Monday, December 5, 2016

Charles Lindbergh

Charles Lindbergh

One great bar in Boston that has been a cocktail inspiration for me is Island Creek Oyster Bar. As at its neighboring bars also run by Jackson Cannon, Eastern Standard and The Hawthorne, the cocktails at ICOB are never anything short of fantastic. It was the first place I ever tried an Air Mail, and it has since become one of my favorite cocktails. Last time I was there, I ordered the Charles Lindbergh, particularly because of the inclusion of Tempus Fugit's Kina L'Aero D'Or, one of my new obsessions. It was really good, and I knew I'd like to make it at home.

Luckily, it turns out the Charles Lindbergh is an old cocktail, dating back to the classic Savoy Cocktail Book, and the original recipe wasn't hard to find: gin, Kina Lillet, apricot brandy, and a dash of orange juice. Lacking the last two ingredients, I came up with my own variation using a dash of Cointreau and about 1/4 tsp. apricot preserves. I also used the Kina L'Aero, which is sweeter and more bitter than the Lillet Blanc on the shelves today, but probably more similar to the original recipe. The result is surprisingly similar to what I remember from the bar, and thoroughly enjoyable. You could just as easily make it with Lillet Blanc or even dry or blanc vermouth; you'd be in for a different experience, but I think it would still be a very quaffable cocktail. It's nicely balanced, sweet with a bitter finish, with flavors of citrus, apricot, and botanicals.

Charles Lindbergh
Charles Lindbergh

History: Charles Lindbergh was, of course, the famous pilot who flew the Spirit of St. Louis from New York to Paris on the first nonstop solo flight across the Atlantic. He was only 25 years old. Harry Craddock of the Savoy Hotel in London invented this cocktail to celebrate the occasion. It would later appear in the 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book.

Charles Lindbergh

1 1/2 oz. gin
1 oz. Kina L'Aero D'Or, Lillet, or Cocchi Americano
1 dash Cointreau
1/4 tsp. apricot preserves

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass and stir to mix in the preserves. Add ice and stir until chilled. Fine-strain into a coupe glass. Twist a lemon peel over the cocktail and discard.

Recipe adapted from Cocktail 101.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Holiday Gift Guide 2016

It's that time of year again! Last December I made a little holiday gift guide, and I've been thinking about what to put in this year's ever since. Here are some gift ideas for the cocktail lover in your life!

1. Noble Tonic 01: Tuthilltown Bourbon Barrel Aged Maple Syrup. This maple syrup is positively out of this world. It's fantastic in cocktails and I think it would be positively divine on pancakes. $27.50 for a 16 oz. bottle.

2. Black Cloud Bitters Sampler. Bitters samplers are the best way to expand your collection, and I love the flavors in this pack from Black Cloud. It contains five varieties: Charred Cedar, Saffron Mango, Black & Blue, Prairie Rose, and Garden Party. I've been using them like crazy. $37 for five 1 oz. bottles.

3. Amaro Nonino Quintessentia. Whether you're buying a gift for a devoted amaro lover or someone who has never even heard of it, you can't go wrong with Amaro Nonino. This sweet, nutty, slightly bitter digestif is delicious on its own after dinner or mixed into cocktails like the Paper Plane. $40-50 for a 750 ml bottle.

4. Spirit, Mixer, Glass, and Garnish. It's not surprising that the Kickstarter for this gorgeous cocktail journal was funded in no time. It's custom designed for you to record your favorite cocktail recipes. Check out my post on it for more details. $27.

5. Shake. Stir. Sip. This little cocktail book by Kara Newman contains only recipes that use equal parts of their ingredients, from classics like the Negroni and Last Word to newer recipes like Amor y Amargo's Sharpie Moustache. With easy recipes and beautiful photos, it's great for cocktail-makers of all skill levels. $17.

6. Tovolo King Cube Clear Ice System. There are a lot of ways to achieve crystal-clear ice at home, but none quite so easy as this Tovolo ice maker. The insulated container and compartmentalized molds create one perfectly clear cube and one regular cube at a time. Also available in spheres. $22.

7. Hibiki Japanese Harmony. This is the Japanese whiskey that everyone seems to be talking about. Beautifully flavored and packaged in a gorgeous bottle, it makes a perfect gift for any Scotch or whiskey drinker. $60-70 for a 750 ml bottle.

8. Oak Bottle. Barrel-aging cocktails is all the rage right now, but if you're not ready to commit to an oak barrel and a few months of waiting, the Oak Bottle is the gadget for you. This bottle will oak-age spirits and cocktails in only days. It would be a great gift for the cocktail lover who has everything. $80 for a 750 ml bottle or $60 for the 355 ml mini version.

9. Copper Bar Tools from Cocktail Kingdom. I'm a sucker for pretty bar tools, and I think this shaker, julep strainer, barspoon, and jigger are about as pretty as it gets. They all come in other finishes, sizes, and styles (including a pair of weighted copper shaking tins). $133 for everything pictured.

What's on your wish list this year?

Monday, November 28, 2016

Bottle Buy: Amaro Nonino

Amaro Nonino

A few months ago, I wrote about an amazing meal I had with some friends at Gramercy Tavern in New York. After dessert, our waitress recommended a couple of amari for us to taste. She brought out Amaro Averna and Amaro Nonino. Everyone else at the table seemed to prefer the Averna, but I liked the Nonino better. When I saw the price difference between them, however ($30 vs. $50), I made the Averna my first amaro purchase. But I suppose I was just delaying the inevitable - I finally bought a bottle of Nonino, and I think it was well worth the money. Its flavor is just beautiful. It's light and sweet and nutty, with flavors of vanilla, caramel, spices, and a bit of anise. I already snuck it into one cocktail, the European Vagrant, and I've got many more to come.

Amaro Nonino (officially Amaro Nonino Quintessentia) is made in Friuli in northeastern Italy. The Nonino distillery was founded there in 1897 by Orazio Nonino, who produced grappa, an Italian grape liqueur. Though the family has continued to produce grappa ever since, I was surprised to find out that Nonino is a fairly new product, born in 1992. It is made from an aged grape distillate infused with a number of herbs and spices including gentian root, saffron, bitter orange, licorice, rhubarb, tamarind, sweet orange, and carmelized sugar. It's traditionally served at room temperature after a meal as a digestif, but it can also make a nice aperitif when served on the rocks or in a cocktail. It's easily one of my favorite bottles in my bar.

Amaro Nonino

Amaro Nonino

Price: $50
Alcohol Content: 35%
Popular Cocktails: Paper Plane, served up as a digestif

The Paper Plane is one of the better-known drinks that contains Amaro Nonino. Like the Last Word, it's an equal-parts cocktail with four ingredients: bourbon, Aperol, Amaro Nonino, and lemon juice. It's sour and tart, with a subtly bitter aftertaste. Nuttiness from the Nonino, bright citrus from the Aperol, and rich bourbon tie it all together. It's lighter and more refreshing than you would expect from its ingredients.

If you don't have Amaro Nonino and aren't ready to take the plunge (do it!), you could definitely try this recipe with other amari and see how it turns out. I've also seen a version that uses Campari instead of Aperol. There's definitely room to play around, but it's hard to beat the original.

Paper Plane

History: The Paper Plane was created by Sam Ross at Little Branch in New York City. A former bartender at the famous Milk & Honey, Ross opened Attaboy with Michael McIlroy in the bar’s old space. He also invented the well-known Penicillin cocktail, so he’s kind of a big deal.

As I mentioned last week, I got to spend the weekend before Thanksgiving in New York City, crossing some amazing cocktail bars off my bucket list. One of these – my favorite, in fact – was Attaboy. I vaguely knew that Sam Ross owned the bar, but it didn’t occur to me to find out what he looked like or anything; for some reason I assumed that the big-name guys who own these bars never actually step behind them anymore. So when our bearded Australian bartender introduced himself as “Sam,” I just smiled and nodded and complimented the drinks. It was literally 48 hours later that the wayward neurons in my brain (no doubt a bit fried by the weekend of barhopping) made the connection, and I facepalmed pretty hard. No wonder the drinks were so perfect. Sam, on the off-chance you read this, thanks for a lovely time.

As for the Paper Plane, Ross named it after M.I.A.'s song Paper Planes, which he was listening to while he worked on the recipe.

Paper Plane

1 oz. bourbon
1 oz. Aperol
1 oz. Amaro Nonino
1 oz. lemon juice

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a coupe glass. No garnish. Or get cute and fold a teeny tiny paper plane to hang on the glass.

Recipe adapted from Liquor.com.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Autumn Cocktail #2

Autumn Cocktail #2

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! We're having one of the quietest ones we've had in a while. GarnishGuy is working a half day and we don't even have dinner plans yet. I've got a lot of work to do myself, so it doesn't really feel like much of a holiday. But I don't mind. We had our share of fun last weekend, when we went to New York with my sister and her husband. My travel companions let me drag them on a frantic quest to visit as many iconic cocktail bars as possible in three evenings. And we did a pretty decent job: Amor y Amargo, Death & Co., Dead Rabbit, Mother of Pearl, Mayahuel, Attaboy, PDT, and Dear Irving. Kind of a dream come true.

I think Attaboy was the highlight of the trip. From the hidden entrance and the atmosphere to the impeccable cocktails, it was just perfect. The drinks were even more impressive given that there wasn't a menu. I've had mixed success with that format at places like Drink in Boston, but our bartender at Attaboy was an utter genius; in the words of my sister, "He saw into my soul." For my first drink, I requested something bourbon-based with amaro, and he made me a drink called a Paycut with Fernet-Vallet, a Mexican(!) amaro I've never heard of. Every sip was heaven. I've got to figure out the recipe.

Autumn Cocktail #2

After drinks like that, my own offering for a fall cocktail feels a bit inadequate, but it's nice to have something to aspire to. Last year around this time I made my Autumn Cocktail #1, a fall-appropriate mixture of bourbon, apple cider, maple syrup, lemon, and cinnamon. For #2 this year, I kept the maple syrup and cinnamon and went with Laird's Applejack to bring in some apple flavor. The maple syrup makes this drink particularly special, because it's not just any maple syrup - it's Noble Bourbon Barrel Aged Maple Syrup.

Noble Bourbon Barrel Aged Maple Syrup

Guys. This maple syrup. Oh my gosh. If you'd told me prior to tasting it that I'd be recommending a $27 bottle of maple syrup, I'd have said you were completely nuts. But this stuff is spectacular. Other maple syrup pales in comparison to its rich, deep flavor. It's incredible in cocktails, and as a big fan of all carby breakfasts I'd really like to try it on some pancakes. If you want to snag your own bottle, you can get it at Muddle & Stir. If you're in Boston, I also recently saw it at Boston General Store in Coolidge Corner.

After the Applejack, syrup, and cinnamon, I tried a few different ingredients in this drink, and I did not expect Cynar to be the one that worked. As I mentioned in my post on amari, this is a bitter, artichoke-flavored liqueur that's somewhat like a more vegetal Campari. It's surprisingly versatile, and I love the way it works with the other flavors, adding a wonderful bitterness and depth to the cocktail. It's a fragrant glass of apple, cinnamon, and spice - perfect for fall!

Autumn Cocktail #2

Autumn Cocktail #2

1 1/2 oz. Laird's Applejack or Apple Brandy
1/2 oz. Cynar
1/4 oz. maple syrup (preferably Noble Bourbon Barrel Aged)
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 cinnamon stick

Combine all ingredients, including the cinnamon stick, in a mixing glass with ice. Stir until chilled. Strain into an Old Fashioned glass with one large ice cube. Garnish with an apple slice and a fresh cinnamon stick.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Mixology Monday: Bombay Sour

Bombay Sour

Mixology MondayThis month's theme for Mixology Monday is quite close to my heart: brunch cocktails!! Gary at Doc Elliot's Mixology has chosen the theme "Bacon, Eggs, and Booze" this month, and I couldn't be more on board. I love brunch. It's easily my favorite meal. And as Gary reminds us, "A brunch without booze is just a sad, late breakfast." We all enjoy our Mimosas and Bloody Marys at brunch time, but there's a lot more to brunch cocktails than that, and I'm looking forward to seeing what everyone whips up for some late-morning imbibing.

Bombay Sour

The timing of this challenge was quite fortuitous, because I already had a couple of cocktail recipes I was playing with that would be very brunch-appropriate. One involves some coffee-infused rye, which I managed to over-infuse into the realm of unpalatable bitterness, so that one is still in the pipeline. But this one is utter perfection, and I'm pretty excited to share it. It works for brunch because it basically contains a healthy breakfast: yogurt, mangos, and honey.

Black Cloud Saffron Mango Bitters

The inspiration for this cocktail was Black Cloud's Saffron Mango Bitters. The flavor made me think of a mango lassi, so I decided to include some yogurt in this recipe. I've been wanting to use yogurt in a cocktail for a long time, ever since this article from Liquor.com made it look so ridiculously good. And after trying it, I think it's definitely going to end up in more drinks in the future. It adds a thick, silky texture to your cocktail, along with a slight tang. It's really lovely.

Bombay Sour

Before we get to the recipe: my fellow home mixologists who are reading this might be interested in a cocktail contest that's being hosted by Durham Distillery. This North Carolina distillery produces Conniption gin and a number of liqueurs. Enter your cocktail recipe using their products or any gin or comparable liqueur to win $150 worth of prizes! It's open to everyone, not just bartenders. So get mixing!

Durham Distillery Mix Maven Contest

Bombay Sour

1 1/2 oz. aged rum
1/2 oz. lemon juice
1/2 oz. honey simple syrup*
1/2 tbsp. Greek yogurt
3 large pieces of mango
2 droppers Black Cloud Saffron Mango bitters

Place mango and honey simple syrup in the bottom of a shaker and muddle well until the mango has released its juice. Add rum, lemon juice, Greek yogurt, bitters, and ice. Shake well to incorporate the yogurt into the cocktail. Strain into a rocks glass and fill with crushed ice. Garnish with saffron threads.

*For honey simple syrup, combine equal parts honey and water in a saucepan and simmer, stirring occasionally, until honey is dissolved. Let cool entirely before using.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Bottle Swap: Ancho Reyes

Ancho Reyes

It's week 2 of my bottle swap with Mr. Muddle! If you missed it, check out last week's cocktails made with The King's Ginger. This week we're working with the bottle that was at the top of my wish list, Ancho Reyes. Before you read on, be sure to check out Mr. Muddle's cocktail, The Pope of Chili Town!

Ancho Reyes is a liqueur is flavored with ancho chiles, which are dried and smoked poblano peppers. A neutral sugar cane spirit is steeped with the peppers for six months, then aged. According to the makers of Ancho Reyes, it's based on a recipe from 1927. Back then, cantinas in the town of Puebla, Mexico each served their own menjurjes, spirits made with local ingredients. The Reyes family created one with the local dried poblanos that was the inspiration for Ancho Reyes. But though the recipe is old, the spirit itself is quite new; it was created in 2014.

For a great virtual tour of the distillery and the process of making Ancho Reyes from field to bottle, check out Alcademics.

Ancho Reyes

Price: $40
Alcohol Content: 40%
Popular Cocktails: Ancho Margarita, Ancho Old Fashioned... basically add it to any tequila cocktail!

I knew Ancho Reyes would be great for adding a bit of spice to cocktails, but what I didn't expect was its complexity and drinkability. When you first sip it, you get the richness and sweetness of the aging process. Then the spice of the ancho chiles hits you, lingering on your palate. As cocktail ingredients go, it's pretty killer. It's an instant, spicy facelift to anything you add it to. The first thing I made with it was a Margarita, subbing it in for triple sec, and I couldn't believe how great it was. I'm not sure I want to make them without it anymore.

Bonfire cocktail

Since the thing that surprised me about Ancho Reyes were those flavors up front, and since they seemed kind of perfect for autumn, I decided to play up the spices and sweetness. I originally wanted to make a bourbon cocktail, but I have to say, the Ancho Reyes just sings with tequila. Tequila anejo aged in bourbon barrels gave me those same smooth vanilla and caramel notes while blending perfectly with the Ancho. I added mezcal for smoke and Besamim by Sukkah Hill Spirits for some autumn spices. (I'm guessing you could sub Allspice Dram but I'm not sure - I don't have a bottle yet. Bottle swap, anyone??) Punt e Mes helped bind it all together.

I think this is a pretty great cocktail. At first you get the sweetness of the Punt e Mes, the Besamim, and flavors of cloves, vanilla, and cinnamon. It drinks like a bourbon cocktail for a split second. Then the mezcal and Ancho Reyes hit you, and you get the smoke and spice at the end of your sip. I can't imagine anything more perfect for a chilly fall day. One of these will warm you right up.


1 1/2 oz. tequila anejo (I used Espolon)
1/2 oz. Ancho Reyes
1/2 oz. Punt e Mes
1/4 oz. mezcal
1/4 oz. Besamim or Allspice Dram

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir until chilled. Strain into an Old Fashioned glass with one large ice cube. Garnish with a burnt cinnamon stick.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Guide: Thanksgiving 2016

Thanksgiving is such a great holiday. It's a day where we get together with family, eat a lot of great food, and think about how grateful we are for all the good things going on in our lives. Since moving away from my family in Louisiana, I've spent Thanksgiving a lot of different ways, usually with friends who are also from far away. I've yet to host my own Thanksgiving dinner, but it's definitely something I'd like to tackle. I'd probably leave the turkey to my husband, but I will definitely take charge of the drinks!

Lately I've been coming across a lot of cocktail-related products that are just perfect for Thanksgiving and autumn in general. So I thought I'd share a few current favorites that would be great additions to your Thanksgiving celebration:

1. Copper Hammered Beverage Tub. I went into Pier 1 for the first time in a while and I was impressed by all their lovely copper barware. This drink tub would be great for keeping beer or bottles of wine on ice. $70.

2. Morris Kitchen Spiced Apple Syrup. This syrup is made with apple cider and mulling spices for a perfect autumn flavor. Mix it into cocktails or use it to top ice cream. $13.25 for 8 oz.

3. Vino Marker Metallic Wine Glass Pens. If you're hosting a big Thanksgiving dinner, keeping everyone's drinks straight can be an issue. These gold and silver pens will write directly on your glassware and wash off with soapy water! $15.50 for 4 pens.

4. ParTea Orange Spice Booze Infuser. This kit will allow you to infused a 750 ml bottle of booze with a delicious orange spice flavor. I used it on a bottle of brandy and made lovely Orange Spice Sidecars. It's perfect for giving classic cocktails a twist. $15.

5. Letterpressed Thankful Coasters. These sweet coasters from Waiting on Martha have Thanksgiving decorations and spaces for your guests to write what they're thankful for. $32 for 100 coasters.

6. Bully Boy Old Fashioned. If you're lucky enough to live somewhere that sells products from this Boston distillery, their bottled Old Fashioned is a perfect cocktail to serve when you don't have time to be constantly mixing drinks. It's heavy on the Angostura, making it ideal for autumn. It would also make a nice gift for your hosts if dinner isn't at your house. $35.

7. Miracle Mile Toasted Pecan Bitters. Make any cocktail taste a little bit more like pecan pie with these bitters. Perfect for bourbon cocktails. $23.50 for 4 oz.

8. Copper Stainless Steel Coupe. The original reason I went into Pier 1 was to buy one of these for my Moscow Martini. The color just seems perfect for Thanksgiving. It's a bit large for your average cocktail, but I guess that means you'll just have to drink twice as much. $15 each.

9. El Guapo Sweet Potato Spiced Syrup. I haven't tried this syrup myself, but I love El Guapo bitters and this syrup just sounds too appropriate for Thanksgiving to pass up. It's definitely the first time I've seen sweet potato in a cocktail mixer, but think Pumpkin Spice. $14.25 for 8.5 oz.

10. David Wondrich Classic Collection Punch Bowl, Georgian Punch Glasses, and Ladle. This set from Cocktail Kingdom was designed by the famous cocktail historian as a tribute to the classic 19th century punch service. It's a bit pricey, but perfect for a true cocktail lover. $130 for the bowl, ladle, and four glasses.