Who's That Foxy Lady -- The White Lady

To paraphrase Jimi Hendrix and the Isley Brothers, the White Lady is a foxy and sexy lady of a drink. Most sources point to one of two legendary bartenders named Harry (McElhone and Craddock) creating it in the 1920s. McElhone created a White Lady in 1919, but it didn't contain gin (his later one did). There are many variations of the White Lady, most of which I classify as either Svelte or Voluptuous (see below). I prefer Voluptuous.   

White Lady1.5 ounces gin
.75 ounces triple sec (I used Cointreau)
Juice from 1/4 lemon
.25 ounces super simple syrup
1 egg white

If you're reverse dry shaking, combine everything except the egg white in a shaker, and Shake Shake Shake Your Egg Whites. If you're dry shaking, combine everything except the ice in a shaker, shake, add ice, then shake again. After you're done shaking like you mean it, strain into a chilled glass. Lemon peel garnish optional. 

So what's the difference between a Svelte White Lady and a Voluptuous White Lady?  The Svelte only has gin, triple sec, and lemon juice (this makes it a Sidecar with gin instead of brandy), and the Voluptuous has all of those ingredients plus the super simple syrup and egg white. There's certainly nothing wrong with a Svelte, but you'll get a richer and slightly sweeter taste with the Voluptuous. And the Voluptuous is unmistakably white.

While we're talking about colors, triple sec is the general term for an orange liqueur. On the topic of colors and flavors, a Pink Lady is basically a White Lady with glorious grenadine instead of super simple syrup. Don't let colors fool you.  Just like pink drinks, the White Lady is smooth but powerful.  The name of this cocktail reminds me of one of many hilariously offensive lines uttered in the great Mel Brooks comedy film Blazing Saddles (hint --  the line from Sheriff Bart begins with "where" and ends with "at").

Do you want to honor a lady or ladies in your life?  Then you know what to drink.


Parisian Grandeur -- The Champs Élysées

Running from the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde, the Champs-Élysées in Paris is one of the most famous streets in the world.  To call it a street is an understatement. Having walked its length, I can tell you it really is a magnificent avenue. It's not clear who created the Champs Élysées cocktail and when they did it, but in 1930 Harry Craddock mentioned it in his Savoy Cocktail Book.

Champs Elysees1.5 ounces cognac
.5 ounces Chartreuse
.5 ounces super simple syrup
Juice from 1/4 lemon
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake with joie de vivre, and strain into a chilled glass.  Lemon peel garnish optional.

The Champs Élysées is similar to the Sidecar, another concoction Paris launched into the cocktail world. Even though most brandy is torched Dutch grapes, given this is a French drink use cognac if possible. Try to use one that is classified VSOP or XO (see Side Notes to the Sidecar). Craddock didn't specify whether to use green Chartreuse, used in drinks such as the Final Rye, or yellow Chartreuse, used in drinks such as the Diamondback. Which one you use depends on how relatively sweet you want the Champs Élysées to be.  Yellow is slightly sweeter than green. Make no mistake -- just like the actual Champs-Élysées, both versions make a wonderful impression.

Whether you've been to Paris or not, the Champs Élysées cocktail evokes its splendor and beauty. À votre santé (that's French for cheers)!


The 3/4 Cocktail -- Low Or No Alcohol Drinks

In 1806 a New York newspaper editor named Harry Croswell gave us the first definition of the word cocktail: "a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters ..."

So what's a 3/4 Cocktail?  It's my way of describing a spirit free cocktail.  You still have the sugar, water, and bitters. As long you have at least those three ingredients, the possibilities are infinite. Bitters are highly concentrated alcoholic tinctures, so a 3/4 Cocktail isn't completely booze free, but it's quite close.

34 Cocktail -- No Booze BoricuaIn recent years cocktail programs have made a point of emphasizing low or no alcohol drinks, or at least not relegating them to the proverbial kids table in the room of cocktails. People have different reasons for wanting a refreshing and delicious libation without alcohol. In my case, I'm standing in solidarity with Ms. Cocktail Den, whose temporary medical issue renders her unable to drink booze for a short period of time.

There's no real formula for creating a 3/4 Cocktail. Personally I like to mix fresh citrus juice, a sweetener, a couple dashes of bitters, and ice (this is the water), shake it up so I follow the Hamlet Cocktail Conundrum, and strain into a chilled glass.  I suggest adding flavored seltzer water to increase the drink's volume and intrigue factor.  For example, the pictured 3/4 Cocktail is a No Booze Boricua, a spin on the Pina Colada.  Combine juice from 1/2 a lime, 1.5 ounces fresh pineapple juice, 1 ounce cream of coconut, .5 ounces super simple syrup, 2 dashes of Liquid Gold bitters from Embitterment, shake with ice, and top with orange seltzer water.

If I was one of the guys on The Big Bang Theory I'd write a complicated formula explaining how a 3/4 Cocktail can get you 100% satisfaction. I'm not one of those guys.  I'm not crazy (my mother had me tested), so trust me on this one.  Cheers!


Tales of La Isla Del Encanto, Part Two

Puerto Rico.  Nicknamed "La Isla del Encanto" ("the island of enchantment" in Spanish), this American island is home to generous people, stunning beaches, and the iconic Pina Colada.  Earlier this year Ms. Cocktail Den and I went to San Juan and attended the Tales on Tour cocktail conference; read about it in Tales of La Isla del Encanto, Part One.

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El Batey is a really good dive bar in Old San Juan.

You can't attend a cocktail conference without going to bars. When we went to the Tales on Tour conference in Edinburgh in 2018 we went to bars such as Panda & Sons and Kin. This journey to San Juan was no exception. I noticed a theme during the conference -- all roads lead to La Factoria in old San Juan.  If you ever saw the video for the song Despacito by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee (the song was everywhere in 2017), the bar scenes were filmed in La Factoria. To describe this award winning establishment as a bar is a bit misleading. La Factoria actually is a group of interconnected themed bars in a multi-level structure. Most of the individual bar spaces are not large, but you can cover a lot of cocktail real estate going through them all. I'm embarrassed to admit neither Ms. Cocktail Den nor I got a good photo of the bars inside La Factoria because we were taking drink photos and meeting people. During the conference we went there a handful of times, and we liked it so much we went there after the conference ended. The bartenders are friendly, humble, and create great drinks (gracias Celso M. among others). And the drinks .... let me put it to you this way.  My mouth still waters when I think of the Pina Coladas I had there. How do you say "Pavlovian response" in Spanish?

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You don't have to look glamorous to have a drink at the glamorous Chandelier Bar.

Depending on your mood and preferences, San Juan has a bar for you. Looking for a really good dive bar (by really good I mean fun, completely unpretentious, and not disgusting)? El Batey is the place.  You know it's really good if a lot of local industry people go there. Looking for a place with gorgeous decor where you can sit at the bar wearing an aloha shirt and bathing suit (as I did)? Check out the Chandelier Bar at the El San Juan Hotel. Want a little bit of tropical serenity and class in Old San Juan? Try the Cannon Club. If you're in the dynamic La Placita area (although the word "dynamic" is sort of an understatement), go to Jungle Bird, which has no relation to the tasty tiki cocktail of the same name. If you're wandering around in Old San Juan, and you really should, stop in and have a round or two at Aqui se Puede and La Republica.  Old San Juan is compact enough that the bars are all within staggering distance of each other. Literally. Or so I've heard. If you end up cocktailing a little less than responsibly, fortunately you can pray to Santa Uber.

To paraphrase a line from Come Fly With Me, a great Frank Sinatra song -- if you could use some exotic (or not so exotic) booze, there's a bar or two in not so far San Juan.


High Proof Boost -- The 43 Up

Chocolate, coffee, and whiskey. Most people like at least two of these things. The 43 Up puts all of these flavors together. This original creation is adapted from Bittered Sling's repost of the 5:00 P.M. Wake Up Call by Cheers to Happy Hour.

43 Up2 ounces whiskey (see below)
1 ounce Licor 43
2 dashes chocolate bitters (hello Bittered Sling)
2 dashes coffee bitters (hello again Bittered Sling)

Combine in a mixing glass or shaker with ice, stir with a jolt of excitement, and strain into a chilled glass. Lightly burned star anise float optional.

Licor 43 is a Spanish liqueur whose slight sweetness belies its strength. Its color is reminiscent of other liqueurs such as yellow Chartreuse (used in the Naked and Famous) and Benedictine DOM (used in the Good Cork). The name derives from the minimum number of ingredients in it. To me Licor 43 has a distinct vanilla flavor, so it complements the chocolate and coffee bitters quite nicely.  I'm a big fan of the Malagasy Chocolate and Arabica Coffee bitters from Bittered Sling. Other companies make good chocolate and coffee bitters, but they're not as exquisite and on point as the ones from Bittered Sling.

The whiskey is where things get fun and interesting with the 43 Up. I experimented using three different types of whiskey -- bourbon, rye, and wheat. Not surprisingly, the bourbon and wheat based versions of the 43 Up are a little sweeter than the rye based version. All of them work well, so which whiskey you use is a matter of your personal preference ... and whatever is in your liquor cabinet.

If you want to feel better, here's a two step solution -- 1. Get up. 2. Make yourself a 43 Up. Your mood only will go one way .... do I really need to say it?


A Puerto Rican Beauty -- The Pina Colada

Pina Colada -- 2019 (1)The Pina Colada is the premier cocktail of Puerto Rico. It evokes fond memories of a trip Ms. Cocktail Den and I took to this American island for a Tales on Tour conference. Meaning "strained pineapple," the modern Pina Colada came about in San Juan either in the early 1950s or early 1960s.  Regardless of who created the Pina Colada and when they created it, like the Margarita or the Daiquiri, it is a wonderful and simple drink that's easy to make.

1.25 ounces light rum (I prefer Don Q Cristal)
1.25 ounces fresh pineapple juice
1 ounce cream of coconut

Combine in a shaker or blender with ice, shake or blend with the energy of the La Placita area in San Juan (when we were there, the place was rockin' on a Sunday night), and strain into a chilled glass. Pineapple wedge garnish optional.

Pina Colada -- 2019 (2)
Condado Beach, San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Use Puerto Rican rum if you can. Bacardi is the most famous. Don Q's profile is increasing, and my informal survey indicated it is the rum most Puerto Ricans prefer. For the pineapple juice, fresh is key. Cream of coconut, which is not hard to find, is not the same as coconut milk. Although both come from shredded coconut, cream of coconut has less water and is sweeter. If you have to use coconut milk, make sure it is sweetened. Some variations of the Pina Colada add lime juice into the mix.  This makes the cocktail vaguely reminiscent of a Cuban drink with the same name in the 1920s.  However, that Pina Colada didn't contain coconut, so it essentially was a pineapple Daiquiri.

Like the resurgence of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, I like to think the Pina Colada is making a comeback. Pina Colada se levanta.


Colorful French Monks -- Chartreuse

Char what? Chartreuse is an indispensable ingredient in famous drinks such as the Last Word, or lesser known but equally amazing drinks such as the Widow's Kiss, the Bijou, and the Diamondback. But what exactly is it? Chartreuse is an herbal liqueur made by the Carthusians, a small order of Catholic monks many of whom live in the French Alps.

ChartreuseThere are two types of Chartreuse -- yellow and green. Liqueurs have a higher sugar content, but that doesn't mean they're weak. Au contraire, as the French would say.  Yellow Chartreuse is 40% alcohol by volume (80 proof), which puts in on par with unflavored vodkas and lower end (in terms of strength, not quality) whiskies.  Green Chartreuse clocks in at a whopping 55% alcohol by volume (110 proof), which is stronger than all but a handful of whiskies.

So why is May 16 Chartreuse Day?  In 1605 a high ranking French military officer gave the Carthusians a manuscript containing a recipe for an elixir that became Chartreuse.  In the United States the shorthand for May 16 is 05/16, but in France, and much of the rest of the world, it is 16/05.

Yellow Chartreuse is slightly sweeter, and some say it has a bit of a honey flavor. Green Chartreuse has a more pronounced herbal taste to me. The colors are natural. Chartreuse's recipe is secret like any other herbal liqueur or amaro, as well as non-alcoholic libations such as Coca-Cola. Legend has it Chartreuse consists of a blend of 130 different ingredients, and at any one time only two monks know the entire recipe. So when should you use yellow Chartreuse or green Chartreuse?  It depends on your mood, what you're making, and even the background music (perhaps Chartreuse by ZZ Top?).  Or you could follow the advice I got from a guy working the door at an event at the great Jack Rose bar in Washington, D.C. -- yellow by day, green at night.

Just as Chartreuse doesn't pull any punches on your liver, I'm not going to pull a punch about its price.  It is expensive, at least in the United States. That being said, it is worth every penny, pound, euro, or whatever currency you use. A little bit of Chartreuse goes a long way. These French monks aren't wrong.


A Sexy Cocktail In The City (Or Anywhere) -- The Cosmopolitan

Many people think pink drinks are weak. Wrong. This misguided notion happens with cocktails such as the Cosmopolitan. Commonly associated with the Sex and the City series on HBO in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the Cosmopolitan actually dates to the mid 1980s, and possibly the 1970s. It became ubiquitous on cocktail menus, and unfortunately too often it was a sickly sweet hot mess. A good cocktail should give you a pleasant drinking experience, not diabetes. When executed well, the Cosmopolitan is a sexy and powerful drink.

Cosmopolitan2 ounces vodka (I like Zyr)
.75 ounces triple sec (I prefer Cointreau)
Juice from 1/4 lime
.25 ounces cranberry juice
.25 ounces super simple syrup (optional, see below)

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake with the intensity of (look at the second word of this post's title and use your imagination), and strain into a chilled glass. Lime twist garnish optional.

Many versions of the Cosmopolitan call for citrus flavored vodka, but I think that's unnecessary. The Cointreau and lime juice give you all the citrus flavors you need. Cointreau is a brand of triple sec. Triple sec is a general and somewhat misleading term for orange liqueurs. Some people understandably think glorious grenadine makes the Cosmopolitan sweet and pink. The pink color comes from the tiny splash of cranberry juice. If you use unsweetened cranberry juice, I suggest adding super simple syrup unless you want a tart drink.  If you want a sweeter drink, rim the edge of the glass with sugar, add the super simple syrup even if you're using sweetened cranberry juice, or both. For the cranberry juice, less is more. Ideally the Cosmopolitan should be a lighter pink like the El Presidente.

Don't let the color fool you and have a Cosmopolitan or two. Carrie and the ladies would approve.


Tales of La Isla Del Encanto, Part One

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Paseo de las Sombrillas, Calle Fortaleza, San Juan

"La Isla del Encanto" (Spanish for "the island of enchantment") is a nickname for Puerto Rico. Earlier this year Ms. Cocktail Den and I had the opportunity to spend time in San Juan, the capital of this American island. I mention this because many people are not aware that Puerto Rico is part of the United States and its people are American citizens. I suspect this lack of awareness is because Puerto Rico is not a state and the vast majority of its people speak Spanish as their primary language.

So why were we in San Juan?  Three words -- Tales on Tour. This is the international and smaller scale version of the Tales of the Cocktail conference that takes place in New Orleans every summer.  In 2018 Ms. Cocktail Den and I attended Tales on Tour in Edinburgh.  We had many wonderful experiences there, so when we learned this year's Tales on Tour would be in San Juan, we jumped at the chance to attend.

I know what you might be thinking ... if Tales on Tour is an international conference, why was it in a different part of the the United States? There is a certain kinship between the cities of New Orleans and San Juan.  It is a kinship borne of tragic circumstance. Hurricanes smashed both of them (Katrina in 2005, Maria in 2017) and forced them to rebuild and rejuvenate. There definitely was an emotional connection between the organizers of Tales on Tour, the attendees, and the citizens of San Juan.  You could see it in eyes and hear it in voices. For me and Ms. Cocktail Den, although neither hurricane affected us personally, that connection made this Tales on Tour even more rewarding.

Tales on Tour isn't just about drinking and bars, although there's certainly plenty of both (I will talk about San Juan bars in Tales of La Isla Del Encanto, Part Two).  First and foremost it is about the people.  This Tales was no exception.  Ms. Cocktail Den and I got to see old friends and make new ones. This Tales on Tour gave us many wonderful experiences involving other people.  I will share a few examples.

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"Life is about creating beautiful moments" -- Roberto Serralles

One nice aspect of Tales on Tour is that because fewer people are there, you're more likely to have meaningful interactions with people in the cocktail community. For example, one morning after the welcome toast I introduced myself to Roberto Serrallés, a scion of the family behind Don Q rum. I told him how a Puerto Rican co-worker of mine enthusiastically recommended Don Q rum to me (ironically, she doesn't drink).  Later in the conference, Serrallés was part of a panel on a really interesting presentation at the lovely Hotel El Convento about the past, present, and future of rum. That night Ms. Cocktail Den and I ran into him at an event. Amidst a tightly packed crowd dancing to upbeat music that pulsed through their collective veins, we thanked him for his presentation and told him how much we enjoyed one rum in the Don Q portfolio that isn't yet in our local market. Serrallés could have brushed us off. He didn't.  His eyes lit up as he told us to wait two minutes and find some glasses. After disappearing into a sea of tipsy humanity, two minutes minutes later he reappeared, a bottle in hand.  His toast -- "life is about creating beautiful moments." While the moment may have been fleeting for Serrallés, it was a beautiful moment, one Ms. Cocktail Den and I will remember.

A new feature at this year's Tales on Tour was the Day of Service.  Optional for attendees and mandatory for media such as me and Ms. Cocktail Den, the idea behind the Day of Service was to get people out of the relative confines of the conference and into the larger community. It was an excellent idea. Projects included cleaning beaches, planting gardens, or rebuilding houses. Even though my idea of a power tool is a blender (I must give my father-in-law credit for that hilarious and accurate line), Ms. Cocktail Den and I ended up helping rebuild a house in Loiza. In addition to a couple of Puerto Ricans, our crew consisted of people from Pittsburgh, Miami, and the two of us from Northern Virginia. Instead of bonding over booze (pun intended for you whisk(e)y lovers), we bonded over building. And don't worry, I got nowhere near the nail gun or table saw.

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No photo filter needed in Old San Juan.

When you're in Puerto Rico, rum is ubiquitous. Bacardi is the most famous. A behind the scenes trip to Casa Bacardi gave us a chance to hang out more with Russ, Sarah, and Sam. We first met them at a great dive bar across the street from the Hotel El Convento, and given the relatively small size of the conference we kept running into them.  We had mutual friends, people we  met at Tales on Tour in Edinburgh (Michele) and Tales last year in New Orleans (Nicole). It wasn't until our trip to Casa Bacardi where we got to learn how and why they became part of the cocktail community. I'm always curious about people's back stories. The three of them indulged me as we explored things such as the lab, the fermentation tanks, and the aging warehouse. And Russ, who makes his own rum, was particularly excited when he got to speak with some Bacardi master blenders as we all blended our own rums during a brief class. I was just pleased the rum we created along with a Pittsburgh bartender was reasonably drinkable.

Of course, we also got to meet other Puerto Ricans.  After the conference we stayed in San Juan for a couple of days to get some beach time, turn a darker shade of pale, detox (sort of), etc. One night we were having a quiet drink or two at one of the bars that made up the award winning La Factoria. We began chatting with Celso, our bartender. As usual, I inquired about his back story. We learned he really was a local guy, as he grew up in a neighborhood mere blocks from where I was sitting. He shared with us his personal post-Hurricane Maria story that led him to La Factoria. Through Celso we learned about the building's history and some Puerto Rican and Latin American drinking habits while we sampled some great drinks, at least one of which I will feature in a future post.

Although the conference was centered in Old San Juan (I really enjoyed the neighborhood, particularly when it was not overrun with cruise ship day trippers), there were events all over the city, as well as some in other parts of the island. This forced you to go to neighborhoods slightly off the beaten path that I might not have seen on my own. For example, the La Placita area on a Sunday night was rocking, and the vibrant atmosphere definitely could give the French Quarter in New Orleans a run for its money. From the perspective of a mainland American (at least this one) San Juan is similar enough that you know you're not in a foreign country, but it's definitely different so you know you're not in a standard, cookie cutter city that could be many places on the mainland.

Want to see the drinks, colors, and sights from our time in San Juan? Click on the links below.

San Juan
Tales on Tour
Casa Bacardi Distillery San Juan

Was our time in San Juan enchanting? Si. After a week there, I can tell you the people and cocktail scene there embody the slogan Puerto Rico se levanta (Puerto Rico rises).


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.