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February 2015

Inside The Oyster -- The Passion Pearl

If you want more passion in your cocktail life (who doesn't?), this clear liquor based drink is for you.   Adapted from a recipe I found on, the highlight of the drink is POG vodka from Island 808 in Hawaii.  I'm a big believer in trying the local booze when I travel, and I have had the pleasure of drinking Island 808 vodka on trips to Hawaii.

A taste of the Aloha State
A taste of the Aloha State

1.5 ounces Island 808 POG vodka
1.5 ounces light rum
.5 ounces Cointreau
Juice from 1/4 of a lemon
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake like you're cutting through the waves on the North Shore of Oahu, and strain into a chilled glass.

Two questions probably popped into your mind -- (1) why the number 808? (2) what the hell is POG?  808 is the area code for Hawaii.  POG is an acronym for pineapple-orange-guava.  POG juice is pretty common in Hawaii, and it's quite tasty.

Island 808's POG vodka is only 60 proof (most vodkas are 70-80 proof), which makes this a dangerously drinkable cocktail.  If you can't get POG vodka, you probably can use a pineapple flavored vodka, or straight vodka and a small amount of fresh pineapple juice.

There seem to be a lot of places selling pearls in Hawaii, so it is fitting to use a Hawaiian vodka in this cocktail.  Even if the title of this post is a double entendre.

Knives And Heels -- The Stiletto

A stiletto can be classy, deadly, or both depending on context.  Like the blade on the namesake knife or the namesake heel on a lady's shoe, the narrow focus of this cocktail can lead to quite effective results.  Thanks to Shaun the Bartender's website for introducing me to this drink.

If my wife was a fighter pilot, her call sign would be Stiletto.
If my wife was a fighter pilot, her call sign would be Stiletto.

2 ounces bourbon
Juice from 1/4 a lemon
.75 ounces amaretto

Combine into a shaker with ice, shake like you're getting away from business end of the knife or heel, and strain into a chilled glass.

There are only three ingredients, so you can manipulate them pretty easily to get a different taste.  Want more sour?  Use a little more lemon juice.  Want more sweet?  Use a little more amaretto.  You get the idea.

The classic song  "Mack The Knife" goes well with this cocktail.  Many performers have recorded the tune. In no particular order I prefer Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, or the Brian Setzer Orchestra.  Just don't have too much fun while drinking this cocktail, or you could end up like one of Macheath's targets.

A Princely Cocktail -- The Raspberry Beret

Elmer Fudd says: "This a gwate dwink if you wike waazbehweez or yowah going to kill da wabbit!"  It's also a good drink if, as in the classic Prince tune, you happen to work part time in a five-and-dime (Younger readers -- you may need to Google the term five-and-dime.  If you need to Google who Prince is -- don't tell me because then I will feel really old).

Pink can be powerful.
Pink can be powerful.

Sorry Elmer, but it's Prince who provided the inspiration for the name of this cocktail.  There are other cocktails with the same name.  What makes this one unique is that it uses Lupo lamponecello.  Lampone is the Italian word for raspberry, and lamponecello is a raspberry liqueur made with raspberries, grain alcohol, and simple syrup.

2 ounces vodka (I recommend Zyr)
1 ounce Lupo lamponecello

Combine in a shaker with ice, stir as if you're riding down by old man Johnson's farm, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with a raspberry.

This is a good drink for warm weather or if you're dreaming of warm weather.  If it to sweet for you, just add a little more vodka. While the cocktail may not be fit for a king, it's definitely fit for a Prince.

What Is A Cocktail Worth?

To paraphrase Hamlet, to drink or not to drink, that is the question. Value is always relative, and cocktails are no exception.  Click here to read a good article in the Washington Post about increasing cocktail prices.

Everyone has a different idea of what he or she is willing to pay for a drink.  For me, the factors are the quality of the ingredients, the skill of the bartender, and the je ne sais quoi such as atmosphere, mood, etc.  Are all of those factors subjective?  Hell yes.  Just keep drinking the cocktails you like, and be willing to expand your horizons every now and then. 

Some Bitter Love -- Amaro Amore

As Valentine's Day is approaching, I had to post about a somewhat contrarian cocktail. Amaro amore literally means "bitter love" in Italian. Most versions of this cocktail have gin as the base spirit.  I'm not partial to most gins, so I adapted the Amaro Amore from something I saw on a Toronto bar's menu:

Drink this while listening to "Con Te Partiro" by Andrea Bocelli,  Or "I Hate Myself For Loving You" by Joan Jett.
Drink this while listening to "Con Te Partiro" by Andrea Bocelli. Or "I Hate Myself For Loving You" by Joan Jett.

1.5 ounces Averna
.75 ounces Campari
Juice from 1/4 lemon
.75 ounces super simple syrup
1 egg white

Combine in a shaker without ice (this is dry shaking), shake with passion, add ice, shake again (this is wet shaking), then strain into a chilled glass.

True to its name, the only spirits in this cocktail are amari (bitters).  Averna is very good on its own.  Don't drink Campari on its own unless you're a masochist.  All of the seemingly disparate flavors combine nicely.  That's a fancy way of saying there's a lot going on in the Amaro Amore. It is an excellent after dinner drink (trust me on this).

So why the dry shake then the wet shake?  I'm not a scientist so you're not going to get some technical answer or explanation from me.  You do the double shake because of the egg white.  If you dry shake a cocktail that contains egg white before wet shaking it, you get something even frothier than you would with just a regular wet shake.  If the preceding sentence sounds vaguely dirty to you ...... then great minds think alike.

Con Pasion -- The Passion

Pepe Le Pew and Penelope approve this cocktail.
Pepe Le Pew and Penelope love this drink.

Valentine's Day is upon us.  Even if you're like me and think Valentine's Day is nothing more than a Hallmark holiday (much to my wife's annoyance), it is an excellent opportunity to woo your lover through their liver.  Here's how:

1.5 ounces reposado tequila
.75 ounces Cointreau or other triple sec
1 ounce cranberry juice
Juice from 1/2 a lime

Combine in shaker with ice, shake as if you're throwing your entire body and soul into something (or someone) you love, and strain into a chilled glass.  Lime garnish optional.

Thanks to for introducing me to this drink.  I recommend using reposado instead of blanco tequila, but the Passion is fine if you use blanco.

The cocktail essentially is a Cosmopolitan that replaces vodka with tequila, or a Margarita that adds a bit of cranberry juice.  Regardless of how you view the drink, you will like the taste.  And so will your significant other.

Funny Name, Liquid Fun -- The Whiskey Crusta

It sounds like something Krusty The Clown from the Simpsons invented.  He didn't.  This cocktail dates back to the 19th century, and apparently it originated in New Orleans (not Springfield).  There are a lot of variations to this cocktail, but the defining characteristic that ties them all together is lemon and sugar on the rim of the glass.

Betty Boop and Rosie the Riveter (background) would approve of this old school cocktail.
Betty Boop and Rosie the Riveter (background) would approve of this old school cocktail.

2 ounces bourbon
.66 ounces Cointreau
.33 ounces Luxardo maraschino liqueur
Juice from 1/2 a lemon
.33 ounces super simple syrup
2 dashes orange and juniper bitters from Bittered Sling

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake like you're Itchy running to do something hilariously horrible to Scratchy, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass with a lemon juice and sugar rim.

This cocktail contains more ingredients than I usually prefer.  The result is worth the slight extra effort.  The Luxardo isn't truly necessary, but I like the taste and it adds a little something.  If you can't get the specific Bittered Sling bitters, orange bitters will work well.   Whatever you do, I'm sure you will come up with something that would make Krusty go "hey hey!"

Cosmo's Urban Cousin? -- The Metropolitan

The Billy Idol song "Hot in the City" goes well with this cocktail
The Billy Idol song "Hot in the City" goes well with this

When I say Cosmo, I don't mean Cosmo Kramer from Seinfeld.  I mean the Cosmopolitan, which became very popular courtesy of Sex and the City.   A properly made Cosmopolitan with quality ingredients is a fine drink, even if people think I'm gay if I have one (not that there's anything wrong with that).   While my research indicates there are some versions of a Metropolitan that resemble the Cosmopolitan, this isn't one of them:

2.25 ounces VSOP or XO brandy
1 ounce sweet vermouth (preferably Carpano Antica)
.33 ounces super simple syrup
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Combine in a shaker with ice, stir with the sophisticated demeanor of someone far classier than Jerry, George (my favorite), Elaine, or Kramer, then strain into a chilled glass.

If you like a Manhattan or an Old Fashioned, you'll probably like the Metropolitan.  It essentially substitutes brandy for bourbon.  Feel free to adjust the ratios of the ingredients to suite how sweet (or not) you want the drink to be.  Be the master of your cocktail domain.