You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘cocktails’ tag.

Drink once again hosted Boston’s semi-final round of Appleton’s REMIXOLOGY and boy, was it a fun party.  With rum flowing and tunes playing how can it not be?

This year’s competitors were Stephanie Clarkson (Think Tank), William “English Bill” Codman (Woodward, Ames Hotel) and Sean Frederick (The Citizen).  Each bartender took up the challenge of creating a unique cocktail with Appleton  inspired by a favorite song.  And each approached the performance with energy and individual style—I can’t quite seem to get the image of English Bill having simple syrup poured over him out of my mind.  But in the end only one could be victorious and the winner was Sean Frederick.

Sean really outdid himself in costume, performance (I learned he has some pretty sweet dance moves) and taste, of course.  His first cocktail was Street Meat performed to Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long.”   His choice of music was nostalgic—“All Night Long” was the first piece of music Sean owned and one that he played over and over again on his Fisher Price record player.  Taking inspiration from the Caribbean vibe of Lionel Richie’s tune, his cocktail draws on the spicy and sweet flavors of Jamaican street food—food so delicious, you’ll want to celebrate and dance “All Night Long.”

Street Meat (by Sean Frederick)

2 oz Appleton Estate Reserve rum
½ oz lime juice
½ oz pineapple juice
¼ oz demerara-ginger syrup
¼ oz allspice dram
¼ oz falernum
1 drop chili sauce

Build ingredients, pour over crushed ice in collins glass and swizzle. Float Del Maguey Mezcal Vida on top, garnish with fresh mint and finish with fresh-grated nutmeg.

Sean also dazzled the crowd in head-to-toe Celtics gear (including tear away pants that he tore away!) as he rocked it to Europe’s “Final Count” while shaking a flip that included a stout syrup.  He will soon head off to New York City to compete against finalists from Miami, San Francisco and NYC—show ‘em what Boston’s made of!  Congratulations and Cheers!


Labor Day is just around the corner which unfortunately means the hot summer will soon fade into crisp fall days.  But before that happens, a few highlights of my summer imbibing.

Is that a lime skull-shaped garnish?   This summer the Children’s Museum hosted outdoor summer concerts (bands recruited by my friend and man-about-town Graham Wright).  To complement the great music, Drink bartenders crafted a cocktail for each event.  Scott Marshall took the opportunity to indulge his passion for Tiki drinks on the night that Waitiki 7 played.  He mixed up a big batch of Shrunken Heads–light and dark rums, lime juice and grenadine.  The drink was pretty tasty, but the garnish was phenomenal—yes, that is a skull carved from a lime peel.

Cocktail road trip   One Sunday afternoon in late July, I picked up a few fellow cocktail enthusiasts and we took a little road trip to Providence, RI.  Our destination was the Cocktail Culture: Ritual and Invention in American Fashion, 1920-1980 exhibit at the RISD Museum.  We take cocktail culture for granted—who doesn’t have a shaker, an ice bucket, various glasses and decanters?  But it wasn’t always that way for ordinary Americans.  It was neat to think about the influence that cocktails and their consumption had on fashion and home décor, and to see how those ideas came to fruition in the form of beautiful things.  Of course, you’d need “cruise-wear” for the original booze cruises because “Getting there is half the fun” (Cunard Cruiselines advertising campaign, early 1950s).  And how about flat-bottom purses? How else are you supposed to rest your purse on the bar while enjoying a few delicious drinks?  Now I totally want my own 1920s silver and enamel cocktail shaker manufactured by Charter Company, but I’d settle for Russell Wright’s 1957 Eclipse cocktail glass set.

Soon to be a new favorite—Erbaluce  A couple weeks ago, on assignment (more on that later) I visited the bar at Erbaluce for the first time.  Tucked into the quaint neighborhood of Bay Village, this place takes its responsibility to serve the best it can very seriously while maintaining the feel of a neighborhood place.  The bar program follows the kitchen’s local, seasonal, Italian-inspired philosophy and has the attitude of “if we can make it, we will.”  Why buy Pimm’s when you can make your own? My friend Holly’s sipped a Pimm’s Cup that featured loveage and tisane, while I enjoyed an old-fashioned with peach-infused bourbon (and lovingly gazed at the collection of 13 amari; perhaps the largest in the city, according to the charming bar manager Nick Korn).  The baked peaches filled with mascarpone, marzipan and honey that ended our meal just may have been one of the most delicious desserts I have ever eaten.  Erbaluce, you haven’t seen the last of me.

Happy Summer!  Cheers to a few more weeks of warm, sunny weather!

A beauty shot of where I spend my weekends. White Pond, NH

Last Monday night a menu of ten original cocktails each showcasing Spanish influence around the globe tempted Julie and I as we settled onto our bar-stools at Estragon.  Sahil Mehta described his Spanish Sip cocktail menu as “a bar-stool voyage around world.”  Along with some very yummy $1 tapas, Julie and I sampled quite a few things on the cocktail menu.  Here are my impressions and taste notes about my favorites, as well as Sahil’s explanation of his inspiration.

I started my journey with the Simon Bolivar (Pisco, yerba mate, pineapple juice, mango syrup, lime, Angostura bitters)I couldn’t resist the allure of yerba mate, a species of holly native to subtropical South America that is popularly made into a tea-like drink, or the temptation of mango syrup.  With this drink I appreciated the subtleness of the pineapple and mango which did not overpower as can sometimes happen with these flavors.  Instead the hint of tropical fruit surrounded the woodiness and vegetal qualities of the pisco and yerba mate.  I liked that the sweet and woody flavors seemed to be competing for my taste buds’ attention—each sip was an interesting one.  Sahil’s approach to this drink might account for this.  He explained: I wanted a cocktail that drew inspiration from northern South America – Ecuador, Colombia, and Venezuela, and from the south -Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Bolivia. Since I was combining large parts of the continent in one cocktail, I decided to name it Simon Bolivar – a tongue-in-cheek reference to Bolivar’s ambitious plan to unite Spanish colonies into a single nation. The former group of nations produces a rich bounty of fruits, while the latter is known for its fondness of yerba mate.”

For my second drink I had the Utrecht-Baden which Sahil had suggested because of my fondness for the Negroni.  Did you know that the Netherlands and parts of Italy were Spanish colonies at one point?  (I actually did because of my museum work and art history background.)   This historical fact inspired the combination of Dutch genever with Italian liqueurs and amaros for an herbal, bitter and boozy result.  Sahil was right—this was right up my alley.  Just the layering of flavors of Bols genever, Aperol, and sweet vermouth (in Negroni style) would have been delicious, but then add a little of the ultra bitter, potent Fernet Branca and mirto, that myrtle berry liqueur that suggests mint, eucalyptus, and even pepper on your palette, and my mouth was buzzing with happiness.  The drink is named for two early 18th C treaties related to Spain’s colonization efforts; quite complicated and intriguing stuff, like the flavor of the cocktail.

When Tiki Met Tequila was Julie’s first choice and I agree with her that this was also quite delicious.  We are both huge fans of all-spice dram.  But instead of tasting like your typical rum-based tiki drink, the hibiscus tequila mixed with velvet falernum, all-spice dram and lime, took things in a different direction.  Sahil’s explanation:“Mexico was the inspiration…I wanted a drink that incorporated some elements of Mexico’s Caribbean coast… I did it by mixing ingredients that are normally used in rum-based Tiki drinks, but using a floral, hibiscus-infused tequila.” Hence the drink’s name.

This was my first visit to Estragon; it will not be my last.  I absolutely loved the art deco décor (the wallpaper in the bathroom is amazing), but even more appealing is the opportunity to spend more time with Sahil.  Not only is he a great bartender, but its clear from his gracious hospitality and big smile that he’s quite passionate about what he does.  To Spain and all its influences, and to Sahil Mehta for introducing me to Estragon and many fabulous Spanish sips. Cheers!

A couple weeks ago The Boston Shaker hosted a tasting event with Barritt’s Ginger Beer and my obsession with the stuff has now been revived.  I love the contrast of spicy and sweet and because it combines well with such a variety of other flavors it’s a must for any summer bar.

Before the recipes, a bit about ginger beer.  First produced in England in the mid-18th century,  the early recipe included ginger, sugar, water, and lemon juice.  This mixture was then combined with a yeast and bacteria combo, known as a ginger beer plant, which caused fermentation.  Some of the early ginger beers could have had an alcohol content of up to 11%.  Modern ginger beer, like the Barritt’s we sipped at the Boston Shaker, are not fermented, but rather carbonated (no boozy ginger beer here).  Barritt’s was first produced in the 1870s by William John Barritt, a man looking to make a living to support his large family.  Barritt took advantage of a small bottling machine in a dry goods store in Hamilton, Bermuda, and a delicious ginger beer was born.

My friend Anne Marie and I sampled all four drinks that were being mixed by Paul Imbesi.  Two of the cocktails rose to the top.

The Bohemian Cooler

(created by Boston bartender Tom Schlesinger-Guidelli of Island Creek Oyster Bar)

1 ½ oz St. Germain

1 oz rye whiskey

¾ oz lemon juice

2 dashes Angostura bitters

Shake over ice. Strain into a Collins glass filled with ice and top with 2 oz ginger beer. Garnish with lemon wheel.

This is a great summer drink—the richness of the rye, the flowery-sweet St. Germain, and the tart lemon juice are brightened and heightened by the spicy ginger beer.  I just love this drink.

Amatitan Mule

(created by Ezra Pattek of Bar Lab, Miami)

2 oz silver tequila

2 thin slices of jalapenos

½ lime, quarted

1 bar spoon agave nectar

Muddle jalapenos, limes and agave. Add tequila and shake.  Strain into a Collins glass filled with ice and top with 2 oz ginger beer.  Garnish with lime and jalapeno wheels.

Now this cocktail is not for the faint of heart (or taste buds)—this is quite spicy with both the jalapenos and ginger beer.  This isn’t the kind of drink I would usually chose if I saw it on a menu, so I was a bit surprised by how much I enjoyed this.

My advice for this weekend (and my own personal plan)—grab a six pack of ginger beer and get shaking and mixing.  If you aren’t up for the recipes above, try something simple like a Dark and Stormy, a simple combo of a dark rum, ginger beer and lime juice.  Cheers!

I have been spending the last few weeks making my way through the recipes in the NYTimes summer drinks section which has meant sipping some wonderfully delicious drinks that are refreshing, citrusy and herbally—ideal qualities for a summer cocktail, in my opinion.  My favorite so far is Italia Libera, created by Chaim Dauermann of ‘inoteca e liquori bar in New York City.

An adaption of the Cuba Libre (take out the lime juice and you have the ever-popular Rum and Coke), this highball combines an amaro, Ramazzotti to be specific, with the 150 proof Wray and Nephew rum for an Italian-inspired variation.  Chaim explained his inspiration to me, “I was trying to emulate the flavors of a ‘rum and Coke’ while classing it up a bit.”  He added that a friend’s reference to Ramazzotti as “the Coca-Cola of amari” factored into his Italian version the classic Cuba Libre.  Although I cannot quite remember the last time I had a rum and Coke (I vaguely remember a Halloween party about 10 years ago in which I fear one too many were consumed), I can attest to the fact that while the general flavor may be familiar this is something entirely different.   It is the perfect drink to sip lakeside (which I did the last two weekends) or even to enjoy while suffering through household chores (which I did yesterday).

Italia Libera

1 oz Wray and Nephew white rum

1 oz Ramazzotti amaro

¼ oz lemon juice

¾ oz simple syrup

Chilled seltzer

Combine the rum, Ramazzotti, lemon juice and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker, fill with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a highball glass over fresh ice, top with seltzer and garnish with the lime wedge.


Summer weather has finally arrived in Boston which means a shift in my drink preference.  Now I crave cocktails that are light and bright—for me that means primarily gin and tequila with lots of citrus and fresh herbaliness.  The Gimlet fits the bill perfectly and is one of my favorite summer cocktails.  I love it for its simplicity, its tart limey-ness, and its ability to be transformed by the addition of a herb like basil (I love the basil version at Via Matta).  And this drink it is quite a crowd-pleasure.  We enjoyed pitchers at Julie’s birthday last night and last weekend at my brother’s wedding I discovered that it’s my uncle Dave’s cocktail of choice (I’ve always known he was great guy!).

We can thank the vitamin-C deficient British seaman of the 19th century for the gimlet.  In 1867 the British government established the Merchant Shipping Act, a law that required all merchant ships to carry rations of lime juice for its crews as a preventive measure against scurvy.  In the same year, a man named Lauchlin Rose developed a way to preserve lime juice without the use of alcohol creating that product we know today as Rose’s Lime Juice.  The officers cut their tart lime juice cordial with some gin creating the gimlet.

Fresh juice and syrups are all the rage in cocktails right now.  This is one instance when non-fresh juice may be preferred. I personally like to use fresh lime juice along with a little simple syrup, but cocktail guru Dale DeGroff advocates for the use Rose’s in his The Essential Cocktail.  I’ll provide you with both recipes, and you decide which you prefer.

Two gimlet options:

Option 1 (Dale DeGroff’s recipe)

2 oz gin (or vodka)

¾ oz Rose’s lime juice

Shake and serve over ice.  Garnish with a cucumber or lime wedge.

Option 2 (my version derived from various recipes and trial and error)

2 oz gin (or vodka)

¾ oz fresh lime juice

½ oz simple syrup (here you could infuse with basil or mint)

Shake and serve over ice. Garnish with a lime or a basil leaf (if you’ve gone the herbal route)

Happy Summer!  Happy Gimlets!  Cheers!

After a day of post-Thankgiving art viewing and shopping, Brian, Jeff and I escaped the hubbub of Manhattan and ventured out to Long Island City in Queens to Dutch Kills.  The minute I walked in the door, I knew this was my kind of place.


Even the menu has an old timey look and feel


The spacious bar has deep, dark wooden booths, with a menu attached to the wall reminding me of those individual juke boxes in your booth at family friendly restaurants of a couple decades ago.  We went in past the booths to discover the fabulous little bar complete with vintage phone and cash register—I definitely felt like I was in another time, in a good way.  It was nostalgic without being specific, although supposedly 1890s saloon is what I should be thinking.

Before we get to the drinks, let me answer the name question—what does Dutch Kills mean?  The bar takes its name from the neighborhood in which it resides.  The native inhabitants called it Canapaukah (“bear’s watering hole”) after the Newton Creek, a distinguishing feature of the area.  Dutch settlers arrived in the early 1640s; their word for creek, was, you guessed it, kill. The area would become known as Dutch Kills–the perfect place for a fabulous watering hole.

We enjoyed quite a few menu options, and our bartender, Matt, also graciously and skillfully indulged our requests to go off menu.  He even convinced me that it was time to cross the Stinger off my list of 100 must drink cocktails.  I fully admit I was a bit hesitant—cognac and crème de menthe, can you blame me?  But Matt was right, it’s a nice combination of warm and cool.  Something great to sip during the holidays.


The Stinger

The creation of bartending masterminds Richard Boccato and Sasha Petraske, this place’s drink menu and bartenders’ attention to quality and detail, and their ability to execute delicious cocktails is outstanding.  Here’s one of the many deliciously unique creations Matt stirred for us.

Spruce Goose

1 ¾ oz gin

1 oz Cocchi Americano

¼ oz apricot liquer

couple dashes Dandelion & Burdock bitters (by Adam Elmegirab, Scotland)

If I lived in NYC, I think I would quickly be on a first name basis at this place. Cheers!

For the 4th year in a row, I traveled to New York City to spend Thanksgiving with my two best guys, Brian and Jeff.  And for the 4th year in a row, we cooked up a feast complete with all the Thanksgiving staples, as well as some new dishes.  My favorites were the maple roasted brussel sprouts (Those little guys really have a false bad rep. They are delicious!) and popovers with acorn squash and pecans.  Of course the meal would not be complete with out a few cocktails and paired wines.  For one of our pre-dinner cocktails, I mixed up Cranberry Smashes.

The Smash, the Whiskey Smash in particular, has a long history.  It is mentioned by Jerry Thomas in his 1862 How to Mix Drinks, or the Bon-Vivant’s Companion: “This beverage is simply a julep on a small plan.” His recipe consists of ½ tablespoon sugar, 1 tablespoon water, and 1 wine-glass of whiskey.  Since 1862, a smidge more sweetner, mint and lemon slices have been added.  For my Thanksgiving smash, I then added cranberries into the muddled mix.  The cranberry is, after all, a quintessential part of Thanksgiving—what is Turkey Day without cranberry sauce? (By the way, I made the most delicious cranberry sauce this year with Grand Marnier.)  A handful of the little red fruits join forces with the muddled lemon to add a nice tart/bitter quality that along with a little sugar and mint create a perfect compliment to the warm richness of bourbon.  Now this is a boozey drink, so I recommend (as I did with Brian) that you make the gravy before you down that smash.

Cranberry Smash (recipe used at Drink)

Muddle 15 cranberries

Add 2 slices of lemon, 1 ½ tsp of sugar, and mint. Muddle some more.

Add 2 ½ oz bourbon (I used Elijah Craig 12 year)

Shake with ice

Serve over crushed ice and garnish with cranberries and mint.

Happy Thanksgiving! Cheers!

A beauty shot of our gorgeous Thanksgiving table

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!

Spending a week in Milano with Brian and Jeff was fabulous.  Seeing amazingly beautiful art and architecture satisfied my soul—the Last Supper really is like nothing you’ve ever seen before.  Eating delicious things like fried meat-stuffed olives (yes, you read that right), pumpkin soufflé with a special mountain cheese sauce, cotoletta alla Milenese satisfied my taste buds.  And of course, we explored Milan’s libations—so many that this is the first of a few posts about the trip.

On our second night, we met a couple of Italian friends, Luca and Giuseppe.  For our second cocktail stop before a wonderful dinner (Ristorante da Giannino is where I met the meat-stuffed olive), we went to Bar Basso for the original Negroni Sbagliata.

I was so excited when we walked through the door and saw owner Maurizio Stochetto behind the bar.  As Maurizio explains in this video, while making a Negroni one evening, his father accidentally grabbed sparkling wine instead of gin to add to the Campari and sweet vermouth.  Instead of ruining the drink, the Negroni Sbagliata (the “wrong” Negroni) was born.

Check out the huge glasses the drinks are served in!


Maurizio now tends to the many imbibers who visit Bar Basso, and following the tradition of true Italian hospitality, he is quite the host.  I introduced myself after we enjoyed our cocktails, which were served in giant glasses that first night.  When we returned a couple nights later, he remembered me and even let me snap a picture with him behind the bar.  I have a feeling if I lived in Milano, I would be a regular at Bar Basso.  The atmosphere is great—60s American music, comfortable chairs surrounding quaint tables, and thick red curtains make the large space cozy—and the Negroni Sbagliata is one delicious cocktail.

Me and Maurizio


One of my favorite things about traveling is meeting people who live in the places you are visiting.  It makes me feel like I am not just a tourist, but like I belong.  So, to my new Italian friends Luca, Giuseppe and Maurizio. Salute!

Twitter Updates

Error: Please make sure the Twitter account is public.



Want one less thing on your to-do list? Subscribe to receive notifications of new posts by email, so you don't have to keep checking for the latest adventures in cocktailing.

Join 46 other followers