Travel Feed

Flying Old School -- The Pan Am Clipper

Pan American World Airways was one of the major players in commercial aviation, and its Clipper flying boats were known around the world. In 1939 Charles Baker mentioned the cocktail in his book The Gentleman’s Companion, or Around the World with Jigger, Beaker and Flask. Unlike the Clippers (which stopped being used shortly after World War II) and Pan Am (which went out of business in 1991), the Pan Am Clipper continues to soar thanks to articles such as this one in Punch. Here's my adaptation:

Pan Am Clipper2 ounces apple brandy
.75 ounces lime juice
.75 ounces glorious grenadine
Absinthe

Coat the inside of a chilled coupe glass with absinthe, discard the excess, put the other ingredients in a shaker with ice, shake as if you're hitting some turbulence on the way to a fascinating new destination, and strain into the glass.

Fundamentally the Pan Am Clipper is a Jack Rose with a little absinthe. Absinthe presents one of the many variables in the Pan Am Clipper, as you can either coat the inside of a glass (as you would with a Sazerac) or put a very small amount directly in the mix (as you would with a When Ernest Met Mary). Similarly, you could use applejack instead of apple brandy; if you compare apples to apples you'll know they are similar but not the same. Regardless of your attack angle (pilots know what I'm talking about), the Pan Am Clipper belongs on the aviation cocktail itinerary along with drinks such as the Paper Plane, the Burnt Fuselage, and of course, the Aviation.

So are you ready to take cocktail flight on the Pan Am Clipper?


Straight Outta Brooklyn -- The Greenpoint

Greenpoint is a neighborhood in Brooklyn. In 2006 Michael McIlroy created the Greenpoint, a variation on ... yeah you guessed it, the Brooklyn.  I wasn't in Greenpoint when I was introduced to its namesake cocktail. That happened in the Lower East Side in Manhattan, specifically at Attaboy, where McIlroy and Sam Ross (who created the Paper Plane and the Penicillin) operate.

Greenpoint2 ounces rye
.5 ounces yellow Chartreuse
.5 ounces sweet vermouth
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 dash orange bitters

Combine in a mixing glass with ice, stir with a bit of Brooklyn hustle, and strain into a chilled glass. Lemon peel garnish optional.

Spirits and bitters converge to make the Greenpoint a balanced and spirit forward cocktail. The rye stiffens the drink's spine. To me the Chartreuse is the key element separating the Greenpoint from other variations on the Manhattan or the Brooklyn. Joining rye and yellow Chartreuse works well here, just as it does in the Diamondback. If combining rye and green Chartreuse intrigues you (it should if you like strong drinks), try the Final Rye.

To paraphrase the Beastie Boys song, no sleep 'til Greenpoint!


Monet and Mixing -- The Water Lily

Claude Monet painted the famous Water Lilies series at his garden in Giverny, France. I've never been there (Ms. Cocktail Den has), but she and I have had the good fortune to see some Water Lilies paintings in places such as the Musée de L'Orangerie and the Musée Marmottan Monet in Paris. Richie Boccato created the Water Lily cocktail in New York in 2007.

Water Lily.75 ounces gin
.75 ounces triple sec
.75 ounces crème de violette
.75 ounces lemon juice (1/2 lemon)

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake with a tempo evoking the placidly vivid colors of the paintings, and strain into a chilled glass.

Think of the Water Lily as combining the DNA of the Aviation with the format of the Last Word. The crème de violette gives the Water Lily its purplish hue. Keep in mind the purple color won't be as vibrant if you use a darker triple sec. Like other cocktails such as the Bijou or the Naked and Famous, the Water Lily is a bartender's dream because of its equal proportions.

Even though this Water Lily won't last nearly as long as Monet's, it gives you the opportunity to become a cocktail artist.


Sazerac Cocktail Week

Can you devote a week to the Sazerac, a liquid national treasure from New Orleans? Of course (and you can drink them year round). Running from June 20 through June 26 this year, Sazerac Cocktail Week is the brainchild of the Sazerac House. Think of the Sazerac House as an approachable, interactive, and really interesting museum about all things Sazerac. How interesting is it? My mother-in-law enjoyed her experience there, and she doesn't drink.

Sazerac Week 3So how am I celebrating Sazerac Cocktail Week (besides the obvious)? By speaking with Matt Ray, the Sazerac House cocktail expert and experience team leader. Displaying his Southern upbringing and his experience as a former teacher, Matt graciously spoke with me and Ms. Cocktail Den about Sazerac topics ranging from historical to technical to personal. Keep reading because I'll ask you the same question I asked Matt at the beginning of the interview.

First, the historical. The past affects the present, and it's no different with the Sazerac. Emphasizing why the Sazerac is important in the American cocktail pantheon (my phrasing), Matt pointed out the Sazerac is an "old, old cocktail," as newspapers mentioned it as far back as the 1830s.  As the Sazerac evolved from its roots of using a cognac base to using a rye base, it became what Matt characterized as the "most lovely expression of an elevated Old Fashioned." Similarly, the profile of a Sazerac drinker evolved over time, in my opinion for the better. Matt hilariously noted Sazerac drinkers used to be "old grumpy white men," then "younger grumpy bartenders." Now people of all ages, races, genders, and occupations are likely to kick back with a Sazerac.

Sazerac Week 2Second, the technical. A Sazerac doesn't require many ingredients, but it "takes a small level of precision to make it." The key word is small. If I can do it, you can do it. Matt astutely compared making Sazeracs to baking cookies - few ingredients, tasty when done right, and many ways to screw them up. What are the most common mistakes according to Matt? Overdoing the absinthe or Herbsaint (a homegrown New Orleans spirit still used today and used when absinthe was illegal), and over-stirring. Surviving the former, Matt described it as "punishment for being drunk at 1:00 a.m. in the French Quarter." For the latter, Matt recommended a quick, soft stir so as not to water down the drink.

Third, the personal. Here's the compound question: where did you have your first Sazerac, and when did you have it? For me and Ms. Cocktail Den, it was the bar at the Dauphine Orleans Hotel in 1999. That began our ongoing love affair with the cocktail. For Matt, it most likely was at Loa, the first craft cocktail bar at which he worked, in an undetermined year (no judgment, as I'm well aware drinking in New Orleans can be antithetical to perfect recall).

In addition to appreciating and spreading the word about the Sazerac, there is another important aspect to the week. Sazerac Cocktail Week benefits Feed the Second Line, a non-profit organization focused on supporting the people who are the culture creators of New Orleans. Some bars and restaurants around the country are running promotions during Sazerac Cocktail Week. If you can't make it to one, this curated playlist provides a great musical background as you sip your Sazerac.

All of this talk about Sazeracs is making me thirsty. Care to have one with me?


Classic New Orleans -- The Sazerac

Real New Orleans drinkers love a Sazerac, the city's official cocktail and Ms. Cocktail Den's favorite drink. Although the Sazerac's exact birth year is a bit hazy (as are many things if one properly experiences the city), Billy Wilkinson and Vincent Miret created it in the late 1890s at the Sazerac House. Its popularity endures and expands over time.

Sazerac2 ounces rye
.25 ounces super simple syrup
2 dashes Peychaud's bitters
Teaspoon of absinthe

Coat the inside of a chilled glass with absinthe, discard the remainder, add the other ingredients, and stir with some New Orleans style. Lemon twist garnish optional.

The Sazerac is many things. Weak is not one of them. Some early versions used cognac as the base, but most modern versions use rye. Think of the Sazerac as an absinthe enhanced twist on an Old Fashioned with special bitters. Both the Peychaud's bitters (another New Orleans creation) and absinthe, used in my When Ernest Met Mary, are indispensable parts of the cocktail. You can serve the Sazerac at room temperature. It's also quite good if you stir it with a couple of ice cubes and then remove the cubes before serving (this is how I do it). If you're still in a New Orleans cocktail mood, try my Len Bon Temps Roulé.

Want something assertive, alcohol forward, and utterly magnificent? Then make yourself a Sazerac.


A Cocktail Of Light -- The Parisian

Known as the "City of Light," Paris is one of the great cities of the world. Ms. Cocktail Den and I have been fortunate enough to explore iconic sites such as the Eiffel Tower and the Champs Élysées, as well as cocktail landmarks to know We'll Always Have Paris. In 1930 the Parisian cocktail appeared in The Savoy Cocktail Book by Harry Craddock. I slightly adapted the recipe.

Parisian1.25 ounces gin
1.25 ounces dry vermouth
.75 ounces crème de cassis

Combine in a mixing glass with ice, stir with Parisian joie de vivre, and strain into a chilled glass.

Crème de cassis is a blackcurrant liqueur used in cocktails such as the classic Kir. It's pretty sweet, so you need something to counterbalance it. That's where the gin and dry vermouth, foundations of the classic Martini, come in.  Aside from a Burnt Fuselage or Scofflaw, normally I wouldn't use more than an ounce of dry vermouth in any cocktail, but it works well in a Parisian (the original has equal proportions of all ingredients, so if you prefer sweeter drinks make it that way). Its rich purple color reminds me of the liveliness of Paris and its people. 

Want your cocktail life to shine even brighter? Have a Parisian.


Irish Capital Craic -- The Dubliner

Dublin, the capital of Ireland, is a lovely city, and there's much more to do than drink beer, whiskey, and Irish Coffee. "Craic" (pronounced crack) is a Gaelic word that roughly means fun in a social context, e.g. a lively bar conversation. The Dubliner is not remotely as old as the city, as the late cocktailian and author Gary "Gaz" Regan created it in 1999.

Dubliner2 ounces Irish whiskey
.5 ounces Grand Marnier
.5 ounces sweet vermouth
2-3 dashes orange bitters

Combine in a mixing glace with ice, stir as if you're walking across the Ha'penny Bridge or the grounds of Trinity College, and strain into a chilled glass, preferable a coupe. Luxardo or amarena cherry garnish optional.

I see the Dubliner as an orange enhanced Manhattan, or a variation on the Tipperary or the Luck of the Irish.  There are a lot of fine Irish whiskies you can use as the base of the Dubliner. I'm not going to recommend a particular one. Regan specifically called for Grand Marnier, used in drinks such as the Burnt Fuselage, as the triple sec (orange liqueur). Using a different triple sec is fine, but of course the result will be different. Amusingly, even though Ms. Cocktail Den and I had some serious craic when we were in Dublin in 2017, we didn't have a Dubliner until later.

Have a Dubliner or two, and your odds of good craic improve immensely. Sláinte!

 

 


Celebrating Triangles and Venice

Triangles1December is a popular time for celebrations. This December I had the honor of designing the cocktail program for a party celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Dulles Triangles, a local LBGTQ+ social group. Dubbed the "Gay-la," the party's theme was a Venetian masked ball. Ms. Cocktail Den and I love Venice, the inspiration for my Venetian Kiss. So what did the stylishly dressed partygoers drink? A creative mix of alcoholic and what I call 3/4 (non-alcoholic) cocktails.

Acqua Alta -- Italian for "high water," this is how the locals refer to the floodwaters that periodically soak the city (Ms. Cocktail Den and I literally got caught in historic flooding in 2019). The drink is a minimally modified Frank Sinatra. Combine 2 ounces vodka, .5 ounces blue curaçao, .5 ounces lemon juice, .25 ounces super simple syrup, and ice. Shake and strain.

Canareggio -- Named for the low key and fun district a little off the tourist path. The cocktail is a non-alcoholic Cosmopolitan. This one has .5 ounces lime juice, .25 ounces cranberry juice, .25 ounces super simple syrup, and ice. Shake and strain, then top with 2 ounces sparkling orange water.

Gondola -- I don't need to explain what a gondola is, do I? Ms. Cocktail Den persuaded a skeptical me to take a gondola ride at sunset, and the experience turned out to be sublime. This non-alcoholic drink has a vague tiki vibe. Combine 2 ounces pineapple juice, .5 ounces lime juice, .5 ounces super simple syrup, 2 dashes Angostura bitters, and ice. Shake and strain.

Triangles2Grand Canal -- The key waterway snaking past Venice's major landmarks. Add one ounce of dark rum to the Gondola. This was the Gay-la's "secret" drink, meaning you had to ask the bartender for one.

Palazzo -- These former palaces are the stately homes overlooking the Grand Canal and other parts of the city. Who says bubbly drinks need booze? Combine .5 ounces of lemon juice with .5 ounces of grenadine syrup and ice, shake and strain, then top with 2 ounces sparkling apple cider and edible cocktail glitter.

Sprezzatura -- This wonderful Italian word roughly means making something complex and difficult look effortless. Think of an elite athlete or artist doing what they do best. The drink is a renamed Champagne Cocktail. Place a sugar cube at the bottom of a champagne flute, add 2 or 3 dashes of Angostura bitters, then add sparkling wine and edible cocktail glitter.

St. Mark's Square -- The focal point of Venice. If you've only seen one picture of Venice, it probably was of this. I renamed my Flattening Curve here. This one has 1.5 ounces bourbon, 1 ounce Aperol, .25 ounces super simple syrup, 2 dashes Angostura bitters, and ice. Stir and strain.

The Gay-la was a great mix of old friends, new friends, elaborate masks and costumes ... and elegantly simple cocktails. The end result? Fun. To the Dulles Triangles, I say grazie mille for letting the Den be a part of the Gay-la. Cin cin!


A High Flying Drink -- The Paper Plane

You may have made and thrown one as a kid. As an adult, you can drink one. The Paper Plane flew onto the scene in 2008 when Sam Ross, the New York City bartender who created the Penicillin, created it for the opening of The Violet Hour bar in Chicago. Named for the M.I.A. song Paper Planes, it took off in Chicago and New York and made its way onto cocktail menus around the world.

Paper Plane.75 ounces bourbon
.75 ounces Amaro Nonino
.75 ounces Aperol
Juice from 1/2 lemon (.75 ounces)

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake to the theme from Rocky (the tune's title is "Gonna Fly Now"), and strain into a chilled glass, preferably a coupe. Lemon peel garnish optional.

Following the equal proportions of four ingredients format of the Last Word, the Paper Plane is easy to make (the same goes for the Naked and Famous). Bourbon and Aperol, used in cocktails such as the Venetian Kiss, are easy to acquire. Amaro Nonino, a bittersweet grappa based amaro from northern Italy, can be tougher to find, but thankfully we have the Internet. Originally the Paper Plane used Campari, but within days of unveiling it Ross changed his mind and used Aperol instead. The result is a really well balanced cocktail. In terms of balance and format, the Paper Plane more resembles the thematically similar Burnt Fuselage than the Aviation.

Looking to rack up some cocktail frequent flier miles? Then it's time to board the Paper Plane.


Cocktail GPS -- The Navigator

Navigating helps you get where you're going. When Ms. Cocktail Den and I travel on vacation, she's frequently the navigator. If it wasn't for her, we might still be lost on picturesque desert highways in New Mexico, empty rural roads in Ireland, or the congested urban maze of Bangkok.  The Navigator comes from London, where Jamie Terrell created it in 2005.

Navigator2 ounces gin
.75 ounces lupo limoncello
Juice from 1/4 grapefruit

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake as if you're zipping across the waves or through the sky, and strain into a chilled glass. Grapefruit peel garnish optional.  

If you're looking for a surprisingly pleasant sour drink, the Navigator is it. Gin pairs well with lemon, e.g. the Bee's Knees, and lime, e.g. the Last Word, so there's no reason it wouldn't pair well with grapefruit. The Navigator brings gin together with two citrus flavors. The sugar in the limoncello keeps the Navigator from overpowering you with citrus and botanicals. The flavor balance could come at a price if you're not careful. Overindulge in Navigators and you could end up way off course, both literally and sobrietally. 

To paraphrase the Bible verse, seek a Navigator and you shall find a really good drink.