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According to the calendar, summer is now officially over!  I took a little summer vaca from writing, but not from imbibing.  Here are a few cocktail highlights from my summer.

My favorite summer cocktail

My friends Brian and Jeff introduced me to the Intro to Aperol and I fell in love at first sip.  It is the perfect combination of bitter, savory, tart and sweet—and it is amazingly drinkable!

Intro to Aperol (from Pegu Club)

2 oz Aperol

1 oz gin

¾ oz lemon juice

½ oz simple syrup

dash Angostura

Old Man Peter

Nothing says summer like a garden full of delicious veggies.  And the thought of a lush vegetable garden reminds me of the childhood tale of Peter Rabbit, the mischievous bunny who gobbles up Mr. McGregor’s crops.  What would the sneaky rabbit sip on in his old age?  When I heard Sam Treadway at Backbar had a Negroni variation that attempted to answer this question, I couldn’t resist. The vegetal qualities of Cold River gin was the perfect choice to combine with the carrot-infused Aperol.

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Old Man Peter (created by Sam Treadway, Backbar)

1 oz Cold River gin

1 oz Cinzano Sweet vermouth

1 oz carrot infused Aperol (created with pickled carrots, blended into Aperol and fine strained out)

Shake and double strain into a chilled rocks glass, rinsed with chartreuse.

Sex on the Beach

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I celebrated a friend’s 25th anniversary of his arrival in America by going back in cocktail-time.  Arriving at the 80s themed party, I thought “what cocktails were people drinking in the 80s?”  From an interesting list that included White Russian, Tequila Sunrise, and Alabama Slammer, I chose Sex on the Beach.  I’m not going to lie, the vodka, peach schnapps, orange and cranberry juice combo was kind of delicious.  Time travel can be fun.

To the memories of beautiful summer day and to the wonders of fall ahead. Cheers!

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!

One of my 2011 goals is to get rid of excess (of all kinds) in my life.  This weekend that meant a major cleaning and organizing of my spare room that has become cluttered with clothes I will never wear again, books I won’t read and tchotchkes that no longer are of interest to me.  A gin and tonic is my go-to libation to get me through less than desirable household tasks like cleaning, so today I continued my gin and tonic experiment with Blackwood’s Distillery Small Batch gin and Fever-Tree tonic.

I recently received a fabulous thank you gift in the form of Blackwood’s Distillery Small Batch gin.  Of course this gin contains juniper berries, as well as other typical gin ingredients such as coriander, citrus peel, and orris feature in the mix.  However, the juniper flavor is lighter than many gins.  Instead, its potent flavors come from the plants that flourish in the distinctive northern maritime environment of Shetland, such as wild water mint, angelica root, sea pink flowers (that grow along cliff tops that are a favorite hang out of puffins in the summer) and Meadowsweet.  It is good stuff.

For my tonic I chose Fever-Tree Tonic Water.  Made in England since 2005, this tonic features a high quality quinine sourced from the Rwanda Congo that is blended with other botanicals including marigold extract and Tanzanian bitter orange.  The company takes it name “Fever Tree” from the colloquial name for the Cinchona Tree, the source of its quinine.  Aside from a deliciously bitter quinine flavor complemented by subtle yet noticeable citrus notes, a distinct characteristic of this tonic is its bubbles—this is one heavily carbonated liquid.

Combining these two very distinct and abundantly flavorful liquids (in a 1:3 ratio gin to tonic) made for an overtly botanical drink.  There are a lot of flavors going on here, making it a G&T that is sipped more slowly than most.  Unlike all the unwanted stuff in my spare room, I wanted to savor the various aromas, tastes and bubbly sensations so it sustained me through a couple hours of work.  Part 2 of the experiment was a success. 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!

Dear Tom,

How are you?  Brian, Jeff and I enjoyed spending time with you this weekend. Hope you enjoyed the cabin.

Has anyone ever told you that you are just perfect? Well, you are!  I got stuck in commuter hell today thanks to some gigantic hole on 93.  I couldn’t even make it to meditation (boo!).  I arrived home annoyed and stressed and frustrated.  Then I thought of you—full of botanicals, tart, sweet and fizzy—and I started to feel better.  And as the ice clanged around in the shaker, I knew it would all be okay.  I took a sip, and your yum sweet-tart combo hit the spot.  The stress of the ride home slowly melted away.

Hope to see you again soon.  Enjoy the summer!

Love, your friend, Jenn

Tom Collins

1 ½ oz gin

1 oz simple syrup

¾ oz lemon juice

Shake.  Strain over ice and top with club soda.

I think a Tom Collins is a perfect summer drink. Stressful commute or not—it’s delicious! Cheers!

The Negroni is one of my favorite summer drinks.  I just love sipping the potent bitter complexity on a warm day.  The end of my week-long vacation was sadly in my sights, so I thought what better way to savor the afternoon in the sun than with this delicious drink.

This was my view as I sipped my Negroni

The legend of the Negroni tells us that it was created in the 1920s in Florence, Italy when Count Camillo Negroni asked a bartender to stiffen his Americano, which consists of sweet vermouth, Campari and soda water.  A splash of gin was added and the Negroni was born.  While it is served in various fashions, I agree with Dale Degroff that its best over ice with an orange twist.

It was pretty hot Friday afternoon so I made good use of one of those freezer mugs, so my Negroni stayed icy cold. I know its not the proper glassware, but when in the woods you need to get creative.

Negroni

1 oz gin

1 oz Campari

1 oz sweet vermouth (I used Carpano Antica which is pretty flavorful stuff, so I actually cut this to ¾ oz)

Shake and serve over ice with an orange twist.

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

My friend Tim recently introduced me to The Thin Man, the 1934 detective film with the lovable Nick and Nora Charles.  Nick is a retired detective, who loves his cocktails and reluctantly gets dragged back into solving crimes.  His wife Nora has impeccable style and undeniable charm and can hold her own. [Nora to Nick: How many drinks have you had?; Nick: This will make six Martinis.; Nora to the waiter: All right. Will you bring me five more Martinis, Leo? Line them right up here.]

Nora and Nick (and their dog Asta)

The best parts of the movie are the clothes (they had amazing style in the 1930s!),  the flirty banter of Nick and Nora, and their love of cocktails. When we first meet Nick he is shaking a drink explaining the following to a staff of bartenders, “The important thing is the rhythm. Always have rhythm in your shaking. Now a Manhattan you shake to fox-trot time, a Bronx to two-step time, a dry martini you always shake to waltz time.”

So, for my inaugural viewing of the film, it was only appropriate to make one of the cocktails that Nick mentions. I chose the Bronx, featuring gin, both sweet and dry vermouths with orange juice added.  Like most pre-prohibition cocktails, there are a few stories about this drinks origins.  Dale DeGroff credits Johnny Solon with creating the drink while tending bar at the Waldorf-Astoria.  For our drinks, I chose to bust open my newly purchased bottle of Carpano Antica (gosh that stuff is awesome!) and I think it added a nice richness to our Bronx.

The Bronx Cocktail

1 ½ oz gin

½ oz sweet vermouth

½ oz dry vermouth

1 oz orange juice

Shake well (to a two-step time, as Nick suggests). Strain and garnish with orange peel.

To Nick and Nora. Cheers!

Last night, I celebrated International Women’s Day with Holly, Pilar, Maura and Melinda at Drink.  This is not a day generally acknowledged here in the US, but in Europe it’s a big deal—it’s a time to get together with your closest gal pals and be merry.  And merry we were.

I told bartender Joe Staropoli that I wanted to celebrate the day with cocktails named after women.  The first drink he made for me was the Mamie Taylor.  Following the criteria for a highball—a spirit with a sparkling mixer served in a tall glass with ice—the Mamie Taylor is a yum combination of blended scotch, lime juice, and ginger beer (home-made, of course).  I loved the wonderful spiciness of the ginger in this drink.  It was warm, refreshing and bright.

Image of Mamie Taylor from broadside, c. 1900

So, who was Mamie Taylor and how did she get a drink named after her?  She was popular opera singer and actress in the late 19th-early 20th centuries. One story says that a bartender in Rochester, New York created the drink for Mamie when she requested a refreshing drink on a hot day.  Whatever the exact origin of its creation, Mamie’s namesake cocktail quickly became the “it” drink after its debut in 1899.  “The latest bit on these hot days is a nice cool Mamie Taylor.” (Daily News, 1900)  Its popularity, however, waned just as fast; within a few years, no one was ordering a Mamie Taylor.  Luckily for us, the recipe was noted in Jack Townsend’s 1952 The Bartender’s Book, and Ted Haigh keeps it alive in Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails.

For my second drink, I had a Barbara West.  Unlike my first drink, the origin of this cocktail’s name and whether or not its linked to an actual woman named Barbara West is unclear.  After the first sip, I was intrigued.  I liked it a lot, but I couldn’t instantly identify the spirit.  Instead of telling me, Joe gave us a clue, “Think of a Stevie Wonder song. And the main ingredient sounds like that.”  We all began humming and singing different songs (we discovered that I easily confuse Stevie Wonder and Lionel Richie– “Hello. Is it me you’re looking for?”).  As Pilar began “My cheri amour, lovely as a summer’s day…” a smile came across Joe’s face—sherry!

The Barbara West is made with sherry, gin, lemon juice, and orange bitters.  I was surprised by how much I liked it, since I am still acquiring my taste for sherry.  But this drink is dry and crispy and really wonderful.  Whoever you are Barbara West, your cocktail is pretty great!

So, while International Women’s Day is a good day to celebrate with the wonderful women in your life, don’t wait until next March 8.  Any day is a good time—and Mamie Taylor and Barbara West make fine company for such an occasion.  Cheers!

Karaugh and I got together after work at Deep Ellum to discuss Sleep No More—an amazingly powerful A.R.T. production which I saw Sunday night.  Discussing incredible theater needed to be matched with equally high quality drinks.

Karaugh's Germination and my Hemingway Daiquiri

For our second round, I handed my list of 100 must-have cocktails to Jen and asked for a suggestion.  She chose the Hemingway Daiquiri.  I hesitated for a moment because until recently, my vision of a daiquiri was one-sided—I could only think of the frothy, strawberry variety that are perfect to enjoy poolside on a hot summer day.  Before those frozen, fruity versions gained popularity (due in part to the invention of the home blender), the daiquiri, developed in the late 19th century in Cuba, had been enjoyed as a simple concoction of rum, lime juice, and sugar.  In the early 1930s Ernest Hemingway went to Cuba.  After a long day of writing and fishing, he would enjoy a cocktail (or two).  Hemingway especially enjoyed those mixed by Constantino Ribalaigua at La Floridita Bar.  Cocktail legend tells us that one version of the daiquiri, with grapefruit juice and maraschino liqueur added to the rum and lime, was Hemingway’s favorite.  Whether that story is true or not, what Jen mixed up for me was delicious—sweet and tart at the same time.

Ernest Hemingway enjoying a cocktail

While I sipped my daiquiri, Karaugh chose the Germination off the menu.  She’s a big fan of St. Germain, so was immediately drawn to this drink.  And it did not disappoint.  Does anything with the deliciously sweet elderflower liqueur ever disappoint???  I look forward to making this one at home soon, and I suggest if you like St. Germain to try this.   Here’s the recipe:

Germination (from Deep Ellum)

2 oz gin

¾ oz St. Germain

½ oz lemon juice

2 dashes orange bitters

Shake over ice. Strain.

Cheers!

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