Brandy Feed

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?


A No Joke Drink -- The Jersey Girl

Depending on your perspective, "Jersey girl" jokes are funny, stupid, and/or offensive. You won't make fun of the Jersey Girl cocktail. The late Gary "Gaz" Regan, a noted author and luminary in the cocktail community, created the Jersey Girl in 2005 in honor of the 225th anniversary of Laird & Company, which produces applejack and apple brandy. Where is Laird & Company headquartered? New Jersey.

Jersey Girl1.5 ounces applejack
1 ounce triple sec
Juice from 1/2 lime
1 ounce cranberry juice

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake with some stereotypical attitude of a you know who, and strain into a chilled glass (preferably martini or coupe). Lime slice garnish optional.

The Jersey Girl is a variation of the underrated Cosmopolitan, which is quite good if you make it properly. The Jersey Girl swaps in applejack for vodka. If you compare apples to apples, you'll know applejack is very similar to but not quite the same as apple brandy. You can use them in classics such as the Jack Rose, modern classics such as the Newark, or originals such as my American Apple. I prefer Cointreau, but you can use a different triple sec if you like. The Jersey Girl is a drink where you can compare apples to oranges, and the result is tasty. One last note -- use unsweetened cranberry juice if you can.

So what's the difference between a Jersey Girl and a Jersey girl? Think of a punchline as you savor a Jersey Girl.


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.


Who Am I Intoxication -- The 24601

Who is 24601? It is the prisoner number of Jean Valjean, the protagonist of Les Misérables. Originally penned by the French novelist Victor Hugo, Les Misérables became a popular musical with a very good movie adaptation starring the talented Hugh Jackman as Valjean. This original cocktail creation pays tribute to the character who embodies timeless virtues of honor, strength, and redemption.

246011.5 ounces cognac (c'est français)
.5 ounces green Chartreuse (vrai vert)
.5 ounces triple sec (je préfère Cointreau)
.25 ounces super simple syrup
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Combine in a mixing glass with ice, stir as if you might only have one day more (if you've seen Les Mis, you know what I'm talking about), and strain into a chilled glass.  Bread garnish (see below) optional.

Just as 24601 has five digits, this drink has five ingredients. Even though most brandy is torched Dutch grapes, if you can use cognac in the 24601 because it is French. Like cognac, Chartreuse is undeniably French. I prefer using green, as you would in a Last Word, instead of yellow, as you would in a Diamondback, because it's not as sweet and has more of a kick. I like Cointreau instead of other triple secs (a generic term for orange liqueurs) because of its taste, and it is French. Speaking of France, you'll see the 24601 shares some cocktail DNA with the Champs Élysées. That's intentional. If you like French themed cocktails, I encourage you to try classics such as the Sidecar and the Kir, or less well known but tasty drinks such as the Burnt Fuselage and the Flower of Normandy.

So why bread garnish for the 24601? Because Jean Valjean's crime was stealing a loaf of bread to feed a starving child. There's definitely no crime in having a 24601, which Ms. Cocktail Den describes as "dangerously drinkable."  Vive le 24601!


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!


Sultry And Powerful -- The Chatham Artillery Punch

Imagine a sultry weekend in Savannah, Georgia, home of great bars such as Alley Cat Lounge and the fascinating American Prohibition Museum. In the summer of 1995 Ms. Cocktail Den and I discovered Chatham Artillery Punch, a flavorful and complex libation. Legend has it a local artillery unit (Savannah is in Chatham County) created it during the Revolutionary War. It's a great story. It's not true. Research from eminent cocktail historian David Wondrich indicates it was created in the 1850s and became more popular later that century.

Chatham Artillery Punch.75 ounces brandy
.75 ounces dark rum
.75 ounces bourbon
.5 ounces super simple syrup
.25 ounces lemon juice (1/8 lemon)
.25 ounces sweet tea vodka
.25 ounces red wine
Sparkling wine

Combine everything except the sparkling wine in a shaker with ice, shake with explosive force, strain into a chilled glass, and top with sparkling wine.

Yes, there are a lot of ingredients in the Chatham Artillery Punch, more than every other cocktail in the Den. The result is worth the effort. For the red wine, you can use whatever varietal you prefer, or a fortified wine such as madeira or port. You can make a simpler version of the Chatham Artillery Punch if you forego the sweet tea vodka and red wine, but then you lose the main flavors of the original concoction. This cocktail gives the word "punch" a double entendre. Originally created in mass quantities, this punch packs quite a punch. It's more potent than the Brown Bomber (the cocktail but not the late boxing champion for whom it was named).

Are you tough enough to take a Chatham Artillery Punch or two?


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!


Parisian Grandeur -- The Champs Élysées

Running from the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde, the Champs-Élysées in Paris is one of the most famous streets in the world.  To call it a street is an understatement. Having walked its length, I can tell you it really is a magnificent avenue. It's not clear who created the Champs Élysées cocktail and when they did it, but in 1930 Harry Craddock mentioned it in his Savoy Cocktail Book.

Champs Elysees1.5 ounces cognac
.5 ounces Chartreuse
.5 ounces super simple syrup
Juice from 1/4 lemon
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake with joie de vivre, and strain into a chilled glass.  Lemon peel garnish optional.

The Champs Élysées is similar to the Sidecar, another concoction Paris launched into the cocktail world. Even though most brandy is torched Dutch grapes, given this is a French drink use cognac if possible. Try to use one that is classified VSOP or XO (see Side Notes to the Sidecar). Craddock didn't specify whether to use green Chartreuse, used in drinks such as the Final Rye, or yellow Chartreuse, used in drinks such as the Diamondback. Which one you use depends on how relatively sweet you want the Champs Élysées to be.  Yellow is slightly sweeter than green. Make no mistake -- just like the actual Champs-Élysées, both versions make a wonderful impression.

Whether you've been to Paris or not, the Champs Élysées cocktail evokes its splendor and beauty. À votre santé (that's French for cheers)!


Not What You Think Drink -- The Diamondback

Does the word "diamondback" conjure visions of the deadly snake? Do you channel your inner Indiana Jones ("I hate snakes") and shudder? A drink based on a venomous snake gives you good reason to hesitate. The Diamondback is based on the markedly less venomous turtle. The diamondback terrapin is the official reptile of the state of Maryland.  The Diamondback, which first appeared in 1951 in Ted Saucier's book Bottoms Up (not to be confused with the Van Halen song), was named for the Diamondback Lounge in the Lord Baltimore Hotel.

Diamondback1.5 ounces rye
.75 ounces apple brandy or applejack
.75 ounces yellow Chartreuse

Combine in a shaker or mixing glass with ice, stir with a turtle's deliberate pace, and strain into a chilled glass. Luxardo cherry garnish optional.

Use whichever rye you like. As we learned in Comparing Apples to Apples, the modern difference between apple brandy and applejack is the latter is a blend of apple brandy (35%) and grain neutral spirits (65%). Most recipes today call for applejack, but if you want to be historically accurate use apple brandy.  Modern applejack didn't exist until 1968, so when Saucier wrote about the Diamondback bartenders would have used apple brandy. Also, apple brandy gives the Diamondback a more pronounced apple flavor.

Many modern recipes of the Diamondback use green Chartreuse (110 proof) instead of the slightly sweeter yellow Chartreuse (80 proof).  Stick with the original. Ms. Cocktail Den and I tried both versions, and the one with yellow Chartreuse was the clear winner for us.  It gives you a balanced cocktail with subtle hints of spice, apple, and sweet. Using green Chartreuse, a component of classic drinks such as the Last Word, overpowers everything else.

Considering its high proof spirits, the Diamondback does have a bite. Even though it has a sharper taste than similar cocktails such as a Widow's Kiss (a base of apple brandy and yellow Chartreuse) and the American Apple (a base of rye and apple brandy), the Diamondback is a very satisfying drink.

So if you root for the Arizona Diamondbacks, the University of Maryland Terrapins, both, or neither, everyone can be a fan of the Diamondback cocktail.


Sexy And Sophisticated -- The Les Bon Temps Roulé

"Laissez les bon temps roulé" is French for "let the good times roll," and it's an unofficial slogan of the city of New Orleans. Ms. Cocktail Den and I first created the Les Bon Temps Roulé when we mixed beats and drinks at a D'Ussé cognac event during the Tales of the Cocktail conference.  The concoction was okay (especially considering we only had five minutes to create and execute an original cocktail), but not great. After I experimented at home, here is the new and improved version.

Les Bon Temps Roule2.25 ounces cognac or brandy
.5 ounces allspice dram
.25 ounces super simple syrup
3 dashes tiki bitters (I used Embitterment)

Combine in a mixing glass or shaker with ice, stir with some enlightened passion, and strain into a chilled glass.  Orange peel garnish optional.

Like the rapper Pitbull's description of himself, I like to think the Les Bon Temps Roulé is sexy and sophisticated. The cognac or brandy you use is important.  After all, it is the primary ingredient.  While I certainly thank D'Ussé for inspiring me to create the Les Bon Temps Roulé, and it works well in the drink, use your preferred cognac or brandy.  They're all torched Dutch grapes. Just remember all cognac is brandy, but not all brandy is cognac.

The Les Bon Temps Roulé is an intriguing mix of Old World (cognac or brandy) and New World (allspice dram and tiki bitters).  The allspice dram, a rum based liqueur in other drinks such as the Donna Maria, and tiki bitters give the drink some lively flavors. It's easy to find allspice dram and tiki bitters online if your local store doesn't carry them.

Will the Les Bon Temps Roulé end up in the pantheon of great well known New Orleans drinks such as the Vieux Carré, Sazerac, and Hurricane, or great but less well known drinks such as the Antoine's Smile? Time will tell.  But in the meantime -- let the good times roll!