Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Fifty-Fifty Martini

Sometimes you want a little more out of your Martini. The Martini was originally a wine cocktail with a good helping of vermouth (fortified wine) and some bad prohibition-era gin to back it up. It was really a vermouth-lover's drink and did its best to hid the poor quality of spirits available at the time. If one purpose of the cocktail is to spread the expensive stuff thin over a lot of cheap liquor so that it goes farther and has more effect, than the Martini is guilty of this.

But following prohibition, the quality of gin went way up as imports became available. People's tastes changed and they wanted stronger drinks. Most vermouths made in California were of lesser quality than the stuff from France and Italy. We imported less of the good vermouths because of our taste for dry cocktails, until eventually only poor quality vermouth was available in most bars. So we had the reverse of the original cocktail with almost no vermouth present.

Now, though, you can get good stuff all around. And most bars don't mind pouring a little more vermouth in a cocktail. It's not something that they often charge for. So go ahead. Get a Martini made with half gin, a strong one like KO Battle Standard Navy Strength gin, and Dolin extra dry. You won't regret it--or maybe you will.
  • 2 oz. gin (KO Battle Standard Navy Strength used)
  • 2 oz. dry vermouth (Dolin extra dry used)
  • Spanish olive
Combine liquid ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with the olive.

(Whiskey) Milk Punch / Gin Milk Punch

Today I wanted to tackle several milk punch recipes at once. They are all very similar in that they require sugar, milk, nutmeg and a spirit. Strangely the New York Bartender's Guide differentiates between a classic milk punch and a whiskey milk punch with separate titles and measurements (parts as opposed to ounces) but the recipes are pretty much the same.

The Whiskey Milk Punch and Milk Punch both call for three ounces of blended whiskey. Now I have rye and bourbon blends, but I think that when a recipe calls for blended whiskey, it means Irish or Canadian whiskey. Why? The smoothness makes it less of a flavor factor. Otherwise you can make a Bourbon Milk Punch (This one oddly served neat in an Old Fashioned glass) with that flavor profile. These drinks are subtler than that.

Then there's the Gin Milk Punch. I know what you're thinking. Why would anyone like milk and gin? Actually I've found this combination to be great in other dessert drinks, and actually the nutmeg helps with the spice profile a lot. It's less important that gin has spicy flavors and more noticeable that this is a holiday drink with hints of juniper.

That said, pick your gin carefully. I prefer a prohibition style gin over dry gin for dessert drinks. They have funky sweet notes that go well with creaminess. Filibuster Gin (Not Available outside the distillery) is aged in two barrels and flavored with only four botanicals. It is close to whiskey in that way and makes a great milk punch.

(Whiskey) Milk Punch
  • 3 oz. blended whiskey (Tullimore Dew used)
  • 8 oz. milk
  • 1 tsp. sugar syrup
  • freshly grated nutmeg
Combine all ingredients except nutmeg in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a Collins glass full of fresh ice. Dust with nutmeg.

Gin Milk Punch
  • 3 oz. gin (Filibuster dual cask used) 
  • 8 oz. milk
  • 1 tsp. sugar syrup
  • freshly grated nutmeg
Combine all ingredients except nutmeg in a shaker with ice. Shake and pour into a chilled Collins glass . Dust with nutmeg.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Night Cap

The original home remedy for sleeplessness is warm milk. The Night Cap (probably originating as a home remedy given its name) suggests how much better this drink would work with a little rum. Of course you could use any light rum for this drink since nutmeg and milk are the primary flavors, but this is a colonial drink. It stands to reason that a colonial rum is the best and most classic option.

I love how the funky and sweet Buzzard Point colonial rum from District Distilling Co. makes this drink taste more old fashioned. The colonial rum is made with panela sugar, which tastes a little woody because it comes from fresh pressed sugarcane. Made this way, the Night Cap a great holiday warmer of a cocktail and a joy to sip on by the fireside.
  • 2 oz. light rum 
  • 1 tsp. sugar syrup
  • warm milk 
  • freshly grated nutmeg
 Pour rum and syrup into a heated coffee mug. Fill with warm milk and sprinkle with nutmeg.


The Locomotive is an old world hot cocktail in the style of English mulled wine or the Rumfustian, which is a hot dark beer and egg drink with a similar texture. This drink is really savory with a rich red wine like a Zinfandel. The heated egg adds a thickness that the liqueurs and cinnamon seem to cling to. I wanted to show that the lemon slice, if it remains on the surface keeps the cinnamon close to the drinker's nose, which is a great effect when sipping this hot holiday-style mulled wine.

This drink was the perfect opportunity to showcase Luxardo spirits, which are of better quality than those bargain liqueurs. Here are the maraschino cherry and triple sec.
  • 6 oz. dry red wine
  • 1/2 oz. maraschino liqueur (Luxardo used)
  • 1/2 oz. triple sec
  • 1/2 oz. honey
  • whole egg
  • lemon slice
  • powdered cinnamon
Warm red wine, liqueurs and honey in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the honey dissolves, but do not boil. In a separate container, beat the egg and add it to the heated mixture stirring quickly for about a minute. Pour into a warm coffee mug, add the lemon slice on top and sprinkle it with cinnamon.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Spanish Moss

Look at that brown-green color on those large rocks. That's the effect the Spanish Moss is going for. Now a minty coffee and tequila drink sounds pretty disgusting on paper. Really it was one of the best creme de menthe drinks I've had because it avoids using citrus like you find in too many mint drinks, especially ones involving tequila.

What you have is a cool visual effect and a sipper of a cocktail that has mint on the nose and the tongue at first sip. That gives way to a rich and grainy coffee flavor that lasts long in the finish. So this drink is really a winner on several fronts. I used my homemade coffee liqueur--vodka based this time with lots of creme de cacao for richness. Dabbling in combining coffee or infusing beans in your neutral spirit and adding sugar is what is so fun about making coffee liqueur. There's no wrong way to do it, but creme de cacao is almost necessary to avoid too much bitterness.
  • 2 oz. silver tequila 
  • 1 oz coffee liqueur
  • 1/2 oz. green creme de menthe
Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled Old Fashioned glass full of fresh ice (large rocks recommended.) 

Betsy Ross

A good colonial cocktail for a American colonial figure, the Betsy Ross has a lot of the spirits that we associate with old world cocktails. Cognac, egg yolk, port and nutmeg are the driving flavors, but they get help from a good bit of Angostura bitters and triple sec. These have the effect of tropicalizing the cocktail a little, or at least anchoring it in the new world scheme of the spice trade and the Caribbean islands.
  • 1 1/2  oz. brandy (cognac please)
  • 1 1/2 oz. ruby port
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 3-5 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 3-5 dashes triple sec
  • ground nutmeg
Combine all ingredients except nutmeg in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. (For best results, shake the chilled ingredients without ice to achieve more egg yolk foam before pouring into the cocktail glass.) Dust with grated nutmeg. 

Fuzzy Navel

A classic out of the late 20th century, the Fuzzy Navel (orange) is a bit of a pun for a name and kicks off many other peach and "fuzz" themed cocktails using peach schnapps. For all the silliness, the drink has aged well despite that most bars and bartenders shy away from doing this dinosaur. That may be because experienced drinkers taste peach schnapps (a liqueur that even gets bashed in The Walking Dead series) and they reject it out of hand. New drinkers will welcome it as pleasant. 

I can see that a nice peach brandy could up the game of this oldie but goodie.
  • 2 oz. vodka 
  • 1 oz. peach schnapps
  • 8 oz. orange juice
  • orange slice
Combine vodka and schnapps in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a Collins glass full of ice. Top with cold orange juice, stir,  and garnish with an orange slice