The Negroni

Beautiful and bitter, it’s The Negroni:

  • 1 ounce gin or vodka
  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 1 ounce Campari
Stir vigorously in an iced mixing glass. Strain into a small cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange slice.

The first time I went to Italy (many years ago), my friend Antonio took me to a bar in Naples. All of the beautiful people were standing around looking beautiful with lovely sparkling red drinks in their hands. To me it looked like fizzy cherry Kool-Aid, and I asked about it. I was told it was “Campari and soda” and I ordered one.

Imagine my surprise when the drink turned out to be extremely bitter, totally throwing off my expectations. This was my first introduction to Italian liqueurs, which all tend to the bitter side.

Italy really isn’t a cocktail culture (way more wine, most of it quite excellent) and the Italians aren’t heavy drinkers. As David Wondrich so aptly put it “A single Australian could drink a roomful of Italians stinkibus and still drive down to the pub for a nightcap.” I do love Italian wine, but as bitter is my least favorite of the five basic “tastes” I also avoid Campari and straight Amari. This makes me avoid heavily hopped IPAs as well, and to some extent peated Scotch.

I was dreading this drink because of the bitterness. I really liked the Boulevardier, which is a Negroni with bourbon instead of gin, bacause that drink had the sweetness of the bourbon to offset the bitter bite. I did some research on alternate recipes, such as this one from Death & Co.:

  • 1.5 ounces Tanqueray London Dry Gin
  • 1 ounce house sweet vermouth
  • 1 ounce Campari
Stir all ingredients over ice, then strain into a double rocks glass. Garnish with an orange twist.

[Note: “house sweet vermouth” means equal parts Dolin Rouge and Punt e Mes]

I liked that this one upped the gin a bit, and I like Wondrich’s recipe even more since it both upped the gin and dropped the vermouth and Campari by another quarter ounce.

But, as I’m trying to make these recipes as Doctor Cocktail intended, I used his recipe, especially since Jeffrey Morganthaler commented just the other day on a “slushy” Negroni using the equal parts version, although he adds orange juice and simple syrup.

As expected, I didn’t like it. I even dropped the orange into it which helped a bit, but I didn’t finish the drink. This is a classic cocktail so I know some people must love it; it just wasn’t for me.

Rating: 2/5 – it is a strong two but since I didn’t quite finish it I can’t give it a three

Notes: A lot of mixologists use Tanqueray as their go-to gin. I don’t really care for it, although I like Tanqueray 10. For this I used Death’s Door. I used Carpano Antica for the sweet vermouth.

Philadelphia Fish House Punch (Original Version)

The Original Philadelphia Fish House Punch:

  • 0.33 pint lemon juice
  • 0.75 pound sugar
  • 1.00 pint mixture*
  • 2.50 pints cold water

For the mixture:

  • 0.25 pint real peach brandy
  • 0.50 pint cognac
  • 0.25 pint Jamaican rum
Stir together in a bowl with ice.

People who like cocktails seem to hold punches in high regard. Heck, there is even an entire book dedicated to them.

I’m a fan, and I kind of wish there was a place near me that still carried on the punch tradition. In the earliest days of cocktails you were not likely to get a made to order drink for yourself. Instead, you would be served a drink out of a communal punch bowl. I’ve been to one place, the Rum Club in Portland, that still does that but it is rare.

As much as I like punch, the usual recipe does make a large amount so it can be hard to serve. For example, the first recipes in the Dead Rabbit Drinks Manual are punches designed to serve ten people at a time. While I do think I can scrape together ten friends, getting them all together just to drink and then home again can be a challenge.

The last time I made punch I did it during a Fourth of July party. That worked out well, but I’m not planning on having a party this year. Instead, I made this punch the weekend before when I had a couple of friends over to watch “The Hateful Eight”. Set just after the Civil War, it seemed appropriate for punch.

I wasn’t quite sure how to make this recipe. Most punch recipes include tea, but this “original” recipe does not. I started off by measuring out the sugar:

which I then mixed with the water. Since cold water does little to help the sugar dissolve, I warmed it up on the stove and stirred until the water looked clear (I did not boil it) and then I let it cool to room temperature. Next, I juiced some lemons:

Usually when I make cocktails, juicing is no big deal and I just do it by hand, but when I am expecting a group of people over or making punch, I found an inexpensive juicer that does a really good job. I then mixed the lemon juice with the syrup and placed it in the refrigerator to cool.

When it was time to serve the punch, I filled my insulated punch bowl with ice and added the “mixture”. I stirred that a bit and then added the lemon/syrup from the refrigerator and stirred some more.

It turned out well. The Dead Rabbit folks like to serve punch in porcelain tea cups but I like to use some hand-blown glass goblets I got at a thrift store for a dollar a piece.

I did not like this as much as the main Fish House Punch recipe, but it was still very good (good enough that during the almost three hour movie I had plenty of time to help myself to more).

Rating: 4/5. Based on the fact that I drank a lot of this, I might need a new rating system for punches. I almost gave it a five but I did have a strong preference for the other recipe and so it wouldn’t have been as useful as a measure of which I liked more.

Notes: I used almost the last of my Kuchan real peach brandy. For the cognac I used Pierre Ferrand Ambre and Appleton Estate for the rum.

I do plan to make the Dead Rabbit version at least once before I die.

Wild Irish Rose

My first cocktail by Dead Rabbit, the Wild Irish Rose:

  • 0.75 ounce Pomegranate Syrup
  • 1.00 ounce Connemara Peated Single Malt Irish Whiskey
  • 1.00 ounce Laird’s Applejack Bonded Proof
  • 1.00 ounce Pama Pomegranate Liqueur
  • 0.75 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 3 dashes Bittermens Burlesque Bitters
  • 3 dashes Pernod Absinthe
  • 1 large egg white

Pre-chill a punch glass. Add all the ingredients to a shaker. Fill with ice and shake. Strain into the punch glass.

I’ve been studying vintage and craft cocktails for about a year and a half now, and I thought I was getting the hang of it. I’ve researched on-line and read a number of books including Wondrich’s Imbibe!, Wilson’s Boozehound, and the Death & Co. cocktail book.

For my birthday I received a copy of The Dead Rabbit Drinks Manual and upon reading their recipes I realized I know jack about vintage cocktails.

Whereas the other books were fun and informative, this takes drinks to a new level. They are more like potions than cocktails, and the Drinks Manual is the grimoire. The first recipes they list are classic punches containing ingredients with Latin names like “oleo-saccharum” (basically, citrus peels muddled in sugar to express the oils).

Now I don’t mean to brag, but I have one of the best stocked bars between Atlanta and DC for vintage cocktails. No, I don’t have the greatest Scotch collection or a huge selection of bourbons, but I do have all of the weird stuff required for the old drinks like Parfait Amour, kümmel, Creme Yvette (and crème de violette) and a wide selection of amari. So you can imagine my surprise when it took me until page 119 to find a cocktail I had a chance of making.

To add to the irony, the Wild Irish Rose is based on the Jack Rose, my most disliked cocktail to date, and calls for a peated whiskey. When I made the Rusty Nail I expressed my dislike for peated whiskies, but my friend Craig (also from Belfast like the founders of The Dead Rabbit) had given me a bottle of the Connemara and I liked it. The Irish have a way of making their whiskey appeal to a wide variety of palates, smoky or not.

I was missing the Pama Pomegranate Liqueur, but I was surprised to find it available in North Carolina (and it is even on sale this month). The bitters I got on Amazon. Thus the only thing I didn’t have was the recommended absinthe, but at three dashes I doubted the brand would add that much of a difference so I used some Ricard pastis.

When I made the Jack Rose, I didn’t like it. My friend Justin (a professional cocktail chef) made me one, and it was better, but still nothing I’d seek out. In this version I think the drink is the best that it can be. It is very good. I like cocktails with egg white since it adds a really nice, smooth mouth feel. The combination of spirits work well together and I enjoyed both making and drinking it. The only thing keeping it from being perfect was a weird bitterness at the finish that I couldn’t quite place, and I might be able to get rid of it with some experimentation.

But, for me, the cocktail has so much baggage that it won’t become a favorite. I wouldn’t turn one down, mind you, but it is not something I would go out of my way to make again.

Rating: 4/5

Notes: As mentioned above, I used the recommended brands, including Laird’s Applejack, with the exception of the absinthe.

Pomegranate Syrup

For Pomegranate Syrup:

  • 1 cup pomegranate juice
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cups water

Add the juice, sugar, and water to a medium saucepan over medium heat, but do not boil. Slowly stir until the sugar has dissolved. Remove the pan from heat. Use a funnel to pour into bottles. The syrup will keep for 2 to 3 weeks in the refrigerator.

This can be used in place of grenadine for some cocktails.

Knickerbocker à la Madame

For something truly vintage and rare, have a Knickerbocker à la Madame:

  • 0.50 pint lemon water ice
  • 0.50 pint sherry or Madeira
  • 1.00 750ml bottle seltzer water
  • 0.25 pint shaved ice

Mix the lemon water ice, sherry and seltzer in a soda-water glass. Add the shaved ice.

It definitely qualifies as vintage, as it comes from the book Cooling Cups and Dainty Drinks by William Terrington, published in 1869. And through the magic of the Internet, you can actually read the recipe as it was published.

It is rare because I don’t think many people have made it. Seriously, when I was researching this drink I did a Google search for “knickerbocker a la madame recipe” and while the first few hits were verbatim references to Dr. Cocktail’s book, the index to this blog was one of the highest hits after those. Never a good sign, since I tend to be clueless.

This recipe is paired with the Knickerbocker à la Monsieur, but perhaps one reason few people have made is the good Doctor’s comment “The Knickerbocker à la Madame is a completely different drink, and not as interesting (or good)”.

Anyway, in my determination to make every recipe in the book I decided to soldier on.

The first challenge was deciphering the recipe proportions. Adding over a pint of liquid to a bottle of seltzer water seems to make a huge drink (more in line with a punch), and I was fresh out of “soda-water” glasses, whatever those may have been. My first order of business was to half it. Since 0.50 pint is a cup, I went with half a cup of lemon water ice and sherry, and 375ml of soda water (I use a Sodastream).

The second challenge was to make lemon water ice, which Dr. Cocktail refers to as “basically, lemon sorbet”. I found a number of recipes for “Italian Lemon Ice” or “Lemon Flavored Italian Ice” that seemed to fit the bill. I merged several to come up with mine, and even outside of including it in a cocktail, lemon water ice is tasty on its own.

The third challenge was determining what spirit to use. Sherry is a fortified wine from Spain and Madeira is a similar wine from Portugal. I have some sherries, but there are a number of different varieties from bone dry to sickly sweet. I thought about using an Amontillado but then thought it would be too dry to offset the tartness of the lemon water, so I went with a Cream Sherry. Remember, I’m flying blind here.

Did you think we were done? Nope – what about that shaved ice? Again, searches turned up that shaved ice is basically “sno-cone ice”, and I don’t happen to own a machine to make it (I subscribe to Alton Brown’s philosophy of no single use kitchen items). I do own a Vitamix blender, and I found two methods to use it to make shaved ice.

The easiest method is to filled the blender with ice, and then add enough water until the ice just floats. Blend on high for two seconds. Easy peasy, but you then have to strain the water out of the ice and the ice is still a bit wetter than I’d like.

The other method is to start the blender empty on high, and then drop cubes in one by one. This causes the ice to be pulverized along the sides of the pitcher. Repeat until you have enough shaved ice for your needs. My friend Seth suggested freezing the pitcher beforehand to make even drier ice.

I was lazy and went with the first method.

To bring it together: I made the lemon water ice. I put one half cup of that in a very large glass and added one half cup of sherry. I topped that with the soda water, and I gently stirred until it was incorporated. I then poured it into cocktail glasses over shaved ice.

And guess what? It was pretty good. In spite of the faint praise from the Doctor, I liked it. My one mistake was going with the very sweet sherry. If I had to do it again I’d go with a sweet Oloroso.

Rating: 4/5. I debated rating this a strong three or a weak four, but as I ended up drinking two and a half glasses of this (Andrea didn’t care much for hers) I went with the four.

Notes: I used Lustau Capataz Andres Deluxe Cream Sherry but as mentioned above, it was a little too sweet. You want to use a sweet sherry but maybe not something on the scale of a cream.

Lemon Water Ice

For Lemon Water Ice:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup fresh lemon juice
  • zest from 2 lemons

Combine water and sugar and heat until sugar is dissolved to make a simple syrup. Let cool to room temperature, then add the lemon juice and zest. Chill and then process in an ice cream maker.

While this is pretty simple to make in an ice cream maker, if you don’t have one you can place it in the freezer and stir every half hour or so until it becomes slushy. Tasty even outside of cocktails.

Rusty Nail

Like Smoky Scotch? Have a Rusty Nail:

  • 2 ounces good smoky Scotch
  • 1 ounce Drambuie

Combine in a small rocks glass on a couple of lumps of ice and swizzle. Garnish with a lemon twist.

I don’t like peaty Scotches. I’m not saying they are bad, it’s just that I don’t care for them. I know that some people seek them out, which has resulted in high peat bottlings such as the Peat Monster, but they just aren’t my thing. De gustibus non est disputandum.

So I was perfectly ready to hate this drink. In fact, the main reason I made it was that it completed the last column in the Index under the “Extra Credit” section and I suffer from mild OCD.

I did want to try it, though, because it features Drambuie, which I had never tried. I sampled a bit of it plain and liked it quite a bit. The first impression was very herbal and I thought it would be like an amaro, but unlike amari it finishes sweet.

For more tips on how to make this drink, I looked up the recipe from the Death & Co. book:

  • 2.00 ounces Springbank 10-year Scotch
  • 0.75 ounce Drambuie
  • 1 dash Bitter Truth Aromatic Bitters

Stir all the ingredients over ice, then strain into a double rocks glass over one large ice cube. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Since I live in North Carolina, I am unable to get Springbank Scotch but my friend Ben has had it and quite likes it. One review describes it as “The peat is present and quite pungent with an earthen rootiness” so I guess we do want a peaty Scotch. I consulted a Scotch flavor map (yoinked from here):

and noted that toward the upper end of the smokiness scale was the Caol Ila 12-year-old. For some reason I happen to have a bottle, stashed in the back of my whisky collection.

When I opened it, the bar was flooded with the smell of a cold charcoal grill left open to a spring rain. I decided to follow the Doctor’s proportions but added the Bitter Truth bitters (since I quite like them).

And, surprisingly, I liked this drink. The sweetness of the Drambuie tempers the peatiness of the Scotch. Not quiet enough, I’d love to try this drink with something like a Highland Park 18, but as I’m still waiting for someone to gift me a bottle of that libation that test will have to wait.

I liked it so much that I asked Andrea to try it. She had a problem getting past the smell, which she compared to burning tires. She literally held her nose before taking a sip and pronouncing it awful, so I don’t expect this drink to be for everyone.

It does make me want to seek out more Drambuie recipes, however.

Rating: 4/5 – this is a very, very weak 4 but I did like it much more than I thought I would. I’m giving the rating based upon the potential for this drink with a slightly less smoky whisky.

Notes: As mentioned, I used Caol Ila 12-year-old.

Tom Collins

In search of refreshment? Have a Tom Collins:

  • 2 ounces gin
  • 1 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 1 ounce simple syrup
  • Soda water

Combine all except soda water in an iced cocktail shaker. Shake and strain into a highball or collins glass with 2 or 3 lumps of ice. Top with soda water. Garnish with a cherry and an orange wheel.

I am on vacation this week, but since I’m addicted to work this means that I’m taking a week off to work on the farm. After spending about seven hours on a tractor, I was in search of refreshment, and nothing quite hits the spot like a Tom Collins.

As usual, I cross referenced this recipe with the one from Death & Co., and theirs was pretty much the same:

  • 2.00 ounces Beefeater London Dry Gin
  • 1.00 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 0.75 ounce simple syrup
  • Club soda

Short shake all the ingredients (except the club soda) with three ice cubes, then strain into a highball glass filled with ice cubes. Top with club soda. Garnish with an orange wheel and cherry flag and serve with a straw.

For once the Good Doctor’s recipe was sweeter.

As I’ve mentioned numerous times before, few things go together like gin and lemon (raspberries and chocolate, salt and pepper, peanut butter and jelly). Add some sugar and some sparkling water and you have yourselves a drink.

This cocktail is a Fizz, which as we’ve learned is a Sour with fizzy water added. I liked this drink so much more than the Whiskey Sour, even though the main difference is choice of spirit. Now I love bourbon, but when it comes to refreshment on a hot summer day, gin wins every time. For calorie reasons I often lean toward a Gin and Tonic with diet tonic, but if my weight was not a problem I could drink a pitcher of these in any month without an “R” in its name.

If you are looking for an amazing Fizz with bourbon, the Fred Collins Fiz is excellent.

Rating: 5/5

Notes: I used Beefeater Gin as recommended in the Death & Co. recipe, but I made the Dr. Cocktail recipe. For carbonated water, I use a Sodastream. Not sure if the master bartenders would approve, but it is affordable and works for me.

Whiskey Sour

Adding to my confusion, it’s the Whiskey Sour:

  • 2.00 ounces bourbon or rye whiskey
  • 1.00 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 0.75 ounce simple syrup
  • Soda water

Combine all except soda water in an iced cocktail shaker. Shake and strain into a 6-ounce sour glass. Top with soda water. Garnish with a cherry and a lemon twist.

When I cross referenced this with the Death & Co. book, they had a different recipe:

  • 2.00 ounces Buffalo Trace Bourbon
  • 0.75 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 0.75 simple syrup
  • 1 egg white

Dry shake all the ingredients, the shake again with ice. Double strain into a double rocks glass over 1 large ice cube. Add a dash of Angostura bitters on top and garnish with an orange and cherry flag.

Note the difference: the latter substitutes an egg white for the soda water.

Solely in the interest of science, I made both.

Here’s where I get confused. As I mentioned in the Singapore Sling post, a sling was supposed to be “spirit, water, sugar and citrus”. But that tends to be the exact description of a sour. (sigh)

I’ve started reading the excellent Dead Rabbit Drinks Manual, where I’ve come to realize that I know jack about cocktails. They define a sour as above and a fizz as just a sour with soda water added. To them, slings and toddies consist of “spirit, water and sugar” where the water is still in a toddy and carbonated in a sling. David Wondrich takes it further by calling hot versions toddies and cold versions slings.

So, by this definition, both the Singapore Sling and Straits Sling are actually Fizzes, and in the Dead Rabbit book the Straits Sling is listed in the Sours and Fizzes section.

Got it? Then let me throw this at you. The other “sour” I’ve made is the Delicious Sour, which contained an egg white, like the Death & Co. recipe above. Drinks containing eggs can be considered Flips, although Flips contain whole eggs. I have not be able to find a class of drinks that just contain egg whites, so let’s go ahead and assume that the Death & Co. recipe is indeed a sour, although the Dr. Cocktail version is, indeed, a Fizz (his recipe for a Tom Collins is the same as above with gin replacing the whiskey).

I made both, since it was a hot day and I’m technically on vacation. Note that the Dr. Cocktail recipe is served neat whereas the Death and Co. version is over ice.

Both were good, but not outstanding. I think I would have liked the Dr. Cocktail version over ice to keep it cooler, but I really disliked the bitters garnish on the Death and Co. version since it looked more like a stain across the top of an otherwise pristine foam. I liked the flavor, so if I make this in the future I’ll shake it in. Both Andrea and I expressed a small preference for the Death & Co. version.

Rating: 4/5 for both.

Notes: I used Buffalo Trace Bourbon in both to make the comparison as close as possible.

The Sazerac

By special request, it’s The Sazerac:

  • 1 teaspoon absinthe or pastis (Herbsaint, Pernod or Ricard)
  • 1 teaspoon simple syrup
  • 3 to 4 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
  • 3 ounces rye whiskey (Sazerac 6 year is a fine one)

Chill an old-fashioned glass. Coat the inside of the glass with the absinthe or pastis, leaving a slight puddle in the glass bottom. Add the simple syrup and bitters. In a separate mixing glass, combine the whiskey and the simple syrup with ice and stir. Strain the contents of the mixing glass into the old-fashioned glass. Smartly twist a strip of lemon peel over the surface of the drink and discard (or toss in; I’m not here to judge). Serve.

Okay, so the Sazerac is one of those vintage cocktails that are starting to appear on modern drink menus, and without exception every one I’ve had has been horrible. Like, barely drinkable horrible and not just “I don’t care for this drink” horrible. Note that I never asked my friend Justin to make me one, so I would assume his would be an exception, but for now I only drink Sazerac’s that I make myself.

More than almost any other cocktail I’ve made for this blog, the Sazerac takes technique. Even Dr. Cocktail’s instructions are a little vague, I didn’t understand what to do with the simple syrup as it was written, so I asked him on Twitter.

The fact that it is so hard to make is a shame, since it is a very nice cocktail.

The Sazerac is truly vintage, dating from around the 1850s in New Orleans. It is the official cocktail of that city – so forget wandering around Bourbon Street with a fishbowl of Hurricane around your neck – this drink typifies the Big Easy.

It was originally made with a pre-phylloxera Cognac called Sazerac-de-Forge et Fils and when that became unavailable the recipe switched to rye. The locally produced Peychaud’s bitters adds to the association (and adds a nice purplish hue to the drink). The bar that invented the cocktail also spawned the Sazerac Company which is the largest distillery company in the US. They produce a brand of rye with the same name.

I’ve been cross-referencing these recipes with those from the Death & Co. book, and I really like their recipe:

  • Vieux Pontarlier Absinthe
  • 1.5 ounces Rittenhouse 100 Rye
  • 0.5 ounce Pierre Ferrand 1840 Cognac
  • 1.0 teaspoon Demerara Syrup
  • 4 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters
  • 1 lemon twist

Rinse a rocks glass with absinthe and dump. Stir the remaining ingredients (except the lemon twist) over ice, then strain into the glass. Squeeze the lemon twist over the drink and discard. No garnish.

I like it for a number of reasons. It is less strong than the one by Dr. Cocktail and combines both a premium rye with a cognac made in the style consistent with those from the mid-19th century. This is the recipe I used, and it parallels a lot of the comments made by cocktail guru Jeffrey Morgenthaler on the drink.

The other reason I liked it was that I had all of the liquor but their recommended brand of absinthe, which is unusual since their choices can be hard to source, especially outside of Manhattan.

So here is how I make it. First, New Orleans is hot so you want this drink to be cold. I chilled a glass in the freezer before making this. Next, follow the Death & Co. instructions and just rinse the glass with the absinthe. The main sin I’ve seen with this drink is too much absinthe which just overpowers the drink. I then put the rest of the ingredients in an iced mixing glass and stirred. As Morgenthaler writes “Do not shake your Sazerac. Remember, shaking a clear drink is like shaking a baby: first there’s going to be a lot of foam, and then you’ll be staring death in the face.”

Words to live by.

The final step is very important – you need a hint of lemon over the top of the drink, similar to the orange peel in the Hanky Panky.

The Sazerac is a complex drink that is well worth the effort to make correctly.

Rating: 5/5

Notes: I used the recommended Rittenhouse 100 Rye, which is a fine rye for classic cocktails. If I ever get a bottle of the Sazerac rye I’ll be sure to try it in the drink, well, because. While I’m not wealthy enough to afford pre-phylloxera cognac, I do like the Pierre Ferrand 1840 as it is supposed to be as accurate as you can get at an affordable price point. I used Absente Absinthe because I had a bottle received as a gift, but absinthe lovers don’t seem to care much for it. The Vieux Pontarlier fares better in reviews, but I have been unable to get a bottle. I think pastis would work here as well. The Death & Co. recipe for Demerara Syrup is two parts Demerara sugar to one part water. It’s very sweet but you don’t use much of it.