms of dryness.

The Cocchi was like a big wet kiss after trying the first two. Round & luscious with even more of a silky mouth feel than the Lillet, here was a very drinkable variation. Cocchi is not always my favorite choice, it is a little "off" in many combos for my palate. As with many bottles worth having though, when it works, it works really well!

(Cocchi Americano is blend of Moscato d'Asti, the roots of gentian flowers, cinchona bark and a secret blend of botanicals. It's known to be the truest recipe to the original Kina Lillet available on the market today.)

The fourth in the lineup was made with Wild Turkey 101 rye and Cocchi Americano.

Here was the mix I was after. It was the most "Manhattan-ish" of the lot. The Wild Turkey rye's bigger oak profile worked well to tame the Cocchi down for a nice balance. In turn, the Cocchi smoothed out the rough edges of the whiskey, while retaining its bitter, citrusy profile without overpowering the whiskey to the point that it had with the Rittenhouse. The flavors of the Maraschino and Amer Picon come through as well, but are not overpowering. There was something new here as well, the whole being greater than the sum of its parts, which is always the hallmark of a great cocktail.

The Wild Turkey/Chocchi on a 1:1 ratio was how my palate found the Brooklyn best to its liking, but these were all enjoyable combinations. I guess that's why the Brooklyn is a favorite of mine and many others - it's a flexible drink that offers many different experiences. Including hopefully, a favorite combination for you as well.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Fatty Johnson's

Image by Jori Jane Emde
After our stop at Vandaag, it was off to see noted barkeeps and buddies Brian Miller and Phil Ward at Fatty Johnson's, Zak Pelaccio's short term pop-up bar in the old Cabrito space (50 Carmine St between Bedford and Bleecker St, 212-929-5050).

That evening Miller and Ward were presenting old favorites from their Death & Company days. The menu included:

SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY by Brian Miller (as contributed to

1.5 oz (45 ml) Tanqueray No. 10 Gin
1 oz (30 ml) Chablis wine
.5 oz (15 ml) Cinnamon Syrup*
Fill a mixing glass with ice and add all the ingredients. Stir, and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

*Cinnamon Syrup
2 to 3 Cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces
5 oz (150 ml) Sugar
5 oz (150 ml) Water
Add all the ingredients to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to low and simmer for a few minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand for at least six hours. Strain, and store in the refrigerator.

OAXACA OLD FASHIONED by Phil Ward (serious eats)

1 1/2 ounces (45 ml) reposado tequila (El Tesoro recommended)
1/2 ounce (15 ml)  mezcal (Los Amantes Joven recommended)
1 teaspoon agave nectar
1 to 2 dashes Bittermens Xocolatl Mole bitters (substitute Angostura)
Wide swath of orange zest, for garnish

Combine ingredients in a mixing glass and fill with ice. Stir to chill, then strain into an ice-filled Old Fashioned glass. Twist orange peel over drink and use as garnish (for extra flavor and excitement, flame the peel by spraying the orange oil through the flame of a lit match and on top of the drink)

CHOCOLATE MARTICA by Phil Ward (Bitterman's)

1 oz (30 ml) Appleton V/X Rum
1 oz (30 ml) Cognac (Courvoisier VS)
1 oz (30 ml) Carpano Antica
1/4 oz (7.5 ml) Luxardo Maraschino
2 dashes Bittermens Xocolatl Mole Bitters

Stirred and served up in a cocktail glass.

THE CONFERENCE by Brian Miller (Bitterman's)
A play on the Old Fashioned by Brian Miller at Death and Company, 2007. It’s one of those drinks that evolves as the ice slowly melts into the cocktail.

1/4 oz (7.5 ml) Demerara Sugar Syrup
1/2 oz (15 ml) Rittenhouse Bonded Rye (100 Proof)
1/2 oz (15 ml) Buffalo Trace Bourbon
1/2 oz (15 ml) Cognac
1/2 oz (15 ml) Calvados
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
1 dash Bittermens Xocolatl Mole Bitters
Orange Twist (wide)
Lemon Twist (wide)

Stir all the ingredients aside from the twists in an ice filled shaker glass. Strain into a double old fashioned glass over ice. Add orange and lemon twists.

MONONGAHELA  MULE by Phil Ward | Old Overholt Rye, Lemon Juice, Ginger Syrup, Mint, Raspberries, Club Soda

THE BLACK MARKET MANHATTAN by Brian Miller (looka)

2 ounces (60 ml) Bernheim Wheat Whiskey.
1 ounce (30 ml) Martini & Rossi sweet vermouth infused with Market Spice Tea*
1 dash Angostura Bitters.

Stir ingredients and strain into a coupe. No garnish.

*For the Market Spice Tea-infused sweet vermouth: Place four heaping tablespoons of tea to 1 bottle Martini & Rossi sweet vermouth. Let it sit for an hour to an hour an a half, then strain and refrigerate.

GANNT'S TOMB by Brian Miller | Gosling’s Dark Rum, Rittenhouse Rye, Lemon Hart 151 Proof Demerera Rum, Pineapple Juice, Orange Juice, Simple Syrup, St. Elizabeth’s Allspice Dram

BITTER FRENCH by Phil Ward (educated guess )

1 ounce (30 ml) Plymouth gin
1/2 ounce (15 ml) simple syrup
1/2 ounce (15 ml) lemon juice
1/4 ounce Campari
Chilled sparkling wine, preferably champagne
Twist of lemon peel, for garnish

A chance to meet Brian Miller and that other guy, wow! It was a must-do on the list for this trip, and disappointed I was not. Sorry Phil...I've never met you, but your reputation proceeds you. You do have a gift for mixing drinks and I must admit to being a fan of several of your recipes. The attitude though, not so much.

Which is why I asked Brain to make me my first "D&C" Oaxaca Old Fashioned, which he did very happily and of course extremely well. I didn't get a chance to talk to Brian much, but this was not exactly happy hour either.  The place was hopping and the crowd was thirsty. So better yet, I was able to get a seat at the bar in front of his work station and watch him in action.

Brian and Phil worked madly away that night with the speed and ease of bartenders working a big crowd with nothing more demanding than a seven bottle speed well and a soda gun. Rather than churning out mix-mashed garbage by the bucket loads however, the fruit of their labor was of the highest quality.

A true feat considering that though the bottle selection at Fatty's would be good for most bars you run into, its limited at best compared to the top spots in the city. (The exception being Milk and Honey, where they make some of the very best drinks in the city with an amazingly limited selection of ingredients).

Those working the space are often making the best approximations they can with the ingredients available, but that's part of the fun too. You get to see these guys improvise and try something new, possibly (but not likely) even better!

As a follow-up I asked Brian for something dark and stirred with rye and amaro, a classic D&C style cocktail. He produced riff on the Boulevarder with rye, campari, martini & rosso vermouth and honestly, I cannot read my own notes to tell you which amaro he used.

I do remember liking it quite a bit, but this was stop #4 of the night, and my handwriting and memory became fuzzy at this point. Warm and fuzzy, and we'll leave it at that. This was a fun and unexpected treat as it was announced long after my travel plans were made, and I was glad to be able to add it to the itinerary.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


Vandaag had its soft opening on Tue, July 27th, 2010 and so is still relatively new to the east village.

Introduced as an upscale restaurant specializing in Northern European cuisine, it was also billed as a genever bar and created a buzz in the cocktail world when it opened. While it was certainly not the first genever bar to open in NYC, it was the first in many a year!

Owner Brendan Spiro came up with the concept for Vandaag, which means "Today" in Dutch. The cocktail and spirits program was put together by Katie Stipe, a former bartender at Clover Club in Brooklyn and partner with Mayahuel’s Phil Ward in the consulting firm "Last Call Consulting". The chef is Phillip Kirschen-Clark, who has previously worked at Jimmy’s No. 43, Pegu Club and, more recently, Corton.

When Vandaag opened, much attention was paid to its wide range of genevers, European beers and wines, along with inventive cocktails using a beer/spirit combination including the classic Dutch shot-and-a-beer combo known as the kopstootje (or “little headbutt”).

We stopped in at Vandaag after PDT on our way to Fatty Johnson's for a quick drink. As expected, the space was open, light and modern. The zinc bar is a nice fit with the polished concrete floors and Scandinavian-like "new modern" decor. The touches of wood throughout kept the space feeling comfortable, and the overall ambiance works with the restaurant's concept.

The main press about this spot revolves around the Northern European cuisine, and it seems that management has struggled a bit to shed the "gin bar" label and focus on their kitchen program. I was there to experience the bar program so I did not try any food this visit, but from the dishes I did see I would be happy to come back for a meal. 

Working that evening and taking very good care of us, was Dan Nicolaescu.

I caught up with Dan recently, and was able to ask him a few questions.

Dan is passionate about his craft, always studying to create new combinations, and a blur behind the bar.

Dan has been in the restaurant business for some time now and like many barkeeps, got his start working the front of the house.

Interacting with customers and their drink orders, ducking behind the bar to make the occasional drink and eventually covering shifts here and there will get you a lot of practical experience!

As is easy to do working in good eating establishments, Dan became a bit of a wine guy and developed a good level of oenophilic knowledge, but says he never lost his interest in spirits.

Before landing his current gig at Vandaag, he started making more and more friends in the industry, taking classes and reading all he could get his hands on. Before long, he found himself "submerged" in the world of craft cocktails.

When I asked about his favorite cocktail books, he said he was currently enjoying David Wondrich's recent title Punch, and also greatly enjoyed Imbibe by the same author. For beginners he recommended Dale Degroff's Essential Cocktail and Craft of the Cocktail.

He also gave a nod to Left Coast Libations by Ted Munat & Michael Lazar, which is a great book if working a bar program with kitchen resources like Vandaag has.

I asked about his favorite "under-appreciated" classic cocktail recipe and his response came quickly citing the "Hanky Panky" cocktail.

(The Hanky Panky, Ada Coleman's classic recipe from Harry Craddock's 1930 title, The Savoy Cocktail Book, is a pleasing mix of gin and sweet vermouth nicely balanced with a few dashes Fernet Branca.)

To the age old (but still great) question, "What do you like to drink at home?", Dan told me he prefers high quality whiskeys including single malt scotches, straight bourbons, Japanese, Irish and other whiskeys - and that when drinking them on their own, he always takes them neat.

Dan was also kind enough, after checking with Katie of course, to provide the recipe for the very enjoyable drink that he served to me that night. (Big thanks to both Dan and Katie for this!).

Daisy de Hollanda By Katie Stipe, winter 2010, Vandaag NYC

1.5 oz Genevieve
0.5 oz Lustau fino sherry
0.5 oz pine syrup*
0.5 oz lime juice
0.25 oz green chartreuse
0.75 oz soda water

Shake all ingredients, beside soda water, with ice and strain over fresh ice into Collins glass. Top with soda and stir a couple times. Garnish with pine stem. Serve with straw.

1 cup superfine sugar( by volume)
1 cup water
Fresh pine clippings

Make a simple syrup by heating water and sugar together in a pot over low/med heat. Add fresh pine clippings and remove from heat. Let steep overnight and strain. If it's not piney enough add more pine clippings and heat gently (pines don't have a consistent flavor so you have to adjust the amount of clippings). Do NOT reduce the syrup. Keep refrigerated.

So...if you find yourself in the east village, do yourself a big favor and stop in to see Dan or Katie for great drinks, and an education in the wonderful world of genever and other Northern European beverages and cuisine.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Full House Cocktail

An Old Waldorf Bar Days Recipe


1 ounce (30 ml) Yellow Chartreuse
1 ounce (30 ml) Benedictine
1 ounce (30 ml) Laird's 7 1/2 year Apple Brandy
1 dash Angostura Bitters

Stir ingredients well with ice and strain into glass filled with crushed ice.

A full house indeed! This may have been named in honor of a winning hand, and as rich as it tastes, I would imagine it a welcome libation to order after a big win with hand of same name. With so many bold flavors fighting for space on your palate though the name is a bit of a double entendre, and it could have been an inside joke with the bartenders.

I like it...a lot actually. It's intense, and not a combination that you encounter often. It doesn't hurt that it's made with ingredients I love to use either. A good one when you are in the mood for something on the wild side.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Tropical Cocktail

Here's one I've adopted from a rare title from 1932, The Art of Mixing, by Helene M. Griffith and James A. Wiley:


1 ounce (30 ml) Mozart Dry 
1 ounce (30 ml) Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
1 ounce (30 ml) Cocchi Americano
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 dash Angostura orange bitters

Stir well with ice and strain into rocks glass over 1 large cube. Add bitters, stir and garnish with flamed orange peel.

Tropical is a good name for this recipe. I was worried about putting a whole ounce each of Maraschino and Mozart dry in a drink with only one ounce of vermouth to balance them both out. Normally 1/4 ounce of either of the first two spirits would be more than enough to overpower a drink.

This is a properly good drink though. Yes, there are strong chocolate and cherry flavors, along with good orange flavor from the flamed peel and bitters. Angostura works wonders too here, but I have to think that the Cocchi is the real star here, as it seems to tie all of these flavors together without making itself assertively known.

I will also give it credit for the drinks clean finish, as it lacks the sticky, syrupy sweet aftertaste I fully expected to encounter here. I think I shall go now, and spend some time with my keyboard on the concertina setting.



PDT, short for "Please Don't Tell", has become an establishment in the craft bar world. Created as a cocktail-lounge annex to Crif Dogs, known for their "Jersey Style" deep fried hot dogs, PDT is entered via a vintage phone booth within the Crif Dog restaurant.

Crif Dogs, 113 St. Mark's Place in the East Village
At the back of the phone booth is a "secret" door.
When PDT opened in May of 2007, the old-time speakeasy approach was a perfect fit with the pre-prohibition cocktail craze sweeping the city.

Owned by Crif Dogs owner Brian Shebairo, PDT is the creation Jim Meehan, a well known figure in the cocktail world, who was a veteran of Grammercy Tavern and Pegu club prior to creating PDT's bar program.

Since that opening, with the added talents of Don Lee and John Derragon, not to mention the allure of experiencing the secret entrance, Jim has managed to maintain PDT as one of the most popular craft bars in the country.

Sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes, well, he eats you.
It's 2011 now, so I admit to being quite late to this party. The Benton's bacon-fat washed old fashioned that I felt obliged to try as my first drink, was all the rage when it was unveiled by Don Lee 3-4 years ago, and though the drink may have lost its status as a new "it" drink, it remains a popular staple of PDT's offerings.

When a recipe is so powerfully tied with a particular bar as a signature drink, it becomes something of a must-try. My experience with it was positive. I love my old fashioneds, and Don's bacon fat wash process removes any oily or greasy elements, leaving behind a smokey richness. It was like a BBQ bourbon, and in a very good way!

Working our side of the bar that evening was Karen Fu, who has also been working at ssäm bar, and recently won the nyc round for 42below's cocktail world cup last month with her "Manuka Sage Southside".

Manuka Sage Southside, by Karen Fu
1.5 oz. 42 Below Manuka Honey Vodka
.5 oz. Canton Ginger Liqueur
.5 oz Fresh Yuzu Juice
.25 oz. Nardini Acqua di Cedro
3 Sage Leaves

Muddle 2 of the sage leaves then add the rest of the ingredients. Shake with ice and fine strain into a chilled coupe. Top with 1 oz. Kiuchi Brewery Sparkling Yuzu Wine. Garnish with a spanked sage leaf.

(Nice use of the Nardini Acqua di Cedro Karen!)

Not exactly suited to home use, but that's not what the 42below competition is about, and I thought her recipe sounded well deserving of the win. Good luck at the next round Karen!

My second round at PDT was a drink called the 'Wrong Isle", a combination of Laird's 7 1/2 year old apple brandy, Lillet rouge, Quince Schrubb and Fee's Whiskey barrel aged bitters in a glass that has been rinsed in St. Germain.

Wrong Isle Cocktail

- 2 oz Laird’s Bonded Apple Brandy
- 1 oz Lillet Rouge
- .25 oz Quince Shrubb (Huilerie Beaujolaise Vinaigre de Coing)
- 1 Dash of Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel Aged Bitters

1) Stir with ice and strain into a chilled, St. Germain rinsed coupe.
2) Garnish with an orange twist.

It was very dry, with a bit of a flat spot before the raspberry vinegar kicked in adding some interesting fruit flavors. Complex and enjoyable, though one was enough for me.

I've not heard Lillet Rouge spoken of in flattering terms before hearing Karen Fu espouse upon it's many positive aspects, a discovery which was one of the more interesting experiences I had at PDT.

The base wines in the Lillet Rouge are Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Unaged brandy is also cold soaked in various fruits, mostly citrus, before being pressed and blended with the wine. It is then aged in Slovenian oak for 6-8 months before bottling. 

There is a  mild quinine flavor evident as a light compliment to the bright flavors of citrus and wine. It's obviously more tannic than the blanc, but I've realized that comparisons between the rouge and blanc are probably unfair. I'm actually interested in picking up a bottle to experiment with at home after this introduction.

PDT's rules of etiquette are fairly standard for small craft-bars. Operating a small capacity bar room and turning a profit is difficult enough, without the difficulties created by patrons who would flaunt these rules.

While the atmosphere and attitude will not be for everyone here, I found PDT's reputation for maintaining a high quality bar program to be well deserved. The space was lively but quiet enough for conversation, the staff was friendly and knowledgeable, and the dark & cozy speakeasy charm undeniable.

PDT does have the advantage of a kitchen program, even if it is mainly deep fried hot dogs. Many of the recipes you find there contain rare and hard-to-find or house-made ingredients, which is really part of the reason to go out and spend the money drinking at a place like this in the first place. 

As these recipes are not well suited for home use, I'll leave you with this Jim Meehan recipe from Mud Puddle's Big Bartender's Book.

Haitian Fight Sour (Jim Meehan, NYC)

1 1/2 ounce (45 ml) aged rum (Barbancourt 8)
1/2 ounce (15 ml) Benedictine
3/4 ounce (22 ml) lime juice
1/2 ounce (15 ml) simple syrup
2 dashed Angostura bitters

Shake well with ice and strain into a coupe. Garnish with a lime wheel.

This is a deep, dark and mysterious sour deepened even further by my use of a 2:1 ratio demerara sugar simple syrup. The Benedictine's complex profile goes well with the Barbancourt Haitian rum and Angostura bitters are hard to beat as an addition to any drink. A very enjoyable dark daiquiri variation, nice one Jim!

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Lone Tree Cocktail

I was recently blessed with a rare first edition of Albert Stevens Crockett's 1931 classic, Old Waldorf Bar Days, from an extremely generous friend as a birthday gift.

There will be more posts to come from this treasured volume. The Lone Tree may not be the sexiest drink to start with, but I've always had an interest in trying it as I've come across the recipe in different books. So when I found it again here, it sounded like a great place to start.

As it is explained in David Wondrich's introduction to the Mud Puddle reprint of Jacques Straub's 1914 book Drinks, many of the recipes from Straub's books were likely "borrowed" from the famous hand-written books of the Waldorf bar with some limited help from his friend Oscar.

Jacques and Oscar Tschirky (who was one of the Waldorf's most famous bartenders) came over to America from Switzerland together on the same boat, and Oscar even contributed a blurb to the beginning of Straub's book.

The beauty of Old Waldorf Bar Days, which was not written until at least 17-18 years after Drinks, is that Crockett had the full cooperation of many of the "veteran employees" of the old Waldorf, among other collaborators that had "been regular patrons of the Bar who knew its habitués and what went on there."

Both titles are great resources. Drinks contains over 700 recipes in a pocket sized format. The instructions are usually wrong, and the drinks do take a fair amount of general knowledge to be successful with, but it's been a favored book for nearly 100 years for it's inspirational and practical nature.

The Old Waldorf Bar Days advertises "Four Hundred and Ninety-one Appealing Appetizers and Salutary Potations" in a handsome 6x9 perfect bound volume and its recipes are rich in detail, explanation and refinement (not to mention the many wonderful illustrations by Leighton Budd).

(Early history: The Lone Tree appeared first in 1900 in The Cocktail Book, A Sideboard Manual for Gentleman, as well as in the 1913 edition of Applegreen's Bar Book.) 

Straub in 1914 lists the Lone Tree Cocktail as:

When it appears in Old Waldorf Days in 1931, there is an accompanying story.

Tom gin has become Plymouth, a big change! Orange bitters have been added, and the ratio has been taken from 2:1 gin to vermouth, to a 1:1 ratio.

It appears to have been a very popular cocktail, and I'm thinking that word must have spread quickly - and likely by mouth - as the recipes lack consistency.

Four years before the Old Waldorf Bar Days was published, in Barflies and Cocktails by Harry McElhone (1927), you have this recipe:

Five years after it was published, Frank Mier (working in Paris) provided this recipe in the 1936 classic The Artistry of Mixing Drinks.

So what's a person to do? To me, these similarities point to a sweet martini with a bitter orange influence.

Based on the back-story provided in the Old Waldorf Bar Days book, I feel a bit better prepared to give it a try, so here's my version of the "that-time" drink for your refreshment.

The Lone Tree Cocktail

1.5 ounces (45 ml) Plymouth Gin
1.5 ounces (45 ml) Sweet Vermouth (Punt e Mes)
1 dash orange bitters

Stir well with ice, strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist.

(Since this post is also introducing the Crockett book, it's only fitting to use his recipe.)

The 1:1 ratio of the clean-crisp Plymouth gin to the spicy-bitter, "grapefruity" Punt e Mes, along with the nice citrus hit from the bitters and orange peel oils, provide a very rich "sweet martini" experience...fitting for a recipe from the Old Waldof.


Momofuku Ssäm Bar

I was in New York City last week and able to visit several popular NYC area hot spots.

The first stop was at the Momofuku Ssäm Bar where we found John deBary behind the bar. John received his early training from Don Lee at ssäm bar, along with Jim Meehan & John Deragon at PDT, and still splits his time mainly between the two places.

As this was not a scheduled stop, but rather a bite to eat on our way to PDT, we were not able to get a seat at the bar here. John made us a round of excellent libations and was kind enough to check on us often though.

My colleague had Don Lee's 2007 PDT creation, the  "Reverend Palmer", a creation of tea infused elijah craig bourbon, lemon syrup & angostura bitters.

"Reverend Palmer" at ssäm bar made by John deBary.
I had the "Scottish Navy Sour", a bold, robust combination of Smith & Cross Navy Strength Jamaican Rum, Laphroaig 10 Islay single malt scotch, lime and clove.

Benton's American ham and the Scottish Navy Sour were so good it took me a minute to remember to take a photo!
 One of the evening's specials was a rustic style pork sausage, the brussel sprouts were incredible.

I had been to Milk Bar a few times so I expected to find quality food made creativity. I found the fare to be simple and elegantly presented, made with ingredients of the highest quality, and felt light and energized by the food afterwards. This is not a food blog however, so I will not dwell on particulars of the meal.

The food and drinks were spot on, making the Momofuku Ssäm Bar a great place to start the night. With two bartenders from PDT, one from Mà Pêche, and another from Dutch Kills all collaborating together on this beverage program, your chances of running into a first class concoction here are excellent!