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January 2016

Party Like It's 1959

Or, in the words of Prince, party like it's 1999.  Just as long as it's a cocktail party.  This 2014 article from the Huffington Post website gives you nine good reasons to have a cocktail party (click here for the article).  Sometimes the old ways are the best; James Bond geeks like me will know from which movie this line comes (hint -- Moneypenny utters it).  Thanks to my friend Joselle for posting the article.

Pearls Before Swine

So what should you serve at your cocktail party?  Obviously I suggest libations from the Wulf Cocktail Den, or whatever your liver desires.  Even if using the word "libation" might make you a snooty fatface (thanks to Stephan Pastis and his great comic strip Pearls Before Swine).



Paint It Black -- The Berry Crush

Paint It Black is one of my favorite Rolling Stones tunes.  The Berry Crush has nothing to do with the song, but it does contain a particular type of berry -- yes, the blackberry. I slightly modified the recipe in Chilled magazine; someone at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas created the original cocktail.

Berry Crush1 ounce vodka (right now I'm drinking Belvedere)
1 ounce Cointreau
1/4 lime cut into small chunks
4 blackberries
.5 ounces super simple syrup

Muddle the blackberries and lime in the bottom of a shaker.  Add the other ingredients and ice, shake like you're Mick Jagger on stage, and strain into a chilled glass.  Blackberry garnish optional.

The original Berry Crush uses more lime, but I cut it back so the blackberry flavor is more pronounced. After all, this is the Berry Crush. The cocktail is messy, even if you muddle the fruits properly (press firmly but gently, don't beat the hell out of it).  I think I had to scrub the cocktail shaker two or three times before I finally removed all of the blackberry pulp.

The mess is worth the effort.  Now go make yourself a Berry Crush and get some liquid satisfaction.

Drink More Whiskey? The Answer Is Yes.

There have been many elegant odes to whiskey.  This video from BuzzFeed isn't one of them.  But it is funny as hell.  One of my personal favorite lines -- "Whiskey is nobody's bitch."


Thanks to my wife, aka Ms. Wulf Cocktail Den, for seeing this on YouTube.  If (when) the video inspires you to have a whiskey based cocktail, click on the Bourbon, Rye, and Scotch links on the right.  You'll have plenty of options from which to choose.

Now that you've finished reading this, it's time to drink some whiskey.  Right?

FDR and Scotch -- The Fireside Chat

President Franklin D. Roosevelt led the U.S. during most of the Great Depression and World War II.  Using the relatively new medium of radio to communicate directly with the public, his series of speeches known as the Fireside Chats helped explain his policies and restore confidence.  Contrary to some misconceptions, Roosevelt was not near a fireplace (he was sitting at a desk), and he did not utter the famous line "we have nothing to fear but fear itself" during one of the 30 Fireside Chats (it is from his first inaugural address). Thanks to Chilled magazine for introducing me to this cocktail.

Fireside Chat1.5 ounces smoky Scotch
1 ounce Cointreau
.5 ounces sweet vermouth
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Combine in a shaker with ice, stir with the reassuring stability of a true leader during a time of crisis, and  strain into a chilled glass.  Lemon peel garnish optional.

The Fireside Chat is not far removed from a Rob Roy, which is a Scotch based version of a Manhattan. The recipe in Chilled calls for Scotch from the Islay region. as well as Grand Marnier.  As far as I'm concerned, you should use your favorite Scotch so long as it has a distinct smoky flavor.  My wife has a wide selection of smoky Scotches; we used Lagavulin 16 for the Fireside Chat.  I like Grand Marnier, but I prefer Cointreau for two reasons.  One, for me Cointreau has slightly more of an orange flavor because, unlike Grand Marnier, it does not contain Cognac.  Second, right now I don't have any Grand Marnier in my bar and I'm too lazy to get a bottle.

Just remember -- where there's smoke, there's a Fireside Chat.

A Drink For Goin' Anywhere -- The Midnight Train

Midnight TrainThe word "Midnight" or the phrase "Midnight Train" appears in a lot of great songs -- "Midnight Rider" by the Allman Brothers, "Midnight Train to Georgia" by Gladys Knight and the Pips, "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey (now the subject title should make sense), etc.  The Midnight Train cocktail has no relation to any of these tunes, but like them it is something to savor.  Many thanks to Alana Zanello at Jacoby's Restaurant and Mercantile in Austin for creating it.

1.5 ounces whiskey
1 ounce Averna
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1 ounce super simple syrup

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake as if you're heading down the tracks goin' anywhere, and strain into a chilled glass.  Lemon peel garnish optional.

The Midnight Train essentially is a Whiskey Sour plus Averna.  Averna, a Sicilian amaro, is great on its own, and you can use it in other original creations such as the Lupara and the Amaro Amore.  Zanello uses George Dickel, a fine Tennessee whiskey, as the base for the Midnight Train.  I've used bourbon and rye for the base whiskey.  Quite frankly, you're not going to go wrong with any of them.  The Midnight Train will get you to Georgia or anywhere, and they're not going to catch you because you will become the Midnight Rider.



Classically Sharp -- The Whiskey Sour

Old school done right can be a wonderful thing.  I'm not referring to the very funny movie Old School (but as fraternity movies go it is not nearly as good as the classic Animal House).  The Whiskey Sour appears to have originated a couple of centuries ago when British Royal Navy sailors combined whiskey and lemon in order to combat scurvy, which is due to a Vitamin C deficiency.  Scurvy is not a modern problem, but a bad Whiskey Sour is.  The cocktail can go wrong quickly due to bad ingredients, bad technique, or both.  Go back to basics and use the KISS principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid).

Whiskey Sour2 ounces whiskey (see below)
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1 ounce super simple syrup

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake as if you're at the Delta Tau Chi toga party, or you're Gene Simmons and/or Ace Frehley rockin' out (this is the other KISS principle -- rock and roll all night and party every day), and strain into a chilled rocks (no pun intended) glass.  Lemon garnish optional.

So what type of whiskey should you use in a Whiskey Sour?  Whichever one you like.  I prefer bourbon or rye, and Tennessee whiskey, e.g. Jack Daniels or George Dickel, will do quite well.  And if you're not into whiskey? Use vodka instead and you more or less have a Lemon Drop.

While the whiskey you use is important, using fresh lemon juice is critical.  None of this sour mix crap.  If someone tries to make you a Whiskey Sour with a mix instead of fresh lemon juice, run as if your liver depends on it.  Because it does.  After all, life is too short to drink bad cocktails.

What's In Your Bourbon?

It's all about the mash bill.  This isn't the name of a rock band (although it could be).  The mash bill is the specific grain recipe for a whiskey.  If you read the Den post about bourbon being an alcoholic example of American Exceptionalism, you learned its mash bill must contain at least 51% corn.  

What happens once a bourbon distiller meets the 51% threshold?  In theory, almost anything. I recently found this article on the Bourbon Of The Day website.  The article provides an excellent overview of the four standard grains (corn,  barley, rye, and wheat) and the three general recipes (traditional, high rye, and wheat) distillers use to create their bourbons. As the article astutely notes, there can be a lot of variations not just with the proportions of the grains, but also with the grains themselves.

So, with apologies to the Capital One ad with Samuel L. Jackson, what's in your bourbon?

A Cure For Cancer -- The Cancer Killer #1

Cancer sucks.  Fortunately people can and do beat it.  My friend Stephanie is one of those people.  Last year she learned that she had breast cancer.  When that happened I promised her I would create a cocktail when the cancer was gone.  After undergoing chemotherapy and surgery, Stephanie triumphed.  A new year and a cancer free diagnosis deserve a new original creation -- the Cancer Killer #1.

Cancer Killer #12 ounces rye
1 ounce Cointreau
.5 ounces Campari
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Combine in shaker with ice, stir with the inspiring defiance that Stephanie and others show when they fight cancer, and strain into a chilled glass.

In a way the Cancer Killer #1 is a commissioned cocktail.  I'm not comparing myself to Michelangelo, nor am I comparing Stephanie to one of the Medicis.  I asked her to tell me the flavors she preferred in a new cocktail.  She mentioned rye and orange.  Immediately I thought of Cointreau because it is made from oranges.  I added Campari because it is the harshest of the amari (bitter) liqueurs.  The treatment for cancer can be downright brutal, and Campari is a reminder of that bitterness.

The Cancer Killer #1 will not really cure cancer (that should keep the FDA off my back).  However, it happily fulfills my promise to Stephanie.  In addition, it is an excellent cocktail to celebrate those who defeat cancer, and those who are working to defeat it.  Death to cancer!