Sunday, June 20, 2021

Shruff's End

This scotch cocktail is really going for medicinal flavors. There's nothing wrong with it, but it is a little jarring to smell and taste something that has iodine and plastic notes in it like a hospital wing or a box of Band-Aid bandages.

All of the ingredients are designed to magnify the medicinal quality, from the Peychaud's bitters to the Islay scotch--Laphroaig 10 is specified--and even the Benedictine and apple brandy are a calculated ploy to add other properties to the nose and taste that strike one as a medicinal compound from a pharmacy. And let's face it, cocktails were born at pharmacies and were used as curatives for all sorts of things before Prohibition and the FDA. It just takes a little getting used to these flavors. After sitting with them for a while, you start to appreciate what this cocktail is doing with ingredients; and you do start to feel like it is having a healthful effect on you. 

I'm not sure what occasion warrants a dose of Shruff's End, but this is clearly not a drink for all occasions and more of a specific tool for scratching a particularly unusual itch.

  • 1 oz. Laphroaig 10 (Laphroaig Select used(
  • 1 oz. Laird's bonded apple brandy (Applejack 86 used)
  • 1/2 oz. Benedictine
  • 2 dashes Peychaud's bitters

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

Bristow Sling (Original Recipe)

 

This is what happens when you grab a flavored whiskey and just wing it with things you have on hand. I'm talking about the Sling and how the sling is one of the oldest cocktails around, yet we often overlook it as an easy formula that will please bargoers. 

So this whiskey sling is using naturally-flavored MurLarkey lemon whiskey, which is just dried lemons soaked in the barrel with their Justice white whiskey. The rest of this sling's ingredients are pretty standard, with Cherry Heering, lime juice and soda being the main ones. I changed things up by adding my own Mandarine Napoleon liqueur to add more richness from the cognac spirit and the spices and orange notes that it provides. 

  • 1 1/2 oz. MurLarkey lemon whiskey 
  • 1 oz. pineapple juice
  • 1/2 oz. lime juice
  • 1/2 oz. Cherry Heering
  • 1/2 oz. Mandarine Napoleon (homemade) liqueur
  • club soda
  • luxardo cherry and lime slice garnish
Combine all ingredients except soda and garnishes in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled highball glass full of fresh ice. Top with soda and stir gently. Add garnishes to the top of the glass.

Honshu Punch (Death & Co. Recipe)

Death & Co. keep a rotating Honshu punch for guests all year long. The recipe goes through variations depending on who is bartending, it seems. The settled-on recipe they put in the book involves Yamazaki 12-year-old whiskey. That all made sense back in 2008 when Japanese whiskey was still fabulous but inexpensive. Now it is just fabulous. 

This no-frills presentation is designed to keep your attention on the whiskey, which is a malted barley whiskey from Japan. That malt adds a tropical honey sweetness not unlike rum but with a more oat-like note. For this cocktail, I didn't use the expensive Japanese whiskey, opting for the slightly less expensive Catoctin Creek American Malt whiskey. This is a Virginia whiskey made from a Scottish wee heavy ale, so it has the malted barley component but no peat smoke. That makes it strikingly similar to Yamazaki single malt. 

  • 2 oz. Yamazaki 12-year-old whiskey (Catoctin Creek American Malt whiskey)
  • 3/4 oz. lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz. cane sugar syrup
  • 2 dashes Fee Brothers whiskey barrel-aged bitters (1 dash Angostura used)
  • 2 dashes Bitter Truth aromatic bitters (Hella aromatic used)
  • 1 oz. club soda

Combine all ingredients except soda in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled snifter full of two large chunks of ice. Top with club soda. 

 

London Dock Cooler

I might be just an alcoholic, but I'm not a big fan of hot drinks. They cook off a lot of the alcohol and get you feeling flushed, which is the point on cold days. I'm just saying I like feeling refreshed and tipsy from my drinks and hot drinks don't do that. 

That's why I'm all in on this summer version of the London Dock. It has all the same ingredients without the spice float on top. Falernum is the stand-in for cinnamon and nutmeg and the like. And it really works! I like it better than the hot version, even. More like a Sangria than a punch, which is why it works so well for patio sipping.

  • 1 1/2 oz. Jamaican rum (George Bowman's used)
  • 3 oz. Claret or dry red wine (Poppy Cabernet used)
  •  1/2 oz. falernum
  • 1/2 oz. kirschwasser
  • orange twist garnish
Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a highball glass full of fresh ice. Twist orange peel over the glass and drop it in. 


 

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Doc Daneeka Royale (Death & Co. Recipe)

What is up with the Catch-22 reference in the name? This is the famous fictional doctor who gives name to the insanity catch underpinning the novel. Maybe this is a drink for paranoids, or maybe it is a balm for paranoia. Either way, it was an interesting take on a French 75 with maple syrup used as the sweetener and grapefruit bitters to provide a bitter lifting notes. 

This cocktail is an all-around fruity and bitter drink that is far more complex than the French 75. A squeezed grapefruit peel adds even more citrus bitterness on the nose, and dry sparkling wine (Aria cava) and herbal gin (MurLarkey ImaGination) do not let up on dry and spicy notes. The direction the flavors take on your tongue is up, only up. Sourness and tang give way to a bubbly tingle that isn't solely produced by the sparkling wine. What a fun and dangerous drink!

  • 2 oz. gin (MurLarkey Imagination used)
  • 1/2 oz. lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz grade B maple syrup
  • 1 dash bittermen's hopped grapefruit bitters (Fee Brothers' grapefruit and celery bitters used)
  • dry champagne (Aria cava used)
  • 1 grapefruit coin

Combine all liquid ingredients except for champagne in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled champagne flute or coupe and top with champagne. Squeeze the grapefruit zest coin over the glass and discard. 

Julian Sorel (Death & Co. Recipe)

 

For some reason, Julian Sorel is called "the worst drink name ever," in the Death & Co. recipe book. I don't see why, exactly, though. It's named after the protagonist in The Red And The Black, by Stendhal. In my mind, that makes it a bit of a Scholarly French name. And Julian Sorel doesn't appear in the list of staff picks for worst names in "On The Naming of Cocktails" page of the bar book. Good name or no, Julian Sorel is a good idea.

It blends The Last Word with a champagne cocktail, which is an awesome idea--dare I even say "a genius-level move." If a Negroni can be crossed with a French 75, then why can't a Last Word be mashed-up with a classic French 75 with cognac. And it works surprisingly well. Best of all: it maintains the easy-to-remember proportions of The Last Word!

  • 1/2 oz. Courvoisier cognac
  • 1/2 oz. green Chartreuse (Dolin Genepy used)
  • 1/2 oz. Luxardo maraschino
  • 1/2 oz. lemon juice
  • dry champagne (Aria cava used)
  • 1 lemon twist garnish

Combine all ingredients except champagne and garnish in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled champagne flute. Top with champagne and garnish wtih the twist.

 

Dick and Jane (Death & Co. Recipe)

 

More champagne cocktails! I've been looking forward to using hibiscus flowers packed in syrup in a cocktail, and this cocktail presented itself as a likely candidate. It calls for hibiscus syrup, which provides sweetness and this lovely red color. The flowers themselves are chewy and sweet like brandied cherries, so I decided to use one as a garnish. 

There's something for everyone in this champagne cocktail. ImaGination gin and Peychaud's bitters for those New Orleans French 75 drinkers and St-Germain and hibiscus for a nice floral drink with bubbly. The nice thing is the recipe is not overly sweet and the color and garnish suggestion makes it look more royal than a Kir. 

  • 1 1/2 oz. gin (MurLarkey ImaGination used)
  • 1/2 oz. St-Germain
  • 1/2 oz. lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz. hibiscus syrup
  • 2 dashes Peychaud's bitters
  • dry champagne
  • 1 long, thin lemon twist (and optional hibiscus flower) garnishes

Combine all ingredients except champagne and garnishes in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Curl lemon twist and drape it over the glass. 

Lilly's Cartel (Death & Co. Recipe)

 

Perhaps one of the largest category of cocktail in Death & Co.'s book is the champagne section. There are just so many cocktails you can make with champagne or sparkling wine. I'm using Cava, which is dry but doesn't have the same bread-like notes in the nose we associate with a good dry champagne. But a good champagne is worth appreciating by itself, so as long as your sparkling wine isn't sweet, most of these drinks are worth doing with sparkling wine or champagne. 

Blood orange juice is a rare ingredient that is seasonal. It also varies in sweetness a lot between oranges, so it isn't always a reliable juice. I fully understand why blood oranges are more interesting to work with than naval oranges, but I can't expect to get them like I can any other kind of orange. 

That is why I chose to use half naval orange juice and my blood orange infused spirit. This liquor is an infusion of blood orange peels as well as their juices in vodka that is sweetened by blood orange syrup made from the juice. It is really intense in its particular flavor, and after mixing it with naval orange juice, you only notice the blood orange. 

Other minor substitutes include using Don Ciccio & Figli Ambrosia for Aperol. 

  • 1 oz. pisco (Capel pisco used)
  • 3/4 oz. Aperol (Ambrosia used)
  • 3/4 oz. blood orange juice (naval orange juice and blood orange liquor used)
  • 1/4 oz. lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz. simple syrup (scant 1/2 oz. used)
  • dry champagne (Aria cava used)

Combine all ingredients except for champagne in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled champagne flute and top with champagne. 

Bitter French (Death & Co. Recipe)

 

This cocktail is a basic mash-up of a Negroni and a French 75. I happened to have a bottle of brut cava last weekend and put it to good use in five cocktails. This one was immediately fascinating because I like both of the cocktails that this recipe is derived from. 

  • 1 oz. gin (MurLarkey ImaGination used)
  • 1/4 oz. Campari
  • 1/2 oz. lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz simple syrup
  • dry champagne
  • 1 grapefruit twist 

Combine gin, Campari, lemon juice and simple syrup in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled champagne flute and top with champagne. 

 

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Melancholy Summer (Death & Co. Recipe)

 

This might be my favorite summer drink in the Death & Co. cocktail book. At least it's my favorite so far and maybe the best combination of sherry, gin, cucumber and cantaloupe I've ever had. This is a cocktail that is so well constructed that every ingredient has a special part to play and you can appreciate them all at once. 

Manzanilla sherry is known for its funny, melon-like nose that makes it especially good to drink with cantaloupe. La Gitana is one of the best. 

Suze--a new aquisition--is a bitter gentian spirit that really grounds this drink with herbal bitterness as well as some citrus notes. 

Gin, MurLarkey or otherwise, is in here because it is more than a blank canvass that is vodka. Herbs and fruits are a big part of ImaGination and essential to making this amazing cocktial work. 

  • 2 cucumber wheels
  • 1 oz. Lustau Manzinalla sherry (La Gitana used)
  • 1 oz. gin (MurLarkey ImaGination used)
  • 1/2 oz Suze liqueur
  • 3/4 oz. cantaloupe juice
  • 1/2 oz. lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz. acacia honey syrup
  • 1 cucumber ribbon garnish

Muddle cucumber wheels in the shaker tin before adding the remaining ingredients and ice. Shake and double strain into a chilled Nick & Nora glass (Coupe shown). Cut a cucumber wheel and spear it on a cocktail pick as a garnish. 

Schuman's Alley (Death & Co. Recipe)

 

The name is a nod to Tin Pan Alley. This cocktail amounts to an embellished Upside Down Martini. All the usual characters appear, from blanco and Americano vermouth to yellow Chartreuse. Of course there's the gin--MurLarkey ImaGination--and a dash of allspice and grapefruit bitters. It's a hit squad of flavors in a rich and fruity wincocktail that takes longer to drink than you'd expect. 

This drink, like any Martini, benefits from lifting bitters with citrus and spice. These minute ingredients help other flavors rise to the surface. Some changes to the recipe in my home bar are to be expected for bitters. My allspice dram isn't especially bitter, but I figured it would be fine. The Fee Brothers grapefruit bitters aren't hopped like the Death & Co. recipe specifies, but a dash of my homemade celery bitters has a similar effect to the hops and I often use celery and grapefruit in tandem to mimic hops and citrus. 

  • 3/4 oz. contratta vermouth bianco (Dolin blanc used)
  • 3/4 oz. Dolin dry vermouth
  • 3/4 oz. Cocchi Americano
  • 1 oz. gin (MurLarkey ImaGination used)
  • 1 dash Bittermens hopped grapefruit bitters (1 dash Fee Brothers grapefruit and 1 dash celery bitters used)
  • 1 dash Dale Degroff's pimento bitters (homemade allspice dram used)
  • 1 lemon twist

Combine liquid ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir and strain into a chilled Nick & Nora glass (coupe shown). Twist the lemon peel over the drink, roll it up and skewer it on a cocktail pick and drop it in. 

Midnight Mass (Death & Co. Recipe)

I love the imagery that this name evokes. Benedictine and Cardamaro give this Latin Mass of a drink a whiff of  incense. It's herbs, after all. And a stirred rum cocktail can take on the airs of holy water in bottles found in a monastery's reliquary. Most of that is all marketing, however. But so is the magic behind bartending. There are no saints in this industry, and magical elixirs are all basically the same alcohol molecule. 

There is something to be said about proportions and preparation in bartending that makes it somehow more sanctified when done well. Benedictine, while not made by monks, has the ability to transport drinkers to a simpler time when real art was behind every recipe that came from French liqueur distillers. 

And amari are the same way. Cardamaro may taste like spiced boiled sweets, but it is actually a wine infusion with gentian and cardamom, not something that I'd feel comfortable making myself. I'll leave it to the experts and pretend that they have a special relationship with God.

  • 2 oz. Scarlet Ibis rum (Rhum Barbancourt used)
  • 3/4 oz. Cardamaro
  • 1/4 oz. Benedictine
  • 1 dash Jerry Thomas bitters (Hella aromatic used)
  • 1 orange twist as garnish

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir. Strain into a chilled coupe glass and garnish with the orange twist.

 

Flor De Jerez (Death & Co. Recipe)

I love apricot liqueur. I used to make the stuff when apricots were plentiful in early summer. I'd soak the fruits in brandy and cook a sugar and apricot juice. When you cant find Rothman and Winter at your liquor store or you just don't have time to do all that with the apricots, you can use jelly. It comes together easily in the shaker tin when you stir a bar spoon of jam into citrus juices. 
 
In this case, I built the entire drink in the shaker before adding the apricot jam. (And I used a little less sugar syrup than I would have if I had liqueur because jams are sweet.) And, yes, I stirred in my shaker tin, but the result is pretty exceptional and I recommend the jam trick to any home bartender. Your refrigerator is loaded with good ingredients, so you don't need to go hunting around for liqueurs that are expensive and hard to find.

And Death & Co. knows this. How many of their drinks have marmalade or apple butter or some such ingredient or infusion. Be creative with your cooking staples, that's how cocktails were invented in the first place.
 

  • 1/2 oz. Jamaican rum (George Bowman used)
  • 1 1/2oz. Lustau Amontillado (Alexandro Amontillado used)
  • 1/4 oz. Rothman and Winter apricot liqueur (apricot jam used)
  • 3/4 oz. lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz. sugar syrup (1/4 oz. when using apricot jam)
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters 

Combine all ingredients in a shaker. If using apricot jam, make sure to stir before adding ice to dissolve the solids into the liquid ingredients. Add ice and shake, then double strain into a coupe glass. 



The Gift Shop (Death & Co. Recipe)

 

Cucumber seems to be a common ingredient in summer drinks at Death & Co. And that makes a lot of sense. Cucumber has a way of brightening and lending body to juicy drinks that may otherwise require more sweetener and fall flat or heavy on the palate. 

What surprises me is cucumber used in a Cardamaro and Tiki-style cocktail with Angostura bitters and light rum. Needless to say that all of this is possible due to the exacting proportions of the recipe. Death & Co.'s recommendation with all muddling is also helpful. Never overmuddle; you can easily bruise the ingredients and cause them to go bitter or jammy in the mouth. I've learned so much from their cocktail book--I bet I've covered half of the cocktails in the book at this point. 

  • 3 cucumber wheels
  • 2 oz. white rum (Mt. Defiance used)
  • 1/2 oz. Cardamaro
  • 3/4 oz. lime juice
  • 3/4 oz. simple syrup
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters
  • 3 cucumber wheels garnish
Muddle 3 cucumber wheels in the shaker tin before adding the remaining ingredients and ice. Shake and double strain into an Old Fashioned glass with a large-format ice cube. Fan the cucumber slices as garnishes.


Maggie Smith (Death & Co. Recipe)

This cocktail is named after the famed British actor, though I wonder how much Maggie Smith enjoyed pisco or even Daiquiris for that matter. It does seem a bit like a custom classic cocktail that a Dame might appreciate, though I've not heard any apocryphal story about a bartender coming up with the recipe for her like there is with Greta Garbo. 

Anyway, this is my first time trying Capel pisco from Chile. The thing about Chilean pisco is that every label tastes different and the flavor swings from fruit brandy to whisky to vodka. Capel is very close to vodka, which is fine, but it doesn't do much for changing the flavor of this drink. 

I've got a few of my own ingredients here as well. I have homemade Mandarine Napoleon and orgeat, though they are in bottles that appear to have the proper brands on them. 

Finally, I want to mention Mt. Defiance rum as an exceptional Virginia rum that makes a damn good Daiquiri. It's pretty amazing just how light yet complex their white rum's flavor actually is. 

  • 1 oz. pisco (Capel used)
  • 1 oz. white rum (Mt. Defiance used)
  • 1/2 oz. orange liqueur (homemade Mandarine Napoleon used)
  • 3/4 oz. lime juice
  • 1/4 oz. orgeat (homemade used)
  • 1 tsp honey syrup
  • lime wheel garnish
Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with the lime wheel. 

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Cafe Sandinista (Death & Co. Recipe)

 

This cocktail is by far the lightest on alcohol of all the fortified wine drinks in the Death & Co. book. That doesn't mean it is light on flavor. There's only a quarter ounce of chile and coffee-infused Campari, but that's enough for it to take over the entire drink. The East India Solera sherry and orange juice really add body to the drink and spread it out across the crushed ice. 

To make the Campari infusion, I simply too three ounces of Campari and crushed one guajillo chili and a teaspoon of ground coffee and infused it for twenty-four hours. Any more than that might be too much, really. Then I strained it out using a coffee filter because it catches all the coffee particles. 

The finishing touch on the drink is grating a fresh coffee bean on top of the crushed ice. It gives the cocktail a nice aroma and prepares you for the bitterness underneath. 

  • 1 oz. Lustau East India Solera sherry
  • 1/4 oz. chili and coffee infused Campari
  • 1/2 oz. lime juice
  • 1/2 oz. orange juice
  • 1/2 oz. demerara syrup
  • small pinch of kosher salt
  • coffee bean garnish

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Short shake and strain into a rocks glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with a few grates from a whole coffee bean. 

Stringer Bell (Death & Co. Recipe)

Anytime there is celery juice in a citrus cocktail, it is a little weird but almost always in a good way. This is the case with the Stringer Bell. There's rich Amontillado as the nutty base of this cocktail, but lime and spicy tequila provide acid and heat to cut through that. Celery juice is surprisingly bitter and that is helped along with Cynar--so now there's celery and artichoke in a sherry cocktail, right? It's almost too strange to believe. A generous helping of cane sugar and a pinch of kosher salt brings this cocktail back from the brink and helps you experience it as sort of a bitter and spicy Margarita (more Spanish than Mexican) and a lot of fun to serve people without telling them what's in it first. 

  • 1 12 oz. Amontillado sherry (Alexandro used)
  • 1/2 oz. jalapeno-infused tequila (Sauza used)
  • 1/4 oz. Cynar (Cynar 70-proof used)
  • 1/2 oz. celery juice
  • 3/4 oz. lime juice
  • 1/2 oz. cane sugar syrup
  • pinch koshur salt
  • celery stick garnish

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into an Old Fashioned glass with a large format ice cube. Garnish with the celery stick. 

 

Cynard de Bergerac (Death & Co. Recipe)

 

Bergerac is a French wine region known for its combination of Cabernet and Merlot grapes. This particular cocktail requires the mix of ingredients in its "Bergerac Mix" In the Death & Co. book, this works out as 6 parts blended red wine (Bergerac), 1.5 parts Cynar, 1.5 parts black strap rum (homemade used), and 1/2 part Demerara syrup. This stuff is bittersweet and savory, adding its own color and sweetness to any cocktail. 

The rest of the Cynard de Bergenac involves genever, old Tom gin, and Benedictine. It is further flavored with a dash of absinthe and Aztec chocolate bitters. The end result is a wine and gin cocktail that really comes across like a dark rum punch with lots of barrel-aged notes from the genever and an herbal lift from the absinthe. It is grounded, however by chocolate and orange in the finish. You almost can't taste the Benedictine, but it is in there adding sweetness and texture. All the way through, you get red wine tannin from Cabernet. It is pretty overwhelming and easily underestimated in such a cute little glass. 

  • 1 1/2 oz. Bergerac mix
  • 1 oz. Bols barrel-aged genever
  • 1/2 oz. Vitae Old Tom gin
  • 1/2 oz. Benedictine
  • 1 dash absinthe vert
  • 1 dash Aztec chocolate bitters (Fee Brothers used)
  • orange twist garnish

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir and strain into a chilled Nick & Nora glass. Roll the orange twist tightly and skewer on a cocktail pick.

Shoots And Ladders (Death & Co. Recipe)

 

Death & Co. have a handful of fortified wine cocktails. Some of these, like Shoots and Ladders, are low ABV cocktails. They are bold on flavor, but with fortified wine as the main ingredient, they are light on alcohol and you can have several of them in one sitting with no problem. 

This cocktail is served neat like an Old Fashioned, but it is far more herbal and spicy. Lots of infusions in here: basil infused Dolin Blanc and jalapeno infused blanco tequila. I'm trying out a new ingredient as well, Alexandro Amontillado is comparable to Lustau's Amontillado in price and style. It is dry and nutty and full of oak flavor. It is one of the two main components of this rich cocktail.

  • 1 1/2 oz. basil-infused Dolin blanc
  • 1 1/2 oz. Amontillado (Alexandro used)
  • 1/2 oz. jalapeno-infused blanco tequila (Sauza used)
  • 1/2 tsp. cane sugar syrup

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir and strain into a rocks glass. (Optional smacked basil leaf garnish.)