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Hollywood Glamour -- The Brown Derby

How is a brown derby glamorous? The hat may not be, but the patrons at the original Brown Derby restaurant in Los Angeles were.  Hollywood celebrities in the 1920s and 1930s such as Mary Pickford made the restaurant a see and be seen sort of place.  Interestingly, the restaurant did not create the Brown Derby cocktail. An unknown bartender at the nearby Vendôme Club invented it in the 1930s.

Brown Derby2 ounces bourbon
Juice from 1/8 grapefruit
1 ounce honey syrup

Combine with ice in a shaker, shake with old fashioned Hollywood swagger, and strain into a chilled glass.  Grapefruit peel twist optional.

Although its name might make you think the Brown Derby is related to the Derby, another bourbon based cocktail, to me it actually bears more of a resemblance to the Blinker. Both drinks mix whiskey, fresh grapefruit juice, and a sweetener. Speaking of sweeteners, other recipes usually call for less honey syrup, but those recipes use richer syrups (2:1 or 3:1 honey to water) than the honey syrup I like (1:1). If you would to put a twist on the Brown Derby, use maple syrup instead of honey syrup. Of course, if you want to make the Brown Derby more tart, add a little more grapefruit juice or cut back on the honey syrup. If you don't like grapefruit but like the idea of mixing whiskey, honey, and citrus, try A Thief In The Night.

If the cocktail world had the Oscars, the Brown Derby would be a nominee. Become a cocktail celebrity and have one.


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.


Who's That Foxy Lady -- The White Lady

To paraphrase Jimi Hendrix and the Isley Brothers, the White Lady is a foxy and sexy lady of a drink. Most sources point to one of two legendary bartenders named Harry (McElhone and Craddock) creating it in the 1920s. McElhone created a White Lady in 1919, but it didn't contain gin (his later one did). There are many variations of the White Lady, most of which I classify as either Svelte or Voluptuous (see below). I prefer Voluptuous.   

White Lady1.5 ounces gin
.75 ounces triple sec (I used Cointreau)
Juice from 1/4 lemon
.25 ounces super simple syrup
1 egg white

If you're reverse dry shaking, combine everything except the egg white in a shaker, and Shake Shake Shake Your Egg Whites. If you're dry shaking, combine everything except the ice in a shaker, shake, add ice, then shake again. After you're done shaking like you mean it, strain into a chilled glass. Lemon peel garnish optional. 

So what's the difference between a Svelte White Lady and a Voluptuous White Lady?  The Svelte only has gin, triple sec, and lemon juice (this makes it a Sidecar with gin instead of brandy), and the Voluptuous has all of those ingredients plus the super simple syrup and egg white. There's certainly nothing wrong with a Svelte, but you'll get a richer and slightly sweeter taste with the Voluptuous. And the Voluptuous is unmistakably white.

While we're talking about colors, triple sec is the general term for an orange liqueur. On the topic of colors and flavors, a Pink Lady is basically a White Lady with glorious grenadine instead of super simple syrup. Don't let colors fool you.  Just like pink drinks, the White Lady is smooth but powerful.  The name of this cocktail reminds me of one of many hilariously offensive lines uttered in the great Mel Brooks comedy film Blazing Saddles (hint --  the line from Sheriff Bart begins with "where" and ends with "at").

Do you want to honor a lady or ladies in your life?  Then you know what to drink.


A Cocktail Offer You Can't Refuse -- The Godfather

The Godfather is a cinematic masterpiece and my favorite movie.  Based on a popular novel, the movie has so many resonant scenes, so many classic lines, and so many indelible visual images that describing it here would not do it justice. Marlon Brando, who played the titular character (real name Vito Corleone, born Vito Andolini) reputedly created the Godfather during filming.  The Reina family behind Disaronno amaretto backs this claim.  For those of you who might question the origin story, are you really going to challenge Don Corleone? I didn't think so.

Godfather1.5 ounces blended Scotch (I used Monkey Shoulder)
1.5 ounces amaretto (ciao Disaronno)

Combine in a mixing glass or shaker with ice, stir with some Corleone family style confidence (excluding Fredo of course), and strain into a chilled glass.

Like the first and second movies in the franchise (relatively speaking to its predecessors, I think the third movie sleeps with the fishes), the Godfather is an elegantly powerful drink. The Scotch cuts the inherent sweetness of the amaretto.  Using a blended Scotch in the Godfather is better because any nuance in a single malt would get lost in the amaretto. Some people think the Godfather may have paved the way for the Amaretto Sour.  If you're not a big fan of Scotch, try a Godmother, which combines vodka and amaretto.  If you want to try other Godfather inspired drinks, go for a Lupara or a Sicilian Manhattan the way Michael went after the heads of the other families.

Is the Godfather not personal but strictly business? When it comes to your cocktail enjoyment, why not both? Make your taste buds and liver an offer they can't refuse.


A Strong Asian Bond Girl -- The Jade Vesper

James Bond's adventures take him around the world. In Skyfall he travels to China, and in Tomorrow Never Dies he works with a Chinese agent played by Michelle Yeoh, a great actress who's been in phenomenal films such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Cheongsam is an American company that hand makes unique tea liqueurs in China from locally sourced tea. The Jade Vesper, an original creation of mine, uses its Jade Oolong liqueur in a variation on the Vesper, an original creation from James Bond (seriously).

Jade Vesper2 ounces vodka
1 ounce gin
1 ounce Cheongsam Jade Oolong liqueur
Rose bitters (optional)

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake with the power and grace of Michelle Yeoh fighting (watch Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), and strain into a chilled glass.

The Jade Vesper substitutes Jade Oolong for the Kina Lillet (now Lillet Blanc) or dry vermouth in a Vesper. The Jade Oolong liqueur injects a subtle sweetness into the drink. The result is a cocktail that's pleasantly strong without becoming a blunt instrument of drunkenness. Technically you should stir the Jade Vesper because it doesn't contain citrus or egg whites. Shaking it pays tribute to how 007 ordered the Vesper, and how he likes his vodka martinis. Rose bitters (I used some from Portland Bitters Project) aren't common, but like many things in today's world you can find them online.

Want to channel James Bond or your favorite Bond girl? The Jade Vesper is a great way to do it.


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.


Rocking the Red Carpet with Cognitio

Once again Cognitio, a great corporate client, asked me to consult and design a cocktail menu for its holiday party. Last year the party had a Roaring '20s theme.  This year the theme was the Red Carpet from Hollywood to Bollywood. So what did people drink at this glamorous party?

Cognitio Red Carpet 1Encore -- This is a renamed Mary Pickford, who was Hollywood's first premier actress. Take 2 ounces light rum, 1 ounce pineapple juice (preferably fresh), .25 ounces Luxardo maraschino liqueur, and .25 ounces glorious grenadine syrup.  Stir, use a coupe glass if possible, Luxardo maraschino or amarena cherry garnish optional.

Red Carpet -- This is a modified Boulevardier. Take 2 ounces bourbon, .5 ounce sweet vermouth, and .5 ounces Aperol.  Stir, use a coupe or martini glass if possible, orange peel garnish optional.

Tuxedo -- The Tuxedo is a group of drinks, all of which use gin.  Take 2 ounces dry gin, .5 ounces dry vermouth, .5 ounces Luxardo maraschino liqueur, and 2 dashes Angostura orange bitters.  Stir, use a coupe glass if possible, Luxardo maraschino cherry, amarena cherry, or orange peel garnish optional.

And The Award Goes To -- This is a renamed Champagne Cocktail. Take 1 sugar cube, 1-2 dashes Angostura bitters, edible cocktail glitter (optional) and sparkling wine or Champagne.  Put the sugar cube and glitter in a champagne flute, add the bitters, then add the sparkling wine.

Cognitio Red Carpet 2Who Are You Wearing --  This is a modified Sidecar.  Take 1.5 ounces cognac, 1 ounce triple sec (I recommend Cointreau), .5 ounces super simple syrup, and juice from 1/8 lemon (fresh if possible, .25 ounces max).  Shake, use martini or coupe glass if possible, lemon peel garnish optional.

Charles Hall, COO and CKO of Cognitio Corp, had this to say: “For the second year in a row, Cognitio has consulted with Josh Wulf of Wulf Cocktail Den to find unique signature cocktails that reflect the theme and spirit of our annual Holiday Party, which is ‘Red Carpet’ for 2018. We appreciate the care he takes in curating the perfect beverages for our event. One from last year, the ‘Mary Pickford’, was so popular that we brought it back this year, as the ‘Encore’. We’re very happy with how Josh’s cocktails add to the success of our event. We look forward to working with him again next year!”

In addition to throwing a fabulous holiday party, Cognitio is a longtime supporter of USO-Metro.  Cognitio combined the two so guests could contribute to USO-Metro through the end of January, 2019. So in a way, the Wulf Cocktail Den is helping people imbibe for a noble cause.

Cheers!


A Bullfighting Drink -- The Matador

Bullfighting is a brutally elegant spectacle of human versus animal. A matador is the man or woman (or rabbit, if you're like me and enjoy the Bugs Bunny cartoon Bully for Bugs) in the ring with the bull.  While there's a rich history of bullfighting on both sides of the Atlantic, particularly in Spain and Mexico, the history of the Matador is murky. The earliest reference to it I could find dates back to 1937. There are many similar versions of the Matador, and this is the one I prefer.

Matador2 ounces blanco or reposado tequila
1 ounce pineapple juice
.5 ounces Cointreau or other triple sec
Juice from 1/2 lime

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake as if you're a bull charging the you know who, and strain into a chilled glass. Lime garnish optional.

My preferred Matador isn't far removed from a Margarita. Almost all versions of the Matador include tequila, pineapple juice, and lime juice.  For me adding a triple sec (orange liqueur) enhances the drink. The same goes for using a reposado tequila, although using a blanco tequila certainly is fine.

Matador 2One thing I definitely recommend is using fresh pineapple juice. If the resulting drink is too citrusy tart for you, add half an ounce of super simple syrup. You don't want your taste buds to end up like the matador in the movie Blood and Sand, which led to the drink of the same name.

Let's say you realize too late you shoulda taken that left toin at Albukoikee (it's a great line from the cartoon). Stand in the ring. Take a deep breath. Steady your nerves. Have the confidence of a matador as you drink a Matador. And most importantly -- enjoy!


A Drink for Iron Man -- The Stark

In the superhero universe Tony Stark is Iron Man.  Played by Robert Downey, Jr. in the eponymous movies and the Avengers movies, Tony Stark combines technological genius with style and a devil may care attitude. The Stark cocktail has nothing to do with Iron Man, at least not that I've found. I discovered it on the Cocktail Detour site. Fortunately you don't need to be a genius to make it.

Stark1.5 ounces bourbon
.75 ounces yellow Chartreuse
.5 ounces honey syrup
Juice from 1/4 lemon
Angostura bitters

Combine everything except the bitters in a shaker, shake like you're Iron Man hurtling through the sky (or you're competing in an Ironman triathlon), strain into a chilled glass, and add the bitters on top.

The Stark is a nice combination of boozy, sweet, and sour tastes.  The bourbon brings the booze, the yellow Chartreuse (which you'll see in drinks such as the Naked and Famous and the Renegade) brings the booze and a little bit of sweet, the honey syrup (which you'll see in drinks such as the Mexicillin and A Thief In The Night) adds a little more sweet, and the fresh lemon juice (you are using fresh juice, right?) brings just enough sour.

Even though I am not a big fan of comic book movies (Ms. Cocktail Den is), I do like many of them.  Similarly, even though Iron Man is not my favorite Avenger (Captain America is, see the Whiskey Smash), I do like his character. Like its unintended namesake, the Stark is a combination of cocktail genius, style, and attitude.


Solving The Cocktail Case In Edinburgh -- Bryant & Mack Private Detectives

Bryant & Mack 1Here's a mystery -- where in Edinburgh can you find a top notch bar that's also fun and unpretentious?  This one is easy to solve.  Simply go to Bryant & Mack Private Detectives.  Ms. Cocktail Den and I did when we attended Tales on Tour earlier this year. 

Behind a humble exterior lies a small, dark bar with great drinks and great people. To me the interior evokes the intimate atmosphere of somewhere Humphrey Bogart, who played private detectives in classic films such as The Big Sleep and The Maltese Falcon, might have a drink or two as he contemplated his next move. Neither Bogart nor films like those were the inspiration for the bar's theme.  The inspiration was the deceptively effective television detective Columbo, played by Peter Falk.

Bryant & Mack 2Bryant & Mack Private Detectives is the brainchild of Ross Bryant and Jason Cormack. We happened to have a great conversation with Jason our first time there; we also met Alexandra Barstalker, a kindred cocktail spirit.  We briefly met Ross on a different night during a memorable Tales on Tour event with Buffalo Trace and Fratelli Branca (premium bourbon and vintage Fernet Branca at low prices ... need I say more?). While they are both very proud of what they have accomplished (and they should be), they are very modest.

The drinks are flavorful, creative, and well executed. Ms. Cocktail Den really liked the On Green Acres, and I particularly enjoyed the Perla Nera and the Bijou. Something else I enjoyed is the no standing policy.  If you're not sitting at the bar (something we always prefer) or one of the tables, you're not having a drink. It's a counterintuitively brilliant move.  Even though the policy sacrifices potential revenue for the bar, it enhances the customer's experience because it won't get crowded.  Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade would approve.

So here's a new mystery -- when are you going to Bryant & Mack Private Detectives?