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August 2014

July 2014

"Little Water" -- the virtue of vodka

Vodka is a Slavic word that means “little water.”  My ancestors hail from what is now Lithuania and Russia, so I think I’m genetically hardwired to like it.  Whether on the rocks, in a cocktail, or neat (with one particular brand), vodka is my go to clear liquor.

Some people don’t like vodka.  That is their prerogative.  For an excellent defense of vodka and a discussion about those who have a near pathological hatred of it, I recommend the following column from Carrie Allan -- Vodka, The Disraeli of Spirits

Two of my favorite "little waters"
Two of my favorite "little waters"

My current favorite to use in cocktails is Zyr. Its sharp but not too sharp taste augments and enhances the other ingredients.  It is also quite good on the rocks. 

Thanks to Bo, my favorite bartender at the Russian Vodka Room, a great watering hole to which I go every time I’m in New York City, I learned about Faberge Imperial Collection.  It  is so smooth you can drink it at room temperature.  Seriously.  I didn’t believe Bo when she made that claim, but she was right.  Faberge Imperial Collection can be tough to find. Keep in mind there are two versions – a normal bottle that retails for around $60, and a jeweled bottle that retails for far more than $1,000. I went for the first one.

If you like flavor infused vodkas, I highly recommend the selection at the Russian Vodka Room in New York City (the horseradish puts hair on your chest, and the apple pomegranate is delightful) Mari Vanna in Washington, D.C. (the honey oat was a particular favorite for me and my wife), Russia House in Herndon, Virginia (try the butterscotch, which isn't as sweet as you would think), and Russian House (over 70 different flavors) in Austin, Texas.

United Drinkers of America

Would you like some statistics with your cocktails?  If so, here's a link to an article that appeared in the Washington Post:

Where the biggest drinkers are in the U.S.

Not surprisingly, the drinking preferences among the states are as diverse as many other things in this great country.  You may want to memorize some stats from this article so, when you're at your next cocktail gathering with friends and/or strangers, you can dazzle them with your brilliance .... or bore them to death.


Super Simple Syrup

The classic Def Leppard tune "Pour Some Sugar On Me" is definitely not about simple syrup
The classic Def Leppard tune "Pour Some Sugar On Me" is definitely not about simple syrup.

Try saying that 10 times fast.  It should be hilarious, especially if you already imbibed a cocktail or two.

Simple syrup is a small but critical ingredient. If I can make it, so can you.  The only thing you have to decide is the ratio of water to sugar.  I don’t like the syrup to be too rich and sweet, so I use a 4:3 ratio (4 cups water to 3 cups sugar).  For sweeter syrup just use equals parts sugar and water or more sugar than water.

To make the syrup, bring the water to a boil.  When it starts boiling, remove from the heat source and stir in the sugar until it dissolves.  Wait at least an hour and occasionally stir the mixture.  Once the syrup reaches room temperature bottle or use it.  The syrup lasts longer if you refrigerate it, and even longer if you put a teaspoon of vodka in the bottle.

Pride And Joy -- If Stevie Ray Vaughan Made Cocktails

Statue of Stevie Ray Vaughan in Austin, Texas
Statue of Stevie Ray Vaughan in Austin, Texas

The late great Stevie Ray Vaughan gave us some tremendous music. At least I think he did.  A few years ago I discovered a cocktail named after him.  I read the recipe and thought it was oddly inappropriate.  It didn’t have an edge or the rawness that I associate with his music.

So what did I decide to do?  Remove any ingredient that wasn’t booze.  Here’s my Pride And Joy:

1.5 ounces bourbon
1.5 ounces  Southern Comfort
.5 ounces Cointreau

Combine with ice in shaker, stir as if the house is rockin', then strain into  a chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with orange peel.

Random question  – if you make this cocktail in a very small quantity, is it a Cold Shot?

Mooch – cocktail tribute to a distinguished feline gentleman

Mooch cocktail blogMooch was a cat my wife and I had for many years. Shortly after he died I spent an afternoon at my home bar experimenting with various liquors in order to create a cocktail in his honor.

1.5 ounces vodka
.5 ounces Benedictine DOM
.5 ounces Fernet Branca
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Combine in shaker with ice, stir with the intensity of Mooch eating almost anything, and strain into a chilled glass.

Mooch was a tuxedo cat, so initially I looked at cocktails that contained the word tuxedo in the name. The combination of Benedictine and Fernet Branca seems odd, but in my opinion they complement each other well. Like its namesake, this cocktail has a fairly sharp bite at first, then has some sweetness, and always leaves you hungry for more.

Sazerac -- a New Orleans classic

New Orleans is a unique city, and the Sazerac is a unique cocktail. It is my go to drink every time I am in New Orleans.  Fortunately the cocktail renaissance over the last few years has revived the drink’s popularity outside of New Orleans, so I’m less likely to receive a blank stare from a bartender when I order one.  After trying a bunch of versions, this is the one I make at home:

Milton from Office Space prefers a Sazerac to a red Swingline stapler
Milton from Office Space prefers a Sazerac to a red Swingline stapler

2 ounces rye whiskey
Teaspoon of absinthe
2-3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
¼ to ½ ounce super simple syrup

Put the absinthe in a chilled glass, swirl it around so you coat the inside of the glass.  Discard the remaining absinthe.  Add the rye, bitters, and simple syrup, then stir.  Garnish with a lemon twist.

Originally the Sazerac used cognac instead of rye.  If you don’t want to go really old school, use rye and cognac to make a Vieux Nouveau Sazerac. Thanks to Gaby, a bartender at my favorite local watering hole, I learned another variation – use rye, but instead of using all Peychaud’s bitters, use an equal amount of Peychaud’s and orange bitters.  It took me a long time to figure out why her Sazeracs are liquid magic.


Some "rules" for cocktail fun

There are few rules in the Wulf Cocktail Den.  The recipes here are more general guidelines.  Feel free to experiment with proportions of the ingredients, or substitute different liquors, bitters, etc.   That being said, you should be aware of some of my personal  preferences and guidelines:

1.  I prefer cocktails that are mostly, if not entirely, composed of liquor.  I do use citrus juices in some of my cocktails, and I don’t care for soda or carbonated beverages.  From what I understand, if you’re looking to maintain or lose weight, it is the non-alcoholic ingredients in a cocktail that are a disaster.

2.  The fewer ingredients the better.  I’m a big fan of the KISS principle – keep it simple, stupid.

3.  When using juices, if possible go with fresh over processed.  Even someone with an unsophisticated palate like me can tell the difference.  There’s almost always an assortment of lemons, limes, oranges, and the occasional grapefruit in my kitchen …… purely so I can use them as ingredients and/or garnish.

4.  Just because you put a cocktail in a martini glass doesn’t mean it is a martini.  Technically a martini must have vermouth and vodka and/or gin.  Of course, I will call something a martini if it is in a martini glass and you should, too.  I simply ask that you recognize what makes something a classic martini.

5.  Have fun.

6.  See #5.

Cocktails are fun

It is a wonderfully simple and profound statement.

So why did I start this blog?  I enjoy making and creating cocktails.  My tastes have evolved, and they will continue to evolve. Over the years I’ve made cocktails for my lovely wife (who also is my social media expert) and friends. I’ve shared my creations and recipes with a relatively narrow group of people.  I have considered expanding my passion for cocktails to a wider audience but never took that first step. The tipping point came when I attended the Tales of the Cocktail conference in New Orleans in 2014. I was among “my people” (someone who appreciates a good cocktail) and decided it was time to do what I can to expand and enhance the cocktail experience for others.

In the parlance of the conference, I am a proud cocktail enthusiast.  What I am not is a bartender. I recognize that I cannot do what they do.  If you can’t do what they do (or even if you can), remember to tip generously.  Watching a great bartender do his or her thing is like watching poetry in motion.

I hope to inspire you as others have inspired me.


Legal stuff, part one – Wulf Cocktail Den reserves all rights.

Legal stuff, part two – Drink responsibly.  If you do not, please do not get behind the wheel (in high school a friend of mine died in a drunk driving incident).  Also, don’t be a bad drunk.  You don’t want to be “that guy” or “that lady.”