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!


Tales Of Evolution

You say you want an evolution? Well, you know. We all want to change the cocktail world. That's not exactly what the Beatles sang in 1968, but a similar sentiment from John, Paul, Ringo, and George could apply to the Tales of the Cocktail 2018 conference Ms. Cocktail Den and I recently attended. After some public turbulence and a change in ownership, there was curiosity in the cocktail community about what would happen. For those who never have been to Tales, for those who've been in the past, and for those who were with us thus year, here's our take on the evolution of Tales.

TalesoftheCocktailFairmontBut first, let me give you some personal background. In a way, Ms. Cocktail Den and I went to Tales before Tales. Many, many years ago we participated in a great Southern Comfort sponsored cocktail walking tour of New Orleans (among other places, it stopped at Antoine's, our favorite restaurant in the city and the source of the Antoine's Smile). Tours such as that and like minded industry professionals and cocktail enthusiasts eventually formed the base of Tales of the Cocktail.

New Orleans is a city that's big on tradition, so let's start with traditions that carried over from the old Tales to the revamped Tales.  First and foremost, the friendliness (pardon the alliteration).  One of the many wonders of Tales is we get to see friends we've made at previous Tales in New Orleans, e.g. Josh Morton and Danielle Hengge, friends from Tales on Tour, e.g. Michele Colomb and Erik Puryear, and new friends, e.g. Nicole Torres-Cooke, who we'd been following online for awhile. You never know who you might meet. For example, we went to a Disaronno event featuring Simon Difford, the founder of Difford's Guide. I use this website a lot when researching cocktails, and it's a great resource. We went to introduce ourselves to Simon, and what we figured at most would be a 60 second introduction turned into a fascinating 30 minute private conversation.

This ties into the second carryover from the old Tales -- the knowledge sharing. Simon gave us his insightful input about how we could continue to pursue our cocktail passion. Ms. Cocktail Den and I have learned a lot of from people over the years at Tales, and this year was no exception. Whether it was new spirits, new recipes, or new techniques, there's a lot you can takeaway so you and your cocktails can evolve.

There were two big differences between the old and new Tales, one physical and one psychological. The physical one is there were noticeably fewer people in attendance. That wasn't a surprise, as I suspect a lot of people stayed on the sidelines.  From my perspective the smaller turnout was a good thing. Maybe it's because I generally don't like large crowds, but this year Tales felt less overwhelming and chaotic than in years past.  At previous Tales there seemed to be a collective frenzy based on FOMO (fear of missing out; I'm not hip enough to use the acronym, but I don't care), which led to clusters of people running around the Quarter and the city without stopping to savor the moment. It was sort of a cocktail version of people who jostle to get a photo, and they end up looking without seeing (there is a huge difference between the two).

A perfect example of a non-manic event was the cell phone free Spirited Dinner we attended. Hosted by Jonathan Pogash and Pamela Wiznitzer, the event focused on conversations and connections without the distraction of modern technology. Ms. Cocktail Den and I were pleased to see this Tales did not have episodes of that collective mania. Neither of us cared for what appeared to be a deliberately and overly packed schedule on one or two days, but like everyone else we adjusted and had fun anyway.

TalesoftheCocktail2018WGSPartyThe psychological difference was that this year's conference seemed to have an increased emphasis on topics other than the spirits and drinks themselves. This aligns with what we've seen and heard since the change in ownership and to become a foundation. In fact, the most pronounced example of a non-booze emphasis was the William Grant & Sons party, which was alcohol free.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Personally I enjoyed the venue (Mardi Gras World) more than the actual party (which Ms. Cocktail Den really enjoyed), but I applaud William Grant & Sons for its bold move.  Don't get me wrong, the spirits definitely were still at Tales in full force. We did plenty of sampling and learning.

Our coverage this year focused on the tasting rooms and private events. Of course, there were plenty of seminars at the conference. In addition to traditional seminars focusing on spirits and history, many of this year's seminars focused on being better, whether as an industry professional, home bartender, or cocktail enthusiast. They included useful, practical topics such as the Beyond the Bar program (helping industry professionals take better care of themselves) and the Green Dot program (de-escalating difficult situations). Creating and serving cocktails can be tougher than you think, and if seminars like these help people evolve both personally and professionally, we're all for it.

Want to see more of our Tales of the Cocktail experience? Check out our Facebook page for our photos:

So what's in store for next year?  We'll find out together.  In the mean time, keep on cocktailing!


Pour Some Sugar Cane On Me -- Rum, Rhum Agricole, and Cachaça

The Def Leppard song "Pour Some Sugar On Me" is an iconic rock anthem from the 1980s, and it's one of my favorite tunes from the group. The song has nothing to do with sugar or sugar cane, but three spirits are derived from sugar cane -- rum, rhum agricole, and cachaça.  You've definitely heard of the first one, you probably haven't heard of the second one, and you might have heard of the third one.  If you're familiar with all three, then congrats.

Rum  rum agricole  cachacaSo if all of these spirits come from sugar cane, what are the differences? And why should you care? This short article from Tara Nurin at Vinepair has an excellent summary. Let me distill (pun intended) the technical stuff down to the basics. Rum comes from fermented sugar cane juice or molasses, which is a byproduct of the refining process. Rhum agricole only comes from pressed sugar cane juice that is not fermented. Cachaça is a cross between the two, as it must be fermented (like rum) but only can come from sugar cane juice and not molasses (like rum agricole). Rum can come from anywhere (not just the Caribbean), rhum agricole is associated with French Caribbean territories (agricole means agricultural in French, and that's why it uses the French spelling of rhum), and cachaça is the national spirit of Brazil.

Rum in and of itself is a big category, so I encourage you to explore different brands and ages. When you read descriptions of rhum agricole and cachaça, you'll probably see words like earthier, vegetal, and funkier (George Clinton or Prince would approve -- get it?). Those are pretty accurate.  The bottom line is you can have a lot of fun experimenting with these related spirits in your cocktails.  

With apologies to the guys from Def Leppard -- step inside, cocktail this way, you and me (sugar) cane, hey hey!


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.


Lively, Strong, And Pink -- The Scandinavian Suntan

Scandinavian Suntan 1After spending a few days in Copenhagen, Oslo, and Stockholm, I got a pleasant surprise -- a suntan.  Ok, I really turned more of a darker shade of pale, but for me that's a suntan. Just as the unusually sunny weather in those cities gave my skin a pinkish color, trying aquavit in its native countries gave my taste buds some fun.  The Scandinavian Suntan evokes memories of the fun Ms. Cocktail Den and I had during our journey. It is inspired by a drink I had at Ruby bar in Copenhagen.

1.5 ounces aquavit
1 ounce Campari
.5 ounces super simple syrup
Juice from 1/8 grapefruit

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake with the joy of a Scandinavian who's able to experience almost constant daylight during the summer, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Orange peel garnish optional.

Nyhaven district in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Nyhavn district in Copenhagen, Denmark.

 As aquavit is a quintessential Scandinavian spirit, it had to be the base of this drink. It literally means the "water of life," and the Scandinavian Suntan is a lively cocktail.  If you want a true pink color that resembles my idea of a suntan, use clear aquavit; I used Aalborg Taffel in the pictured drink.  Campari, a widely available Italian amaro, isn't from Scandinavia, but its sharp citrus flavors complement the aquavit nicely. While in Copenhagen I noticed the Danes seem to love all things Italian, so it actually makes sense to use Campari in the drink.

The combination of aquavit and Campari makes the Scandinavian Suntan undeniably pink, and the fresh grapefruit juice enhances the color and flavor. Don't let the color fool you.  The Scandinavian Suntan is a pretty strong drink, but the super simple syrup keeps it from knocking you into the Baltic Sea (metaphorically speaking, I swear).

So who's up for some liquid fun from the Scandinavian sun?


Aqua What? -- Aquavit

AquavitAquavit isn't some fancy new flavored water. Derived from the Latin for "water of life" (just like whiskey means "water of life" in Gaelic), aquavit is a Scandinavian liquor that's becoming increasingly popular outside of Northern Europe, both on its own and in cocktails. Like vodka, aquavit is distilled from either grain or potato and then, like gin, it is flavored with spices and botanicals.  So what distinguishes aquavit?  Under European Union regulations, the predominant spice in aquavit has to be caraway or dill, and it must be at least 75 proof.  Do you like rye bread?  If you do (like me and Ms. Cocktail Den), you'll probably like aquavit.

Almost all aquavit currently on the market comes out of the Scandinavian countries -- Denmark, Sweden, and Norway.  There are some general national differences in aquavit styles.  Denmark and Sweden typically distill from grains, while Norway typically distills from potatoes. Aquavit can be relatively unaged and clear, e.g. Aalborg from Denmark, or aged and darker, e.g. Linie from Norway. As with other spirits such as rum and tequila, aging aquavit changes the flavor. Traditionally one drinks aquavit on its own. I had the opportunity to try different types when I was in Denmark and Sweden.  I enjoyed a couple of types of chilled  aquavit, and I found it goes great with herring (if you think that sounds disgusting, Ms. Cocktail Den agrees with you).

So why you should care about aquavit? Because it's a fascinating substitute for vodka, gin, and even whiskey in various cocktails.  Depending on your perspective, to some extent aquavit (also spelled akavit) is like vodka or gin that's flavored with caraway or dill. Try switching aquavit in for another spirit and see what happens. Sköl!


Tales Of Winning A Marathon, Not A Sprint

"It's a marathon, not a sprint" is sage advice you'll hear from Tales of the Cocktail conference veterans.  Ms. Cocktail Den and I heard it in 2014 when we first went to New Orleans for Tales.  Early that year we dealt with a serious health issue (which fortunately resolved) and the death of our long time cat (the basis of the Mooch, my first original creation). Those events helped us decide to go to Tales. We're so glad we did.  We met so many talented, cool, and friendly people (there were many, but I'll go ahead and name check Lauren Mote and Josh Morton) and had such a great experience it inspired us to create the Wulf Cocktail Den.

Tales of WinningBack to the "marathon, not a sprint" advice.  What does it really mean? Pace yourself while you have fun.  You will have a lot of fun because of the people at Tales and the wonderfully unique city of New Orleans.  Of course, New Orleans is not known for moderation.  Tales veterans know a little moderation makes your time at Tales a lot more fun, but a lack of moderation can be a problem. Here's a hilariously horrifying example -- one afternoon in 2016 we saw a Tales attendee (we knew because he had the right wristband) passed out in front of the Royal Sonesta Hotel on Bourbon Street.  Not the lobby of the hotel, where he probably was a guest.  Not the hotel entryway.  Not the sidewalk.  On Bourbon Street itself. I hope the poor guy showered with bleach and burned his clothes.

Whether you're a Tales virgin, a Tales veteran, or someone who simply likes cocktails (and you probably are if you're reading this), you may enjoy these other suggestions for attending Tales:

1.  Rehydrate as you dehydrate. Even if you only have a sip or two of the drinks (I definitely recommend you do not drink everything unless you have a disturbingly weird desire to end up like Mr. Bourbon Street), it'll add up quicker than you think.  Combine that with the torrid (not in a good way) heat of New Orleans, and you can become dehydrated quickly. You don't want to end up like Pheidipiddes, the original marathoner (spoiler alert -- he died).  However, if you steadily drink water throughout the day, you'll be like the Energizer Bunny.  Who would you rather be?

2.  It's about the people, people.   You know how most people normally bond over alcohol?  That effect is exponentially larger at Tales. You may remember the drinks, the music, or the atmosphere, but it'll be the people who will resonate with you.

3.  Try and try again. Ask questions and go to seminars because you will learn all sorts of things.  Tales is where Ms. Cocktail Den and I learned we really don't hate all gin. Similarly, there were some concoctions new to us that looked disgusting when we read them but tasted great. I know I'm going to sound like a stereotypical parent trying to get their kid to eat food, but I don't care ... if you don't try something, how do you know if you like it or not?

4.  Expand your New Orleans horizons. We like New Orleans so much we named Mooch's successor Satchmo (featured in the Orange Satchmo and Hurricane posts). New Orleans is a city with its own traditions and rhythms, and it's fine if you have your own traditions and rhythms when you're there.  For example, whenever Ms. Cocktail Den and I go to New Orleans we always have dinner at Antoine's (pictured in the Vieux Carre post and the source of the Antoine's Smile).  However, we always try to see or do something different when we're in town.  This has led to some memorable experiences such as visiting the National World War II Museum, or listening to Linnzi Zaorski at a club in the Marigny.

Are you looking to learn more about cocktails? Thirsty for a drink?  Ready to go to Tales?  Then, ahem, pardon my French -- laissez les bon temps roulé!


Bloody Refreshing -- The Sanguinella

Sanguinella Sanguine is an odd word in the English language.  Even though it derives from the Latin word for "blood," it means positive or confident.  The Sanguinella is the brainchild of the Villa Massa distillery.  The Sanguinella is not far removed from the Italian Sunrise, one of my first original creations, and I slightly adapted the original recipe.

1 ounce Lupo limoncello
1 ounce Campari
.75 ounces super simple syrup
Juice from 1/8 lemon
Juice from 1/4 orange

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake with confidence, and strain into a chilled glass.  Lemon or orange garnish optional.

The original Sanguinella calls for much more citrus juice. However, I didn't want the acidity of the lemon and orange juices to dominate the drink.  The Lupo limoncello and Campari already bring those flavors to this refreshing liquid party, so I cut back on the juices.  Speaking of parties, I suspect the Sanguinella would be a very good drink to serve at them, especially in warm weather.

Have a Sanguinella, and have a bloody good time.


My Long Lost Scottish Family -- Kin

Kin 3Even though I don't actually have any Scottish blood in my family, I feel like I do after going to Kin in Edinburgh.  Ms. Cocktail Den and I went to Kin twice during Tales on Tour. The bar's motto (arrive as friends -- leave as family) is very appropriate. Jody Buchan and Sam Baxendale really do make you feel like kin at this easy to miss but definitely want to visit bar.  

Our first time at Kin was on an off night, so we pretty much had the place to ourselves and were able to have a great conversation with Sam and Jody. These guys know they're doing. Regardless of your level of cocktail knowledge, they will make you feel right at home.

Kin 2What the cocktail menu lacks in breadth, it more than makes up for in unusual (in a good way) creativity and great tasting drinks. Also, Jody and Sam are more than happy to go off menu. I put my liver in their hands, and they rewarded my trust.  Jody made something for me that tasted like a joyful marriage of amari. That was followed by tastes of some fine 20 year old Plantation rum and Smokey Monkey Scotch from Monkey Shoulder.

The next time we went to Kin was for a Tales on Tour takeover event.  It was an odd juxtaposition -- New Orleans blues music and Southern Comfort based drinks in a basement bar in Edinburgh. While we had fun, I preferred the relaxed atmosphere and camaraderie of our first time there. Kin is quite small, so it doesn't take a lot of people and a high volume of music to come perilously close to overwhelming the place. Perhaps it's my preference for meeting and speaking with bartenders, but I'm really glad we went to Kin when it was calmer.

Sometimes you want to avoid family. Kin is family you'll like.