Italian And Not Really "Bitter" -- The Amaretto Sour

In celebration of National Amaretto Day, the Amaretto Sour pays homage to this ubiquitous liqueur. The Italian word roughly means "little bitter."  However, amaretto liqueur is quite sweet. Traditionally it's made from bitter almonds, but some versions also incorporate apricot pits. The history behind the Amaretto Sour is unknown.  The standard recipe (amaretto, lemon juice, and simple syrup, or God forbid some sour mix) is too sweet for me, so I prefer this very minor adaptation of an enhanced recipe from the renowned Jeffrey Morgenthaler.

Amaretto Sour1.5 ounces amaretto
.75 ounces bourbon (preferably at least 100 proof)
Juice from 1/2 lemon
.25 ounces super simple syrup
1 egg white

Combine everything except the egg white in a shaker with ice, reverse dry shake (see Shake, Shake, Shake your Egg Whites) with stereotypical Italian exuberance (you can put everything in the shaker all at once, but reverse dry shaking is worth the effort), and strain into a chilled glass.

As you might think, this Amaretto Sour is reminiscent of the Whiskey Sour and its variations such as the Midnight Train and the Icelandic Sour.  In some respects it also is reminiscent of the Stiletto. The bourbon keeps the Amaretto Sour from becoming overpoweringly sweet.  The egg white gives the Amaretto Sour a richer flavor and protein boost (Morgenthaler uses 1/2 of an egg white, but for me it's easier to use all of it), which makes the cocktail sort of ... healthy?

Despite it sweet base, this Amaretto Sour isn't all that sweet.  It's not bitter, it's buonissimo!


Clickbait Cocktail -- The Naked And Famous

Here's a sexy looking drink.
Here's a sexy looking drink.

Made you look!  That's what clickbait online is all about. Although Joaquin Símo at Death & Company in New York City created the cocktail, the Alley Cat Lounge in Savannah introduced me to the Naked and Famous. The name caught my eye (of course), but the ingredients sold me on it.

.75 ounces mezcal
.75 ounces yellow Chartreuse
.75 ounces Aperol
Juice from 1/2 lime

Combine everything in a shaker with ice, shake with the evanescent thrill of seeing an intriguing headline, and strain into a chilled glass (preferably a coupe).

As The Naked and Famous uses equal proportions and includes a Chartreuse (there are two types -- yellow and green) and lime juice, it's a variation on the Last Word.  However, it doesn't taste like a Last Word. Mezcal, which I've described in other posts (e.g. the Racketeer) as tequila's smokier cousin, brings some heat to the drink, and the yellow Chartreuse and Aperol make it smooth.  Aperol is a widely available orange tinged amaro that really isn't bitter.  It's a component of other drinks such as the Part-Time Lover.

Unlike most clickbait, the Naked and Famous really delivers.  So cocktail click away!


A Majestic Cocktail -- The Royal Blood

Royalty is an odd and fascinating concept to those of us who live in countries without the formal tradition.  There's official royalty, e.g. Queen Elizabeth II in England, and unofficial royalty, e.g. the Kennedy and Bush dynasties in the United States.  The Royal Blood is a creation from Fraser Campbell at Dewar's, and I slightly adapted the recipe I found in Chilled magazine.

Royal Blood2 ounces Scotch (see below)
1 ounce sweet vermouth
.25 ounces cherry Heering liqueur
1 dash chocolate bitters
1 dash orange bitters

Combine in a shaker with ice, stir with noble purpose, and strain into a chilled glass. Luxardo cherry garnish optional.

Along with the Royalist and the Whiskey Queen, the Royal Blood proudly continues one of the many cocktail themes in the Den. The original calls for a particular single malt in the Dewar's portfolio. While I'm not sure it makes a difference if you use a single malt or blended Scotch, use one that is not too smoky or peaty. For example, if you're using a particular Scotch to make a Fireside Chat, don't use it for the Royal Blood. The Royal Blood has the same base (Scotch and sweet vermouth) as the Bobby Burns and the Rob Roy, which essentially is a Scotch based Manhattan. If you like this drink or vice versa, you'll probably like the other one.

If you're like me and more than 99.999% of the world's population, you're not royalty.  A Royal Blood will make you feel like you are.


Offbeat Cocktail Rhythm -- The Syncopation

Syncopation is a musical term that refers to stressing an offbeat note.  In 1919 the iconic American songwriter Irving Berlin (his canon includes such classics as "God Bless America," "Puttin on the Ritz," and "White Christmas") wrote "A Syncopated Cocktail." There was no such cocktail at the time, but presumably the song inspired the drink. Harry McElhone, who introduced the Boulevardier to the world, included the Syncopation in his 1927 book.

IMG_20171220_1924481 ounce brandy
.5 ounces Cointreau
.5 ounces apple brandy
Juice from 1/4 lemon
1 dash Angostura bitters

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake with the "jazzy melody" Berlin mentioned in the song, and strain into a chilled glass.

If you like a Sidecar or Corpse Reviver #1, you'll like the Syncopation. It appears the Syncopation traditionally called for Cognac as the brandy and Calvados as the apple brandy (Cognac is a torched Dutch grape from a particular place, and the same goes for Calvados, which is part of the Flower of Normandy). McElhone was in Paris when he came up with the Syncopation, so I figure he would have had easy access to French spirits.  Speaking of French spirits, you don't have to use Cointreau (my favorite triple sec), but you should use an orange liqueur. If you want an American spirit in the mix, use brandy from Copper & Kings or Laird's.

To take a line from the song, the Syncopation is fascinating and intoxicating. Now go make some cocktail music of your own.


The KISS Principle in Cocktails

This KISS principle is not the one declaring you should rock and roll all night and party every day (although that's a good one). KISS is an acronym for "keep it simple, stupid." The KISS principle applies in a wide array of disciplines such as communication and design. This excellent article from Carrie Allan, a spirits columnist at the Washington Post who the Den has featured in other posts such as The Magnificent Seven of Cocktails, is a reminder that the KISS principle also applies to cocktails.

Ward 8You can get a lot of great cocktails at bars. However, sometimes their ingredients and complexity make it very difficult and insanely expensive to try to recreate them at home. The frustration can lead to the point where tears are falling (do you get the musical reference without Googling it?). Sometimes simple is best.  Whether it's a drink with three or fewer ingredients such as the Margarita or Stiletto, or a drink with equal proportions such as the Last Word, it's easy to make great cocktails at home.

And what do you do after that? To use a line from Gene, Ace, and Paul ... lick it up.


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!