A Muppet Cocktail -- The Kermit The Frog Is Strong

When we were kids Ms. Cocktail Den and I were big Muppets fans. Kermit the Frog is one of the most famous Muppets. Even though he is physically weaker than some of his friends, e.g. Miss Piggy, he more than makes up for it with his honor, friendliness, and positive attitude. Continuing the tradition of a new original creation in a new year, the Kermit The Frog Is Strong pays tribute to his character.

Kermit the Frog is Strong1.5 ounces gin
.5 ounces Barrow's Intense (see below)
.5 ounces green Chartreuse
.5 ounces Midori
Juice from 1/4 lime

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake with the frenzy of Kermit waving his arms as he exclaims "Yay!!!!!", and strain into a chilled glass.  Lime peel garnish optional.

Use whatever gin you like. I highly recommend Barrow's Intense ginger liqueur for the Kermit The Frog Is Strong. Even though I'm biased because Ms. Cocktail Den and I are very small investors, Barrow's Intense gives you a far cleaner ginger flavor than its competitors. Clearly you have to use green Chartreuse (instead of yellow as you would in an Alaska). Combining green Chartreuse with gin and lime juice works very well in the Last Word, and it does the same here. Midori, a melon liqueur, keeps the Kermit The Frog Is Strong from being too tart, and it adds more green color. 

As Kermit might tell you, sometimes it's not easy being green. It's easy with a Kermit The Frog Is Strong.


Celebrating Triangles and Venice

Triangles1December is a popular time for celebrations. This December I had the honor of designing the cocktail program for a party celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Dulles Triangles, a local LBGTQ+ social group. Dubbed the "Gay-la," the party's theme was a Venetian masked ball. Ms. Cocktail Den and I love Venice, the inspiration for my Venetian Kiss. So what did the stylishly dressed partygoers drink? A creative mix of alcoholic and what I call 3/4 (non-alcoholic) cocktails.

Acqua Alta -- Italian for "high water," this is how the locals refer to the floodwaters that periodically soak the city (Ms. Cocktail Den and I literally got caught in historic flooding in 2019). The drink is a minimally modified Frank Sinatra. Combine 2 ounces vodka, .5 ounces blue curaçao, .5 ounces lemon juice, .25 ounces super simple syrup, and ice. Shake and strain.

Canareggio -- Named for the low key and fun district a little off the tourist path. The cocktail is a non-alcoholic Cosmopolitan. This one has .5 ounces lime juice, .25 ounces cranberry juice, .25 ounces super simple syrup, and ice. Shake and strain, then top with 2 ounces sparkling orange water.

Gondola -- I don't need to explain what a gondola is, do I? Ms. Cocktail Den persuaded a skeptical me to take a gondola ride at sunset, and the experience turned out to be sublime. This non-alcoholic drink has a vague tiki vibe. Combine 2 ounces pineapple juice, .5 ounces lime juice, .5 ounces super simple syrup, 2 dashes Angostura bitters, and ice. Shake and strain.

Triangles2Grand Canal -- The key waterway snaking past Venice's major landmarks. Add one ounce of dark rum to the Gondola. This was the Gay-la's "secret" drink, meaning you had to ask the bartender for one.

Palazzo -- These former palaces are the stately homes overlooking the Grand Canal and other parts of the city. Who says bubbly drinks need booze? Combine .5 ounces of lemon juice with .5 ounces of grenadine syrup and ice, shake and strain, then top with 2 ounces sparkling apple cider and edible cocktail glitter.

Sprezzatura -- This wonderful Italian word roughly means making something complex and difficult look effortless. Think of an elite athlete or artist doing what they do best. The drink is a renamed Champagne Cocktail. Place a sugar cube at the bottom of a champagne flute, add 2 or 3 dashes of Angostura bitters, then add sparkling wine and edible cocktail glitter.

St. Mark's Square -- The focal point of Venice. If you've only seen one picture of Venice, it probably was of this. I renamed my Flattening Curve here. This one has 1.5 ounces bourbon, 1 ounce Aperol, .25 ounces super simple syrup, 2 dashes Angostura bitters, and ice. Stir and strain.

The Gay-la was a great mix of old friends, new friends, elaborate masks and costumes ... and elegantly simple cocktails. The end result? Fun. To the Dulles Triangles, I say grazie mille for letting the Den be a part of the Gay-la. Cin cin!


A High Flying Drink -- The Paper Plane

You may have made and thrown one as a kid. As an adult, you can drink one. The Paper Plane flew onto the scene in 2008 when Sam Ross, the New York City bartender who created the Penicillin, created it for the opening of The Violet Hour bar in Chicago. Named for the M.I.A. song Paper Planes, it took off in Chicago and New York and made its way onto cocktail menus around the world.

Paper Plane.75 ounces bourbon
.75 ounces Amaro Nonino
.75 ounces Aperol
Juice from 1/2 lemon (.75 ounces)

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake to the theme from Rocky (the tune's title is "Gonna Fly Now"), and strain into a chilled glass, preferably a coupe. Lemon peel garnish optional.

Following the equal proportions of four ingredients format of the Last Word, the Paper Plane is easy to make (the same goes for the Naked and Famous). Bourbon and Aperol, used in cocktails such as the Venetian Kiss, are easy to acquire. Amaro Nonino, a bittersweet grappa based amaro from northern Italy, can be tougher to find, but thankfully we have the Internet. Originally the Paper Plane used Campari, but within days of unveiling it Ross changed his mind and used Aperol instead. The result is a really well balanced cocktail. In terms of balance and format, the Paper Plane more resembles the thematically similar Burnt Fuselage than the Aviation.

Looking to rack up some cocktail frequent flier miles? Then it's time to board the Paper Plane.


A Winning Cocktail -- The Blackjack

Celebrating my 21st wedding anniversary with Ms. Cocktail Den is a great reason to look for a themed drink. I discovered the Blackjack, which naturally made me think of the card game, in which 21 is a winning hand. This version of the Blackjack comes from Steve the Bartender in Australia.

Blackjack1.5 ounces brandy or cognac
.5 ounces Cherry Heering
.5 ounces Mr. Black Coffee Amaro
1 ounce cold brew coffee

Combine in a mixing glass with ice, stir with the confidence that comes when you see you have a jack and the ace of spades, and strain into a chilled glass. Orange peel and/or amarena cherry garnish optional.

The Blackjack is dark and delicious. Brandy, your first cocktail "card," brings a solid foundation. Even though it's all torched Dutch grapes, all cognac is brandy, but not all brandy is cognac (a key part of my 24601). As in a Royal Blood, a hint of Cherry Heering goes a long way. Mr. Black is from Australia, and it's very good. We had to acquire it via the Internet. Kahlua could be a substitute, but it doesn't have the same depth, so the resulting Blackjack will be a little different. Do you want to stack the deck, libationally (I made up this word) speaking? Add some coffee or molé bitters, just as you would in a 43 Up or Left Hand.

A word of caution -- have too many Blackjacks, and you might end up with the Charlie Sheen version of "winning!" (Google it). So do you have a winning cocktail hand?


Cocktail GPS -- The Navigator

Navigating helps you get where you're going. When Ms. Cocktail Den and I travel on vacation, she's frequently the navigator. If it wasn't for her, we might still be lost on picturesque desert highways in New Mexico, empty rural roads in Ireland, or the congested urban maze of Bangkok.  The Navigator comes from London, where Jamie Terrell created it in 2005.

Navigator2 ounces gin
.75 ounces lupo limoncello
Juice from 1/4 grapefruit

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake as if you're zipping across the waves or through the sky, and strain into a chilled glass. Grapefruit peel garnish optional.  

If you're looking for a surprisingly pleasant sour drink, the Navigator is it. Gin pairs well with lemon, e.g. the Bee's Knees, and lime, e.g. the Last Word, so there's no reason it wouldn't pair well with grapefruit. The Navigator brings gin together with two citrus flavors. The sugar in the limoncello keeps the Navigator from overpowering you with citrus and botanicals. The flavor balance could come at a price if you're not careful. Overindulge in Navigators and you could end up way off course, both literally and sobrietally. 

To paraphrase the Bible verse, seek a Navigator and you shall find a really good drink.


Not Sober As A Judge -- The Scales Of Justice

Due to a recent job change, a few people asked if I would create a cocktail with a judicial theme. Ms. Cocktail Den cleverly suggested I create a 50-50 cocktail -- two spirits in equal proportions (and sometimes bitters). Just as a judge has to balance the competing interests of parties in court, a 50-50 cocktail has to balance the competing flavors, strengths, and sweetness of its spirits. After deliberating over a lot of different combinations, I ruled in favor of the Scales of Justice.

Scales of Justice1.5 ounces light rum
1.5 ounces Averna
2 dashes orange bitters (optional)

Combine in a mixing glass with ice, stir with authoritative and knowledgeable precision, and strain into a chilled glass. Orange peel or amarena cherry garnish optional.

Rum gives the Scales of Justice some strength and a hint of sweetness. Averna, an amaro used in other drinks such as the A Thief In The Night and the Sicilian Manhattan, adds complex and rich flavors. If the combination of rum and Averna intrigues you, try a Drop Seed. So why add bitters? When a judge rules, usually someone is bitter about the result. In the Scales of Justice orange bitters nicely complement the Averna, and as we see in drinks such as the When Ernest Met Mary, citrus and rum go well together.

Have a Scales of Justice, and answer this question -- what's your verdict?


Don't Do It With This Drink -- The Procrastination

I'll get to it later. Tomorrow. Next week. We've all procrastinated. Maybe you're doing it right now. The Procrastination is a cocktail that's definitely worth reading about and drinking. Paul Clarke in Seattle created the Procrastination, and I slightly adapted the recipe after discovering it in Difford's Guide.

Procrastination2 ounces gin
.75 ounces Lupo limoncello
.5 ounces dry vermouth
.25 ounces green Chartreuse

Combine in a mixing glass with ice, stir slowly as if you're procrastinating, and strain into a glass, preferably a coupe. Lemon peel garnish optional.

The Procrastination is smooth and strong. Its combination of gin, vermouth, and citrus flavor is reminiscent of my Gintringuing, and the combination of gin, limoncello, and Chartreuse makes it similar to a Lemony (which I also learned about courtesy of Difford's Guide). The green Chartreuse, used in drinks such as the Last Word and the Tipperary, adds a little kick to the Procrastination. The difference between Clarke's original and my version is simple -- Clarke calls for 1/6 ounce of Chartreuse, and I just rounded up to a quarter ounce to make my life easier.

Now stop procrastinating and make yourself a Procrastination.


Dangerously Drinkable -- The Peligroso

Peligroso is the Spanish word for dangerous. The Peligroso comes from the excellent La Factoría bar in San Juan. Ms. Cocktail Den and I visited La Factoria many times when we went to Puerto Rico for part one and part two of Tales of La Isla del Encanto. Like the original Peligroso, the danger in my minor adaptation only lies in its smoothness.

Peligroso1.5 ounces light rum (I like Don Q)
.5 ounces Campari
.5 ounces Averna
.25 ounces allspice dram
Juice from 3/4 lime
.5 ounces super simple syrup 
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake as if you're a dangerously good bartender, and strain into a chilled glass, preferably a coupe. Lime peel garnish optional.

The Peligroso is creative and complex. Combining rum with amari (bittersweet liqueurs) might seem odd, but it's not. After all, the classic Jungle Bird has rum and Campari, a part of drinks such as the Bitter Rasputin. Incorporating Averna, used in drinks such as the Midnight Train, and allspice dram give the Peligroso a hint of richness. La Factoría's Peligroso uses spiced syrup with allspice berries and sugar. My easy workaround includes allspice dram, part of my Les Bon Temps Roulé, and super simple syrup.

Do you want to bring some good danger into your life? Have a Peligroso.


A Sharp Olympic Drink -- The Lucien Gaudin

Hailing from France, Lucien Gaudin was an Olympic champion fencer in the 1920s.  Fencing as in trying to stab someone with one of three blade types.  Unlike the clear record of Gaudin's victories in three different Olympics (I'm a huge fan of the movie Chariots of Fire, part of which takes place at the 1924 Olympics in Paris), the origin of the Lucien Gaudin cocktail is hazy.

Lucien Gaudin1 ounce gin (bonjour Botanist)
.5 ounces Cointreau (c'est français comme Monsieur Gaudin)
.5 ounces Campari (mon ami italien)
.5 ounces dry vermouth (je t'aime Noilly Prat)

Combine in a mixing glass with ice, stir with the strategic precision of a fencer, and strain into a chilled glass. Orange peel garnish optional.

Some people describe the Lucien Gaudin as a variation on the classic Negroni. To me it's more Negroni adjacent. A true variation would have equal proportions of three spirits and some crossover. The Bijou and the Luck of the Irish are good examples. I know this is a fine point (pun intended). Cocktail technicalities aside, the Lucien Gaudin is lighter than a Negroni and is very pink. Do you like French themed cocktails? Try a Champs Elysees or a Burnt Fuselage.  Want something more on point (sorry, I can't help myself)?  Try an Ides of March or a Stiletto.

Have a Lucien Gaudin, cue the Chariots of Fire theme, and be victorious!


A No Joke Drink -- The Jersey Girl

Depending on your perspective, "Jersey girl" jokes are funny, stupid, and/or offensive. You won't make fun of the Jersey Girl cocktail. The late Gary "Gaz" Regan, a noted author and luminary in the cocktail community, created the Jersey Girl in 2005 in honor of the 225th anniversary of Laird & Company, which produces applejack and apple brandy. Where is Laird & Company headquartered? New Jersey.

Jersey Girl1.5 ounces applejack
1 ounce triple sec
Juice from 1/2 lime
1 ounce cranberry juice

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake with some stereotypical attitude of a you know who, and strain into a chilled glass (preferably martini or coupe). Lime slice garnish optional.

The Jersey Girl is a variation of the underrated Cosmopolitan, which is quite good if you make it properly. The Jersey Girl swaps in applejack for vodka. If you compare apples to apples, you'll know applejack is very similar to but not quite the same as apple brandy. You can use them in classics such as the Jack Rose, modern classics such as the Newark, or originals such as my American Apple. I prefer Cointreau, but you can use a different triple sec if you like. The Jersey Girl is a drink where you can compare apples to oranges, and the result is tasty. One last note -- use unsweetened cranberry juice if you can.

So what's the difference between a Jersey Girl and a Jersey girl? Think of a punchline as you savor a Jersey Girl.