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January 2015

Help Your Heart And Have A Cocktail

You gotta love science.  A recent study showed that moderate alcohol consumption (up to seven drinks per week) is associated with a lower risk of heart failure.  Even though the European Heart Journal published the study, the study population was all American.  It didn't matter if the more than 14,000 middle aged people consumed beer, wine, or liquor.

Click here to read a non-scientific short summary (thanks to my wife for sending it to me).  Click here if you want to read a scientific abstract with the details. If you don't want to read either one, here are the two key takeaways:

1.  A cocktail a day is good for you.
2.  See #1

Drop And Give Me Some Intoxication -- The Lemon Drop

I recently started a new batch of Lupo limoncello.  I ended up with a lot of lemons, so I decided to make a Lemon Drop. Do those two words trigger a visceral reaction of disgust?  If so, you probably had a version of this cocktail that was so sickeningly sweet your teeth fell out or you got diabetes.  It doesn't have to be like that.  It can be a simple balance of tart and sweet just like this:

When life hands you lemons, make a Lemon Drop
Why use lemons to make lemonade when you can make a Lemon Drop?

2.25 ounces vodka (I prefer Zyr)
Juice from 1/2 a lemon
.75 ounces super simple syrup

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake like you're having a flashback to a bad cocktail experience (or the resulting hangover), then strain into a chilled martini glass.  Sugar rim on glass and/or lemon garnish optional.

Like someone who does a lot of yoga, this cocktail is very flexible.  Want it more tart?   Don't rim the glass with sugar, or add more lemon juice.  Want it more sweet?  Add more super simple syrup (but not too much unless you really want to go to the dentist or endocrinologist).  Want it stronger with different citrus?  Add .75 ounces of Cointreau.  Want it stronger with the same citrus?  Add .75 ounces of Lupo limoncello.

Now go get the drop on your sobriety.


Voluntary Detox

Voluntary detox is the type of VD that is good for you.  Thanks to Derek Brown, who has been a driving force in the enhancement of Washington, D.C.'s cocktail scene, for this insightful article about why he stops drinking during the month of January (click here to read it).

All cocktail lovers should have their own periods of voluntary detox.  When and for how long is up to you.  For me this article illustrated the dichotomy between wanting something and needing something.  If you want a cocktail, get one.  If you need a cocktail, get help. To paraphrase one of the many great lines from the wonderful baseball movie Bull Durham -- cocktails are fun, okay?  Fun goddamnit!

Just remember -- candlesticks always make a nice gift (if you've seen the movie, you probably can't watch a mound conference without thinking about that hilarious scene).

Vancouver Vibrance -- The Denman Old Quarter

If you want a wonderfully complex Canadian cocktail, this is it.
If you want a wonderfully complex Canadian cocktail, this is it.

Many thanks to the great people at Bittered Sling for creating this cocktail.  It has been many years since I went to Vancouver, a fun city on the west side of Canada, but I don't recall going to Denman Street.  In retrospect I should have gone there.  My understanding is that it is a very worldly area that is active 24-7.  Just like its namesake, there is a lot going on with this cocktail:

1 ounce rye
1 ounce brandy
.5 ounces sweet vermouth (go with Carpano Antica if you can)
.33 ounces ginger liqueur (I prefer Barrows Intense)
2 dashes Denman bitters from Bittered Sling

Combine in shaker with ice, stir with cool Canadian grace, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Lemon peel garnish optional.

If you like rye or bourbon based cocktails such as a Manhattan or a Sazerac, you probably will like the Denman Old Quarter.  Even if you don't care for this cocktail, I certainly recommend using Denman bitters in your favorite dark liquor based libations.




Spirits For Spirits -- The Lupo Voodoo

Get some liquid religion!
Get some liquid religion (of the voodoo kind)!

Voodoo is a religion, so why not have a cocktail that might put you in a state of religious or spiritual ecstasy?  My only interaction with voodoo has been seeing the grave of Marie Laveau, a famous priestess, as part of a cemetery tour in New Orleans (it's more fascinating and less morbid than it sounds).  After seeing the Island Voodoo cocktail on I decided to adapt it for the Wulf Cocktail Den.  Here is my version:

2 ounces rye whiskey (hello Bulleit)
.5 ounces Averna
.5 ounces Lupo limoncello
2 dashes Lem-Marrakech bitters from Bittered Sling

Combine into a shaker with ice, stir as if you're conjuring some spirits to deploy their power on your behalf, and strain into a chilled glass.  Flame kissed orange peel garnish optional.

You'll notice this isn't much different than the Lupara. The bitters aren't critical, but they turn a really good cocktail into a great one.  The original cocktail uses Averna Limoni, which is a Sicilian limoncello that is 54 proof. In comparison, my Lupo limoncello is 95 proof.

As an aside, if you really want to see an amazing above ground cemetery outside of the United States, go to La Recoleta cemetery in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  It is stunning in its size and opulence.

Now go to your liquor cabinet, get what you need, and hoodoo that Lupo voodoo that you do so well.

Know Your Limits -- The 12 Mile Limit

Even though the anniversary of Prohibition's end was last month, it's never too late to celebrate it.

There's some great history behind the 12 Mile Limit.  At the outset of Prohibition the territorial waters of the United States ended four miles offshore.  Rumrunners would set up shop just outside the line.  In an attempt to thwart them, in 1924 Congress extended the limit to ..... you guessed it, 12 miles.  We all know it didn't work.  To celebrate slightly more than 71 years since the repeal of Prohibition, make this:

As Dirty Harry Callahan once said: "A man's got to know his limitations."
As Dirty Harry Callahan once said: "A man's got to know his limitations."

1 ounce light rum
.5 ounces rye
.5 ounces brandy
.5 ounces Cherry Heering
Juice from 1/4 lemon

Combine in shaker with ice, shake like you're on the run from the law or a rival rumrunner, and strain into a chilled glass.

This is my kind of a Prohibition era cocktail because it's almost all booze.   If it is too tart for you, I suggest minimizing the rum and rye and/or adding a dash of super simple syrup.  The original recipe uses grenadine syrup (the real thing, not the sweet stuff you can buy in almost any grocery or liquor store) instead of Cherry Heering.  I opted for convenience over authenticity, as I already had a bottle of Cherry Heering in my bar.

If you want to read a magnificent book about Prohibition, I highly recommend Last Call by Daniel Okrent.  It is an entertaining read and you will learn all sorts of fascinating things.  Even if you go past your own 12 mile limit.

Hot Cocktail -- The Ship To Shore

When it's really cold outside (like right now), a hot cocktail can hit the spot.  Not hot as in sexy, not hot as in trendy, but hot as in to where Dante traveled in the Inferno.

Looking for some hot stuff?
Looking for some hot stuff?

This cocktail recipe appeared in Mens Journal magazine, and I tweaked it slightly to make it more suitable to the Wulf Cocktail Den, i.e. a little more "alcohol forward"  and less watered down.

.75 ounces light rum
1.5 ounces Laird's applejack
.75 ounces super simple syrup (click here)
2 dashes Angostura bitters
1 cinnamon stick

Combine all ingredients in a small pan, put on low to medium heat for a few minutes, pour the mixture into a suitable glass, and add 2-3 ounces of hot water.  Garnish with a cinnamon stick.

This cocktail is an excellent alternative to other hot cocktails such as Irish coffee. So why is it called Ship To Shore?  According to the magazine, its inspiration comes from Prohibition rumrunners.  I haven't been able to confirm this.  Nonetheless, I'm a big fan of Prohibition era cocktails such as the Sidecar, as well as Prohibition inspired cocktails that are much stronger than this one (check out the forthcoming post).  

If this cocktail doesn't warm you up, have another.  If that one doesn't do it ...... use your imagination.

A Jack Of All Whiskies

Got whiskey?   Jack Rose has whatever your liver desires.
Got whiskey? Jack Rose has whatever your liver desires.

And a master of every single one of them.  I refer not to a person, but to a place -- Jack Rose in Washington, D.C.  Jack Rose boasts of having the largest whiskey selection of any establishment in the United States. I was skeptical about this claim before my wife and I recently set foot in the place. After a few hours, multiple conversations with different people behind the bar, and sampling many different whiskies (rye and bourbon for me, Scotch and bourbon for my wife), my skepticism, like my resulting hangover, vanished.  It took longer for the hangover to vanish.  Big surprise, right?

I really liked the Mother In Law and the Eva Peron (but I wouldn't want to have Evita as my mother in law)
I really liked the Mother In Law and the Eva Peron (but I wouldn't want to have Evita as my mother in law).

If you have the opportunity, plan ahead and make a reservation at Dram & Grain.  Dram & Grain is a small downstairs bar at Jack Rose where the focus is on cocktails.  Not all of the cocktails have a whiskey base. Fortune smiled upon us, as Trevor Frye (an award winning bartender) prepared our drinks and happily answered our questions.

Good thing the seatings at Dram & Grain only last two hours.  That meant I couldn't sample every cocktail on the list.  In addition, I had the opportunity to go to the main bar, try new liquors (I love Willett even more after tasting two of its ryes), and meet other talented and interesting people (thanks to Andy and Brittany behind the bar).

Talking to Ladies Who Love Whiskey

Do you know any women of whiskey, babes of bourbon, sirens of Scotch?  If so, prevent yourself from having an episode of foot in mouth disease and click here to read this article about things you don't say to them.

Thanks to my wife and a female friend (both of whom drink whiskey) for alerting me to this article.

If you are dumb enough to say one of the things mentioned in the article, don't expect the lady to throw her drink in your face.  She's not going to waste good booze.  What she does next .........

Sicilian Shotgun -- The Lupara

A new year calls for a new cocktail creation!

A cocktail that combines the brains, style, honor, and ruthlessness of the Corleone family (except Fredo)
A cocktail that combines the brains, style, honor, and ruthlessness of the Corleone family (except Fredo)

Lupara is Italian slang for a sawed off shotgun, particularly in connection with La Cosa Nostra (more popularly known as the Mafia).  You might recognize the word if, like me, you read The Godfather and are obsessed with the novel and the film trilogy.  Although I don't think anyone says the word in the films, in the first film (Best.  Movie. Ever.) Michael Corleone's bodyguards carry them when he is in Sicily.

So why did I name this cocktail the Lupara?  Three reasons -- (1) the key ingredient is Averna, a wonderful amaro from Sicily, where La Cosa Nostra was and perhaps still is powerful, (2) the word lupara is derived from lupo, the Italian word for wolf, so there's a tenuous connection to the Wulf Cocktail Den, (3) Vito Corleone (born Vito Andolini) hailed from Corleone, Sicily.

2 ounces rye
1 ounce Averna
2 dashes orange and juniper bitters from Bittered Sling

Combine in a shaker with ice, stir as if you're methodically stalking the target of your vendetta, and strain into a chilled glass.

Last month I discovered Averna.  It has a great combination of citrus and herbal flavors.  Unlike other amari such as Campari, which has a very strong and almost medicinal taste, Averna is smooth enough that you can drink it neat.

I highly recommend using Bittered Sling's product for this cocktail.  The orange and juniper really complement the flavors in the Averna.  If you can't get your hands on these bitters from our friends north of the border, use orange bitters.  Regardless of what you use the result will be more elegant, but just as brutally effective, as its namesake.