Amaro/Amari Feed

Not Sober As A Judge -- The Scales Of Justice

Due to a recent job change, a few people asked if I would create a cocktail with a judicial theme. Ms. Cocktail Den cleverly suggested I create a 50-50 cocktail -- two spirits in equal proportions (and sometimes bitters). Just as a judge has to balance the competing interests of parties in court, a 50-50 cocktail has to balance the competing flavors, strengths, and sweetness of its spirits. After deliberating over a lot of different combinations, I ruled in favor of the Scales of Justice.

Scales of Justice1.5 ounces light rum
1.5 ounces Averna
2 dashes orange bitters (optional)

Combine in a mixing glass with ice, stir with authoritative and knowledgeable precision, and strain into a chilled glass. Orange peel or amarena cherry garnish optional.

Rum gives the Scales of Justice some strength and a hint of sweetness. Averna, an amaro used in other drinks such as the A Thief In The Night and the Sicilian Manhattan, adds complex and rich flavors. If the combination of rum and Averna intrigues you, try a Drop Seed. So why add bitters? When a judge rules, usually someone is bitter about the result. In the Scales of Justice orange bitters nicely complement the Averna, and as we see in drinks such as the When Ernest Met Mary, citrus and rum go well together.

Have a Scales of Justice, and answer this question -- what's your verdict?


Dangerously Drinkable -- The Peligroso

Peligroso is the Spanish word for dangerous. The Peligroso comes from the excellent La Factoría bar in San Juan. Ms. Cocktail Den and I visited La Factoria many times when we went to Puerto Rico for part one and part two of Tales of La Isla del Encanto. Like the original Peligroso, the danger in my minor adaptation only lies in its smoothness.

Peligroso1.5 ounces light rum (I like Don Q)
.5 ounces Campari
.5 ounces Averna
.25 ounces allspice dram
Juice from 3/4 lime
.5 ounces super simple syrup 
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake as if you're a dangerously good bartender, and strain into a chilled glass, preferably a coupe. Lime peel garnish optional.

The Peligroso is creative and complex. Combining rum with amari (bittersweet liqueurs) might seem odd, but it's not. After all, the classic Jungle Bird has rum and Campari, a part of drinks such as the Bitter Rasputin. Incorporating Averna, used in drinks such as the Midnight Train, and allspice dram give the Peligroso a hint of richness. La Factoría's Peligroso uses spiced syrup with allspice berries and sugar. My easy workaround includes allspice dram, part of my Les Bon Temps Roulé, and super simple syrup.

Do you want to bring some good danger into your life? Have a Peligroso.


A Sharp Olympic Drink -- The Lucien Gaudin

Hailing from France, Lucien Gaudin was an Olympic champion fencer in the 1920s.  Fencing as in trying to stab someone with one of three blade types.  Unlike the clear record of Gaudin's victories in three different Olympics (I'm a huge fan of the movie Chariots of Fire, part of which takes place at the 1924 Olympics in Paris), the origin of the Lucien Gaudin cocktail is hazy.

Lucien Gaudin1 ounce gin (bonjour Botanist)
.5 ounces Cointreau (c'est français comme Monsieur Gaudin)
.5 ounces Campari (mon ami italien)
.5 ounces dry vermouth (je t'aime Noilly Prat)

Combine in a mixing glass with ice, stir with the strategic precision of a fencer, and strain into a chilled glass. Orange peel garnish optional.

Some people describe the Lucien Gaudin as a variation on the classic Negroni. To me it's more Negroni adjacent. A true variation would have equal proportions of three spirits and some crossover. The Bijou and the Luck of the Irish are good examples. I know this is a fine point (pun intended). Cocktail technicalities aside, the Lucien Gaudin is lighter than a Negroni and is very pink. Do you like French themed cocktails? Try a Champs Elysees or a Burnt Fuselage.  Want something more on point (sorry, I can't help myself)?  Try an Ides of March or a Stiletto.

Have a Lucien Gaudin, cue the Chariots of Fire theme, and be victorious!


Cocktail Fun While It Lasts -- The One Night Stand

Many people have had a one night stand at some point.  Are you thinking about one right now? Put aside your X-rated memories and focus on this cocktail creation from Brian Ireland and Demetri Karnessis. I discovered it in Chilled magazine.

One Night Stand2 ounces gin
.5 ounces Aperol
.5 ounces triple sec
Juice from 1/4 grapefruit

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake like (do you really need an analogy here?), and strain into a chilled glass.  Orange peel garnish optional.

Ireland and Karnessis use a particular brand of gin in the One Night Stand, but they don't call for a specific triple sec (a generic term for an orange liqueur). I like Cointreau, which I use in my Cancer Killer #1 and the Margarita. If you prefer a different triple sec, go for it.  Aperol, a part of the Naked and Famous and my Venetian Kiss, is a lighter amaro. Combine all of these spirits with the grapefruit juice, and you'll get an undeniably pink drink. If you like the One Night Stand, you might like similarly themed drinks such as the Intense Ginger Sutra and the Hanky Panky.

Enjoy the One Night Stand, but recognize too many could lead to something bad -- a hangover or something a Penicillin won't cure. Cheers!


Hypnotic Russian Drinking -- The Bitter Rasputin

Grigori Rasputin was a self-anointed prophet during the the reign of Czar Nicholas II.  Nicknamed the "Mad Monk" even though he wasn't a monk, Rasputin was a charismatic figure. He insinuated himself into the Russian royal family after he supposedly cured the hemophilia of the Czar's only son (he actually may have hypnotized the boy).  Wary of his increasing influence, his enemies went to great lengths to murder him (cyanide poisoning, shooting, then drowning). Unlike its namesake, the Bitter Rasputin did not come out of early 20th century Russia. It's actually a 2014 creation from Jim Lindblad.

Bitter Rasputin2 ounces vodka
.75 ounces Campari
.5 ounces green Chartreuse
2 dashes orange bitters

Combine in a mixing glass with ice, stir with a hypnotic motion, and strain into a chilled glass.  Orange peel garnish optional.

No doubt about it, the Bitter Rasputin is strong. Vodka is a natural base for a Russian themed cocktail, da? As with other drinks such as my original Venetian Kiss, vodka pairs well with Campari. Combined with orange bitters, the Campari is what makes the cocktail bitter. Green Chartreuse, a key part of drinks such as the Bijou and the Last Word, injects a little liquid power and a hint of herbal sweetness. Mesmerizing as the Bitter Rasputin is, be careful.  You don't want to end up like Rasputin.

Ready for a possible cocktail epiphany? Once you taste it, you'll fall under the spell of the Bitter Rasputin.


Stealing A Stylish Drink -- The Larceny And Old Lace

Not to be confused with the dark comedy movie Arsenic and Old Lace starring Cary Grant, the Larceny and Old Lace is a variation on the Manhattan. It was consumed in the movie The Great Gatsby (the remake with Leonardo DiCaprio, not the original with Robert Redford).  My fellow cocktailian Michael Bounds, who created the Ides of March, introduced me to the Larceny and Old Lace.

Larceny and Old Lace2 ounces bourbon
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1 ounce Cynar

Combine in a mixing glass with ice, stir with a suave and possibly criminal demeanor, and strain into a chilled glass.  Orange peel or amarena cherry garnish optional.

Considering the name of this drink, you can use Larceny bourbon, featured in the A Thief In The Night and the Inside Job, but you don't have to. Use whatever bourbon you prefer. As always, the sweet vermouth should be reasonably fresh.  So what's Cynar (pronounced "chai-nar")?  It's an Italian artichoke flavored amaro.  If you're thinking "artichoke, that's disgusting," then you and Ms. Cocktail Den agree. But here's the thing -- she enjoyed Cynar.  If you like artichokes as I do, you'll definitely enjoy Cynar. The Cynar gives the Larceny and Old Lace a subtle vegetable undertone, which tastes much better than it sounds.

The Larceny and Old Lace can go on your Most Wanted list of criminal themed cocktails such as the Scofflaw, the Racketeer, and the Jack Rose. To paraphrase an old line, if you can make the time, do the Larceny and Old Lace as a cocktail crime.


Planting A Good Drink -- The Drop Seed

Crops and flowers bloom when it's warm, but with the seeds timing is important. The Drop Seed cocktail blooms in liquid glory year round. I discovered the Drop Seed on the Liquor.com website.

Drop Seed2 ounces dark rum
.5 ounces Averna
.25 ounces allspice dram

Combine in a shaker with ice, stir with the precision of planting seeds in the right place at the right time, and strain into a chilled glass.  Orange peel or amarena cherry garnish optional.

The Drop Seed is a sultry looking, complex cocktail. Despite sharing a word in its name, it bears no resemblance in color or flavor to the delightful, refreshing, and unfairly maligned Lemon Drop. The Drop Seed has a closer cocktail genetic code to the Donna Maria, which also combines dark rum and allspice dram. Allspice dram is a rum based liqueur derived from the allspice berry. It's also known as pimento dram because the allspice berry grows on the pimento tree. A word of caution -- a little goes a long way. Averna, an amaro appearing in drinks such as the Lupara and the A Thief In The Night, complements the other spirits.  The original recipe calls for a very specific aged rum and uses slightly less of the other ingredients.  I adapted because I already had a different dark rum in my liquor cabinet, and I really like Averna and allspice dram.

If you're going to have to reap what you sow, a Drop Seed is a great way to do it.


A Cocktail "Cure" For COVID-19 -- The Flattening Curve

The COVID-19 causing coronavirus affects all of us. When there's a dangerous pandemic, it's natural to want a cocktail or two. "Flattening the curve" refers to the epidemiological model of trying to have infections over a longer period of time. This is a good thing. A flatter curve means less sickness and death because there's less stress on health care systems. Inspired by my Cancer Killer #1 and Cancer Killer #2, I give you another original creation, the Flattening Curve.

Flattening Curve1.5 ounces bourbon
1 ounce Aperol or Campari
.25 ounces super simple syrup
2-3 dashes Angostura bitters

Combine in a mixing glass with ice, stir with resolute determination, and strain into a chilled glass.  Serve straight (get it?) up if you can.

The Flattening Curve will not cure COVID-19 or destroy the coronavirus. I wish it could. The amaro in the Flattening Curve is the variable. Aperol, used in drinks such as my Venetian Kiss and the Naked and Famous, is lighter than Campari, used in drinks such as my Scandinavian Suntan and the traditional Negroni. Which one you use depends on your personal preference and/or what you have in your home. Designed to have ingredients many people stuck at home might have, the Flattening Curve is sort of an amaro enhanced Old Fashioned.

We're all in this together, so have a Flattening Curve at home and flatten the curve together.


A Unique and Lovely Drink -- The Venetian Kiss

Venetian Kiss 1
Taste the glory of Venice in this cocktail.

Venice is a unique city. Nicknamed "La Serenissima" ("the most serene" in Italian), there are many reasons it is on many people's travel bucket lists. Having returned from a recent trip where Ms. Cocktail Den and I got caught in historic acqua alta (high water) and flooding, Venice is the inspiration for this original creation for the new year.

1.5 ounces Aperol
1 ounce vodka
.5 ounces Campari

Combine in a mixing glass with ice, stir with the serenity of watching life go by on the Grand Canal, and strain into a chilled glass.

Venetian Kiss 2
Ms. Cocktail Den in Venice. The photo is real, and there's no filter.

Aperol and Campari are Italian amari (bitter liqueurs), and bottles of them are in bars everywhere in Venice. Campari, an indispensable part of cocktails such as the classic Negroni and my original Cancer Killer #1, has a stronger taste and is more bitter than Aperol, featured in drinks such as the Naked and Famous. That's why the Venetian Kiss has more Aperol than Campari. So why does it have vodka?  There's nothing inherently Italian or Venetian about vodka.  I included vodka because the Russian word literally means "little water," and it is a tribute to the water that surrounds Venice and frequently floods the city.  In addition, it brings balance and subtle potency to the Venetian Kiss. 

The 3:2:1 ratio of the ingredients gives the Venetian Kiss elegance in its simplicity. Its name may remind of you of the Almost Red Lips Rye, and its color may remind you of pink drinks such as the Cosmopolitan and my original Italian Sunrise. Have a Venetian Kiss, and savor liquid serenissima!


Colorful French Monks -- Chartreuse

Char what? Chartreuse is an indispensable ingredient in famous drinks such as the Last Word, or lesser known but equally amazing drinks such as the Widow's Kiss, the Bijou, and the Diamondback. But what exactly is it? Chartreuse is an herbal liqueur made by the Carthusians, a small order of Catholic monks many of whom live in the French Alps.

ChartreuseThere are two types of Chartreuse -- yellow and green. Liqueurs have a higher sugar content, but that doesn't mean they're weak. Au contraire, as the French would say.  Yellow Chartreuse is 40% alcohol by volume (80 proof), which puts in on par with unflavored vodkas and lower end (in terms of strength, not quality) whiskies.  Green Chartreuse clocks in at a whopping 55% alcohol by volume (110 proof), which is stronger than all but a handful of whiskies.

So why is May 16 Chartreuse Day?  In 1605 a high ranking French military officer gave the Carthusians a manuscript containing a recipe for an elixir that became Chartreuse.  In the United States the shorthand for May 16 is 05/16, but in France, and much of the rest of the world, it is 16/05.

Yellow Chartreuse is slightly sweeter, and some say it has a bit of a honey flavor. Green Chartreuse has a more pronounced herbal taste to me. The colors are natural. Chartreuse's recipe is secret like any other herbal liqueur or amaro, as well as non-alcoholic libations such as Coca-Cola. Legend has it Chartreuse consists of a blend of 130 different ingredients, and at any one time only two monks know the entire recipe. So when should you use yellow Chartreuse or green Chartreuse?  It depends on your mood, what you're making, and even the background music (perhaps Chartreuse by ZZ Top?).  Or you could follow the advice I got from a guy working the door at an event at the great Jack Rose bar in Washington, D.C. -- yellow by day, green at night.

Just as Chartreuse doesn't pull any punches on your liver, I'm not going to pull a punch about its price.  It is expensive, at least in the United States. That being said, it is worth every penny, pound, euro, or whatever currency you use. A little bit of Chartreuse goes a long way. These French monks aren't wrong.