A Drink For Two Presidents -- The Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt and his distant cousin Franklin Delano Roosevelt are the two of the more famous Presidents in American history.  Teddy, the 26th President, claimed he wasn't a big drinker (although he was partial to a Mint Julep), and FDR, the 32nd President, definitely was a big drinker who mixed cocktails for his White House guests (and Repeal Day occurred while he was in office).  Chris Kelley at Morris American Bar in Washington created the Roosevelt, and this is my adaptation.

Roosevelt1.5 ounces rye
.5 ounces apple brandy
.5 ounces vermouth (see below)
.5 ounces Benedictine DOM
2 dashes Angostura or other aromatic bitters

Combine in a mixing glass with ice, stir with the resolve of the subject of Teddy's "The Man In The Arena" speech and the warmth of FDR during one of his Fireside Chats, and strain into a chilled glass.  Amarena cherry garnish optional.

Kelley didn't specify which type of vermouth or bitters to use. I used aromatic bitters because they're versatile. The vermouth is the interesting variable.  It really depends if you want the Roosevelt more dry or sweet. Using dry vermouth in a rye based drink is reminiscent of a Scofflaw, and using sweet vermouth is reminiscent of a Manhattan.  If you like the combination of rye and apple brandy, you'll probably also like the Diamondback and the American Apple. You'll find Benedictine DOM, a rich French liqueur, in cocktails such as the Whiskey Queen.  Clearly this Roosevelt has no relation to the rum based drink with the same name. For a similarly themed rum based cocktail, have an El Presidente.

Be Presidential, raise a glass, and toast Teddy and FDR!


New And Old School Drinking In Venice -- Time, Il Mercante, and Harry's

When Ms. Cocktail Den and I went to Venice we wandered the streets, ate a lot of great food, got caught in historic acqua alta (high water) with resulting flooding ..... and of course had some cocktails. We saw some of Venice's storied cocktail past and got more than a glimpse of its bright cocktail future.

Time Social BarLocated in the Canareggio district, TiME Social Bar (not a misprint) combines creative cocktails with a friendly and low key atmosphere. The space itself is small and bright, and the music was loud enough to be heard without being distracting.  Quite fortuitously, we happened to meet Alessandro Beggio, the owner of Time.  Like his bar, he was generous in spirit (pun intended). What about the drinks? In a word -- buonissimo (very good in Italian). Time's casual vibe belies its interestingly sophisticated cocktail menu. Alessandro and his team clearly put a lot of thought and effort into it. The drink components are a mix of familiar and exotic, and as you can see in the photo on the left, their presentation is well executed.  On a personal note, I was very impressed one of the drinks, the Caribbean Negroni, included homemade mamajuana.  I definitely didn't expect to see that liquor on the European side of the Atlantic Ocean. Time is only 20 minutes away from the tourist hordes in St. Mark's Square, and it's worth the short walk.

Il MercanteSpeaking of bars not far from famous landmarks, Il Mercante is only a 10 minute walk from the Rialto Bridge. Spread over two levels, the space is tastefully decorated with an an intimate and vaguely seductive atmosphere. It's the type of place where you'd want to take your significant other for a drink.  That said, it's certainly not fussy or pretentious.  As its name suggests, Il Mercante evokes the journeys of merchant adventurers. The cocktail menu is inspired and creative.  Much of the rotating menu is designed to pair with particular Italian and international.  Another section of the menu has really good twists on classic drinks. I opted to have a Reef, a libation marrying whiskey, house pimento dram (used in drinks such as the Donna Maria), mango, and pepper. I'm drooling just thinking about it. The people at Il Mercante are friendly, knowledgeable, and approachable. We had the pleasure of meeting Daniele, a man who is committed to his craft.  The low light and my bad eyesight may have deceived me, but I'm fairly certain I spied a martini glass tattoo on the inside of his forearm. That's dedication.

Harry's in VeniceDedicated to serving cocktails for many decades, Harry's is the quintessential old school bar in Venice. Overlooking the Grand Canal, it's a stone's throw from St. Mark's Square and been the watering hole for many famous people.  Let me be blunt -- you'll pay very high prices because of the history and location. Sometimes high prices definitely are worth the history, location, and the drinks. The Hemingway Bar at the Ritz Hotel in Paris is a great example.  However, aside from a really good Bellini at its birthplace, the drinks at Harry's are good but not great. In addition, while the people there were pleasant and efficient, they were not terribly warm to tourists like us (they were much warmer with the older gentlemen who clearly were regulars).  Perhaps because just as St. Mark's floods with water, Harry's floods with tourists. Ms. Cocktail Den enjoyed our experience there more than I did.  One thing I did like is Harry's prohibits people from taking photos of customers (I asked for permission before I taking photos of the bar and my Negroni).

So what's my advice if you want cocktails in "La Serenissima" (a nickname for Venice meaning "the most serene")?  Make time to go to TiME, be adventurous and journey to Il Mercante, and recognize Harry's for what it is. Saluti!


M Is For Cocktail -- The Martinez

Do you think M is for the Manhattan or the gin Martini (not the later vodka variation that James Bond made famous)? Bridging these iconic cocktails, the Martinez is a delicious and largely unheralded drink.  Was it created in Martinez, California? Did a bartender named Martinez create it?  Was it created for someone named Martinez (just like how the Negroni is named for the customer who requested a new drink, not the bartender who made it)? No one knows.

Martinez1.5 ounces Old Tom gin
1.5 ounces sweet vermouth
.25 ounces Luxardo maraschino liqueur
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Combine in a mixing glass with ice, stir with a sense of history, and strain into a chilled glass (preferably a coupe).  Lemon peel garnish optional.

The Martinez incorporates sweet vermouth like a Manhattan and gin like a Martini. Old Tom Gin is slightly sweeter than the far more prevalent London Dry style, and it is vaguely reminiscent of whiskey. You can see how the Martinez naturally evolved into the Martinis people all over the world know and love.

Despite the Martinez's conflicting origin stories, cocktail historians agree its first known reference was in 1884 in O.H. Byron's book the Modern Bartender's Guide. Byron's version calls for curaçao, a type of triple sec (orange liqueur used in drinks such as the White Lady) instead of maraschino liqueur (used in drinks such as the Last Word).  In comparison, an 1887 book from legendary bartender Jerry Thomas calls for maraschino liqueur, but his version uses more sweet vermouth than Old Tom gin. I prefer using equal proportions of Old Tom and sweet vermouth in order to emphasize the gin. The Martinez lends itself to tinkering. For example, you can use orange bitters instead of Angostura bitters, use equal parts sweet and dry vermouth (you are using fresh vermouth, right?), or even use London Dry style gin instead of Old Tom.  

M -- it's not just the moniker of James Bond's boss (played over the years by Bernard Lee, Judi Dench, and Ralph Fiennes).  It's also the first letter of this important yet mostly unknown cocktail.  Have a Martinez and make it known!


A Unique and Lovely Drink -- The Venetian Kiss

Venetian Kiss 1
Taste the glory of Venice in this cocktail.

Venice is a unique city. Nicknamed "La Serenissima" ("the most serene" in Italian), there are many reasons it is on many people's travel bucket lists. Having returned from a recent trip where Ms. Cocktail Den and I got caught in historic acqua alta (high water) and flooding, Venice is the inspiration for this original creation for the new year.

1.5 ounces Aperol
1 ounce vodka
.5 ounces Campari

Combine in a mixing glass with ice, stir with the serenity of watching life go by on the Grand Canal, and strain into a chilled glass.

Venetian Kiss 2
Ms. Cocktail Den in Venice. The photo is real, and there's no filter.

Aperol and Campari are Italian amari (bitter liqueurs), and bottles of them are in bars everywhere in Venice. Campari, an indispensable part of cocktails such as the classic Negroni and my original Cancer Killer #1, has a stronger taste and is more bitter than Aperol, featured in drinks such as the Naked and Famous. That's why the Venetian Kiss has more Aperol than Campari. So why does it have vodka?  There's nothing inherently Italian or Venetian about vodka.  I included vodka because the Russian word literally means "little water," and it is a tribute to the water that surrounds Venice and frequently floods the city.  In addition, it brings balance and subtle potency to the Venetian Kiss. 

The 3:2:1 ratio of the ingredients gives the Venetian Kiss elegance in its simplicity. Its name may remind of you of the Almost Red Lips Rye, and its color may remind you of pink drinks such as the Cosmopolitan and my original Italian Sunrise. Have a Venetian Kiss, and savor liquid serenissima!


A Well Dressed Drink -- The Tuxedo

A tuxedo exudes sophistication. Whether your tastes run to ZZ Top (who sang about a sharp dressed man), James Bond (who frequently sports a tux), or both, you may like the Tuxedo. It originated sometime between 1886 when the Tuxedo Club opened in New York and 1900 when it was mentioned in Harry Johnson's Bartenders' Manual.

Tuxedo 1Just as the tuxedo jacket (also associated with the club after a member adopted the look from an English prince) has all sorts of variations, so does the Tuxedo cocktail. Actually the Tuxedo is a group of drinks, all of which have some type of gin as the base spirit. This is the one I prefer.

2.25 ounces gin
.5 ounces dry vermouth
.25 ounces maraschino liqueur
2 dashes orange bitters

Combine in a mixing glass or shaker with ice, stir with style, and strain into a chilled glass. Lemon peel and Luxardo cherry garnish optional.

A Tuxedo is very similar to a gin Martini.  It is a pretty dry drink.  The cocktail resembles the jacket in another way.  Why? Just as a tailor can craft the tuxedo to the taste of the wearer, you can craft a Tuxedo to your taste. For example, if you want a slightly sweeter Tuxedo, add a little more maraschino liqueur (mixed with gin in other drinks such as the Last Word) and/or cut back on the vermouth. Many versions incorporate absinthe. You can use it to coat the inside of a glass just like you would with a Sazerac.

Will drinking a Tuxedo make you look sophisticated and classy?  Maybe not.  But to paraphrase the great baseball sage Crash Davis in the movie Bull Durham -- drink classy, you'll be classy.


A Golden Jubilee with Government Executive Media Group

GovExec 1Want a signature cocktail program?  Government Executive Media Group, a corporate client, did for its recent customer event. Not only did I get to create the program, I got to mingle with guests and talk about the libations. Highlighting Government Executive Media Group's four publications, one of which was celebrating its golden jubilee (a fancy term for a 50th anniversary), guests sampled these cocktails:

Ginvention (inspired by Nextgov) -- For this cutting cutting edge spin on a traditional Martini, put 1.5 ounces gin, .75 ounces Cointreau, and .5 ounces dry vermouth in a mixing glass with ice, stir, strain into a martini glass, and top with a splash of seltzer water and lime peel garnish.

States of the Union (inspired by Route 50) -- To make this modified Jack Rose, combine 2 ounces Laird’s applejack (featured in drinks such as the Diamondback), .75 ounces Pama pomegranate liqueur, .5 ounces super simple syrup, and .25 ounces lemon juice in a shaker with ice, shake, strain into a couple glass and garnish with a lemon peel.

GovExec2
I never miss an opportunity to talk about cocktails.

Patriot (inspired by Defense One) -- This variation on an Old Fashioned calls for 1.5 ounces bourbon, .5 ounces Luxardo maraschino liqueur, 2 dashes Angostura bitters, and 2 dashes Bittermen's molé bitters.  Combine everything into a mixing glass with ice, stir, strain into a rocks glass over ice (either a large cube or a couple of smaller ones) with lemon peel garnish.

Golden Jubilee (inspired by GovExec) -- This is a modified Champagne Cocktail. Place a sugar cube in the bottom of a champagne flute, add 1.5 ounces Licor 43 (an indispensable part of the 43 Up) and 2 dashes Angostura bitters, then top with sparkling wine.

Just as people had fun rocking the red carpet with Cognitio, people had a great time at the Government Executive Media Group event. The overall result?  Another happy client.  Cheers!


What's Old Is New Again -- Old Tom Gin

Gin has been around for centuries. Chances are you're familiar with the London Dry style simply because it's everywhere. The funny thing is Old Tom style gin is closer to genever, gin's ancestor. It is a little maltier, less botanical, and a little sweeter than the gins you know. Old Tom is not sweet in a sugary oh dear God I'm going to have a diabetic coma way. It's more like a mix of dry gin and whiskey. Old Tom is a great gateway gin for people who think they hate gin (I used to be one of those people).

Old Tom GinSo who is Old Tom? That's sort of a trick question, because it implies the answer is a human. During gin's heyday in 18th century England Old Tom was a slang expression for a black cat. Both Mooch, our former cat who inspired my first original creation, and Satchmo, our current cat who's featured in the Orange Satchmo and the Hurricane, were and are sort of Old Toms (they're tuxedo cats).  Back in the day pubs would have a picture of a black cat to indicate they served the stuff. Fast forward to the 19th century. Even though the first celebrity bartenders used Old Tom style gin in their concoctions, the London Dry style became more popular on both sides of the Atlantic.  Between that and the advent of Prohibition in the United States, Old Tom pretty much became extinct.  It wasn't until roughly 2006 when Old Tom's resurrection began.

You've read this far and you're wondering ..... why should you care? I can think of two reasons. First, Old Tom Gin is a key component of historic and delicious cocktails such as the Martinez. Second, it can help you create great variations on other gin, or even whiskey, based cocktails. Old Tom style gin can be tough to find because it's not common. With a little effort you can find brands such as Hayman's or Ransom (I recommend both; the latter is aged) in stores and/or online.

Even though curiosity might have killed the cat, it won't kill curious cocktail people like us. Time to gin up (pun intended; it's an older expression meaning to get moving, possibly in a bad way), get some Old Tom style gin, and have fun.


Sultry And Powerful -- The Chatham Artillery Punch

Imagine a sultry weekend in Savannah, Georgia, home of great bars such as Alley Cat Lounge and the fascinating American Prohibition Museum. In the summer of 1995 Ms. Cocktail Den and I discovered Chatham Artillery Punch, a flavorful and complex libation. Legend has it a local artillery unit (Savannah is in Chatham County) created it during the Revolutionary War. It's a great story. It's not true. Research from eminent cocktail historian David Wondrich indicates it was created in the 1850s and became more popular later that century.

Chatham Artillery Punch.75 ounces brandy
.75 ounces dark rum
.75 ounces bourbon
.5 ounces super simple syrup
.25 ounces lemon juice (1/8 lemon)
.25 ounces sweet tea vodka
.25 ounces red wine
Sparkling wine

Combine everything except the sparkling wine in a shaker with ice, shake with explosive force, strain into a chilled glass, and top with sparkling wine.

Yes, there are a lot of ingredients in the Chatham Artillery Punch, more than every other cocktail in the Den. The result is worth the effort. For the red wine, you can use whatever varietal you prefer, or a fortified wine such as madeira or port. You can make a simpler version of the Chatham Artillery Punch if you forego the sweet tea vodka and red wine, but then you lose the main flavors of the original concoction. This cocktail gives the word "punch" a double entendre. Originally created in mass quantities, this punch packs quite a punch. It's more potent than the Brown Bomber (the cocktail but not the late boxing champion for whom it was named).

Are you tough enough to take a Chatham Artillery Punch or two?


Hairless Gamblers, Bartenders, and Flowers -- The Jack Rose

Jack Rose 2What could these things have in common? They're the various origin stories surrounding the Jack Rose cocktail. None of them have anything to do with Jack Rose Dining Saloon, the fantastic bar in Washington. The metaphorically colorful story is the drink was named for Bald Jack Rose. Rose, who had alopecia universalis (no hair anywhere), was an early 20th century New York City gambler with links to organized crime and corrupt cops. The literally colorful story is the cocktail is named for the Jacqueminot rose, which is pink. Last but not least, a New Jersey bartender named Frank May, who for no apparent reason also went by the name Jack Rose, created the drink no later than 1905. Which story probably is the right one?  Keep reading.

2 ounces apple brandy or applejack (see below)
Juice from 1/4 lemon or 1/2 lime
.5 ounces glorious grenadine

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake with the energy of telling a colorful story, and strain into a chilled glass.  Lemon or lime twist optional.

Jack Rose 3
You can get an excellent Jack Rose at Jack Rose Dining Saloon, but you'll stay because of the fun people and impressive spirits collection.

If you compare apples to apples, apple brandy and applejack are very similar but not the same. Modern applejack is a blend of apple brandy and grain neutral spirits. You can use either one in the Jack Rose, as well as other tasty cocktails such as the Diamondback, the Newark, and the American Apple. Some people in the cocktail community insist a Jack Rose must have lemon juice, while others insist it must have lime juice.  My suggestion?  Use whichever one you prefer or have on hand. The glorious grenadine is the common denominator of a Jack Rose. It pulls everything together as it injects a hint of sweetness.

So which origin story do I think is correct? The one that isn't colorful -- the bartender Frank May.  Why? First, the newspaper reference to him creating it (1905) is a few years before Bald Jack Rose became infamous for his involvement in an underworld murder that exposed corruption in the New York City Police Department (1912).  Second, May plied his craft in New Jersey, where applejack has a strong history. Third, even though the gambler Jack Rose reputedly enjoyed this cocktail, I'd take odds (pun intended) a bartender created it.

It doesn't matter which story you like.  What matters is you try a delicious Jack Rose. Cheers!


Hollywood Glamour -- The Brown Derby

How is a brown derby glamorous? The hat may not be, but the patrons at the original Brown Derby restaurant in Los Angeles were.  Hollywood celebrities in the 1920s and 1930s such as Mary Pickford made the restaurant a see and be seen sort of place.  Interestingly, the restaurant did not create the Brown Derby cocktail. An unknown bartender at the nearby Vendôme Club invented it in the 1930s.

Brown Derby2 ounces bourbon
Juice from 1/8 grapefruit
1 ounce honey syrup

Combine with ice in a shaker, shake with old fashioned Hollywood swagger, and strain into a chilled glass.  Grapefruit peel twist optional.

Although its name might make you think the Brown Derby is related to the Derby, another bourbon based cocktail, to me it actually bears more of a resemblance to the Blinker. Both drinks mix whiskey, fresh grapefruit juice, and a sweetener. Speaking of sweeteners, other recipes usually call for less honey syrup, but those recipes use richer syrups (2:1 or 3:1 honey to water) than the honey syrup I like (1:1). If you would to put a twist on the Brown Derby, use maple syrup instead of honey syrup. Of course, if you want to make the Brown Derby more tart, add a little more grapefruit juice or cut back on the honey syrup. If you don't like grapefruit but like the idea of mixing whiskey, honey, and citrus, try A Thief In The Night.

If the cocktail world had the Oscars, the Brown Derby would be a nominee. Become a cocktail celebrity and have one.