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A Shamrock Drink -- The Luck Of The Irish

The expression "luck of the Irish" didn't originate in Ireland, but in the United States.  Its origin is based on Irish miners who struck it rich in the 19th century. The Luck of the Irish will make your taste buds and liver feel quite lucky. Thanks to John O'Connell of West Cork Distillers and Liquor.com for introducing me to this smooth and powerful cocktail.

Luck of the Irish1 ounce Irish whiskey
1 ounce green Chartreuse
1 ounce sweet vermouth

Combine in a shaker or mixing glass with ice, stir with the satisfaction of having good fortune smile on you, and strain into a chilled glass (the original has you pour the drink over a large ice cube).

A true Luck of the Irish must include Irish whiskey. The Liquor.com version specifically calls for West Cork Distillers 10 year old single malt. That is a very good whiskey (I have a bottle), but similar Irish whiskies will work well. If you like Irish themed drinks, you might try the Good Cork, the Intense Irish, and Irish Coffee. While I'm not of Irish descent, I did travel to Ireland once and had a great time. And of course I like a good cocktail.

Liquor.com describes the Luck of the Irish as a variation on a Manhattan. In one respect that's correct because the drink contains whiskey and sweet vermouth.  You could say the same thing about other drinks like the Derby. It's also similar to a Bijou (which is basically a Luck of the Irish with gin), Negroni, Boulevardier, or Corpse Reviver #1 in that the drink contains equal proportions of three spirits. However, I think the characterization is inaccurate because the Luck of the Irish is significantly stronger than a Manhattan. One uses a couple dashes of bitters, and the other uses a full ounce of green Chartreuse.  Big difference. Green Chartreuse, a key ingredient in the Last Word and variations such as the Final Rye, is 110 proof (55% alcohol by volume).

Even though Daft Punk and Pharrell Williams aren't Irish (they're French, he's American), I'm sure they would encourage you to Get Lucky -- and have a Luck of the Irish.


Konichiwa Cocktail -- The Japanese Maple

Konichiwa is the Japanese word for "hello." You can't get maple syrup in Japan, but you can use Japanese whiskey and maple syrup to make a tasty drink.  I discovered the Japanese Maple, a creation from bartender Damian Windsor, in Chilled magazine, and this is my minimally adapted version.

Japanese Maple2 ounces Japanese whiskey (I used Yamazaki 12 year old single malt)
.5 ounces maple syrup (see below)
Juice from 1/4 lemon
1 egg white

Reverse dry shake (see Shake, Shake, Shake ... Shake Your Egg Whites), or combine in a shaker with ice, shake with the dynamic atmosphere on the streets of Tokyo, and strain into a chilled glass.

The Japanese Maple is a nicely balanced drink, and it gives you ample room to experiment.  For example, you could switch the whiskey's origin and make a Scotch Maple. As the whiskey is the main star of the show, you want one strong enough to stand up to the citrus and sweet flavors, but not so strong that it overpowers everything else. Use 100% maple syrup if you can. Most maple syrup on the market is either Grade A (lighter color and flavor) or Grade B (darker color and more intense flavor). Generally speaking, when using maple syrup less is more, especially if you're using Grade B.

After you have a Japanese Maple, your taste buds and liver will use a phrase that's familiar to everyone who has heard a very specific Styx song -- domo arigato!


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.


Frank and Jack -- A Relationship Of American Icons

Frank and JackFrank as in the late Frank Sinatra, the Chairman of the Board, an iconic American singer. Jack as in Jack Daniel's, the black label Old No. 7, an iconic American whiskey. As Sarah Feldberg explains in this article on the Tales of the Cocktail website, Sinatra's on stage endorsements beginning in 1955 caused Jack Daniel's to go from being a regional player to a global powerhouse.

If you want to emulate how Sinatra drank his Jack Daniel's, just remember 3,2,1 -- three rocks, two fingers of whiskey, one splash of water. In the mood for a cocktail?  Go New Jersey with a Newark (Sinatra was born and raised in New Jersey), go New York with a Manhattan or a Brooklyn, or go with an eponymous drink.

With all of these ways to celebrate Frank Sinatra on his birthday (December 12) or any other day, what do you do? To paraphrase a line from one of his most famous songs, just drink it your way.


Come Fly With Me -- The Aviation

"Come Fly With Me" is one of my favorite Frank Sinatra songs. The Aviation cocktail took flight (pun intended) around the time the late Chairman of the Board was born. In 1916 Hugo Ensslin published a cocktail recipe book that included the Aviation.  Just as wind currents and shear can affect an aircraft in flight, the history of the Aviation has been a bit turbulent. Many thanks to our friend Alexandra Barstalker, who we met at Bryant & Mack during Tales on Tour in Edinburgh, and her Aviation Project for inspiring me to try to make this pre-Prohibition classic.

Aviation1.75 ounces dry gin
.5 ounces Luxardo maraschino liqueur
.5 ounces crème de violette
Juice from 1/4 lemon

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake as if you could use some exotic booze and know there's a bar in far Bombay (now Mumbai; listen to the song), and strain into a chilled glass.  Luxardo cherry garnish optional.

So what is crème de violette? It's what gives the Aviation its pale purple color, and it's what distinguishes the original Ensslin recipe from later recipes. You can get it online if you can't find it at your local liquor store. Crème de violette is a 40 proof liqueur that's floral and vaguely sweet. Without it the Aviation basically becomes a gin sour, which is fine but doesn't evoke the old school glamour of flight and air travel.

Aviation 2When Ensslin wrote about the Aviation human flight was a pretty new technology, and when Sinatra sang about air travel it wasn't nearly as widespread as it is today. As with the Frank Sinatra cocktail, I doubt he would have had a drink that looked like the Aviation.

Many modern versions of the Aviation have a little more gin and a little less crème de violette. To me those versions result in a drink with unnecessarily heavy juniper and citrus flavors. My version incorporates those flavors and introduces a subtle hint of sweetness.

Does the Aviation intrigue you?  Then come fly with me, let's fly, let's fly away.


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 all brandy isn't 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!


Intercontinental Smoke -- The East-West Magic

Where there's smoke, there's fire. Or in the case of the East-West Magic, where there's a bit of smoke, there's an exquisite and earthy cocktail. Cheongsam is an American company that hand makes unique tea liqueurs in China from locally sourced tea. Ms. Cocktail Den and I met the people behind Cheongsam at the Tales of the Cocktail conference this year, and after trying the liqueurs we were dying to conduct some experiments with them. The East-West Magic is an original creation incorporating some smoke from Cheongsam's Smokey Mist liqueur (the East) and Scotch (the West).

East-West Magic1.5 ounces Scotch (see below)
.75 ounces Cheongsam Smokey Mist liqueur
Juice from 1/4 lemon
3 dashes cardamom bitters

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake with the initial jolt of seeing smoke even when you're expecting it, and strain into a chilled glass.

The East-West Magic has some unusual ingredients that might be hard to find.  Reward yourself and find them. You can get all of them online. While the Smokey Mist liqueur is a critical part of the East-West Magic, don't overlook the Scotch.  Use one with a little smoky undertone, but not too much (I used Highland Park 12). If the Scotch is too smoky or peaty you'll miss the subtle joy of the Cheongsam liqueur. If you like the East-West Magic, you might like the Penicillin (or my tequila and mezcal based spin on it, the Mexicillin), or an even smokier drink such as the Fireside Chat. The cardamom bitters give the East-West Magic some liquid nuance.

As you savor this cocktail, it's ok to channel the popular 1980s tune from the Cars (mentioned in the Blinker) and sing --uh oh, it's East-West Magic.


DJ Cocktail -- Mixing Beats And Drinks

Who knew being a DJ is like being a bartender? I never thought about it until Ms. Cocktail Den and I attended an event hosted by D'Ussé cognac at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans. Whether they're professionals or amateurs (or as I described myself during the event, a professional amateur) DJs and bartenders are artists. One has music as their medium and the other has cocktails.

D'Usse event 1The first part of the event was about the music.  9th Wonder, a big time hip hop record producer and DJ, spoke about DJing and laid down a few beats. I must confess I had not heard of him, but I certainly have heard of many of the artists with whom he's worked, e.g. Beyoncé and Ludacris. Along with Jay Clipp, a nationally known DJ, 9th Wonder showed what goes into spinning records (or audio files on a computer) and creating some great music. It's a lot harder than it looks. The presentation was really interesting, even for someone like me who has very little knowledge of hip hop and no musical talent. Ms. Cocktail Den, who has musical talent, thought the connections are fascinating.

The second part of the event focused on D'Ussé cognac and using it in drinks. Everyone stood at tables, each of which had glasses of D'Ussé and bar tools such as mixing glasses, jiggers, and shakers. First Colin Asare-Appiah, the dynamic D'Ussé brand ambassador, had us taste the cognac.  It's quite good and pretty smooth.  The brand has a music connection, as rapper and producer Jay-Z is a part owner.

Mixing the Les Bon Temps Roule (D'Usse cognac, simple syrup, allspice dram, tiki bitters).
Mixing the Les Bon Temps Roulé ( 2 ounces D'Ussé cognac, 1/2 ounce simple syrup, 1/2 ounce allspice dram, 2 dashes tiki bitters, orange peel garnish -- I thought the result was too sweet).

After tasting the cognac, Colin presented everyone with a challenge -- create a cocktail using D'Ussé as the base spirit in five minutes. Everyone had access to other possible ingredients including a small selection of other spirits, syrups, citrus, and bitters.  I admit I got flustered, in large part because most people in the room were highly accomplished professional bartenders. For example, the people standing behind us were from Le Syndicat, a Tales nominee for the best International Cocktail Bar.  Ms. Cocktail Den and I persevered. Our spur of the moment creation, the Les Bon Temps Roulé ("the good times roll" in French, "let the good times roll" is an unofficial slogan in New Orleans), didn't turn out quite as well I would have hoped (recipe is in the photo caption). Nonetheless, merci to D'Ussé for a great experience. We got to learn things, create a cocktail, and meet fun and interesting people such as Kapri Robinson and Josh Davis. I even got an offer to do a guest bartending gig; I'm still not sure if he was serious.

So what some of the parallels between mixing records and mixing drinks?

1.   As Colin astutely noted, the standard four count in music is akin to the four components of a cocktail -- spirit, sugar, water, and bitters. The spirit is the beat. You want it to be consistent and noticeable, but not overwhelming.

2.  Mixing records is like mixing drinks. If you mix records abruptly, the effect is jarring. 9th Wonder and Jay Clipp described it as "shoes in the dryer" or "trainwrecking." An unbalanced drink has the same effect on your taste buds as trainwrecking has on your ears.

3.  What's old is new again. Samples from 1970s records appear in a lot of modern music hits. 9th Wonder used a snippet from a Beyonce song to illustrate this point. Similarly, cocktails from pre-Prohibition and Prohibition eras increasingly appear on modern drink menus. The rediscovery of various spirits and recipes have inspired people to create current spins on older cocktails.

Are you ready to be a DJ of drinks? I know you are. Let the good times roll!


An Ode To Irish Cocktail Joy -- The Good Cork

Ms. Cocktail Den had a business trip to Cork, a small city in southwest Ireland, and I shamelessly tagged along. I had a wonderful experience playing the Ode to Joy from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony (you know this great tune, just Google it) on the Shandon Bells in St. Anne's Church. The Good Cork, a creation from Phil Ward in New York City, is much younger than the Shandon Bells, and it evokes fond memories of my brief time in Cork.

Good Cork1 ounce Irish whiskey
1 ounce mezcal
.5 ounces Benedictine DOM
2 dashes Peychaud's bitters

Combine in a shaker with ice, stir with stereotypical Irish liveliness, and strain into a chilled glass.

Irish whiskey and mezcal (tequila's smokier cousin)?  It works. The Renegade has a similar pairing (bourbon and mezcal) of spice and smoke, and like that drink, the Good Cork is spirit forward. The original calls for Redbreast 12, which is a fine whiskey.  I merely suggest using one of the many whiskies from the New Midleton distillery (the subject of Sine Metu), which is near Cork. Benedictine, an herbal liqueur you use in drinks such as the Racketeer and Widow's Kiss, is flexible enough so that it pulls everything together.

Looking for something unusual, tasty, and strong?  The Good Cork joyously delivers.


Oblique Cocktail Strategies -- The Another Green World

National Rum Day gives us an opportunity to think outside the cocktail box. Fellow cocktailer Michael Bounds, who brought us the Ides of March, created the Another Green World as a liquid tribute to the 1975 album from musician and producer Brian Eno.  Just as Eno used a deck of Oblique Strategies cards to get him out of creative ruts when making the album, the Another Green World will get you out of a rut when making rum drinks.

2 ounces rhum agricole Another Green World
.5 ounces Velvet Falernum
Juice from 1/4 lime
.25 ounces super simple syrup
Teaspoon of absinthe

Use the absinthe to coat the inside of a chilled glass, discard what's left (just as you would with a Sazerac or Orange Satchmo), combine the other ingredients in a shaker, shake as if that's what an Oblique Strategy card told you to do, then strain into the glass. Lime twist garnish optional.

We know rhum agricole is a style of rum, but what is Velvet Falernum?  Although it sounds like the name of another Brian Eno album, it's actually a low proof rum based liqueur from Barbados with citrus, spice, and sweet flavors (there's also a non-alcoholic syrup). You can get Velvet Falernum online if it's not in your local liquor store. It reminds me of a milder and sweeter version of allspice dram, which you use in drinks such as the Donna Maria.

The Another Green World is a remarkably well balanced cocktail.  If you don't have rhum agricole, use a dark rum but keep in mind it might be a little sweeter than rhum agricole. If you don't have Velvet Falernum you might be able to use allspice dram, but that could throw the whole drink off. Maybe I need a cocktail version of an Oblique Strategy card?

Go rum, go oblique, and go green!