And Cocktail -- The Ampersand

Signifying "and," the ampersand is a common symbol in the English language (& it makes me think of the late great musical genius Prince). The ampersand symbol dates back a couple of centuries, when children were taught it was the 27th letter of the alphabet. The Ampersand cocktail dates to 1934, when it appeared in Albert Stevens Crockett's The Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book. The story is the Ampersand was named for the "&" in Martini & Rossi vermouth.

Ampersand1 ounce brandy
1 ounce Old Tom gin
1 ounce sweet vermouth
2 dashes orange bitters
.25 ounces curaçao (optional)

Combine in a mixing glass with ice, stir & stir & stir, then strain into a chilled glass.

The Ampersand is a boozy cocktail. The base of three spirits in equal proportions is reminiscent of other underrated classic drinks such as the Bijou. Brandy and Old Tom style gin together? Yes, it looks weird, but it works. Combining Old Tom style gin and sweet vermouth is part of the classic Martinez, so if you like that drink you'll like this one (& vice versa). You could use the more prevalent London Dry style gin in an Ampersand, but then the drink won't be quite as complex (this is one of those times when complexity is a good thing). Curaçao is a type of triple sec (orange liqueur), and if you don't have curacao, Grand Marnier is a good substitute.

Now have some fun & go make yourself an Ampersand!


D Is For Delicioso -- The Daiquiri

An American created what may be the most famous Cuban cocktail? At least one gets credit for it. Working for a mining company near Daiquiri, Cuba, in 1896 Jennings Cox, an engineer, served what we know as the Daiquiri as a punch to his guests. A little more than 10 years later the Daiquiri came to the United States, and a few years later Cuban bartender Emilio Gonzalez began serving it as a cocktail.

Daiquiri2 ounces light rum
.75 ounces super simple syrup
.5 ounces lime juice (1/2 lime)

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake with some Cuban style, and strain into a chilled glass. Lime peel garnish optional.

The Daiquiri is a simple and wonderful cocktail. How could time turn it into such a sickly sweet mess? I have two theories: the use of prepared mixes, and the tendency to overuse blenders and ice (no offense to Constantino Ribaligua Vert, a bartender at the famous El Floridita bar in Havana, who first used an electric blender to make a frozen Daiquiri.) In my opinion, the first makes the Daiquiri too sweet, and the second makes it too cold and diluted. Either one overpowers any remaining flavor. Use your preferred rum, and whatever you do, use fresh lime juice.

Want a deliciously simple Daiquiri? Now you know what to do.


Massachusetts Marketing -- The Cape Cod(der)

Cape Cod is a peninsula in southeastern Massachusetts popular with the moneyed class and tourists. Originally known as the Red Devil, the Cape Cod (also known as the Cape Codder) cocktail was the brainchild of the Massachusetts based Ocean Spray company designed to move its prime product: cranberries. Ocean Spray created the cocktail in 1945, and it went mainstream by the end of the following decade.

Cape Codder2 ounces vodka
3 ounces cranberry juice
Juice from 1/4 lime

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake with the rhythm of ocean waves gently rolling onto shore, and strain into a glass over ice. Lime wedge garnish optional.

Think of the Cape Codder as the less boozy, older relative of the Cosmopolitan. Most versions of the Cape Codder call for squeezing the lime juice into the vodka-cranberry juice mixture. To me that goes against the Hamlet Cocktail Conundrum, so I shake everything instead of mixing in the glass. If the vodka-cranberrry juice-lime garnish combination seems familiar, it's because the Cape Codder is the basis of other popular drinks. You can substitute grapefruit juice (the Sea Breeze), orange juice (the Madras), pineapple juice (the Bay Breeze), or soda water (the Rose Kennedy).

If you want a refreshingly light cocktail, a Cape Codder is your cocktailian destination.


Celebratory and Solemn -- The Ray's 619

Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865 (some Americans would write the date as 6/19). On that day enslaved people became legally free in Texas, so slavery became outlawed throughout the United States (permanently banning slavery, the 13th Amendment was ratified later). My close friend Doug asked me to create a Juneteenth cocktail in memory of his late colleague Ray, whom I did not know.

Ray's 6191.5 ounces bourbon
.75 ounces Aperol
.75 ounces glorious grenadine
Juice from 1/4 lemon (.5 ounces)

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake with the excitement you would feel as if you learned you were finally free, and strain into a chilled glass. Strawberry or other red fruit garnish optional.

Think of the Ray's 619 as an enhanced Whiskey Sour. Bourbon is the base because it is legally an American spirit. I used Aperol, which pairs nicely with bourbon in cocktails such as the Paper Plane, for two reasons. First, it is red. So what? Like many Americans, I largely was ignorant about Juneteenth until relatively recently. Among other things, I learned red is a big color for Juneteenth related food and drinks. It symbolizes the blood spilled during slavery, as well as African crops such as hibiscus. Second, Aperol's bittersweet taste fits right in with what the day is all about. Grenadine, which is dark red, brings some sweetness to the Ray's 619, and the lemon juice adds some tartness.

Raise a Ray's 619, and honor what (and who, if you knew the man) it represents.


Sazerac Cocktail Week

Can you devote a week to the Sazerac, a liquid national treasure from New Orleans? Of course (and you can drink them year round). Running from June 20 through June 26 this year, Sazerac Cocktail Week is the brainchild of the Sazerac House. Think of the Sazerac House as an approachable, interactive, and really interesting museum about all things Sazerac. How interesting is it? My mother-in-law enjoyed her experience there, and she doesn't drink.

Sazerac Week 3So how am I celebrating Sazerac Cocktail Week (besides the obvious)? By speaking with Matt Ray, the Sazerac House cocktail expert and experience team leader. Displaying his Southern upbringing and his experience as a former teacher, Matt graciously spoke with me and Ms. Cocktail Den about Sazerac topics ranging from historical to technical to personal. Keep reading because I'll ask you the same question I asked Matt at the beginning of the interview.

First, the historical. The past affects the present, and it's no different with the Sazerac. Emphasizing why the Sazerac is important in the American cocktail pantheon (my phrasing), Matt pointed out the Sazerac is an "old, old cocktail," as newspapers mentioned it as far back as the 1830s.  As the Sazerac evolved from its roots of using a cognac base to using a rye base, it became what Matt characterized as the "most lovely expression of an elevated Old Fashioned." Similarly, the profile of a Sazerac drinker evolved over time, in my opinion for the better. Matt hilariously noted Sazerac drinkers used to be "old grumpy white men," then "younger grumpy bartenders." Now people of all ages, races, genders, and occupations are likely to kick back with a Sazerac.

Sazerac Week 2Second, the technical. A Sazerac doesn't require many ingredients, but it "takes a small level of precision to make it." The key word is small. If I can do it, you can do it. Matt astutely compared making Sazeracs to baking cookies - few ingredients, tasty when done right, and many ways to screw them up. What are the most common mistakes according to Matt? Overdoing the absinthe or Herbsaint (a homegrown New Orleans spirit still used today and used when absinthe was illegal), and over-stirring. Surviving the former, Matt described it as "punishment for being drunk at 1:00 a.m. in the French Quarter." For the latter, Matt recommended a quick, soft stir so as not to water down the drink.

Third, the personal. Here's the compound question: where did you have your first Sazerac, and when did you have it? For me and Ms. Cocktail Den, it was the bar at the Dauphine Orleans Hotel in 1999. That began our ongoing love affair with the cocktail. For Matt, it most likely was at Loa, the first craft cocktail bar at which he worked, in an undetermined year (no judgment, as I'm well aware drinking in New Orleans can be antithetical to perfect recall).

In addition to appreciating and spreading the word about the Sazerac, there is another important aspect to the week. Sazerac Cocktail Week benefits Feed the Second Line, a non-profit organization focused on supporting the people who are the culture creators of New Orleans. Some bars and restaurants around the country are running promotions during Sazerac Cocktail Week. If you can't make it to one, this curated playlist provides a great musical background as you sip your Sazerac.

All of this talk about Sazeracs is making me thirsty. Care to have one with me?


Lively And Boozy -- The Pura Vida

"Pura vida" is a Spanish phrase that literally means "pure life." While Costa Rica uses the phrase as a national slogan to describe its culture, the Pura Vida cocktail comes from London. Riccardo Aletta at Holy Birds bar created it in 2016.

Pura Vida2 ounces mezcal
.75 ounces Averna
.5 ounces coffee liqueur (I used Mr. Black)
2 dashes orange bitters

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

If smokiness can shine, mezcal does it here. It gives the Pura Vida a boozy base and a wonderful fragrance. As it does in drinks such as the Naked And Famous and the Good Cork, mezcal plays well with the other spirits. Averna, a Sicilian amaro used in the Peligroso, gives the Pura Vida some depth. So does the coffee liqueur. You don't have to use Mr. Black (its coffee amaro is a key part of the Blackjack), but the coffee liqueur you use will have an effect on the Pura Vida.

Pura vida -- it's not just a state of mind. It's also a fine cocktail.


Classic New Orleans -- The Sazerac

Real New Orleans drinkers love a Sazerac, the city's official cocktail and Ms. Cocktail Den's favorite drink. Although the Sazerac's exact birth year is a bit hazy (as are many things if one properly experiences the city), Billy Wilkinson and Vincent Miret created it in the late 1890s at the Sazerac House. Its popularity endures and expands over time.

Sazerac2 ounces rye
.25 ounces super simple syrup
2 dashes Peychaud's bitters
Teaspoon of absinthe

Coat the inside of a chilled glass with absinthe, discard the remainder, add the other ingredients, and stir with some New Orleans style. Lemon twist garnish optional.

The Sazerac is many things. Weak is not one of them. Some early versions used cognac as the base, but most modern versions use rye. Think of the Sazerac as an absinthe enhanced twist on an Old Fashioned with special bitters. Both the Peychaud's bitters (another New Orleans creation) and absinthe, used in my When Ernest Met Mary, are indispensable parts of the cocktail. You can serve the Sazerac at room temperature. It's also quite good if you stir it with a couple of ice cubes and then remove the cubes before serving (this is how I do it). If you're still in a New Orleans cocktail mood, try my Len Bon Temps Roulé.

Want something assertive, alcohol forward, and utterly magnificent? Then make yourself a Sazerac.


A Cocktail Of Light -- The Parisian

Known as the "City of Light," Paris is one of the great cities of the world. Ms. Cocktail Den and I have been fortunate enough to explore iconic sites such as the Eiffel Tower and the Champs Élysées, as well as cocktail landmarks to know We'll Always Have Paris. In 1930 the Parisian cocktail appeared in the Savoy Cocktail Book by Harry Craddock. I slightly adapted the recipe.

Parisian1.25 ounces gin
1.25 ounces dry vermouth
.75 ounces crème de cassis

Combine in a mixing glass with ice, stir with Parisian joie de vivre, and strain into a chilled glass.

Crème de cassis is a blackcurrant liqueur used in drinks such as the classic Kir or my original Bourbon Renaissance. Almost a full ounce of pretty sweet liqueur needs something to counterbalance it. That's where the gin and dry vermouth come in.  Aside from a Burnt Fuselage or Scofflaw, normally I wouldn't use an ounce or more of dry vermouth in any cocktail, but it works well in a Parisian (the original has equal proportions of all ingredients). Its rich purple color reminds me of the liveliness of Paris and its people. 

Want your cocktail life to shine even brighter? Have a Parisian.


Irish Capital Craic -- The Dubliner

Dublin, the capital of Ireland, is a lovely city, and there's much more to do than drink beer, whiskey, and Irish Coffee. "Craic" (pronounced crack) is a Gaelic word that roughly means fun in a social context, e.g. a lively bar conversation. The Dubliner is not remotely as old as the city, as the late cocktailian and author Gary "Gaz" Regan created it in 1999.

Dubliner2 ounces Irish whiskey
.5 ounces Grand Marnier
.5 ounces sweet vermouth
2-3 dashes orange bitters

Combine in a mixing glace with ice, stir as if you're walking across the Ha'penny Bridge or the grounds of Trinity College, and strain into a chilled glass, preferable a coupe. Luxardo or amarena cherry garnish optional.

I see the Dubliner as an orange enhanced Manhattan, or a variation on the Tipperary or the Luck of the Irish.  There are a lot of fine Irish whiskies you can use as the base of the Dubliner. I'm not going to recommend a particular one. Regan specifically called for Grand Marnier, used in drinks such as the Burnt Fuselage, as the triple sec (orange liqueur). Using a different triple sec is fine, but of course the result will be different. Amusingly, even though Ms. Cocktail Den and I had some serious craic when we were in Dublin in 2017, we didn't have a Dubliner until later.

Have a Dubliner or two, and your odds of good craic improve immensely. Sláinte!

 

 


CCRockin' Cocktail -- The Fogerty

Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR) was a rock band with a unique sound that still resonates. John Fogerty was the lead singer of CCR during its brief history and prolific output (try to find a movie or TV show set during the Vietnam war era where "Fortunate Son" isn't played).  In 2010, 40 years after CCR's heyday, Ryan Fitzgerald in San Francisco created the Fogerty, and I discovered this adapted recipe in Difford's Guide.

Fogerty2 ounces rye
.5 ounces Campari
.25 ounces crème de cassis
2 dashes orange bitters

Combine in a mixing glass with ice, stir with forceful rhythm, and strain into a chilled glass. Orange twist garnish optional.

The Fogerty is a remarkably well balanced drink despite its unusual combination of ingredients. There's no doubt rye, a part of other American themed drinks such as the Roosevelt, and Campari, a part of drinks such as my Scandinavian Suntan,  are strong tasting spirits with a lasting impact (much like CCR's music), and they temper the rich and sweet crème de cassis, which you use in the classic Kir or my original Bourbon Renaissance. Fitzgerald's original used crème de cacao instead of crème de cassis. If you or your guest prefers a slightly sweeter Fogerty, use bourbon as the base instead of rye.

It doesn't matter if you're down on the corner waiting for Susie Q, or if you're looking at a green river with a bad moon rising, the Fogerty is a cocktail that will resonate.