Planting A Good Drink -- The Drop Seed

Crops and flowers bloom when it's warm, but with the seeds timing is important. The Drop Seed cocktail blooms in liquid glory year round. I discovered the Drop Seed on the Liquor.com website.

Drop Seed2 ounces dark rum
.5 ounces Averna
.25 ounces allspice dram

Combine in a shaker with ice, stir with the precision of planting seeds in the right place at the right time, and strain into a chilled glass.  Orange peel or amarena cherry garnish optional.

The Drop Seed is a sultry looking, complex cocktail. Despite sharing a word in its name, it bears no resemblance in color or flavor to the delightful, refreshing, and unfairly maligned Lemon Drop. The Drop Seed has a closer cocktail genetic code to the Donna Maria, which also combines dark rum and allspice dram. Allspice dram is a rum based liqueur derived from the allspice berry. It's also known as pimento dram because the allspice berry grows on the pimento tree. A word of caution -- a little goes a long way. Averna, an amaro appearing in drinks such as the Lupara and the A Thief In The Night, complements the other spirits.  The original recipe calls for a very specific aged rum and uses slightly less of the other ingredients.  I adapted because I already had a different dark rum in my liquor cabinet, and I really like Averna and allspice dram.

If you're going to have to reap what you sow, a Drop Seed is a great way to do it.


In The Cocktail Tonight -- The Phil Collins

Phil Collins had an impressive number of top 40 hits during and after his career as the drummer then lead singer of Genesis. "In The Air Tonight" was his first, and perhaps most famous, solo hit. It is a standard on 1980s and classic rock music channels, and it made noteworthy appearances in the Miami Vice TV series and the first Hangover movie. The Hawthorne bar in Boston introduced me to the Phil Collins at an event during Tales on Tour in San Juan.

Phil Collins1.5 ounces gin
.75 ounces yellow Chartreuse
Juice from 1/2 lime
Soda water

Combine the first three ingredients in a shaker with ice, shake with the intensity of the famous drum sequence in the song, strain into a chilled glass (a Collins if you have one), and top with soda water. Cucumber or lime garnish optional.

Gin and Chartreuse really go well together.  The Bijou and the Last Word are classic examples. The Phil Collins I had in San Juan used Hendrick's gin, which was a sponsor of the event. Different gins have slightly different flavors, so which one you use will affect the Phil Collins. The original recipe calls for cucumber vodka instead of gin, and it adds a little super simple syrup and a dash of cranberry bitters. Like the one in San Juan, my version of the Phil Collins does not contain syrup or bitters. If it is too tart for you, add a quarter to half an ounce of super simple syrup.

Make yourself a Phil Collins, and answer this -- can you feel it coming in the air tonight? If you just thought, sang, or said the words "Oh Lord," cheers!


A Drink For Rogues And Scoundrels -- The Suffering Bastard

These days the Suffering Bastard is known as a tiki drink like the Mai Tai, but its roots date back to the North African front during World War II.  Joe Scialom, head bartender at the Hotel Shepheard (not a misspelling) in Cairo, created the Suffering Bastard as a hangover cure. Facing a devastating defeat, British troops requested mass quantities of the libation. Scialom delivered, the British held the line at the Battle of El Alamein, and the Allies ultimately prevailed. Like Frank Meier, the creator of the Bee's Knees, Scialom was part Jewish and played a role in defeating the Nazis.

Suffering Bastard1 ounce bourbon
1 ounce gin
Juice from ¼ lime
1 dash Angostura bitters
.5 ounces ginger liqueur (optional)
Ginger beer

Combine everything except the ginger beer in a shaker with ice, shake with the fury of a fighting bastard, strain into a chilled glass (preferably rocks or highball), and top with ginger beer.  Lemon or lime peel garnish optional.

Bourbon and gin looks like an odd combination for the base of a cocktail.  It is.  But it works.  If you like ginger like I do, ginger liqueur is a great addition to the Suffering Bastard. I’m a big fan of Barrow’s Intense (full disclosure – I'm a very small investor), and if you use it you'll have an Intense Suffering Bastard. Most ginger beers on the market are non-alcoholic, and I suggest using one here. Just like its creator, the Suffering Bastard is intriguing.  Scialom led a storied and itinerant life, as after the war he plied his craft at some of the top hotels in San Juan, Havana, and New York.

Are you a suffering bastard?  Do you want to make a bastard suffer? Then raise a glass to Joe Scialom and have a Suffering Bastard.


A Cocktail "Cure" For COVID-19 -- The Flattening Curve

The COVID-19 causing coronavirus affects all of us. When there's a dangerous pandemic, it's natural to want a cocktail or two. "Flattening the curve" refers to the epidemiological model of trying to have infections over a longer period of time. This is a good thing. A flatter curve means less sickness and death because there's less stress on health care systems. Inspired by my Cancer Killer #1 and Cancer Killer #2, I give you another original creation, the Flattening Curve.

Flattening Curve1.5 ounces bourbon
1 ounce Aperol or Campari
.25 ounces super simple syrup
2-3 dashes Angostura bitters

Combine in a mixing glass with ice, stir with resolute determination, and strain into a chilled glass.  Serve straight (get it?) up if you can.

The Flattening Curve will not cure COVID-19 or destroy the coronavirus. I wish it could. The amaro in the Flattening Curve is the variable. Aperol, used in drinks such as my Venetian Kiss and the Naked and Famous, is lighter than Campari, used in drinks such as my Scandinavian Suntan and the traditional Negroni. Which one you use depends on your personal preference and/or what you have in your home. Designed to have ingredients many people stuck at home might have, the Flattening Curve is sort of an amaro enhanced Old Fashioned.

We're all in this together, so have a Flattening Curve at home and flatten the curve together.


Absinthe Beauty in New Orleans -- Belle Époque

Belle Epoque 1Absinthe has a certain mystique. Many have heard of it, few have had it. The anise (licorice) flavored spirit became popular in France in the late 19th century during the Belle Époque, a period of French cultural and artistic ascendancy. Even though absinthe became legal again in the United States in 2007, places that stock more than one brand, much less know about it, are few and far between.

Enter Belle Époque, a fairly new bar in New Orleans. Literally steps away from the raunchy merriment of Bourbon Street, Belle Époque figuratively is a world away. Mixing a look evocative of late 19th and early 20th century Paris with a low key and fun atmosphere, Belle Époque is a great place to learn about and drink absinthe. It even has two original fountains for the louche ritual, a process that combines absinthe with water and sugar to make the absinthe cloudy and milky green.

Belle Epoque 2The design of the drink program also is quite impressive. In addition to a wide selection of absinthes (who knew it could be red?), Belle Époque classifies cocktails by how much absinthe they contain (I particularly enjoyed the Ear and Loathing and the Viking Funeral).

If you've read other Wulf Cocktail Den bar reviews, you know to me the people in the bar are just as important, if not more important, than the drinks. Belle Époque hits the mark. For example, bar manager Laura Bellucci, who is smart, dynamic, and gracious, took us on an impromptu history tour of the multi-story space. If the original chandeliers in the upstairs event rooms don't dazzle you, the view from the balcony overlooking Bourbon Street will. 

Belle Époque is ascendant on the New Orleans cocktail scene for good reason.  Next time you're in town, go see why. Vive la Belle Époque!


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.