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Hairless Gamblers, Bartenders, and Flowers -- The Jack Rose

Jack Rose 2What could these things have in common? They're the various origin stories surrounding the Jack Rose cocktail. None of them have anything to do with Jack Rose Dining Saloon, the fantastic bar in Washington. The metaphorically colorful story is the drink was named for Bald Jack Rose. Rose, who had alopecia universalis (no hair anywhere), was an early 20th century New York City gambler with links to organized crime and corrupt cops. The literally colorful story is the cocktail is named for the Jacqueminot rose, which is pink. Last but not least, a New Jersey bartender named Frank May, who for no apparent reason also went by the name Jack Rose, created the drink no later than 1905. Which story probably is the right one?  Keep reading.

2 ounces apple brandy or applejack (see below)
Juice from 1/4 lemon or 1/2 lime
.5 ounces glorious grenadine

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake with the energy of telling a colorful story, and strain into a chilled glass.  Lemon or lime twist optional.

Jack Rose 3
You can get an excellent Jack Rose at Jack Rose Dining Saloon, but you'll stay because of the fun people and impressive spirits collection.

If you compare apples to apples, apple brandy and applejack are very similar but not the same. Modern applejack is a blend of apple brandy and grain neutral spirits. You can use either one in the Jack Rose, as well as other tasty cocktails such as the Diamondback, the Newark, and the American Apple. Some people in the cocktail community insist a Jack Rose must have lemon juice, while others insist it must have lime juice.  My suggestion?  Use whichever one you prefer or have on hand. The glorious grenadine is the common denominator of a Jack Rose. It pulls everything together as it injects a hint of sweetness.

So which origin story do I think is correct? The one that isn't colorful -- the bartender Frank May.  Why? First, the newspaper reference to him creating it (1905) is a few years before Bald Jack Rose became infamous for his involvement in an underworld murder that exposed corruption in the New York City Police Department (1912).  Second, May plied his craft in New Jersey, where applejack has a strong history. Third, even though the gambler Jack Rose reputedly enjoyed this cocktail, I'd take odds (pun intended) a bartender created it.

It doesn't matter which story you like.  What matters is you try a delicious Jack Rose. Cheers!


A Sexy Cocktail In The City (Or Anywhere) -- The Cosmopolitan

Many people think pink drinks are weak. Wrong. This misguided notion happens with cocktails such as the Cosmopolitan. Commonly associated with the Sex and the City series on HBO in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the Cosmopolitan actually dates to the mid 1980s, and possibly the 1970s. It became ubiquitous on cocktail menus, and unfortunately too often it was a sickly sweet hot mess. A good cocktail should give you a pleasant drinking experience, not diabetes. When executed well, the Cosmopolitan is a sexy and powerful drink.

Cosmopolitan2 ounces vodka (I like Zyr)
.75 ounces triple sec (I prefer Cointreau)
Juice from 1/4 lime
.25 ounces cranberry juice
.25 ounces super simple syrup (optional, see below)

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake with the intensity of (look at the second word of this post's title and use your imagination), and strain into a chilled glass. Lime twist garnish optional.

Many versions of the Cosmopolitan call for citrus flavored vodka, but I think that's unnecessary. The Cointreau and lime juice give you all the citrus flavors you need. Cointreau is a brand of triple sec. Triple sec is a general and somewhat misleading term for orange liqueurs. Some people understandably think glorious grenadine makes the Cosmopolitan sweet and pink. The pink color comes from the tiny splash of cranberry juice. If you use unsweetened cranberry juice, I suggest adding super simple syrup unless you want a tart drink.  If you want a sweeter drink, rim the edge of the glass with sugar, add the super simple syrup even if you're using sweetened cranberry juice, or both. For the cranberry juice, less is more. Ideally the Cosmopolitan should be a lighter pink like the El Presidente.

Don't let the color fool you and have a Cosmopolitan or two. Carrie and the ladies would approve.


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?


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.


Clickbait Cocktail -- The Naked And Famous

Here's a sexy looking drink.
Here's a sexy looking drink.

Made you look!  That's what clickbait online is all about. Although Joaquin Símo at Death & Company in New York City created the cocktail, the Alley Cat Lounge in Savannah introduced me to the Naked and Famous. The name caught my eye (of course), but the ingredients sold me on it.

.75 ounces mezcal
.75 ounces yellow Chartreuse
.75 ounces Aperol
Juice from 1/2 lime

Combine everything in a shaker with ice, shake with the evanescent thrill of seeing an intriguing headline, and strain into a chilled glass (preferably a coupe).

As The Naked and Famous uses equal proportions and includes Chartreuse (there are two types -- yellow and green) and lime juice, it's a variation on the Last Word.  However, it doesn't taste like a Last Word. Mezcal, which I've described in other posts such as the Racketeer as tequila's smokier cousin, brings some heat to the drink, and the yellow Chartreuse and Aperol make it smooth.  Aperol is a widely available orange tinged amaro that really isn't bitter.  It's a component of other drinks such as the Part-Time Lover.

Unlike most clickbait, the Naked and Famous really delivers.  So cocktail click away!


Et Tu, Cocktail? -- The Ides Of March

The Ides of March refers to March 15.  That's the day Roman senators stabbed and assassinated Julius Caesar.  In the eponymous play by William Shakespeare, Caesar does not heed the soothsayer who warns him to "beware the Ides of March." Shakespeare did not create the Ides of March.  That honor goes to my fellow cocktail enthusiast Michael Bounds.

Veni, vidi, bibi (I came, I saw, I drank).
Veni, vidi, bibi (I came, I saw, I drank).

1.5 ounces bourbon
1 ounce Aperol
.75 ounces blood orange syrup (see below)
Juice from 1/8 lemon

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake with the ferocity of stabbing your mortal enemy, and strain into a chilled glass. Lemon twist garnish optional.

The Ides of March is a nice mix of American (bourbon) and Italian (Aperol). Aperol is a lighter, orange flavored, and easily accessible amaro used in other drinks such as the Part-Time Lover.  The blood orange syrup can be trickier.  There are a number of ways to make it.  I must confess that when I was in the middle of making the syrup, I forgot how Bounds made it, so I improvised.  I used the same method as I use to make glorious grenadine. If you have to use processed blood orange juice for the syrup, see how sweet it is and adjust the proportions as needed.

Unlike Brutus, who betrays Caesar (his recognition of Brutus is what sparks the line "et tu, Brute" ("and you, Brutus?")), the Ides of March will not betray your taste buds or your liver. As Brits like James Bond might say (especially amusing because he has a license to kill -- get it?), cheers!


Deceptive Drinking -- The Part-Time Lover

"Part Time-Lover" was a huge hit for the great Stevie Wonder.  Truth be told, if you're going to talk about 1980s pop songs with the word "lover" in the title, I prefer "Easy Lover" from Phil Collins and Philip Bailey (from Earth, Wind, and Fire; he also happened to sing backup on "Part-Time Lover").  Stevie Wonder didn't create this cocktail.  Instead, the Part-Time Lover is a creation from Jon Weimorts in Los Angeles.

Part-Time Lover1.5 ounces blanco tequila
.5 ounces Aperol
.5 ounces elderflower liqueur or super simple syrup
Juice from 1/2 lemon
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake with the passion of a (you can figure out the metaphor, right?), and strain into a chilled glass.  Lemon garnish optional.

Just as the catchy upbeat vibe of the song belies its sad substance, the smooth taste of the Part-Time Lover belies its strength.  The tequila provides the subtle kick beneath the bitterwsweet Aperol (a lighter, less potent amaro with an orange taste) and the sweeter elderflower liqueur, e.g. St. Germain (a key ingredient in the Flower of Normandy), or super simple syrup. Weimorts uses elderflower liqueur because it adds more flavor to the Part-Time Lover.  If you don't have or want to get that, super simple syrup does quite well.

Have a full-time fun cocktail and drink a Part-Time Lover.


Another Cure For Cancer -- The Cancer Killer #2

Cancer KillerSometimes good things come in pairs.  Earlier this year I created the Cancer Killer #1 in honor of my friend Stephanie, who defeated breast cancer last year.  As my wife noted, breasts come in pairs, so it made sense to create a second Cancer Killer cocktail.  I wanted this one to be undeniably pink so there would be another way to drink pink to save the ta-tas.

2 ounces vodka (I like Zyr or Belvedere)
1 ounce Cointreau
.5 ounces Campari
1-2 dashes orange bitters

Cancer Killer #2Combine in a shaker with ice, stir with the conviction of giving cancer the fatal one-two punch, and strain into a chilled glass.

The Cancer Killer #2 substitutes vodka and orange bitters for the rye and Angostura bitters in the Cancer Killer #1.  Some people don't like rye or brown liquors in general, but chances are they will drink a cocktail with a vodka base.  Also, it's pretty much impossible to have a pink cocktail with a rye base.  That's not a problem with the Cancer Killer #2, as the bold red of Campari blends nicely with the clear vodka and Cointreau.

A word of caution -- be careful with the bitters. The first time I made the Cancer Killer #2 I used Regan's, which is quite strong and came close to overpowering the drink.  My suggestion is if you have strong bitters use one dash, and if you have something a little sweeter, e.g. Angostura orange bitters, use two dashes.

Want to cure cancer?  Have the Cancer Killer #1, the Cancer Killer #2, or both.  My friend Stephanie and others like her thank you.


Hail to the Cocktail Chief -- The El Presidente

El Presidente 1Even though the U.S. Presidential election is 11 months away (don't you wish the campaign was over now?), there's never a bad time to have this liquid tribute to a commander in chief. 

The El Presidente comes from Cuba.  An American bartender in Havana created it during Prohibition in honor of the Cuban president at the time (obviously this occurred well before Fidel Castro took over).  In terms of its genesis, the El Presidente is like the Daiquiri, which a different American created in Cuba. In addition, both cocktails share the same base spirit, but the similarities end there.

El Presidente 21.5 ounces light rum (Cuban if you have it)
.75 ounces dry vermouth
.75 ounces Cointreau
1 dash of glorious grenadine

Combine in a shaker with ice, stir with the pomp and circumstance of a state dinner, and strain into a chilled glass.  Orange peel garnish optional.

Technically this recipe is for the El Presidente #2.  Originally it consisted of equal parts light rum and a particular vermouth, but the recipe evolved over time.  If the cocktail is too sweet for you, add more vermouth and/or cut back on the Cointreau.  In comparison, the El Presidente #1, which pertains to a prior Cuban president, essentially is a Manhattan that substitutes dark rum for bourbon or rye.  Thankfully, neither version of the El Presidente has any connection to the Dominican beer with the same name.

Now that you have the proper cocktail, raise your glass and toast your favorite President!


Bliss In A Glass -- The Tranquilo

This is what George Costanza from Seinfeld meant when he insisted on having "Serenity now!"
This is what George Costanza from Seinfeld meant when he emphatically insisted on having "Serenity now!"  Of course, he didn't get what he wanted.

Want to relax?  Take the edge off?  Has someone told you to "chill the (rhymes with duck) out" and you know they're right?

When (not if) you answer yes to any of these questions, have a Tranquilo.  I adapted this from a cocktail at the Sanctuary Cap Cana resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, which is the site of many blissful moments for me and my far better half. 

2.25 ounces light rum
Juice from 1/4 lime
.75 ounces glorious grenadine

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake with the rhythm of rolling waves hitting the beach at sunset, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

The Tranquilo is a simple cocktail, so I guess in this instance simplicity equals serenity. You can use a gold or dark rum instead of light rum. Regardless of the rum you use, psychologically speaking the Tranquilo will get you to where you want to go.  Isn't that the point of cocktails?