Monday, January 15, 2018

Navy Grog

Navy Grog

Tiki the Snow Away continues! So far we're getting mixed results - the foot of snow that fell last week melted away this weekend as temperatures neared the 50's in Boston, but unfortunately it did not last and we had another snowfall this morning. We are clearly not Tiki-ing hard enough.

While all that snow was falling last week, I was inside with my nose tucked in Smuggler's Cove, reading about the history of Tiki drinks and the techniques used to make them. I was pretty intrigued when I got to the section about making ice shells and cones. The book indicated that you needed something called "snow ice" for this, and thanks to the blizzard I had plenty of that. I scooped up some freshly-fallen snow and packed it into a champagne flute to make an ice cone. As I learned, this is the traditional garnish for a Navy Grog, and that sounded like a pretty great Tiki drink to try next.

Navy Grog is notoriously strong, containing 1 oz. apiece of three different rums. In fact, its potency is a matter of legal record, as one of the bartenders at Trader Vics in Hollywood testified as to how strong of a drink it was in the trial of Phil Spector, who was accused of murdering actress Lana Clarkson after downing two of them at the bar. So maybe sip yours slowly. Even if the lime, grapefruit, and Allspice Dram make it deceptively drinkable.

Navy Grog

History: Navy Grog was invented by Donn Beach, the father of all things Tiki. Containing a pretty hefty amount of rum, it was the "manly" drink on a menu otherwise populated by fruity cocktails with whimsical names. It was made with honey syrup and seltzer, but Trader Vic altered the recipe and replaced these with Allspice Dram and Demerara syrup. Since that sounded a bit tastier to me, I made Vic's version here. It was Donn, however, who traditionally served his over an ice cone.

Navy Grog was supposedly one of Richard Nixon's favorite drinks, and he would frequently sneak away to the Trader Vic's in DC to have a few.

Navy Grog

Navy Grog

1 oz. pot still lightly aged overproof rum (Smith & Cross)
1 oz. blended lightly aged rum (Appleton Estate Signature Blend)
1 oz. column still aged rum (lacking this, I used Plantation Dark)
1/4 oz. Allspice Dram
3/4 oz. lime juice
3/4 oz. grapefruit juice
1/4 oz. SC Demerara syrup*

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake until well chilled. Strain into a double Old Fashioned glass. Garnish with a sprig of mint and an ice cone** or a stick of rock candy.

*For Smuggler's Cove's Demerara syrup, bring 2 parts water to a boil and whisk in 1 part Demerara sugar. Then add 3 parts granulated sugar and stir until dissolved. Let cool before using.

**To make an ice cone, pack finely crushed ice into a champagne flute or pilsner glass. Use a chopstick to make a hole through the center of the cone. Let it freeze for at least 24 hours. Set it out at room temperature for a few minutes before removing it from the glass. You can run the glass under hot water if necessary. Alternatively, you can buy a mold for just this purpose!

Recipe adapted from Smuggler's Cove, which is adapted from Trader Vic's.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Bar School: Tiki Cocktails

Jet Pilot

Tiki cocktails are an entire pool of drinks that I have barely even dipped my toe into on this blog. I think the Mai Tai and the Mari Koriko are the only ones I've made. At first, this was because I thought I wasn't a huge fan of Tiki. Like many people prior to the recent Tiki renaissance, I thought of Tiki drinks as saccharine beverages filled with fruit juices and cheap rum. After discovering that this is not at all the case, at least not anymore, I swung the other way - Tiki drinks seemed far too complicated, with multiple types of rum, exotic ingredients, and garnishes that even I find elaborate. Tiki was a bit intimidating. But as I've built up my bar, learned more about rum, and eagerly followed a number of other cocktail bloggers and Instagrammers with a healthy appreciation for all things Tiki, I've convinced myself that it's time to break into this world of beautiful, fantastical, delicious cocktails. Especially since this month is the #TikiTheSnowAway campaign on Instagram. Started by Drinkstagrammers Dani DeLuna and  Nic Titze, this opportunity to sip tropical beverages while watching the snow come down outside is hard to pass up. It's time to start learning about Tiki!

Tiki cocktails aren't just tropical drinks. In fact, some of the best known drinks that you might associate with the beach, like the Pina Colada or the Daiquiri, do not qualify. Cocktails like the Singapore Sling or Pegu Club, which actually were invented in southeast Asia, are not technically Tiki. Tiki is a very specific American cultural movement from the 1940's and 50's that involved everything from food to music to architecture. It is heavily influenced by Polynesia, but it's an Americanized homage with an endearing inauthenticity.

The word "tiki" comes from the Maori, the indigenous people of New Zealand. According to their legends, Tiki was the first man. The word also refers to small carvings and figurines that have humanoid shapes. How it became the moniker of a major cultural movement in America is a bit of a long story, one that I'll summarize briefly here. For more details, check out Smuggler's Cove by Martin Cate, where most of the information below came from.

The father of Tiki was a man named Ernest Gantt, who would later come to be known as Donn Beach. He grew up in New Orleans and spent a lot of time in the Caribbean and the South Pacific when he was young. In 1931, at 24 years old, he found himself in Los Angeles with no money and a whole lot of Polynesian souvenirs. He started renting them out to movie sets and consulting for films. Two years later, he opened a bar in Hollywood that would become Don the Beachcomber, after a pseudonym that he used during his less-than-legal activities in the Caribbean.

Donn Beach
Don the Beachcomber

The bar was something entirely new. Tropical-themed bars and nightclubs existed, but they were quite elegant and served the same kinds of drinks as everywhere else. Donn's bar was far more rustic and eclectic, designed to look like a beach hut filled with driftwood, fishing gear, and lots of assorted Polynesian artifacts. Donn also created an entirely new kind of drink to be served in this distinctive atmosphere. Working with the base recipe for Planter's Punch, he built cocktails that had "one of sour, two of sweet, three of strong, four of weak." He blended rums and citrus and spices and gave the drinks theatrical names. He also kept the recipes mysterious, using mixtures of ingredients in unmarked bottles so that no one could precisely copy his cocktails.

Don the Beachcomber became incredibly popular. Cate speculates that the Depression was the perfect time for this kind of fantastical, foreign bar experience. It gave people an escape from their troubles and provided a taste of the exotic for those who could not afford to travel. People were enchanted by the entire experience, and no one more so than a fellow named Victor Bergeron.

Trader Vic
Trader Vic

Bergeron owned a small restaurant and bar across from his parents' grocery store in Oakland. He traveled to New Orleans and the Caribbean in hopes of learning to make more exotic cocktails, but it was at Don the Beachcomber that he found his true inspiration. After visiting the bar in 1937, he went home and converted his restaurant into a Polynesian trading post and took the moniker Trader Vic. What Donn Beach had invented, Trader Vic perfected. He served his drinks in fancy mugs with elaborate garnishes. He created tropical cocktails with other spirits besides rum. He even pioneered an entirely new, Americanized twist on Chinese cuisine. The man invented both the Mai Tai and crab rangoon.

As both of these bars grew in popularity and expanded to multiple locations, Tiki exploded. The craze spread across the country, with thatched-roof restaurants filled with Polynesian carvings popping up left and right. But it wouldn't last. By the end of the 1960's, its popularity began to rapidly fade. Cate attributes this to the baby boomers and a growing sense of reality about what was going on in the world. Tiki suddenly seemed inauthentic or even offensive. As bars closed down, their signature recipes were lost. Those establishments that did stick around tried to clumsily reproduce them with the same sugary mixes and synthetic flavors that were popular during that dark age of cocktails. So Tiki got a reputation for being all about tacky decor and bad drinks.

Jeff Beachbum Berry
Jeff "Beachbum" Berry (photo from Liquor.com)

Until recently, that is, when the "Tiki Revivalists" began scouring antique stores for Tiki mugs and piecing together the old recipes in an effort to resurrect the true spirit of Tiki - not just the drinks, but the entire culture of Polynesian Pop that was born alongside them. Modern Tiki legend Jeff "Beachbum" Berry was responsible for rediscovering and distributing many of the classic Tiki cocktail recipes. Slowly but surely, the cocktail world got Tiki fever once again, and it seems like it might be here to stay. You can once again escape to a Polynesian paradise at San Francisco's Smuggler's Cove, Chicago's Three Dots and a Dash, Berry's own Latitude 29 in New Orleans, or countless others across the country. And home bartenders like me can learn to recreate these little pieces of the tropics at home.

So how do you make a Tiki cocktail? While Tiki culture is inspired by Polynesia, the drinks tend to be heavily influenced by Caribbean flavors and liqueurs. As developed by Donn Beach, they usually balance sour (lemon, lime, grapefruit), sweet (syrups, orgeat, grenadine), weak (pineapple juice, seltzer), spirit (traditionally rum), and spice (falernum, allspice liqueur, bitters). In modern Tiki, there has been a lot more experimentation and alteration of this formula, but the general idea is still there.

Jet Pilot

The Jet Pilot is a great starter Tiki cocktail. Invented in the 1950's at the Luau in Beverly Hills (another famous Tiki bar that's worth reading up about), it's a variation on a Zombie. It really shows how complex the flavors in these cocktails can be. Cinnamon, grapefruit, and three different rums offer a deceptively strong and incredibly tasty libation that will instantly transport you into the world of Tiki.

If, like me, you have a limited selection of rums in your home bar, that doesn't mean you can't still make and enjoy these drinks. It's helpful to learn a bit more about rum so that you can decide what the best substitutions will be. I have a little guide here, but I've learned a lot since I wrote it. There's lots of excellent information in Smuggler's Cove, which handily breaks down the rum into categories so you know what the best substitutions are. Other useful guides include this article on Beachbum Berry's six recommended rums and Inu a Kena's Rum 101. For my Jet Pilot, I didn't have a black blended overproof rum, so I subbed in a dark rum. If you're new to Tiki and to rum, it's unlikely that you'll notice too much of a difference!

Jet Pilot

Jet Pilot

1 oz. black blended rum (like Gosling's Black Seal)
3/4 oz. blended aged rum (like Diplomatico Reserva or Appleton Estate Reserve Blend)
3/4 oz. black blended overproof rum (like Lemon Hart 151)
1/2 oz. Velvet Falernum
1/2 oz. lime juice
1/2 oz. grapefruit juice
1/2 oz. cinnamon syrup*
1 dash Herbstura (1:1 Angostura bitters and Herbsaint)

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with crushed ice and a few large cubes. Shake until well chilled and pour into a double Old Fashioned glass or Tiki mug. No garnish is recommended, but feel free to go nuts!

*For cinnamon syrup, combine 1/2 cup water and 2 cinnamon sticks in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Add 1 cup sugar and stir to dissolve. Remove from heat and let sit for 12 hours. Then strain out the cinnamon sticks.

Recipe adapted from Smuggler's Cove.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Mulled Wine

Mulled Wine

It's officially the holidays! Today I'm boarding a flight to go home to New Orleans with my dog and baby in tow. I'll be there for two weeks to celebrate Christmas and have a christening for Luke. I'm really excited. I look forward to the holidays all year. And it will be even more special now that we've got a little family of our own.

Mulled Wine

Of course the holidays wouldn't be complete without some festive cocktails. At my parents' house, it's not Christmas until my dad makes his famous eggnog - maybe one day I'll get permission to share the top-secret recipe. I don't have any Christmas cocktail traditions yet myself, but I'm thinking that this mulled wine might become one of them. Particularly since Decembers in Boston call for much warmer cocktails than those in Louisiana.

Mulled Wine

Until I made it myself, I had only had mulled wine a few times, usually at holiday parties. The one memorable exception was a cold and rainy afternoon in Krakow, Poland last May. We attended my husband's cousin's wedding and then spent some time in the city. I'm not sure what it's usually like in May, but last year it was extremely cold and damp, and we had not packed properly for it. After getting thoroughly wet and chilled, we ducked into a random pub to warm up. They had mulled wine on the menu and we immediately ordered two mugs. I don't think I've ever had anything more perfect. The most memorable drinking experiences are always more about the circumstances than the recipe.

Mulled Wine

So, when we got our first snowfall this year, I decided to try my hand at making mulled wine. The baby gave me a wonderful excuse to get out of shoveling (suddenly those nine months of pregnancy seem totally worth it), but the least I could do was have a warm, spiritous beverage ready when my husband came in from the cold. And just like that dreary day in Krakow, it was absolutely perfect. This stuff positively warms the soul. I think I have my new Christmas tradition.

Mulled Wine

Mulled Wine

1 bottle (750 ml) red wine
1/4 cup sugar
1 orange, sliced
10 cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
2 star anise
1/4 cup brandy

Combine all ingredients except for brandy in a saucepan and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and add brandy. Serve hot, garnished with cranberries, a cinnamon stick, and star anise.

This recipe is easily halved if you don't want to sacrifice a whole bottle to the cause or if, like me, you're only making it for two people.

Happy holidays!

Friday, December 1, 2017

Holiday Gift Guide 2017

1. Love & Victory Cocktail Pins. I swear these have shown up on every cocktail gift guide I've seen this year, but how could they not? They are so freaking adorable. The perfect stocking stuffer! $12 each or $80 for the full set of 8.

2. Gold Cheers Foil Hang Tags. So much classier than just sticking a bow on that bottle of wine or booze you're bringing over. These have plenty of space to write a little message, and will work for any time of year. $9.95 for a pack of 10.

3. Wintersmiths Ice Chest. I think this is what I'll be asking Santa for this year. There are several clear ice systems on the market at lots of different price points, but it seems like Wintersmiths is the undisputed best. Give the cocktail perfectionist in your life this ice chest that makes four clear cubes or spheres, or preorder the new Phantom, which should ship in July. $120 with one shape tray, $160 with both.

4. Dash Bitters Tonic Syrup Kit. This new kit from Dash Bitters, makers of some great DIY bitters kits, allows you to craft your own tonic syrup at home for the perfect G&T. The kit comes with everything you need, including pre-measured ingredients and a bottle and label for the finished product. They sent me one this week and I can't wait to use it! Kits like this are a great way to ease into making your own bitters and mixers. $35.

5. Absolute Elyx Deluxe Martini Gift Set. Absolute Elyx vodka, which single-handedly brought the copper pineapple mug into vogue, makes all kinds of cool copper barware (I'm looking at you, cute little gnome). This martini gift set is so unbelievably gorgeous that I audibly gasped when I saw it. If you're in the market for a truly luxurious gift, look no further. $299.

6. Wilkinson Scalloped Julep Strainer. This beautiful julep strainer designed by David Wondrich is inspired by classic barware. $26.99.

7. Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva Rum. If you don't think of rum as a spirit to sip on its own, this one will change your mind. Its rich, sweet flavor will convince the staunchest whiskey drinker to branch out. It's also excellent in cocktails. ~$30 for 750 ml.

8. Aromatic Bitter Sugar Cubes. These sugar cubes from Vena's Fizz House in Portland, Maine are perfect for Old Fashioneds, Sazeracs, Champagne Cocktails, and just about anything else you can think of. $8 for a 2 oz. jar.

9. Seedlip Distilled Non-Alcoholic Spirits. Since I spent the majority of this year not drinking alcohol, I had to include something on this list for the teetotalers. Billed as "what to drink when you're not drinking," Seedlip is bringing the craft of spirits to the world of mocktails. If you know someone who is reluctantly leaving the gin out of their tonic, a bottle of Seedlip is the perfect gift to make them feel like they're drinking craft cocktails again. It's available in two varieties, Garden 108 and Spice 94. $45 for 750 ml.

10. Sugarfina Bourbon Bears. A great, cheeky stocking stuffer for a whiskey lover. Sugarfina has a whole line of boozy gummies, including champagne and rosé, stout and lager, and even Casamigos Margarita and Paloma flavors. $8.50 for a small cube or $45 for a 2.5 lb bag.

Check out previous gift guides here.

Happy Holidays! Cheers!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017



We are currently in my absolute favorite time of year. The holidays are just so joyful. There are so many happy events and opportunities to get together with friends and family. It's not yet bitterly cold, but the temperature is low enough to turn on the heat and snuggle up under a blanket. Preferably with a whiskey cocktail.

The one thing I don't like about this time of year is how short the days are. It seemed bad enough as fall began, but then Daylight Savings Time ended. We "fall back" and suddenly it's getting dark at 4 pm! This makes it supremely inconvenient to get good cocktail photos. I like to shoot with natural light, but I'm not usually going to have a drink in the mid-afternoon. I end up having to just set things aside for later. My husband has gotten used to coming home and taking a peek in the fridge to check whether anything I made earlier that day is waiting to be consumed.


It was with this annual disgruntlement in mind that I picked the Fallback out of Regarding Cocktails. In addition to the appropriate name, it's made with Applejack and Amaro Nonino, a couple of my favorite fall ingredients. They lend flavors of apple, spice, vanilla, and brown sugar to rye and sweet vermouth. The Nonino and a couple of dashes of Peychaud's give the drink just the right amount of bitterness. It's utterly perfect for the fall.

And it still tastes just fine if you have to throw it in the fridge until cocktail hour.

History: The Fallback was created by Sasha Petraske for John Dory Oyster Bar in New York City.


1 oz. rye whiskey
1 oz. Applejack or apple brandy
1/2 oz. sweet vermouth (Carpano Antica recommended)
1/2 oz. Amaro Nonino
2 dashes Peychaud's bitters

Build the drink in a rocks glass beginning with the bitters. Add one large cube of ice and stir until the drink is chilled. Garnish with an orange twist.

Recipe adapted from Regarding Cocktails.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Spiced Cranberry Margarita

Spiced Cranberry Margarita

It's Thanksgiving! What do you have planned this year? Since we'll be in Boston far away from family (and their annual epic array of Thanksgiving casseroles) we're going to have a small dinner with a few friends. It will be our first time really hosting a Thanksgiving dinner, and I'm going to have to seriously rein in my ambitions of elaborate table settings and bountiful homemade dishes - I've got a two-month-old, after all. But we'll definitely try to tackle a few Thanksgiving classics like green bean casserole (from scratch, of course!) and stuffing.

And since my husband has dreams of cooking the turkey sous vide, that might be all we're eating. I'd better make sure there are drinks.

Spiced Cranberry Margarita

Since it's Thanksgiving, you've basically got to put some cranberry in your cocktails. Cranberries make a great addition to an Old Fashioned, Moscow Mule, or Julep. Not only do they add some fabulous flavor but they're also pretty gorgeous. Snag a few from your cranberry sauce recipe to add to your drinks. Or throw in the cranberry sauce itself!

Now, when you think of Thanksgiving cocktails, your first thought probably isn't "margaritas!" But I think this is a fresh and seasonally-appropriate take on an otherwise summery cocktail. Tart cranberries are honestly perfect in a margarita, and including some autumn spices and an aged tequila makes for a cocktail that would be right at home on your Thanksgiving table. Or at least perfect for pre-dinner drinks.

Spiced Cranberry Margarita

Spiced Cranberry Margarita

1 1/2 oz. tequila reposado
1 oz. triple sec
3/4 oz. lime juice
1/2 oz. spiced cranberry syrup*

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a rocks glass filled with ice and garnish with sugared cranberries.

*You can make the sugared cranberry garnish and the spiced cranberry syrup together. Combine 1/4 cup water and 1/4 cup sugar and simmer to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and stir in 1/2 cup cranberries, 1 cinnamon stick, 8 cloves, and 2 star anise. Let sit for 10 minutes. Strain, reserving both the cranberries and the syrup. Arrange half of the cranberries on parchment paper on a wire cooling rack and let sit for one hour; these will be your sugared cranberries. Return the rest of the cranberries and the spices to the pot with the syrup and muddle. Let sit for another 10-20 minutes and strain again, discarding the solids. Once an hour has passed, pour 1/4 cup sugar onto a plate and roll the remaining cranberries in it to coat.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Bottle Buy: Amarula


Even though my bar has grown quite a bit over the last few months, it's been a while since I properly introduced a new bottle. I'm particularly excited to introduce Amarula today because of a wonderful campaign they are running right now - keep reading for details!

A friend of mine who has spent a lot of time in Africa introduced me to Amarula several years ago. I fell instantly in love. It's a rich, silky cream liqueur that puts Bailey's to shame with its complex flavors and just the right amount of sweetness. If you think you don't like creamy dessert liqueurs, give Amarula a try before you give up.

Amarula is made from the fruit of the marula tree. This bright yellow fruit has a unique flavor described as a "citrus tang and a creamy, nutty taste." It only grows in sub-Saharan Africa and cannot be cultivated. The fruit is hand-harvested from wild trees to make the liqueur. The marula pulp is fermented, distilled, and aged in French oak barrels for two years. After this, cream is added to give Amarula its silky texture. The resulting liqueur has a rich and nutty flavor with hints of citrus and coconut. It's definitely sweet, but not tooth-achingly so, making it versatile enough to use in cocktails but also perfect to sip on its own.


Marula fruit is a favorite food for elephants. When the fruits are in season, elephants will travel for miles to find trees with ripe fruit. Amarula has long been dedicated to the conservation of these incredible animals, and this fall they have launched the "Don't Let Them Disappear" campaign to raise awareness and support elephant conservation. Until the end of the year, Amarula will donate $1 of every bottle sold to WildlifeDIRECT to support their efforts to save the African elephant. So now there's even more reason to try a bottle of Amarula! You may even find one without the elephant on its label, an illustration of the danger of elephants disappearing within our lifetime.


Price: $24
Alcohol Content: 17%
Popular Cocktails: Often served on the rocks or with coffee

Savannah Sunrise

For a cream liqueur, Amarula is surprisingly versatile. It works well with tropical flavors like banana, coconut, and rum as well as with dessert flavors like vanilla, chocolate, and coffee. I decided to play with this a bit in my first Amarula cocktail, the Savannah Sunrise: Amarula, dark rum, and Giffard Banane du Bresil (a banana liqueur) served over coffee ice cubes. The rum and Banane du Bresil bring out the more citrusy, tropical notes in the Amarula, but as the coffee ice cubes melt, they change the character of the drink and emphasize the sweetness of the liqueur and the caramel and vanilla notes from the aging process.

Elephant Ice Cubes

Plus, I made the coffee ice in these adorable elephant-shaped ice cube molds that Amarula sent me. It just doesn't get any cuter.

Savannah Sunrise

Savannah Sunrise

1 1/2 oz. Amarula
1 1/2 oz. dark rum
3/4 oz. Giffard Banane du Bresil
Coffee ice cubes

Combine Amarula, rum, and Banane du Bresil in a mixing glass with ice and stir briefly until chilled. Strain into a rocks glass over the coffee ice cubes.

Amarula Milkshake

You basically can't work with something as decadent as Amarula and not make a dessert drink. It's absolutely heavenly served over vanilla ice cream, so it seemed pretty clear that a boozy milkshake was the way to go. A little bourbon goes great with the vanilla and adds some depth and caramel flavor. It's so ridiculously good.

Amarula Milkshake

I garnished the milkshake with whipped cream and edible gold leaf, because why not?

Amarula Milkshake

Amarula Milkshake

2 scoops vanilla ice cream
1 oz. Amarula
1/2 oz. bourbon

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a glass and top with whipped cream.

Props and liqueur supplied by Amarula; copper straws and strainer from Viski.