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Romantically Blissful Drinking -- The Honeymoon

The word "honeymoon" evokes thoughts of happiness and new beginnings. It can refer specifically to a honeymoon after a wedding (Ms. Cocktail Den and I went to Hawaii), or more generally to the period after a positive change in your life. First mentioned in a 1916 book from Hugo Ensslin, who also gave us the Aviation, the Honeymoon was a featured drink at the famous but now defunct Brown Derby restaurant in Los Angeles.

Honeymoon2 ounces applejack or apple brandy
.5 ounces Benedictine DOM
.5 ounces triple sec (see below)
Juice from 1/2 lemon

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake with the passion of (use your imagination), and strain into a chilled glass.

When you compare apples to apples, you'll know today applejack is a blend of apple brandy and grain neutral spirits, and apple brandy is exactly what it sounds like (Laird's makes both). Either spirit works well in the Honeymoon. If you like cocktails with an apple flavor, try the classic Jack Rose, the underappreciated Diamondback, or my original American Apple. Brought to us by French monks (not the ones behind Chartreuse), Benedictine DOM is an herbal liqueur used in drinks such as my Whiskey Queen. A little goes a long way, and it more than justifies its price. The Widow's Kiss is an excellent example of another cocktail combining Benedictine with apple brandy. Triple sec is a generic term for an orange liqueur.  Different Honeymoon recipes call for specific ones.  Even though I'm a big fan of Cointreau, use whichever one you like.

What do you get when you put all of these flavors together in a Honeymoon? A drink that warms your soul and introduces a new period in your cocktail life.


Dawn Of A New Day -- The Alba Dorata

Alba DorataSunrise speaks to a new day, a new beginning, a new opportunity. Translating as "golden sunrise" in Italian, the Alba Dorata evokes that potential in cocktail form. The Alba Dorata is a new creation from Christiano Luciano at the Bar Longhi in the Gritti Palace hotel in Venice. Ms. Cocktail Den and I had a wonderful experience staying at the Gritti Palace and meeting people there; our journey inspired the Venetian Kiss. So how do you make this liquid gold?

1.5 ounces cachaça
1.5 ounces ginger liqueur (ciao Barrow's Intense, see below)
Juice from 1/2 lime
.25 ounces super simple syrup

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake with the joy of discovering a new love, and strain into a chilled glass.  Lime peel or mint sprig garnish optional.

Alba Dorata 2
Gritti Palace, Venice (photo taken from across the Grand Canal).

Cachaça is very similar to many rums, as it comes from fermented sugar cane juice. I'm a big fan of Barrows's Intense, and not just because I'm a small investor. It gives you a clean, strong, and unmistakably ginger taste. Courtesy of the cachaça and super simple syrup (Luciano calls for a few drops of it), the Alba Dorata is a little sweet at first, but then the ginger liqueur and lime juice kick in and give it a nice little afterburn. It's a lovely drink, particularly in warm weather. Luciano described the Alba Dorata as "expressing our wishes for a new beginning." Like Luciano, who created the Alba Dorata at home during the COVID-19 pandemic (which inspired my Flattening Curve), I hope the drink leads you to a new and promising chapter in your journey.

Join me and Signore Luciano, have an Alba Dorata, and declare bravo e cin cin!


In The Cocktail Tonight -- The Phil Collins

Phil Collins had an impressive number of top 40 hits during and after his career as the drummer then lead singer of Genesis. "In The Air Tonight" was his first, and perhaps most famous, solo hit. It is a standard on 1980s and classic rock music channels, and it made noteworthy appearances in the Miami Vice TV series and the first Hangover movie. The Hawthorne bar in Boston introduced me to the Phil Collins at an event during Tales on Tour in San Juan.

Phil Collins1.5 ounces gin
.75 ounces yellow Chartreuse
Juice from 1/2 lime
Soda water

Combine the first three ingredients in a shaker with ice, shake with the intensity of the famous drum sequence in the song, strain into a chilled glass (a Collins if you have one), and top with soda water. Cucumber or lime garnish optional.

Gin and Chartreuse really go well together.  The Bijou and the Last Word are classic examples. The Phil Collins I had in San Juan used Hendrick's gin, which was a sponsor of the event. Different gins have slightly different flavors, so which one you use will affect the Phil Collins. The original recipe calls for cucumber vodka instead of gin, and it adds a little super simple syrup and a dash of cranberry bitters. Like the one in San Juan, my version of the Phil Collins does not contain syrup or bitters. If it is too tart for you, add a quarter to half an ounce of super simple syrup.

Make yourself a Phil Collins, and answer this -- can you feel it coming in the air tonight? If you just thought, sang, or said the words "Oh Lord," cheers!


Absinthe Beauty in New Orleans -- Belle Époque

Belle Epoque 1Absinthe has a certain mystique. Many have heard of it, few have had it. The anise (licorice) flavored spirit became popular in France in the late 19th century during the Belle Époque, a period of French cultural and artistic ascendancy. Even though absinthe became legal again in the United States in 2007, places that stock more than one brand, much less know about it, are few and far between.

Enter Belle Époque, a fairly new bar in New Orleans. Literally steps away from the raunchy merriment of Bourbon Street, Belle Époque figuratively is a world away. Mixing a look evocative of late 19th and early 20th century Paris with a low key and fun atmosphere, Belle Époque is a great place to learn about and drink absinthe. It even has two original fountains for the louche ritual, a process that combines absinthe with water and sugar to make the absinthe cloudy and milky green.

Belle Epoque 2The design of the drink program also is quite impressive. In addition to a wide selection of absinthes (who knew it could be red?), Belle Époque classifies cocktails by how much absinthe they contain (I particularly enjoyed the Ear and Loathing and the Viking Funeral).

If you've read other Wulf Cocktail Den bar reviews, you know to me the people in the bar are just as important, if not more important, than the drinks. Belle Époque hits the mark. For example, bar manager Laura Bellucci, who is smart, dynamic, and gracious, took us on an impromptu history tour of the multi-story space. If the original chandeliers in the upstairs event rooms don't dazzle you, the view from the balcony overlooking Bourbon Street will. 

Belle Époque is ascendant on the New Orleans cocktail scene for good reason.  Next time you're in town, go see why. Vive la Belle Époque!


A Drink For Two Presidents -- The Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt and his distant cousin Franklin Delano Roosevelt are the two of the more famous Presidents in American history.  Teddy, the 26th President, claimed he wasn't a big drinker (although he was partial to a Mint Julep), and FDR, the 32nd President, definitely was a big drinker who mixed cocktails for his White House guests (and Repeal Day occurred while he was in office).  Chris Kelley at Morris American Bar in Washington created the Roosevelt, and this is my adaptation.

Roosevelt1.5 ounces rye
.5 ounces apple brandy
.5 ounces vermouth (see below)
.5 ounces Benedictine DOM
2 dashes Angostura or other aromatic bitters

Combine in a mixing glass with ice, stir with the resolve of the subject of Teddy's "The Man In The Arena" speech and the warmth of FDR during one of his Fireside Chats, and strain into a chilled glass.  Amarena cherry garnish optional.

Kelley didn't specify which type of vermouth or bitters to use. I used aromatic bitters because they're versatile. The vermouth is the interesting variable.  It really depends if you want the Roosevelt more dry or sweet. Using dry vermouth in a rye based drink is reminiscent of a Scofflaw, and using sweet vermouth is reminiscent of a Manhattan.  If you like the combination of rye and apple brandy, you'll probably also like the Diamondback and the American Apple. You'll find Benedictine DOM, a rich French liqueur, in cocktails such as the Whiskey Queen.  Clearly this Roosevelt has no relation to the rum based drink with the same name. For a similarly themed rum based cocktail, have an El Presidente.

Be Presidential, raise a glass, and toast Teddy and FDR!


New And Old School Drinking In Venice -- Time, Il Mercante, and Harry's

When Ms. Cocktail Den and I went to Venice we wandered the streets, ate a lot of great food, got caught in historic acqua alta (high water) with resulting flooding ..... and of course had some cocktails. We saw some of Venice's storied cocktail past and got more than a glimpse of its bright cocktail future.

Time Social BarLocated in the Canareggio district, TiME Social Bar (not a misprint) combines creative cocktails with a friendly and low key atmosphere. The space itself is small and bright, and the music was loud enough to be heard without being distracting.  Quite fortuitously, we happened to meet Alessandro Beggio, the owner of Time.  Like his bar, he was generous in spirit (pun intended). What about the drinks? In a word -- buonissimo (very good in Italian). Time's casual vibe belies its interestingly sophisticated cocktail menu. Alessandro and his team clearly put a lot of thought and effort into it. The drink components are a mix of familiar and exotic, and as you can see in the photo on the left, their presentation is well executed.  On a personal note, I was very impressed one of the drinks, the Caribbean Negroni, included homemade mamajuana.  I definitely didn't expect to see that liquor on the European side of the Atlantic Ocean. Time is only 20 minutes away from the tourist hordes in St. Mark's Square, and it's worth the short walk.

Il MercanteSpeaking of bars not far from famous landmarks, Il Mercante is only a 10 minute walk from the Rialto Bridge. Spread over two levels, the space is tastefully decorated with an an intimate and vaguely seductive atmosphere. It's the type of place where you'd want to take your significant other for a drink.  That said, it's certainly not fussy or pretentious.  As its name suggests, Il Mercante evokes the journeys of merchant adventurers. The cocktail menu is inspired and creative.  Much of the rotating menu is designed to pair with particular Italian and international.  Another section of the menu has really good twists on classic drinks. I opted to have a Reef, a libation marrying whiskey, house pimento dram (used in drinks such as the Donna Maria), mango, and pepper. I'm drooling just thinking about it. The people at Il Mercante are friendly, knowledgeable, and approachable. We had the pleasure of meeting Daniele, a man who is committed to his craft.  The low light and my bad eyesight may have deceived me, but I'm fairly certain I spied a martini glass tattoo on the inside of his forearm. That's dedication.

Harry's in VeniceDedicated to serving cocktails for many decades, Harry's is the quintessential old school bar in Venice. Overlooking the Grand Canal, it's a stone's throw from St. Mark's Square and been the watering hole for many famous people.  Let me be blunt -- you'll pay very high prices because of the history and location. Sometimes high prices definitely are worth the history, location, and the drinks. The Hemingway Bar at the Ritz Hotel in Paris is a great example.  However, aside from a really good Bellini at its birthplace, the drinks at Harry's are good but not great. In addition, while the people there were pleasant and efficient, they were not terribly warm to tourists like us (they were much warmer with the older gentlemen who clearly were regulars).  Perhaps because just as St. Mark's floods with water, Harry's floods with tourists. Ms. Cocktail Den enjoyed our experience there more than I did.  One thing I did like is Harry's prohibits people from taking photos of customers (I asked for permission before I taking photos of the bar and my Negroni).

So what's my advice if you want cocktails in "La Serenissima" (a nickname for Venice meaning "the most serene")?  Make time to go to TiME, be adventurous and journey to Il Mercante, and recognize Harry's for what it is. Saluti!


What's Old Is New Again -- Old Tom Gin

Gin has been around for centuries. Chances are you're familiar with the London Dry style simply because it's everywhere. The funny thing is Old Tom style gin is closer to genever, gin's ancestor. It is a little maltier, less botanical, and a little sweeter than the gins you know. Old Tom is not sweet in a sugary oh dear God I'm going to have a diabetic coma way. It's more like a mix of dry gin and whiskey. Old Tom is a great gateway gin for people who think they hate gin (I used to be one of those people).

Old Tom GinSo who is Old Tom? That's sort of a trick question, because it implies the answer is a human. During gin's heyday in 18th century England Old Tom was a slang expression for a black cat. Both Mooch, our former cat who inspired my first original creation, and Satchmo, our current cat who's featured in the Orange Satchmo and the Hurricane, were and are sort of Old Toms (they're tuxedo cats).  Back in the day pubs would have a picture of a black cat to indicate they served the stuff. Fast forward to the 19th century. Even though the first celebrity bartenders used Old Tom style gin in their concoctions, the London Dry style became more popular on both sides of the Atlantic.  Between that and the advent of Prohibition in the United States, Old Tom pretty much became extinct.  It wasn't until roughly 2006 when Old Tom's resurrection began.

You've read this far and you're wondering ..... why should you care? I can think of two reasons. First, Old Tom Gin is a key component of historic and delicious cocktails such as the Martinez. Second, it can help you create great variations on other gin, or even whiskey, based cocktails. Old Tom style gin can be tough to find because it's not common. With a little effort you can find brands such as Hayman's or Ransom (I recommend both; the latter is aged) in stores and/or online.

Even though curiosity might have killed the cat, it won't kill curious cocktail people like us. Time to gin up (pun intended; it's an older expression meaning to get moving, possibly in a bad way), get some Old Tom style gin, and have fun.


Hairless Gamblers, Bartenders, and Flowers -- The Jack Rose

Jack Rose 2What could these things have in common? They're the various origin stories surrounding the Jack Rose cocktail. None of them have anything to do with Jack Rose Dining Saloon, the fantastic bar in Washington. The metaphorically colorful story is the drink was named for Bald Jack Rose. Rose, who had alopecia universalis (no hair anywhere), was an early 20th century New York City gambler with links to organized crime and corrupt cops. The literally colorful story is the cocktail is named for the Jacqueminot rose, which is pink. Last but not least, a New Jersey bartender named Frank May, who for no apparent reason also went by the name Jack Rose, created the drink no later than 1905. Which story probably is the right one?  Keep reading.

2 ounces apple brandy or applejack (see below)
Juice from 1/4 lemon or 1/2 lime
.5 ounces glorious grenadine

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake with the energy of telling a colorful story, and strain into a chilled glass.  Lemon or lime twist optional.

Jack Rose 3
You can get an excellent Jack Rose at Jack Rose Dining Saloon, but you'll stay because of the fun people and impressive spirits collection.

If you compare apples to apples, apple brandy and applejack are very similar but not the same. Modern applejack is a blend of apple brandy and grain neutral spirits. You can use either one in the Jack Rose, as well as other tasty cocktails such as the Diamondback, the Newark, and the American Apple. Some people in the cocktail community insist a Jack Rose must have lemon juice, while others insist it must have lime juice.  My suggestion?  Use whichever one you prefer or have on hand. The glorious grenadine is the common denominator of a Jack Rose. It pulls everything together as it injects a hint of sweetness.

So which origin story do I think is correct? The one that isn't colorful -- the bartender Frank May.  Why? First, the newspaper reference to him creating it (1905) is a few years before Bald Jack Rose became infamous for his involvement in an underworld murder that exposed corruption in the New York City Police Department (1912).  Second, May plied his craft in New Jersey, where applejack has a strong history. Third, even though the gambler Jack Rose reputedly enjoyed this cocktail, I'd take odds (pun intended) a bartender created it.

It doesn't matter which story you like.  What matters is you try a delicious Jack Rose. Cheers!


Hollywood Glamour -- The Brown Derby

How is a brown derby glamorous? The hat may not be, but the patrons at the original Brown Derby restaurant in Los Angeles were.  Hollywood celebrities in the 1920s and 1930s such as Mary Pickford made the restaurant a see and be seen sort of place.  Interestingly, the restaurant did not create the Brown Derby cocktail. An unknown bartender at the nearby Vendôme Club invented it in the 1930s.

Brown Derby2 ounces bourbon
Juice from 1/8 grapefruit
1 ounce honey syrup

Combine with ice in a shaker, shake with old fashioned Hollywood swagger, and strain into a chilled glass.  Grapefruit peel twist optional.

Although its name might make you think the Brown Derby is related to the Derby, another bourbon based cocktail, to me it actually bears more of a resemblance to the Blinker. Both drinks mix whiskey, fresh grapefruit juice, and a sweetener. Speaking of sweeteners, other recipes usually call for less honey syrup, but those recipes use richer syrups (2:1 or 3:1 honey to water) than the honey syrup I like (1:1). If you would to put a twist on the Brown Derby, use maple syrup instead of honey syrup. Of course, if you want to make the Brown Derby more tart, add a little more grapefruit juice or cut back on the honey syrup. If you don't like grapefruit but like the idea of mixing whiskey, honey, and citrus, try A Thief In The Night.

If the cocktail world had the Oscars, the Brown Derby would be a nominee. Become a cocktail celebrity and have one.


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.