Laika Cocktail

Laika Cocktail

2 oz Vodka
Shy quarter ounce Lemon Juice
Quarter ounce 1-1 Honey Syrup
Allspice (aka Pimento) Dram

Stir with ice and strain into a glass coated with Allspice Dram. Squeeze thick swath of orange peel over cocktail and discard.

Another vodka cocktail I worked up for Heaven’s Dog.

I was trying to riff on the ingredients used in the Eastern European beverage calld Krupnik: vodka, lemon, honey, spice.

Trying to think of a name, Krupnik reminded me of Sputnik, which reminded me of the first animal to orbit the Earth, Laika.

If you have a vodka with some character, this cocktail will show it off.  I like to make it with the grape based vodka we have at work, CapRock.

Triomphe Cocktail

Triomphe Cocktail

1 1/2 oz Vodka
3/4 oz Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Yellow Chartreuse
1/2 oz 1-1 Simple Syrup

Shake well with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with lemon peel.

At work, we often get asked for vodka cocktails. We have a few in the bar book, and quite a few of the gin cocktails can be made to work well enough with vodka.  But I still try to struggle to think up new and interesting vodka cocktails that customers enjoy.  I’ve gotten good response to this one.

The Triomphe is a variation on the Savoy Cocktail, Champs Elysees, made with vodka instead of Brandy.  And to be honest, I kind of prefer it to the original Brandy version.  It turns out less busy, and is a better feature for the Yellow Chartreuse.  Not entirely happy with the name, but the Arc de Triomphe is on the Champs Elysees in Paris, so that’s why I gave it that name.  It’s also something of a personal “Triumph” for me, whenever I think of a vodka cocktail I actually like.

Of course, smart aleck servers like to point out that another way of looking at the “Triomphe” is as a slightly herbal Lemon Drop.

Ash Tray Heart

It was midnight, and I’d made a couple bad drinks. Felt like rewarding myself with a Scotch Cocktail. Maybe an Affinity. Is that a Scotch bottle at the back? No? Oh, it’s Smith and Cross. Damn, all the Scotch is in the Basement. Hm. What the hell.

1 oz Smith & Cross
1 oz Punt e Mes
1 oz Dry Vermouth

But what can I do to make it a bit more Scotchy? Oh, I know! This Mezcalero Mezcal is damn smoky. True, only 168 bottles were imported into CA, so maybe just a rinse on the glass (with the rest going directly into my mouth).

Huh, goddamn that’s tasty. I should email Craig, as it’s something he’ll like. Name? Name?

Oh, hahahaha, I know!

“Ashtray Heart”

“Somebody’s Had to Much to Think!”

Balthazar Cocktail

I’ve been making this cocktail for a while when cocktail geeky or bartender type people ask me for a Mezcal, Tequila, or Agave “Dealer’s Choice Cocktail”.  It’s just kind of fun to mess with people and not make a shaken citrus or fruit based cocktail.  For obvious reasons, I usually just call it a “Death and Company” or “Phil Ward” style cocktail.  However, checking with one of the bartenders at Death and Co, it turns out it isn’t actually a Death and Company cocktail.  Damn.  That meant I had to think of a name.

A guest the other night quite enjoyed it and suggested calling it the “Balthazar Cocktail”.  Odd.  The Donkey or the Getty?  The Burro or the Ass?  I didn’t ask, so I leave it up to you to make the call.

Balthazar Cocktail
1 1/2 oz El Tesoro platinum tequila
1/4 oz Benesin Mezcal
1/4 oz Yellow Chartreuse Liqueur
3/4 oz Dolin Blanc Vermouth
dash orange bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.  Squeeze orange peel over glass and discard.

MxMo XXIX–Vieux Carré Cocktail


One of my favorite New Orleans cocktails, after the Sazerac, is the Vieux Carré Cocktail.

According to Stanley Clisby Arthur in his book, “Famous New Orleans Drinks and How to Mix ‘Em,” the cocktail was invented by, “Walter Bergeron, head bartender of the Hotel Monteleone cocktail lounge,” and especially to honor the Vieux Carré, or old square, section of the city of New Orleans.

Clisby Arthur gives the recipe as follows:

1/2 teaspoon Benedictine
1 dash Peychaud bitters
1 dash Angostura bitters
1/3 jigger Rye whiskey
1/3 jigger Cognac Brandy
1/3 jigger Italian Vermouth

The Benedictine is used as a base and also for sweetening the cocktail. Dash on the bitters, then add the rye, brandy, and vermouth. Put several lumps of ice in the barglass. Stir. Twist a slice of lemon peel over the mixture. Drop in a slice of pineapple and a cherry if you wish and serve in mixing glass.

Personally, I tend to like the cocktail “up” instead of over ice, but follow his instructions as closely or as loosely as you prefer.

Now the fun thing about this cocktail is it is an example where two spirits work together beautifully.

It can be fun to experiment with your own variations, the only real rules being to include benedictine, bitters, and equal parts of two spirits and vermouth.

Here are a couple I’ve been pleased with:

Vieux Carré Variation 1

1 oz St. James Ambre Martinique Rhum
1 oz Laird’s Bonded Apple Brandy
1 oz Punt e Mes
Dash Benedictine
Dash Peychaud’s

Stir, Strain into cocktail glass.

The scent of the apple brandy and earthiness of the rhum agricole are quite interesting. Very complex libation. I’m omitting the Angostura, as I’m using the more bitter Punt e Mes vermouth.

Vieux Carré Variation 2

1 oz Highland Park 12 Single Malt Scotch Whisky
1 oz Calvados Roger Groult, Réserve 3 years old
1 oz M&R Bianco Vermouth
Dash Benedictine
Dash Angostura
Dash Peychaud’s

Stir, strain, grapefruit peel twist.

And here’s a double taboo for you. Not only does this cocktail contain two spirits, one of them is a Single Malt Scotch Whisky! Horrors!

Vieux Carré Variation 3 was something of a disaster. Gin and Wheat Whiskey. I still swear it is salvageable, maybe with Oude Genever. One of these days I’ll get back to it.

Vieux Carré Variation 4, I present for your amusement.

Vieux Carré Variation 4

1 tsp Benedictine
1 dash Peychaud’s Bitters
3/4 oz Batavia Arrack von Osten
3/4 oz Tequila Corralejo Reposado
3/4 oz Cocchi Aperitivo Americano

Stir, strain, dust with freshly grated nutmeg.

I’ve been thinking about some way to combine Tequila and Batavia Arrack for a while now without much success. This cocktail is the closest I’ve come to a success so far. Maybe a bit single noted. Definitely a work in progress, but I find the interaction between the spice, tequila, and arrack promising.

Cachaca Armazem Viera

Armazem Viera Esmeralda

Since trying Armazem Viera‘s Esmeralda Cachaca, I’ve gotten a little obsessed with making a cocktail with it. I really enjoy the flavor of the spirit.

The other week I think I wasted probably a good 8 ounces of it trying to make my favorite kinds of drinks. That is, those involving vermouth and bitters.

The thing, though, is that the Armazem Viera Esmeralda has an interesting smoky and slightly bitter character.

When mixed with bitters and vermouth, sweet or dry, it just seemed to highlight unfortunate characters of either the vermouth, the bitters, or the cachaca.

When I asked some folks about it, they didn’t have many suggestions. The only real answer I got, aside from complicated drinks with more than one spirit, was, “how about a julep?”

Well, alright, how about a julep?

But, being the sort of person who can’t leave well enough alone and damn those peaches sitting on the kitchen counter smell good…

Peach Cachaca Thing

Peach Cobbler
(No, really, it is pretty much a kind of drink called a “cobbler“!)

1/2 oz Rich Simple Syrup (2-1 Simple Syrup made with Demarara Sugar)
3 oz Cachaca Armazem Viera Esmeralda
Zest of 1/2 lemon, peeled as an apple
1/4 ripe peach, sliced
Float Dark Rum (I used Inner Circle Green)
Sprigs Mint

In a stainless mixing tin combine Syrup, Cachaca, Lemon Peel, and Peach. If you’ve got some time, let it sit for a while and allow the flavors to infuse. Add crushed ice to fill about half way up the tin. Pour the ice and spirit mixture back and forth between the serving glass and the mixing glass a few times to chill, ending in the serving glass. Float on your dark rum. Spank a couple sprigs of mint above glass, and insert. Serve with a straw and/or swizzle stick.

By the bye, if you’ve got ripe peaches around you might want to also try local bartender Neyah White’s Grilled Peach Old-Fashioned. Either stop by NOPA, or check out the recipe in this great recent article by Gary Regan: The Cocktail Divide.

Dozier Cooler

It’s been a while since I last tortured you with a culinarily inspired original cocktail with at least one difficult or nearly impossible to obtain ingredient.

Since this is a sort of “variation” on the Bull-Dog Cocktail, I thought I’d put it up.

I was paging through the February, 2008, Gourmet magazine. You know, looking for recipes that wouldn’t involve a million steps, a million dollars, or a trip to the gourmet grocery store. I ran across a dessert topping (or is it a floor wax?) which involved Clementines in a Spiced Ginger Syrup.

I had clementines and all the spices required.

But, then, I thought, hey! if that’s not a drink, I don’t know what is.

So in the original recipe we’ve got a syrup spiced with ginger, star anise, and cardamom. Sliced Clementines. And a pomegranate seed garnish.

How to parse that out and translate it into drink-i-ness.

The easiest way would be to simply make the syrup as the recipe calls for, pick a spirit, add clementine juice, and away you go.

Ha, we do not take the easy way! (Actually, we do take the easy way, as there is no pesky pantry work involved here.)

Dozier Cooler*

4 Cardamom Pods
2 oz Pisco (I used Alto del Carmen)
Grenadine, hopefully homemade
1 oz Clementine Juice (or Mandarin)
1/8 oz Clandestine La Bleu Absinthe** (or another not too wormwoody Blanche)
Bundaberg Ginger Beer (or other spicy ginger beer or ale)
Cardamom Leaf (Yeah, I know. I’m probably one of three people in North America with a Cardamom plant. You can order one of your own from: Mountain Valley Growers. Failing Cardamom, use Thai Basil. Failing Thai Basil, Mint.)

Crush 4 cardamom pods and combine with 2 oz Pisco in a mixing glass. (Ok, we’ve got our cardamom.) After at least an half an hour, or whenever you finish making dinner, cover the bottom of a collins glass with grenadine. (Ok, we’ve got our pomegranate.) In a mixing tin, combine the Pisco, Clementine Juice, (Uh, duh, clementines,) and the Absinthe (OK, we’ve got our Anise.) Ice and shake. Add ice cubes to the highball glass and strain the Pisco mixture in. Top up the glass with ginger ale. (Ta da! We’ve got ginger!) Spank a cardamom leaf and add it to the glass. Serve with a straw and/or swizzle.

I think it was pretty true to the original Gourmet recipe and Mrs. Underhill gave it the thumbs up.

*According to this website, the Clementine, “…was created at the beginning of the 20th Century in Algeria by a French missionary by the name of Clément Dozier, hence the name Clementine.” Hence the name Dozier Cooler.

**The original recipe is supposedly based on the spices used in Algerian sweets. If you really wanted to stick to North Africa/Middle East, you could use Lebanese Arak instead of Absinthe.

Pale Blue Eyes

Sometimes I feel so happy
Sometimes I feel so sad
Sometimes I feel so happy
But mostly you just make me mad
Baby, you just make me mad

My friend Lance from My Life on the Rocks reminded me that for a Blue Curacao drink challenge I made another cocktail based on the Blanche.

Pale Blue Eyes

2 oz Plymouth Gin
1/4 oz Blue Curacao
1/4 oz Anisette
Dash Orange Bitters

Stir to chill, strain into cocktail glass and garnish with long orange peel.

As it is blue, I named it after one of my favorite Velvet Underground songs.

Thought of you as my mountain top
Thought of you as my peak
I thought of you as everything
I’ve had, but couldnt keep
I’ve had, but couldnt keep

To be honest, the drink would probably be better with Brizard Orange Curacao, but then I’d have to think up a new name.

Linger on your pale blue eyes
Linger on your pale blue eyes

Forest Fire

I have wasted so much cocktail time this week avoiding the obvious with this cocktail.

I had an idea to create a cocktail that featured the Death’s Door Gin. When I was thinking about it, the interesting fact that the Bernheim Wheat Whiskey was also made on a Wheat base piqued my interest so I wanted to use both spirits.

One of the most common two spirit cocktails is the Vieux Carre Formula.

The proportions are:

1/3 One Spirit
1/3 Other Spirit
1/3 Sweet Vermouth
Dash liqueur
Dash Peychaud Bitters

However, I really wanted to do something that would feature the Death’s Door itself so was shifting the balance towards the gin. And it kept not working.

Finally, I gave in tonight and went with the usual equal proportions. And finally, I think it is pretty good.

Forest Fire (aka Vieux Carre Variation No. 3)

3/4 oz Death’s Door Gin
3/4 oz Bernheim Wheat Whiskey
3/4 oz M&R Sweet Vermouth (Do not use Punt e Mes. I’ve tried it and it sucks in this cocktail.)
1/4 oz Averna Limoni Lemon Liqueur*
1/4 oz Qi Black Tea Liqueur
Dash Peychaud’s Bitters
Orange Twist

Stir with ice, strain into cocktail glass, and flame an orange twist over the glass.

If you try it, let me know what you think.

Oh, and Robert, some of us Californians do have a sense of humor.

*Edit – The folks promoting Averna‘s new product expansion sent me a sample of this liqueur. It is a distilled lemon liqueur. I guess I would describe it more as a lemon version of Cointreau than as something similar to Limoncello. I cannot do it half the justice that my friend Lance Mayhew did on his blog: Truth and Beauty- Product Review Averna Limoni. “My mind was flooded with memories as I savored the Limoni. The heady smell of lemons in the markets of Italy, summers spent flirting with a sweet girl named Silence, sucking the nectar out of honeysuckle flowers when I was 10, all warm and powerful memories.” Fer cripes sake, how am I supposed to top that? Anyway, it is a very nice liqueur. I wanted a warm lemon flavor to represent the “fire” in the Forest Fire, and it works well. If you don’t have it around, use homemade limoncello. Or you could go another way, and use Cointreau in the drink, and then flame a lemon zest over the top at the end instead of orange.

Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Cherry Bomb

Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Cherry Bomb

1/4 Cherry Brandy (Massenez Creme de Griotte)
1/4 Cointreau
1/2 Aged Rum (Rhum Barbancourt 5 star)

Use liqueur glass and pour carefully so that ingredients do not mix. Serve with 1/6 lime on top and squeeze into glass before imbibing.

When I was making all those Pousse-Cafe type “Angel” cocktails, I was trying to think of some version of a layered cocktail that I could hang with. Something that maybe had some bite to it. I thought of this cocktail first as a combination of ingredients, rum, cherry and lime being particularly good together. When I was trying to think of a name, some sort of 1970s era hot rod thing since it is a “shooter”, the Runaways song “Cherry Bomb” popped into my head.

Hello Daddy, hello Mom
I’m your ch ch ch ch ch cherry bomb
Hello world I’m your wild girl
I’m your ch ch ch ch ch cherry bomb

And I thought, “Cherry Bomb”, perfect! The cherry brandy is at the bottom, so this is exactly a cherry bomb. Unfortunately, there are about a million cocktails and shooters with the slightly salacious name, “Cherry Bomb”, so I took the repeated “ch” from the Runaways song and tacked it on.

Couple notes, getting the rum to float on top of the Cointreau can be a bit tricky. This rum, which fortunately I really enjoy, worked. Others didn’t. Also, I thought it was kind of cool how the lime juice, when you add it, settles to the bottom of the rum and hangs there, on top of the Cointreau.

OK, it’s not a Pousse-Cafe, it’s a shooter. It is, however, darn tasty!