A Cocktail Offer You Can't Refuse -- The Godfather

The Godfather is a cinematic masterpiece and my favorite movie.  Based on a popular novel, the movie has so many resonant scenes, so many classic lines, and so many indelible visual images that describing it here would not do it justice. Marlon Brando, who played the titular character (real name Vito Corleone, born Vito Andolini) reputedly created the Godfather during filming.  The Reina family behind Disaronno amaretto backs this claim.  For those of you who might question the origin story, are you really going to challenge Don Corleone? I didn't think so.

Godfather1.5 ounces blended Scotch (I used Monkey Shoulder)
1.5 ounces amaretto (ciao Disaronno)

Combine in a mixing glass or shaker with ice, stir with some Corleone family style confidence (excluding Fredo of course), and strain into a chilled glass.

Like the first and second movies in the franchise (relatively speaking to its predecessors, I think the third movie sleeps with the fishes), the Godfather is an elegantly powerful drink. The Scotch cuts the inherent sweetness of the amaretto.  Using a blended Scotch in the Godfather is better because any nuance in a single malt would get lost in the amaretto. Some people think the Godfather may have paved the way for the Amaretto Sour.  If you're not a big fan of Scotch, try a Godmother, which combines vodka and amaretto.  If you want to try other Godfather inspired drinks, go for a Lupara or a Sicilian Manhattan the way Michael went after the heads of the other families.

Is the Godfather not personal but strictly business? When it comes to your cocktail enjoyment, why not both? Make your taste buds and liver an offer they can't refuse.


A Shamrock Drink -- The Luck Of The Irish

The expression "luck of the Irish" didn't originate in Ireland, but in the United States.  Its origin is based on Irish miners who struck it rich in the 19th century. The Luck of the Irish will make your taste buds and liver feel quite lucky. Thanks to John O'Connell of West Cork Distillers and Liquor.com for introducing me to this smooth and powerful cocktail.

Luck of the Irish1 ounce Irish whiskey
1 ounce green Chartreuse
1 ounce sweet vermouth

Combine in a shaker or mixing glass with ice, stir with the satisfaction of having good fortune smile on you, and strain into a chilled glass (the original has you pour the drink over a large ice cube).

A true Luck of the Irish must include Irish whiskey. The Liquor.com version specifically calls for West Cork Distillers 10 year old single malt. That is a very good whiskey (I have a bottle), but similar Irish whiskies will work well. If you like Irish themed drinks, you might try the Good Cork, the Intense Irish, and Irish Coffee. While I'm not of Irish descent, I did travel to Ireland once and had a great time. And of course I like a good cocktail.

Liquor.com describes the Luck of the Irish as a variation on a Manhattan. In one respect that's correct because the drink contains whiskey and sweet vermouth.  You could say the same thing about other drinks like the Derby. It's also similar to a Bijou (which is basically a Luck of the Irish with gin), Negroni, Boulevardier, or Corpse Reviver #1 in that the drink contains equal proportions of three spirits. However, I think the characterization is inaccurate because the Luck of the Irish is significantly stronger than a Manhattan. One uses a couple dashes of bitters, and the other uses a full ounce of green Chartreuse.  Big difference. Green Chartreuse, a key ingredient in the Last Word and variations such as the Final Rye, is 110 proof (55% alcohol by volume).

Even though Daft Punk and Pharrell Williams aren't Irish (they're French, he's American), I'm sure they would encourage you to Get Lucky -- and have a Luck of the Irish.


Konichiwa Cocktail -- The Japanese Maple

Konichiwa is the Japanese word for "hello." You can't get maple syrup in Japan, but you can use Japanese whiskey and maple syrup to make a tasty drink.  I discovered the Japanese Maple, a creation from bartender Damian Windsor, in Chilled magazine, and this is my minimally adapted version.

Japanese Maple2 ounces Japanese whiskey (I used Yamazaki 12 year old single malt)
.5 ounces maple syrup (see below)
Juice from 1/4 lemon
1 egg white

Reverse dry shake (see Shake, Shake, Shake ... Shake Your Egg Whites), or combine in a shaker with ice, shake with the dynamic atmosphere on the streets of Tokyo, and strain into a chilled glass.

The Japanese Maple is a nicely balanced drink, and it gives you ample room to experiment.  For example, you could switch the whiskey's origin and make a Scotch Maple. As the whiskey is the main star of the show, you want one strong enough to stand up to the citrus and sweet flavors, but not so strong that it overpowers everything else. Use 100% maple syrup if you can. Most maple syrup on the market is either Grade A (lighter color and flavor) or Grade B (darker color and more intense flavor). Generally speaking, when using maple syrup less is more, especially if you're using Grade B.

After you have a Japanese Maple, your taste buds and liver will use a phrase that's familiar to everyone who has heard a very specific Styx song -- domo arigato!


A Jewel Of A Drink -- The Bijou

Bijou is the French word for jewel, and this drink is the equivalent of a precious gem in the cocktail world. The Bijou dates to the late 19th century and is attributed to bartender and author Harry Johnson. Its name comes from the colors of its three spirits, which represent diamonds, emeralds, and rubies.

Bijou1 ounce gin (j'aime The Botanist)
1 ounce green Chartreuse (c'est magnifique)
1 ounce sweet vermouth (bonjour Carpano Antica)
1 dash orange bitters (Embitterment est très bon)

Combine in a mixing glass or shaker with ice, stir with the beautiful precision of a flawless gem, and strain into a chilled glass.  Luxardo or amarena cherry garnish optional.

The Bijou is a deceptively lovely drink.  It is deceptive because like many jewels, its beauty belies its strength.  Roughly two thirds of it consists of gin and green Chartreuse, which is 110 proof. The Bijou is lovely because it combines herbal and subtly sweet flavors. The traditional 1:1:1 ratio is reminiscent of other gin based cocktails such as the Negroni.  Some modern versions of the Bijou have more gin compared to the green Chartreuse and sweet vermouth. Similarly, Péché in Austin makes a fascinating twist on a Bijou using Ransom Old Tom style gin and adding Amaro Montenegro.

If the combination of gin and green Chartreuse intrigues you, try a Last Word.  If the combination of gin and sweet vermouth intrigues you, try a Hanky Panky or a Don't Give Up The Ship. Whether or not you think diamonds are a girl's best friend as Marilyn Monroe and Janet Jackson sang (obviously at different times), or whether or not you think diamonds are forever (in my opinion, a lesser film in the James Bond franchise), the Bijou is worth your time and liver.  À votre santé (that's cheers in French)!


A Strong Asian Bond Girl -- The Jade Vesper

James Bond's adventures take him around the world. In Skyfall he travels to China, and in Tomorrow Never Dies he works with a Chinese agent played by Michelle Yeoh, a great actress who's been in phenomenal films such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Cheongsam is an American company that hand makes unique tea liqueurs in China from locally sourced tea. The Jade Vesper, an original creation of mine, uses its Jade Oolong liqueur in a variation on the Vesper, an original creation from James Bond (seriously).

Jade Vesper2 ounces vodka
1 ounce gin
1 ounce Cheongsam Jade Oolong liqueur
Rose bitters (optional)

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake with the power and grace of Michelle Yeoh fighting (watch Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), and strain into a chilled glass.

The Jade Vesper substitutes Jade Oolong for the Kina Lillet (now Lillet Blanc) or dry vermouth in a Vesper. The Jade Oolong liqueur injects a subtle sweetness into the drink. The result is a cocktail that's pleasantly strong without becoming a blunt instrument of drunkenness. Technically you should stir the Jade Vesper because it doesn't contain citrus or egg whites. Shaking it pays tribute to how 007 ordered the Vesper, and how he likes his vodka martinis. Rose bitters (I used some from Portland Bitters Project) aren't common, but like many things in today's world you can find them online.

Want to channel James Bond or your favorite Bond girl? The Jade Vesper is a great way to do it.


10 Valentine's Day Cocktails

A great drink with the one you love is a perfect way to celebrate Valentine's Day.  Even though I think Valentine's Day is a Hallmark holiday, Ms. Cocktail Den likes it so that's what counts.  After combing through the Den archives for a drink to make her, I found these 10 themed cocktails.  Enjoy!

Intense Ginger LoveIntense Ginger Love -- rum, Barrow's Intense ginger liqueur, strawberries, and sparkling wine or champagne. Lovely and intense.

Passion -- tequila, Cointreau or other triple sec, cranberry juice, and lime juice. It will blind you (metaphorically) with ... you know. 

Amaro Amore -- Averna, Campari, lemon juice, super simple syrup, and egg white.  A rich, tasty, and contrarian choice.

Champagne Cocktail -- sparkling wine or champagne, sugar, and Angostura bitters.  Who says you only can drink this on New Year's Eve?

Naked and Famous --  mezcal, yellow Chartreuse, Aperol, and lime juice. This drink combines the fun of these two things without the risk of ending up on the Internet forever.

Intense Ginger Sutra -- vodka, Barrow's Intense ginger liqueur, and glorious grenadine. A little sweet, a little spicy, all ecstasy. 

Between The Sheets -- rum, brandy, Cointreau or other triple sec, and lemon juice. Have enough of these and the two of you might end up there.

Hanky Panky -- gin, sweet vermouth, and Fernet Branca. Even though the original meaning of the phrase had nothing to do with sex, this is one sexy drink.

Widow's Kiss --  apple brandy, yellow Chartreuse, Benedictine DOM, and Angostura bitters. She loved once, and your liver will love her (try saying that 10 times fast).

Part-Time Lover -- tequila, Aperol, elderflower liqueur or super simple syrup, lemon juice, and Angostura bitters.  The name may say part time, but the drink is full time delicious.


Not What You Think Drink -- The Diamondback

Does the word "diamondback" conjure visions of the deadly snake? Do you channel your inner Indiana Jones ("I hate snakes") and shudder? A drink based on a venomous snake gives you good reason to hesitate. The Diamondback is based on the markedly less venomous turtle. The diamondback terrapin is the official reptile of the state of Maryland.  The Diamondback, which first appeared in 1951 in Ted Saucier's book Bottoms Up (not to be confused with the Van Halen song), was named for the Diamondback Lounge in the Lord Baltimore Hotel.

Diamondback1.5 ounces rye
.75 ounces apple brandy or applejack
.75 ounces yellow Chartreuse

Combine in a shaker or mixing glass with ice, stir with a turtle's deliberate pace, and strain into a chilled glass. Luxardo cherry garnish optional.

Use whichever rye you like. As we learned in Comparing Apples to Apples, the modern difference between apple brandy and applejack is the latter is a blend of apple brandy (35%) and grain neutral spirits (65%). Most recipes today call for applejack, but if you want to be historically accurate use apple brandy.  Modern applejack didn't exist until 1968, so when Saucier wrote about the Diamondback bartenders would have used apple brandy. Also, apple brandy gives the Diamondback a more pronounced apple flavor.

Many modern recipes of the Diamondback use green Chartreuse (110 proof) instead of the slightly sweeter yellow Chartreuse (80 proof).  Stick with the original. Ms. Cocktail Den and I tried both versions, and the one with yellow Chartreuse was the clear winner for us.  It gives you a balanced cocktail with subtle hints of spice, apple, and sweet. Using green Chartreuse, a component of classic drinks such as the Last Word, overpowers everything else.

Considering its high proof spirits, the Diamondback does have a bite. Even though it has a sharper taste than similar cocktails such as a Widow's Kiss (a base of apple brandy and yellow Chartreuse) and the American Apple (a base of rye and apple brandy), the Diamondback is a very satisfying drink.

So if you root for the Arizona Diamondbacks, the University of Maryland Terrapins, both, or neither, everyone can be a fan of the Diamondback cocktail.


A Tempting Drink -- The Almost Red Lips Rye

Red lips can signify temptation, power, or seduction.  Scott Harris, a founder of Catoctin Creek distillery in my home state of Virginia, based the Almost Red Lips Rye on a drink in the cocktail book at the legendary American Bar. The bar is located in the high class Savoy Hotel in London. Even though Ms. Cocktail Den and I are not high class, we had drinks there when we heard London Calling. The people at the bar (the birthplace of the Hanky Panky) make great drinks, and Harris, whose distillery produces top notch spirits, made a great one here.

Almost Red Lips Rye2 ounces rye (Harris used Roundstone)
1 ounce port wine
1/3 ounce mirtillocello or Chambord or Cherry Heering
1/3 ounce aquavit
1/3 ounce Aperol or Campari
2 dashes Peychaud's bitters

Combine in a shaker with ice, stir with a sultry air, and strain into a chilled glass.

The Almost Red Lips Rye has a lot of ingredients, so you can manipulate them to suit your tastes and whatever is in your bar.  There are three variables that have an outsize impact on the cocktail.  Port, the first one, is the one about which I know the least. It's basically a fortified red wine that's sort of sweet and comes in either a ruby or tawny style. There are many books and blogs about port, so you may want to check them out for more information.

The second variable is the fruit liqueur.  It boils down to this -- do you prefer blueberry (mirtillocello), raspberry (Chambord), or cherry (Heering)?  Keep in mind there's a wide range in proofs of these three different liqueurs. The third big variable is the amari -- Aperol or Campari.  The difference isn't in the proofs, but the taste. Aperol, which you use in drinks such as the Naked and Famous and the Ides of March, has a lighter orange taste than Campari, which you use in drinks such as the Cancer Killer #1 and the Scandinavian Suntan. You're not going to wrong with any combination of the Almost Red Lips Rye, but one using a ruby port, Chambord, and Aperol is going to taste a lot different than one using a tawny port, Cherry Heering, and Campari. 

Is the Almost Red Lips Rye more complex than most drinks in the Den?  Yes.  Is the extra effort worth it?  Yes.  Are you tempted?


A New All American Drink -- The E Pluribus Unum

E pluribus unum is Latin for "out of many one." It is the original national motto of the United States of America. These unfortunately politically polarizing times give me another reason to continue my tradition of creating a new cocktail for the new year. The E Pluribus Unum is my liquid hope of cherishing and preserving what unites us.

E Pluribus Unum2 ounces bourbon
.75 ounces Grand Marnier
.25 ounces Luxardo maraschino liqueur
2 dashes chocolate bitters (I recommend Embitterment)
1 dash aromatic or Angostura bitters

Combine in a mixing glass or shaker with ice, stir with harmonious blending (as opposed to the violent agitation of shaking; I deliberately wanted a stirred drink here), and strain into a chilled glass.  Luxardo or amarena cherry garnish optional.

Bourbon is legally an American spirit, so it is a natural base for the E Pluribus Unum.  Grand Marnier honors France's role in the creation of the United States. You can use other orange liqueurs such as Cointreau (a key component in the thematically related RWB and other drinks such as the Syncopation), but Grand Marnier does a better job of uniting (see what I did there?) everything.  Why is Luxardo maraschino liqueur in the mix?  Because it adds a hint of nutty sweetness to the E Pluribus Unum, and its Italian roots pay homage to the Latin phrase. Chocolate bitters put a nice touch on the drink, and they are easy to find online. Angostura or aromatic bitters are everywhere.  Unlike other drinks with the same name that seem way too sweet, my E Pluribus Unum is just sweet enough and is definitely strong enough to represent the United States.

Do you want to be a liquid patriot?  Then have a E Pluribus Unum.


Frank and Jack -- A Relationship Of American Icons

Frank and JackFrank as in the late Frank Sinatra, the Chairman of the Board, an iconic American singer. Jack as in Jack Daniel's, the black label Old No. 7, an iconic American whiskey. As Sarah Feldberg explains in this article on the Tales of the Cocktail website, Sinatra's on stage endorsements beginning in 1955 caused Jack Daniel's to go from being a regional player to a global powerhouse.

If you want to emulate how Sinatra drank his Jack Daniel's, just remember 3,2,1 -- three rocks, two fingers of whiskey, one splash of water. In the mood for a cocktail?  Go New Jersey with a Newark (Sinatra was born and raised in New Jersey), go New York with a Manhattan or a Brooklyn, or go with an eponymous drink.

With all of these ways to celebrate Frank Sinatra on his birthday (December 12) or any other day, what do you do? To paraphrase a line from one of his most famous songs, just drink it your way.