Sexy And Sophisticated -- The Les Bon Temps Roulé

"Laissez les bon temps roulé" is French for "let the good times roll," and it's an unofficial slogan of the city of New Orleans. Ms. Cocktail Den and I first created the Les Bon Temps Roulé when we mixed beats and drinks at a D'Ussé cognac event during the Tales of the Cocktail conference.  The concoction was okay (especially considering we only had five minutes to create and execute an original cocktail), but not great. After I experimented at home, here is the new and improved version.

Les Bon Temps Roule2.25 ounces cognac or brandy
.5 ounces allspice dram
.25 ounces super simple syrup
3 dashes tiki bitters (I used Embitterment)

Combine in a mixing glass or shaker with ice, stir with some enlightened passion, and strain into a chilled glass.  Orange peel garnish optional.

Like the rapper Pitbull's description of himself, I like to think the Les Bon Temps Roulé is sexy and sophisticated. The cognac or brandy you use is important.  After all, it is the primary ingredient.  While I certainly thank D'Ussé for inspiring me to create the Les Bon Temps Roulé, and it works well in the drink, use your preferred cognac or brandy.  They're all torched Dutch grapes. Just remember all cognac is brandy, but all brandy isn't cognac.

The Les Bon Temps Roulé is an intriguing mix of Old World (cognac or brandy) and New World (allspice dram and tiki bitters).  The allspice dram, a rum based liqueur in other drinks such as the Donna Maria, and tiki bitters give the drink some lively flavors. It's easy to find allspice dram and tiki bitters online if your local store doesn't carry them.

Will the Les Bon Temps Roulé end up in the pantheon of great well known New Orleans drinks such as the Vieux Carré, Sazerac, and Hurricane, or great but less well known drinks such as the Antoine's Smile? Time will tell.  But in the meantime -- let the good times roll!


Polite And Powerful -- The Danish Road Rage

Denmark has aggressive drivers?  Not really. During our time wandering around Copenhagen, Ms. Cocktail Den and I learned bicycles are the preferred mode of transportation.  The name of the Danish Road Rage comes from an offhand joke our walking tour guide made as we explored the city. The "incident" occurred when one bicycle rider rang their bell at another rider. Twice. The inspiration for the cocktail comes from an off menu item from Richard at the great 1105 bar in Copenhagen (he's from Scotland; this is yet another example of the transnational nature of cocktail culture).

Danish Road Rage3 ounces aquavit (preferably from Denmark)
.5 ounces dry vermouth
2 dashes lavender or orange bitters

Combine in a shaker with ice, stir with the graceful rhythm of navigating Copenhagen's bicycle lanes, and strain into a chilled glass.

The Danish Road Rage essentially is a martini using aquavit instead of vodka or gin. If James Bond worked for PET (the Danish intelligence agency) instead of MI6, he would drink this. I suggest using a clear aquavit such as Taffel or Jubilauems (I used the former in the picture, Richard used the latter when he made a drink for me) from Aalborg. Make sure whatever vermouth you use is reasonably fresh. As for the bitters, lavender is tough to find, but using it will make a spectacular Danish Road Rage. If you're willing to go online, I suggest ordering lavender bitters from Embitterment, which also makes excellent orange bitters.

Regardless of whether or not you have to deal with traffic stupidity, the Danish Road Rage is the cure.


Intercontinental Smoke -- The East-West Magic

Where there's smoke, there's fire. Or in the case of the East-West Magic, where there's a bit of smoke, there's an exquisite and earthy cocktail. Cheongsam is an American company that hand makes unique tea liqueurs in China from locally sourced tea. Ms. Cocktail Den and I met the people behind Cheongsam at the Tales of the Cocktail conference this year, and after trying the liqueurs we were dying to conduct some experiments with them. The East-West Magic is an original creation incorporating some smoke from Cheongsam's Smokey Mist liqueur (the East) and Scotch (the West).

East-West Magic1.5 ounces Scotch (see below)
.75 ounces Cheongsam Smokey Mist liqueur
Juice from 1/4 lemon
3 dashes cardamom bitters

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake with the initial jolt of seeing smoke even when you're expecting it, and strain into a chilled glass.

The East-West Magic has some unusual ingredients that might be hard to find.  Reward yourself and find them. You can get all of them online. While the Smokey Mist liqueur is a critical part of the East-West Magic, don't overlook the Scotch.  Use one with a little smoky undertone, but not too much (I used Highland Park 12). If the Scotch is too smoky or peaty you'll miss the subtle joy of the Cheongsam liqueur. If you like the East-West Magic, you might like the Penicillin (or my tequila and mezcal based spin on it, the Mexicillin), or an even smokier drink such as the Fireside Chat. The cardamom bitters give the East-West Magic some liquid nuance.

As you savor this cocktail, it's ok to channel the popular 1980s tune from the Cars (mentioned in the Blinker) and sing --uh oh, it's East-West Magic.


Fruit With Wildfire -- The Intense Spiced Pear Martini

Pear and ginger might sound like a weird combination.  Sometimes weird is good.  In the case of the Intense Spiced Pear Martini, it's really good. Why is it intense?  Because I used Barrow's Intense ginger liqueur (full disclosure -- Ms. Cocktail Den and I are small investors).  This original creation is an adaptation of a drink on the menu at a McCormick & Schmick's restaurant.

2 ounces pear vodka (I used Wild Roots) Intense Spiced Pear Martini 1
1 ounce Barrow's Intense ginger liqueur
Juice from 1/8 lime
1 dash cinnamon
1 dash nutmeg

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake with fiery emphasis, and strain into a chilled glass. Candied ginger and/or nutmeg garnish optional.

There aren't many pear vodkas on the market.  If you can get your hands on Wild Roots, do it. We tasted its vodkas at the recent Tales of the Cocktail conference, and the people there generously provided us with some free bottles for cocktail experiments. Grey Goose also makes a good pear vodka, but Wild Roots has a more pronounced pear flavor. I tested two versions, one with Wild Roots and one with Grey Goose.  In our view the one with Wild Roots was the clear winner.

Barrow's Intense is in liquor stores in most states.  If it's not yet in your local store, you can get it online. Without Barrow's Intense, the drink just won't be the same. If you don't have pear vodka on hand, you can use Barrow's Intense to make something similar, such as an Intense Ginger Lime Martini.

This cocktail is spiced but not spicy. I thought the drink upon which it is based was unnecessarily complicated. That one had seven ingredients.  In comparison, the Intense Spiced Pear Martini has five and is far superior. If it's a little too spicy for you, add a little St. Germain elderflower liqueur (used in drinks such as the Flower of Normandy), orgeat syrup, or super simple syrup.

Do you want to be a little wild? A little spicy?  A little intense?  Then answer the call from the Intense Spiced Pear Martini.


A CFIT Cocktail -- The Burnt Fuselage

CFIT is an aviation acronym that stands for "controlled flight into terrain."  It's a benign sounding term for a catastrophic event -- a type of crash.  The Burnt Fuselage is a creation from Chuck Kerwood, a fighter pilot in the Lafayette Escadrille, which was a squadron mostly composed of American volunteers who flew for France in World War I. Kerwood survived the war, and the Burnt Fuselage lives on thanks to advocates such as cocktail historian and author David Wondrich.

Burnt Fuselage1 ounce Cognac
1 ounce Grand Marnier
1 ounce dry vermouth, preferably French (I used Noilly Prat)

Combine in a shaker with ice, stir with joyous relief of not being part of a burnt fuselage, and strain into a chilled glass.  Lemon peel garnish optional.

Despite its ominous name, the Burnt Fuselage is a well structured and lively drink. Given its history, it's appropriate to use all French spirits. In discussing torched Dutch grapes we learned all Cognac is brandy, but all brandy isn't Cognac. Definitely use Grand Marnier.  Its distinctive blend of orange liqueur and Cognac really works well.  Even though I'm a big fan of Cointreau, an orange liqueur I use in drinks such as the Margarita and Orange Satchmo, my experiment using it in the Burnt Fuselage sort of went down in flames (pun intended).

The Burnt Fuselage is another example of Americans creating cocktails abroad.  My guess is Prohibition was a big reason for this pattern in cocktail history.  Other examples of Americans creating cocktails abroad include the Pisco Sour, the Boulevardier, and the Mary Pickford.

If you see fit (get it? if not, say it out loud) to try a Burnt Fuselage, you'll be a cocktail ace.


DJ Cocktail -- Mixing Beats And Drinks

Who knew being a DJ is like being a bartender? I never thought about it until Ms. Cocktail Den and I attended an event hosted by D'Ussé cognac at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans. Whether they're professionals or amateurs (or as I described myself during the event, a professional amateur) DJs and bartenders are artists. One has music as their medium and the other has cocktails.

D'Usse event 1The first part of the event was about the music.  9th Wonder, a big time hip hop record producer and DJ, spoke about DJing and laid down a few beats. I must confess I had not heard of him, but I certainly have heard of many of the artists with whom he's worked, e.g. Beyoncé and Ludacris. Along with Jay Clipp, a nationally known DJ, 9th Wonder showed what goes into spinning records (or audio files on a computer) and creating some great music. It's a lot harder than it looks. The presentation was really interesting, even for someone like me who has very little knowledge of hip hop and no musical talent. Ms. Cocktail Den, who has musical talent, thought the connections are fascinating.

The second part of the event focused on D'Ussé cognac and using it in drinks. Everyone stood at tables, each of which had glasses of D'Ussé and bar tools such as mixing glasses, jiggers, and shakers. First Colin Asare-Appiah, the dynamic D'Ussé brand ambassador, had us taste the cognac.  It's quite good and pretty smooth.  The brand has a music connection, as rapper and producer Jay-Z is a part owner.

Mixing the Les Bon Temps Roule (D'Usse cognac, simple syrup, allspice dram, tiki bitters).
Mixing the Les Bon Temps Roulé ( 2 ounces D'Ussé cognac, 1/2 ounce simple syrup, 1/2 ounce allspice dram, 2 dashes tiki bitters, orange peel garnish -- I thought the result was too sweet).

After tasting the cognac, Colin presented everyone with a challenge -- create a cocktail using D'Ussé as the base spirit in five minutes. Everyone had access to other possible ingredients including a small selection of other spirits, syrups, citrus, and bitters.  I admit I got flustered, in large part because most people in the room were highly accomplished professional bartenders. For example, the people standing behind us were from Le Syndicat, a Tales nominee for the best International Cocktail Bar.  Ms. Cocktail Den and I persevered. Our spur of the moment creation, the Les Bon Temps Roulé ("the good times roll" in French, "let the good times roll" is an unofficial slogan in New Orleans), didn't turn out quite as well I would have hoped (recipe is in the photo caption). Nonetheless, merci to D'Ussé for a great experience. We got to learn things, create a cocktail, and meet fun and interesting people such as Kapri Robinson and Josh Davis. I even got an offer to do a guest bartending gig; I'm still not sure if he was serious.

So what some of the parallels between mixing records and mixing drinks?

1.   As Colin astutely noted, the standard four count in music is akin to the four components of a cocktail -- spirit, sugar, water, and bitters. The spirit is the beat. You want it to be consistent and noticeable, but not overwhelming.

2.  Mixing records is like mixing drinks. If you mix records abruptly, the effect is jarring. 9th Wonder and Jay Clipp described it as "shoes in the dryer" or "trainwrecking." An unbalanced drink has the same effect on your taste buds as trainwrecking has on your ears.

3.  What's old is new again. Samples from 1970s records appear in a lot of modern music hits. 9th Wonder used a snippet from a Beyonce song to illustrate this point. Similarly, cocktails from pre-Prohibition and Prohibition eras increasingly appear on modern drink menus. The rediscovery of various spirits and recipes have inspired people to create current spins on older cocktails.

Are you ready to be a DJ of drinks? I know you are. Let the good times roll!


A Bullfighting Drink -- The Matador

Bullfighting is a brutally elegant spectacle of human versus animal. A matador is the man or woman (or rabbit, if you're like me and enjoy the Bugs Bunny cartoon Bully for Bugs) in the ring with the bull.  While there's a rich history of bullfighting on both sides of the Atlantic, particularly in Spain and Mexico, the history of the Matador is murky. The earliest reference to it I could find dates back to 1937. There are many similar versions of the Matador, and this is the one I prefer.

Matador2 ounces blanco or reposado tequila
1 ounce pineapple juice
.5 ounces Cointreau or other triple sec
Juice from 1/2 lime

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake as if you're a bull charging the you know who, and strain into a chilled glass. Lime garnish optional.

My preferred Matador isn't far removed from a Margarita. Almost all versions of the Matador include tequila, pineapple juice, and lime juice.  For me adding a triple sec (orange liqueur) enhances the drink. The same goes for using a reposado tequila, although using a blanco tequila certainly is fine.

Matador 2One thing I definitely recommend is using fresh pineapple juice. If the resulting drink is too citrusy tart for you, add half an ounce of super simple syrup. You don't want your taste buds to end up like the matador in the movie Blood and Sand, which led to the drink of the same name.

Let's say you realize too late you shoulda taken that left toin at Albukoikee (it's a great line from the cartoon). Stand in the ring. Take a deep breath. Steady your nerves. Have the confidence of a matador as you drink a Matador. And most importantly -- enjoy!


An Ode To Irish Cocktail Joy -- The Good Cork

Ms. Cocktail Den had a business trip to Cork, a small city in southwest Ireland, and I shamelessly tagged along. I had a wonderful experience playing the Ode to Joy from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony (you know this great tune, just Google it) on the Shandon Bells in St. Anne's Church. The Good Cork, a creation from Phil Ward in New York City, is much younger than the Shandon Bells, and it evokes fond memories of my brief time in Cork.

Good Cork1 ounce Irish whiskey
1 ounce mezcal
.5 ounces Benedictine DOM
2 dashes Peychaud's bitters

Combine in a shaker with ice, stir with stereotypical Irish liveliness, and strain into a chilled glass.

Irish whiskey and mezcal (tequila's smokier cousin)?  It works. The Renegade has a similar pairing (bourbon and mezcal) of spice and smoke, and like that drink, the Good Cork is spirit forward. The original calls for Redbreast 12, which is a fine whiskey.  I merely suggest using one of the many whiskies from the New Midleton distillery (the subject of Sine Metu), which is near Cork. Benedictine, an herbal liqueur you use in drinks such as the Racketeer and Widow's Kiss, is flexible enough so that it pulls everything together.

Looking for something unusual, tasty, and strong?  The Good Cork joyously delivers.


Oblique Cocktail Strategies -- The Another Green World

National Rum Day gives us an opportunity to think outside the cocktail box. Fellow cocktailer Michael Bounds, who brought us the Ides of March, created the Another Green World as a liquid tribute to the 1975 album from musician and producer Brian Eno.  Just as Eno used a deck of Oblique Strategies cards to get him out of creative ruts when making the album, the Another Green World will get you out of a rut when making rum drinks.

2 ounces rhum agricole Another Green World
.5 ounces Velvet Falernum
Juice from 1/4 lime
.25 ounces super simple syrup
Teaspoon of absinthe

Use the absinthe to coat the inside of a chilled glass, discard what's left (just as you would with a Sazerac or Orange Satchmo), combine the other ingredients in a shaker, shake as if that's what an Oblique Strategy card told you to do, then strain into the glass. Lime twist garnish optional.

We know rhum agricole is a style of rum, but what is Velvet Falernum?  Although it sounds like the name of another Brian Eno album, it's actually a low proof rum based liqueur from Barbados with citrus, spice, and sweet flavors (there's also a non-alcoholic syrup). You can get Velvet Falernum online if it's not in your local liquor store. It reminds me of a milder and sweeter version of allspice dram, which you use in drinks such as the Donna Maria.

The Another Green World is a remarkably well balanced cocktail.  If you don't have rhum agricole, use a dark rum but keep in mind it might be a little sweeter than rhum agricole. If you don't have Velvet Falernum you might be able to use allspice dram, but that could throw the whole drink off. Maybe I need a cocktail version of an Oblique Strategy card?

Go rum, go oblique, and go green!


Tales Of Evolution

You say you want an evolution? Well, you know. We all want to change the cocktail world. That's not exactly what the Beatles sang in 1968, but a similar sentiment from John, Paul, Ringo, and George could apply to the Tales of the Cocktail 2018 conference Ms. Cocktail Den and I recently attended. After some public turbulence and a change in ownership, there was curiosity in the cocktail community about what would happen. For those who never have been to Tales, for those who've been in the past, and for those who were with us thus year, here's our take on the evolution of Tales.

TalesoftheCocktailFairmontBut first, let me give you some personal background. In a way, Ms. Cocktail Den and I went to Tales before Tales. Many, many years ago we participated in a great Southern Comfort sponsored cocktail walking tour of New Orleans (among other places, it stopped at Antoine's, our favorite restaurant in the city and the source of the Antoine's Smile). Tours such as that and like minded industry professionals and cocktail enthusiasts eventually formed the base of Tales of the Cocktail.

New Orleans is a city that's big on tradition, so let's start with traditions that carried over from the old Tales to the revamped Tales.  First and foremost, the friendliness (pardon the alliteration).  One of the many wonders of Tales is we get to see friends we've made at previous Tales in New Orleans, e.g. Josh Morton and Danielle Hengge, friends from Tales on Tour, e.g. Michele Colomb and Erik Puryear, and new friends, e.g. Nicole Torres-Cooke, who we'd been following online for awhile. You never know who you might meet. For example, we went to a Disaronno event featuring Simon Difford, the founder of Difford's Guide. I use this website a lot when researching cocktails, and it's a great resource. We went to introduce ourselves to Simon, and what we figured at most would be a 60 second introduction turned into a fascinating 30 minute private conversation.

This ties into the second carryover from the old Tales -- the knowledge sharing. Simon gave us his insightful input about how we could continue to pursue our cocktail passion. Ms. Cocktail Den and I have learned a lot of from people over the years at Tales, and this year was no exception. Whether it was new spirits, new recipes, or new techniques, there's a lot you can takeaway so you and your cocktails can evolve.

There were two big differences between the old and new Tales, one physical and one psychological. The physical one is there were noticeably fewer people in attendance. That wasn't a surprise, as I suspect a lot of people stayed on the sidelines.  From my perspective the smaller turnout was a good thing. Maybe it's because I generally don't like large crowds, but this year Tales felt less overwhelming and chaotic than in years past.  At previous Tales there seemed to be a collective frenzy based on FOMO (fear of missing out; I'm not hip enough to use the acronym, but I don't care), which led to clusters of people running around the Quarter and the city without stopping to savor the moment. It was sort of a cocktail version of people who jostle to get a photo, and they end up looking without seeing (there is a huge difference between the two).

A perfect example of a non-manic event was the cell phone free Spirited Dinner we attended. Hosted by Jonathan Pogash and Pamela Wiznitzer, the event focused on conversations and connections without the distraction of modern technology. Ms. Cocktail Den and I were pleased to see this Tales did not have episodes of that collective mania. Neither of us cared for what appeared to be a deliberately and overly packed schedule on one or two days, but like everyone else we adjusted and had fun anyway.

TalesoftheCocktail2018WGSPartyThe psychological difference was that this year's conference seemed to have an increased emphasis on topics other than the spirits and drinks themselves. This aligns with what we've seen and heard since the change in ownership and to become a foundation. In fact, the most pronounced example of a non-booze emphasis was the William Grant & Sons party, which was alcohol free.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Personally I enjoyed the venue (Mardi Gras World) more than the actual party (which Ms. Cocktail Den really enjoyed), but I applaud William Grant & Sons for its bold move.  Don't get me wrong, the spirits definitely were still at Tales in full force. We did plenty of sampling and learning.

Our coverage this year focused on the tasting rooms and private events. Of course, there were plenty of seminars at the conference. In addition to traditional seminars focusing on spirits and history, many of this year's seminars focused on being better, whether as an industry professional, home bartender, or cocktail enthusiast. They included useful, practical topics such as the Beyond the Bar program (helping industry professionals take better care of themselves) and the Green Dot program (de-escalating difficult situations). Creating and serving cocktails can be tougher than you think, and if seminars like these help people evolve both personally and professionally, we're all for it.

Want to see more of our Tales of the Cocktail experience? Check out our Facebook page for our photos:

So what's in store for next year?  We'll find out together.  In the mean time, keep on cocktailing!