Thursday, December 24, 2020

Christmas Morning Coffee


I've been doing a lot of coffee and hot cocktails since making my own liqueurs this fall season. The Christmas morning idea came to me when I considered all the things that you find in holiday spiced coffee blends: cinnamon, ginger, orange peel, and chocolate. These ingredients spice up your coffee and make for a holiday treat, but the real rewards come from treating yourself.

I used two spirits to flavor the coffee and add alcoholic punch. The first is MurLarkey's cinnamon whiskey, which is unsweetened cinnamon-infused white whiskey. The cinnamon flavor is natural and very intense. For sweetness and natural ginger rounded out in American brandy, I used my homemade ginger syrup with Korbel brandy. Together, these spirits make up the base of this coffee drink.

Next, grating chocolate and orange zest on top of whipped cream transforms this ordinary cup of coffee into the scents and flavors you find in stocking-stuffer delicacies. It's all part of the holiday experience and a great way to greet the morning on a day of celebration.

  • hot black coffee
  • 1 oz. ginger brandy (homemade used)
  • 1/2 oz. MurLarkey cinnamon whiskey
  • grated dark chocolate
  • grated orange zest
  • whipped cream
Add spirits to a cup of black coffee. Top with whipped cream and sprinkle chocolate and orange zest on top. 

Great Northern (Difford's Guide)

This is another amazing akvavit cocktail on the Difford's Guide website. Once again akvavit is paired with orange flavors, which works surprisingly well. In this cocktail, though, it is bitter oranges in Lillet Blanc and the sweet and bitter orange notes of triple sec that provide the orange boost, and a fresh orange slice makes for a juicy treat.

Besides the aperitif wine and triple sec, this cocktail differintiates itself from an Akvavit Sour by using honey to provide sweetness. Honey syrup (2:1 ratio honey to hot water) feels more festive than white sugar and gives a drink like this a more natural and rustic style. Underneath all that sweetness is the bold and bracing akvavit with its earthy notes of caraway, anise seed and fennel, which only makes sure that there is plenty of depth in what could have been a bright and sweet orange cocktail.

  • 2 oz. akvavit (homemade used)
  • 3/4 oz Lillet Blanc
  • 1/2 oz. triple sec
  • 1/2 oz. honey syrup
  • 3/4 oz. lemon juice
  • orange slice garnish

Combine all ingredients except orange slice with cracked ice in a shaker. Shake and strain into a chilled Old Fashioned glass full of fresh ice. Garnish with the orange slice.


Apple & Custard


This is a simple idea that really hits the spot on winter nights. It stands to reason that apple flavors go great with custard in this dessert drink stand-in for the typical eggnog. 

Advocaat is a Dutch traditional egg and vanilla spirit that is sweet and creamy, even though there is no dairy added. The richness comes from egg yolks which are cooked with sugar and brandy into a stable liqueur. This recipe pairs that with distilled apple cider in the form of calvados, apple brandy or applejack. Most apple brandies, like Calvados, lose a lot of the apple flavor in distilling and aging and leave you with something that tastes like expensive brandy. Laird's Applejack 86 has enough real apple flavor to not require any apple schnapps (which taste like fresh apples, not baked apples). I avoid American schnapps because of the fake flavoring that always tastes like candy and not even close to real fruit. I've found that with Applejack 86, you don't need to add schnapps.

My homemade advocaat also has a ton of vanilla in it, so I omitted vanilla syrup from the recipe and just used a splash of simple. You can easily add vanilla extract to any simple syrup and get similar results.

  • 2 oz. advocaat (homemade used)
  • 1 1/2 oz. Calvados (Laird's Applejack 86 used)
  • 1/2 oz. apple schnapps (omitted above)
  • 1/4 oz. vanilla syrup (simple syrup used)

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

Clockwork Orange #2 (Difford's Guide)

I'm on the lookout for more innovative akvavit recipes lately, and I've turned to Difford's Guide for help finding them. This coffee and orange rocks drink is strong on spirits and bitterness. It is the kind of thing that is really "in" right now, but you usually find bourbon in the bitter cocktails, not akvavit.

And that is where this cocktail jumps off from the traditional thinking. Akvavit is usually consumed chilled and chased with pilsner-style beer. There are few bartenders who know enough about akvavit to mix with it; Difford's guide with its thousands of recipes only displays seven akvavit cocktails. That is why this one is so special. 

I've made a few alterations, using local spirits and omitting chilled coffee to replace it with a shot of MurLarkey coffee whiskey. This whiskey has all the kick of cold brew coffee without the grounds, and without watering down your drink. The akvavit I'm using is my own infusion with MurLarkey Justice white whiskey and vodka. And I like the idea of subbing in a local aperitivo like Don Ciccio & Figili's Ambrosia for the better known Aperol.

I do not have chocolate bitters, and I can see what the chocolate would lend. Often chocolate bitters also contain cinnamon, the point being that your taste buds register the chocolate flavor as chocolate chip cookies or sweet baked goods. So my closest substitute is Hella orange bitters, which is less orange and more of a baking spice bitters anyway.

This stiff cocktail was worth the effort and deserves a quiet half-hour to sip and enjoy uninterrupted.

  • 1 oz. akvavit (homemade used)
  • 1 oz. Aperol or Italian aperitivo (Don Cicco & Figili Ambrosia used)
  • 1 oz. chilled French Pressed coffee (1 oz. MurLarkey coffee whiskey used)
  • 1/4 oz. sugar syrup
  • dash chocolate bitters (Hella orange bitters used)
  • orange zest (flamed)

Combine liquid ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir and strain into a chilled Old Fashioned glass with fresh ice cubes (large format preferable). Flame the orange zest by squeezing it into a flame held over the glass and drop it in. 

Grand Autumn


This cocktail is from the St. Germain website, and I've done it before when I had my first bottle of St. Germain many years ago. It was a hit, but I didn't make it to my satisfaction, so now I am attempting it again with the bitters and proper Fever Tree ginger beer. 

This cocktail is such a crowd-pleaser--almost tiki, like the Suffering Bastard. The ginger beer is paired wonderfully with rye and lime juice. (You get the sense that drinkers prefer a richer rye and ginger beer cocktail to a Moscow Mule with boring vodka.) All of this would tend to make an acidic drink that hides the North Fork rye's best qualities, that round oak note and American whiskey flavor. But St. Germain comes to the rescue, adding sweetness to tame the acidity and a floral note that ties everything together.

The Grand Autumn is a cocktail that looks great, smells good and tastes even better. I'm glad I gave it another chance.

  • 2 oz. rye (Glacier Distilling Co. North Fork rye used)
  • 1 oz. St. Germain or elderflower liqueur
  • 1/4 oz. lime juice
  • ginger beer (Fever Tree used)
  • several dashes Angostura Bitters

Combine rye, St. Germain and lime juice in a shaker with cracked ice. Shake and strain into a chilled Collins glass. Top with ginger beer and float dashes of Angostura on top. 

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Margaret Duffy

As best as I can guess, this is a cocktail made by or for its namesake, a contemporary author of a series of mystery novels. If that is the case, I bet there's a Nathan Wilkinson cocktail out there somewhere (there isn't) if I google myself. 

But I like the style of this cocktail, which resembles a Vieux Carre. The main ingredient is Swedish punsch, which is spiced with clove and cardamon. My homemade punsch is made with a spirit blend of half dark rum and one quarter each of MurLarkey distillery lemon and three tea whiskies. That means that there's citrus, earthy and floral tea notes, and dark sugar and oaked rum spirits. It's a cocktail in itself, but it is smothed out with a little cognac and helped along with more spice from Angostura bitters.

  • 2 oz. Swedish punsch (homemade used)
  • 1 oz. cognac (Martel single distillery used)
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • lemon zest twist
Combine all ingredients except lemon twist in a mixing glass with ice. Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Twist the lemon zest over the glass and drop it in.


Greta Garbo (Difford's Guide Recipe)

There's a few cocktails out there dedicated to actress Greta Garbo. This one is the first I've seen that doesn't use Swedish punsch. It is based on the Daiquiri, with hints of almond and anise, so it has a very classical profile. The lack of Swedish punsch makes me think that this Greta Garbo is something the actress might have enjoyed, rather than just being a gimic to sell Swedish punsch.

Difford's Guide does not supply any origin story or apocryphal anecdote about the creation of this cocktail other than to link it with Garbo and mention that it is one of many. 

I like what anise and the suggestive anise star garnish does to a classic Daiquiri's flavor. There is something Parisian or continental about this cocktail that has the feel of 1920s films. The presentation is beautiful and the flavors perfectly balanced. You will want to have more than one of these.

  • 1 1/2 oz. light rum (Mt. Defiance used)
  • 1/4 oz. maraschino liqueur
  • 1/2 oz. sugar syrup
  • 1 oz. lime juice
  • 1/6 oz. Pernod (Ricard used)
  • anise star garnish

Combine liquid ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with the anise star. 


Schiedam Salute


Schiedam is the southern town of Holland known for its particularly rich flavored malt barley gin. Advocaat is also a Dutch spirit made with eggs, sugar and brandy. The idea of combining the two suggests something thick and potent--even heavy on the calories. I'm happy to say, however, that this cocktail is quite balanced, though it is a dessert drink. The Schiedam Salute is a good way to get to know often misunderstood or maligned Dutch heritage spirits. 

My journey to arriving at this cocktail has involved making both the Schiedam gin and the advocaat, because both ingredients are pretty much impossible to find where I live. But Youtube has lots of videos on how to make advocaat that is as good as or better than Dutch brands. I also modeled my gin after Bols barrel aged genever, by tasting and comparing until I got the steeped ingredients just right. It was a matter of using white whiskey infused with juniper berries and a few fresh herbs and then topping it off with malt barley whiskey with some age to give the gin a nice barrel finish. 

All this sounds really heavy, and it is. But this much citrus really spreads the cocktail out into something you might have before getting into bed (or after getting out of it, as is sometimes the case). I used Aguardiente in place of Galliano as a mild and sweet anise spirit substitute. The only difference is that Galliano has vanilla flavor, but then so does my advocaat, so that seemed unnecessary. The final result was like combining eggnog with a Harvey Wallbanger. There was the familiar vanilla, anise and citrus of the Wallbanger with the creaminess that was almost like having egg white dropped in.

  • 2 oz. genever/ jenever (homemade Scheidam gin used)
  • 1 oz. advocaat (homemade used)
  • 2 oz. orange juice
  • 1/2 oz. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. Galliano (Aguardiente used)

Shake all ingredients except Galliano (or anise spirit) with ice in a cocktail shaker and strain into a chilled highball glass. Float Galliano (or anise spirit) on top. (Note: I didn't think that the highball was the proper size for a 5 oz. drink with no ice. By all means use one if it is all you have, but I went with a whiskey sour glass for a more appropriate size and very effective container for a cocktail with a scented float.)


Forbidden Daiquiri (Original Recipe)


Drinkers of Hemingway Daiquiris love how grapefruit juice and maraschino liqueur really change the direction of the classic Caribbean cocktail. But what if you don't have grapefruit? The answer lies in Forbidden Fruit, a liqueur that was invented to preserve grapefruit flavor in cognac.

Back in the days before air transportation, Europeans couldn't always get fresh grapefruit juice. Forbidden Fruit was a popular French liqueur right up until modern canning facilities were able to pump out canned juices. By the time grapefruit were being farmed in the U.S. and flown around the world, Forbidden Fruit had already disappeared from bars. 

This Daiquiri hearkens back to the time when fresh fruit and such luxuries as tropical drinks were in short supply but good spirits were not. It was almost like the Daiquiri was "forbidden," not by any kind of decree but by scarcity of ingredients. 

  • 1 1/2 oz. light rum (Mt. Defiance used)
  • 1 oz. lime juice
  • 1/2 oz. Forbidden Fruit liqueur (homemade used) 
  • 1/2 tsp. maraschino liqueur
  • 1/2 oz. sugar syrup

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

Red Top


Like Santa's red stocking cap rimmed with white fur, this cocktail is an emblem of holiday celebrations. The recipe is a simple and well-tested one--ordinarily known as the New York Sour back in the days when only New Yorkers floated red wine on top of their egg white Whiskey Sours. 

The difference here is that New York Sours are often on the rocks, while the red top really shows off its two-tone color shift in a Sour glass. The whiskey is rye, and I'm putting my bottle of Rittenhouse to good use. Cheers!

  • 1 1/2 oz. rye (Rittenhouse used)
  • 1/2 oz. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. sugar syrup
  • 1/2 egg white
  • 1/2 oz. claret or cabernet sauvignon

Combine all ingredients except red wine in a shaker with ice. Shake to chill and remove the ice. Shake again to aerate and create foam and pour into a chilled Whiskey Sour glass. Using the back of a bar spoon, pour the red win so that it floats on top of the Sour.

Princess Marina


This classy cocktail is named after the princess of Greece and Denmark who married England's Prince George in 1934 to become the Duchess of Kent. The drink combines Scandinavian and British spirits in a sort of homage. It is also imbued with sweet and bitter fruit flavors from apple brandy and orange spirits.

Light orange notes and citrus spices characterize this cocktail. It is rich and thick, with lots of wine and herbal traction from gin, Swedish punsch's clove and cardamon, and Dubonnet Rouge's bitter oranges. Despite that, there is a lightness with whiffs of citrus zest and sweet oranges in the triple sec. It is a royal treat and one I imagine few have had the pleasure of enjoying. 

  • 1 oz. dry gin (homemade used)
  • 1/2 oz. calvados (Laird's Applejack 86 used)
  • 1/2 oz. Dubonnet Rouge
  • 1/2 oz. Swedish punsch (homemade used)
  • 1/2 oz. triple sec
  • orange zest twist
Combine liquid ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Twist the orange zest over the glass and drop it in.



This cocktail can't be named after anything but the Roger More as Bond film of the 70s, and that makes me wonder. There is nothing about this cocktail that strays from classic ingredients, so the association with a movie that is notable for being far-fetched and space-age doesn't pan. Perhaps it was only a product of its time, like all cocktails, and the fact that it may be trying to riff on the Moonlight--the first drink I made with Laird's Applejack 86. 

But this drink is a much more advanced design compared to the apple brandy Sour that the Moonlight was once upon a time. It is blended to a thick slush with rum and falernum thrown in for heat and spice and served in a globe-shaped glass with an apple slice. 

For this recipe, I'm proud to show off my homemade falernum in a new bottle with a vintage label. I'm also excited to have used Mt. Defiance light rum for the first time. This rum is richly flavored and yet blends well with other spirits. It's the perfect Daiquiri rum when you want more than a lime juice Sour drink--you want it to taste like the Caribbean. Falernum, a spiced rum and juice spirit normally associated with the Caribbean as well, is a shorthand here for apple pie spice. Altogether, this cocktail tastes familiar--and very good--despite its disparate parts. It looks even better. 

  • 1 1/2 oz. applejack (Laird's 86 used)
  • 3/4 oz. light rum (Mt. Defiance used)
  • 1/2 oz. lime juice
  • 1/2 oz. orgeat or falernum (homemade falernum used)
  • apple slice garnish

Combine liquid ingredients with cracked ice in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a chilled squall glass (large stemless wine glass pictured). Garnish with the apple slice. 

Flavored Holiday Coffees


Mocha mint and eggnog coffee are a rich treat on cold days. We spend a boatload on these concoctions as soon as the holiday season comes around because they fill us with nostalgia. The thing is, we can make them at home very cheaply.

It's easy to flavor your coffee with liqueurs that give them a holiday flair. Just like syrups you find at coffee shops, liqueurs add  and create interesting flavors, but they also add alcohol. Whipped cream and sprinkled toppings are actually easiest of all the steps and create the feeling of escape from your daily coffee routine.

Advocaat Eggnog Coffee (top)

Add advocaat to a cup of regular coffee and top with whipped cream. Sprinkle the whipped cream with nutmeg. 

Mocha Mint Coffee

  • 1 oz. white creme de menthe or peppermint schnapps
  • 1 oz. creme de cacao (white pictured)
  • whipped cream
  • grated dark chocolate

Add liqueurs to a cup of regular coffee and top with whipped cream. Sprinkle the whipped cream with chocolate. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Grand Slam


I can't believe I've never tried this cocktail before, much less heard of it. Given how much I like Swedish punsch, you'd think the idea of a perfect punsch Manhattan would be way up on my to-drink list. 

This cocktail as I experienced was very close to a Manhattan because I used a Swedish Punsch recipe that I came up with on the fly. It is basically a cup of dark rum and a half cup each of MurLarkey distillery three tea whiskey and lemon whiskey. This mix sits on lemon slices and cardamon and cloves for three days and is later sweetened with a quarter cup of sugar syrup. 

So the Grand Slam is that Sweet Manhattan experience we are looking for in the winter, but anytime you have some Swedish punsch around, you should try it. 

  • 1 1/2 oz. Swedish punsch (homemade with MurLarkey products version used)
  • 1 oz. sweet vermouth
  • 1 oz. dry vermouth

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. 

Flannel (Difford's Guide Recipe)


Difford's Guide says that the Flannel is a good fall-weather drink, and it is. I was drawn to it because it has a lot of flavors we associate with cold weather drinks and punch. There's allspice dram (also known as pimento dram), orange zest, and cognac. 

There's even an unusual ingredient--apple sugar syrup. This can be made in several ways. First, by cooking sugar in an apple cider solution to make the syrup. You can also macerate apples in sugar and use the drippings. I did a quick and dirty shortcut by adding applejack to my simple syrup. That was an easy way to get this drink to the table and into me!

  • 1 1/2 oz. cognac (Martell single distillery used)
  • 1/2 oz. pimento dram (homemade allspice dram used)
  • 1/2 oz. apple sugar syrup
  • 1/2 oz. orange juice
  • orange zest twist. 
Combine liquid ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into an Old Fashioned glass with a large format ice cube. Garnish with the orange twist.


Angel's Advocate


Angel's Advocate is a play on words because this drink is made with a little advocaat. Advocaat is a Dutch egg liqueur that I recently learned to make from this Youtube video. The recipe essentially calls for mixing sugar, brandy and egg whites with some vanilla beans. Then it is heated and allowed to cook down briefly before bottling.

The advocaat spirit is thick, like a strong eggnog without the nutmeg. (It actually makes an excellent bottled starter for eggnog, just add milk and nutmeg.) The benefit of this spirit is the ability to add a protein-rich texture without needing raw eggs handy--it is refrigerator stable for a few weeks, so the party can last. In large doses in cocktails, you get dessert drinks, but smaller portions make for creamy textures without adding milk or raw eggs. It also can mix with citrus without clotting the way dairy does. A little goes a long way in that instance, and you will find it makes a gin drink like the Angel's Advocate cloudy and soft with a vanilla scent.

(Note: "Advocaat" is also the word for lawyer in Scandinavian countries, so this drink is a triple play on words.) 

  • 1 1/2 oz. dry gin (homemade used)
  • 1/6 oz. advocaat (homemade used)
  • 1/2 oz. vanilla syrup (simple with vanilla extract used)
  • 2/3 oz. lemon juice
  • 1 dash cardamon bitters (Hella aromatic bitters used)
  • orange zest laid in a cross shape

Combine all liquid ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake and double strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Lay the orange zest pieces on the drink surface in the shape of a cross.

Dusky Maiden


This is another recipe using Forbidden Fruit, something I found on the Lee Spirits website. Though I didn't buy Forbidden Fruit, I made it, they have been helpful with recipes to use in this newly revived liqueur. 

The Dusky Maiden is one of those thick and spirituous egg white cocktails that have no acidity except what comes with the liqueur. That means that the grapefruit and bitterness, as well as the sweetness needed to provide egg white foam that lasts, all comes from the liqueurs. The only other element is whiskey. For that I chose Ancient Age, mostly because I had a lot of it. The recipe called for Canadian Club, and that means smoothness. A blend of any kind would do the trick, but experiment with the types of whiskey you use. I think the point of calling for a Canadian blended whiskey is that you are not supposed to notice it as much as, say, a rye.

Overall, this is a winner. I've seen similar cocktails done with berry liqueurs and cognac, and I feel this was very similar. I'm not sure what that has to do with maidens and dusk, but the name is nice as well.

  • 1 1/2 oz. Canadian Club (Ancient Age blended bourbon used)
  • 3/4 oz. Forbidden Fruit (homemade used)
  • several dashes Angostura bitters
  • 1/2 tsp. egg white

Combine all ingredients in a shaker and shake hard to generate foam. Add ice and shake again to chill. Remove ice while retaining the cocktail and shake a final time. This is an important step that adds beautiful froth. Pour into a chilled cocktail glass.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Oom Paul


I'm so glad I chose this egg-shaped glass for this lovely aperitif cocktail. I had no idea that an Oom Paul was a style of smoking pipe: picture the curved bowl of Sherlock Holmes' pipe that he smokes while working a case. 

Applejack and Dubonnet Rouge are a perfect match and appear together in many cocktails. This drink really doubles down on that fact--highlighting the apple flavor of both spirits and accenting them with the cinnamon and clove of Angostura bitters. It is like drinking pie. Despite that, the drink isn't so much overly sweet as it is rich. Some of the earthy herbs of the Dubonnet still stick out, but for the most part the drink is balanced, dry and good for before or after dinner, perhaps while smoking pipe in your smoking jacket.

  • 1 oz. applejack or calvados (Laird's Applejack 86 used)
  • 1 oz. Dubonnet Rouge
  • several dashes of Angostura bitters

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. 

Odd McIntyre


This classy French-style cocktail is light, well-rounded and easily crushable for a cognac drink. It gets its name from O. O. McIntyre, a journalist for a New York newspaper in the 20s and 30s. That makes it a journalist cocktail like the Gazette and Journalist

You really notice the French-style lables of these bottles (Leroux is French American from Kentuckey, but they emulate the look.) This cocktail is bursting with sweet and bitter orange flavors, something that French spirits makers are known for. Lillet Blanc of 007 fame adds fortified wine notes and bitter green orange peels from north Africa. It makes this cognac cocktail very approachable for someone new to cocktails and cognac in general.

  • 1 oz. brandy (Martel single distillery cognac used)
  • 1 oz. Cointreau (triple sec used)
  • 1 oz. Lillet Blanc
  • 1/2 oz. lemon juice

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

Greta Garbo (Bows)


Because of the popularity of Swedish Punsch at the beginning of the 20th Century, there were a handful of Greta Garbo cocktails named after the Swedish film star. I'm researching and trying them all with my homemade Swedish Punsch.

This cocktail, sometimes called the Greta Garbo Bows, is almost an exact copy of the better known (but still very obscure) Biffy Cocktail. That was one I found really too tart for my liking. Either Swedish Punsch used to be insufferably sweet, or the intention of the bartender was to create something so tart that it was a feature and not a bug of the recipe. See Ink Street, for examples of this. While I get the concept, I often have felt that intensely tart drinks with a low component of spirits were really the stuff of inexperienced Prohibition era bartenders who were trying to divert the drinker's attention from the alcohol. 

Perhaps that is what happened with this cocktail. According to legend Greta Garbo asked a bartender for something that hid the taste of alcohol. When she tried this drink, she bowed to him. It would be something special if it turned out to be true. The drink would be even better with a bit of sugar, though. So I have included it in the recipe just as I did with the Biffy Cocktail. 

  • 1 oz. dry gin (homemade used)
  • 1 oz. Swedish Punsch (homemade used)
  • 1 oz. lemon juice
  • sugar syrup to taste (1/2 oz. used)

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

Rittenhouse Square

The cocktail contains no Rye, so I assume Rittenhouse Square refers to the open-space, planned park designed by William Pen in Philadelphia. That makes this a colonial drink, and with cognac and French spirits, it is well within that style.

One change up to the recipe is that when it calls for anisette and I used Aguardiente. With a recipe with a dash of anisette you can't go wrong with Ricard. It is intensely herbal and has a cooling effect on ordinarily spicy spirits. I wanted that flavor in this cocktail, but I didn't want Ricard's drawbacks. One is that it overwhelms, and I wanted the orange flavor of triple sec to come through. The other is that it is cloudy when chilled, and I needed the drink to remain darkly transparent like a good cognac cocktail. 

Because the recipe called for a half ounce of anisette, I decided that it meant an anise infused sugar spirit (one of the definitions of anisette, because there are absinthe-style anisettes and sweet, lower-proof ones.) Thus, Aguardiente--the anise is more like a cinnamon and anise candy and it doesn't overwhelm or cloud up. Here's to keeping Rittenhouse Square clear!

  • 1 1/2 oz. cognac (Martel single distillery used)
  • 1 oz. curacao (triple sec used--and that's fine with Aguardiente, a rum-based spirit)
  • 1/2 oz. anisette (Aguardiente used with a dash of Ricard. 
  • maraschino cherry

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


Dante (Lee Spirit's Forbidden Fruit Recipe)


This is an original cocktail offered by Lee Spirits, makers of Forbidden Fruit for the first time since the more than a century-old recipe disappeared. Here, though, I'm making use of my own forbidden fruit.

I like that this is both a light citrus and gin drink sweetened by cherry and more citrus, which comes from the Cheery Heering and Forbidden Fruit, respectively. Forbidden Fruit adds both bitter grapefruit and pomelo peel as well as a good heap of orange blossom honey. The effect is similar to a Bee's Knees but with lime juice and cherry flavors. 

Overall, it doesn't come across as rich or sweet, but a bit on the tart and dry side. The richness comes in the aftertaste, which is experienced as honeyed fruits and berries, including juniper from the gin. I went with a dry gin like Bulldog to ensure that the juniper notes would not be buried by the other ingredients, and I rather liked it.

  • 1 1/2 oz. dry gin (Bulldog used)
  • 1/4 oz. Cherry Herring
  • 1/4 oz. Forbidden Fruit (homemade used)
  • 3/4 oz. lime juice
  • maraschino cherry garnish

Combine all ingredients except cherry in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. spear the cherry (the drink is cloudy and obscures sunken fruit) with a cocktail pick and use for garnish. 

Prince Albert's Salute


I like a drink with the word "salute" in the name. There's something kind of martial and celebratory about it. I also like a cocktail with four ounces of liquor, which you just put in a glass and add ice if you wish. It's about the convenience of consumption--and quantity--and that's important when there's a military parade in your honor to attend. 

Though Prince Albert (England's Edward VII before he was crowned king) was British, this is a cognac drink with equal measure of the Germanic liqueur, kummel. Kummel is a caraway spirit that is sweetened with honey and includes a variety of spices and herbs including anise seeds and fennel. (This is, of course, the sweet kummel recipe because I can't imagine this cocktail being done with dry kummel.)

The experience of this cocktail is both in its warm and chilled/ diluted forms. If unchilled and warmed in a snifter, the cocktail's honey and spice notes are most prominent, not unlike Drambuie. That in itself makes the name of "Prince" a nod to Drambuie's Bonnie Prince Charlie. Add ice, however, and you experience a cognac rocks drink that is easier to finish quickly before the salute.

  • 2 oz. cognac (Martel single distillery used)
  • 2 oz. kummel (homemade sweet kummel used)

Pour liquors into a brandy snifter and swirl while drinking. Alternatively add ice and enjoy chilled.

Beginning of the End (Difford's Guide)


This wonderfully balanced cocktail combines some of my favorite things: aged rum, sherry, sweet vermouth and Amer Picon. The rum might not be spiced, but the cocktail is with vermouth, amaro, and flamed orange peel--it makes for the perfect winter sipper.

One of the new ingredients on my bar is George Bowamn dark Caribbean rum from the Bowman Distillery in Fredricksburg, Virginia. This rum has a great small batch, island produced flavor that really works well with American colonial-style cocktails. Rum, sherry, a quinine spirit to ward off malaria--these ingredients, taken from all over the world, came together in America through colonial trade and make up the flavor profile of our nation's cocktail history.

This is a Difford's Guide recipe that plays on the Fin de Siecle, or "End of The World," a classic cocktail with similar proportions of ingredients but uses gin instead of aged rum. 

  • 1 1/2 oz. aged dark rum (George Bowman used)
  • 1/2 oz. Antica formula vermouth (Cocchi di Torino used)  
  • 1/3 oz. Amer Picon (homemade used)
  • 1/3 oz. Oloroso sherry
  • flamed orange peel garnish

Combine liquid ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. To flame the orange peel, cut a piece of orange zest. While holding a flame over the drink, squeeze the zest to release oils onto the flame to produce a flash and burnt orange oil fregrance. 


Kungsholm Cocktail


This is a lovely cocktail that plays up sweetness and spiciness with a nice balance and fruit. The theme for the ingredients and the flavor experience is Nordic, with Kungsholmen meaning "Kings Island" in Swedish and Swedish Punsch as the principal ingredient. This drink commemorates a small lake island in the heart of Stockholm!

For this cocktail, I made a rich raspberry syrup. I began by crushing raspberries in boiling water and adding sugar until the syrup was thick and sweet. Then it was a simple matter of straining out the solids and adding a teaspoon of vodka to act as a preservative. 

For the rest of the drink, I North Fork rye by Glacier Distillery and my homemade Swedish Punsch. By happy accident, there is a bit of smokey lapsang souchong tea mixed in with the Three Tea whiskey by MurLarkey distillery, which provided part of the liquor and flavor of this "quick" punsch recipe. 

  • 1 oz. rye (North Fork used)
  • 1 oz. Swedish Punsch
  • 2 oz. orange juice
  • 1/2 oz. raspberry syrup
  • several dashes Pernod (Ricard used)

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

Bonaparte's Manhattan (Difford's Guide)


I figure the best way to follow Napoleon's Sidecar is with his Manhattan. Difford's guide says that it is Italian amaro that provides the bitterness, not dashes of bitters. I, however, feel that this drink is better served with a French bitter spirit, Amer Picon. Had Napoleon himself lived to meet G. Picon, a French army officer who used his spirit of north African oranges and quinine to cure his malaria, he would have found a fast friend. That is how I feel about my homemade Amer Picon and rye whiskey.

The key ingredient, though, is Mandarine Napoleon (also my homemade recipe) which brings sweet and citrus-forward notes of mandarin oranges and cognac. For a Manhattan, which this drink fully resembles, there are a lot of very French things happening: it's the perfect pairing with a Balzac novella. 

  • 1 1/2 oz. rye (Rittenhouse used)
  • 1/2 oz. sweet vermouth
  • 1/3 oz. Mandarine Napoleon (homemade used)
  • 1/6 oz. Italian Amaro (1/4 oz. homemade Amer Picon used)
  • maraschino cherry garnish

Combine all liquid ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Drop the cherry in as garnish. 

Monday, November 30, 2020

Napoleon Sidecar


If you are just flipping through your bar book, this recipe will strike you immediately as grand for a variation on a Sidecar. That is not to say that it isn't, but subbing in a liqueur called Mandarine Napoleon for orange flavored brandy sounds like an imperial move. 

I've read somewhere that after you have finished your Cointreau and are done with triple secs in general, the next bottle of orange liqueur you need to get is Mandarine Napoleon. It's just that I can't get it where I live. So I knocked it off with cognac, lots of mandarin orange juice and peels, sugar and a whiff of cardamon seeds. I don't recommend this approach, but it is lovely and, while it took a month of steeping, was almost worth the wait. 

I think what greatly helped this cocktail was the use of Martel single distillery cognac. I'm so happy to have found a good deal on this cognac, a littler wilder tasting than ultra smooth blends but a no-brainer buy when lesser quality brandies often cost more.

I found this recipe on Difford's guide 

  • 1 1/2 oz. cognac (Martel VS single distillery used)
  • 1 oz. Mandarine Napoleon (homemade used)
  • 1 oz lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. sugar syrup
  • lemon slice

Coat the rim of a cocktail glass with sugar by rubbing it with a lemon slice and dipping it into a saucer covered with sugar. (Do this ahead of time so you can chill it.) Combine spirits, sugar syrup and lemon juice in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into the cocktail glass. Garnish with the lemon slice.

Apple Buck


Another Buck cocktail that eschews the use of lime juice for lemon. At least the ginger ale is still present as well as the addition of something very special: ginger brandy.

When I taste this cocktail, I can see why these variations were made to the usual Buck recipe of spirit, lime juice and ginger ale. For one thing, applejack isn't a clear spirit like light rum, gin or vodka--the main spirits used in a Buck. Applejack tastes better with lemon than lime--or at least the acidity of lemon juice does not detract from the aged fruit spirit taste in the way that lime juice does. 

Then, since we need to sweeten the drink a little, here comes ginger brandy, which tastes great with applejack as well. Top with ginger ale and you have a spiced apple fizzy drink that started as a Buck and is now something entirely different and perhaps better. 

  • 1 1/2 oz. apple brandy or calvados (Laird's Applejack 86 used)
  • 1/2 oz. lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. ginger brandy
  • ginger ale (Teddy's used)
  • candied ginger piece

Build drink in a Collins glass with juice and spirits. Add ice and top with ginger ale and stir gently. Garnish with the piece of ginger.

Ginger Jolt


I thought that a drink with "Jolt" in the name would involve cola or coffee--something with caffeine. Well this easy sipper has soda, and as such is good any time of the year. It is light in body and sweetness, but there's a rich ginger and vanilla flavor that you can't beat on a gloomy winter's day. 

It seems like you can get ginger wine now, at specialty stores like Total Wine, but I can't think it is readily available. The other option is to make it yourself, a sort of brewed sugar beverage flavored with ginger. I still don't trust myself, and as with my recipe for the Gingersnap, I decided to use my homemade ginger brandy instead. This brandy is so heavily spiced and sweetened, it is almost as if it is a proofed up, flat  ginger beer. The result is more than acceptable, and if you purchase Domaine de Canton, you can do this as easily as I have.

  • 1 1/2 oz. blended whiskey (bourbon used)
  • 3/4 oz. ginger wine (homemade ginger brandy used)
  • slice of ginger root
  • club soda

Build cocktail in a Collins glass with spirits and cracked ice. Top with club soda and stir. Garnish with the ginger root. 

Pusser's Pain Killer


There's not much difference between the standard Pain Killer and the Pusser's variety other than it is a proprietary recipe of the British Navy rum. And when you use Guyana rum like this, it is a major feature of the drink. It tastes more like fresh cane sugar than a heavy molasses rum, for one thing. The other is that a lot of it will have you feeling no pain. 

So adjusting for the difference in rum and pineapple juice, which is higher in this recipe than standard, there's just the question of nutmeg. The recipe doesn't call for it, but I feel it is an integral part of the Pain Killer experience, like salt on a Margarita. So while it is in the picture, because that is the way I like it, you don't need to use it if you don't. 

In fact, don't go out of your way to get nutmeg for this recipe, or spend time looking for the British flag you used to get with every bottle of Pusser's. Mine didn't come with a flag. I just made sure to use red and blue straws to signify the Union Jack. 

  • 4 oz. Pusser's British Navy rum
  • 4 oz. pineapple juice
  • 1 oz. orange juice
  • 1 oz. coconut cream or syrup
  • orange slice as garnish
  • tiny British flag (optional, but go for some British symbolism in the garnsih)
Combine all ingredients except orange slice and other garnishes with cracked ice in a shaker or blender. Shake or blend briefly and pour into a chilled Collins glass. Garnish with orange slice and British Flag. (Note: nutmeg is pictured but not required for this recipe.)


Ginger Snap


Not to be confused with the vodka drink of the same name, (but written as one word) the Ginger Snap is a Whiskey and Cola variation. The major difference is the use of ginger flavored brandy (not ginger wine, as in the Gingersnap.)

Right now the most common brand of ginger flavored brandy is Domain de Canton. I have a passable substitute made from candied ginger infused Korbel brandy. By sweetening up the infused liquor to a cordial level, I've got a spicy spirit to slip in any drink to lift it above the basic spirit and mixer.

Speaking of not being basic, I thought I'd give Fentiman's Curiosity Cola a try and I was not sorry. Again, it is a matter of craft ingredients when they make up the majority of the drink. I can't say that I always do this, especially when social drinking, but right now, little things like craft cola go a long way to improving my drinking experience.

The recipe calls for blended whiskey, and you can feel free to use Canadian whiskey or Seagram's 7 Crown if you are a stickler. I had straight bourbon, but I felt that was acceptable, as is Tennessee whiskey. But I would draw the line at blended scotch and you might not want an Irish whiskey either. Cola, and this rich one in particular, wants to paired with vanilla notes from American oak, so an American style is preferable. 

  • 1 oz. blended whiskey (bourbon used, American recommended)
  • 1 oz. ginger flavored brandy (homemade used or Domain de Canton)
  • 6 oz. cola (Fentiman's used)
  • several dashes lemon juice
  • (optional cherry garnish pictured)

Build drink with liquors in a Collins Glass. Add ice and cola and stir gently. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and garnish if desired.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Golfe Juan


I'm breaking out the French-themed drinks, even though not all ingredients are French in and of themselves. Golfe-Juan is a seaside resort on France's Côte d'Azur. The place has an air of tropical paradise to it with all the trappings of French tourist sites. The cocktail blends these two attitudes perfectly with European liqueurs of the golden age of cocktails and pineapple and lemon juice.

Altogether, you can possibly have as many as three European nationalities represented in one touristy cocktail: French brandy, Italian maraschino liqueur, and German kirschwasser. Don't use an American sweet kirsch. It tastes like cherry candy and you already have maraschino for that. A true kirsch, however will easily float on this drink, kicking up the alcoholic nose and giving the whole drink the boozy beachside cafe feel you are looking for.

  • 1 1/2 oz. brandy (Korbel used but use cognac to make it more French)
  • 1/2 oz. maraschino liqueur like Luxardo
  • 1 oz. pineapple juice
  • 1/2 oz. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. kirsch float (Kammer Kirsch used)
Combine all ingredients except for kirsch in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Use a bar spoon to float the kirsch on top of the drink.

Eve's Seduction


This French-style aperatif cocktail does not appear in any of my bar books. Instead, I found the recipe on Lee Spirits website for their revival of a liqueur known as Forbidden Fruit. It is almost winter, so I made a small batch of my own Forbidden Fruit recipe in order to try Lee Spirit's Eve's Seduction and other recipes. 

Forbidden Fruit is a brandy-based spirit that has bright citrus notes, particularly grapefruit (the original forbidden fruit, or so it is said). The liqueur itself is sweetened with honey, though this recipe calls for some honey as well. Since the amaro is not specified, I think Averna or Montenegro will suffice or maybe Amer Picon if you can make or find that. I had free choice to use Don Ciccio and Figili's Ambrosia. Now Ambrosia is the sweetest of their Italian bitters, with plenty of its own honey flavor, I felt justified in leaving out the additional honey for fear of creating a honey bomb. 

This drink turned out well. A perfect sipper before or after dinner. I was happy with the elegant look and color and put it in my cordial glass to show that off. Additionally, the flavor was a lovely blend of bitterness and sweet honey.

If you happen to buy a bottle of Lee Spirit's Forbidden Fruit, and I hope you do if you can get it, I'm including the recipe as it is printed on the website. I'm making a note, however, as to the use of a half ounce of honey. If you put that much honey in your shaker, it will solidify before you pour the drink. You should make a 1:1 ratio mixture of honey simple using honey and warm water. Then only use half an ounce of the honey simple in the cocktail. 

  • 1 oz. dry gin (homemade used)
  • 1 oz. Forbidden Fruit
  • 1/2 oz. amaro (Don Ciccio and Figili Ambrosia used)
  • 1/2 oz. honey syrup
  • (lemon twist or slice as garnish recommended but not included on the original recipe)

Combine liquid ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. 

Bess Arlene

I'm on a French cocktail swing again, this time with Ricard in place of Pernod and Korbel brandy as the base spirit. Whoever Bess Arlene was, I bet she was French. This cocktail of hers is all about the Parisian cafe experience--sipping a light cocktail like this as the sun sets on the Seine. 

For pastis and absinthe substitutes, Ricard is a great choice when it comes to giving a few drops of herbal pop to your sodas or lining the glass of a Sazerac. I woudn't use it in place of real absinthe in a Frappe or other all-absinthe drinks. Because it becomes a cloudy gray-brown, I also wouldn't try to treat it like the green-colored Pernod when it comes to all-Pernod drinks. But in cases like this where it only comes down to a few drops, who can tell the difference between Parisian Pernod and Mersaille's Ricard. 

  • 1 1/2 oz. brandy (Korbel used)
  • 1/2 oz. curacao (triple sec used)
  • club soda
  • dash Pernod (Ricard used)

Pour brandy and curacao into a chilled Collins glass and fill with ice. Top with soda and add Pernod on top before stirring gently.


Adrienne's Dream

I can totally see where this is going. A bartender or guest has an idea--something that comes to one in a dream after drinking too many Stingers. The flavor remains with you as you nod off and nearly vanishes upon waking. How to get that flavor of a potent rocks drink in a light and refreshing soda? 

The trick is dilution and proportion. Creme de menthe is fun to drink in large quantities, but it is so sugary. Even mixed at a disadvantage with brandy and served on ice, it leaves you feeling tired and looking for someplace to lie down. Whoever Adrienne was, she figured out fun way to have your brandy, mint and chocolate so that it can continue all night long.

  • 2 oz. brandy (Korbel used)
  • 1/2 oz. peppermint schnapps (white creme de menthe used)
  • 1/2 oz. white creme de cacao
  • 1/2 oz. lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar syrup or to taste
  • club soda
  • mint sprig garnish

Combine brandy, liqueurs, sugar syrup and juice in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a Collins glass full of fresh ice. Top with soda and stir gently. Garnish with the mint. 

Escoffier Cocktail


This cocktail is named after the famous French chef school started by Auguste Escoffier. The concept is simplicity and elegance, like French cuisine. A lot of French cocktails, made for cafe sipping, are pro-forma calvados or apple brandy mixed with some aperitif wine, and this is no exception. Laird's Applejack 86 is as rich as any apple brandy. And while it doesn't have that dry French oak whiff of Normandy calvados, there's nothing wrong with mixing it with Dubonnet rouge and bittering it up with Angostura. 

  • 1 1/2 oz. apple brandy or calvados (Applejack 86 used)
  • 3/4 Cointreau (triple sec used)
  • 3/4 Dubonnet rouge
  • dash Angostura bitters
  • maraschino cherry (Bada Bing cherry used)
 Combine liquid ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with the cherry. 

High Appleball


I had to laugh when I saw the name of this drink. I'm sure it was so dubbed because drunk people kept failing at calling it an Apple Highball! It is the applejack equivalent of a Tito's and Vodka!

All jokes aside, this is one dive bar cocktail that stands up well with flavor and practicality. You don't want to stump a bartender or go out on a limb for complicated ingredients at a dive bar. Admittedly, you won't find applejack on every bar, but the chances are good that it is simply there gathering dust. You probably won't spend too much on it either. I really love Applejack 86 for its quality and fair price. 

Another thing that you'll find at dive bars is your basic ginger ale--it's the most popular mixer behind plain soda. Here I'm testing out Teddy's ginger ale. It's not a fancy ginger ale or a spicy ginger beer that's cropped up recently. I think Teddy's serves this drink well in that it doesn't overpower the spirit. In fact, that is the beauty of cheap ginger ale--you use it as a back following a shot or a way to tone down the burn of strong spirits. You don't actually want something to increase the heat after a shot. So Teddy's is fine, but don't go mixing a Moscow Mule with it, you'll be disappointed. Stick to mixing it with your applejack.

  • 2 oz. apple brandy (Applejack 86 used)
  • ginger ale (Teddy's)
  • lemon twist

Build cocktail with ice and apple brandy in a highball glass. Top with ginger ale (or club soda or a mix of the two as other options). Twist a lemon zest over the glass and drop it in.

Ho-Ho-Kus Pocus


Is this a Christmas cocktail or did you just stutter? I'm asking because the phrase Hocus Pocus is a medieval term that mocked the use of Latin in church. Adding an additional "ho" to the phrase makes it sound like Santa is doing magic. Either that or you've had too many drinks already, as I'm sure I've already had. Somehow, though, I don't think that this is a typo.

The one thing I did think was a typo was to pour the drink, ice and all, into the cocktail glass. That's seldom done unless it is a blended drink. One could do that, but it would destroy the subtle flavors that the drink has going for it. Sure, you could blend it, but you'd want more sugar.

This cocktail comes out pretty dry and stiff. If there's any magic to it, it is the idea of mixing three spirits that don't always work well together. Applejack and brandy go well together; as do brandy and bourbon--but all three? The trick, it seems, is to use only a few dashes of bourbon as vanilla flavor. You might as well use vanilla extract. My impression is that the whole mix isn't as sweet as it could be, but I didn't mind. I was drinking a lot of cocktails at the time.

  • 1 oz. applejack (Laird's Applejack 86 used)
  • 1 oz. Brandy (Korbel used)
  • several dashes bourbon (Virginia Gentleman used)

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice.  Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. (Alternative recipe: blend all ingredients with a tsp. of suger and pour into the cocktail glass.)



This simple cocktail was an excellent way to showcase my homemade ginger brandy. Now it is just diluted with the brandy I used to make it with more simple syrup and grated ginger on top. It is a winner and a spicy way to sip brandy on a cold night. 

The portion is a bit small for a cocktail glass, so I broke with tradition and chose a cordial glass that looks a bit more like a grenade. I'm sure if you drink the Grenadier quickly enough, the warmth in your stomach will feel like an explosion.

  • 1 1/2 oz. brandy (Korbel used)
  • 3/4 oz. ginger brandy (homemade ginger brandy used)
  • dash of simple syrup or to taste
  • pinch of grated ginger

Combine liquid ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass (cordial glass pictured). Garnish with a pinch of ginger sprinkled on top. 

Ginger Jones


This is a fun cocktail for winter sipping. I especially like how ginger and orange juice play off of each other to create a warming sensation in a cold drink, especially when served in an Old Fashioned glass where there is more spirit-to-juice ratio.

This is the first use of my ginger brandy made from Korbel and a combination of fresh and dry ginger. To make it, I soaked a quarter cup of candied ginger and a tsp. of fresh chopped ginger in a jar with about six ounces of brandy. After a week, I strained out the solids and folded an ounce of simple syrup into the liquor. 

I'm especially proud that I found an old defunct label from Paramount Distillers in Cleveland. In the prohibition era, they used to label their ginger brandy as medicinal for stomach aches. Feel free to take this cocktail for medicinal pourposes.

  • 1 1/2 oz. brandy (Korbel used)
  • 1/2 oz. ginger brandy (homemade used)
  • 1 oz. orange juice
  • 1/2 oz. lime juice
  • 1/2 oz. simple syrup or to taste
  • candied ginger garnish

Combine all liquid ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake and pour into a chilled Old Fashioned glass. Garnish with the ginger piece.

Newton's Gravity Apple


This is a funny and sublime name for a cocktail made with applejack. I can just see it now. A physics major drinking at a bar asks for some kind of a cocktail that he can name after Issac Newton. Afterward there is some confusion among the laity as to why applejack is an important ingredient. The bartender explains that its the "gravity apple guy's drink!"

Even so, this simple cocktail suffices. I'm really enjoying Laird's Applejack 86. This is the third bottle I've purchased and I like it better than their 80-proof for its strength and flavor and I'm not sure I'll bother buying aged apple brandy again.

  • 1 1/2 oz. apple brandy (Laird's Applejack 86 used--as it is actually apple brandy)
  • 1/2 oz. curacao or triple sec (Leroux triple sec used)
  • several dashes Angostura bitters
  • apple slice (optional garnish)
Combine spirits in a mixing glass with ice. Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. The apple slice is not required but it is a nice touch.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Ambassador West


I'm not sure which historical figure that this drink's name refers to, but I bet it isn't the Ambassador West hotel. If I had to decide, I think I would go with the novel by the same name by Mark West. The fact that the book is about an assassination plot against South Vietnam's president in the 1960s is a not congruent with a Martini variation that makes copious use of brandy. 

As far as Martinis go, this variation is a winner. I really like how brandy changes the texture a little so that it is richer and a little silky. I knew that the brandy had potential to cover over the gin, however, so I went with a spicy gin that I made at home through infusion. This gin is high on juniper and as dry as 100-proof vodka that it is made from. There is some lemon peel and fresh herb garden notes, but overall, the gin is designed to stand out, and it should. The ingredients that flavor it were steeping in vodka for a week and their influence arrives in the glass. 

  • 1 1/2 oz. brandy (Korbel used)
  • 1 oz. gin (homemade used and dry gin recoomended)
  • 1/2 tsp. dry gin (Dolin used)
  • green olive
Combine liquid ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Drop the olive into the drink. 

San Remo


San Remo is a beautiful coastal town in northern Italy. Like the bright colors of the rooftops of San Remo, the cocktail of the same name has a brilliant hue. The Italian Alpine spirit, Strega is a white brandy-based liquor flavored with a secret recipe of herbs and spices such as saffron and mint. 

The San Remo is designed to spread out this flavor across a dry palate of herbal gin. That is the reason I chose Bulldog for its light London dry style. Is it a good drink? It is balanced, is is fresh and herbacious and bright despite having no citrus juice. So yes, unless you don't like Strega, and then I can't help you.

  • 2 oz. gin (Bulldog used)
  • 1 oz. Strega
  • 1/2 oz. dry vermouth (Dolin extra dry used)

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. 

Alabammy Bound

The name, of course, refers to the southern state of Alabama where peaches and peach liqueur are symbolic of Southern drinking. The recipe calls for Louisiana's proprietary liqueur, Southern Comfort, but other peach flavored spirits are also acceptable. 

For this drink, I used a sample of Evan Williams peach bourbon, which seems appropriate because of Bourbon's prominent place in southern cocktails. It is the brandy that seems out of place in an Alabama-themed cocktail. That is, at least, until you realize that Southern Comfort is a brandy--not a bourbon--spirit. 

I heartily recommend this cocktail. The peach flavor tastes unique when paired with citrus and mint. This drink stands out from many southern-styled cocktails like the Alabama Slammer and a whole host eye catching drinks made from  flavored and artificially colored liqueurs. I enjoied Evan Williams peach bourbon so much that I would be happy to buy a full-sized bottle. 

  • 1 oz. brandy (Korbel used)
  • 1 oz. Southern Comfort (Evan Williams peach bourbon used
  • 1 oz. lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar syrup or to taste
  • mint sprig

Combine liquid ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with the mint sprig. 

Brandy Julep


Since both bourbon and brandy are aged in oak, albeit oak from different origins, it stands to reason that a brandy based Mint Julep would be a thing. Making it is similar to the bourbon version as well. The recipe is a little loose since it requires freezing the Julep cup with crushed ice and making a muddled mint simple in the glass. Therefore, exact proportions are not listed. You have to make the ingredients work for you, and being beholden to a specific set of measurements can work against the overall cocktail.

I recommend that you have more than enough simple syrup on hand to get started. You can cap the amount of brandy to about three ounces, but feel free to experiment with that proportion. What you really need is about two trays of crushed ice cubes. This estimate is a little high, but you don't want to come up short.

  • brandy (Korbel used)
  • simple syrup
  • 6 mint leaves 
  • mint sprig
  • confectioner's sugar
  • crushed ice

In a metal Julep cup, muddle mint leaves and 1/2 oz. simple syrup. Add crushed ice and churn with a bar spoon while adding brandy. The goal is to mix the ingredients while lowering the temperature of the cup. Add ice and brandy as needed and continue to churn until ice forms on the outside of the Julep cup. The end result should have a mound of fresh crushed ice above the lip of the cup. Garnish with mint sprigs and sprinkle with confectioner's sugar.

Brandana Cooler


This is the cousin of the Brandana Frappe that includes real banana and club soda to make it a fizzy Cooler. I think I like this version better, though, because of its larger (and more sturdy) glassware format and the inclusion of banana slices. 

You can see that I chose this recipe to use up my bottle MurLarkey banana whiskey. As always I remind readers to use a little sugar or sugar syrup to compensate for the dryness of MurLarkey products when you substitute them for sweeter cremes. With regards to the banana slice used as a garnish, I also like to throw a few slices into the blender. Banana adds texture to a blended cocktail, so by all means put some in there if that suits you as it does me.

  • 1 1/2 oz. brandy (Korbel used)
  • 3/4 creme de banane (MurLarkey banana whiskey and 2 tsp. sugar syrup used)
  • 1/2 oz. lemon juice
  • club soda
  • lemon wedge
  • banana slice

Combine brandy, banana liqueur, lemon juice (and banana slices if desired) with cracked ice in a blender. Blend until smooth and pour into a chilled Collins glass. Top with soda and stir gently. Garnish with the lemon wedge and banana slice.