Hotel Nacional Special

Another one from Cuba: the Hotel Nacional Special:

  • 3 or 4 (1-inch square) pineapple chunks
  • 0.75 ounce lime juice
  • 0.50 ounce SC Demerara Syrup
  • 0.50 natural apricot liqueur (such as Rothman & Winter Apricot Liqueur or Gifford Abricot du Roussillon)
  • 1.5 ounces blended lightly aged rum

In a cocktail shaker, muddle the pineapple chunks with the lime juice and syrup. Add the apricot liqueur and the rum, then fill with cracked or cubed ice. Shake and double strain into a chilled coupe.

This may be my new favorite cocktail. Previously, it was the Golden Dawn, which is also the order I place to test the knowledge of bartenders new to me (just for the record, with that drink the correct method is to use equal proportions, sorry Justin).

This recipe is from the Smuggler’s Cove book. Like the Daisy de Santiago it is adapted from The Gentleman’s Companion. I recently got a copy but haven’t had time to read much of it, but I do like Baker’s style.

His recipe was somewhat different:

One of the things I like about this hobby is that I learn a lot. In his recipe he called for Gold (de Oro) Bacardi. Bacardi white rum was one of the first spirits I ever drank, yet I didn’t know that the company originated in Cuba. Bacardi is one of the largest suppliers of spirits in the world, and a good number of the ingredients I use in these cocktails are actually from Bacardi brands (such as Bénédictine liqueur).

I also learned about the interesting history of the Hotel Nacional. Baker planned to visit in 1933, but the Hotel was the site of a military battle between enlisted men loyal to Batista and Army officers loyal to the previous government. It was also the location of the infamous Havana Conference meeting of all of the influential mob bosses from the United States. This was memorialized in the movie The Godfather, Part II

Who says cocktails and education can’t go hand in hand?

I love this drink. It is perfectly balanced and I could drink a pitcher of them. One thing I’ve struggled with in making cocktails that include pineapple is finding a way to get fresh juice. It is easy to juice citrus but I don’t have a machine to easily extract the juice from things like pineapples. I never thought about muddling the pineapple and that works really well. As with most drinks containing pineapple juice, shaking them will create a kind of thickness (and a foam) and you do need to double strain as it can be hard to get all of the drink out of the shaker.

I also got to use my new, pretty coupe that I bought at a thrift shop for $1.

Rating: 5/5 – I would give it a 6 if my system went that high.

Notes: I used Appleton Estate’s Signature Blend rum, which is a wonderful lightly aged rum that is also affordable. I also used Marie Brizard Apry apricot liqueur because that’s what Dr. Cocktail told me to use and I quite like it. I’ve had the Rothman & Winter as well and it is great, I just don’t have a source for it in North Carolina.

Daisy de Santiago

From Cuba comes the Daisy de Santiago:

  • 1.0 ounce lime juice
  • 1.5 teaspoons SC Demerara Syrup
  • 1.0 ounce seltzer
  • 0.5 ounce Yellow Chartreuse
  • 1.5 ounces blended lightly aged rum

Add all the ingredients to a cocktail shaker. Add cracked or cubed ice. Shake and strain into a double old-fashioned glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with a mint sprig.

This recipe is from the Smuggler’s Cove book but it is adapted from The Gentleman’s Companion: Around the World with Jigger, Beaker and Flask by Charles H. Baker, Jr. Baker was a food and drink writer who traveled the world and told stories. It sounds like my dream job. The Daisy de Santiago he discovered in Cuba, and referred to it as a “lovely thing, indeed”.

I am hoping to be able to visit Cuba toward the end of the year, so I am studying up on both my Spanish and the amazing world of Cuban cocktails. Of course, the most famous is probably the Daiquiri, but being in the Caribbean there are a number of wonderful drinks, mainly based on rum, to come out of that country. I am eager to drink where Hemingway once did.

This cocktail basically uses a Daiquiri as its base, but adds in the unusual ingredient of Yellow Chartreuse (as well as seltzer). Chartreuse is an herbal liqueur made for hundreds of years by monks in France. It comes in two varieties, Green and Yellow. My first exposure to Chartreuse of any sort came in December of 1984. I was living in Los Angeles dating a young woman from Palos Verdes. She invited me, along with a few other friends, over to her parents’ house for a meal. I don’t remember much about the meal, but I do remember her father offering us an after dinner drink. Since we were all under the age of 21 at the time we jumped at the chance, but our attitudes quickly changed when we drank the Chartreuse. To say that it is an acquired taste is a vast understatement. I can’t remember if I had the Green or the Yellow, but I remembered not liking it at all.

Which is funny, now, since I go through a lot of Green Chartreuse in the Last Word cocktail, which is a favorite. This was the first time I used Yellow Chartreuse. It is milder than the Green and adds an interesting herbal note to this cocktail without overpowering it.

Which I believe would be easy to do, since this whole drink is mild and refreshing. Everything is well balanced, and while it didn’t “grab” me it was welcome on a hot day.

I do want to emphasize the garnish, here. Due to it being summer, mint is now more plentiful and the smell of the fresh mint as you drink the Daisy de Santiago adds a lot to the experience. It is required – like the Cuba Libré without the lime becomes just Rum and Coke.

Rating: 4/5

Notes: I used some of my Banks 7 rum in this drink, and I think it worked out well.

Hermosa Beach

From Connor at the Oakleaf, it’s the Hermosa Beach:

  • 0.50 ounce lime juice
  • 0.50 ounce Demerara Syrup
  • 2.00 ounces reposado tequila
  • 4-6 chunks of strawberry
  • 1 large bruised basil leaf

Muddle strawberry and basil in a shaker glass. Add other ingredients and strain over a large cube of ice. Garnish with a small basil leaf.

This is a fine drink that lends itself to a lot of off-topic comments.

First, this demonstrates what I love about true craft cocktails. I often refer to people who make them as “cocktail chefs” instead of bartenders, although there is absolutely nothing wrong with the term “bartender”, it’s just that I want to illustrate what goes in to a great cocktail recipe. In this case it is seasonal ingredients like the strawberries and fresh basil. Just as chefs will use nature as a template for meals, a good bartender will look toward the same sources for inspiration.

Second, this drink’s focus is on tequila. My first exposure to tequila, and pretty much all non-clear spirits, was in the form of a “shot”. You would quickly down the liquor and follow it up with some sort of chaser to kill the taste. Now that I’ve become familiar with spirits I have a visceral negative reaction whenever I see people downing shots of anything. Seriously, if it isn’t worth sipping and savoring don’t drink it. Similar to spicy food, it takes a bit of exposure to start to taste the nuances, but it is worth it. Much like a single malt scotch or a good sweet bourbon, tequila has become a spirit to be appreciated on its own.

Finally, it is nice to have Connor back at the Oakleaf. He worked there as a waiter several years ago, but left to move to New York City (yes, there was a woman involved). Now, he has moved back (and yes, there was a woman involved) and I’m very happy he did. While, before, he didn’t work the bar except at lunch, he has returned with a wealth of cocktail knowledge and experience, and it has made me miss Justin, the previous cocktail chef, a little less.

Well, back to the drink. A good friend and neighbor of mine moved to Texas several years ago. He doesn’t fly so I had to wait for him and his wife to take a road trip that brought them back through North Carolina. They wanted to go to the Oakleaf, and when I learned he had developed a taste for tequila while in Texas I insisted he try this drink. His reply was “Mmmm, that’s dangerous” and I could see his point. One could drink a pitcher of these, easily.

Rating: 5/5

Notes: Espolon tequila was called for, but I don’t have any so I used something I did have, Casamigos. This is a highly rated tequila created, in part, by George Clooney. Note that you’ll want to use a reposado in this drink as a blanco wouldn’t lend enough character.

Three Dots and A Dash

Morse code for Victory, it’s Three Dots and a Dash:

  • 0.50 ounce lime juice
  • 0.50 ounce orange juice
  • 0.50 ounce SC Honey Syrup
  • 0.25 ounce John D. Taylor’s Velvet Falernum
  • 0.25 ounce St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram
  • 1.50 ounces cane AOC Martinique rhum agricole vieux
  • 0.50 ounce blended aged rum
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters

Add all ingredients to a drink mix tin. Fill with 12 ounces of crushed ice and 4 to 6 small agitator cubes. Flash blend and open pour with gated finish into a footed pilsner glass. Garnish with three cherries and a pineapple chunk on a cocktail pick.

This is another recipe from the wonderful Smuggler’s Cove book, but it caught my eye for a totally different reason.

Some time ago I was in Chicago and I got to visit with my friend Demetri. We hadn’t seen each other in awhile and there was a lot to catch up on, so we started off at the the Florentine restaurant bar, home of Life is Beautiful, their take on the Brooklyn and one of my favorite cocktails. They have happy hour pizzas, but after a few drinks we adjourned to find some healthier food. After we ate we ran into a friend of his named Marne, and the three of us ended up at this basement tiki bar called Three Dots and a Dash.

There is nothing better than hanging out with interesting people over amazing drinks. Now, the drinks at Three Dots can be the size of your head, so they are best shared. While I’ve known Demetri for over a decade it was also nice to chat with Marne. One of the amazing things she does is put together “goodie bags” for homeless people. This is a gallon ziplock bag which includes water, snacks (like crackers), band-aids, disinfectant, and other useful things a person living on the street might need. Being gentlemen, at the end of the night we walked her back to her car (a yellow Pontiac Aztec with a bumper sticker that read “If mountain biking were easy, it would be called your Mom”) and a homeless lady approached us for a donation. Marne, with obvious practice, said that she wouldn’t give any money but to come to her car and she’d did have something for her. It was kind of cool to watch the lady’s expression go from confusion to surprise to satisfaction in just a few seconds as she looked in the bag.

Anyway, back to this drink.

The cocktail calls for a specific version of rhum agricole that I didn’t have, but I did have a bottle of the Fair Game rhum agricole that I was eager to try in this cocktail. Rhum agricole is distilled directly from sugar cane juice, whereas traditional rum is distilled from molasses, a by-product of the distillation process. Rhum agricole became popular once sugar production in the Caribbean grew to the point that it could be used for something like rum versus being refined for regular sugar. The Fair Game version is made from local sugar, and I like it so much I gifted a bottle to my friend Lorenzo at the wonderful Dry Martini bar in Barcelona. It has some nice grassy overtones missing in regular rum.

This drink also calls for honey syrup. The Smuggler’s Cove recipe is a 1:1 ratio of honey to water, where you heat the honey first to make it easier to incorporate with the water. I love honey in drinks but it can be tricky to use.

It was a very nice drink, but I’m going to ding it a star because it tasted a lot like other tiki drinks and didn’t really have a distinctive flavor of its own. Part of that could be that the Fair Game rhum is not aged, so if I can get my hands on some aged rhum agricole I will revisit it.

Rating: 4/5

Notes: As per my usual complaint, I can’t get the more unusual spirits used in craft cocktails in North Carolina. The John D. Taylor’s Velvet Falernum was “muled” up from Florida by friends of mine. For the blended aged rum I used El Dorado 12-year.

Flamenco

Another classic from Death & Co., the Flamenco:

  • 1.50 ounces Lustau Amontillado Sherry
  • 1.00 ounce Bols Genever gin
  • 0.50 ounce orange juice
  • 0.50 ounce lemon juice
  • 0.75 ounce orgeat
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters

Shake all the ingredients with ice, then strain into a coupe. No garnish.

My biggest challenge in making drinks from the Death & Co. book is finding the ingredients. I was looking for a cocktail to make and was happy to see that I had everything to make this one.

However, even though it is in the “classics” section, I couldn’t find any outside reference to the Flamenco. Many recipes in the search results cited the book as a reference, and there were a number of completely different recipes so I’m not sure of the history on it.

The drink is dominated by the taste of sherry, and I’m not a huge sherry fan. I did like it, but it wasn’t something I’d seek out – the sweetness of the sherry is a little cloying to me.

Rating: 3/5

Notes: I know I need to make my own orgeat, but I’ve been perfectly happy using Fee Brothers so I did so here. Otherwise I used the ingredients as specified.

Brown Derby

From the Golden Age of Hollywood comes the Brown Derby:

  • 2.0 ounces Elijah Craig 12-year Bourbon
  • 1.0 ounce grapefruit juice
  • 1.0 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 0.50 ounce Acacia Honey Syrup

Shake all the ingredients with ice, then strain into a coupe. Garnish with a grapefruit twist.

The Brown Derby restaurant chain in Los Angeles consisted of a number of restaurants, with the first and most iconic being in the shape of a hat. In researching this cocktail I’ve uncovered a rather interesting story. In the 1930s, the drink was the signature drink at a competing restaurant called the Vendome Club. Originally called the “De Rigueur” in cocktail books, it somehow morphed into the Brown Derby over time.

I dug this recipe out of the Death & Co. book, as I saw on Twitter they were excited to now have 100K followers. It took me a second to realize that the post was from the Instasnap and I guess automatically posted to Twitter (they only have a little over 2K followers there). Since I don’t use that social network I doubt I can participate in the #100KDEATHANDCO promotion, but since their cocktails are always interesting I wanted to revisit the book and make a couple in any case.

I started browsing through the “Classics” section, and the first recipe that caught my eye was the Brown Derby because of the grapefruit. I had just made the Whoa Nellie! which also included grapefruit, and since I like bourbon I figured I’d give this one a shot. Most Brown Derby recipes omit the lemon juice, and to make the honey syrup take Acacia Honey and mix it in a sealable container with warm water 2:1, and then shake the heck out of it.

Rating: 4/5, I did like the Whoa Nellie! more, but this is a solid drink.

Notes: My biggest complaint with the Death & Co. book is that often the spirits they use are very hard to find, especially in North Carolina. I don’t have the Elijah Craig they call for but I do have some Blade & Bow. I was recently in Pikeville, Kentucky (home of the Hatfields and McCoys) and when I asked the locals for their sage advice concerning bourbon, everyone I talked to suggested Blade & Bow. They did not steer me wrong, it is amazing. As you can see I’m going to need another bottle soon.

Whoa Nellie!

A new classic, it’s the Whoa Nellie!:

  • 1.25 ounces rye
  • 0.75 ounce dark rum
  • 0.75 ounce Cointreau
  • 4 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 0.50 ounce lemon juice
  • 0.50 ounce grapefruit juice
  • 0.50 ounce simple syrup

Combine all of the ingredients into a shaker and shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled martini glass.

My friend Ben and I share a fondness for whiskey, and together we have a decent collection. Unfortunately, we live more than an hour apart, so it made sharing them difficult until we decided we could just bring them to work. Thus “Whiskey Monday” (#whiskeymonday) was born.

Now, before you think all we do at work is sit around and drink, this is just a “wee dram” to start off the week and to explore the flavors of different spirits. When it was last my turn to bring something in, I grabbed a bottle of Michter’s Barrel Strength Rye that Ben had given to me as a gift on my fiftieth birthday. It was very tasty, and I wanted to use it in a cocktail.

I have used rye in a number of recipes on this blog. Rye features prominently in classics like the “Sazerac” and the “Vieux Carré”, and there are some wonderful modern rye cocktails such as my namesake “Tarus the Bull” and the excellent “Drove My Chevy to the Levy”, but I wanted to make something new.

I went to the bookshelf, but it seems like rye drinks get the short shift. Since I came up empty, I went searching on the Intertoobz when I came across the mention of a drink called the “Whoa Nellie!”

This drink originates from the 2006 Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans. Not only is it fitting that a rye cocktail should come from that town, the fact that it rose out of the first Mardi Gras after the devastation of Katrina seems appropriate as well. Of course, I don’t get invited to parties like this, but at a party hosted by Lally Brennan along the parade route, there were a number of cocktail aficionados including Doctor Cocktail. The story goes:

Late at night, Doc was charged with the responsibility of creating a new drink. The Doc started rummaging through Lally’s liquor cabinet. After some Morgus-like failures, “divine inspiration then intervened,” and when he took a sip, he knew he had hit a home run and said, “Whoa, Nellie!”

It seemed to be just what I was looking to make, and with the citrus and rum components it fit in with the drinks I have been making from the Smuggler’s Cove tiki book.

Man, is it good.

The rye and grapefruit hark back to the “Blinker” but the rum adds even more complexity. I usually sip my cocktails, so I was surprised to find it almost gone after a few minutes.

It really did help showcase the Michter’s Rye as well. Rye is often associated with blends, especially Canadian whiskey, but one of the go-to rye’s for classic cocktails is Rittenhouse 100, a 100 proof spirit. This rye clocks in at nearly 109 proof, so it isn’t shy but still manages to be smooth and flavorful.

Rating: 5/5

Notes: Outside of the Michter’s, I used Myer’s Dark Rum (as instructed) but I believe a number of other dark rums would work as well.

Hurricane

In honor of Mardi Gras, I made a Hurricane:

Combine all of the ingredients in a drink mixer tin. Fill with 12 ounces of crushed ice and 4 to 6 small “agitator” cubes. Flash blend and open pour with a gated finish into a 15 oz. hurricane glass. Garnish with a wind-ravaged cocktail umbrella speared into a lemon wedge.

And by “Mardi Gras” I mean New Orleans’ Mardi Gras, which I attended for the first and only time in 1990. It was there I was introduced to the ubiquitous “Hurricane” – a large, bright red, super-sweet strong rum drink. These days you can buy them in fish bowls and walk around with one around your neck.

While I don’t have much sequential memory of that first trip, I do remember my next visit which was in the Spring of 1991. It was the perfect time to visit New Orleans, between the madness that is Mardi Gras and the heat of the Jazz Festival. I was there ostensibly as part of a school trip to, I think it was an IEEE conference, but I don’t remember spending much time there.

After an overnight bus ride we ended up in the city mid-morning. Since we couldn’t check into our hotel at that hour, we dropped off our bags and started wandering around the Quarter. We cut down Tchoupitoulas on our way and there we passed a Bookstar book store. A notice in the window caught my eye: Harlan Ellison was in town.

I am a huge Ellison fan, and he used to do this gig where he would come to a book store and sit in the window for a day and write a short story. The “seed” of the story would come from either someone at the store or a local celebrity, and then he would spend the rest of the day writing, pasting the typewritten pages up in the window as he went. If you’ve ever tried your hand at writing you realize how ballsy this was to do.

Anyway, I got real excited but he wasn’t scheduled to be there for a couple of hours, and so to calm down I made my way to the outdoor patio of Pat O’Briens where I had a Hurricane. It wasn’t as sickly-sweet as what you could buy from a street vendor, but they did sell it as a mix where you would just add rum. I still happen to have an unopened bag of it, and as you can see it calls for 4 ounces of rum to 28 ounces of ice and mix, so the version presented here is about twice as strong (and much less sweet).

Sufficiently lubricated I made my way to the Bookstar, and there he was, the man himself. While no one who knows me would call me shy, I do tend to be somewhat circumspect when approaching celebrities. As I was standing in the store thinking of a way to approach him, he actually came to me as he needed a pencil and I was standing next to them. He was chatting with a companion who I later learned was George Alec Effinger. They were talking about the route someone would take if they were leaving New Orleans, and Harlan had his character leaving the city in a 1978 Toyota Corolla.

When there was a pause I interrupted the conversation to interject that my father had a blue 1977 Corolla, and the one thing I remember strongly about it was that the air conditioning system was crap, unable to stand up to North Carolina summers much less those of Louisiana. He loved it, and added it to the story. He then asked me for my name, which he also loved, and he asked if he could use it in a story. Of course I said “sure!” although I don’t believe he ever did (and I probably should have added a caveat that the character not be an asshole). He then introduced me to George and the three of us were now conspirators on this new short story.

His character, Ben Laborde, needed a job where he had a travel around the State. I suggested “ATM repairman” and that made the cut as well. Anyway, after lurking for a bit longer I decided to leave on a high note, but I did pick up a copy of Harlan’s latest collection, which was called Angry Candy. He autographed it for me.

The story he wrote that day, “Jane Doe #112”, can be found in his collection Slippage. My tiny contributions can be found on pages 232 and 233 of the hardback first edition.

While I have yet to talk with Ellison again, I did strike up a friendship with Effinger. I still have a number of letters we exchanged over the years and if you haven’t read his Marîd Audran novels you really should. He was taken from us all too soon.

Whew. Anyway, isn’t this a blog about drinks? I strongly tie drinks and memories together, so my apologies.

The recipe for the Hurricane presented here is from the Smuggler’s Cove book and attributed to Beachbum Berry’s take on the Pat O’Brien original. I find I tend to like any drink that has its own glass (although Andrea rolls her eyes whenever I get a new set) and this was no exception. Not nearly as sweet as what you’ll find on the street in the French Quarter, but still very tasty.

Rating: 4/5 (a very strong 4)

Notes: As I’ve mentioned before, I like the fact that Smuggler’s Cove offers a choice of rums for most of their drinks. This one called for “black blended rum” which was category five on their list. The only one that was available to me in North Carolina was Goslings Black Seal. It was affordable and worked well in this cocktail.

SC Passion Fruit Syrup

Another ingredient found in Smuggler’s Cove drinks:

  • 1.5 cups Funkin passion fruit puree
  • 1.5 cups 2:1 Simple Syrup, cooled

In a bowl, whisk together the fruit puree and the syrup. Pour into a lidded bottle or other sealable container and store in the refrigerator. Will keep for 10 days.

The simple syrup is, well, simple. Mix two parts sugar to one part water, heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved.

I was unable to find Funkin passion fruit puree locally, but Amazon came through. As I was unable to use all of it, I poured the remainder into a ice cube tray and froze it, removing the cubes to a ziplock bag.

Golden Gun

Courtesy of the Cocktail Wonk, it’s the Golden Gun:

  • 0.75 ounce lime juice
  • 0.50 ounce grapefruit juice
  • 0.50 ounce SC Demerara Syrup
  • 0.50 ounce natural apricot liqueur (such as Rothman & Winter Apricot Liqueur or Gifford Abricot du Roussillon)
  • 1.00 ounce blended aged rum
  • 1.00 ounce blended lightly aged rum
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters

Fill a Collins or highball glass with cracked or cubed ice. Add all the ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with cracked or cubed ice. Shake and strain into the glass. Your choice of garnish.

The recipe is from the Smuggler’s Cove book, but I came across the book review on Cocktail Wonk while researching rums.

Even before I set out to make all the recipe’s in Ted Haigh’s book, I was a fan of single malt Scotch and was pretty familiar with the culture. Then I moved on to a love affair (still ongoing) with bourbon and rye whiskeys. The rum culture is just as varied and complex but I am a novice. Now in working through Dr. Cocktail’s list of drinks, I did manage to amass a small collection of rum. He would usually give some clue as to what type of rum to use, either by color (white or aged) or region (Jamaica, Guyana, St. Croix), and I would seek out a bottle. Some stymied me: to this day I have not been able to procure a bottle of Coruba, although I did finally see one at a cocktail bar in Reno, and I could never find Lemon Hart 151, but I found a substitute in Hamilton 151 (it does look like Lemon Hart is available at Total Wine now).

In my last post I pointed out how Smuggler’s Cove maps rum into categories, but I have a few bottles that aren’t listed. These include a blend called Zaya that I got as a gift, my bottle of contraband Havana Club 7 a friend brought to me from Canada, and Cruzan Black Strap, which I bought for use in drinks from the Dead Rabbit Drinks Manual. Is “black strap” the same as “black” rum? It says “blended” on the bottle, so can I assume it fits that category?

I was hoping for some answers, specifically I wondered with the success of the book if Martin and Rebbecca Cate had put up some sort of web site with an expanded list. The Smuggler’s Cove is supposed to have over 550 rums at any one time and not all of them are listed in the book, for obvious reasons, but they would fit on a web site, preferably with a searchable index.

Anyway, in searching for such a list I came across the enlightening Cocktail Wonk article. In it they featured this recipe so I decided to try it out. It was wonderful.

Apparently this was created at a seminar on exotic cocktail structure held at the 2012 Tiki Oasis conference. It most have been a wonderful seminar for a group of students to come up with such a nice blend of sweet and sour fitting in so perfectly with the tiki tradition.

Rating: 5/5

Notes: The only single pot still blended aged rum I have from the list is my 12 year old El Dorado. I used Appleton’s Signature Blend for my lightly aged rum. As for the apricot liqueur, although the Rothman & Winter is very good, I went with Brizard’s Apry since that’s what Dr. Cocktail told me to use.