Friday, January 29, 2021

Byrrh On-The-Rocks


This beer cocktail is exactly what it looks like. It is also exactly what it sounds like. It is beer and also Byrrh (pronounced beer) in a rocks glass with ice. A pale ale and French quinine wine go excellent together. They both share a fruity and hoppy herbal zing. Byrrh benefits from the fizz that the ale supplies, and the whole experience is nice as an early afternoon treat. 

But beware. Neither spirit is especially strong on alcohol, but that doesn't mean it is low ABV. If anything, this cocktail is like drinking champagne. One is nice, but wait before you get the next to see how it affects you. 

  • 2 oz. Byrrh Grand Quinquina
  • 2 oz. pale ale (Einstok used)
  • orange zest

Build drink in a chilled Old Fashioned glass full of cracked ice. Stir gently and garnish with orange zest. 


s of ale

After Hours (Recipe by Satvik Ahuja)


I was in the mood for kummel on a gray day last weekend and stumbled on this recipe on Difford's Guide. The drink makes me think of Covenant's song "After Hours" with its distorted electronic hum, slow beats and creepy stalker lyrics. And it was designed as an after dinner drink, but I found it much closer to an Aviation without the lemon juice. In fact, citrus notes are hinted at here, but omitted entirely for a spirits-forward punch sweetened by maraschino and honey in the kummel.

I'm working with my homemade kummel here, which is the same recipe as whatever akvavit I have on hand plus added honey syrup. I only make as much as I need on any particular day because it is a specialty ingredient. I also am having fun with the French gin, Citadelle. You could certainly go with a heavier gin, like an old tom or Ransom and make this a dessert drink. I felt that while Citadelle is a light, dry gin, it also has the heft of 18 botanicals that give it more weight in the nose than many American gins, especially after mixing them with Luxardo maraschino.

Difford's Guide is a good place to find new inventions like this, and many of the cocktails call for chilled water as an option. This is the first time I took that option, and I feel like it was a good call. The flavors are very packed in this cocktail and water gave them room to express. 

  • 1 1/2 oz. dry gin (Citadelle used)
  • 1/3 oz. kummel (homemade used)
  • 1/3 oz. maraschino liqueur
  • 1 dash orange bitters
  • 1/3 chilled water
  • maraschino cherry (Bada Bing used)

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

Thursday, January 28, 2021



When Simon Difford came up with this recipe, he didn't know that there was another Waterloo cocktail in existence back in the early nineties. Unsurprisingly, both are made with the liqueur that bears the name Napoleon. As soon as I saw this recipe on his webpage I had to try it. 

The big thing on my mind was how I would like the combination three principal ingredients: Jagermeister from Germany, genever from Netherlands, and Mandarine Napoleon French (by way of cognac but made in the Netherlands.) His idea is simple, the flavors are complex. Use a little bit of spirits from the countries involved in Napoleon's fateful battle. 

I wouldn't say the cocktail is better than the sum of its parts. Something is lost in the balance--mostly the depth of Jager. But that is the way with cocktails. They make spirits more drinkable and less ponderous. The result is satisfying and, like the battle, over  quickly. I thought that the pickled almond was a gimmick, but I rather felt it was the ingredient that tied everything together. There was sugar sweetness of the coating that helped the genever and Mandarine get along, and the pickled vinegary notes tied in nicely with Jagermeister.

  • 2 oz. genever (Bols barrel aged used)
  • 1/2 oz. Mandarine Napoleon (homemade used)
  • 1/6 oz. (1 tsp.) Jagermeister
  • pickled almond

Combine all liquid ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Drop the pickled almond inside.

Bitches' Brew (Simon Difford Recipe)


Simon Difford came up with this recipe, unsurprisingly, while working in London. I've seen more than one pale ale cocktail, but this is the first I've made with Bols Genever and Byrrh. I think that's all this drink requires by way of mention. Some people will love it, and others will hate it. 

I'd say this cocktail tastes very classic, with the IPA standing in for citrus juice and bitters. A cocktail drinker might love it and not understand what is going on in the glass, but a hop headed beer drinker would be turned off by the floral Byrrh and overall fruity style of this Bitch.

  • 1 oz. Byrrh
  • 3/4 genever (Bols barrel aged used)
  • 3/4 oz. vodka
  • 3/4 oz. IPA
  • maraschino cherry speared with orange zest as garnish

Combine liquid ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir gently for 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish. 

Satan's Whiskers (Enroulee)


This Difford's Guide recipe changes the replaces Grand Marnier in the classic Satan's Whiskers with Mandarine Napoleon. It's not a major change, but the effect is a lighter orange note in a fortified wine and gin cocktail. 

Mandarine Napoleon is similar to Grand Marnier in that it is an orange cognac spirit, but while Grand Marnier has chocolatey and singed orange peel notes, Mandarine Napoleon has a grape spirit and juicy mandarin flavor with hints of baking spice. I consider this a drink of necessity--the necessity being that you want it but you don't have Grand Marnier. I also don't have Mandarine Napoleon except that I made a knock off spirit by infusing real mandarin in cognac. 

  • 1 1/2 oz. dry gin (homemade used)
  • 1/2 oz. dry vermouth
  • 1/2 oz.  sweet vermouth
  • 1/2 oz. Mandarine Napoleon (homemade used)
  • 1/4 oz. orange juice
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • orange twist rolled up like a curly mustache. 

Combine liquid ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Twist the orange zest tightly and lay it on the rim like a twisted whisker. 

Jager Negroni (Difford's Guide Recipe)


It may surprise you, but I love Jagermeister. I didn't always (that's not surprising) but not for the reason that most people who dislike Jager say--"it's the taste." It wasn't the taste I disliked, it was they way people would just shoot it, as if trying to get past the taste.

I think that I didn't appreciate Jager before I had it to compare with other Alpine spirits, as if my problem with Jager was that I viewed it as a stand-alone product with a weird flavor. When taken as a group with Chartreuse, Strega, various Italian Amari and other German Alpine spirits, Jager makes a lot of sense. They compliment each other in a Negroni, which is usually an Italian Campari drink. 

This Negroni variation tastes like Jagermeister--it's sweeter with licorice root, cinnamon and citrus flavors. It breaks out of the ultra bitter and dry Negroni mold and causes you to do a double take. It might also force you to reevaluate your dislike of Jager.

  • 3/4 oz. dry gin (homemade used)
  • 3/4 oz. sweet vermouth (Cocchi di Torino used)
  • 3/4 oz. Jagermeister
  • 1/4 sweet Italian amaro (Don Ciccio & Figli Ambrosia used)
  • Orange slice

Build the drink in a double Old Fashioned glass full of fresh ice and stir before garnsihing with the orange slice.

Crazy Crossing


This beauty of a cocktail is intentionally French. It calls for Dubonnet rouge, which is an aromatized wine from Paris, but having none, I intentionally went with another French aromatized wine that fits the bill--Byrrh.

I've mixed with Byrrh before and found it a little softer than Dubonnet, and a little less fruity. All the fuss about it being made with many kinds of quinine botanicals seems overplayed. Byrrh is mild and floral and adds a lovely rouge color as well.

This is the first time I've mixed with Citadelle gin from France, and I have to say it has such a fresh botanical scent and flavor. Eighteen botanicals puts it in league with the Botonist from Scotland or Glendalough gin from Ireland, and it has that same kind of freshness I associate with the UK gins. I don't know if Citadelle is unfiltered, but I would assume that its brightness comes from not filtering away the brightest juniper and citrus notes.

The cocktail? This is a very French version of a Martinez. An impressive gin and several kinds of sweet and dry vermouth as well as Mandarine Napoleon to give it rich cognac and spiced mandarin orange notes instead of using orange bitters. In fact, it is a Martinez down to the maraschino liqueur, which I love.

  • 1 1/2 oz. gin (Citadelle used)
  • 3/4 oz. Dubonnet rouge (Byrrh used)
  • 3/4 oz. dry vermouth (Dolin used)
  • 1/3 oz. maraschino liqueur (Luxardo used)
  • 1/12 Mandarine Napoleon (homemade used)
  • maraschino cherry (Bada Bing used)

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

New Amsterdam (Difford's Guide Recipe)


This isn't the first time I've made a Dutch-themed cocktail with Genever. It is the first time I've had one that was all spirits, including a huge gob of kirschwasser. Kirschwasser or kirsch is technically German, but it's damn close to Dutch and just about anything strong that people in Central Europe will drink. That is because it is high-proof cherry brandy. The flavor is a little musty, not so much like fruit but more like cherry pits and similar to the wildness of grappa. 

This cocktail is thankfully mellowed by the malt notes of barrel aged genever. Both are strong, but almost opposite in texture as far as distilled spirits go. Only a splash of sugar and two dashes of Peychaud's is needed to bring them together. The Dutch and Germans may not always be friendly with each other, but they can agree that their spirits go well together.

  • 2 oz. Bols barrel aged genever
  • 1 oz. Kammer kirsch
  • 1 bar spoon sugar syrup
  • 2 dashes Peychaud's bitters
  • lemon twist

Combine liquid ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Twist a lemon zest over the glass and drop it in. 

Friday, January 22, 2021

Bittersweet Adios (Original Recipe)


Coffee shiskey and agave syrup balance each other in this rocks sipper. There's a lot to love here in one of my secret weapon tequila drinks. A sweet amaro like Don Ciccio & Figili Ambrosia is key to the "all spirits tequila drink" with its honey and citrus peel notes. So is a round tequila like Corralejo, that drinks almost like a cognac or Irish whiskey. Not to be outdone, sweet vermouth and MurLarkey coffee whiskey seal the deal with bitterness. 

All of these bittersweet spirits get their edges shaved off with a touch of Madhava agave syrup. It all goes down like the sweetest medicine with herbal notes throughout, from the tequila and amaro to the sweet agave syrup. Make this one for yourself and see what I mean. Then make it for your friends and they will be so impressed. People who like a Negroni but hate tequila (there have to be a few) will love this one.

  • 1 oz. Corralejo tequila 
  • 1 oz. MurLarkey coffee whiskey 
  • 1/2 oz. Don Ciccio & Figli Ambrosia
  • 1/2 oz. Madhava agave syrup

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir and strain into a rocks glass with a large ice cube. 

Philadelphia Scotsman


Just by the name, I can tell that this was a Philly dive bar special somewhere. I'm making fun of this cocktail a little, because I'd hope that a Scotsman would be more discerning, but I know that many are not. 

Anyway, it isn't that I didn't like this cocktail--I just feel like I did a disservice to this particular drink. Ingredients count, and I used a cheap port that tasted like fortified concord grape wine. That's not the ruby color this drink deserves, nor is it the right flavor. I think that the point of apple brandy and port was to give the cocktail a kind of apple cider flavor, which often can be achieved with orange juice. Instead, it tasted like grape popsicle. 

I will soon rectify this recipe, though I'm not sure I'll go for a reprisal anytime soon. Just a word to the wise, ingredients count for a lot. I was two out of three on this one with fresh squeezed orange juice and Laird's Applejack 86.

  • 1 oz. apple brandy (Laird's Applejack 86 used)
  • 1 oz. ruby port (Taylor port not recommended)
  • 1 oz. orange juice
  • club soda
  • orange zest
Combine apple brandy, port and orange juice in a shake with ice. Shake and strain into a Collins glass full of fresh ice. Top with soda and stir gently. Garnish with a twist of orange zest.

Rosita's Cafe (Original Recipe)


I liked the idea of a coffee Negroni, the way that bitterness of the coffee can accentuate the sweet and vanilla notes of sweet vermouth. Then I thought, "what about tequila?"

Corralejo is my favorite reposado. It is soft and round with caramal notes. I felt that orange bitterness for this cocktail, like the coffee and orange flavors in a Spanish Coffee, would be a great way to play up the caramel of the tequila. So I picked my homemade Amer Picon, but amari like Montenegro or Ramazzotti will work.

Coffee comes in the form of yet another spirit: MurLarkey coffee whiskey. This is coffee beans steeped directly into the whiskey while it rests in the barrel. There's no added sugar in the coffee whiskey, so it can be very bitter by itself, but using it instead of cold coffee keeps your cocktail stiff and prevents it from clouding up.

  • 1 1/2 oz. Corralejo tequila
  • 1 oz. MurLarkey coffee whiskey
  • 3/4 oz. Amer Picon
  • 12 oz. Cocchi di Torino

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

Bloomsbury Blast


This is one of those kitchen sink fortified wine cocktails that sneaks up on you. I'm not sure if it is named after the early 20th century artistic movement in Britain or if it is more centered on the town of the same name, but I can see a cocktail like this being popular about an hundred years ago. 

There's not a lot of interest in overloading drinkers with rich sherry and vermouth flavors now. Even with the cocktail revival that brought back vermouth, we tend to appreciate stand-out ingredients without crowding a cocktail with more than one. I mean, Cherry Herring, curacao, creme de cacao, and gin all have a way of dominating. That means that this recipe is somewhat less than the sum of its parts, for what its worth. 

On the other hand, there is something liberating about throwing together hefty doses of sherry and vermouth in what is already a legally maxed out spirits drink. Then you get to enjoy an easy drinking cocktail in a large wine glass and experience how it kicks your butt as you dive deeper and deeper into its rich depths. I hope that this sells the cocktail to some of my readers. We all have open bottles of sherry, and you have to use them.

  • 1 1/2 oz. gin (Vitae Old Tom used)
  • 1 1/2 oz. medium sherry (Amontillado used)
  • 1/2 tsp. sweet vermouth
  • 1/2 tsp. dry vermouth
  • 1/4 oz. curacao
  • 1/4 oz. cherry brandy (Herring used)
  • 1/4 oz. creme de cacao
  • 1 oz. lemon or lime juice

Combine all ingredients with cracked ice in a shaker or blender. Shake or blend and pour into a large wine glass. 

Two Penicillin Recipes (Classic and Mr. Anthony)


The Penicillin Cocktail came about at the height of the single-malt craze in the early aughts. At the time, the Penicillin seemed like something completely new, but in reality it was always with us. It combines a well tested Sour recipe with scotch and honey with ginger liqueur and smokey single malt scotch. It is perfect for pleasing a crowd of scotch fans with a simple recipe, as well as showing off how a well-made cocktail can change the drinking experience into something otherworldly. 
For bartenders, though, the cocktail was the easiest way to sell blended scotch at cocktail prices and still make it seem like the whole drink was made from single malt. 
My attempt at the traditional Penicillin this go-around is with Teacher's blended scotch and Ardbeg 12. While not the smokiest of scotches, the peat presence will knock you over. You will definitely notice it in the drink. The ginger brandy is my homemade liqueur, but King's Ginger liqueur is recommended and Domaine de Canton is most widely available. 
  • 1 1/2 oz. blended scotch (Teacher's used)
  • 1/2 oz. ginger liqueur (homemade used)
  • 1/3 oz. single male scotch (Ardbeg 12 used)
  • 2/3 oz. lemon juice 
  • 2/3 oz. honey syrup
  • piece of candied ginger

Combine liquid ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled Old Fashioned glass with a large format chunk of ice inside. Use the ginger as garnish.  

Mr. Anthony: 

It's not at all a stretch of the imagination to make a genever (or jenever) Sour, and from there, it's just a short step to the Mr. Anthony, a jenever version of the Penicillin. Jenever is a Dutch gin that is made from malted barley and distilled with botanicals like juniper inside the mash as well as steeped in the spirit itself.

Bols barrel aged genever is so close to malt whiskey with its aging in French oak that it is a natural choice for a Penicillin. This time around, I switched up for a saltier and smokier single malt, McClellands Islay, a no-age-statement bottling (I've heard) from Bowmore. It is definitely different to make the Mr. Anthony after having a blended scotch Penicillin, but I might like it more. There's an herbal quality to it, that juniper or pine scent that is actually a quality of some of my favorite scotches.

  • 1 oz. jenever (Bols barrel aged used)
  • 1 oz. Islay single malt scotch (McClelland's used)
  • 2 bar spoons of honey (1/2 oz. of honey syrup recommended)
  • 1/4 oz. ginger liqueur (homemade used)
  • 3/4 oz. lemon juice
  • piece of candied ginger

Combine liquid ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled Old Fashioned glass with a large format chunk of ice inside. Use the ginger as garnish. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Elderflower Grapefruit Akvavit Sour (Moody Mixologist Recipe)


Let me go on the record that a list of ingredients in the drink isn't a name. At least we pretty much know how to make this cocktail just by reading the name. But I have to say that there is a lot of good things going on with this cocktail. A Sour is always a crowd pleaser, but the well-kept secret that akvavit and grapefruit juice, plus the elderflower notes of St. Germain, is a stroke of genius. 

Funny enough, I'm using my own akvavit, and even though this bottle of St. Germain is authentic, the liqueur is my own combination of elderflower syrup and raw spirits. It's a good substitution, however. For my raw spirit, I use Smirnoff #56 for hit 100-proof kick. It is also 2-1 with MurLarkey Justice white whiskey in my homemade akvavit. Even if you don't like the herbaceous flavor of akvavit, you should give this cocktail a try. It has a lot of things that will win over most people, even if they are shy about trying unusual spirits. 

  • 1 1/2 oz. akvavit (homemade used)
  • 1 oz. pink grapefruit juice
  • 1/2 oz. elderflower liqueur (homemade used)
  • 1/2 oz. lemon juice
  • 1/4 oz. sugar syrup
  • lemon twist

Combine all liquid ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Twist lemon zest over the glass and drop it in. 

Bristow Penicillin


I plan on doing a few variations on the Penicillin, a smokey whiskey cocktail that resembles a ginger and smoke Whiskey Sour. My first of these variations is made with MurLarkey Smokehouse whiskey. The raw spirit of this whiskey is a craft corn and malted barley mash with a lot of intense flavor by itself. It is later aged in oak that has been smoked with bacon! While the result is very far from scotch, Smokehouse is a Virginia whiskey with savory notes that are reminiscent of peat smoke.

The other fun ingredient in this cocktail (besides the unsmoked whiskey base) is my homemade ginger liqueur. This is an aged brandy ginger spirit with brown sugar, closer in flavor to King's Ginger liqueur than Domaine de Canton. This is the spice component that mixes well with the lemon juice and honey in the sour. For the whiskey base, use any American whiskey or bourbon you have on hand so long as it is mellow and won't overpower the cocktail. 

  • 1 1/2 oz. bourbon or American whiskey
  • 1/2 oz. ginger liqueur (homemade used)
  • 1/3 oz. MurLarkey Smokehouse whiskey
  • 2/3 oz. lemon juice
  • 2/3 oz. honey syrup
  • piece of candied ginger

Combine all liquid ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into an Old Fashioned glass with large ice cubes. Spear the piece of ginger and use as garnish.

Swedish Ale Punch (Difford's Guide Recipe)


This cocktail requires a hoppy ale like those pale ales of England. The grapefruit bitterness goes well with the grapefruit juice, but this is not a one-note cocktail. The Swedish punch and bourbon do a lot to sweeten the drink with oak and vanilla notes. My homemade Swedish punsch adds lemon and cardamon, as well as brown sugar syrup and smoky black tea. 

I want to point out that Einstok Brewery in Iceland also makes a pale ale that is very English in style with their glacier water source. It took me many tries to find an ale that would best represent this style of beer cocktail. And most American pale ales wouldn't work, but something familiar like Bass probably would. But Einstok pale ale was a good call, and it reinforces the Scandinavian theme of this cocktail. 

  • 2 oz. Bourbon (Ancient Age used)
  • 1 oz. Swedish punsch (homemade used)
  • 1 oz. grapefruit juice
  • English-style pale ale (Einstok pale ale used)
  • wedge of grapefruit

Combine bourbon, Swedish punsch and juice in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a pint glass full of fresh ice. Top with ale and stir. Garnish with the grapefruit wedge. 

Friday, January 8, 2021

Winter (Difford's Guide Recipe)


Allspice, ginger, rich rum--what else do you need to make a cocktail taste like all the flavors we love in winter? I'm a big fan of this drink, mostly because it is another one of the great cocktails I've found on Difford's guide that combine tiki ingredients and a classic cocktail feel. You get the coup presentation with a simple piece of candied ginger garnish. Then there's the dark, colonial style rum and all the burst of the tropics from allspice dram and Angostura bitters. 

I'm showing off George Bowman's small batch rum in this cocktail. The Bowman distillery in Virginia doesn't make their own rum, but they bottle this blend from the Caribbean. It tastes a lot like Jamaican or Guyana, so very spicy and heavy oak and vanilla notes. It is the kind of thing you expect colonial Americans to pay top dollar for during the rum trade.

There's still a few months of winter left, so be sure to make this cocktail and enjoy it. Of course you could do it in the summer, but I'd rather make it a Swizzle with the same ingredients. That would absolutely work. 

  • 2 oz. dark Jamaican rum (Bowman's used)
  • 3/4 oz. lime juice
  • 1/2 oz. sugar syrup
  • 1/6 oz. (2 tsp.) ginger brandy (homemade used)
  • 1/6 oz. (2 tsp.) pimento dram/ allspice dram (homemade used)
  • dash Angostura bitters
  • piece of candied ginger

Combine liquid ingreients in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with piece of ginger.

Je Suis l'Amour (Difford's Guide Recipe)


This is a cocktail that tastes rich but feels light: Cognac, ginger brandy and sweet vermouth give a ton of flavor up front. This is that rich stone fruit and herbal notes of the spirits. If I had chocolate bitters (which I understand to be a major part of the drink as the name suggests) I would have a drink with a chocolaty depth. As it was, I had Hella orange bitters with its baking spice notes. And that still does the trick for such a spicy drink in with ginger dominates. 

But when the sip finishes, you get such a light lift from all the heavy sensations. Firstly the grapefruit juice ensures that the body of the liquid itself is light. Your final impression is a citrus fruit cocktail (grapefruit often being associated with with ginger and cognac warmth. It is an expression of love, and very French at that.

  • 1 1/2 oz cognac (Martell single distillery used)
  • 2/3 rich sweet vermouth (Cocchi di Torino used)
  • 1/2 oz. ginger liqueur (homemade ginger brandy used)
  • 1/2 oz. grapefruit juice
  • 2 dashes chocolate bitters (Hella orange bitters used)
  • orange zest

Combine all liquid ingredients in a shaker with ice. Stir and Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Squeeze the orange zest over the glass and lay it on the rim.

Mediterranea Martini (Original Recipe)

I've already made a Greek Martini with kalamata olives and ouzo, so that name is taken. But now that I have feta cheese stuffed olives, I wanted to take another stab at a Mediterranean Martini with gin and Skinos masthia spirit. 

As far as Martinis go, this recipe is not too different from the classic: gin, a half ounce of dry vermouth, and olive garnish. The slight change--and I recommend doing this with gin for the simple reason that you don't exactly want your only note in the drink to be masthia--makes the drink herbal and bright with just a hint of the sweet piney flavor of Skinos. I really like Skinos, especially as a substitute for sweet amari in cocktails, but I don't feel that it needs to be prominent in a Martini. And when I want a Martini, I want spicy gin and herbal dry vermouth. 

This was a somewhat dirty Martini, but not in the traditional sense. The Divina olives are packed with sesame oil, not the usual olive brine. This makes them a little more useful for cooking than cocktails. (If you use olives packed in oil, be sure to rinse them off before putting them in a drink.) Even after rinsing them off, there was a delicious slick of oil floating on top of the glass, adding richness to each sip. 

  • 3 oz. gin (homemade dry gin used)
  • 1/2 oz. dry vermouth (Dolin used)
  • 1/4 oz. Skynos masthia spirit
  • 3 feta cheese stuffed olives (Divina used)

Combine liquid ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with olives on a cocktail pick.


Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Oh, Cicilie! (Difford's Guide Recipe)

What a lovely rocks sipping cocktail! Part Negroni and part Old Fashioned, this drink combines the bitter citrus of sweet Italian Amaro and French Amer Picon with spicy angostura bitters and gin.  Of course I've made a lot of these ingredients, like the Amer Picon, of course, and a dry gin. I'm also showing off Don Ciccio & Figili's Ambrosia. This is a nice stand-in for Aperol, but has a more honeyed citrus flavor. 

The cocktail drinks like an Old Fashioned, but the richness and spice of that classic drink opens up in the sip to citrus bitterness and honey. I love the thoughtful addition of a grapefruit twist, which really offsets the bitter orange of the Amer Picon. As stiff as Oh, Cicilie! is, I can see it being a nice afternoon aperitif cocktail, something to wet your appetitie for dinner. 

  • 1 1/2 oz. dry gin (homemade used)
  • 3/4 oz. Aperol (Don Ciccio & Figili Ambrosia used)
  • 3/4 oz. sweet vermouth (Cocchi di Torino used)
  • 1/4 oz. Amer Picon (homemade used)
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters
  • grapefruit zest

Combine all liquid ingredients in a mixing glass full of ice. Stir and strain into a chilled Old Fashioned glass full of fresh ice. Twist the grapefruit zest over the glass and drop it in. 


Messianic Cocktail (Difford's Guide Recipe)


The name of this cocktail is quizzical: how is a cocktail related to followers of a messiah? Maybe it has to do with the spices and fruits that were often used in the Holy Land two thousand years ago. Cloves and ginger might have scented oils for anointment. In cocktail form, this blessing attains these flavors by infused spirits as well as a little muddling of the clove directly into the mixture. 

I've infused cloves, cooked them into teas and syrups, and used them as garnishes. This is the first cocktail I've made that involves muddling cloves. More on that later. The rest of the ingredients, ginger liqueur and Grand Marnier (or in this case Royal Combier) are spiced to make them more exotic. But we have grown accustomed to these ingredients in our cocktails. Clove really sent this drink's profile in a new, richer direction. 

You get clove on the nose and rich baking spices on the sip. This is followed up by oaky rum notes and finishes dry with cloves and orange. I'll be doing this trick again soon.

  • 1 dried clove
  • 2 oz. Haitian rum (Barbancourt 5-years used)
  • 1/4 oz. ginger liqueur (homemade ginger brandy used)
  • 3/4 oz. Grand Marnier (Royal Combier used)
  • orange zest twist. 

Add clove and all liquid ingredients to a mixing glass and muddle to break up the clove. Add ice and stir to chill before fine straining into a chilled cocktail glass. Twist the orange zest over the glass and drop it in. 

Mr. Dogma (Difford's Guide Recipe)


Mr. Dogma is a long drink that has dispirit parts that seemingly wouldn't work well together. Orange and lemon juice with a bitter liqueur, rich dark rum and sweet vermouth. It seems that the gamble pays off when you mix up this drink and put it under a spiral slice of lemon and a flower. 

The result is a strange experience, like a tiki drink crossed with some classic cocktail from the early 1900s. The flavor swings from citrus to bitterness to sweetness and spice. Some of the flavors are almost floral because of the herbal infusion, which the flower hints at. But this bodacious drink lasts a while and is perfect for slow sipping. 

A quick note: a rich sweet vermouth like Cocchi is a good call here. You don't want to taste wine, you want herbs. Also, my Amer Picon is a special recipe involving Rammazzotti, Combier and orange bitters that I made with MurLarkey Justice white whiskey. 

  • 1 2/3 oz. aged dark rum (George Bowman used)
  • 1/3 oz. aged sweet vermouth (Cocchi di Torino used)
  • 1/3 oz. Amer Picon (homemade used)
  • 1/3 oz. grenadine
  • 2/3 oz. orange juice
  • 1/3 oz. lemon juice
  • spiral cut lemon wheel
  • flower garnish

Combine liquid ingredients in a shaker with ice. Pour into a Collins glass and garnish with lemon and flower.

Biggles' Sidecar (Difford's Guide Recipe)

Biggles is a postwar kids book series about an intrepid British aviator. Naturally, Simon Difford has his own recipe for a Biggles Aviation. But he went a step farther in creating a Biggles Sidecar--I guess Biggles was known for motoring and espionage, so that seems about right.

The thing that makes this Sidecar different is ginger: ginger in the brandy and ginger as a garnish. Kings ginger liqueur is the brand that Difford recommends because it is that rich aged brandy that will stand out in a citrus cocktail. I made my own ginger brandy using Korbel and fresh ginger, but if all you have is Domaine de Canton, that should do. I think that the fresh slice of ginger is really important to the garnish experience. From a distance, it looks like another slice of citrus, but the scent with the lemon is perfect.

  • 1 2/3 oz. cognac (Martel single distillery)
  • 1/2 oz. ginger brandy
  • 1/2 oz. lemon juice
  • 1/4 oz. sugar syrup
  • 1 dash Peychauds bitters
  • lemon slice and ginger slice garnish

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


Champagne Cocktails: Elysee Palace and Lord Baltimore's Cup


Special occasions call for impressive champagne cocktails. A good champagne cocktail is balanced, not overly sweet or spicy; it should be elegant, colorful, effervescent and most of all, strong. Both of these cocktail achieve this in very different ways. The quintessentially French Elysee Palace is a blushing, bubbling flute glass with rich berry flavors and cognac. Lord Baltamore, the English governor of the Maryland colony, is a chunky chalice full of manly rye and bitters. 

The nice thing about offering a champagne cocktail during a party is that it makes use of the dry sparkling wine that is already open and being passed around. The rest of the recipes are not complicated and really only amount to sprinkling in a few ingredients to alter the champagne. 

Here are the recipes to these two cocktails. As usual, feel free to make substitutions when it comes to syrups, liqueurs and sparkling wine as needed to pull them off.

For instance, I used sparkling wine that is as dry as Champagne--Californian, not Italian, which runs the risk of being too sweet. I made my own raspberry syrup out of brandy, sugar, and fresh raspberries rather than buy a bottle of Chambord. And because I don't have framboise, (which does have a little fizz of its own) I fell back on strawberry-infused rum, hoping that the sparkling wine would take up the slack of the bubbles. 

        Elysee Palace

  • 1 oz. cognac (Martel single distillery used)
  • 1/2 oz. raspberry liqueur (homemade raspberry brandy used)
  • 1/2 tsp. framboise (homemade strawberry liqueur used)
  • brut champagne  

Combine cognac and raspberry liqueur in a mixing glass with ice. Stir and strain into a champagne flute and top with brut champagne.

         Lord Baltimore's Cup

  • 1/2 oz. sugar syrup to taste  
  • 1 oz. rye (Rittenhouse)
  • brut champagne
  • several dashes Angostura bitters
  • several dashes Pernod (Ricard used)

Combine rye, sugar and bitters in a wine goblet. Add ice cubes (I prefer cracked ice for drinks with floats) and stir. Float Pernod (or pastis like Ricard) on top.

Looks Familiar (Difford's Guide Recipe)


There's something especially decadent about the spirits-forward tequila and amaro cocktail on a winter day. The way that spicy tequila mixes with bitters and bitter citrus Amer Picon should be better known among tequila afficianados. Add to that the smoke of Islay scotch and you have a cocktail fit for the menu of some of the best speakeasy-style bars. 

I've always considered tequila as as much a holiday spirit as sherry, rum, or whiskey, but just not used in a Margarita. You don't have to dispense with the agave syrup that you might use in some of the best tropical tequila drinks. Madhava agave syrup allows you to sweeten a cocktail in a way that respects tequila's agave plant origins. Unlike simple syrup, agave syrup is not just sweet: it has a mild herbal flavor and a richness that seems more refreshing in hot weather than a sugary drink does.

My take on this cocktail, is that it is flashy--on the palate--while looking like a whiskey cocktail. The drinker will be surprised that it is a tequila drink, and even after tasting it, will say "I don't usually like tequila, but this..." That's right: people don't like fake mixers. Amer Picon, Angostura bitters and agave syrup make it stand out on flavor when appearances are deceiving.

  • 1/2 oz. Islay scotch (Laphroaig Select used)
  • 2 oz. blanco tequila (Sauza 100% blue agave used)
  • 1/2 oz. agave syrup (Madhava used)
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 1/4 oz. Amer Picon
  • orange twist

Coat the inside of a mixing glass with the Islay scotch. Then add ice,  tequila, agave syrup, bitters and Amer Picon in a mixing glass with ice. Stir and strain into a chilled Old Fashioned glass. Twist the orange zest over the glass and drop it in.

Canary Flip (Difford's Guide Recipe)

This is a simple and delicious dessert drink that breaks from the Flip format of whole egg, cream and nutmeg. This cocktail uses the creamy egg yolk advocaat liqueur in place of raw egg and opts for a citrus zip from lemon juice and tart sauvignon blanc.

While I've had Port and Sherry Flips in the past, this flip was probably the best for enjoying more than one. It isn't that it is less rich--there's plenty of sugar and richness there--it is just a little thinner and goes down quickly with a wine and vanilla finish. No nutmeg means that it isn't a winter spice cocktail, so it feels appropriate for dessert any time of the year.

  • 2 oz. advocaat liqueur (homemade used)
  • 2 oz. sauvignon blanc
  • 3/4 oz. lemon juice
  • lemon twist garnish

Combine all liquid ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Twist lemon zest over the glass and drop it in.