Sometimes The Grass Is Greener -- the Verdant Lady

What type of lady? I admit I had to look up the word "verdant" to confirm it means what I thought it did. Let me save you a minute -- it means a rich green color, especially in connection with grass or vegetation. The history behind the Verdant Lady is far less clear than the meaning of the word "verdant." It may have originated in San Francisco around 2007. Past that I can't tell you. Despite its hazy past, the Verdant Lady lady is crisp, cool, and a lot stronger than it looks.

Verdant Lady1.5 ounces gin
.5 ounces green Chartreuse
.5 ounces super simple syrup
Juice from 1/2 lime
5-6 mint leaves

Muddle the mint, lime juice, and super simple syrup in the base of a shaker, add the two liquors and ice, shake with the forceful elegance of a true lady, and strain into a chilled glass. Mint garnish optional.

The Verdant Lady resembles a lot of other good cocktails. The Whiskey Smash and the Mint Julep immediately come to my mind (a smash has citrus, a julep does not). My fellow cocktailian Jeff Moore, who introduced me to the Verdant Lady, accurately describes the drink as a gin and Chartreuse smash.  The combination of gin and green Chartreuse is reminiscent of a Last Word. And last but not least, it shares gin and part of its name with the White Lady. Comparisons aside, the Verdant Lady stands out on its own and is very green.

People frequently think the grass is greener on the other side, but usually it isn't. The Verdant Lady is a tasty exception.


Nothing To Lose Drinking -- the Everything To GAIN

A new corporate client and a new original creation are auspicious signs. Late last year Government Marketing University asked me to present about successful branding, and design a signature cocktail for its GAIN 2020 conference. Guided by my previous experiences such as rocking the red carpet with Cognitio and a golden jubilee with Government Executive Media Group, the result was the unique Everything to GAIN.

Everything to GAIN2 ounces vodka
.5 ounces triple sec (I prefer Cointreau)
.5 ounces maple syrup
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Combine in a mixing glass with ice, stir with a positive feeling, and strain into a chilled glass.

I was delighted when the people at Government Marketing University requested I use vodka as a base spirit. Using vodka presents sort of a challenge. It can act as a blank canvas for a cocktail, so you really have to tinker with the other ingredients and the ratios. For the Everything to GAIN I added Cointreau to bring a hint of citrus. Maple syrup is an unusual sweetener in cocktails, but it works nicely here just as it does in drinks such as the Japanese Maple. Like every other ingredient in the Everything to GAIN, maple syrup is easily accessible. 

Presenting at GAIN 2020 was a lot of fun even though it was different. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic (which is still around despite efforts towards the Flattening Curve), the presentation had to be pre-recorded, so there couldn't be any of the spontaneous give and take that I love so much.

When you have an Everything to GAIN, you have nothing to lose ... except your worries.


When You Had To Go Through THAT -- The Time I'll Never Get Back

It could be a meeting. A movie. A date. A year (I'm looking at you, 2020). After it's over you're just stunned, annoyed, or something else. The Time I'll Never Get Back is the antidote to that feeling. The Wulf Cocktail Den has a tradition of unveiling a new drink in the new year. Considering the general catastrophe that was 2020, at the dawn of 2021 the Time I'll Never Get Back continues this tradition.

Time I'll Never Get Back2 ounces bourbon or rye
.5 ounces sweet vermouth
.5 ounces triple sec
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Combine in a mixing glass with ice, stir with a sigh of relief, and strain into a chilled glass.

Veteran cocktail enthusiasts, and most novice ones, immediately will see the Time I'll Never Get Back is a simple variation on a Manhattan. Using Old Tom gin instead of bourbon or rye makes the drink a riff off a Martinez. To use one of my favorite drink euphemisms, the Time I'll Never Get Back is "alcohol forward." That's deliberate. If you want to try to erase or suppress the memory of wasted time, why waste your time on a watered down drink?

The Time I'll Never Get Back lends itself to experimentation. The type of whiskey will use will make a difference. So will the triple sec, a term that generally refers to orange liqueurs. For example, I'm a big fan of Cointreau, which I use in the 24601, but I figure Grand Marnier, an indispensable part of the Burnt Fuselage, also works quite well.

Spend some time with a Time I'll Never Get Back, and you won't want the experience to end.


Ask Not What Your Cocktail Can Do -- The Fitzgerald

"Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." This memorable call to action in President John Fitzgerald Kennedy's inaugural address inspired and challenged Americans in 1961. Roughly 40 years later legendary bartender and author Dale DeGroff created the Fitzgerald at the Rainbow Room in New York. Compared to its original name (Gin Thing), the name Fitzgerald evokes more class.

Fitzgerald2 ounces gin
1 ounce super simple syrup
Juice from 1/2 lemon
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake as if you're excited to have a drink with a certain President (JFK) or author (F. Scott Fitzgerald), and strain into a chilled glass. Lemon wedge garnish optional.

The Fitzgerald is easy to make, tasty, and refreshing.  It is more or less the gin equivalent of a Whiskey Sour or a Lemon Drop with bitters. DeGroff uses an ounce and a half of gin to an ounce of simple syrup, but I like the Fitzgerald better with a 2:1 ratio. The bitters make it vaguely pink. Reputedly President Kennedy preferred a Daiquiri or a Bloody Mary, but my guess is he would have had a Fitzgerald or three while going toe to toe with the Soviet Union during the Cuban Missile Crisis (read a book about it or see the movie Thirteen Days). Feeling Presidential? Think about having a Roosevelt, a Fireside Chat, or an El Presidente.

And so my fellow cocktailians -- ask not what a Fitzgerald can make for you, ask when you can make a Fitzgerald.


A True Cocktail -- The Old Fashioned

Originally known as a Whiskey Cocktail, Americans started ordering the Old Fashioned in the first half of the 19th century. The history behind the name is unclear. The earliest clear reference to the Old Fashioned is in an 1880 Chicago newspaper article, and within 15 years cocktail books used the same name to describe the same drink. The name change may have occurred when many drinkers, confronted with evolving and more complex cocktails, demanded a return to the days of simpler drinks.

Old Fashioned2 ounces bourbon or rye
.25 ounces super simple syrup
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Combine in a mixing glass with ice, stir with some old fashioned fun, and strain into a rocks glass over ice. Orange peel garnish optional.

Why do I describe the Old Fashioned as a true cocktail? Besides its iconic status in the cocktail world, the Old Fashioned meets the technical, modern definition of a cocktail -- it consists of a spirit, sugar, water (the ice), and bitters. For the spirit, some people insist you only can use bourbon in an Old Fashioned, while others insist you only can use rye. My suggestion? Try making two Old Fashioneds, one with each spirit, and see which one you like. I prefer using simple syrup instead of muddling a sugar cube with the bitters and a little water. I'm not a fan of adding fruit to the Old Fashioned, because in my opinion fruit detracts from the drink's elegant simplicity.

Sometimes the term “old fashioned” can be derogatory and refer to something that should be consigned to the dustbins of history. The Old Fashioned is the glorious opposite.


Romantically Blissful Drinking -- The Honeymoon

The word "honeymoon" evokes thoughts of happiness and new beginnings. It can refer specifically to a honeymoon after a wedding (Ms. Cocktail Den and I went to Hawaii), or more generally to the period after a positive change in your life. First mentioned in a 1916 book from Hugo Ensslin, who also gave us the Aviation, the Honeymoon was a featured drink at the famous but now defunct Brown Derby restaurant in Los Angeles.

Honeymoon2 ounces applejack or apple brandy
.5 ounces Benedictine DOM
.5 ounces triple sec (see below)
Juice from 1/2 lemon

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake with the passion of (use your imagination), and strain into a chilled glass.

When you compare apples to apples, you'll know today applejack is a blend of apple brandy and grain neutral spirits, and apple brandy is exactly what it sounds like (Laird's makes both). Either spirit works well in the Honeymoon. If you like cocktails with an apple flavor, try the classic Jack Rose, the underappreciated Diamondback, or my original American Apple. Brought to us by French monks (not the ones behind Chartreuse), Benedictine DOM is an herbal liqueur used in drinks such as my Whiskey Queen. A little goes a long way, and it more than justifies its price. The Widow's Kiss is an excellent example of another cocktail combining Benedictine with apple brandy. Triple sec is a generic term for an orange liqueur.  Different Honeymoon recipes call for specific ones.  Even though I'm a big fan of Cointreau, use whichever one you like.

What do you get when you put all of these flavors together in a Honeymoon? A drink that warms your soul and introduces a new period in your cocktail life.


Tales of Virtual Catalysts

Attending the Tales of the Cocktail conference inspired me and Ms. Cocktail Den to launch this blog in 2014. Since then, we've attended numerous Tales conferences in New Orleans, as well as Tales on Tour in Edinburgh and San Juan. We've met fascinating people, learned a lot, and had great experiences such as when we mixed beats and drinks that led to the creation of the Les Bon Temps Roule.

This year was different. The COVID-19 pandemic made it impossible to have Tales in person.  So what did Tales do in this extraordinary and challenging time in history? It went 100% virtual for the first time. Adapting to a dynamic situation, this Tales involved another first -- it was 100% free. This made Tales available to anyone with a computer or smartphone and a decent Internet connection. 

Catalyst was the theme of this year's Tales. Everyone is a catalyst in their own way, and human catalysts affect everyone. Maybe you listen to a presentation or read a post on a website that leads you to try a new drink. You get the idea. Compared to years past, this year's Tales programming had an increased focus on the people in the cocktail industry. This is a good thing. As with many other industries around the world, the pandemic has had a devastating effect on people's livelihoods. People are resilient, but no one truly knows how how the landscape of the cocktail industry will look once the pandemic subsides.

Tales of Virtual Catalysts
I couldn't see the iconic Jackson Square in New Orleans this year, so I'll wait until the next Tales.

The sessions I attended generally fell into one of three categories -- spirits (e.g. Amaro 101, Low ABV Cocktails), history (e.g. The Man Behind James Bond, The Rat Pack), and topics that transcend  the cocktail community (e.g. You Sell Cocktails Now Sell Yourself, Storytelling Behind The Bar). As with sessions at live Tales conferences, I learned all sorts of interesting things. For example, did you know Ian Fleming was a big fan of bourbon? I didn't, and I'm a James Bond geek.  

So what were the pros and cons of the first virtual Tales? The big pro for me was the flexibility. You could absorb the presenters' content as it occurred or later. This convenience meant you didn't have to run (occasionally literally) from event to event. Sometimes a live Tales or Tales on Tour gives you a sense of underlying FOMO. As in, "I want to hear ____ talk about ____ but it's the same time as the session on ______." That wasn't an issue this year because you had the convenience of seeing and hearing everything and everyone you wanted. All of the sessions were on demand (https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL60KktNa23J0tn7NAf3-NSLigFRYjJy9W). A silver lining pro that's actually the result of a con? I didn't gain weight from eating really good local food.

The con of the virtual Tales has nothing to do with the people involved in the conference or the sessions. It was the inability to have the spontaneous and serendipitous in person encounters that make Tales truly memorable. For example, Ms. Cocktail Den and I always will remember meeting Vodka Girl ATX, who we had been following online, in a small conference room at the Hotel Monteleone, or bonding in Edinburgh with a diverse group who became the self-anointed Inebriants. I miss having opportunities to connect like that. Meeting people virtually is fine, but it's a poor substitute for meeting in person. Thanks a lot, COVID-19. Of course, the virus also prevented me from being in the unique city of New Orleans.

There was one aspect of the virtual Tales that, depending on your perspective, was a pro or a con. To what do I refer? No mandatory controlled day drinking. During the days of Tales or a Tales on Tour you're always trying new spirits and cocktails. I'm not saying I abstained from booze during this year's Tales. I'm simply saying I drank far less than I did at any other Tales or Tales on Tour.  

As for Tales, here's my wish -- next year in New Orleans!


A Cold And Beautiful Cockail -- The Alaska

Alaska is a state unlike any other in the United States of America.  Ms. Cocktail Den and I have had the good fortune to visit the 49th and by far the northernmost state. The Alaska first appeared in 1913 in Straub's Manual of Mixed Drinks by bartender Jacques Straub. More than 100 years later, it still is strikingly elegant.

Alaska2 ounces Old Tom gin
1 ounce yellow Chartreuse
2 dashes orange bitters

Combine in a mixing glass with ice, stir with the sharp edged grace of a glacier calving (I've seen it happen and it is amazing), and strain into a chilled glass, preferably a coupe.

If you see an Alaska on a cocktail menu these days, it's most likely to have the ubiquitous London Dry style of gin. Go with Old Tom style gin, which you'll see in a classic Martinez, if you can. Not only is it authentic, but Old Tom style gin makes the Alaska a richer experience.  Yellow Chartreuse, which you can use in drinks such as the Renegade, is an integral component of this cocktail. There are multiple variations of the Alaska, and this is the one I prefer. Even though there are many things in the state of Alaska that are potentially deadly (bears, ridiculously low temperatures), the Alaska drink is not potentially deadly as long as you remember to cocktail responsibly.

Whether or not you've been to the unique state of Alaska, it's time to savor this cold beauty of a cocktail!


It's A Long Cocktail Way -- The Tipperary

"It's a Long Way to Tipperary" was a popular song during World War One. Referring to a town and county in southern Ireland (Ms. Cocktail Den and I drove near it but did not go there), the first mention of the Tipperary cocktail came in 1916, four years after the song. The recipe evolved over time. I first had a Tipperary at the excellent Here Nor There bar in Austin.

Tipperary1.5 ounces Irish whiskey
1 ounce sweet vermouth
.5 ounces green Chartreuse

Combine in a mixing glass with ice, stir with the determination of wanting to see your significant other again, and strain into a chilled glass. Amarena cherry or lemon peel garnish optional.

First appearing in Hugo Ensslin's cocktail recipe book (the same book that gave us the Aviation), the original Tipperary has the same proportions as the modern Luck of the Irish. That's a good drink if you really like green Chartreuse. As for the Irish whiskey, use whichever one you prefer. Subsequent versions of the Tipperary call for slightly more Irish whiskey, and some add Angostura or orange bitters.  I like the simplicity of this Tipperary because of its 3:2:1 ratio. It's not a long way to this great cocktail.

Intrigued by pairing green Chartreuse and sweet vermouth?  Try a Bijou.  Like Irish themed cocktails?  Try a Good Cork, Intense Irish, or the iconic Irish Coffee. What will your liver say?  Slainte!


Hypnotic Russian Drinking -- The Bitter Rasputin

Grigori Rasputin was a self-anointed prophet during the the reign of Czar Nicholas II.  Nicknamed the "Mad Monk" even though he wasn't a monk, Rasputin was a charismatic figure. He insinuated himself into the Russian royal family after he supposedly cured the hemophilia of the Czar's only son (he actually may have hypnotized the boy).  Wary of his increasing influence, his enemies went to great lengths to murder him (cyanide poisoning, shooting, then drowning). Unlike its namesake, the Bitter Rasputin did not come out of early 20th century Russia. It's actually a 2014 creation from Jim Lindblad.

Bitter Rasputin2 ounces vodka
.75 ounces Campari
.5 ounces green Chartreuse
2 dashes orange bitters

Combine in a mixing glass with ice, stir with a hypnotic motion, and strain into a chilled glass.  Orange peel garnish optional.

No doubt about it, the Bitter Rasputin is strong. Vodka is a natural base for a Russian themed cocktail, da? As with other drinks such as my original Venetian Kiss, vodka pairs well with Campari. Combined with orange bitters, the Campari is what makes the cocktail bitter. Green Chartreuse, a key part of drinks such as the Bijou and the Last Word, injects a little liquid power and a hint of herbal sweetness. Mesmerizing as the Bitter Rasputin is, be careful.  You don't want to end up like Rasputin.

Ready for a possible cocktail epiphany? Once you taste it, you'll fall under the spell of the Bitter Rasputin.