Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Cardinal Punch

This will be my contribution to Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow:

Cardinal Punch
(Serves 8-10)
32oz El Dorado 5 Year
16oz Malbec-Syrah
8oz Carpano Antica vermouth
16oz lime juice
16oz simple syrup
16oz brut sparkling wine
0.5oz St. Elizabeth's Allspice Dram
1 orange's peel

Combine all ingredients aside from the sparkling wine, refrigerate overnight. Before you carve your Field Roast Stuffed Cranberry Roast, pour mixture (minus orange peels) into punch bowl, add sparkling wine, garnish with lime wheels and clove-studded orange wheels.

This is a variation on a recipe found in Mittie Hellmich's Ultimate Bar Book.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 22, 2010

In the mail today...

I'm excited to start making some punch!

This Is My Life.

Please don't do this to anyone (especially me) on a Saturday night. Or a Friday night. Any other night, just not those nights. (Click to watch the video.)

Saturday, November 20, 2010


At the bar, we came across the Chimayó in the Eric Felten's book, How's Your Drink?, a nice collection of recipes and cocktail anecdotes from the former Wall Street Journal columnist.

As Felten tells it, the story of the Chimayó goes something like this: In New Mexico, somewhere between Santa Fe and Taos, is the town of Chimayó. A local restaurant owner created the cocktail in 1965, when he was looking for a new way to use the apples that grew in abundance around the Chimayó Valley. Essentially a Diablo with apple cider in the place of ginger beer, the Chimayó cocktail eventually became the restaurant's signature drink.

I love this refreshing cocktail, which is full of fall flavors. We use Seedling Apple Cider from Michigan, which is a nice tart cider. To pull a bit more acid out of the cider we add a little bit of lemon juice, which also offsets the sweetness of the crème de cassis. The combination of apple and citrus flavors really compliments the spicy, peppery tequila. A quarter ounce of ginger liqueur to adds a touch more heat to the finish.

1.5 oz reposado tequila (I like Herradura Reposado)

.75 oz Briottet Creme de Cassis

.25 oz ginger liqueur (such as Koval)
1.5 oz Seedling Apple Cider

.5 fresh lemon juice

Shake all ingredients together and serve tall, over ice.

Photo by Robert Brenner.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Rachel Maddow

For the most part, I think Rachel Maddow is a great ambassador for cocktail culture -- especially home bartending, and I don't want to take a true lover of cocktails to task over seemingly minute details. But aren't 'the minute details' what cocktail culture is all about? Listening to this podcast from The Sporkful, I found myself with a few bones to pick...

In response to a question about when it's appropriate to eat the garnish in your cocktail, Maddow said:
You're never supposed to eat the garnish. It is there to modify the liquor in the glass, not to provide you with a tasty treat.
While I agree that you shouldn't eat a waxy, bleached "cherry" that's been sitting out on a bar all night, a Marasca cherry is absolutely meant to be eaten. At the bottom of a Manhattan, that special little fruit is a reward for finishing the cocktail and it's full of boozy flavor. I feel the same way about other garnishes, as well. A tiny bite from the piece of crystallized ginger on the Penicillin (a Milk & Honey cocktail by Sam Ross), or the Whistler's Diablo, will make the drink a little spicier, if desired. I'm not saying that eating the orange rind in your Old Fashioned will be too pleasurable, nor the lemon twist in your French 75, but I don't agree that the the olive in a Martini is there to simply "modify the liquor."
Citrus garnish - express the oil onto the surface of a drink. You don't even need to put it in the drink. The long, curly-cues of lemon are pretty but not functional.
Totally true. Most of the time you should discard the citrus peel once the oil has been expressed. However, while I don't prefer it, I don't mind if a bartender leaves the lemon peel in my Sazerac.
In a gin and tonic, squeezing the lime wheel into the cocktail is the worst. The drink should be mixed properly and the wedge should be for visual appeal only. If you want more lime juice, you should have the bartender remake your drink with more lime juice. The wedge is not to recalibrate your cocktail.
First of all, there is no lime juice in a gin and tonic. It is served as a "side" in the form of a wedge, so the customer can decide if they want lime juice in the gin and tonic at all.

She's got it right when it comes to garnishing tools; her recommendation of using a potato peeler to procure a nice lemon rind, and a channel knife to carve a perfect "pig tail," are spot on.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Bespoke Martini

The Embury Cocktails blog is one of my favorites. They recently featured Eau de Vie's latest video in a series: Phillip "The Good Doctor Phil" Gandevia Makes a Dry Martini.

The crystal mixing glass, the vintage vermouth dropper, the 'Montgomery' measurement--this is seriously the ultimate in cocktail geekery, and I love it.

The attention to detail is the best. He has a bespoke approach to cocktailing, giving his guests a little brine and a few olives so that they might truly customize their experience. The conical flask on crushed ice is brilliant; it insures the Martini stays bracingly cold (the only way a Martini should be), without becoming overly diluted.

Eau de Vie is a bar in Sydney, Australia. I had never heard of them before, but now they've got a pin on my World Map of Cocktail-Bars-To-Visit.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

"I don't like sweet drinks..."

When I began bartending in 1989, Fuzzy Navels and Sex on the Beaches were all the rage. People did not want to taste the alcohol in their 'cocktails'; it seemed instead that they wanted to suffocate in a thickness of sugary liqueurs and sickly sweet juices. Those types of drinks all have a singular flavor profile: sweet.

The backlash of that cloyingly sweet cocktail trend is that today I have an innumerable amount of guests that approach the bar looking for a 'dealer's choice' cocktail that have been programmed to recite one condition: "I don't like sweet drinks." They immediately shy away from menu items with sweet ingredients, and because of that, really miss out on some fantastic drinks. If I served them a Rickey with literally no sugared component at all, they wouldn't know quite what hit them.

Today, while some cocktails are obviously sweeter than others, there are a slew of well-balanced modern cocktails that lean slightly toward the sweet side of the flavor spectrum, unlike their saccharine cousins from the '80s and '90s.

For example, at the Whistler we serve the Vermont Cocktail. A quick scan of the ingredients might send someone who "doesn't like sweet drinks" running for the hills. While it does include both maple syrup and apricot liqueur, the sweetness of those two components is balanced by lime juice, bitters, and the qualities of a sturdy dry gin backbone. The Violet Hour serves The Riviera: a terrific cocktail that, at first glance, might seem too sweet. However, thanks to the talented bartenders behind the bar's menu, it's pineapple-infused gin and Maraschino liqueur are perfectly tempered by the bitterness of Campari and the acidity of lemon juice.

A bartender worth his or her salt will be able to guide their guests toward a cocktail that is just right or them. I don't want my customers to miss out on legendary libations like the Mai Tai, just because it's recipe has been bastardized over the years. I want the people who visit the Whistler to trust that I won't try to sell them a French Martini.

The next time you are looking for some guidance choosing a cocktail at your favorite cocktail spot, take a moment before telling your bartender, "I don't like sweet drinks."

Friday, November 12, 2010

Torino Fizz

TORRINOFIZZ-L The first time I tasted Gran Classico, it was during last summer’s Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans. Ever since then I’ve wanted to include it in an original cocktail—and the Torino Fizz is the spirit’s first appearance on the Whistler’s menu.

It is a cocktail comprised of Plymouth Sloe Gin (the only worth-while sloe gin on the market), Carpano Antica Vermouth, Gran Classico Bitter, egg white, lemon, simple syrup, Peychaud’s bitters, and a splash of club soda.

I was inspired by the Savoy Cocktail Book’s sloe gin and vermouth concoction, the Ping Pong Special Cocktail, which (according to Eric Ellestad's research) is essentially a Manhattan with sloe gin instead of rye whiskey.

The drink has three different layers: a sweet start from the combination of sloe gin and vermouth, a middle layer of tartness where the sloe gin and lemon juice mingle, and a dry, bitter finish courtesy of the Gran Classico. The egg white gives the cocktail a wonderful richness, while the Peychaud’s bitters offer their slight cranberry-anis notes at the nose, as well as at the bottom of the glass.

I’ve found this cocktail to be a real crowd-pleaser, and have been recommending it to anyone in search of a refreshing fall libation. Because it’s semi-sweet, semi-tart, and full-bodied with a surprising bitterness at the finish, the Torino Fizz leaves you wanting to take another sip. They disappear quickly at the Whistler…


Photos by Robert Brenner.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Sensory Evaluation

The evening's menu.

Top to bottom: Cynar Flip, Jack Rose, Girolamo Sour.

Moscow Mule Swizzle.

A cocktail with "apple spherifications."

Communal dessert course.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Orchard Old Fashioned

I have seen several vintage cocktail recipes call for "orchard syrup," and I've read about a similar syrup on Jennifer Colliau's blog, but like Jennifer, I've never been able to find an exact recipe. Assuming that the type of orchard being referenced is an apple orchard, it seems like the syrup should have a very concentrated apple flavor.

Then I found out Nick and Ira of Bittercube had come up with an amazing apple cider reduction syrup using a rare Japanese sugar and were using it in a riff on the Old Fashioned. Conveniently, I already had Seedling Apple Cider on hand at the Whistler (we do hot mulled apple cider nightly, once the temperature starts to drop). I substituted demerara sugar for the Japanese variety, and it worked well, yielding a nicely concentrated apple flavor.

Once the reduction syrup is made, this becomes the perfect drink to make in large quantities. Especially ideal for holiday parties when you'd rather be enjoying cocktails with your guests, rather than spending the entire evening making them for your guests.

Orchard Old Fashioned
2 1/2 oz 100 proof bourbon (I use Old Heaven Hill Bonded)
2 dashes Angostura bitters
1/2 oz Seedling Apple Cider reduction syrup

Stir slowly with ice, strain into old fashioned glass over large rock of ice. Garnish with expressed lemon peel. I then top this cocktail with tobacco bitters, which is made by a special friend of the Whistler's.

Photo by my talented pal Alan Del Rio Ortiz.

Novo Fogo Cachaça

Last week I was visited by the Minister of Rum himself, Ed Hamilton. Ed brought along Dragos Axinte, the proprietor of Novo Fogo, which is a new cachaça currently launching distribution in the Chicago area. Dragos gave us two bottles: one silver cachaça (unaged sugar cane spirit), and another of bourbon barrel-aged cachaça.

Drinking them neat, the silver had definite citrus notes and a little of that sugar cane funk, while still being really smooth. But the bourbon barrel-aged cachaça was really special--it had great bourbon qualities and a strong vanilla finish. Two wonderful spirits.

I made Ed and Dragos two cocktails, one for each variety they brought in. The first was a variation on my Long Faced Dove cocktail (tequila, grapefruit, lime juice, Campari, agave syrup, club soda), where I used cachaça in the place of tequila. The second was a riff on the Phil Ward's Coin Toss cocktail: cachaça, sweet vermouth, yellow chartreuse, angostura bitters. Both drinks were hits.

I appreciate that it's made in small batches. The citrusy notes and cane sugar funk are apparent in a way that is often lost with mass produced cachaça. The bourbon barrel-aged product was so cool... I had heard of this cocktail made in Sao Paolo called
Rabo de Galo (literally translated as 'tail of the cock'), a variation on the Manhattan cocktail made with cachaça instead of whiskey. I have tried to make it with other cachaças, but it was never very interesting. The influence of the bourbon barrel on the aged cachaça gave the spirit a nice woody characteristic made it work nicely in the cocktail.

Besides a great product, the company is also really ecologically responsible. The bottles are made from recycled glass collected in the nearby city of Curitiba, Brazil, and Novo Fogo runs a
zero waste facility. All of that, and the cachaça still comes in at a good price point. It will definitely be on my back bar, and I hope to have it on my menu at the Whistler soon.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Vermont Cocktail

I discovered this cocktail on Cocktail Database while looking for a drink that used both gin and apple brandy, and what drew me to the original recipe was its incorporation of maple syrup and apricot liqueur. I think maple syrup is a great winter cocktail ingredient; I had great success with a drink on the Whistler's menu this past winter that included it (a variation of the Applejack Rabbit).

However, this particular recipe didn't call for a single drop of citrus. In fact, the original proportions were equal parts gin, apple brandy, apricot liqueur, and maple syrup, which didn't seem as though it would create anything close to a balanced cocktail.

I made a few variations that included lemon juice, but each time the drink was still too sweet. Even dialing down both the maple syrup and apricot liqueur wasn't quite enough. Bumping up the gin and adding Angostura bitters certainly helped, but it wasn't until I swapped lemon juice for lime juice that I felt I had really unlocked the cocktail's potential. Limes added the much needed citrus, but also lent a brightness that I wasn't able to achieve with lemon juice.

The Vermont Cocktail
1 oz Broker's gin (or any London dry-style gin)
1/2 oz Laird's Bonded Apple Brandy
1/4 oz Marie Brizard Apry (apricot brandy)
3/4 oz lime juice
1/2 oz Grade A maple syrup
3 dashes Angostura Bitters

Shake and double strain into double old fashion glass.

In the end, I really like this variation of The Vermont Cocktail because of its strong gin backbone. The maple syrup gives it a richness, the apricot brandy a sweetness, and the brightness of the lime juice tempers it all. The slight cinnamon and clove finish from the Angostura works well with the apple brandy and gives the cocktail a holiday feel, which is perfect for this time of year.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Formal & Functional

A few days ago, the New York Times ran a piece on men's underpinnings, more specifically, shirt garters. While some of New York's biggest names in bartending (Brian Miller, Toby Maloney, Jim Meehan) were quoted singing their praises, I haven't yet heard any of my Midwestern bartending-brethren mention these 'unmentionables.'

On Saturday nights (when I'm more often than not banging out at least 300 cocktails at the Whistler), I'm always taking up valuable extra seconds to tuck my shirt back into my jeans. I've even been known to hastily shove my shirt right into my underwear (oh, the embarrassment). So, following Brian Miller's lead, I've ordered a pair of the Y-shape variety from Muldoon's. I'm curious to see how they'll work under jeans, or if they'll let go and snap at an inopportune moment, but most of all I'm excited to put into play an accessory that seems more functional that fashionable.

Please expect a full report.