Previous month:
October 2015
Next month:
December 2015

November 2015

Bartenders Are More Than Mixologists

Many people use the word bartender interchangeably with mixologist.  They mean well. They are wrong.

What's the difference?  Carrie Allan's recent article in the Washington Post (click here to read it) hits the nail on the head.  While a mixologist can make a very good cocktail, a bartender adds the critical human element to the equation.  Think of it this way-- all bartenders are (or at least should be) mixologists, but all mixologists are not necessarily bartenders.  You may go to a bar for the quality of its cocktails, but you'll go back because of the quality of its people.  

Even if I considered myself to be a mixologist, I would not be a good bartender.  Knowing me, I probably would identify the 10 most interesting people at the bar and spend 90% of my time with them.  Not a good model for job security.

I've had the luck of meeting many great bartenders over the years.  Even though I could not hope to name all of them, here are a few from this year and last -- Rick, Dave, Jason and the crew at my favorite watering hole (Morton's), Marvin Allen at the Carousel Bar in New Orleans, Steve Schneider at Employees Only in New York, Bri at RF's in New Orleans, Bo at the Russian Vodka Room in New York, and Erik Lorincz at the American Bar in London.  Whether I named you or not, thanks to all of you for what you do so well.

007 Orders a Cosmo?

Yes (with sugar free cranberry juice!).  He also orders a strawberry daiquiri with three umbrellas, a Robitussin and tonic .........

Calm down.  James Bond doesn't actually order those  cocktails in the movies or novels.  Fortunately Daniel Craig, who has played 007 in four movies, has an excellent sense of humor.  Watch below or click here to see a hilarious clip from Craig's recent appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live.

Thanks to my friend (and fellow Bond geek) Sarah for telling me about this clip. 

If you want to read more about the drinking habits of 007 and his creator, look at James Bond's ABC and Drinking Like Ian Fleming.  Or just click the James Bond archive tab on the right to see everything the Den has to offer about Bond, James Bond.




A Ferocious Bond -- The Double O Intense Martini

What makes a vodka martini more intense?  Belvedere Intense vodka.  Belvedere, which is now James Bond's vodka, issued this limited release earlier this year.  My wife and I had the pleasure of discovering it while going through duty free at Heathrow Airport in London. 

Double O Intense MartiniHow does Belvedere Intense differ from regular Belvedere (which is one of my favorite vodkas)?  The proof is in the proof.  Regular Belvedere is 80 proof (40% alcohol by volume), and Belvedere Intense comes in at a muscular 100 proof (50% alcohol by volume).

If you acquire Belvedere Intense and want to make your Double O Intense Martini in the style of Sir Roger Moore, click here for how to do it.  If you like to make your Double O Intense Martini some other way, go for it.

So how did Ian Fleming, who wrote the novels, come up with the Double O label?  Thanks to Stewart, a fantastic guide for the James Bond walking tour at Brit Movie Tours, I learned the answer -- 007 was a German diplomatic code during World War I.  British intelligence cracked the code and intercepted what is now known as the Zimmerman Telegram, which influenced the decision of the United States to enter the war.

Now you've had a cocktail knowledge shot with a history back. Cheers!

Variation on a Vesper

Vesper with MancinoSometimes changing one ingredient transforms an entire cocktail.  The Vesper is no exception.  I made my version of this classic 007 cocktail, which James Bond himself created, with Bianco Ambrato vermouth from Mancino Vermouth.  Full disclosure -- I did not receive any compensation, but Giancarlo Mancino generously gave me a free bottle when I met him at Tales of the Cocktail earlier this year.  I also met the U.S. distributor, so we can get it through the Internet.

3 ounces vodka
1 ounce dry gin
.5 ounces Mancino Bianco Ambrato vermouth

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake con passione as if you were with a Bond girl or Bond (depending on your preference), and strain into a chilled glass.

The Bianco Ambrato has a distinctive flavor compared to other dry vermouths.  It strikes the delicate balance of asserting itself without overpowering the entire cocktail.  Bravo!

Rise From The Dead -- The Corpse Reviver #1

Does this have something to do with a zombie apocalypse movie?  Nope.   Corpse Revivers, which originated around the turn of the 20th century, were an old school "hair of the dog" -- you used one to rejuvenate yourself after a night of heavy drinking.  Thank the late Harry Craddock, head bartender at the Savoy Hotel in London, for saving some of the recipes, and thank Marvin Allen, head bartender at the Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans, for introducing me to this cocktail.

Corpse Reviver #11 ounce Calvados or other apple brandy
1 ounce brandy or cognac
1 ounce sweet vermouth

Combine in a shaker with ice, stir with the slow deliberation of trying to do anything with a hangover (don't act innocent -- you know what I'm talking about), and strain into a chilled glass.  Orange peel garnish optional.

Calvados is an apple brandy.  Calvados is to apple brandy like Cognac is to grape brandy -- it's all about geography (in these cases, regions in France ... for more read Torched Dutch Grapes). You'll probably have an apple brandy or two at your local liquor store. If not you have the Internet.

Almost all versions of the Corpse Reviver #1 have at least 50% grape brandy.  I prefer this version because it has more of an apple taste and the proportions are really easy to remember.

If you see a Corpse Reviver on a cocktail menu, take a good look before ordering.  Most likely it will be the gin based #2, not the brandy based #1.  The Corpse Reviver #1 is worth your time, even if your corpse doesn't need reviving.

The Bitch Is Dead -- The Vesper

Vesper 4"The bitch is dead" -- this is how James Bond describes the demise of Vesper Lynd, the girl who broke his heart.  In Casino Royale (both the novel and the movie starring Daniel Craig), Bond falls in love with Vesper before he learns she is a double agent and she commits suicide.  All of this happens after he creates a cocktail in her honor.  Here is my version:

3 ounces vodka (I recommend Belvedere or Zyr)
1 ounce dry gin
.5 ounces dry vermouth (I like Noilly Prat)

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake with the fury of 007 exacting vengeance on his enemies, and strain into a chilled glass.  Garnish with lemon peel.

Vesper 1Those of you who are fans of James Bond and/or the Vesper immediately will notice the big difference between my version and the original.  The original calls for a 3:1 ratio of gin to vodka (click here for a YouTube clip of Bond ordering the drink).  I like vodka a lot more than I like gin, so my Vesper reverses the ratio in favor of vodka.  Also, I use dry vermouth instead of Kina Lillet, a French aperitif wine (with a new formula it's now known as Lillet Blanc), that Bond mentions because it's easier to obtain.

Bond would respect my variation on the Vesper, as he is a bit of a cocktail maverick himself.  After all, his preference that his vodka martinis be "shaken not stirred" runs contrary to the Hamlet Cocktail Conundrum.

The Vesper is a big cocktail in that it contains four ounces of high proof alcohol.   Think you can handle it?  Go Bond or go home.