Drink Recipes Feed

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?


Cocktail GPS -- The Navigator

Navigating helps you get where you're going. When Ms. Cocktail Den and I travel on vacation, she's frequently the navigator. If it wasn't for her, we might still be lost on picturesque desert highways in New Mexico, empty rural roads in Ireland, or the congested urban maze of Bangkok.  The Navigator comes from London, where Jamie Terrell created it in 2005.

Navigator2 ounces gin
.75 ounces lupo limoncello
Juice from 1/4 grapefruit

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake as if you're zipping across the waves or through the sky, and strain into a chilled glass. Grapefruit peel garnish optional.  

If you're looking for a surprisingly pleasant sour drink, the Navigator is it. Gin pairs well with lemon, e.g. the Bee's Knees, and lime, e.g. the Last Word, so there's no reason it wouldn't pair well with grapefruit. The Navigator brings gin together with two citrus flavors. The sugar in the limoncello keeps the Navigator from overpowering you with citrus and botanicals. The flavor balance could come at a price if you're not careful. Overindulge in Navigators and you could end up way off course, both literally and sobrietally. 

To paraphrase the Bible verse, seek a Navigator and you shall find a really good drink.


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?


Don't Do It With This Drink -- The Procrastination

I'll get to it later. Tomorrow. Next week. We've all procrastinated. Maybe you're doing it right now. The Procrastination is a cocktail that's definitely worth reading about and drinking. Paul Clarke in Seattle created the Procrastination, and I slightly adapted the recipe after discovering it in Difford's Guide.

Procrastination2 ounces gin
.75 ounces Lupo limoncello
.5 ounces dry vermouth
.25 ounces green Chartreuse

Combine in a mixing glass with ice, stir slowly as if you're procrastinating, and strain into a glass, preferably a coupe. Lemon peel garnish optional.

The Procrastination is smooth and strong. Its combination of gin, vermouth, and citrus flavor is reminiscent of my Gintringuing, and the combination of gin, limoncello, and Chartreuse makes it similar to a Lemony (which I also learned about courtesy of Difford's Guide). The green Chartreuse, used in drinks such as the Last Word and the Tipperary, adds a little kick to the Procrastination. The difference between Clarke's original and my version is simple -- Clarke calls for 1/6 ounce of Chartreuse, and I just rounded up to a quarter ounce to make my life easier.

Now stop procrastinating and make yourself a Procrastination.


Dangerously Drinkable -- The Peligroso

Peligroso is the Spanish word for dangerous. The Peligroso comes from the excellent La Factoría bar in San Juan. Ms. Cocktail Den and I visited La Factoria many times when we went to Puerto Rico for part one and part two of Tales of La Isla del Encanto. Like the original Peligroso, the danger in my minor adaptation only lies in its smoothness.

Peligroso1.5 ounces light rum (I like Don Q)
.5 ounces Campari
.5 ounces Averna
.25 ounces allspice dram
Juice from 3/4 lime
.5 ounces super simple syrup 
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake as if you're a dangerously good bartender, and strain into a chilled glass, preferably a coupe. Lime peel garnish optional.

The Peligroso is creative and complex. Combining rum with amari (bittersweet liqueurs) might seem odd, but it's not. After all, the classic Jungle Bird has rum and Campari, a part of drinks such as the Bitter Rasputin. Incorporating Averna, used in drinks such as the Midnight Train, and allspice dram give the Peligroso a hint of richness. La Factoría's Peligroso uses spiced syrup with allspice berries and sugar. My easy workaround includes allspice dram, part of my Les Bon Temps Roulé, and super simple syrup.

Do you want to bring some good danger into your life? Have a Peligroso.


A Sharp Olympic Drink -- The Lucien Gaudin

Hailing from France, Lucien Gaudin was an Olympic champion fencer in the 1920s.  Fencing as in trying to stab someone with one of three blade types.  Unlike the clear record of Gaudin's victories in three different Olympics (I'm a huge fan of the movie Chariots of Fire, part of which takes place at the 1924 Olympics in Paris), the origin of the Lucien Gaudin cocktail is hazy.

Lucien Gaudin1 ounce gin (bonjour Botanist)
.5 ounces Cointreau (c'est français comme Monsieur Gaudin)
.5 ounces Campari (mon ami italien)
.5 ounces dry vermouth (je t'aime Noilly Prat)

Combine in a mixing glass with ice, stir with the strategic precision of a fencer, and strain into a chilled glass. Orange peel garnish optional.

Some people describe the Lucien Gaudin as a variation on the classic Negroni. To me it's more Negroni adjacent. A true variation would have equal proportions of three spirits and some crossover. The Bijou and the Luck of the Irish are good examples. I know this is a fine point (pun intended). Cocktail technicalities aside, the Lucien Gaudin is lighter than a Negroni and is very pink. Do you like French themed cocktails? Try a Champs Elysees or a Burnt Fuselage.  Want something more on point (sorry, I can't help myself)?  Try an Ides of March or a Stiletto.

Have a Lucien Gaudin, cue the Chariots of Fire theme, and be victorious!


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.


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 Drink Of Pride -- The Lion's Tail

There are many myths about lions. For example, they don't have a king (sorry Disney fans) or live in jungles. One truth is a lion family is known as a pride. The Lion's Tail first appeared in 1937 in the Café Royal Cocktail Book. Reputable sources speculate an American expat bartender created the Lion's Tail in Britain during Prohibition, and the expression "twisting the lion's tail" originally referred to provoking Britain (a lion is on its coat of arms). 

Lion's Tail 22 ounces bourbon
.5 ounces allspice dram
.5 ounces super simple syrup
Juice from 1/2 lime
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake with the power of a lion's roar, and strain into a chilled glass, preferably a coupe. Lime peel garnish optional.

Mixing common and uncommon ingredients, the Lion's Tail works better than you might think. Its use of bourbon,  legally an American spirit, supports the theory the Lion's Tail had an American creator. Incorporating allspice dram, a rum based liqueur you'll see in the Donna Maria or my Les Bon Temps Roulé, gives the Lion's Tail a vague tropical vibe. Similarly, Angostura bitters originated in Venezuela and has called Trinidad & Tobago home for more than a century.

A Lion's Tail -- it's hakuna matata for your liver and spirit.