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.


New Year's Eve Drinking -- The Champagne Cocktail

New Year's Eve  --  a time for reflecting, a time for hoping, and a time for drinking cocktails.  Champagne is a staple of New Year's Eve celebrations, and the Champagne Cocktail is a great way to use it.  The cocktail originated in the United States in the 1850s.  It was, and is, a simple year round cocktail.

Champagne Cocktail1 sugar cube or 1/2 teaspoon sugar
1-2 dashes Angostura bitters
Sparkling wine (see below)

Place the sugar cube in a champagne flute, add the bitters, then add the sparkling wine.  Stir briefly if at all.

Why do I list sparkling wine as an ingredient of the Champagne Cocktail?  Because you don't have to use true Champagne. All Champagne is sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wine is Champagne.  Sort of like how all bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon.  And how all Cognac is brandy, but not all brandy is Cognac.  It's all about geography. 

The Champagne Cocktail lends itself to variations.  For example, the sparkling wine can make a difference (use what you like and can afford).  Also, you can add a half ounce of brandy and/or use Peychaud's bitters (a key part of the Sazerac) instead of Angostura bitters.  If you want to use sparkling wine in a different way, try a Kir Royale.  Or if you want a cocktail with a tenuous link to New Year's Eve but without sparkling wine, try a Bobby Burns (he wrote "Auld Lang Syne").

Courtesy of pop culture, the Champagne Cocktail exudes class.  For example, Resistance leader Victor Laszlo drinks one in the movie Casablanca.  So to paraphrase Ron Burgundy in Anchorman (a totally different character in a totally different movie), have a Champagne Cocktail and stay classy Den drinkers.


Fun, Classy, y Cubano -- BlackTail

The Chairman of the Board has a seat at the bar at BlackTail.
The Chairman of the Board has a seat at the bar at BlackTail.

BlackTail is a vibrant New York City bar that evokes the glamour of 20th century aviation (when passengers frequently dressed up to fly) and Cuba (during Prohibition and before the Castro regime).  Voted as the Best New American Bar during the 2017 Tales of the Cocktail, the bar's name comes from the distinctive tail fins of the planes of Aeromarine Airways, a luxury airliner that flew Americans to and from Cuba.

And so does the real Scarface.
And so does the real Scarface.

But enough about the back story.  How are the drinks?  In a word -- spectacular.  Take your time going through the extensive selection.  Ms. Cocktail Den and I spent a good part of a weekend evening savoring a number of cocktails. Personal favorites included the Baccarat (bears no resemblance to the card game played by James Bond), the Whizz Kid (a fascinating mix of bourbon, cognac, cachaça, amaro, vanilla, and cherry), and the El Presidente (I admit their version with a base of two rums and mezcal is superior to mine). While you can stick with traditional Cuban libations such as the Daiquiri, I encourage you to explore what else BlackTail has to offer.  Many of the drink combinations look strange on paper, but blend together nicely when you taste them.

The atmosphere at BlackTail is dynamic, and the attention to detail is phenomenal.  For example, calling the menu a "menu" does not do it justice.  It's really a wonderfully illustrated history book that describes how the legendary gangsters Meyer Lansky and Lucky Luciano (two true Scofflaws) turned Cuba into a moneymaking empire of sun and sin. Fortunately Ms. Cocktail Den talked me out of "liberating" one of them.

To paraphrase the title of one of my favorite Frank Sinatra songs, come fly away -- to BlackTail.


The Dry Era Ends -- Repeal Day

To paraphrase President Franklin Roosevelt's description of the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 5, 1933 is a date which will live in awesomeness.  On that day the 21st Amendment became official, Prohibition ended, and once again Americans could drink legally.

From the American Prohibition Museum, Savannah, Georgia.
From the American Prohibition Museum, Savannah, Georgia.

I recently had the honor of recommending a cocktail menu for my friend Chuck's company holiday party (does that make me a cocktail consultant?). The party's theme is a 1920s speakeasy.  Of course many speakeasies flourished during Prohibition, which lasted from 1919 to 1933. Keeping these things in mind, here's what I recommended:

 

Scofflaw -- This is the perfect cocktail for Repeal Day.  Besides being a great drink (one of my favorites), both the cocktail and the word originated during Prohibition.

Boulevardier -- As the name might suggest, it came out of France (specifically Paris) in the 1920s.  Even better, it only has three ingredients and is easy to make.

Mary Pickford -- An American bartender created this in Havana during the 1920s and named it for the first famous Hollywood actress.  Don't let its light and refreshing taste fool you.

Hanky Panky -- I love the name of this one. Like the Scofflaw, Boulevardier, and Mary Pickford, it came about during the 1920s. The history behind it is quite interesting, as a lady bartender created it during a time when lady bartenders were rare.

Man O'War --  Named for a champion racehorse at the beginning of the 1920s.  Like the other cocktails in this list, it's tasty, assertive, and effective.

Racketeer -- There were plenty of these people during Prohibition (Al Capone probably is the most famous one).  Fair warning -- the drink is very strong, and it's worth every last sip.

So grab a cocktail, celebrate the end of Prohibition, and revel in the ability to drink legally!  Cheers to Repeal Day!


An Antibiotic Cocktail -- The Penicillin

Just as alcohol can provide temporary relief from some conditions, e.g. sobriety (ha!), antibiotic drugs can cure all sorts of nasty physical conditions. Sam Ross is not a doctor, but he is a legendary New York City bartender who created the Penicillin.  I'm sure Dr. Alexander Fleming, who discovered penicillin in 1928 (and no relation to Ian Fleming, the author of the James Bond novels), would approve.

Penicillin2 ounces blended Scotch (I prefer Monkey Shoulder)
.75 ounces honey syrup
Ginger (see below for options)
Juice from 1/2 lemon
.25 ounces smoky Scotch (I used Laphroaig 10)

Combine everything except the smoky Scotch in a shaker with ice, shake with the force of penicillin destroying bacteria, strain into a chilled glass, then float the smoky Scotch on top (hold a spoon upside down over the glass and pour slowly).  Candied ginger or lemon garnish optional.

You have two options for the ginger.  First, use .75 ounces of a ginger liqueur such as Barrow's Intense (full disclosure -- I am a small investor).  Second, muddle two or three small pieces of fresh ginger in the shaker before adding the other ingredients.  I prefer the first option because Barrow's Intense gives you a strong and consistent ginger taste with slightly less effort.

Speaking of effort, making honey syrup doesn't take much of it. Just follow the recipe I used for A Thief In The Night.  The smoky Scotch, which is a key ingredient in cocktails such as the Fireside Chat, helps bring everything together to make the Penicillin a tasty and warming cocktail.

Penicillin -- it's good for what ails you.


Dare To Be Different -- The Renegade

Sometimes the word renegade has a bad connotation, e.g. the wanted man in the classic Styx song.  Sometimes history ultimately vindicates renegades because they dared to be different.  The word comes from the Latin renegare, which means to deny or renounce.  The Renegade cocktail isn't nearly as old as the word.  Thanks to Sara Rosales for creating it in 2013 and posting it on the Kindred Cocktails site.

Renegade 21 ounce bourbon
1 ounce mezcal
.75 ounces yellow Chartreuse
1 dash orange bitters
1 dash Angostura bitters

Combine in a shaker with ice, stir with the confidence that it takes to be a you know what, and strain into a chilled glass.  Orange twist garnish optional.

Like a true renegade, the Renegade stands out because of its high powered mix of bourbon and mezcal (similar to tequila because it comes from the agave plant, but smokier because of how you make it).  The yellow Chartreuse (sweeter and less potent than the green version) keeps you from ending up like the man in the Styx tune (he's about to hang on the gallows). If you want to be a renegade with a Renegade, change up the bitters.  For example, you can use the orange and juniper bitters from Bittered Sling and the aromatic bitters from Embitterment.

Does this combination of ingredients look a little weird?  Yes it does.  Just remember the motto of the elite British Special Air Service -- who dares, wins. 

Renounce weak cocktails, dare to have a Renegade, and win.


Sine Metu -- An Irish Whiskey Icon

IMG_20170714_162535309Sine metu (Latin for "without fear") is the motto of Jameson Whiskey.  Yes, that Jameson, the most famous brand of Irish whiskey.  You can find it in bars around the world, and not surprisingly every pub in Ireland. The original distillery, which is no longer in use, is one of the top tourist attractions in Dublin.

Last summer my wife (and my muse for the Whiskey Queen) visited the New Midleton Distillery, which is near Cork, Ireland.  The distillery produces a number of whiskies, the most famous of which is Jameson.

JamesonWulfDenBottleBookAlong with two of my wife's co-workers and their spouses, we took an extensive tour of the distillery and participated in a private whiskey tasting.  Conor, our bartender, was quite knowledgeable, and the rest of the group indulged us when we spoke about cocktails.  The whole experience was informative and fun.  And I would've said that even without trying half a dozen premium whiskies in the distillery's portfolio.

Do you want to pour and bottle your very own Jameson?  You can do it at the distillery.  We did (see the video below).  It always will be a special bottle for us.  We won't use it for cocktails such as the Intense Irish, but we'll be happy to use other products such as Jameson Caskmates.

Does reading all of this make you thirsty?  Then go forth and drink Jameson sine metu.


Deceptive Drinking -- The Part-Time Lover

"Part Time-Lover" was a huge hit for the great Stevie Wonder.  Truth be told, if you're going to talk about 1980s pop songs with the word "lover" in the title, I prefer "Easy Lover" from Phil Collins and Philip Bailey (from Earth, Wind, and Fire; he also happened to sing backup on "Part-Time Lover").  Stevie Wonder didn't create this cocktail.  Instead, the Part-Time Lover is a creation from Jon Weimorts in Los Angeles.

Part-Time Lover1.5 ounces blanco tequila
.5 ounces Aperol
.5 ounces elderflower liqueur or super simple syrup
Juice from 1/2 lemon
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake with the passion of a (you can figure out the metaphor, right?), and strain into a chilled glass.  Lemon garnish optional.

Just as the catchy upbeat vibe of the song belies its sad substance, the smooth taste of the Part-Time Lover belies its strength.  The tequila provides the subtle kick beneath the bitterwsweet Aperol (a lighter, less potent amaro with an orange taste) and the sweeter elderflower liqueur, e.g. St. Germain (a key ingredient in the Flower of Normandy), or super simple syrup. Weimorts uses elderflower liqueur because it adds more flavor to the Part-Time Lover.  If you don't have or want to get that, super simple syrup does quite well.

Have a full-time fun cocktail and drink a Part-Time Lover.