Et Tu, Cocktail? -- The Ides Of March

The Ides of March refers to March 15.  That's the day Roman senators stabbed and assassinated Julius Caesar.  In the eponymous play by William Shakespeare, Caesar does not heed the soothsayer who warns him to "beware the Ides of March." Shakespeare did not create the Ides of March.  That honor goes to my fellow cocktail enthusiast Michael Bounds.

Veni, vidi, bibi (I came, I saw, I drank).
Veni, vidi, bibi (I came, I saw, I drank).

1.5 ounces bourbon
1 ounce Aperol
.75 ounces blood orange syrup (see below)
Juice from 1/8 lemon

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake with the ferocity of stabbing your mortal enemy, and strain into a chilled glass. Lemon twist garnish optional.

The Ides of March is a nice mix of American (bourbon) and Italian (Aperol). Aperol is a lighter, orange flavored, and easily accessible amaro used in other drinks such as the Part-Time Lover.  The blood orange syrup can be trickier.  There are a number of ways to make it.  I must confess that when I was in the middle of making the syrup, I forgot how Bounds made it, so I improvised.  I used the same method as I use to make glorious grenadine. If you have to use processed blood orange juice for the syrup, see how sweet it is and adjust the proportions as needed.

Unlike Brutus, who betrays Caesar (his recognition of Brutus is what sparks the line "et tu, Brute" ("and you, Brutus?")), the Ides of March will not betray your taste buds or your liver. As Brits like James Bond might say (especially amusing because he has a license to kill -- get it?), cheers!

Drink and Learn -- The American Prohibition Museum and 220 Up

American Prohibition Museum 1The American Prohibition Museum in Savannah, Georgia is not your typical museum.  For one thing, there's a great bar in the middle of it (more on that later).  The museum is informative without being dry (pun definitely intended).  You can learn a lot about this chapter in American history that formally began with the ratification of the 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution (the basis of Bootleggers Day) and ended with the ratification of the 21st Amendment (the basis of Repeal Day).

220 Up is the bar in the museum. You have to go through it in order to leave the museum.  In a clever way to maximize revenue, it's also open certain nights when the museum is not.  I love the concept of a bar in a museum.  It's appropriate for a museum about drinking legally; Prohibition involved a lot of other societal and political issues beyond the obvious.

Great bartenders such as Warren and Jason concoct some spectacular cocktails, and Ms. Cocktail Den and I had some fun conversations with them.  They're very good at engaging people with all levels of cocktail knowledge. During museum hours the bar menu focuses on Prohibition era cocktails such as the Mary Pickford, the 12 Mile Limit, and the Sidecar.

American Prohibition Museum 2The evening bar menu has a number of intriguing cocktails (I enjoyed the Bar Room Smasher, my wife enjoyed the Blue Blazer).  Of course, you also can order a Prohibition themed cocktail or something completely different.

Drink and learn?  Learn and drink?  The order doesn't matter.  Just know the two of them make a winning combination in Savannah.

Orange Is The New Cocktail -- The Orange Satchmo

A photo with a cat and booze?  It's a perfect Internet combination.
A photo with a cat and a colorful cocktail? It's a combination that could break the Internet.

Satchmo is the nickname of the late great musical legend Louis Armstrong.  It's also the name of our tuxedo cat. Neither of them has anything to do with the Netflix series Orange Is the New Black.  In case you're wondering, Satchmo is short for "satchel mouth," Armstrong's childhood nickname.  I learned about the Orange Satchmo in Benny Roff's book Speakeasy. Ms. Cocktail Den got it as a gift from a co-worker.

2 ounces rye
.5 ounces Cointreau or other triple sec
1 dash Peychaud's bitters
Teaspoon of absinthe

Put the absinthe in a chilled glass and swirl it around so you coat the inside of the glass. Discard the remaining absinthe. Place the other ingredients in a shaker with ice, stir with the silky growl of Armstrong's voice, and strain into the glass.  Orange twist garnish optional.

Try to take this drink from Satchmo and you will feel his wrath.
Try to take this drink from Satchmo and you will feel his wrath. Trust me on this.

The Orange Satchmo is a variation of the Sazerac.  The Sazerac is the official cocktail of New Orleans, the city in which Louis Armstrong was born. The Orange Satchmo has a smoother delivery because of the Cointreau (my favorite triple sec, which describes liqueurs derived from bitter oranges) and fewer Peychaud's bitters. If you want to increase the power, use my homemade arancello (orange liqueur) or sanguecello (blood orange liqueur) instead of Cointreau.

I must confess I have a soft spot for Louis Armstrong's music.  For example, Ms. Cocktail Den and I danced to his duet with Ella Fitzgerald (who also had a wonderfully unique voice) of "Dancing Cheek to Cheek" at our wedding. It's a memory I will cherish forever.  Will the Orange Satchmo give you that sort of a fond memory? There's one way to find out.

Great Taste, No Tragedy -- The Widow's Kiss

Yes, this cocktail has an odd name.  No, I do not know the widow for whom the drink is named.  No one does.  What we do know is the Widow's Kiss first appeared in a 1895 book from George Kappeler, an esteemed New York City bartender.  Even though it's not clear if he created the Widow's Kiss (many people presume he did), Kappeler definitely put it on the imbibing public's radar (yes, I know radar was not developed until 40 years later).  Many thanks to the Alley Cat Lounge in Savannah for introducing me to this liquid smooch.

The Widow's Kiss at Alley Cat Lounge is intriguing and tasty.
The Widow's Kiss at Alley Cat Lounge is intriguing, flavorful, strong, and not deadly.

1.5 ounces apple brandy
.75 ounces yellow Chartreuse
.75 ounces Benedictine DOM
1-2 dashes Angostura bitters

Combine in a shaker with ice, stir with the solemn grace of a famous widow such as Jackie Kennedy, and strain into a chilled glass. Luxardo cherry garnish optional.

The Widow's Kiss is high powered. No ingredient has less than 40% alcohol by volume (ABV).  If you want to go all French use Calvados, an apple brandy from the region in France.  I recommend using yellow Chartreuse (a component of other cocktails such as the Renegade) because it's 40% ABV and slightly sweeter.  If you have to use green Chartreuse (55% ABV; you'll use it in drinks like the Last Word), use no more than .5 ounces.  The Widow's Kiss should smooch your liver, not kill it. There is no real substitute for the Benedictine DOM (not the same as B&B), which you also can use in classics such as the Vieux Carre or originals such as the Mooch.

Are you curious about the Widow's Kiss?  Curiosity may kill the proverbial cat, but the Widow's Kiss won't make someone a widow or widower. I'm living proof.

A Field Guide To Bad Cocktails

Do you want to avoid bad cocktails?  Of course you do.  David Wondrich, a preeminent cocktail authority of our time, recently published this article in the Daily Beast.  It's entertaining, informative, and occasionally self deprecating.  As a self styled "professional amateur" home bartender, it's good to know people with far more cocktail knowledge and sophistication than I have, e.g. David Wondrich (the author of Imbibe and other works), occasionally make colossal mistakes.  It's sort of like watching a Gold Glove award winner in baseball boot an easy ground ball.

Field GuideI heartily agree with Wondrich's classification of bad cocktails as either strategically bad or tactically bad.  With the former the idea is a disaster, with the latter the idea is solid but the execution is a disaster. It happens to everyone.  I am no exception.  For example, the first time I made the Cancer Killer #2, I used too many orange bitters and damn near took out multiple people (my apologies to Ms. Cocktail Den, as well as my friends Ilan and Stephanie).  After some tinkering a tactically bad cocktail became a good cocktail. 

Let me paraphrase the advice I give to newer attorneys (I'm an attorney) -- It's not a question of if you will screw up a cocktail.  The questions are when you will screw up, how badly you will screw up (it will make for a great story later), and most importantly, how you recover.  Just keep on cocktailing!

Cocktail Rock You Like A ... -- The Hurricane

HurricaneThe Hurricane is associated with New Orleans, not the 1980s rock anthem from Scorpions. It's not the official cocktail of the city. That honor belongs to the Sazerac.  Like many people, I had my first Hurricane at Pat O'Brien's. I didn't like it at all, so I avoided it for a long time. A couple of years ago my friends Chuck and Tom encouraged me to have one at the Old Absinthe House in New Orleans.  It was awesome.  There are many variations of this famous (infamous?) cocktail.  Here's my simple, colorful, and potent version.

1 ounce light rum
1 ounce dark rum
.5 ounces pineapple juice
.5 ounces passionfruit juice
Juice from 1/4 lime

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake with the force of a Category 5 hurricane, and strain into a chilled glass.

You'll see in the picture I used a traditional hurricane glass (our cat's name is Satchmo, so his presence fits right in with other New Orleans staples like the fleur de lis and Mardi Gras beads). Increase the amounts of the respective ingredients if you use that type of glass. If you're able to use all fresh fruit juices (something I definitely recommend), you could add a small amount of super simple syrup to give the Hurricane a hint of sweetness.

Want to buy me a good Hurricane (and are you familiar with the song)?  Here I am.

Caffeine And "Green" Booze -- The Irish Coffee

Irish CoffeeToday is National Irish Coffee Day, which celebrates a cocktail that doesn't actually have green booze.  In 1943 Joe Sheridan created the Irish Coffee in order to warm passengers at a flying boat (seaplane) terminal in Foynes, Ireland.  The drink's popularity exploded after travel writer Staton Delaplane got it on the menu at the Buena Vista Cafe in San Francisco (Sheridan later worked there). Purists may scoff at my take on the Irish Coffee (does that make me a Scofflaw?).  I'm fine with that because my version is simple, easy to make, and most importantly, Ms. Cocktail Den loves it.

6 ounces coffee
1.5 ounces Irish whiskey (I used Jameson Caskmates)
.5 ounces super simple syrup

Pour the coffee into a glass, add the other ingredients, and stir with the tranquility of the rolling Irish countryside.  Top with whipped cream.

I don't drink coffee (I know, I'm weird), so I suggest using whatever you prefer, especially if it has a robust flavor.  The same goes for the Irish whiskey. While I've featured Jameson in other posts such as the Intense Irish and Sine Metu, keep in mind there are a lot of other Irish whiskies on the market.

Traditional Irish Coffee is very good (we had some in Dublin), but it's more labor intensive.  Whether you prefer the traditional version, my easy version, or something else, the Irish Coffee is a great booze boost for your caffeine boost. Sláinte!

A Whiskey Closer -- The Final Rye

Closing is important in things such as real estate (remember "ABC" from the play and film Glengarry Glen Ross -- always be closing) and baseball (relief pitchers can make or break a game).  The same goes for cocktails.  The Final Rye is a variation on the classic alcohol forward Last Word.  Thanks to Edgar's Proof & Provision in the DeSoto Hotel in Savannah, Georgia for introducing me to this drink.

Final Rye.75 ounces rye
.75 ounces green Chartreuse
.75 ounces Luxardo maraschino liqueur
Juice from 1/2 lime

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake with the icy ferocity of Alec Baldwin in the movie version of Glengarry Glen Ross, and strain into a chilled glass.  Lime garnish optional.

The Final Rye simply substitutes rye for the gin in the Last Word.  The other ingredients and proportions are the same.  This drink is very good, and it's perfect if you have a visceral aversion to gin (I encourage you to try the original anyway).  Either one is a great combination of strength, sharpness, and sweetness.

So whether you plan to shut 'em out or seal the deal, the Final Rye is for you.

Savannah style cocktailing -- The Alley Cat Lounge

There's booze at the fountain at Forsyth Park in Savannah, Georgia.
There's no booze at the fountain at Forsyth Park in Savannah, Georgia.

Savannah is a small Southern city with a big drinking tradition. The Alley Cat Lounge is one of the great cathedrals of Savannah's cocktail renaissance. You have to respect a place that has "We love booze, and so do you" as its motto. Ms. Cocktail Den and I went there the first night we were in town, and we had such a great experience we returned twice.

Alley Cat's appreciation of booze extends to the art on the wall of the men's room.
Alley Cat's appreciation of booze extends to the art on the wall of the mens room.

If you've read my reviews of other bars, you know I usually focus on two things -- drinks and people.  After extensive testing over three nights, I can tell you the drinks are top notch across the board. Some of the cocktails will be the feature of other posts.  Take your time reading the lengthy drink menu, which looks like a newspaper.  I appreciate that because I'm sort of old school in that I actually read a newspaper (kids -- think of a newspaper as a prehistoric Facebook feed without a power source ha ha).

Besides creating some fine cocktails, the people behind the bar are friendly and knowledgeable.  You have to be knowledgeable if there are more than 100 cocktails on the menu, many of which you won't find in 99.9% of other bars.  Fortunately the bartenders will share their knowledge and make recommendations without being pretentious.  That attitude is emblematic of the Alley Cat Lounge -- seriously good drinks without taking itself too seriously.

During our time in Savannah the Alley Cat Lounge became our go to place for a cocktail. Ok, maybe more than one. In speaking with bartenders at other local watering holes, we learned that it's a go to place for many of them.  Will the Alley Cat Lounge become your go to place when you're in Savannah?

South Of The Border Antibiotic -- The Mexicillin

Continuing a tradition, a new year brings a new original creation from the Wulf Cocktail Den.  The Mexicillin is a twist on the popular Penicillin.  The name's resemblance to the common antibiotic amoxicillin is completely intentional.  While the name of the cocktail isn't entirely original, my recipe is.

Mexicillin2 ounces blanco tequila
.75 ounces honey syrup
Ginger (see below)
Juice from 1/4 lime
.25 ounces mezcal

Combine everything except the mezcal in a shaker with ice, shake con fuerza de amoxicilina, strain into a chilled glass, then float the mezcal on top (hold a spoon upside down over the glass and pour slowly).  Candied ginger or lime garnish optional.

The Mexicillin swaps tequila, mezcal, and lime for the two types of Scotch and lemon in a Penicillin.  Both tequila and mezcal are Mexican liquors derived from the agave plant (although tequila must come from a blue agave), but it's the production process that gives mezcal its smoky flavor.  Just as smoky Scotch gives the Penicillin an extra dimension of flavor, mezcal does the same for the Mexicillin. 

As with the Penicillin, you have two options for the ginger.  You can use .75 ounces of a ginger liqueur such as Barrow's Intense (full disclosure -- I am a small investor), or muddle two or three small pieces of fresh ginger in the shaker before adding the other ingredients.  For the honey syrup, follow the recipe I used for A Thief In The Night

Want some south of the border cocktail fun?  Then prescribe yourself a Mexicillin.