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.


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.

Planter’s Punch

From Smuggler’s Cove comes Planter’s Punch:

  • 1.00 ounce lime juice
  • 0.75 ounce SC Demerara Syrup
  • 0.25 ounce St. Elizabeth’s Allspice Dram
  • 3.00 ounces blended aged rum (Jamaica)
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters

Combine all ingredients in a drink mixer tin with 12 ounces of crushed ice and 4 to 6 “agitator” cubes. Flash blend and then open pour with a gated finish into a Collins or highball glass. Garnish with a mint sprig.

I am old enough to remember when every city and small town had at least one “Polynesian” restaurant. I put that in quotes because it had as much to do with Polynesian cuisine as Outback Steakhouse has with restaurants in Australia (never ask an Aussie if they would like a Chocolate Thunder from Down Under). These were kitschy joints with lots of bamboo and grass and faux Tiki carvings on the walls. As I kid I’d always laugh at the “Pu Pu Platter” (and I realize this post is getting pretty scatological) but I would gaze at that page of exotic cocktails I was too young to drink, with names like the Zombie and the Scorpion. Many of them would have stern warnings like Strong – limit 2.

When I got older I would have some fond memories of drinking these drinks (when I could find them). They were sweet and spicy and usually worthy of any warnings on limits. When I started my cocktail journey with Ted Haigh’s book I looked forward to making the tiki-style drinks he shared.

This Christmas I got a number of cocktail books, and my current favorite is Smuggler’s Cove: Exotic Cocktails, Rum, and the Cult of Tiki. To be quite honest I’ve now made several drinks from it, but this is the first one I managed to document. All of them have been good to amazing, and the Planter’s Punch is no exception.

There are several things I like about the book. The first is the way they present their recipes. One issue I had with Vintage Cocktails is that quite often it would call for an ingredient like “gin”. I own a shelf of gin, with tastes that range from fruity to ones that I imagine eating a pine tree would taste like. I have Navy-strength versions that will put hair on your chest, but often with old recipes we are given little guidance as to which to use.

Then there is the opposite, with books like Death & Co. and the Dead Rabbit that call for ingredients so obscure that I can’t even find them at well stocked places like Binny’s. Smuggler’s Cove takes a different approach: they list eight different categories of rum with examples of each, and then in the recipe they just reference the number. This drink calls for a “blended aged rum” which happens to be category three (3).

That approach, which brings these cocktails into the reach of people like me, works throughout the book. Take their recipe for grenadine. Some books might lead with “hand pick the finest, fresh pomegranates you can find, harvested at the peak of ripeness. Open the fruit and remove the arils to a non-reactive pot …” or something like that. These folks say “go buy some POM pomegranate juice“.

I did need to buy another piece of equipment for the bar: a drink mixer. They offer three choices in the book from light to heavy duty. The light duty option, the Hamilton Beach 760C, made me smile. When I was working my way through college I spent my weekends working in a plastic injection molding plant. I made the base of that blender. While it looks metal, it is actually chrome coated plastic, but due to that coating I had to wear cotton gloves the whole day. Hated making those things, and I know were to look for a slight imperfection due to a small scratch on the mold put there by my foreman. I doubt they are still using that mold today, but it still brought back memories.

The medium duty mixer, the Waring PDM, is what I bought, as I really like the retro design and plan to use it enough to justify the price difference. I didn’t even consider the high end model, the Hamilton Beach Single-Spindle HMD200, because I’d want to use it enough to justify the cost and I do have a day job.

Once I got my mixer I had to learn some new techniques. The term “flash blend” means to pulse the mixer for 4 or five seconds a couple of times. This mixes and aerates the drink. “Open pour” is sometimes called a “dirty dump” – most vintage cocktails call for the ice used in mixing to be strained out and replaced with fresh ice in the glass. Because of the syrupy nature of many tiki-style drinks, that would leave a lot of the liquid in the mixer and not in the glass. Finally, a “gated finish” answered a question that bothered me at first. I have glasses of various sizes. How do I know exactly how much ice to mix in so that the glass is just filled? The answer is to pour in most of it, but then use a strainer to “gate” the rest of the ice so that all of the liquid makes it to the glass. Then you can top up as needed with more ice.

Now that all of that is out of the way, let me talk about the drink itself. Haigh introduced me to Planter’s Punch via his “Jasper’s” version, and he also mentioned the rhyme for the recipe:

    This recipe I give to thee,
    Dear brother in the heat.
    Take two of sour (lime let it be)
    To one and a half of sweet,
    Of Old Jamaica pour three strong,
    And add four parts of weak.
    Then mix and drink. I do no wrong--
    I know whereof I speak.

The Smuggler’s Cove version changes it to “one of sour, two of sweet, three of strong and four of weak” and I did like their recipe a little better (and not just because it scans). But Haigh did show me how much the choice of rum matters in a drink. The only difference between Jasper’s Planter’s Punch and Jasper’s Rum Punch was the rum (and I loved the Rum Punch).

This drink represents everything a Tiki drink should have: the sweet and sour of citrus and sugar, the spicy tang of the Allspice Dram, and the wallop of three ounces of rum.

Rating: 5/5

Notes: This drink called for a Jamaican aged rum, and I didn’t have any. Since it also called for Demerara syrup I figured a Demerara rum would work well, so I went with El Dorado 12 year and wasn’t disappointed.

SC Demerara Syrup

A staple in many of the Smuggler’s Cove drinks:

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup demerara sugar
  • 3 cups granulated sugar

Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan over high heat. Add the demerara sugar and stir vigorously with a whisk (or use an immersion blender) until the sugar is dissolved, about 1 minute (the water should become clear). Add the granulated sugar and stir vigorously until dissolved, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and let cool.

I could not find demerara sugar where I live so I just bought it on Amazon. There is no way I could use all of this as written, so I cut it by four (i.e. I used a quarter cup demerara sugar) and it fit perfectly in the squeeze bottles I use for cocktail ingredients.

Demerara sugar is made from cane juice that is lightly processed. It is light brown but different than brown sugar (which has molasses added) and has more of a caramel flavor.

Chaos Calmer

From the world of tech comes the Chaos Calmer:

  • 1.50 ounces gin
  • 0.75 ounce lime juice
  • 0.25 ounce triple sec
  • 1.50 ounce orange juice
  • 1 tsp Grenadine syrup

Short shake with broken ice and pure unstrained into a double rocks glass. Garnish with an orange wheel or lime wedge.

In my other life I work with open source software, and I tend to use open source solutions for almost all of my technology needs. I recently needed to replace my wireless router and I decided to choose one that was supported by the OpenWRT project.

When I first logged in to the device I was delighted to see that the “message of the day” was a cocktail recipe. Me being me, I decided to try it.

I found a couple of versions of this recipe on the web, but nothing about its history. I looked through a number of my vintage books and couldn’t find it there, so I assume it is a relatively recent creation.

At first it seems like it might be a Tequila Sunrise with gin, but the addition of lime juice and the rather small amount of Grenadine means it doesn’t taste like a Tequila Sunrise. It’s a good drink, although Andrea found it a little bitter so I added a dash of simple syrup I had on hand and she liked it with that addition. I enjoyed it, although I don’t think I would seek it out.

Rating: 3/5 – it’s a strong three but I can’t give it a four.

Notes: I used Plymouth Gin and fresh squeezed lime and orange juice. I used Cointreau for the Triple Sec. While I’ve been told it is easy to make Grenadine, I used some I bought on Amazon.

Perfect Amaretto Sour

Jeffrey Morganthaler claims this is the Perfect Amaretto Sour:

  • 1.50 ounces Amaretto
  • 0.75 ounce cask-proof bourbon
  • 1.00 ounce lemon juice
  • 0.50 ounce egg white, beaten
  • 1 tsp of 2:1 simple syrup

Dry shake ingredients to combine, then shake well with cracked ice. Strain over fresh ice in an old fashioned glass. Garnish with lemon peel and brandied cherries.

Spoiler, he would be right.

I’ve made well over 100 cocktails at this point and not a single one of them called for Amaretto, an almond-flavored liquor from Italy. I do have a bottle (I think I’ve used it in baking) and I do remember drinking a few Amaretto Sours in my misspent youth. Mainly I associate them with a sweeter, less powerful margarita, and I hadn’t thought of them much until this weekend.

I was off doing geeky things when I came across an old post by Morganthaler entitled “I Make the Best Amaretto Sour in The World“. Soon thereafter, and strictly for scientific purposes, I set out to test his claim.

He addresses the main issues I have with the drink, that it is too sweet and doesn’t have enough kick, by adding cask-strength bourbon. Bourbon, by law, can not be less than 80 proof, although it tends to come out of the cask considerably stronger. Water is added to bring the alcohol content down, usually between 80 to 90 proof, but some varieties are bottled at cask strength which can be well above 100 proof. The first Amaretto Sour I made I knew Andrea was going to taste, so I used ever so slightly less than 0.75 ounce of bourbon. It was sweet, but not too sweet, and she really enjoyed it.

For mine, I used slightly more bourbon than called for, and it really changed the character of the drink. The sweetness was tempered more than one would expect considering the small difference in amount, and I enjoyed mine a lot too. This does make the Perfect Amaretto Sour, and as I am hoping to get his book for Christmas perhaps I’ll be making more of his cocktails.

Rating: 4/5 – this is a really strong 4.

Notes: He calls for Lazzaroni Amaretto, but states that Disaronno (which is what I had) works as well. For the bourbon he used Booker’s, but since I didn’t have any of that I used Noah’s Mill, a tasty cask strength bourbon bottled at 114.5 proof.

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.