Amaro/Amari Feed

B Is For Bravo -- The Boulevardier

The Boulevardier was an English language literary magazine in Paris in the 1920s. Erskine Gwynne, the editor, was a loyal customer of Harry McElhone, who founded the eponymous Harry's New York Bar. Even though it's not clear if Gwynne or McElhone created the Boulevardier, McElhone mentioned it in a footnote in his 1927 book Barflies and Cocktails.

Boulevardier1 ounce bourbon
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1 ounce Campari

Combine in a mixing glass with ice, stir with some American je ne sais quoi, and strain into a chilled glass. Lemon or orange peel garnish optional.

Fundamentally a Boulevardier is a Negroni with bourbon instead of gin. Another way of viewing it is that it's a modified Manhattan with Campari instead of Angostura bitters. Like other cocktails such as the Old Pal (which McElhone created for another one of his loyal customers), the Bijou, and the Last Word, the Boulevardier is a bartender’s dream because of its simple ratio and short ingredient list. If you want to emphasize the bourbon, a variation I like uses one and half ounces of bourbon and .75 ounces each of the sweet vermouth and Campari. The Boulevardier lends itself to tinkering. For example, add some molé bitters, and you have a Left Hand.

Looking for a simple and laudable cocktail? Have a Boulevardier and look no further.


Cocktail Friend -- The Old Pal

Do you have a friend you've known for much of your life? Many people do. If you're one of them, it's unlikely your friend is as old as the Old Pal. Dating to the 1920s, the Old Pal is the brainchild of Harry McElhone, the proprietor of Harry's New York Bar in Paris. Reputedly he named it for William "Sparrow" Robinson, the New York Herald's sports editor in Paris.

Old Pal1 ounce rye
1 ounce Campari
1 ounce dry vermouth

Combine in a mixing glass with ice, stir with the familiarity of an inside joke you share with a you know who, and strain into a chilled glass. Lemon peel garnish optional.

The Old Pal's three ingredient equal proportion formula is a bartender's dream. The same goes for other drinks such as the Bijou, the Luck of the Irish, Corpse Reviver #1, and of course, the Negroni. The Old Pal really is close cocktail kin of the Boulevardier, which McElhone made famous. It simply swaps in rye for bourbon, and dry vermouth for sweet vermouth. No surprise the Old Pal has a spicier, drier taste than its cousin. Depending on the preferences of you or your guest, you can tweak the traditional 1:1:1 ratio of the ingredients.

Old can be great. It's true with an Old Fashioned. It's true with Old Tom style gin. So say hello to your new cocktail companion, the Old Pal.


Pirate Queen -- The Grace O'Malley

Imagine a pirate. Most people picture a man. Grace O'Malley was a notable exception. Known as the "Pirate Queen," in the late 16th century O'Malley was a powerful leader who fought to keep her Irish territories free from English rule. Ezra Star created the Grace O'Malley cocktail centuries after O'Malley made her mark.

Grace O'Malley1.5 ounces Irish whiskey
1 ounce Mr. Black coffee amaro or Kahlua
.75 ounces orgeat syrup
.5 ounces super simple syrup
Juice from 1/2 lemon

Combine in a shaker without ice (this is dry shaking, see below), shake as if you're fighting for your freedom, and strain into a highball or Collins glass over crushed ice. Grated nutmeg and/or lime wheel garnish optional.

Using Irish whiskey in the Grace O'Malley is key, just as it is in other Irish cocktails such as the Tipperary and the Irish Coffee. Mr. Black coffee amaro, used in drinks such as the Blackjack, can be tough to get, but it's worth it. Kahlua is a sweeter and more accessible substitute. Orgeat syrup, a key component of drinks such as the Mai Tai, gives the Grace O'Malley a vague tiki vibe. If you want a stronger, less diluted Grace O'Malley, combine the ingredients in a shaker with ice (this is wet shaking), shake, and strain into a chilled glass without ice. If you like the queen theme and whiskey, try my Whiskey Queen.

Do you like pirates? Queens? Both? The answer doesn't matter because you'll be glad you became acquainted with the Grace O'Malley.


Individual and Internal -- The Rhythm and Soul

Everyone has a soul. Some of us have rhythm, some don't (my sense of rhythm is questionable). Describing it as the love child of a Manhattan and a Sazerac, Greg Best in Atlanta created the Rhythm and Soul approximately ten years ago. My fellow cocktailian Michael Bounds, who created the Ides of March, introduced me to the Rhythm and Soul.

Rhythm and Sould2 ounces bourbon or rye
.5 ounces sweet vermouth
.5 ounces Averna
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Teaspoon of absinthe

Coat the inside of a chilled glass with absinthe, combine the other ingredients in a mixing glass with ice, stir with soulful rhythm, and strain into the chilled glass. Lemon peel garnish optional.

Best uses bourbon as the base spirit, but Bounds and I agree that to have the true soul of a Sazerac, rye should be the base of a Rhythm and Soul. Use the whiskey you prefer. Best calls for Carpano Antica as the sweet vermouth, and I wholeheartedly agree. It is pricey, but it is worth every penny. Averna, the Sicilian amaro used in the Pura Vida or my Scales of Justice, works really well here. If you even remotely like either the Manhattan or Sazerac, you'll definitely like the Rhythm and Soul.

Move to your own beat, and get yourself some more Rhythm and Soul.


Celebratory and Solemn -- The Ray's 619

Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865 (some Americans would write the date as 6/19). On that day enslaved people became legally free in Texas, so slavery became outlawed throughout the United States (permanently banning slavery, the 13th Amendment was ratified later). My close friend Doug asked me to create a Juneteenth cocktail in memory of his late colleague Ray, whom I did not know.

Ray's 6191.5 ounces bourbon
.75 ounces Aperol
.75 ounces glorious grenadine
Juice from 1/4 lemon (.5 ounces)

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake with the excitement you would feel as if you learned you were finally free, and strain into a chilled glass. Strawberry or other red fruit garnish optional.

Think of the Ray's 619 as an enhanced Whiskey Sour. Bourbon is the base because it is legally an American spirit. I used Aperol, which pairs nicely with bourbon in cocktails such as the Paper Plane, for two reasons. First, it is red. So what? Like many Americans, I largely was ignorant about Juneteenth until relatively recently. Among other things, I learned red is a big color for Juneteenth related food and drinks. It symbolizes the blood spilled during slavery, as well as African crops such as hibiscus. Second, Aperol's bittersweet taste fits right in with what the day is all about. Grenadine, which is dark red, brings some sweetness to the Ray's 619, and the lemon juice adds some tartness.

Raise a Ray's 619, and honor what (and who, if you knew the man) it represents.


Lively And Boozy -- The Pura Vida

"Pura vida" is a Spanish phrase that literally means "pure life." While Costa Rica uses the phrase as a national slogan to describe its culture, the Pura Vida cocktail comes from London. Riccardo Aletta at Holy Birds bar created it in 2016.

Pura Vida2 ounces mezcal
.75 ounces Averna
.5 ounces coffee liqueur (I used Mr. Black)
2 dashes orange bitters

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

If smokiness can shine, mezcal does it here. It gives the Pura Vida a boozy base and a wonderful fragrance. As it does in drinks such as the Naked And Famous and the Good Cork, mezcal plays well with the other spirits. Averna, a Sicilian amaro used in the Peligroso, gives the Pura Vida some depth. So does the coffee liqueur. You don't have to use Mr. Black (its coffee amaro is a key part of the Blackjack), but the coffee liqueur you use will have an effect on the Pura Vida.

Pura vida -- it's not just a state of mind. It's also a fine cocktail.


CCRockin' Cocktail -- The Fogerty

Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR) was a rock band with a unique sound that still resonates. John Fogerty was the lead singer of CCR during its brief history and prolific output (try to find a movie or TV show set during the Vietnam war era where "Fortunate Son" isn't played).  In 2010, 40 years after CCR's heyday, Ryan Fitzgerald in San Francisco created the Fogerty, and I discovered this adapted recipe in Difford's Guide.

Fogerty2 ounces rye
.5 ounces Campari
.25 ounces crème de cassis
2 dashes orange bitters

Combine in a mixing glass with ice, stir with forceful rhythm, and strain into a chilled glass. Orange twist garnish optional.

The Fogerty is a remarkably well balanced drink despite its unusual combination of ingredients. There's no doubt rye, a part of other American themed drinks such as the Roosevelt, and Campari, a part of drinks such as my Scandinavian Suntan,  are strong tasting spirits with a lasting impact (much like CCR's music), and they temper the rich and sweet crème de cassis, which you use in the classic Kir or my original Bourbon Renaissance. Fitzgerald's original used crème de cacao instead of crème de cassis. If you or your guest prefers a slightly sweeter Fogerty, use bourbon as the base instead of rye.

It doesn't matter if you're down on the corner waiting for Susie Q, or if you're looking at a green river with a bad moon rising, the Fogerty is a cocktail that will resonate.


A High Flying Drink -- The Paper Plane

You may have made and thrown one as a kid. As an adult, you can drink one. The Paper Plane flew onto the scene in 2008 when Sam Ross, the New York City bartender who created the Penicillin, created it for the opening of The Violet Hour bar in Chicago. Named for the M.I.A. song Paper Planes, it took off in Chicago and New York and made its way onto cocktail menus around the world.

Paper Plane.75 ounces bourbon
.75 ounces Amaro Nonino
.75 ounces Aperol
Juice from 1/2 lemon (.75 ounces)

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake to the theme from Rocky (the tune's title is "Gonna Fly Now"), and strain into a chilled glass, preferably a coupe. Lemon peel garnish optional.

Following the equal proportions of four ingredients format of the Last Word, the Paper Plane is easy to make (the same goes for the Naked and Famous). Bourbon and Aperol, used in cocktails such as the Venetian Kiss, are easy to acquire. Amaro Nonino, a bittersweet grappa based amaro from northern Italy, can be tougher to find, but thankfully we have the Internet. Originally the Paper Plane used Campari, but within days of unveiling it Ross changed his mind and used Aperol instead. The result is a really well balanced cocktail. In terms of balance and format, the Paper Plane more resembles the thematically similar Burnt Fuselage than the Aviation.

Looking to rack up some cocktail frequent flier miles? Then it's time to board the Paper Plane.


A Winning Cocktail -- The Blackjack

Celebrating my 21st wedding anniversary with Ms. Cocktail Den is a great reason to look for a themed drink. I discovered the Blackjack, which naturally made me think of the card game, in which 21 is a winning hand. This version of the Blackjack comes from Steve the Bartender in Australia.

Blackjack1.5 ounces brandy or cognac
.5 ounces Cherry Heering
.5 ounces Mr. Black Coffee Amaro
1 ounce cold brew coffee

Combine in a mixing glass with ice, stir with the confidence that comes when you see you have a jack and the ace of spades, and strain into a chilled glass. Orange peel and/or amarena cherry garnish optional.

The Blackjack is dark and delicious. Brandy, your first cocktail "card," brings a solid foundation. Even though it's all torched Dutch grapes, all cognac is brandy, but not all brandy is cognac (a key part of my 24601). As in a Royal Blood, a hint of Cherry Heering goes a long way. Mr. Black is from Australia, and it's very good. We had to acquire it via the Internet. Kahlua could be a substitute, but it doesn't have the same depth, so the resulting Blackjack will be a little different. Do you want to stack the deck, libationally (I made up this word) speaking? Add some coffee or molé bitters, just as you would in a 43 Up or Left Hand.

A word of caution -- have too many Blackjacks, and you might end up with the Charlie Sheen version of "winning!" (Google it). So do you have a winning cocktail hand?


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?