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Solving The Cocktail Case In Edinburgh -- Bryant & Mack Private Detectives

Bryant & Mack 1Here's a mystery -- where in Edinburgh can you find a top notch bar that's also fun and unpretentious?  This one is easy to solve.  Simply go to Bryant & Mack Private Detectives.  Ms. Cocktail Den and I did when we attended Tales on Tour earlier this year. 

Behind a humble exterior lies a small, dark bar with great drinks and great people. To me the interior evokes the intimate atmosphere of somewhere Humphrey Bogart, who played private detectives in classic films such as The Big Sleep and The Maltese Falcon, might have a drink or two as he contemplated his next move. Neither Bogart nor films like those were the inspiration for the bar's theme.  The inspiration was the deceptively effective television detective Columbo, played by Peter Falk.

Bryant & Mack 2Bryant & Mack Private Detectives is the brainchild of Ross Bryant and Jason Cormack. We happened to have a great conversation with Jason our first time there; we also met Alexandra Barstalker, a kindred cocktail spirit.  We briefly met Ross on a different night during a memorable Tales on Tour event with Buffalo Trace and Fratelli Branca (premium bourbon and vintage Fernet Branca at low prices ... need I say more?). While they are both very proud of what they have accomplished (and they should be), they are very modest.

The drinks are flavorful, creative, and well executed. Ms. Cocktail Den really liked the On Green Acres, and I particularly enjoyed the Perla Nera and the Bijou. Something else I enjoyed is the no standing policy.  If you're not sitting at the bar (something we always prefer) or one of the tables, you're not having a drink. It's a counterintuitively brilliant move.  Even though the policy sacrifices potential revenue for the bar, it enhances the customer's experience because it won't get crowded.  Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade would approve.

So here's a new mystery -- when are you going to Bryant & Mack Private Detectives?


A Wealthy Drink -- The Millionaire

Who wants to drink a Millionaire? There's more than one. The Millionaire is a group of drinks that came around before and during Prohibition.  Just like other cocktail groups with the same name, e.g. the Corpse Reviver #1, the different Millionaire numbers have different base spirits and recipes.  However, there's no clear consensus about which number corresponds to which base spirit.  Here are two variations of the rye based Millionaire.

MillionaireThe first million:

2 ounces rye
.75 ounces Cointreau
.5 ounces glorious grenadine
1 egg white

The next million:

The first million
.25 ounces absinthe
Juice from 1/8 lemon

Whether you're making your first million or your next million, combine everything except the egg white in a shaker with ice, shake with the thrill of winning the lottery, strain everything into a glass, toss the ice from the shaker, pour the contents of the glass back into the shaker, add the egg white, shake as if your stock portfolio quadrupled in value overnight, and strain into a separate chilled glass.

The Millionaire (first million) has an appropriately rich taste.  This is due to the froth of the egg white, and the sweetness of the grenadine and Cointreau (or some other triple sec). Make this one if you and/or your favorite millionaire like drinks a little bit on the sweet side. With the next million the Millionaire develops a subtly sharp undertone. While I've used absinthe to coat the glass for a Sazerac, this is the first time I mixed it directly into a cocktail.  It works well.

While the Millionaire won't cost the same as Dr. Evil's initial extortion attempt in the first Austin Powers movie, after one or two of them, you'll definitely feel like a millionaire.


Drinking Like Jersey Boys and Girls -- The Newark

I've never been to Newark (only through it), but I've repeatedly heard it is not one of New Jersey's highlights.  That didn't stop Jim Meehan and John Deragon at PDT in New York City from creating a cocktail in its honor. The Newark is not far removed from a Manhattan or a Brooklyn.  Tony Soprano would like the Newark because most or all of its ingredients come from New Jersey and Italy.  Am I good with that?  Fuggedaboudit.

Newark2 ounces Laird's apple brandy or applejack
1 ounce sweet vermouth
.25 ounces Fernet Branca
.25 ounces Luxardo maraschino liqueur

Combine in a shaker with ice, stir with the resoluteness of being Jersey tough, and strain into a chilled glass (preferably a coupe).

Laird's, which originated in New Jersey, makes apple brandy and applejack.  The two spirits aren't very different.  When you compare apples to apples, it's about exploiting different boiling and freezing points. In modern times Laird's applejack is a mix of apple brandy and other spirits. Add the sweet vermouth (most of which comes from Italy) and the Fernet Branca and Luxardo maraschino liqueur (both of which come from Italy), and you have one great cocktail. Want some accompanying music from some real Jersey boys?  I suggest Frank Sinatra (you might associate him with New York, but he was born and raised in New Jersey) or Bon Jovi.

As anyone who's seen the musical or movie Jersey Boys would tell you, big girls (and boys) don't cry.  They drink Newarks.


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.


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.


So Good It's A Crime -- The Racketeer

A lot of colorful people, both real and fictional, have been and are racketeers.  The word (it means someone who's engaged in an illegal business) isn't used much anymore (it dates to the 1920s) and usually refers to someone in organized crime.  Even Bugs Bunny posed as one in the 1946 cartoon Racketeer Rabbit.  The Racketeer cocktail isn't nearly as old as the word, as it seems Stephen Cole created it no later than 2009.  Thanks to the Floppy Disk Repair Company (part of the Stranger Things in Austin) for introducing me to the Racketeer.

Racketeer1 ounce rye
1 ounce mezcal
.5 ounces sweet vermouth
.5 ounces Benedictine DOM
.25 ounces yellow Chartreuse
3 dashes Peychaud's bitters

Rinse the inside of a chilled glass with a smoky Scotch (I used Laphroaig).  Combine the ingredients in a shaker with ice, stir with the intense purpose of an aspiring you know what, and strain into the chilled glass.

The Racketeer is a very strong drink.  It contains rye (like the Scofflaw, another criminal themed cocktail), mezcal (tequila's smokier cousin) and two herbal liqueurs -- none of which are even remotely weak.  Fortunately the Benedictine DOM and sweet vermouth keep the Racketeer from fitting you with cement shoes ..... alcoholically speaking. The many ingredients may seem exotic, but you can find them at most liquor stores.  Like most tricky scores, the payoff is worth it.

So what can you do as you have a Racketeer? If you film tastes run towards something more serious than Bugs Bunny (I love classic Warner Brothers cartoons), I suggest a classic like The Godfather (my favorite movie and the inspiration for the Lupara) or The Sting.  Depending on what music you like, you can listen to songs such as Bad To The Bone by George Thorogood or Smooth Criminal by Michael Jackson.

Don't have too many Racketeers at once.  We don't want you to have to take the Fifth (not a fifth) and need a lawyer. 


The Magnificent Seven Of Cocktails

The Magnificent Seven (the original starring Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen; I haven't seen the remake with Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt) is my favorite Western movie.  Everyone who loves movies should know about this film.   Carrie Allan, a cocktail columnist for the Washington Post, just wrote a great article about the 7 essential cocktails every drinker should know how to make.  Carrie is smart and hilarious, and my wife and I had the pleasure of meeting her at the Tales of the Cocktail conference in 2016.  She surveyed a number of acquaintances (full disclosure -- I participated in the survey) about classic cocktails before distilling (pun intended) the responses.

So what are these Magnificent Seven cocktails?  The Martini, Manhattan, Negroni, Old-Fashioned, Daiquiri, Margarita, and Gin and Tonic.   In addition, the article has links to related cocktails, e.g. the Sazerac and Hemingway Daiquiri.

All of these drinks are classics for good reason.  That doesn't mean you have to like all of them.  But if you're not familiar with some of them, try them.  You might be in for a pleasant surprise.       

To paraphrase Steve McQueen's character in The Magnificent Seven -- we deal in cocktails friend.


We'll Always Have Paris -- Harry's and Hemingway

Drink iconically in Paris!  Both of these legendary bars predate the great movie Casablanca, which is the source of many classic lines, e.g. the subject title of this post.   One night in Paris my wife and I visited these historic bars to soak in some history and cocktails (not necessarily in that order).     

HarrysBarParisHarry's Bar opened in 1911.  American expats and visitors initially formed the bulk of its clientele.   Notable people who have imbibed there over the years include Humphrey Bogart (one of the stars in Casablanca) and Ian Fleming (author of the James Bond novels; in Casino Royale 007 refers to Harry's as the best place in Paris for a "solid drink").  Despite its American origin, Harry's is named for Harry McElhone, a Scotsman who tended bar there in the 1920s.  My wife and I were pleasantly surprised that most of Harry's current patrons were native French speakers, or at least they were the night we were there. 

Our experience at Harry's was worthwhile but not worth repeating.  The cocktails certainly were above average and the bartenders were proficient.  However, the service and atmosphere were perfunctory.  We didn't feel like we were being pushed out the door, but nothing about Harry's invited us to stay, linger, and have another drink or two.

RitzParisThe Bar Hemingway at the Ritz Paris hotel is named for that Hemingway (the inspiration for the Hemingway Daiquiri).  The bar was in business before Papa started drinking there, but he supposedly liberated it from the Nazis towards the end of World War II.  The place oozes class, elegance, and discretion.  For example, you can't take photos and there is an informal dress code.

The Bar Hemingway is fairly deep inside the hotel.  The journey is worth the very expensive cocktail or two.  Once my initial sticker shock wore off, I was able to appreciate our finely crafted drinks. Unlike the vibe in Harry's, the atmosphere in the Bar Hemingway felt more welcoming, e.g. the bartender was delighted to have us sample the house ginger essence.

Bottom line -- Harry's and Bar Hemingway both blend cocktails and history, but if you have to pick one (and can afford it), follow Papa's lead.


We'll Always Have Paris -- Little Red Door

It's a classic line from Casablanca, one of the greatest movies in history.  I'm no Humphrey Bogart (I'm not as cool as he was) and my wife is no Ingrid Bergman (she's better looking than Bergman), but we did have a great time in Paris.  As Paris is one of the great cities of the world, it's no surprise you can find some great cocktail experiences there.

The Little Red Door is a fun and cozy cocktail bar in the 3rd arrondissement.  It's fairly close to a lot of the main tourist sites.  Conveniently, the Little Red Door was walking (staggering?) distance from where we stayed.  It's not a big place, so depending on when you go you may have to wait a short period of time to get inside.

LittleRedDoorParisThe cocktail list is very creative, as it pairs 11 drinks with pictures from various artists.  The drinks, which have numbers instead of names, are approachable liquid works of art.  We should know, as we tried a few of them during our two visits to the Little Red Door.  You're not bound to those drinks.  The first time we went there Calvin made me an exquisite variation of a Sidecar.  As most people in the cocktail community consider Paris to be the birthplace of the Sidecar, I wanted to have one while I was in town.

Fortunately the Little Red Door hasn't become full of pretentious mixologists (arguably a redundant phrase).  That's a concern when a bar becomes increasingly popular.  No worries here.  The bar staff was engaging, pleasant, and more than happy to talk about liquors and cocktails.  Interestingly, the bar stuff was truly international, e.g. Calvin was from Scotland, and I don't think I heard any native French speakers behind the bar.  Between the quality of the cocktails, the top notch technical skills of the bartenders, and most importantly, the people, the Little Red Door definitely is worth a visit if you're in the City of Light.

Me and the Little Red Door -- it's the beginning of a beautiful friendship (if you don't get the joke, watch Casablanca).


Six Shot Fluidity -- The Revolver

RevolverLet's get one thing out of the way -- this excellent cocktail does not consist of six shots.  A drink that large would drop you like the business end of a real revolver.  The Revolver contains almost two shots of booze. Jon Santer created it in San Francisco, which is where the fictional Detective "Dirty Harry" Callahan used a .44 Magnum revolver to take down criminals.

2 ounces bourbon (preferably Bulleit -- get it?)
.5 ounces Kahlua or coffee liqueur
2 dashes orange bitters (I used Embitterment)

Combine in a shaker with ice, stir with the steady bang bang rhythm of firing a you know what, and strain into a chilled glass.

The Revolver is a little sweet, even if you use a slightly spicier bourbon like Bulleit.  Of course, don't make the mistake of conflating sweetness with weakness (that's a general rule in life in my opinion).  Some people think a drink that is sweet or a "girly" color has to be weak.  Those people are wrong.  

My musical preferences run the gamut, but rock n' roll generally is my favorite.  Keeping that in mind, I suggest the following as musical accompaniment to the Revolver --   specific tunes from Aerosmith (Janie's Got a Gun) or Lynyrd Skynyrd (Saturday Night Special), anything by .38 Special, or what is arguably Pat Benatar's most popular song (Hit Me With Your Best Shot).

Now that you're interested in a Revolver, I will channel Dirty Harry Callahan and ask one question -- do you feel lucky, punk?