How’s the Bartending Going?

As the most common question I’ve been getting lately is, “How’s the Bartending Going?”, I should probably post about it.

The first week at Heaven’s Dog was kind of crazy.  I worked a party, a practice service, and a regular shift in addition to my other job.

The party was for Press and some other folks.  Not super busy.  Someone asked me early on if I was having fun, and I was kind of like, “It’s OK.”  I was really nervous and hadn’t known the drinks until I got there that evening.  But about two thirds of the way through the evening we had a nice rush, with people three deep from the bar.  I said, “Now we’re having fun!” and the person I had been talking to replied, “I know you’re being sarcastic…”  But, I wasn’t being sarcastic at all.  I totally love the point in working where you shift from having to think about everything to muscle memory and instinct.

The practice service was harder, as I had to learn the Point of Sale system to take food and drink orders for customers.  My boss remarked, “Saturday we’ll have you on the well, mostly making drinks for the dining room.  It will be similar to when you worked at Flora.  But tonight’s going to be sink or swim.”  Plus, we had a surprise new item on the menu: “Freedom From Choice!  Pick a Spirit and a Modifier and our talented bartenders will choose a drink for you!”  Fortunately, for most of the night I had sympathetic bartenders in front of my well, who ordered interesting drinks and were aware of the difficulties of opening a new restaurant and bar.  On the whole I’d say, while I didn’t break any Olympic records for the butterfly or Australian crawl, I didn’t sink either.

Heaven’s Dog opened for real on Friday and I worked my first shift in the newly opened restaurant Saturday night.  The restaurant was fully booked for the evening and I worked the service well, where you make the drinks for the dining room.

To be honest, I was amazed I was able to stand, talk, and make drinks all at the same time.  Between my other job and Heaven’s Dog, I’d worked a 14 hour day for the party and another 14 hour day for the practice service.  I was now about to work my sixth day in a row.

But by now, I knew the drinks, was familiar with my coworkers, the service staff, and slightly familiar with the POS system.

Lasky Cocktail

Lasky Cocktail

Lasky Cocktail

1/3 Grape Juice. (3/4 oz Knudsen’s Just Concord)
1/3 Swedish Punch. (3/4 oz Homeade Swedish Punch)
1/3 Dry Gin. (3/4 oz Plymouth Gin)

Shake well and strain into cocktail glass.

Unfortunately, the Lasky caught me between Farmers’ Markets, so I had to use store bought grape juice. The Knudsen Concord Grape juice doesn’t quite have the tartness or complexity of my usual Twin Hill Ranch Grape Juice, making this a bit sweeter cocktail than it normally would be for me.

Still, all in all, a pretty tasty cocktail.

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the cocktails in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, Zed.

The Wisdom of Charles H. Baker Jr.

I’ve been re-reading Charles H. Baker Jr.’s South American Gentleman’s Companion recently.  I ran across the following choice passage this morning on the way to work and found it amusing.  Apologies to the more sensitive souls, for the nominally curmudgeonly and misogynistic content.

WHY DO SO MANY AMATEURS MIX La BEBIDA PIOJOSA?

Bebida in Spanish means “Drink,” and piojosa means “lousy”; and the 2 of them together means a disappointed guest anywhere, besides a demerit in the mixer’s reputation.  The 1st and great commandment in building mixed-drinks is that of not being lazy.  Results are sad for the poor chap who has to drink his brews; but sadder still is the realization deep down in our poor mixer’s heart-of-hearts that he has betrayed his callings, his finer mixing art, through refusal to do the right and proper things–yet still does nothing about them.

Summing this whole business up may we say that just as there is no such thing as a 1/2-good girl there no such animal as a 1/2-good drink.  A mixed drink is either made correctly out of correct stuff: good; or it’s La Bebida Piojosa.  Even a homely gal can, with cunningly-employed paint, powder, patches, rouge-pots, whale-bone and falsies, fool part of the people part of the time; but a poorly-built drink betrays itself with the first sip.  The only person our lazy drink-mixer is fooling is himself; he is a traitor to his art and there is no health in him.  Amen.

Suffice it to say, in these modern times I don’t believe that “Amateurs” are the only “lazy drink-mixers” in the world…

Ladies’ Cocktail

Ladies' Cocktail

Ladies’ Cocktail

2 Dashes Absinthe. (2/3 tsp. Sirene Absinthe Verte)
2 Dashes Anisette. (2/3 tsp. Anis del Mono dulce)
2 Dashes Angostura Bitters.
1 Glass of Canadian Club Whisky. (1 3/4 oz 40 Creek Barrel Select, 1/4 oz Buffalo Trace Bourbon)

Stir well and put small piece of pineapple (1/4 orange slice) in glass.

Chuckle, I’d like to meet the Ladies who drink cocktails like this!

I am reminded of a recent episode at a bar.

At a bar near where I work, which is a kind of divey beer and whiskey kind of place, I decided to experiment and ask for a cocktail. “Manhattan, no cherry.” Bartender gave me a look and went off to mix the cocktail. When he brought it back, he looked around and asked, “Is there someone with you? Did you want something else?” The implication being that the Manhattan had certainly to be for a girl that was accompanying me, and he expected me to order a proper man’s drink like beer, whiskey, or whiskey rocks. I made a mental note and sipped my girly cocktail.

Anyway, the Ladies’ Cocktail, effeminate or not, is quite tasty. Pretty similar to a Sazerac. If I weren’t Savoy Stomping, I would make it with Rye Whiskey and be done with it.

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the cocktails in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, Zed.

Kina Lillet Clone

I made my first attempt at an aperitif wine the other day, aiming for Cocchi Americano or Kina Lillet.

I bought 2 1/2 bottles of reasonably priced Muscadet-Sèvre et Maine, brought it to 140 degrees and added 1 cup of sugar.  Stirred to dissolve.

Then I added the spice tinctures I’d previously made, starting with a touch, and tasting and adding.

I finally ended up with the following amounts, where I started to be able to perceive the earthy flavors of the Quinine and Gentian tinctures in the wine:

2 TBSP Seville Orange Tincture
2 TBSP Mexican Cinnamon Tincture
2 tsp. Gentian Tincture
2 tsp. Wormwood Tincture
3 tsp. Quinine Tincture
1/2 Cup Spanish Brandy

Cooled, poured it back into the bottles, rested for a day, and tried it.

My initial reaction is I got closer to Jean de Lillet than Cocchi Americano. Admittedly, it doesn’t have any Sauterne in the wine blend, so there is no botrytized character, as in the Jean de Lillet.

Challenges: It’s really hard to judge how something warm will taste chilled or in cocktails. I would have had to use much more of the spice tinctures to get close to Cocchi Americano.  It’s tempting to just mull the spices in the warm wine.  But that will make fining or filtering much more challenging.

The Wine was also a weird pick. Muscat Canelli or similar would be a typical choice for the wine base of a vermouth. But I was feeling completely uninspired by my choices of California Muscat. Loire whites are just some of my favorite wines.

A pretty good first try, I think. Everyone who has tried it has been quite complementary. Still, it isn’t what I was hoping for.

Bonus: At the grocery store on the way home they had Sorrento Lemons!  Picked up a couple and it was just the spur I needed to start a new batch of Swedish Punsch.  And yes, Rowley, this time I will make your Lemon Punsch Pie with the leftover sliced lemons.

Kup’s Indispensible Cocktail

Kup's Indispensible

Kup’s Indispensable Cocktail

1 Dash Absinthe. (1/3 tsp. Sirene Absinthe Verte)
1/8 Italian Vermouth. (1/4 oz Carpano Antica)
1/4 French Vermouth. (1/2 oz Dolin Dry Vermouth)
5/8 Dry Gin. (1 1/4 oz Junipero Gin)

Shake (stir, please) well and strain into cocktail glass. Squeeze orange peel on top.

The other month a bartender asked me what I’d have. Spying a “Gin and It” on the menu, I said, “Jesus Christ, anything but the Gin and It.” At the time I was around the area of the intersection between the letters “G” and “H” and all I was making was Gin and Italian Vermouth cocktails. I went on to clarify, “It seems like every cocktail I’ve made for the last week is nothing but Gin, Italian Vermouth, and a dash of this or that.” I further went on to say it was interesting how different the cocktails could be, even though they were made with essentially the same two base ingredients. I think I must have been boring him a bit by this point, as he sort of mumbled something like, “Well, isn’t that the point of the whole exercise?”

I don’t know if that really is the point of the whole exercise, or if, indeed, the whole exercise actually has a “point,” but here we are at another Martini/Martinez variation pretty much within “Free Pour Error” of the Fourth Degree.

Kup’s Indispensable has less Absinthe, the balance of ingredients tipped towards Gin and Dry Vermouth, and an Orange Twist instead of lemon.

I have to admit, at this point in my life, I lean towards the richer flavor of the Savoy Fourth Degree Cocktail. Still, this cocktail is tasty and does have a really great name.

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the cocktails in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, Zed.

Kola Tonic Cocktail

Kola Tonic

Kola Tonic Cocktail

1/3 Dry Gin. (3/4 oz Broker’s Gin)
2/3 Kola Tonic. (1 1/2 oz Rose’s Cola Tonic)
2 Dashes Orange Bitters. (Dash Fee’s, Dash Regan’s Orange Bitters)

Shake well and strain into cocktail glass.

When I was thinking about this during the day today, I thought it would be pretty awful.

But, I thought there would be enough there for me to find it interesting and re-do it as a long drink over ice and with an orange twist.

It might be a cultural thing, but I found it just too medicinal to even play with.

I’ll admit I tried a Fentiman’s Burdock  soda the last time I was in England that wasn’t far from these flavors. And the Kola Tonic Cocktail is less off balance than I expected. There is a nice bit of bitterness.

However, it totally tastes like cough syrup to me.

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the cocktails in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, Zed.

Knock Out Cocktail

Knock Out

Knock Out Cocktail

1 Teaspoonful White Crème de Menthe. (Brizard White Creme de Menthe)
1/3 Absinthe. (3/4 oz Absinthe Verte de Fougerolles)
1/3 Dry Gin. (3/4 oz Beefeater Gin)
1/3 French Vermouth. (3/4 oz Dolin Dry Vermouth)

Shake well and strain into cocktail glass. (Garnish with a spanked Mint Sprig.)

Well, this is a lot better than the Glad Eye, and maybe demonstrates a bit better than that cocktail the power of the combination of Absinthe and Mint.

Still, the name is pretty apropos…

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the cocktails in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, Zed.

Knickerbocker Special Cocktail

Knickerbocker Special Cocktail
Knickerbocker Special Cocktail

1 Teaspoonful Raspberry Syrup. (Monin Raspberry Syrup)
1 Teaspoonful Lemon Juice.
1 Teaspoonful Orange Juice.
1 Chunk of Pineapple.
2/3 Rum. (1 1/2 oz Inner Circle Green Rum)
2 Dashes of Curacao. (2/3 tsp. Luxardo Triplum)

(Muddle pineapple in juices and spirits. Ice, shake, and double strain into a cocktail glass.)

According to Mr. Wondrich’s book, “Imbibe!” The Knickerbocker was a popular cocktail in the mid to late 19th Century.

Jerry Thomas included a version of the drink in his 1862 book, which went like so:

Knickerbocker
(Use Small Bar-Glass.)
1/2 a lime or lemon, squeeze out the juice, and put rind and juice in the glass.
2 tea-spoonsfuls of Raspberry Syrup.
1 Wine-Glass Santa Cruz Rum.
1/2 Teaspoonful of Curacao.

Cool with shaved ice; shake up well, and ornament with berries in season.  If this is not sweet enough, put in a little more raspberry Syrup

Uh, oops. Well, if I had known that when I was making it, I would have given this drink the same controversial treatment I gave the King Cole!

Wondrich goes on to add about the Knickerbocker, “With its rum and its lime juice, its syrups and liqueurs, the Knickerbocker is the spiritual progenitor of the Tiki Drink. Think of it as an 1850s Mai Tai–similar drink, different island.”

Even in its, “somewhat bastardized form,” here in the Savoy Cocktail Book it is a very good drink for a hot day. A tad girly with the raspberry syrup, but with a pleasing and harmonious flavor that belies the seriousness of the rum lurking in the background.

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the cocktails in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, Zed.

Knickerbocker Cocktail

Knickerbocker Cocktail

Knickerbocker Cocktail

1 Dash Italian Vermouth. (1/2 tsp Carpano Antica)
1/3 French Vermouth. (3/4 oz Dolin Dry Vermouth)
2/3 Dry Gin. (1 1/2 oz Beefeater Gin)

Shake (stir, please) well and strain into cocktail glass. Squeeze lemon peel on top.

A perfectly fine and enjoyable Martini or Martinez variation. The first of two Knickerbocker cocktails, this one is very similar to the Golden Ermine. I was interested to discover how much the flavor of the Sweet Vermouth comes through, even in such a small amount.

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the cocktails in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, Zed.