Friday, October 1, 2021

House of Payne (Death & Co.)


I'm not sure if this cocktail obliquely references Thomas Payne or if the bartender was punning on the hip-hop group and the feeling most Negronis give your tongue from their bitterness. I do know that I love Negronis and raspberries but never considered mixing the two. 

One thing I love about muddling raspberries in a stirred cocktail is that they impart their clear red juice into the spirits and you can just strain out the seeds and pulp and no one would be the wiser. It is as if you used a non-alcoholic raspberry liqueur! The color of this Negroni is impressive, and the berry juice gives it a sweeter texture than you expect. I can't believe I just made this in my mixing glass and not a shaker, but doing so would mean making a cloudy Negroni. That I just can't do.

  • 3 raspberries
  • 1 1/2 oz. London dry gin (Bloom used)
  • 1 oz. Plymouth sloe gin (Mr. Boston used)
  • 1 oz. Campari 
  • 1 raspberry garnish

Muddle 3 raspberries in a mixing glass before adding liquid ingredients and ice. Stir and double strain over a single cube of ice in an Old Fashioned glass. Garnish with one raspberry on a cocktail pick.

Augie March (Death & Co.)

Aged tequila can really make for an interesting take on a Manhattan. While it doesn't taste much like rye, a tequila Manhattan gets a lot of help from Cynar's bitter herbaceous notes. After all, Manhattans are as much about vermouth as they are whiskey, and bitter amaro and bitter vermouth pair exceedingly well with bitter tequila like el Jimador. After a few sips, you forget there is tequila in your glass--which is a cool trick, but let's just say this is not a drink to enjoy with tacos. It is clearly an aperitif, or you can end your meal with it just like you would do with your typical Manhattan.

  • 2 oz. reposado (el Jimador anejo used)
  • 3/4 oz. Antica Formula vermouth (Cocchi Dopo Teatro used)
  • 1/2 oz. Cynar
  • 1 brandied cherry garnish

Combine liquid ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with the cherry. 

Flor de Jalisco (Death & Co. Recipe)


This is a Margarita, plain and simple. Well, it's made with agave nectar not simple syrup, but you get the point. This cocktail also utilizes one of my favorite tricks. I love using jams and marmalade for a shorthand for fresh fruit or a liqueur. In this case, I'm enjoying orange marmalade made locally in Virginia as a stand-in for triple sec. 

Bartender's Note: Sauza has been recently bought by another spirits corporation and I see them rebranding their products. Hacienda is the same as their old 100% Blue Agave label--same price and quality. While many people would criticize me, I'm a huge fan of everything Sauza from Tres Generaciones to Anejo Commemorativo (which has disappeared under a new label I suspect). Compare them to Patron and you can't beat them for the price.

  • 2 oz. blanco tequila (Sauza Hacienda blanco used)
  • 3/4 oz. lemon juice
  • 1/4 oz. agave nectar (Madhava used)
  • 1 teaspoon orange marmalade (Shawnee used)

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled coupe.

Nitty-Gritty (Death & Co. Recipe)


The inventor of this drink says that this cocktail is a riff on the Fifty-Fifty Martini, which is exactly what it sounds like: Half gin and half dry vermouth. What the hell is this, then? Many ingredients, none of them vermouth... If you are making a Martini variation, I don't want to see Benedictine or pear brandy. 

That sounds harsh, though. I really loved this cocktail. It is unusual to see dry Manzanilla and mezcal used in the same drink, much less pear brandy and Benedictine. And the bartender's note was absolutely right. Sometimes a rich-tasting ingredient like mezcal (which is quite dry in texture) mixed with a dry fortified wine like Manzanilla feels too dry to drink. It's like you need sugar to pull apart the wild flavors of mezcal and sherry when they are mixed in these quantities and chilled. And that is why the agave syrup was a brilliant move. 

Pear is also a difficult flavor to detect when searching for it in a dry pear brandy. Agave syrup helps with that, but apple bitters also suggests pie fruits and baked notes. That's what this cocktail finally brings home. It is a pie drink that is on the dry side and perfect for appetizers rather than dessert. 

  • 1 1/2 oz. del Maugey mezcal
  • 1/2 oz. Manzinilla sherry (Orleans used)
  • 1/2 oz. Benedictine
  • 1/2 oz. pear brandy (Catoctin Creek used)
  • 1/2 tsp. agave nectar
  • 1 dash bar coke baked apple bitters
  • 1 dash aromatic bitters (Hella used)
  • lemon twist garnish

Combine all ingredients except twist in a mixing glass with ice. Stir and strain into a chilled coupt and garnish with the lemon twist. 

Pillow Talk (Deat & Co. Recipe)


I knew I'd find a use for Wine Cube sparkling rose when I bought it! Sparkling cocktails are tricky. You have to invest in them because opening a bottle of bubbles is a commitment and not something you typically do on a whim. 

But this is a very whimsical cocktail. Bloom gin and sloe gin just scream Bloomsbury movement (both very relaxed and, at the same time, very English.) I didn't have Creme Yvette (a nut and berry liqueur similar to cassis with a lovely pink color) but I did have a lot of Mazzenez cassis, which is also enjoyed more readily by English folk more readily than it is across the pond--so I'm often looking for a reason to use it. 

I'm sure a better quality sloe gin would have been an improvement. For decades, Mr. Boston was they only brand making sloe gin, and it is still hard to find the new Plymouth in most stores. There just isn't a big market for sloe gin, and I have no idea how to make it. 

The final product was rich and fruity. Bloom is already a floral and fruity gin, but grapefruit juice and all the berry flavors from the liqueurs punched that up a notch. The rose was really there for texture and bubbles, because the drink was going to be bright pink anyways. I'd try this with dry champagne in a heartbeat. Ok. Well, maybe not a full bottle of the Dom, though.

  • 1 1/2 oz. Bloom gin
  • 1/4 oz. sloe gin (Mr. Boston used)
  • 1/4 oz. Creme Yvette (Mazzenez creme de cassis used)
  • 3/4 oz. grapefruit juice
  • 1/2 oz. vanilla syrup
  • sparkling rose
 Shake all ingredients except the sparkling wine with ice. Strain into a flute and top with sparkling rose.

Pressure Drop (Death & Co. Recipe)

 Of course Death & Co. has a tribute to The Clash on their menu--I love that song. Maybe the name is also related to the clash of flavors in this cocktail. But I will say that as jarring and often bittersweet as these ingredients are on their own, they tame each other and make for a very mellow sipping cocktail that is something akin to a bitter Manhattan. The thing is, there is no whiskey in this cocktail. 

The recipe calls for Ransom Old Tom gin, which is pretty dank (and I mean that in several interpretations of the word "dank"). It has a steeped barley and botanicals note that is bitter and earthy. There's Ransom's prohibition style spirit funk that tastes like a small batch moonshine made with barley but selecting the "hearts" of the run. Then there is the malty sweetness at its core if you can stick with the jumble of flavors long enough to enjoy it. 

My own Schiedam gin is also a steeped gin using barley and grain spirits (some of which are smoked with pinewood.) My ingredients are mainly herbal botanicals like juniper, rosemary, angelica, basil, birch, crushed coriander and cardamon pods. It is a very winter spice gin and one, like ransom, you will learn to enjoy with experience. Here is how to make this gin!

For the rest of the cocktail I also had to be creative. I love Amaro Meletti, but had to recreate it as well with equal parts Strega, Don Ciccio & Figili's Ambrosia and Ramazzotti. I also substituted Dolin Dry vermouth for 

  • 1 1/2 oz. Ransom Old Tom (Homemade Schiedam gin used)
  • 1 oz. Amaro Meletti (equal parts Strega, Ramazzotti and Ambrosia used)
  • 1/2 oz. Dolin Dry vermouth
  • 1 tsp. Clear Creak pear brandy (Catoctin Creek pear brandy used)
  • 1 dash angostura bitters
 Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. 


Prima China (Death & Co. Recipe)

How many puns can you make with the name Cynar. No there is no Chinese ingredient in this cocktail, but that is also true of the Chinese cocktail as well. Really, this cocktail is a split between Mexican and Italian ingredients, but you don't have an easy play on words there.

This was a rich and bittersweet chocolate cocktail. I really liked how all the flavors came together and each lending its special touch. I am not a huge el Jimador fan, but the bitterness of their Anejo tequila was perfect for this drink and paired well with Cynar. Creme de cacao is often overly sweet, as is Dolin blanc, but in this case it was needed for balance and did that perfectly.

The recipe calls for Earl Gray infused Dolin blanc. I skipped the infusion time and used a drizzle of MurLarkey Three Tea whiskey (really only a few drops to not upset the balance of alcohol in the Dolin or overplay the tea flavor.) MurLarkey flavored whiskies are great for this because they are already an infusion of a flavor into raw (not neutral) corn spirit. Three Tea whiskey is bitter because there is no sugar, and it tastes strongly of Earl Gray, so it was an awesome move. 

  • 2 oz. Anejo tequila (El Jimador used)
  • 3/4 oz. Earl Grey-infused Dolin blanc (Murlarkey Three Tea whiskey and Dolin blanc used)
  • 1/4 oz. Cynar 70
  • 1 tsp creme de cacao
  • 1 dash Aztec bitters
  • grapefruit twist garnish

Combine all ingredients except for garnish in a mixing glass with ice. Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with the twist.