Champagne Cocktail

Saved for last, it’s the Champagne Cocktail:

  • 1 sugar cube
  • 4 dashes Angostura Bitters
  • champagne

In either a tall (pretty) champagne flute or a saucer (traditional) champagne glass, add the sugar and bitters. Fill with champagne. Garnish with a lemon twist.

No, this is not my last cocktail but it is the last of the 110 recipes (including the appendix) in Ted Haigh’s seminal Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails book. It took me a little over two years to make them all, so that averages out to about one a week. I wonder how many other people have managed to “make them all”?

Of course, I made a number of other cocktails as well, and the complete list can be found in the index.

I saved this for last because Champagne is usually associated with celebration, and because it didn’t sound all that good. It is vintage, having been referenced by the man himself, Jerry Thomas, but it doesn’t seem very “cocktail-like” to me.

It kind of reminded me of when I was in college and wine coolers became popular. We used to joke that they were invented so that women would have something to drink at keg parties. This seems to be a cocktail for a person who doesn’t care for cocktails, but needs something to drink when among people who do.

I don’t really see the point in adding sugar and bitters to good Champagne, but I do find it interesting that modern versions include a bit of brandy. Might improve this a bit. The sugar cube does cause the bubbles to greatly increase and the bitters adds a nice golden hue to the drink, so it is pretty if not exactly tasty.

Rating: 1/5. I’m giving this a “1” because I don’t have any 1’s in this list, but the grade is based on this cocktail not really being a cocktail more than the actual taste, which would have placed it as a high two or a three.

Notes: I like brut Champagne, stuff that’s so dry you don’t even really have to swallow, and my go-to brand has always been Perrier-Jouët.

Straits Sling

The Dead Rabbit version of the Straits Sling:

  • 0.50 ounce Lemon Sherbet
  • 1.50 ounces Bols Genever gin
  • 0.50 ounce Cherry Herring
  • 0.50 ounce Benedictine
  • 0.50 ounce kirsch eau de vie
  • 0.75 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 3 dashes Dead Rabbit Orinoco Bitters or Angostura Aromatic Bitters
  • 1.50 ounces rhubarb soda
  • Fresh nutmeg, grated, for garnish
Add all the ingredients, except the soda and garnish, to a shaker. Fill with ice and shake. Strain into an ice filled tall glass. Add the soda and garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.

This is my second recipe from the Dead Rabbit Drinks Manual, which is more a book of alchemy than recipes.

I’ve been blogging about vintage cocktails for over two years now, and in that time I’ve amassed one of the best collections of spirits and ingredients to make them in the area. Yet I was on page 119 of this book before I found a cocktail I could make, the Wild Irish Rose. That cocktail was based on one of my least favorite cocktails ever, the Jack Rose, but it was tasty when done their way, so I was looking forward to this one. I needed to secure Bols Genever gin which I was able to buy on a trip to Reno at Total Wino.

The Straits Sling is the forerunner to the Singapore Sling, one of my favorite cocktails when done right. Dead Rabbit adds cherry brandy to the drink as well as their “Lemon Sherbet” which adds a really nice tart/sweet accent, and for the soda they recommend a flavored soda since “we only have so much time to spend on this planet”. They also garnish pretty much everything with freshly grated nutmeg. I can’t imagine what the bin of nutmeg seeds looks like at their place. If you have a jar of grated nutmeg, throw it out. Nutmeg works best grated fresh and it is easy with a microplane grater.

How does it taste? Outstanding.

I drank two (note to self, finish making dinner before starting on the second one) and made another one for Andrea. She liked it a lot as well, although her first question was why there was black pepper on top of it. (grin)

Rating: 5/5 – I’d almost give it a 5+ if I did such things.

Notes: As with most Dead Rabbit recipes, I try hard to source their recommended brands. I used Clear Creek kirschwasser and I bought a rhubarb soda from Dry via Amazon. I used Angostura bitters since my Orinoco bitters have been delayed in shipment.

Lemon Sherbet

No, it’s not ice cream, but it is called Lemon Sherbet:

  • 4.0 lemons
  • 1.5 cups granulated sugar
  • 12 ounces lemon juice
Prepare an oleo-saccharum with the lemon peels and sugar. In a small saucepan, combine the oleo-saccharum and lemon juice over medium heat, but do not boil. Slowly stir to dissolve the sugar. When the syrup has thickened, remove from the heat. Strain through a chinois into bottles. The sherbet will keep for 2 to 3 weeks in the refrigerator.

Okay, this ingredient is used in cocktails from the Dead Rabbit book, but don’t be thrown by fancy words like “oleo-saccharum”. It’s just Latin for “smush up a bunch of citrus peels in sugar”.

A lot of the flavor of citrus fruit is in the peel. That is why it is so important in drinks like the Hanky Panky to express the oils out over the surface of the drink. It isn’t just for garnish. So it only makes sense that by muddling sugar and peels together, you can get more of the citrus flavor out of the fruit.

Be sure to avoid including any of the white pith, which is bitter. I use a vegetable peeler and take my time. Drop the peels into the sugar and smash ’em up, and then let stand for at least 30 minutes.

I dumped the whole thing into a sauce pot and added the juice, and the peels got removed when I strained it. It is very, very tasty and has a strong, concentrated lemon flavor.

This recipe should make 24 ounces, but I knew that I wouldn’t be using that much, so I halved it. You will need more lemons for the juice (I think I used about four total).

The Bloody Mary

Nothin’ says “day drinkin'” like The Bloody Mary:

  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 6 ounces tomato juice or V8
  • 2 dashes Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 dash Tabasco Pepper Sauce
  • Celery salt
Stir alll together in an iced highball glass. Sprinkle celery salt on top. Garnish with a celery stick.

I’ve read that in the early days of cocktails they were consumed in the morning, providing an almost medicinal lift to the rest of the day. Now, at least in Western society, the consumption of alcoholic beverages before noon is frowned upon, and most are expected to wait until after the work day has ended.

There are two exceptions to this: The Mimosa and The Bloody Mary.

The good Doctor doesn’t mention the Mimosa (champagne and orange juice) in his book, so I won’t make it, but he does list the above recipe for the Bloody Mary. Here in North Carolina we were preparing for a lot of rain from a hurricane passing through, so since I knew I’d be home all day I decided to start it off with this cocktail.

It’s tasty, although vodka doesn’t usually add much flavor so you are basically tasting spicy tomato juice. It’s not something I usually seek out, but when you are preparing for a day of drinking (or recovering from one) it can be very nice.

Rating: 4/5

Notes: I used V8 since I think it has a more complex flavor than plain tomato juice, and I wouldn’t have made this without Fairgame’s Flying Pepper Tobago Infused Vodka. It was made for this cocktail, and since it adds just the right amount of kick I left off the Tabasco sauce (plus we down here in NC tend more towards Texas Pete).

Haymaker

As seen on TV, here’s The Haymaker:

  • 3/4 ounce Maker’s Mark
  • 3/4 ounce triple sec
  • 3/4 ounce dry vermouth
  • 3/4 ounce lime juice
Shake over ice. Strain into a rocks glass over crushed ice. Garnish with an orange twist.

Well, not exactly as seen on TV. I’ve been seeing an ad from Turkey Hill about a drink called the Haymaker and since it sounded like a vintage cocktail I went looking for a recipe. None of my books had it, so I did a search on “haymaker cocktail” and found several sites with the recipe above, so I decided to make it.

Turns out that I was wrong. The Turkey Hill commercial is referring to “Haymaker Punch” with is totally different. It is more formally known as “Switchel” which is a drink made with water and vinegar. The fact that the Haymaker cocktail recipes I found all mention Maker’s Mark seems to indicate that this is a drink made to promote that brand, although I couldn’t find a definitive source for its origin.

Which is probably a good thing, since it isn’t all that great. While I love equal proportion drinks like the Golden Dawn and the Last Word, this one doesn’t work. The lime overpowers everything (I even went looking for some simple syrup to cut back on the sour but I didn’t have any prepared). I didn’t hate it, and with some experimentation it might be a very good drink (drop the lime a bit and up the bourbon, for example) but it wasn’t a favorite. Kind of a weird take on a Whiskey Sour.

Rating: 3/5 – a weak 3 but still a 3

Notes: I used Maker’s Mark 46, Cointreau for the Triple Sec and Dolin Dry for the vermouth. Remember to use fresh vermouth when possible (which is why I buy small bottles).

Honeysuckle

It contains honey, so why not call it the Honeysuckle::

  • 2.00 ounces Flor de Caña Extra-Dry White Rum
  • 0.75 lime juice
  • 0.75 ounce Acacia Honey Syrup
Shake all the ingredients with ice, the strain into a coupe. Garnish with a lime wedge.

I live in North Carolina, USA, where liquor sales are strictly regulated. This is both a source of frustration for me as a vintage cocktail enthusiast as well as a fun challenge. I was finally able to find the rum called for in this drink in Minnesota (the aged or golden Flor de Caña is easy to find but this one is much more difficult).

Now, I get teased a lot for wanting very specific spirits. “You have a white rum, so why do you need this white rum?”. I learned from making the recipes in Dr. Cocktail’s book that the choice of spirit can have a large impact on the flavor of the drink, and so when a particular spirit is called for, I try to find it.

I had never heard of the Honeysuckle before, but it is in the “vintage” section of the Death & Co. cocktail book and it looked interesting. I first heard about Flor de Caña in Wilson’s Boozehound book, and I’ve seen this white “extra dry” version used by a number of bartenders who specialize in vintage cocktails, so I was happy to finally get to try it.

The other odd ingredient, Acacia Honey, I ordered from Amazon. It is supposed to be sweet without imparting too much of its own flavor to the drink. One of my favorite vintage cocktails, the Bebbo Cocktail, also uses honey, and I like the fact that both spirits and honey are supposed to have an unlimited shelf life.

But honey can be hard to work with in cocktails. For the Bebbo I would put in the microwave for a few seconds, but occasionally I’d end up with a chunk of honey in the shaker. In this recipe, the “Acacia Honey Syrup” is made by taking two parts honey to one part warm water, putting that in a sealed container and shaking the bejeezus out of it.

For such a simple drink, I was surprised at how much I liked it (Andrea liked it too). I think a lot of the success can be attributed to the choice of rum, although the Acacia Honey may play a role. I plan to make it again with a different honey just to see how it changes.

Rating: 4/5

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.