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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!


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.


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.


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!


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!


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!