Travel Feed

Sultry And Powerful -- The Chatham Artillery Punch

Imagine a sultry weekend in Savannah, Georgia, home of great bars such as Alley Cat Lounge and the fascinating American Prohibition Museum. In the summer of 1995 Ms. Cocktail Den and I discovered Chatham Artillery Punch, a flavorful and complex libation. Legend has it a local artillery unit (Savannah is in Chatham County) created it during the Revolutionary War. It's a great story. It's not true. Research from eminent cocktail historian David Wondrich indicates it was created in the 1850s and became more popular later that century.

Chatham Artillery Punch.75 ounces brandy
.75 ounces dark rum
.75 ounces bourbon
.5 ounces super simple syrup
.25 ounces lemon juice (1/8 lemon)
.25 ounces sweet tea vodka
.25 ounces red wine
Sparkling wine

Combine everything except the sparkling wine in a shaker with ice, shake with explosive force, strain into a chilled glass, and top with sparkling wine.

Yes, there are a lot of ingredients in the Chatham Artillery Punch, more than every other cocktail in the Den. The result is worth the effort. For the red wine, you can use whatever varietal you prefer, or a fortified wine such as madeira or port. You can make a simpler version of the Chatham Artillery Punch if you forego the sweet tea vodka and red wine, but then you lose the main flavors of the original concoction. This cocktail gives the word "punch" a double entendre. Originally created in mass quantities, this punch packs quite a punch. It's more potent than the Brown Bomber (the cocktail but not the late boxing champion for whom it was named).

Are you tough enough to take a Chatham Artillery Punch or two?


Parisian Grandeur -- The Champs Élysées

Running from the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde, the Champs-Élysées in Paris is one of the most famous streets in the world.  To call it a street is an understatement. Having walked its length, I can tell you it really is a magnificent avenue. It's not clear who created the Champs Élysées cocktail and when they did it, but in 1930 Harry Craddock mentioned it in his Savoy Cocktail Book.

Champs Elysees1.5 ounces cognac
.5 ounces Chartreuse
.5 ounces super simple syrup
Juice from 1/4 lemon
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake with joie de vivre, and strain into a chilled glass.  Lemon peel garnish optional.

The Champs Élysées is similar to the Sidecar, another concoction Paris launched into the cocktail world. Even though most brandy is torched Dutch grapes, given this is a French drink use cognac if possible. Try to use one that is classified VSOP or XO (see Side Notes to the Sidecar). Craddock didn't specify whether to use green Chartreuse, used in drinks such as the Final Rye, or yellow Chartreuse, used in drinks such as the Diamondback. Which one you use depends on how relatively sweet you want the Champs Élysées to be.  Yellow is slightly sweeter than green. Make no mistake -- just like the actual Champs-Élysées, both versions make a wonderful impression.

Whether you've been to Paris or not, the Champs Élysées cocktail evokes its splendor and beauty. À votre santé (that's French for cheers)!


Tales of La Isla Del Encanto, Part Two

Puerto Rico.  Nicknamed "La Isla del Encanto" ("the island of enchantment" in Spanish), this American island is home to generous people, stunning beaches, and the iconic Pina Colada.  Earlier this year Ms. Cocktail Den and I went to San Juan and attended the Tales on Tour cocktail conference; read about it in Tales of La Isla del Encanto, Part One.

TOTCPR4
El Batey is a really good dive bar in Old San Juan.

You can't attend a cocktail conference without going to bars. When we went to the Tales on Tour conference in Edinburgh in 2018 we went to bars such as Panda & Sons and Kin. This journey to San Juan was no exception. I noticed a theme during the conference -- all roads lead to La Factoria in old San Juan.  If you ever saw the video for the song Despacito by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee (the song was everywhere in 2017), the bar scenes were filmed in La Factoria. To describe this award winning establishment as a bar is a bit misleading. La Factoria actually is a group of interconnected themed bars in a multi-level structure. Most of the individual bar spaces are not large, but you can cover a lot of cocktail real estate going through them all. I'm embarrassed to admit neither Ms. Cocktail Den nor I got a good photo of the bars inside La Factoria because we were taking drink photos and meeting people. During the conference we went there a handful of times, and we liked it so much we went there after the conference ended. The bartenders are friendly, humble, and create great drinks (gracias Celso M. among others). And the drinks .... let me put it to you this way.  My mouth still waters when I think of the Pina Coladas I had there. How do you say "Pavlovian response" in Spanish?

TOTCPR5
You don't have to look glamorous to have a drink at the glamorous Chandelier Bar.

Depending on your mood and preferences, San Juan has a bar for you. Looking for a really good dive bar (by really good I mean fun, completely unpretentious, and not disgusting)? El Batey is the place.  You know it's really good if a lot of local industry people go there. Looking for a place with gorgeous decor where you can sit at the bar wearing an aloha shirt and bathing suit (as I did)? Check out the Chandelier Bar at the El San Juan Hotel. Want a little bit of tropical serenity and class in Old San Juan? Try the Cannon Club. If you're in the dynamic La Placita area (although the word "dynamic" is sort of an understatement), go to Jungle Bird, which has no relation to the tasty tiki cocktail of the same name. If you're wandering around in Old San Juan, and you really should, stop in and have a round or two at Aqui se Puede and La Republica.  Old San Juan is compact enough that the bars are all within staggering distance of each other. Literally. Or so I've heard. If you end up cocktailing a little less than responsibly, fortunately you can pray to Santa Uber.

To paraphrase a line from Come Fly With Me, a great Frank Sinatra song -- if you could use some exotic (or not so exotic) booze, there's a bar or two in not so far San Juan.


A Puerto Rican Beauty -- The Pina Colada

Pina Colada -- 2019 (1)The Pina Colada is the premier cocktail of Puerto Rico. It evokes fond memories of a trip Ms. Cocktail Den and I took to this American island for a Tales on Tour conference. Meaning "strained pineapple," the modern Pina Colada came about in San Juan either in the early 1950s or early 1960s.  Regardless of who created the Pina Colada and when they created it, like the Margarita or the Daiquiri, it is a wonderful and simple drink that's easy to make.

1.25 ounces light rum (I prefer Don Q Cristal)
1.25 ounces fresh pineapple juice
1 ounce cream of coconut

Combine in a shaker or blender with ice, shake or blend with the energy of the La Placita area in San Juan (when we were there, the place was rockin' on a Sunday night), and strain into a chilled glass. Pineapple wedge garnish optional.

Pina Colada -- 2019 (2)
Condado Beach, San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Use Puerto Rican rum if you can. Bacardi is the most famous. Don Q's profile is increasing, and my informal survey indicated it is the rum most Puerto Ricans prefer. For the pineapple juice, fresh is key. Cream of coconut, which is not hard to find, is not the same as coconut milk. Although both come from shredded coconut, cream of coconut has less water and is sweeter. If you have to use coconut milk, make sure it is sweetened. Some variations of the Pina Colada add lime juice into the mix.  This makes the cocktail vaguely reminiscent of a Cuban drink with the same name in the 1920s.  However, that Pina Colada didn't contain coconut, so it essentially was a pineapple Daiquiri.

Like the resurgence of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, I like to think the Pina Colada is making a comeback. Pina Colada se levanta.


Tales of La Isla Del Encanto, Part One

TOTCPR1
Paseo de las Sombrillas, Calle Fortaleza, San Juan

"La Isla del Encanto" (Spanish for "the island of enchantment") is a nickname for Puerto Rico. Earlier this year Ms. Cocktail Den and I had the opportunity to spend time in San Juan, the capital of this American island. I mention this because many people are not aware that Puerto Rico is part of the United States and its people are American citizens. I suspect this lack of awareness is because Puerto Rico is not a state and the vast majority of its people speak Spanish as their primary language.

So why were we in San Juan?  Three words -- Tales on Tour. This is the international and smaller scale version of the Tales of the Cocktail conference that takes place in New Orleans every summer.  In 2018 Ms. Cocktail Den and I attended Tales on Tour in Edinburgh.  We had many wonderful experiences there, so when we learned this year's Tales on Tour would be in San Juan, we jumped at the chance to attend.

I know what you might be thinking ... if Tales on Tour is an international conference, why was it in a different part of the the United States? There is a certain kinship between the cities of New Orleans and San Juan.  It is a kinship borne of tragic circumstance. Hurricanes smashed both of them (Katrina in 2005, Maria in 2017) and forced them to rebuild and rejuvenate. There definitely was an emotional connection between the organizers of Tales on Tour, the attendees, and the citizens of San Juan.  You could see it in eyes and hear it in voices. For me and Ms. Cocktail Den, although neither hurricane affected us personally, that connection made this Tales on Tour even more rewarding.

Tales on Tour isn't just about drinking and bars, although there's certainly plenty of both (I will talk about San Juan bars in Tales of La Isla Del Encanto, Part Two).  First and foremost it is about the people.  This Tales was no exception.  Ms. Cocktail Den and I got to see old friends and make new ones. This Tales on Tour gave us many wonderful experiences involving other people.  I will share a few examples.

TOTCPR2
"Life is about creating beautiful moments" -- Roberto Serralles

One nice aspect of Tales on Tour is that because fewer people are there, you're more likely to have meaningful interactions with people in the cocktail community. For example, one morning after the welcome toast I introduced myself to Roberto Serrallés, a scion of the family behind Don Q rum. I told him how a Puerto Rican co-worker of mine enthusiastically recommended Don Q rum to me (ironically, she doesn't drink).  Later in the conference, Serrallés was part of a panel on a really interesting presentation at the lovely Hotel El Convento about the past, present, and future of rum. That night Ms. Cocktail Den and I ran into him at an event. Amidst a tightly packed crowd dancing to upbeat music that pulsed through their collective veins, we thanked him for his presentation and told him how much we enjoyed one rum in the Don Q portfolio that isn't yet in our local market. Serrallés could have brushed us off. He didn't.  His eyes lit up as he told us to wait two minutes and find some glasses. After disappearing into a sea of tipsy humanity, two minutes minutes later he reappeared, a bottle in hand.  His toast -- "life is about creating beautiful moments." While the moment may have been fleeting for Serrallés, it was a beautiful moment, one Ms. Cocktail Den and I will remember.

A new feature at this year's Tales on Tour was the Day of Service.  Optional for attendees and mandatory for media such as me and Ms. Cocktail Den, the idea behind the Day of Service was to get people out of the relative confines of the conference and into the larger community. It was an excellent idea. Projects included cleaning beaches, planting gardens, or rebuilding houses. Even though my idea of a power tool is a blender (I must give my father-in-law credit for that hilarious and accurate line), Ms. Cocktail Den and I ended up helping rebuild a house in Loiza. In addition to a couple of Puerto Ricans, our crew consisted of people from Pittsburgh, Miami, and the two of us from Northern Virginia. Instead of bonding over booze (pun intended for you whisk(e)y lovers), we bonded over building. And don't worry, I got nowhere near the nail gun or table saw.

TOTCPR3
No photo filter needed in Old San Juan.

When you're in Puerto Rico, rum is ubiquitous. Bacardi is the most famous. A behind the scenes trip to Casa Bacardi gave us a chance to hang out more with Russ, Sarah, and Sam. We first met them at a great dive bar across the street from the Hotel El Convento, and given the relatively small size of the conference we kept running into them.  We had mutual friends, people we  met at Tales on Tour in Edinburgh (Michele) and Tales last year in New Orleans (Nicole). It wasn't until our trip to Casa Bacardi where we got to learn how and why they became part of the cocktail community. I'm always curious about people's back stories. The three of them indulged me as we explored things such as the lab, the fermentation tanks, and the aging warehouse. And Russ, who makes his own rum, was particularly excited when he got to speak with some Bacardi master blenders as we all blended our own rums during a brief class. I was just pleased the rum we created along with a Pittsburgh bartender was reasonably drinkable.

Of course, we also got to meet other Puerto Ricans.  After the conference we stayed in San Juan for a couple of days to get some beach time, turn a darker shade of pale, detox (sort of), etc. One night we were having a quiet drink or two at one of the bars that made up the award winning La Factoria. We began chatting with Celso, our bartender. As usual, I inquired about his back story. We learned he really was a local guy, as he grew up in a neighborhood mere blocks from where I was sitting. He shared with us his personal post-Hurricane Maria story that led him to La Factoria. Through Celso we learned about the building's history and some Puerto Rican and Latin American drinking habits while we sampled some great drinks, at least one of which I will feature in a future post.

Although the conference was centered in Old San Juan (I really enjoyed the neighborhood, particularly when it was not overrun with cruise ship day trippers), there were events all over the city, as well as some in other parts of the island. This forced you to go to neighborhoods slightly off the beaten path that I might not have seen on my own. For example, the La Placita area on a Sunday night was rocking, and the vibrant atmosphere definitely could give the French Quarter in New Orleans a run for its money. From the perspective of a mainland American (at least this one) San Juan is similar enough that you know you're not in a foreign country, but it's definitely different so you know you're not in a standard, cookie cutter city that could be many places on the mainland.

Want to see the drinks, colors, and sights from our time in San Juan? Click on the links below.

San Juan
Tales on Tour
Casa Bacardi Distillery San Juan

Was our time in San Juan enchanting? Si. After a week there, I can tell you the people and cocktail scene there embody the slogan Puerto Rico se levanta (Puerto Rico rises).


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.


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.


A Tempting Drink -- The Almost Red Lips Rye

Red lips can signify temptation, power, or seduction.  Scott Harris, a founder of Catoctin Creek distillery in my home state of Virginia, based the Almost Red Lips Rye on a drink in the cocktail book at the legendary American Bar. The bar is located in the high class Savoy Hotel in London. Even though Ms. Cocktail Den and I are not high class, we had drinks there when we heard London Calling. The people at the bar (the birthplace of the Hanky Panky) make great drinks, and Harris, whose distillery produces top notch spirits, made a great one here.

Almost Red Lips Rye2 ounces rye (Harris used Roundstone)
1 ounce port wine
1/3 ounce mirtillocello or Chambord or Cherry Heering
1/3 ounce aquavit
1/3 ounce Aperol or Campari
2 dashes Peychaud's bitters

Combine in a shaker with ice, stir with a sultry air, and strain into a chilled glass.

The Almost Red Lips Rye has a lot of ingredients, so you can manipulate them to suit your tastes and whatever is in your bar.  There are three variables that have an outsize impact on the cocktail.  Port, the first one, is the one about which I know the least. It's basically a fortified red wine that's sort of sweet and comes in either a ruby or tawny style. There are many books and blogs about port, so you may want to check them out for more information.

The second variable is the fruit liqueur.  It boils down to this -- do you prefer blueberry (mirtillocello), raspberry (Chambord), or cherry (Heering)?  Keep in mind there's a wide range in proofs of these three different liqueurs. The third big variable is the amari -- Aperol or Campari.  The difference isn't in the proofs, but the taste. Aperol, which you use in drinks such as the Naked and Famous and the Ides of March, has a lighter orange taste than Campari, which you use in drinks such as the Cancer Killer #1 and the Scandinavian Suntan. You're not going to wrong with any combination of the Almost Red Lips Rye, but one using a ruby port, Chambord, and Aperol is going to taste a lot different than one using a tawny port, Cherry Heering, and Campari. 

Is the Almost Red Lips Rye more complex than most drinks in the Den?  Yes.  Is the extra effort worth it?  Yes.  Are you tempted?


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!