Peace Train

It took me longer than expected to make this cocktail. I was introduced to the idea of the cocktail while watching the Peacemaker television series by James Gunn.

I really wasn’t expecting much from it, as the Peacemaker character in the Suicide Squad was a singularly unpleasant guy, but I like the shows Gunn makes and I figured I might enjoy this one. I really did, and I gained a new found respect for John Cena, who is much more talented that I used to give him credit.

Anyway, in Episode 5 Cena’s character makes a drink he called the Peace Train as mixture of gin, vermouth, vinegar, peppercorn, a bit of maple syrup, and some yak butter. It isn’t very good.

Apparently, there is an actual Peace Train cocktail. I wasn’t able to find any references in my cocktail library of a drink by that name but a couple of articles I found online referenced it with identical recipes so I thought I’d give it a shot.

Peace Train Cocktail: a golden cocktail in a coupe glass in the foreground with ingredient bottles in the background
Peace Train Cocktail

It sort of reminds me of a gin-based Brooklyn, and I figured I’d like it, but overall it was just okay. Being a booze-forward drink one would assume it should be stirred instead of shaken, but I followed the instructions and shook it anyway. It started off a little bitter, but as I drank it I started to enjoy it more, but then as I finished it that enjoyment faded a bit.

  • 1.5 ounces gin
  • 1.0 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 1.0 ounce Calvados
  • 1 tablespoon yellow chartreuse

Shake all ingredients over ice and strain into a glass.

I used my go-to gin, Broker’s, which I tend to use when trying any new gin-based cocktail, and Carpano Antica vermouth.

There is an interesting story behind the Calvados, which is produced by Le Chai de la Baie. At a recent work conference I ended up getting upgraded to a large suite. A friend of mine was having a whisky tasting and I offered to let him use the room. The next morning I found a half full bottle of this Calvados left in the room so I took it home.

Rating: 3/5

The Ward 8 Cocktail

I recently took a new job which requires travel, so I’ve been out and about a lot more than in the past few years. One stop took me to Austin, Texas, where I was introduced to the Ward 8 cocktail.

The Ward 8 Cocktail - an orange colored cocktail in a conical glass garnished with two cherries on a small Massachusettes flag
The Ward 8 Cocktail

According to Wikipedia, the Ward 8 was invented in 1898 to honor a section of Boston that was key to electing a particular government official. Politics aside, it is a tasty drink.

  • 2.0 ounces rye whiskey
  • 0.5 ounce fresh orange juice
  • 0.5 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon grenadine

Shake all ingredients over ice and strain into a glass. Garnish with a cherry or two along with a small Massachusetts flag.

There are apparently a lot of variations to this. When I made it I bumped up the juices and grenadine slightly, and in the bar where I first had this drink they replaced the grenadine with cherry liqueur. I decided to go with the Wikipedia recipe and use rye, but this would be tasty with a bourbon as well.

Rating: 4/5

Forgotten Cocktail #1

I used to travel a lot, and perhaps one day I will again, and in every new town I would often seek out a cocktail bar.

Looking at the menu, I’d try to pick out something that matched my mood at the time and often something I had never had before. If it was really good, I’d ask the bartender for the recipe, which I would write down on whatever scrap of paper I happened to have handy.

Which is how I found this:

  • 1.50 ounces gin
  • 0.75 ounce elderflower liqueur
  • 1.00 ounce lime
  • 0.50 to 1.00 ounce simple syrup, to taste

Shake all ingredients over ice and strain into a coupe.

I wish I could credit the bartender who came up with this drink, as my google-fu has failed me in trying to find a similar recipe. It’s really good. Elderflower liqueur is a nice substitution for orange-flavored liqueurs (I had a bartender friend who used it in his margaritas). Andrea liked this one, even when I used the lower end portion of the simple syrup (she likes sweeter drinks).

Rating: 5/5 – When it gets warmer I plan to drink this a lot.

Notes: When a cocktail calls for gin but doesn’t specify a type, my go-to is always Broker’s. It’s a wonderful dry gin that works very well in most classic drinks.

For the elderflower liqueur I know I’m supposed to use St. Germain. However, when I bought this bottle of St. Elder I was strapped for cash and it was much cheaper. As I will probably use up the whole bottle making this drink, I’ll be sure to replace it with St. Germain and see if the cocktail gets even better.


I’m reading the wonderful Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami and I came across this cocktail description:

A Balalaika is made with one part each of vodka, Cointreau, and lemon juice. A simple concoction, but unless it’s as bitingly freezing as the North Pole, it doesn’t taste good. If somebody who doesn’t have the right touch mixes it, it ends up tasting diluted, watery. This Balalaika was amazingly delicious, with an almost perfect bite to it.

Naturally, I had to try it. While I wasn’t certain I had the “right touch” I feel the same way about The Last Word. Mixed perfectly it is amazing but it is surprisingly easy to get wrong. I am also very partial to cocktails where all the ingredients are of equal proportions. Not only are they unusual, if you can remember the ingredients you can remember how to make them.

  • 1.25 ounces vodka
  • 1.25 ounces Cointreau
  • 1.25 ounces lemon

Shake all ingredients over ice and strain into a chilled glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Vodka is not a main ingredient in classic cocktails so I don’t make many drinks with it, but I really liked this book so I decided to try it out.

It’s nice and refreshing, but as I drank it I couldn’t help but think it would have been better with gin. Still, on a hot day I could probably down a pitcher of these.

Rating: 3/5 – I struggled between giving this a four or a three. It is one of the most 3.5 cocktails I’ve made. But in the end it was the lack of anything that made this one stand out that demoted it.

Notes: I don’t have much vodka but I keep a bottle of Absolut in the freezer. Since the recipe said the drink needed to be really cold, I used it.

Rosemary Blue

From Bombay Sapphire comes the Rosemary Blue:

  • 1.75 ounces (50ml) Bombay Sapphire Gin
  • 0.50 ounce (15ml) blue curaçao
  • 1 sprig of rosemary
  • 1 lemon wedge
  • Fever-Tree Light Tonic Water

Add the Bombay Sapphire, blue curaçao, rosemary sprig and gently squeezed lemon wedge to a balloon glass. Swirl well to combine. Fill with cubed ice and top with the Fever-Tree Light Tonic Water. Gently fold with a bar spoon to mix.

This is a colorful take on a gin and tonic, and is one of the drink options you get at the end of a tour of the Bombay Sapphire Distillery at Laverstoke Mill. The blue curaçao adds an additional citrus component to the cocktail and the blue color complements the blue bottle of the gin (curaçao is naturally clear). It’s sweeter than you might imagine even though there is no extra sugar added.

Rating: 4/5

Notes: I used Bombay Sapphire gin (one of the few things I keep on hand in 1.75L bottles) and Fever-Tree tonic as instructed, and Bols Blue Curaçao because that’s what I had on hand from the Leatherneck cocktail.

I was in England in December and whenever I go to that country I try to visit some friends of mine who live in Hampshire. Hampshire is known for many things, including the New Forest, but most of the fun things to do there involve being outside. When I was there, England was experiencing a cold snap (there was snow) which encouraged me to look for indoor activities, and when I found out that Bombay Sapphire Gin is made in Hampshire at a place called Laverstoke Mill, we decided to go for a tour.

I am late to the gin party. When I was younger I was not a fan of gin, and when I later discovered whisky that became more of my focus. That changed at a restaurant in Chicago called Vong’s (which, alas, is no longer there). I was with friends and as we were waiting for our table we went to the bar to get drinks. I usually would ask for a bourbon and ginger ale, but they didn’t have ginger ale. My friends asked for Bombay Sapphire martinis, and since the bar was really crowded I had the same, mainly to avoid holding up the line. It was delicious. I now have a shelf of different gins in my bar, but when it comes to drinks that are really spirit-forward my go-to gin is still Bombay Sapphire.

Bombay Sapphire has always stood out for me because of its iconic blue bottle, and it is hard to believe it has only been around since 1987. Since 2014 all Bombay gins have been made at a refurbished paper mill in Laverstoke, and this was where we took the tour.

The mill sits on the River Test, and as part of the refurbishment they cleaned it up (it apparently had a lot of trash and other debris). It’s a “chalk stream” which means the water is heavily filtered and thus crystal (some would say “gin”) clear. It is quite pretty but because of the weather we spent as much time inside as possible. Note that unlike a lot of spirits, gin gets its taste from the ingredients added to the water and it isn’t dependent on the type of water used. Bombay gin is made using distilled water.

There are four stills used to make Bombay gin. The first two we saw from a distance, Victoria and Henry (named after the queen and I believe Henry Ponsonby, her private secretary).

[UPDATE: Henry is actually named for Henry Portal who started the paper mill at Laverstoke. Thanks for the correction, Bombay]

Housed in the “India House” the building is very much in keeping with the original style of the mill. The next thing that catches your eye is something quite different, two modern greenhouses designed by Thomas Heatherwick.

One is tropical and the other is more arid, but both are displays for showing the botanicals used to make the gin. Made to look like flowing water, they use waste heat from the distillation process to maintain a perfect growing temperature for the plants.

The next stop on the tour was a room to better explore the botanicals used to make the gin. This room had several tables with each ingredient, and you could pick them up, smash ’em, smell them, etc.

When you take the tour you are promised a gin cocktail at the end. As part of choosing that cocktail they ask you to note which of the botanicals you liked the most, and based on a chart it would tell you what drink to order.

I had already made up my mind to try the Cassis drink (which I will make later) but my friend Sue got the Rosemary Blue which I also liked quite a bit.

From the spice room you can see the other two stills, Thomas and Mary.

We were encouraged to take pictures in every room but the one containing these stills, not for any privacy reasons but because there is a non-zero chance of explosive vapor and thus we had to turn off all electronics before entering.

The stills are named after Thomas Dakin (considered the creator of English-style gin back in the 18th century) and his daughter Mary.

Unlike Victoria and Henry, which are pot stills with a capacity of 12,000 litres (each), these are much smaller Carter Head stills with a capacity of 3,000 litres (each). In both cases grain neutral spirit is heated to a vapor which is then passed through the botanicals before being condensed back into a liquid. This is a different process than some gins which steep the botanicals directly in the liquid, and Bombay states that it is the vapor process that gives their gin a much fresher flavor. At one point in the process the re-condensed liquid pours over a glass sphere mounted in a box called a “spirit safe“. While this is to enable an observer to easily check the clarity of the finished product, it is pretty cool to look at and I just like the term “spirit safe”.

The spirit is made at double proof and then diluted as part of the bottling process (which is done elsewhere).

For more details on the process used at Laverstoke, please visit the article at Difford’s Guide which goes into much more detail.

After visiting the still room, we collected our things and made for the bar. Martin, one of my hosts, was driving so he got a non-alcoholic drink and a gin and tonic to go, and Sue and I enjoyed our cocktails despite it being cold.

We exited through the gift shop where I once again got to marvel at the marketing genius who came up with the blue bottle.

I did buy a bottle of “Star of Bombay” – a gin made with two additional botanicals, bergamot peels and Ambrette seeds. I’ve always liked the addition of bergamot to Earl Grey tea and it does add a nice level of complexity to gin (I had a taste in the gift shop). I don’t think you can get it in the US, and if you click the link and choose “United States” I get a 404 error (works fine if you choose United Kingdom).

It was a really fun visit, and I’d probably go back if it were warmer and I could have more than one cocktail. (grin)

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.


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.