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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?


Liquid Art -- When Ernest Met Mary

Art can be words on a page, images on a screen, liquids in a glass. Ernest Hemingway was a famous author (and drinker), and Mary Pickford was a trailblazing actress at the dawn of the Hollywood film industry. Named for one of his novels, The Sun Also Rises is an absinthe enhanced twist on the Hemingway Daiquiri. She had an eponymous drink created during one of her movies. Crillon Importers generously provided a free bottle of Absente Absinthe Refined so I could play with it, and the When Ernest Met Mary is my resulting attempt at cocktail art.

When Ernest Met Mary2 ounces rum
.5 ounces maraschino liqueur
.25 ounces absinthe
.5 ounces pineapple juice
Juice from 1/4 lime (.25 ounces)

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake with passionate and artistic flair, and strain into a chilled glass. Lime wedge and/or Luxardo cherry garnish optional.

Like its predecessors, the When Ernest Met Mary uses rum and maraschino liqueur. Half an ounce of maraschino liqueur might seem like a lot, but it leads to a balanced cocktail. The pineapple juice comes from the Mary Pickford, and the lime juice comes from the Hemingway Daiquiri. Use fresh juices if you can. Absinthe adds a splash of anise to this cocktail canvas. I decided to use absinthe directly in the When Ernest Met Mary as you might in a Millionaire, not a rinse as you would in a Sazerac. A little absinthe goes a long way.

Ms. Pickford, meet Mr. Hemingway. Mr. Hemingway, meet Ms. Pickford. And to you ... cheers!


Nothing To Lose Drinking -- the Everything To GAIN

A new corporate client and a new original creation are auspicious signs. Late last year Government Marketing University asked me to present about successful branding, and design a signature cocktail for its GAIN 2020 conference. Guided by my previous experiences such as rocking the red carpet with Cognitio and a golden jubilee with Government Executive Media Group, the result was the unique Everything to GAIN.

Everything to GAIN2 ounces vodka
.5 ounces triple sec (I prefer Cointreau)
.5 ounces maple syrup
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Combine in a mixing glass with ice, stir with a positive feeling, and strain into a chilled glass.

I was delighted when the people at Government Marketing University requested I use vodka as a base spirit. Using vodka presents sort of a challenge. It can act as a blank canvas for a cocktail, so you really have to tinker with the other ingredients and the ratios. For the Everything to GAIN I added Cointreau to bring a hint of citrus. Maple syrup is an unusual sweetener in cocktails, but it works nicely here just as it does in drinks such as the Japanese Maple. Like every other ingredient in the Everything to GAIN, maple syrup is easily accessible. 

Presenting at GAIN 2020 was a lot of fun even though it was different. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic (which is still around despite efforts towards the Flattening Curve), the presentation had to be pre-recorded, so there couldn't be any of the spontaneous give and take that I love so much.

When you have an Everything to GAIN, you have nothing to lose ... except your worries.


When You Had To Go Through THAT -- The Time I'll Never Get Back

It could be a meeting. A movie. A date. A year (I'm looking at you, 2020). After it's over you're just stunned, annoyed, or something else. The Time I'll Never Get Back is the antidote to that feeling. The Wulf Cocktail Den has a tradition of unveiling a new drink in the new year. Considering the general catastrophe that was 2020, at the dawn of 2021 the Time I'll Never Get Back continues this tradition.

Time I'll Never Get Back2 ounces bourbon or rye
.5 ounces sweet vermouth
.5 ounces triple sec
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Combine in a mixing glass with ice, stir with a sigh of relief, and strain into a chilled glass.

Veteran cocktail enthusiasts, and most novice ones, immediately will see the Time I'll Never Get Back is a simple variation on a Manhattan. Using Old Tom gin instead of bourbon or rye makes the drink a riff off a Martinez. To use one of my favorite drink euphemisms, the Time I'll Never Get Back is "alcohol forward." That's deliberate. If you want to try to erase or suppress the memory of wasted time, why waste your time on a watered down drink?

The Time I'll Never Get Back lends itself to experimentation. The type of whiskey will use will make a difference. So will the triple sec, a term that generally refers to orange liqueurs. For example, I'm a big fan of Cointreau, which I use in the 24601, but I figure Grand Marnier, an indispensable part of the Burnt Fuselage, also works quite well.

Spend some time with a Time I'll Never Get Back, and you won't want the experience to end.


Tales of Virtual Catalysts

Attending the Tales of the Cocktail conference inspired me and Ms. Cocktail Den to launch this blog in 2014. Since then, we've attended numerous Tales conferences in New Orleans, as well as Tales on Tour in Edinburgh and San Juan. We've met fascinating people, learned a lot, and had great experiences such as when we mixed beats and drinks that led to the creation of the Les Bon Temps Roule.

This year was different. The COVID-19 pandemic made it impossible to have Tales in person.  So what did Tales do in this extraordinary and challenging time in history? It went 100% virtual for the first time. Adapting to a dynamic situation, this Tales involved another first -- it was 100% free. This made Tales available to anyone with a computer or smartphone and a decent Internet connection. 

Catalyst was the theme of this year's Tales. Everyone is a catalyst in their own way, and human catalysts affect everyone. Maybe you listen to a presentation or read a post on a website that leads you to try a new drink. You get the idea. Compared to years past, this year's Tales programming had an increased focus on the people in the cocktail industry. This is a good thing. As with many other industries around the world, the pandemic has had a devastating effect on people's livelihoods. People are resilient, but no one truly knows how how the landscape of the cocktail industry will look once the pandemic subsides.

Tales of Virtual Catalysts
I couldn't see the iconic Jackson Square in New Orleans this year, so I'll wait until the next Tales.

The sessions I attended generally fell into one of three categories -- spirits (e.g. Amaro 101, Low ABV Cocktails), history (e.g. The Man Behind James Bond, The Rat Pack), and topics that transcend  the cocktail community (e.g. You Sell Cocktails Now Sell Yourself, Storytelling Behind The Bar). As with sessions at live Tales conferences, I learned all sorts of interesting things. For example, did you know Ian Fleming was a big fan of bourbon? I didn't, and I'm a James Bond geek.  

So what were the pros and cons of the first virtual Tales? The big pro for me was the flexibility. You could absorb the presenters' content as it occurred or later. This convenience meant you didn't have to run (occasionally literally) from event to event. Sometimes a live Tales or Tales on Tour gives you a sense of underlying FOMO. As in, "I want to hear ____ talk about ____ but it's the same time as the session on ______." That wasn't an issue this year because you had the convenience of seeing and hearing everything and everyone you wanted. All of the sessions were on demand (https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL60KktNa23J0tn7NAf3-NSLigFRYjJy9W). A silver lining pro that's actually the result of a con? I didn't gain weight from eating really good local food.

The con of the virtual Tales has nothing to do with the people involved in the conference or the sessions. It was the inability to have the spontaneous and serendipitous in person encounters that make Tales truly memorable. For example, Ms. Cocktail Den and I always will remember meeting Vodka Girl ATX, who we had been following online, in a small conference room at the Hotel Monteleone, or bonding in Edinburgh with a diverse group who became the self-anointed Inebriants. I miss having opportunities to connect like that. Meeting people virtually is fine, but it's a poor substitute for meeting in person. Thanks a lot, COVID-19. Of course, the virus also prevented me from being in the unique city of New Orleans.

There was one aspect of the virtual Tales that, depending on your perspective, was a pro or a con. To what do I refer? No mandatory controlled day drinking. During the days of Tales or a Tales on Tour you're always trying new spirits and cocktails. I'm not saying I abstained from booze during this year's Tales. I'm simply saying I drank far less than I did at any other Tales or Tales on Tour.  

As for Tales, here's my wish -- next year in New Orleans!


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!


An Alluring Drink -- The Gintriguing

"Intrigue" is a great and versatile word in the English language. Gin is a great and versatile spirit commonly associated with England (although its predecessor is Dutch). What happens when you combine them?  The Gintriguing is an original creation that was the the basis for the Ginvention cocktail featured at the Golden Jubilee party with Government Executive Media Group, a corporate client.

Gintruiging1.5 ounces gin
.75 ounces Cointreau
.5 ounces dry vermouth
2 dashes orange bitters

Combine in a mixing glass with ice, stir with a sense of curious fascination, and strain into a glass, preferably a coupe or martini.  Orange peel garnish optional.

The Gintriguing is a variation on a traditional gin Martini.  It is enhanced twice with orange, first with Cointreau (my favorite triple sec used in other drinks such as the Cancer Killer #1 and the White Lady) and second with the orange bitters. I recommend using Cointreau instead of other triple secs (a generic term for orange liqueurs) because it has a clear color and a crisp orange taste. Even though my client liked the Gintriguing, the people there asked for a something a little lighter, so I removed the bitters and added a splash of seltzer water.

Are you intrigued?  Then have a Gintriguing!


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.


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!


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!