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Jim Meehan of PDT, the popular speakeasy bar in NYC (yes, its the bar you enter through a phone booth in a hot dog stand) came to Boston a couple weeks ago to celebrate his new book, The PDT Cocktail Book, with a party at Hawthorne.  The book is a great addition to any bartender’s or cocktail enthusiast’s bookshelf.  It begins with a thorough run-down of tools, glassware, and technique, and then continues with recipe after delicious recipe.  In addition to all the drink goodness to read about,  the pages are adorned with playful illustrations by Chris Gall.


The cocktail menu for the evening’s festivities featured drinks from the book. My favorite of the evening was Albert Mathieu, created by Boston’s own Kevin Martin of Eastern Standard, who did a guest stint at PDT in 2009.  Named for the French engineer who proposed a tunnel under the English Channel that eventually led to the Chunnel that now connects England and France, this cocktail brings together spirits of the two countries.

Albert Mathieu (created by Kevin Martin)

1 ½ oz Plymouth gin

¾ oz Lillet Blanc

¾ oz green Chartreuse

1 barspoon St. Germain

1 dash Regan’s orange bitters

Stir with ice and strain into coupe. Garnish with an orange twist.

Cheers!

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Last week I was in DC visiting my sister and her family.  In addition to some fabulous family time, I was happy to have the chance to spend time with my friend Paula who has recently moved to the Capitol.

Our first stop was PS7 where we quickly became fans of the daily happy hour punch made with gin, allspice dram, grapefruit juice and Peychauds bitters.  It was light and refreshing while also providing a rich mouthful of flavor.  It was the perfect way to relax after a long afternoon of wandering the hall of the National Gallery looking at fabulous works of art.

Under the direction of Gina Chersevani, PS7’s cocktail program takes inspiration from the farm.  The menu features drinks with ingredients like coriander, cilantro, rhubarb and pickled asparagus.  I was immediately drawn to the B&B (&b)—Maker’s Mark bourbon, beet syrup and bitters.  Before I say anything about the taste, check out the gorgeous deep red color.

I loved this drink. It didn’t taste as “beety” as I imagined it would. Instead the beet syrup functioned to bring an earthiness that mellowed the boozy taste of the bourbon, while producing a slightly viscous quality.  Vanilla used in the creation of the syrup adds a sweetness that rounds out the flavor.  Earthy, sweet, and rich—this was a uniquely delicious drink.

We then moved on to Proof.  The first drink on the cocktail menu caught my eye—the Root Cocktail with Partilda Blanco Tequila, Ramos Pinto White Port and Chartreuse.  I was intrigued by the combination of three ingredients that each have quite a bit going on on their own, but they all played nicely together sharing the class as cleverly and collegially.  It went down quite easily as I chatted the night away with Paula and nibbled on amazing sweet potato gnocchi.

Cheers to DC and its cocktails! See you again soon.

It seems like I always have little items to share that don’t seem to warrant an entire post. Instead of just letting them go unmentioned my monthly “last call” will round them all up. So, here goes…

Of course I know how fabulous Boston’s cocktail scene is, but now thanks to Imbibe magazine so will the rest of the country.  Each month a city’s drinking scene is featured— Boston gets its shout out in the January/February issue.  This piece features a little Q&A with some of Boston’s finest, most of whom I have the pleasure of knowing, the rest I need to get to know.

All month I have been enjoying a delicious Vin d’Orange that I made myself.  This apertif is popular in Southern France around Christmas time.  Made with bitter Seville oranges that are in season in the cold winter month, this tasty wine-based infusion is super easy to make and delicious to drink—a few ounces over a couple cubes is perfection on a cold winter evening.  The flavor, which is very similar to Lillet, is predominantly citrus, slightly bitter, slightly sweet, and really smooth.  Here’s the recipe I used:

750 ml sauvignon blanc

1 cup vodka

1 cup sugar

2 lemons (quartered)

4 Seville oranges (quartered)

vanilla bean, split length-wise

2 cinnamon sticks

Combine in airtight jar and store for 1 month in dark, cool place.  Strain through cheese cloth. Store in the refrigerator for 6 months. 

I love when I find a new cocktail recipe that I can easily make with the bottles I have in stock.  Its even better when its really delicious.  This month my find is the Diamondback.  I recently made this as part of an evening of rye cocktails.  It was enjoyed between a Monte Cassino and a rye Old Fashioned.  Featuring 1 ½ oz rye (I was using Old Overholt), ¾ oz AppleJack and ¾ oz green Chartreuse, the Diamondback is a great winter cocktail—rich (but not heavy), slightly sweet and very herbally.

That’s January last call. Cheers!

Even though I was in NYC for less than 10 hours, I had to carve out a little time for a cocktail.  So after exploring kitchen design and a Jackson Pollock painting that took my breath away at MOMA, I decided to end my day at Forty Four.  The recently reincarnated lobby bar at the Royalton Hotel boasts a great menu that is the brain child of the Cocktail Collective—Eric Alperin (Varnish, LA), Richard Boccato (Dutch Kills, NYC), Simon Ford (global cocktail ambassador for Pernod Ricard USA), Misty Kalkofen (Drink, Boston) , John Lermayer (Florida Room, Miami Beach, and Woodward in Boston), and Willy Shine (Contemporary Cocktails).  On their own, each of these people are rockstars; put them all together and whoa!

The bar space is something else.  From the exterior you might think the Royalton is a bank—a heavy granite façade with large columns flanking the entry way.  As you walk through the large black doors, a second set of doors slowly glide open revealing the dimly lit length of the lobby, complete with dark furniture, wooden screened walls and two large fireplaces that look like walls of flames (a bit unnecessary on our visit since the temp was in the 60s).  There is something ceremonial about the whole thing—I imagined this is what entering an ancient Egyptian temple might have been like.

The cocktail menu is fabulous—classics, new creations, and even bowls of punch (we would have a needed a few more people in our posse to justify the $250 bowl of punch).  There were so many interesting options, I wished I had time for more than one drink, but alas a bus full of museum volunteers awaited my arrival.  Since I have yet to meet a Last Word variation that I didn’t like, I chose The Other Word made with single village mezcal, lime juice, agave nectar, Yellow Chartreuse and maraschino liqueur.  Once my palette got used to the smoky mezcal, the other flavors–herbaliness, nuttiness, tart, and earthly– emerge.  Really delicious.  Brian’s Reconciliation was also quite memorable.  An homage to the Old Fashioned, this drink features rye, Amaro Lucano, orgeat and a Sambucca rinse and its like nothing I’ve ever drank before. Warm and rich, and slightly sweet.

 

right to left: Maiden's Prayer (No. 2), The Other Word, The Pharaoh Cooler, Reconciliation

The seating –modern, comfortable couches, benches, and chairs– create many seating nooks. Perfect, as Jeff commented, as a place to rest after a long day in the city or for a rapper’s entourage to hang out late night.  Since we had been exploring the city since 10 am and at various times have referred to our little posse as Swizzle and the Bone Crushers or Yani Kohani and the Mulyatz (Don’t ask. I don’t even think I can explain.), we fit right in.  Cheers!

Last night at Drink, I spotted a piece of cucumber and immediately knew what to ask Misty to make for me—the Irma la Douce.  Created by LUPEC Boston, this cocktail combines muddled cucumber with gin, citrus and green Chartreuse resulting in a drink that is savory, herbal and refreshing.  I absolutely love the cucumber flavor!

This fabulous drink is named for the 1963 comedy Irma la Douce starring Shirley MacLaine (Irma) as a quirky and charming Parisian prostitute.  Jack Lemmon plays a policeman who falls for Irma.  Because he can’t stand the thought of Irma with another man, he concocts an alter-ego who becomes her only client.  As you can imagine, hilarity ensues as he attempts to keep up this charade.

Interestingly, the drink is named for the bright green stockings that Irma wears throughout the film.  The drink features a green French liqueur and the final color is a beautiful green hue, reminiscent of Irma’s interesting fashion choice.  Here’s a short clip of her dancing in those famous stockings.

Irma la Douce

1 ½ oz Hendrick’s gin
½ oz green Chartreuse
½ oz fresh lemon juice
½ oz grapefruit juice
¼ oz simple syrup

½ inch piece of cucumber, peeled

Muddle cucumber. Add remaining ingredient and shake with ice.  Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a slice of cucumber.

Cheers!

1 ½ oz Hendrick’s gin
½ oz green Chartreuse
½ oz fresh lemon juice
½ oz grapefruit juice
¼ oz simple syrup

½ inch piece of cucumber, peeled

Tiki Sundays are fun, but maybe even more so on a long weekend.  After enjoying a Jet Pilot (yum!) I asked Joe for something that was herbally, and Tiki-ish.  What he delivered can only be described as total deliciousness—the Chartreuse Swizzle is herbally, sweet and tart, simple, yet complex.

Paula's Mary Pickford and my Chartreuse Swizzle

Chartreuse Swizzle

½ oz Velvet Falernum

¾ oz lime

2 oz Chartruese

2 dashes Angostura bitters

According to David Embury in the Fine Art of Mixing Drinks a swizzle is “simply a sour-type drink churned with a swizzle stick until it attains a foamy appearance and the container becomes frosted.”  Embury goes on to explain the importance of the swizzle stick, a stick with a forked end that is used to mix the drink, “The bladed end is immersable in the drink, the shaft between the palms of the hand, and the whole stick rapidly rotated by sliding the hands back and forth against one another.”

Swizzles have been enjoyed since the 18th century and traditionally are made with rum, fruit juice like lime, pineapple or orange, and a flavored sweetener like grenadine or falernum.  The rum swizzle is often referred to as the national drink of Bermuda.  I have a foggy memory of visiting a place called the Swizzle Hut while on a high school trip to Bermuda; and I think I may have even bought a t-shirt that said something to the effect of “I got wrecked at the Swizzle Hut.”  The rum variety is good, but this Chartreuse variation is amazing.

Here’s to Chartreuse in a swizzle and another fun Tiki Sunday. Cheers!

After three days on the couch, I needed to shed my sick-self and get out of the house.  So, I mustered up the strength to get it together (and I managed to keep my coughing to a minimum—cocktails really do soothe a sore throat!) and met Karaugh at Green Street for DrinkBoston’s event that featured 4 rising stars of the Boston bar scene.  We got to sample  unique creations, nibble on some yum food, and chat with the bartenders and fellow cocktail enthusiasts.  What a fun Sunday night!

Here is what we drank and who made it:

Our first cocktail was created by Carrie Cole (Craigie on Main).  Her Loose Translation was made of Scorpion Mezcal, Aperol, Mathilde XO Orange Cognac, pineapple syrup, lime juice, Allspice Dram, Angostura orange bitters, and a splash of ginger ale served on the rocks.  What a wonderful start—smoky, bitter, with a little fruitiness.

Look at this tower of coupe glasses ready to receive the Peralta

Evan Harrison (Deep Ellum) made our second drink.  It was the Peralta: Old Overholt Rye, Cynar, green Chartreuse, grapefruit juice, orange and grapefruit bitters.  I really enjoyed the combo of herbally Chartruese and the bitter/tart grapefruit.

Bob McCoy's Saving Daylight

The 3rd drink was by Bob McCoy (Eastern Standard). His Saving Daylight was really spectacular.  The cocktail was Plymouth Gin, homemade “golden” vermouth, St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur, Cointreau and homemade bitters.  From the first sip, I was struck by the unique flavor of this drink.  I expected something sweet with the St. Germain and Cointreau, but instead I tasted a delicious caramel flavor that came from Bob’s homemade vermouth and bitters.

Emily Stanley's William of Orange

Our final cocktail was Emily Stanley’s (Green Street) William of Orange.  With Bols Genever, Benedictine, Punt E Mes, Aperol, and orange bitters this was a perfect ending to the evening—heavy, herbally, bitter, yum!

Cheers!

[Thanks for the photos, Karaugh!]

There’s nothing like the first sip of a favorite cocktail to melt away the stress of a long, exhausting week.  I met Maura at Green Street tonight and felt that magic happen as I took a sip of the Last Word. This Prohibition-era drink developed at the Detroit Athletic Club always hits the spot.  How is it that I have yet to write about this fantastic cocktail? It’s a perfect combination of sweet, tart, and herbal—it’s just brilliant.  And this formula of equal parts of gin, maraschino liqueur, green Chartreuse and lime, can also be used to make some equally delicious variations.  Two particularly good ones are the Final Ward and the Monte Cassino.

On paper the Last Word is a battle of flavors.  In reality, however, there is no fist fighting amongst these four ingredients for top billing.  They blend together perfectly, while each still holds its own.  You taste the botanicals of the gin, the tart maraschino, the amazing herbals of the Chartreuse and the sharp freshness of the lime.

One of my favorite liqueurs is Chartreuse.  In this cocktail it shines.  I first drank this wonderful stuff as I watched, Into the Great Silence, a documentary about Carthusian monks who in addition to living a solitary existence have also have been making Chartreuse at the Grande Chartreuse monastery, France since the 18th century.  Legend has it that no one monk knows the entire recipe; instead its distributed amongst three different monks.  Originally made for medicinal purposes, over 130 herbs and plants give this liqueur layers upon layers of flavor.  It adds herbal complexity to the Last Word, but is also delicious with a little sparkling water and fresh citrus.

Here’s the recipe: (I enjoyed one at Green Street and then came home and made myself one.)

¾ oz Plymouth gin

¾ oz Luxardo Maraschino liqueur

¾ oz green Chartreuse

¾ oz fresh lime juice

Shake over ice. Strain. Enjoy!

The Last Word is well, the last word in cocktail complexity.  Cheers!

Rye whiskey is not a spirit that I have much experience with, especially not mixing myself.  But it has crossed my path a number of times over the last week , so I thought I should take a hint and try out a couple whiskey recipes.  This also gave me an excuse to use some of the new cocktail “toys” (new juicers and strainers) that I got for Christmas.  The two drinks I made both came from the New York Times (I’ve included the article links below).

For the last few months, I have been slowly making my way through The History of the World in Six Glasses (Tom Standage, 2005) and I just finished the section on whiskey.  Here are the highlights of what I learned. As our nation expanded westward in the late 18th century, Scottish and Irish settlers started making spirits from cereal grains like rye, wheat, corn or barley.  Whiskey quickly overtook rum which had dominated as the most popular booze in the colonial period.  Whiskey became such an important part of American life that it even caused a military skirmish in 1794.  Problems started when Alexander Hamilton thought it would be a good idea to tax whiskey production, even for private consumption, to raise money to pay off the debt from the American Revolution.  A small band of farmers in Pennsylvania fought against the whiskey tax collectors sparking the Whiskey Rebellion.  President George Washington brought together federal troops to handle the situation, but not before deaths on both sides.  The rebels were weakened and eventually the excise was repealed.  Interesting this moment in American history also contributed to the development of another spirit—as rebels moved farther west into Kentucky, in particular Bourbon County, where they took advantage of corn, an indigenous group, making a drink we now call bourbon.

Now that we’ve had our history lesson, onto the drinks…

The Red Hook

My first cocktail, the Red Hook, was inspired by an article in today’s New York Times (Thanks for the article, Jeff!).  The drink features rye whiskey (2 oz), Punt de Mes, or sweet vermouth (½ oz) and maraschino liqueur (½ oz).  It’s pretty heavy on the whiskey, so if I make this again, I might amp up the maraschino a bit to try and mellow out the whiskey.  I guess I need a little something to cut my whiskey.

The Monte Cassino

For my second drink, I made a Monte Cassino, another drink recipe I found in the NY Times in an article about the 500th anniversary of Benedictine.  This cocktail is spectacular!  Developed by Damon Dyer of Louis 649 in NYC, it follows the formula of The Last Word (and I have yet to meet a variation of this drink that I did not like)—equal parts of 4 ingredients that combine bitter, herbal, sweet and sour.  The Monte Cassino is ¾ ounce each of rye (the recipe called for Rittenhouse 100-proof, but I used Old Overholt), yellow Chartreuse, Benedictine, and lemon juice.  The Chartreuse and Benedictine both add a fabulous herbaliness and spiciness (between these two liqueurs there are almost 160 herbs and spices in this cocktail!), while the rye brings in a slight bitterness and the tart lemon rounds the whole thing out.  I love the complexity of the disparate flavors, and the way they come surprising come together in perfect harmony.  Spectacular!

Salute!

With Christmas upon us, the nostalgia of holiday traditions has overtaken my sensibilities. I come from a family that thrives on traditions. And I am the first to admit that some are pretty cheesy, but I totally love it! There is comfort and reassurance in the familiar. I do not find it boring or monotonous as some may, but rather I am invigorated by keeping cherished traditions alive. We are who we are because we bring the past to the present. And as time marches on and loved ones are no longer with us we remember them in these family rituals. For example, this Christmas as I felt the sadness of losing my grandfather this past year, I couldn’t imagine not having toutaes (a homemade ravioli/tortellini).  He learned to make these pastas from his mother and he passed along this tradition to me.  As I rolled out pasta dough I thought about him—and in that way he will always be with me.

So, what does all this have to do with cocktails? The past couple nights my adventures in cocktails have been about traditions.  Monday night I continued a pre-holiday outing with my brother and sister.  Then Tuesday night I met friends for a traditional Christmastime drink.

Jess and Nick enjoying their first cocktails at Drink

Monday night, I introduced my brother Nick and sister Jess to Drink for our 2nd annual pre-holiday outing. We had lots of good drinks; I won’t describe all in detail, but instead I’ll share some highlights. Jess realized that maybe she does like cocktails after all while—if any place will convince you that cocktails are fabulous, its Drink. She especially enjoyed her Big Red (raspberry syrup, lemon, Aperol and vodka)—beautiful color for the holidays and it was a really nice mix of sweet and bitter. Nick wanted something a little stiffer so he enjoyed a Sazerac for the first time and then ended the evening with a Manhattan variation—equal parts Booker 127 proof bourbon and Punt de Mes—Aaron called it the Moto Guzzi (after the motorcycle). One sip of that and you realize why people drink booze to stay warm!

Jess with her Big Red and me with my Champs Elysees

I decided to check another drink of my 100 must-have cocktails, and opted for the Champs Elysees.

The Champs Elysees

As I took my first sip, I kind of fell in love—why have I never had this cocktail before? The drink features cognac, lemon, sugar, yellow Chartreuse, and bitters. Just look at that gorgeous golden color. The cognac offers a rich base and the yellow Chartreuse adds a subtle herbalness (its mellow than the green variety) and the lemon brightens the whole thing up. Its very drinkable and also complex in flavor. Really yum! This just may become a new favorite!

For my final drink of the evening, Aaron gave me his Battle of Hastings cocktail.

The Battle of Hastings

This was the perfect way to end the evening. The ingredients here were the inspiration for the name. And for those of you who don’t remember exactly what the Battle of Hastings was, don’t feel bad Jess, Nick and I didn’t either. But I learned it was the 1066 battle between the Saxons and the Normans. The Benedictine and Calvados are from Normandy, while the smoky Scotch is from the British Isle. But before all this yum booze gets added a demerara sugar cube is muddled with 7 dashes of Fee Bros. Whiskey Barrel Bitters (I previously thought I didn’t like these bitters, but this drink changed my mind). I absolutely loved the smokiness of the scotch and layers of flavors that the Benedictine and Calvados added. A perfect ending.

Tuesday night, I met Molly, Matt and Jeannie at No. 9 Park for a Tom and Jerry, a classic Christmastime cocktail developed in the early 19th century.

Of course this drink has nothing to do with the antics of the cat and mouse pair we remember from childhood. Instead it is a combination of a homemade batter of eggs, sugar and spices—cloves, nutmeg and all spice—served over rum and brandy that are mixed with hot milk. Imagine sweet frothy eggnog that kind of tastes like meringue that is followed by a very boozy warm liquid. Jeannie may have described it best, “Initially you are attacked by a marshmallow, and then you are hit in the face with spicy liquor.” It may take some getting used to for some—the boozy part is really boozy—but on a cold winter evening the warm booze with sweet batter that is filled with all the flavors of the holiday season really hits the spot. Taking a break from the hectic running around that we all do before the holidays to enjoy a traditional Christmastime beverage with friends seems to be a holiday tradition I could get used to.

Happy Cocktailing and Happy Holidays! Salute!

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