Amer Biere #6

One of the classic combinations in certain regions of France is Picon Biere, that is a Pilsener or Wheat beer with a splash of Amer Picon poured in.

Unfortunately, we don’t get Amer Picon here in these United States.

However, even if Diageo refuses to send us Amer Picon, we do get a lot of other Amaros…

With this series of posts we shall explore the possibilities we do have available.

Amer Biere #6

Ommegang Witte & Torani Amer

If we don’t get Amer Picon in the US, what do we get? Well, a fine Bay Area Company took it upon themselves to create a replacement, so the Basque community in Northern California could have their Picon Punch.

Torani Amer

San Francisco’s favorite for 65 yrs. Mix ice, grenandine & amer for a pleasant drink.

Yeah, fine, pleasant, even, San Francisco’s favorite, yadda, yadda, yadda. So is rice-a-roni, apparently, and Irish Coffee.

Torani Amer is really pretty dreadful. Every time I try it, my first thought is, “Who spilled the orange aftershave in my drink?” My second thought is, “Oh, that’s what chemical Caramel Color tastes like.” My third thought is, “I really should pour this down this sink.”

Witte is our version of the classic Belgian wit or “white” ale. Witte, which is actually Flemish for white, is brewed with malted and unmalted wheat, orange peel, and coriander – offering a refreshing style that showcases the Belgian talent for brewing full-flavored ales that are also light and balanced. It is pale straw in color, slightly hazy from the yeast, and topped with a huge white, fluffy head.

Witte is pleasantly light on the tongue, balanced between malt and wheat sweetness. Hops and spice with a subtle clove note baked by flavors of lemon and sweet orange give way to a dry, crisp, refreshing finish.

I like most Ommegang beers. They were one of the first beer brewers in the US to embrace Belgian style beer. I always feel like their beers are not quite as nuanced as their Belgian inspirations, but they are always good. Interestingly, in 2003, the founders of Ommegang sold their shares of the brewery to the Belgian brewery Brouwerij Duvel Moortgat.

METHOD: Pour a beer into the mason jar or glass of your choosing. (Really, take my word for it, don’t do it, just don’t! Use Amaro Ciociaro, or some other Orange flavored Amaro instead!) Pour in a half shot (2cl) of Torani Amer.

Yeah, I did make this, and I did pour it down the sink. Waste of a perfectly good beer. I added Amaro Ciociaro to the next one and I felt a lot better.

Simpson’s-in-the-Strand and the Sidecar

Continuing the writeup of the day I spent in London celebrating the life and legacy of Harry Craddock.

Previous Posts:

Gunnersbury Tube Station

Robert Burns, The Savoy Hotel, and the White Lady

After enjoying our White Ladies and conversation, we were led back out through the front door of the Savoy Hotel and to the left along the Strand. I was told that the place we would be eating, actually pre-dated the Savoy Hotel.


Simpson’s-in-the-Strand is one of London’s most historic landmark restaurants and has been offering classic British dishes to its delighted patrons for over 170 years.

Originally opened in 1828 as a chess club and coffee house – The Grand Cigar Divan – Simpson’s soon became known as the “home of chess”, attracting such chess luminaries as Howard Staunton the first English world chess champion through its doors. It was to avoid disturbing the chess games in progress that the idea of placing large joints of meat on silver-domed trolleys and wheeling them to guests’ tables first came into being, a practice Simpson’s still continues today. One of the earliest Master Cooks insisted that everything in the restaurant be British and the Simpson’s of today remains a proud exponent of the best of British food. Famous guests include Vincent Van Gogh, Charles Dickens, Sherlock Holmes, George Bernard Shaw, Benjamin Disraeli and William Gladstone.

“Sherlock Holmes”? I know Arthur Conan Doyle was published in The Strand Magazine, but I’m pretty sure Sherlock, Mycroft, Moriarty, and the Hound of the Baskervilles were, uh, fictional. Or is that the Half-Asperger’s talking? Speaking of, Steven Moffat and the BBC are on a real tear with their Sherlock and Dr Who “reboots”. I can’t wait to come home from work Saturday night and watch the Dr Who season premiere, too bad we only get like 4 episodes of Sherlock a year, but at least Benedict Cumberbatch is in “Parade’s End”… Er, I digress.

Lunch at Simpson's on Strand

Right, so they took us to the downstairs private dining room, where we were seated for a fine menu of British delights.

Christian and Guests

This is another picture of Christian from the Savoy, along with a few other bartenders I met on the tour.

Complicated Cutlery

There was a lot of cutlery, what is this Downton Abbey? Some confusion regarding bread plates and Wine glasses. Hey, we’re bartenders, not waiters or butlers.

Victor Gower Mixes

After Erik Lorincz’ White Lady in the American Bar, we were joined by the senior representative of the Savoy Head Barmen, Victor Gower, who made the Sidecar Cocktail for the cocktail shaker time capsule.

The Savoy Head Barmen have so far been:

Frank Wells, 1893 to 1902.
Ada “Coley” Coleman, 1903 to 1924.
Harry Craddock, 1925 to 1939.
Eddie Clark, 1939 to 1942.
Reginald “Johnnie” Johnson, 1942 to 1954.
Joe Gilmore, 1954 to 1975.
Harry “Vic” Viccars, 1975 to 1981
Victor Gower, 1981 to 1985.
Peter Dorelli, 1985 to 2003.
Salim Khoury, 2003 to 2010.
Erik Lorincz, 2010 to present

Some amusing stories about Harry Craddock, the man, were relayed by Anistatia. He generally declined to drink with customers, but would sometimes have a drink with Journalist friends before he started work, or after. One particular bar assistant was said to be quoted, “He was a bear to deal with if I didn’t get three GnTs into him before the night started.”

Anyway, if you think the Savoy Cocktail Book has a lot of recipes, it is claimed Harry had an index box filled with recipes, and added the 2000th recipe card to the box in 1928. At the time, as a marketing promotion, the Hotel asked him to compile his recipes into a single book, and the Savoy Cocktail Book was published in 1930. It is also rumored that the recipe card index box still exists, perhaps in the hands of one of the head bartenders.

After the publication of the book, Harry Craddock became something of a household name, “The Dean of Cocktail Shakers,” or, “Mr Manhattan”, appearing in liquor advertisements, and frequently quoted in Newspaper and magazine articles. He used this celebrity to organize, with the head bartender of the Cafe Royal WJ Tarling, the UK Bartender’s Guild.

However, after 19 years, he left the Savoy Hotel in February of 1939, and took the head barman job at the Dorchester Hotel.

After coffee and dessert, we head out to the front courtyard of the Savoy Hotel, to be picked up by our little fleet of vintage cabs and swept off to another undisclosed destination.


Total Gentian Domination #5

One of the classic combinations in certain regions of France is Picon Biere, that is a Pilsener or Wheat beer with a splash of Amer Picon poured in.

Unfortunately, we don’t get Amer Picon here in these United States.

However, even if Diageo refuses to send us Amer Picon, we do get a lot of other Amaros…

With this series of posts we shall explore the possibilities we do have available.

Ninkasi Total Domination IPA & Salers Aperitif

Total Gentian Domination

Usually, when creating drinks, you strive for balance. Something not too sweet, not too sour, not too bitter. Sometimes, however, it is interesting to layer flavors. I think of Cajun or Chinese Food, where the cooks sometimes layer different types of spice or heat, some from black pepper or Szechuan peppercorns, some from chiles, some from Ginger, and some from freshly cut onions, to create layered flavor sensations in a single dish.

I like many West Coast hoppy beers, as long as they aren’t too extreme, (Moylan’s Hopsickle, I am looking at you,) and was mulling over how to feature one in this series of drinks. Thinking about them, Gentian came to mind. Both hops and Gentian have a sharp bitterness, but the Hops are sharp higher flavors, where Gentian comes in with lower notes and earthiness. Not only that, but it ties in with an ancient style of beer, Purl, which was a sort of morning-after tonic beer, brewed with Gentian or wormwood, spices, and bitter oranges.

I like most things that Ninkasi brews, even their comically named, heavy metal themed Holiday beer, Sleigher.

Total Domination IPA

First Brewed: 2006
Starting Gravity: 1067
Bitterness: 65 IBUs
Alcohol %: 6.7
Malt: 2 Row Pale Malt, Munich Malt, Carahell Malt
Hops: Summit, Amarillo, Crystal

On the bottle:
Multiple hops collide in balanced perfection, dominating the senses, achieving total satisfaction. From the Pacific Northwest, birthplace of the modern IPA, comes a beer whose name says it all.

Tasting Notes:
Total Domination has a citrusy, floral hop aroma, and big hop flavor balanced with a richness imparted by Carahell and Munich malts. This beer is a big flavorful Northwest IPA that maintains its drinkability, and as such has garnered great admiration from the novice craft drinker and the seasoned hop head alike.

I had a beer, what about a Gentian Aperitif? My favorite of the two or three that are currently avaiable is Salers. It doesn’t use adjunct flavorings or colorings to the extent that Suze does and it strikes me as slightly more interesting than Aveze.

One of the most classic of French aperitifs is a pour of gentiane liqueur on the rocks with a squeeze of lemon. Salers is today the oldest of the producers and also from the Massif Central, birthplace to this style of product. Unlike the large corporate producers that today add artificial colorant, Salers is all natural, with a drier and rustic character that has historically defined this drink. True to its roots, Salers sources its gentiane solely from the Auvergne. Enjoy in a traditional manner with ice and lemon, or in a variety of mixed drinks.

METHOD: Pour a beer into the mason jar or glass of your choosing. Pour in a half shot (2cl) of Salers Aperitif.

The combination of Pacific Northwest IPA and Gentian Aperitif may not be for everyone, but it certainly perked up my taste buds enough to have two glasses. Definitely a tonic of sorts.