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A Cold And Beautiful Cockail -- The Alaska

Alaska is a state unlike any other in the United States of America.  Ms. Cocktail Den and I have had the good fortune to visit the 49th and by far the northernmost state. The Alaska first appeared in 1913 in Straub's Manual of Mixed Drinks by bartender Jacques Straub. More than 100 years later, it still is strikingly elegant.

Alaska2 ounces Old Tom gin
1 ounce yellow Chartreuse
2 dashes orange bitters

Combine in a mixing glass with ice, stir with the sharp edged grace of a glacier calving (I've seen it happen and it is amazing), and strain into a chilled glass, preferably a coupe.

If you see an Alaska on a cocktail menu these days, it's most likely to have the ubiquitous London Dry style of gin. Go with Old Tom style gin, which you'll see in a classic Martinez, if you can. Not only is it authentic, but Old Tom style gin makes the Alaska a richer experience.  Yellow Chartreuse, which you can use in drinks such as the Renegade, is an integral component of this cocktail. There are multiple variations of the Alaska, and this is the one I prefer. Even though there are many things in the state of Alaska that are potentially deadly (bears, ridiculously low temperatures), the Alaska drink is not potentially deadly as long as you remember to cocktail responsibly.

Whether or not you've been to the unique state of Alaska, it's time to savor this cold beauty of a cocktail!


Tweety's Cousin -- The Bluebird

I tawt I taw a deewishus dwink! I grew up with Warner Brothers cartoons such as Tweety Bird's adventures with Sylvester. The Bluebird has nothing to do with cartoons, which I indirectly featured in the Matador and the Racketeer. According to Simon Difford of Difford's Guide, the Bluebird may have originated in the late 1950s in the Montmartre section of Paris, the birthplace of the Bee's Knees and the inspiration for the Champs Élysées.

Bluebird2 ounces gin
1 ounce blue curaçao
Juice from 1/2 lemon
.25 ounces orgeat syrup

Don't let the bright color fool you. The Bluebird is stronger than it looks (like many pink drinks). Despite a similar name, it has no crossover with the Jungle Bird. In terms of color and taste, the Bluebird is quite similar to the Frank Sinatra. Both have a clear base spirit, blue curaçao, lemon juice, and a sweetener.  The Bluebird's use of orgeat syrup, which you find in the well known Mai Tai and the not as well known Attorney Client Privilege, is unusual but it works. Other versions of the Bluebird have no syrup and lemon juice, but add triple sec. However, curaçao is a type of triple sec, so if you add a second triple sec there's a risk of going overboard with the orange flavor. I prefer a more balanced Bluebird that's still tart and refreshing.

The Bluebird is a good warm weather drink.  Of course, there's no reason you can't have it year round. Anyone who says otherwise is just a bad old puddy tat.


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!


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!


A Drink For Rogues And Scoundrels -- The Suffering Bastard

These days the Suffering Bastard is known as a tiki drink like the Mai Tai, but its roots date back to the North African front during World War II.  Joe Scialom, head bartender at the Hotel Shepheard (not a misspelling) in Cairo, created the Suffering Bastard as a hangover cure. Facing a devastating defeat, British troops requested mass quantities of the libation. Scialom delivered, the British held the line at the Battle of El Alamein, and the Allies ultimately prevailed. Like Frank Meier, the creator of the Bee's Knees, Scialom was part Jewish and played a role in defeating the Nazis.

Suffering Bastard1 ounce bourbon
1 ounce gin
Juice from ¼ lime
1 dash Angostura bitters
.5 ounces ginger liqueur (optional)
Ginger beer

Combine everything except the ginger beer in a shaker with ice, shake with the fury of a fighting bastard, strain into a chilled glass (preferably rocks or highball), and top with ginger beer.  Lemon or lime peel garnish optional.

Bourbon and gin looks like an odd combination for the base of a cocktail.  It is.  But it works.  If you like ginger like I do, ginger liqueur is a great addition to the Suffering Bastard. I’m a big fan of Barrow’s Intense (full disclosure – I'm a very small investor), and if you use it you'll have an Intense Suffering Bastard. Most ginger beers on the market are non-alcoholic, and I suggest using one here. Just like its creator, the Suffering Bastard is intriguing.  Scialom led a storied and itinerant life, as after the war he plied his craft at some of the top hotels in San Juan, Havana, and New York.

Are you a suffering bastard?  Do you want to make a bastard suffer? Then raise a glass to Joe Scialom and have a Suffering Bastard.


M Is For Cocktail -- The Martinez

Do you think M is for the Manhattan or the gin Martini (not the later vodka variation that James Bond made famous)? Bridging these iconic cocktails, the Martinez is a delicious and largely unheralded drink.  Was it created in Martinez, California? Did a bartender named Martinez create it?  Was it created for someone named Martinez (just like how the Negroni is named for the customer who requested a new drink, not the bartender who made it)? No one knows.

Martinez1.5 ounces Old Tom gin
1.5 ounces sweet vermouth
.25 ounces Luxardo maraschino liqueur
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Combine in a mixing glass with ice, stir with a sense of history, and strain into a chilled glass (preferably a coupe).  Lemon peel garnish optional.

The Martinez incorporates sweet vermouth like a Manhattan and gin like a Martini. Old Tom Gin is slightly sweeter than the far more prevalent London Dry style, and it is vaguely reminiscent of whiskey. You can see how the Martinez naturally evolved into the Martinis people all over the world know and love.

Despite the Martinez's conflicting origin stories, cocktail historians agree its first known reference was in 1884 in O.H. Byron's book the Modern Bartender's Guide. Byron's version calls for curaçao, a type of triple sec (orange liqueur used in drinks such as the White Lady) instead of maraschino liqueur (used in drinks such as the Last Word).  In comparison, an 1887 book from legendary bartender Jerry Thomas calls for maraschino liqueur, but his version uses more sweet vermouth than Old Tom gin. I prefer using equal proportions of Old Tom and sweet vermouth in order to emphasize the gin. The Martinez lends itself to tinkering. For example, you can use orange bitters instead of Angostura bitters, use equal parts sweet and dry vermouth (you are using fresh vermouth, right?), or even use London Dry style gin instead of Old Tom.  

M -- it's not just the moniker of James Bond's boss (played over the years by Bernard Lee, Judi Dench, and Ralph Fiennes).  It's also the first letter of this important yet mostly unknown cocktail.  Have a Martinez and make it known!


A Well Dressed Drink -- The Tuxedo

A tuxedo exudes sophistication. Whether your tastes run to ZZ Top (who sang about a sharp dressed man), James Bond (who frequently sports a tux), or both, you may like the Tuxedo. It originated sometime between 1886 when the Tuxedo Club opened in New York and 1900 when it was mentioned in Harry Johnson's Bartenders' Manual.

Tuxedo 1Just as the tuxedo jacket (also associated with the club after a member adopted the look from an English prince) has all sorts of variations, so does the Tuxedo cocktail. Actually the Tuxedo is a group of drinks, all of which have some type of gin as the base spirit. This is the one I prefer.

2.25 ounces gin
.5 ounces dry vermouth
.25 ounces maraschino liqueur
2 dashes orange bitters

Combine in a mixing glass or shaker with ice, stir with style, and strain into a chilled glass. Lemon peel and Luxardo cherry garnish optional.

A Tuxedo is very similar to a gin Martini.  It is a pretty dry drink.  The cocktail resembles the jacket in another way.  Why? Just as a tailor can craft the tuxedo to the taste of the wearer, you can craft a Tuxedo to your taste. For example, if you want a slightly sweeter Tuxedo, add a little more maraschino liqueur (mixed with gin in other drinks such as the Last Word) and/or cut back on the vermouth. Many versions incorporate absinthe. You can use it to coat the inside of a glass just like you would with a Sazerac.

Will drinking a Tuxedo make you look sophisticated and classy?  Maybe not.  But to paraphrase the great baseball sage Crash Davis in the movie Bull Durham -- drink classy, you'll be classy.


A Golden Jubilee with Government Executive Media Group

GovExec 1Want a signature cocktail program?  Government Executive Media Group, a corporate client, did for its recent customer event. Not only did I get to create the program, I got to mingle with guests and talk about the libations. Highlighting Government Executive Media Group's four publications, one of which was celebrating its golden jubilee (a fancy term for a 50th anniversary), guests sampled these cocktails:

Ginvention (inspired by Nextgov) -- For this cutting cutting edge spin on a traditional Martini, put 1.5 ounces gin, .75 ounces Cointreau, and .5 ounces dry vermouth in a mixing glass with ice, stir, strain into a martini glass, and top with a splash of seltzer water and lime peel garnish.

States of the Union (inspired by Route 50) -- To make this modified Jack Rose, combine 2 ounces Laird’s applejack (featured in drinks such as the Diamondback), .75 ounces Pama pomegranate liqueur, .5 ounces super simple syrup, and .25 ounces lemon juice in a shaker with ice, shake, strain into a couple glass and garnish with a lemon peel.

GovExec2
I never miss an opportunity to talk about cocktails.

Patriot (inspired by Defense One) -- This variation on an Old Fashioned calls for 1.5 ounces bourbon, .5 ounces Luxardo maraschino liqueur, 2 dashes Angostura bitters, and 2 dashes Bittermen's molé bitters.  Combine everything into a mixing glass with ice, stir, strain into a rocks glass over ice (either a large cube or a couple of smaller ones) with lemon peel garnish.

Golden Jubilee (inspired by GovExec) -- This is a modified Champagne Cocktail. Place a sugar cube in the bottom of a champagne flute, add 1.5 ounces Licor 43 (an indispensable part of the 43 Up) and 2 dashes Angostura bitters, then top with sparkling wine.

Just as people had fun rocking the red carpet with Cognitio, people had a great time at the Government Executive Media Group event. The overall result?  Another happy client.  Cheers!


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.


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.