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August 2019

Casablanca In Tampa -- CW's Gin Joint

"Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine." That is one of many classic lines from the iconic film Casablanca. Much of it takes place at Rick's Café Americain.  Humphrey Bogart, the actor who played Rick, would have felt at home at CW's Gin Joint in Tampa, Florida. Earlier this year Ms. Cocktail Den and I were in Tampa.  Our friends Kirk and David, who we knew online through the cocktail community but never had met in person, invited us to join them at CW's. We all had a wonderful time.

CW's Gin JointThe motto of CW's (CW is Carolyn Wilson, the owner) is "Where style and grace have an attitude." The motto hits the mark. Glancing at the stunningly designed interior, you might think the bar is one of those annoyingly expensive and pretentious establishments.  It's not. While you can go to CW's impeccably dressed (like Kirk and David, who would've looked perfectly normal on the set of Casablanca), the people there will treat you just as well if you're wearing an aloha shirt (like me). We didn't meet Carolyn, but we did have the pleasure of meeting Daniel Bareswilt. He's a true professional.

CW's Gin Joint 2
Channel Captain Renault and round up this Usual Suspect.

You will be shocked, just shocked to learn CW's has a serious focus on gin (if you don't get the joke, please watch the movie). If, like me, you're not a gin connoisseur, CW's gin matrix can be helpful. When I say matrix, I don't mean the Keanu Reeves/red pill/blue pill sort of matrix. If you want to learn about gin, this is the place. If gin isn't your thing, CW's has plenty of other spirits and cocktails. I particularly enjoyed the Gateway, sort of a cross between a Martinez and a Hanky Panky. In the unlikely event nothing on the menu tickles your liver, I'm confident the bartenders can make you something Rick's patrons drank, e.g. the Champagne Cocktail resistance leader Victor Laszlo orders as he figures out how to evade the Nazis.

In many ways CW's resembles the fictitious bar in the movie. Great drinks? Check. Classy atmosphere? Check. Great bartenders?  Check.  International intrigue?  Not that I saw or heard.  Unless you count sharing stories about international travel adventures.

If you're in Tampa and want somewhere to have a drink as time goes by (again, if you don't get it, watch the movie), go to CW's Gin Joint.  It will be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.


Better Than Lemonade -- The Lemony

When life gives you lemons, why not make something adult like the Lemony?  I haven't been able to find any history on this tasty drink, which I found on the Difford's Guide website.  Ms. Cocktail Den and I had the pleasure of meeting Simon Difford at a Tales of the Cocktail conference. What we thought would be a 30 second "nice to meet you" turned into a wonderful 30 minute conversation.

Lemony2 ounces gin
.5 ounces Lupo limoncello
.5 ounces yellow Chartreuse
Juice from 1/4 lemon

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake with zest (get it?), and strain into a chilled glass, preferably a martini glass.

Like the much maligned but actually quite good Lemon Drop, the Lemony incorporates a clear base spirit and lemon juice. The Lemony has more of a kick because of the other spirits. My limoncello has plenty of sugar in it but still clocks in at 95 proof; most commercial versions of limoncello aren't nearly that strong. The deliciously complex yellow Chartreuse, an indispensable ingredient in other cocktails such as the Diamondback and the Stark, injects a nice herbal element that blends well with the gin. If the Lemony is a bit too tart for you or your guest, add .25 ounces of super simple syrup.

The Lemony even gets a celebrity endorsement. After tasting it, Elmer Fudd declared: "I wuv the Wemony! It's a gwate dwink with gin, fwesh juice, and wiqurz!" Even if you're not a Warner Brothers cartoon fan like me, you'll agree the Lemony is a fine cocktail.


Who's That Foxy Lady -- The White Lady

To paraphrase Jimi Hendrix and the Isley Brothers, the White Lady is a foxy and sexy lady of a drink. Most sources point to one of two legendary bartenders named Harry (McElhone and Craddock) creating it in the 1920s. McElhone created a White Lady in 1919, but it didn't contain gin (his later one did). There are many variations of the White Lady, most of which I classify as either Svelte or Voluptuous (see below). I prefer Voluptuous.   

White Lady1.5 ounces gin
.75 ounces triple sec (I used Cointreau)
Juice from 1/4 lemon
.25 ounces super simple syrup
1 egg white

If you're reverse dry shaking, combine everything except the egg white in a shaker, and Shake Shake Shake Your Egg Whites. If you're dry shaking, combine everything except the ice in a shaker, shake, add ice, then shake again. After you're done shaking like you mean it, strain into a chilled glass. Lemon peel garnish optional. 

So what's the difference between a Svelte White Lady and a Voluptuous White Lady?  The Svelte only has gin, triple sec, and lemon juice (this makes it a Sidecar with gin instead of brandy), and the Voluptuous has all of those ingredients plus the super simple syrup and egg white. There's certainly nothing wrong with a Svelte, but you'll get a richer and slightly sweeter taste with the Voluptuous. And the Voluptuous is unmistakably white.

While we're talking about colors, triple sec is the general term for an orange liqueur. On the topic of colors and flavors, a Pink Lady is basically a White Lady with glorious grenadine instead of super simple syrup. Don't let colors fool you.  Just like pink drinks, the White Lady is smooth but powerful.  The name of this cocktail reminds me of one of many hilariously offensive lines uttered in the great Mel Brooks comedy film Blazing Saddles (hint --  the line from Sheriff Bart begins with "where" and ends with "at").

Do you want to honor a lady or ladies in your life?  Then you know what to drink.