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Not North But -- The Southside

Like drinks such as the Margarita and the Jack Rose, the origin story of the Southside is hazy. In the late 19th century the Southside Sportsmen's Club in Long Island featured an eponymous cocktail with soda water. During Prohibition, the no fizz Southside became associated with two cities. New York was home to the 21 Club, a premier speakeasy that served a lot of them to thirsty Scofflaws. It also was popular on the South Side of Chicago, where the Racketeer Al Capone plied his trade. This is the variation I prefer.

Southside2.25 ounces gin
Juice from 1/2 lemon or 3/4 lime
.75 ounces super simple syrup
5-7 mint leaves

To make the Southside, you have two options: (1) Muddle the mint and super simple syrup in a shaker, then add everything else and ice, shake as if you're playing in a tough tennis match, and strain into a chilled glass, or (2) combine everything in a shaker with ice, shake as if you're fighting for control of organized crime, and strain into a chilled glass.  Mint leaf garnish optional.

Lemon or lime? Fresh squeezed juice or citrus wedges? Muddle or not? Granulated sugar or super simple syrup? Ask five bartenders and you may get five different answers. As long as you stick to the basic formula (gin sour and mint), there's no wrong answer. If you use lime, the Southside more or less becomes a gin Mojito. Gin and lemon go well together in the Bee's Knees and the Lemony, and they do here, too.

Pairing the refreshing Southside with music I can go to multiple destinations. Maybe I'll go Southbound with the Allman Brothers, to Sweet Home Chicago with Buddy Guy or the Blues Brothers, or to New York, New York with the one and only Frank Sinatra. All of these musical options are like the Southside itself -- many ways to get there, all of them good.


A Monk From New Orleans -- The Carthusian Sazerac

The people of New Orleans are known for their joyous, free spirited lifestyle. Monks are not. That includes the monks of the small Carthusian Order. The Carthusians are known for their Chartreuse liqueur. Combine it with the Sazerac, the official cocktail of New Orleans, and you get a Carthusian Sazerac. Spice Kitchen & Bar in Cleveland created this drink, and my fellow cocktailian Michael Bounds, creator of the Ides Of March and the Another Green World, introduced me to it.

Carthusian Sazerac2.5 ounces rye
.75 ounces super simple syrup
.25 ounces green Chartreuse
2 dashes lemon bitters
Teaspoon of absinthe

Swirl the absinthe so you coat the inside of a chilled glass, then discard the remainder. Combine the other ingredients in a glass and stir with the rhythmic solemnity of a mass or a slow jazz piece. Lemon twist garnish optional.

If you like "spirit forward" (I love this euphemism) cocktails, the Carthusian Sazerac is for you. Rye is a powerful base of any Sazerac or spinoffs such as the Orange Satchmo. Green Chartreuse, a key component of the Bijou and the Last Word, has more alcohol by volume than most whiskies and its yellow counterpart, which you use in drinks such as the Diamondback and the Renegade. Lemon bitters, which are fairly easy to acquire, substitute for the Peychaud's bitters that are an indispensable part of the iconic Sazerac.

Whether you're introverted like a stereotypical monk, extroverted like a stereotypical New Orleanian, or both, the Carthusian Sazerac might be for you.


Ask Not What Your Cocktail Can Do -- The Fitzgerald

"Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." This memorable call to action in President John Fitzgerald Kennedy's inaugural address inspired and challenged Americans in 1961. Roughly 40 years later legendary bartender and author Dale DeGroff created the Fitzgerald at the Rainbow Room in New York. Compared to its original name (Gin Thing), the name Fitzgerald evokes more class.

Fitzgerald2 ounces gin
1 ounce super simple syrup
Juice from 1/2 lemon
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake as if you're excited to have a drink with a certain President (JFK) or author (F. Scott Fitzgerald), and strain into a chilled glass. Lemon wedge garnish optional.

The Fitzgerald is easy to make, tasty, and refreshing.  It is more or less the gin equivalent of a Whiskey Sour or a Lemon Drop with bitters. DeGroff uses an ounce and a half of gin to an ounce of simple syrup, but I like the Fitzgerald better with a 2:1 ratio. The bitters make it vaguely pink. Reputedly President Kennedy preferred a Daiquiri or a Bloody Mary, but my guess is he would have had a Fitzgerald or three while going toe to toe with the Soviet Union during the Cuban Missile Crisis (read a book about it or see the movie Thirteen Days). Feeling Presidential? Think about having a Roosevelt, a Fireside Chat, or an El Presidente.

And so my fellow cocktailians -- ask not what a Fitzgerald can make for you, ask when you can make a Fitzgerald.


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.