Amer Picon Highball

Amer Picon Highball
1 Liqueur Glass of Amer Picon. (Amaro Ciociaro)
3 Dashes Grenadine. (1 teaspoon Small Hand Foods Grenadine)
1 Lump of Ice.
Fill medium size glass with syphon soda water or split of soda. Ginger Ale can be used if preferred. Add twist of lemon peel if desired.

It’s a bit odd that the only highball listed specifically is the Amer Picon Highball. Maybe because it includes Grenadine? In any case, this is pretty much exactly a Picon Punch.

What exactly is a Picon Punch? Well, to quote Chuck Taggart, “It’s the most popular cocktail in Bakersfield, California. Why, you may ask? I did, and looked it up — it ‘s the “national drink” of the Basque people, and there are lots of Euskadi folk and Basque restaurants in B’field (known otherwise only for Buck Owens’ place and for being the hometown of a lot of people I know who couldn’t wait to move to L.A.)”

So feel free to order one in Bakersfield, Reno, or even San Francisco. I have to admit I did not see anyone drinking them when we visited the Basque country in Spain, though.

Why am I using Amer CioCiaro instead of Amer Picon? The big reason is, I just don’t have any. I do have Torani Amer, but I have to admit that the rather rubbing alcohol-esque nose on Torani Amer always puts me off. But back to Amer Ciociaro, about a million years ago, Mr. David Wondrich, (aka Splificator) took it upon himself to taste through all the considerable Amari he had in his closet to find the one closest to vintage Amer Picon. He documented this on eGullet: A Bitter Truth

Not too long ago, our own Scratchline was generous enough to give me a half-bottle of the original, 78-proof Picon (thanks again!). The other day, I rummaged through the various hidey-holes where I keep my aperitifs and amari and rounded up enough to do a comparative tasting, Amer Picon against the world.

After much nosing and not a little tasting, the closest match in aroma and taste proved to be the 60-proof Amaro Ciociaro. Now, it’s not a perfect match (it’s a little more herbal), and admittedly 60 proof isn’t the same as 78 proof, but it does a great job of evoking the clean orange notes of the old Picon without being nearly as watery as the new Picon. Plus it avoids the vegetal notes of the Torani, which are entirely absent in the old Picon.

So when Mrs. Flannestad took a trip to NY, one of the things I tasked her with was finding a bottle of the stuff. Little did I know she would trek all the way to the now legendary LeNell’s in Brooklyn to find it. I knew there was a reason I married her!

In any case, such fortitude is no longer necessary in California, as Amaro CioCiaro is now distributed here and carried in San Francisco by Cask and K&L Wines. Cask, in particular, seems hell bent on resurrecting the amazing array of bitter substances previously seen only at the late lamented LeNell’s.

By the way, there’s no particular reason you couldn’t make a Highball with just about any Amer or Amaro, leaving out the sweetener if they are already particularly sweet. In fact, Amaro Montenegro is another one pretty close to Amer Picon. Though, now that I think about it, Fernet Branca Highball anyone? Rick? Angostura Highball? Dion? Jaegermeister Highball? Jeffrey?

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

Yamazaki 12 Highball

There’s a bunch of stuff to get out of the way with the drink called the “Highball”.

First off, like with the Martini, there is a modern tendency to use the name “Highball” for a whole class of drinks. In the case of the Highball, people use it as a category name for any drink with spirits and a carbonated mixer served over ice. Gin and Tonics are Highballs, Dark and Stormies are Highballs, Bulldogs are Highballs, Sleepyheads are Highballs, Seven and Sevens are Highballs.

Personally, I tend not to be so inclusive.

Highballs are shortish drinks served over a rock or two of ice and composed of spirits and soda water. Maybe Ginger Ale, but only if you’re a girl.

There’s a letter to the New York Times in the archive attributed to one “Patrick J. Duffy” from October 25, 1927.

THE FIRST SCOTCH HIGHBALL; Claim of the Adams House, Boston, Disputed by a New Yorker.

To summarize the article, an English actor came in to Mr. Patrick J. Duffy’s bar in the early 1890s and asked for a “Scotch and Soda” and was surprised to discover that Mr. Duffy did not stock Scotch, except in casks and mostly for winter warmers. The actor provided a reference, or source, for Scotch, presumably in bottles, and soon Mr. Duffy was selling nearly nothing but Scotch and Sodas or “Scotch Highballs” as the actor called the new drink.

It doesn’t sound like Duffy invented the drink, as the English actor asked for it, or that he named it, as he also gives the credit to the actor for that.

Here’s the first paragraph of Mr. Duffy’s Letter:

An editorial in THE TIMES says that the Adams House, Boston, claims to have served the first Scotch highball in this country. This claim is unfounded. The honor not only of making the first Scotch highball but of first introducing “case” Scotch whisky into this country belongs to E. J. Ratcliffe, the actor, who came here in the early 90’s from London with Mary Anderson’s company of players and who later was a leading actor in the old Lyceum Stock Company when that theatre was between Twenty-third and Twenty-fourth Streets on Fourth Avenue.

Use medium size glass.
1 Lump of Ice.
1 Glass of any Spirit, Liqueur or Wine desired. (2 oz Yamazaki 12*)
Fill glass with syphon soda water or split soda. Ginger Ale can be used if preferred. Add twist of lemon peel if desired.

So, as we talked about on the Collins Post, sometimes there is a problem with glassware.

As a cocktail geek, one of the notable things I like to check out in pictures of pre-prohibition bars is the large variety of glassware.

However, after prohibition, or at least by the 1970s, we were down to pretty much these three glasses for Drinks: Collins, Cocktail, and Bucket.

The modern tendency is to use the same tall 12-14 ounce Collins Glass for the Collins family and Highballs. However, Mr. Duffy, the person who allegedly introduced the Highball to American audiences, is very clear: The Highball is served in a 8 ounce glass.

So, two ounces of spirit, a large-ish hand cut cube, and maybe another two ounces of sparkling water in a rather short glass compose a Highball. I am lucky to have recently purchased this glass, as it is exactly 8 ounces.

Sadly, this glass size, which I really happen to like, has pretty much been extinct behind every bar in American since Prohibition.

Though, if you look, you will find lots of these glasses on eBay: shortish, straight sided glasses, often with the name of the bar or logo on the side. Usually, the eBay seller mistakenly calls them “water glasses,” but before prohibition, these were highball glasses.

As the first Highball was, in fact, a Scotch Highball, I figured I should at least make a gesture in that direction. However, as usual, I am being difficult. I decided to use Japanese Whisky, Suntory Yamazaki 12.

Quoting from the Suntory Yamazaki Website:

Both Suntory YAMAZAKI 12- and 18- year old single malts are aged in casks of three different kinds of oaks: American, Spanish and Japanese. This gives Suntory Whisky its unique quality. Each drink has a distinct taste.
YAMAZAKI Single Malt 12-Year Old Whisky
This is a medium-bodied whisky with the aromas of dried fruits and honey. It has a delicate, mellow taste with a lingering, woody, dry finish.

Interestingly, the Highball, or “Whisky-Soda”, is one of the most popular drinks in Japan, or at least one of the most common ways to drink Whisky. People who have been there tell me that Yamaki 12 is a more expensive whisky than anyone in Japan would typically drink in a Highball, they’d probably drink a cheaper blended Whisky, but it does make a fantastic and rediculously easy drinking Highball.

*I’m pretty sure I was sent this bottle of Yamazaki 12 some time ago by a publicity firm promoting the brand. Life doesn’t suck.

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

Sharky Punch Cocktail


Sharky Punch Cocktail
1 teaspoonful Syrup (1 Teaspoon Small Hand Foods Gum Syrup)
1/4 Canadian Club Whisky. (1 1/2 oz 40 Creek 3 Grain Whisky)
3/4 Calvados or Apple Brandy. (Calvados Roger Groult Reserve)
Shake well and strain in into medium size glass… (Garnished with thin ginger slice and thick slice lemon peel.) …and fill with (well chilled!) soda water.

Whiskey, Apple Brandy, and Gum with soda seemed a tad plain, so I juiced it up a bit with the garnish. Sorry if that upsets you, but I’m the one who has to drink these things.

Shakey Punch reminds me of a lovely Laurie Anderson song narrated by the late William S. Burroughs, “Sharkey’s Night”.

Well, in the case above, Laurie is narrating with a pitch changer on her voice, not quite the same as the album track. Still pretty cool.
Sharky Punch is not bad, either. I mean, it isn’t anything fancy, just a Calvados high ball stretched out a bit with Canadian Whisky. Enjoyable enough. Definitely seems prohibition era, though, with the combination of spirits. No idea on the name. Maybe a bar or person?

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.