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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.


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.


A Field Guide To Bad Cocktails

Do you want to avoid bad cocktails?  Of course you do.  David Wondrich, a preeminent cocktail authority of our time, recently published this article in the Daily Beast.  It's entertaining, informative, and occasionally self deprecating.  As a self styled "professional amateur" home bartender, it's good to know people with far more cocktail knowledge and sophistication than I have, e.g. David Wondrich (the author of Imbibe and other works), occasionally make colossal mistakes.  It's sort of like watching a Gold Glove award winner in baseball boot an easy ground ball.

Field GuideI heartily agree with Wondrich's classification of bad cocktails as either strategically bad or tactically bad.  With the former the idea is a disaster, with the latter the idea is solid but the execution is a disaster. It happens to everyone.  I am no exception.  For example, the first time I made the Cancer Killer #2, I used too many orange bitters and damn near took out multiple people (my apologies to Ms. Cocktail Den, as well as my friends Ilan and Stephanie).  After some tinkering a tactically bad cocktail became a good cocktail. 

Let me paraphrase the advice I give to newer attorneys (I'm an attorney) -- It's not a question of if you will screw up a cocktail.  The questions are when you will screw up, how badly you will screw up (it will make for a great story later), and most importantly, how you recover.  Just keep on cocktailing!


A Whiskey Closer -- The Final Rye

Closing is important in things such as real estate (remember "ABC" from the play and film Glengarry Glen Ross -- always be closing) and baseball (relief pitchers can make or break a game).  The same goes for cocktails.  The Final Rye is a variation on the classic alcohol forward Last Word.  Thanks to Edgar's Proof & Provision in the DeSoto Hotel in Savannah, Georgia for introducing me to this drink.

Final Rye.75 ounces rye
.75 ounces green Chartreuse
.75 ounces Luxardo maraschino liqueur
Juice from 1/2 lime

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake with the icy ferocity of Alec Baldwin in the movie version of Glengarry Glen Ross, and strain into a chilled glass.  Lime garnish optional.

The Final Rye simply substitutes rye for the gin in the Last Word.  The other ingredients and proportions are the same.  This drink is very good, and it's perfect if you have a visceral aversion to gin (I encourage you to try the original anyway).  Either one is a great combination of strength, sharpness, and sweetness.

So whether you plan to shut 'em out or seal the deal, the Final Rye is for you.


A Smashing Success With Booze -- The Intense Smashed Julep

It's the time of year when many Americans briefly focus on horse racing.  And what cocktail is associated with the Kentucky Derby, the most famous race?  That's right -- the Mint Julep.  There's certainly nothing wrong with having a Mint Julep or two, but winners don't always stay with the pack. Break from the pack and try an Intense Smashed Julep.  

Intense Smashed Julep2 ounces bourbon
1 ounce Barrow's Intense ginger liqueur
1/4 lime cut into small pieces
4-5 mint leaves

Muddle the mint and lime at the bottom of the shaker, add ice and the other ingredients, shake like you're thundering down the homestretch, and strain into a glass filled with crushed ice.  Mint garnish optional.

There's no super simple syrup in the Intense Smashed Julep.  The Barrow's Intense (disclosure -- I am a very small investor) brings some sweetness and a noticeable ginger taste to the drink.  The Intense Smashed Julep is a mashup (smashup?) of the traditional Mint Julep, the Whiskey Smash, and the Intense Ginger Mint Julep.  If it isn't sweet enough for you, go ahead and add a little super simple syrup.       

Describing a cocktail as a smashed julep is sort of redundant.  Technically speaking a smash is a class of cocktails and a julep (the word derives from an old Persian word for rose water) is a subset of a smash.  As I understand it, a julep contains a spirit, sweetener, herb, and ice, and a smash contains all of those things and fruit.  In other words, all smashes are juleps, but not all juleps are smashes.  

But enough of this horsing around with cocktail semantics.  Have fun, get Intense, and get smashed. 


Bombs Away -- The Brown Bomber

Brown bomber 1The drink is not explosive or dangerous, unless you have too many of them.  It is a tribute to Joe Louis, the late American heavyweight boxer.  Known as the Brown Bomber, Louis was the reigning champion for 140 consecutive months in the 1930s and 1940s, and he had 23 knockouts in 27 title fights.  Talk about staggering numbers (literally, if you were in the ring with him).  Jim Meehan at PDT in New York City created the Brown Bomber, and this is my variation on the recipe on the Whiskey Writes website.

2 ounces bourbon
.75 ounces dry vermouth
.5 ounces Averna or Campari

Brown Bomber 2Combine in a shaker with ice, stir with the deliberate force of a boxer dismantling their opponent, and strain into a coupe glass.  Garnish with lemon twist.

Most versions of the Brown Bomber call for bourbon or rye, Lillet Blanc (a French aperitif), and Suze (a Swiss gentian root liqueur).  I substituted dry vermouth for the Lillet Blanc, and Averna or Campari for the Suze, because I prefer those liquors.  If you use Campari instead of Averna, the resulting cocktail will be more bitter.

The Brown Bomber isn't far removed from a Boulevardier in that both cocktails have a whiskey base, include vermouth, and contain an amaro such as Campari.   Similarly, the combination of whiskey and dry vermouth is reminiscent of a Scofflaw, so if you like one you'll probably like the other.

If you want a boxing relating drink that's sweeter but just as strong, try my pugilecello.  The Brown Bomber isn't sweet. But like its namesake, it is powerful and classy.


A Drink For A Stud -- The Man O' War

Man_o'_War_statueThat's stud as in a horse, not as in a man.  Man o' War was one of the greatest horses in American racing history. Before he was put out to stud, Man o' War captured the public's attention as he won 20 races .... out of 21.  That's one hell of a winning percentage. This month is National Bourbon Month, so this bourbon based cocktail is timely.

2 ounces bourbon
1 ounce Cointreau
.5 ounces sweet vermouth (I like Carpano Antica)
Juice from 1/4 lemon

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake with the dominating power of Man o' War thundering down the stretch in one of his many victories in 1919 and 1920, and strain into a chilled glass.

Man o' WarIn honor of Man o' War I recommend you use bourbon from Kentucky, which was his home and is the epicenter of American horse racing.  Even though bourbon doesn't have to be from Kentucky (see this post about American Exceptionalism in alcohol), it would be appropriate in this instance.

There are other cocktails in the Den with ties to horse racing, e.g. the Mint Julep and the Derby.  The Derby is highly similar to the Man o' War, except the former uses lime juice and the latter uses lemon juice. Incidentally, the original Man o' War  recipe generically calls for orange curacao or triple sec.  Cointreau is a personal favorite.  Use whatever orange liqueur you prefer, just keep in mind that the resulting cocktail could be really sweet.

So whether you're a stud, you think you're a stud, or you admire a stud, have a Man o' War!


Hats And Horse Races -- The Derby

Want a well balanced drink that pretty much goes with everything?  Meet the Derby.  It has nothing to do with the hat (also known as a bowler), the city in England, or the type of horse race, the most famous of which is in Kentucky.  Like the Mint Julep, the cocktail associated with the Kentucky Derby, the Derby has bourbon as its base spirit. 

Derby1.5 ounces bourbon
.75 ounces Cointreau or Grand Marnier
.75 ounces sweet vermouth
Juice from 1/4 lime

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake as if you're off to the races, and strain into a chilled glass.  Lime garnish optional.

There are a number of versions of the Derby.  I like this one because it's simultaneously a little strong, a little sweet, and a little tart.  It is deceptively powerful.  The Derby won't smack you in the face when you taste it, but a couple of them might smack your liver.

Show your appreciation of a fine cocktail, and tip your hat to the Derby.


For Kings (County) and Dem Bums -- The Brooklyn

This borough of New York City lives in the shadow of Manhattan, both in the world of cocktails and in popular consciousness.  In terms of physical size and population, Brooklyn is actually larger than Manhattan.  Like the borough for which it is named, there's a lot going on in the Brooklyn cocktail.

2014-07-12_08-18-17_975 B Bridge2 ounces rye
1 ounce dry vermouth
.25 ounces Luxardo maraschino liqueur
3 dashes orange bitters

Combine in a shaker with ice, stir with the intensity that you'd have if you perpetually lived in someone else's shadow, and strain into a chilled glass.

Why kings and Dem Bums?  Brooklyn is Kings County.  Dem Bums is a moniker that referred to the Brooklyn Dodgers baseball team, which moved to Los Angeles in 1957.  Some people who grew up in Brooklyn, e.g. my father in law, still despise the move.  The etymology of the name comes from Brooklyn pedestrians' ability to evade trolley streetcars -- the Trolley Dodgers. 

Over the years there have been many variations of the Brooklyn.  I selected this one because I like rye and it's easy to obtain the ingredients.  Have enough Brooklyns,  and I can sell you the Brooklyn Bridge.


Good Things Come In Threes -- The Triple Orange

Inspiration can strike at any time.  This citrusy epiphany came one night as I stared at the lineup of homemade liqueurs in my refrigerator.  The number three is important in American society, e.g. three branches of government, the Triple Crown in baseball and horse racing, etc., so I decided to see what I could do with three ingredients of the same flavor.  And voila -- the Triple Orange.

Triple Orange2.25 ounces vodka
.75 ounces Lupo arancello (orange liqueur)
Juice from 1/4 orange
2 dashes orange bitters

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake with the excitement of winning the Triple Crown (like you're Miguel Cabrera or American Pharoah's owner), and strain into a chilled glass.  Orange peel garnish optional.

You make Lupo arancello just as you would make Lupo limoncello, but you use oranges instead of lemons. If you can't wait to make a batch of arancello, use Cointreau or something similar as a substitute.  However, as arancello is sweeter (half of it is super simple syrup) if you use a substitute you may want to scale back on the juice and/or bitters, or add some super simple syrup.

Plan to have three Triple Oranges?  To paraphrase the old Doublemint gum commercial, you'll have triple the fun.  And probably triple vision and triple the hangover.