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Romantically Blissful Drinking -- The Honeymoon

The word "honeymoon" evokes thoughts of happiness and new beginnings. It can refer specifically to a honeymoon after a wedding (Ms. Cocktail Den and I went to Hawaii), or more generally to the period after a positive change in your life. First mentioned in a 1916 book from Hugo Ensslin, who also gave us the Aviation, the Honeymoon was a featured drink at the famous but now defunct Brown Derby restaurant in Los Angeles.

Honeymoon2 ounces applejack or apple brandy
.5 ounces Benedictine DOM
.5 ounces triple sec (see below)
Juice from 1/2 lemon

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake with the passion of (use your imagination), and strain into a chilled glass.

When you compare apples to apples, you'll know today applejack is a blend of apple brandy and grain neutral spirits, and apple brandy is exactly what it sounds like (Laird's makes both). Either spirit works well in the Honeymoon. If you like cocktails with an apple flavor, try the classic Jack Rose, the underappreciated Diamondback, or my original American Apple. Brought to us by French monks (not the ones behind Chartreuse), Benedictine DOM is an herbal liqueur used in drinks such as my Whiskey Queen. A little goes a long way, and it more than justifies its price. The Widow's Kiss is an excellent example of another cocktail combining Benedictine with apple brandy. Triple sec is a generic term for an orange liqueur.  Different Honeymoon recipes call for specific ones.  Even though I'm a big fan of Cointreau, use whichever one you like.

What do you get when you put all of these flavors together in a Honeymoon? A drink that warms your soul and introduces a new period in your cocktail life.


Tales of Virtual Catalysts

Attending the Tales of the Cocktail conference inspired me and Ms. Cocktail Den to launch this blog in 2014. Since then, we've attended numerous Tales conferences in New Orleans, as well as Tales on Tour in Edinburgh and San Juan. We've met fascinating people, learned a lot, and had great experiences such as when we mixed beats and drinks that led to the creation of the Les Bon Temps Roule.

This year was different. The COVID-19 pandemic made it impossible to have Tales in person.  So what did Tales do in this extraordinary and challenging time in history? It went 100% virtual for the first time. Adapting to a dynamic situation, this Tales involved another first -- it was 100% free. This made Tales available to anyone with a computer or smartphone and a decent Internet connection. 

Catalyst was the theme of this year's Tales. Everyone is a catalyst in their own way, and human catalysts affect everyone. Maybe you listen to a presentation or read a post on a website that leads you to try a new drink. You get the idea. Compared to years past, this year's Tales programming had an increased focus on the people in the cocktail industry. This is a good thing. As with many other industries around the world, the pandemic has had a devastating effect on people's livelihoods. People are resilient, but no one truly knows how how the landscape of the cocktail industry will look once the pandemic subsides.

Tales of Virtual Catalysts
I couldn't see the iconic Jackson Square in New Orleans this year, so I'll wait until the next Tales.

The sessions I attended generally fell into one of three categories -- spirits (e.g. Amaro 101, Low ABV Cocktails), history (e.g. The Man Behind James Bond, The Rat Pack), and topics that transcend  the cocktail community (e.g. You Sell Cocktails Now Sell Yourself, Storytelling Behind The Bar). As with sessions at live Tales conferences, I learned all sorts of interesting things. For example, did you know Ian Fleming was a big fan of bourbon? I didn't, and I'm a James Bond geek.  

So what were the pros and cons of the first virtual Tales? The big pro for me was the flexibility. You could absorb the presenters' content as it occurred or later. This convenience meant you didn't have to run (occasionally literally) from event to event. Sometimes a live Tales or Tales on Tour gives you a sense of underlying FOMO. As in, "I want to hear ____ talk about ____ but it's the same time as the session on ______." That wasn't an issue this year because you had the convenience of seeing and hearing everything and everyone you wanted. All of the sessions were on demand (https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL60KktNa23J0tn7NAf3-NSLigFRYjJy9W). A silver lining pro that's actually the result of a con? I didn't gain weight from eating really good local food.

The con of the virtual Tales has nothing to do with the people involved in the conference or the sessions. It was the inability to have the spontaneous and serendipitous in person encounters that make Tales truly memorable. For example, Ms. Cocktail Den and I always will remember meeting Vodka Girl ATX, who we had been following online, in a small conference room at the Hotel Monteleone, or bonding in Edinburgh with a diverse group who became the self-anointed Inebriants. I miss having opportunities to connect like that. Meeting people virtually is fine, but it's a poor substitute for meeting in person. Thanks a lot, COVID-19. Of course, the virus also prevented me from being in the unique city of New Orleans.

There was one aspect of the virtual Tales that, depending on your perspective, was a pro or a con. To what do I refer? No mandatory controlled day drinking. During the days of Tales or a Tales on Tour you're always trying new spirits and cocktails. I'm not saying I abstained from booze during this year's Tales. I'm simply saying I drank far less than I did at any other Tales or Tales on Tour.  

As for Tales, here's my wish -- next year in New Orleans!


A Cold And Beautiful Cockail -- The Alaska

Alaska is a state unlike any other in the United States of America.  Ms. Cocktail Den and I have had the good fortune to visit the 49th and by far the northernmost state. The Alaska first appeared in 1913 in Straub's Manual of Mixed Drinks by bartender Jacques Straub. More than 100 years later, it still is strikingly elegant.

Alaska2 ounces Old Tom gin
1 ounce yellow Chartreuse
2 dashes orange bitters

Combine in a mixing glass with ice, stir with the sharp edged grace of a glacier calving (I've seen it happen and it is amazing), and strain into a chilled glass, preferably a coupe.

If you see an Alaska on a cocktail menu these days, it's most likely to have the ubiquitous London Dry style of gin. Go with Old Tom style gin, which you'll see in a classic Martinez, if you can. Not only is it authentic, but Old Tom style gin makes the Alaska a richer experience.  Yellow Chartreuse, which you can use in drinks such as the Renegade, is an integral component of this cocktail. There are multiple variations of the Alaska, and this is the one I prefer. Even though there are many things in the state of Alaska that are potentially deadly (bears, ridiculously low temperatures), the Alaska drink is not potentially deadly as long as you remember to cocktail responsibly.

Whether or not you've been to the unique state of Alaska, it's time to savor this cold beauty of a cocktail!


It's A Long Cocktail Way -- The Tipperary

"It's a Long Way to Tipperary" was a popular song during World War One. Referring to a town and county in southern Ireland (Ms. Cocktail Den and I drove near it but did not go there), the first mention of the Tipperary cocktail came in 1916, four years after the song. The recipe evolved over time. I first had a Tipperary at the excellent Here Nor There bar in Austin.

Tipperary1.5 ounces Irish whiskey
1 ounce sweet vermouth
.5 ounces green Chartreuse

Combine in a mixing glass with ice, stir with the determination of wanting to see your significant other again, and strain into a chilled glass. Amarena cherry or lemon peel garnish optional.

First appearing in Hugo Ensslin's cocktail recipe book (the same book that gave us the Aviation), the original Tipperary has the same proportions as the modern Luck of the Irish. That's a good drink if you really like green Chartreuse. As for the Irish whiskey, use whichever one you prefer. Subsequent versions of the Tipperary call for slightly more Irish whiskey, and some add Angostura or orange bitters.  I like the simplicity of this Tipperary because of its 3:2:1 ratio. It's not a long way to this great cocktail.

Intrigued by pairing green Chartreuse and sweet vermouth?  Try a Bijou.  Like Irish themed cocktails?  Try a Good Cork, Intense Irish, or the iconic Irish Coffee. What will your liver say?  Slainte!


Dawn Of A New Day -- The Alba Dorata

Alba DorataSunrise speaks to a new day, a new beginning, a new opportunity. Translating as "golden sunrise" in Italian, the Alba Dorata evokes that potential in cocktail form. The Alba Dorata is a new creation from Christiano Luciano at the Bar Longhi in the Gritti Palace hotel in Venice. Ms. Cocktail Den and I had a wonderful experience staying at the Gritti Palace and meeting people there; our journey inspired the Venetian Kiss. So how do you make this liquid gold?

1.5 ounces cachaça
1.5 ounces ginger liqueur (ciao Barrow's Intense, see below)
Juice from 1/2 lime
.25 ounces super simple syrup

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake with the joy of discovering a new love, and strain into a chilled glass.  Lime peel or mint sprig garnish optional.

Alba Dorata 2
Gritti Palace, Venice (photo taken from across the Grand Canal).

Cachaça is very similar to many rums, as it comes from fermented sugar cane juice. I'm a big fan of Barrows's Intense, and not just because I'm a small investor. It gives you a clean, strong, and unmistakably ginger taste. Courtesy of the cachaça and super simple syrup (Luciano calls for a few drops of it), the Alba Dorata is a little sweet at first, but then the ginger liqueur and lime juice kick in and give it a nice little afterburn. It's a lovely drink, particularly in warm weather. Luciano described the Alba Dorata as "expressing our wishes for a new beginning." Like Luciano, who created the Alba Dorata at home during the COVID-19 pandemic (which inspired my Flattening Curve), I hope the drink leads you to a new and promising chapter in your journey.

Join me and Signore Luciano, have an Alba Dorata, and declare bravo e cin cin!


Tweety's Cousin -- The Bluebird

I tawt I taw a deewishus dwink! I grew up with Warner Brothers cartoons such as Tweety Bird's adventures with Sylvester. The Bluebird has nothing to do with cartoons, which I indirectly featured in the Matador and the Racketeer. According to Simon Difford of Difford's Guide, the Bluebird may have originated in the late 1950s in the Montmartre section of Paris, the birthplace of the Bee's Knees and the inspiration for the Champs Élysées.

Bluebird2 ounces gin
1 ounce blue curaçao
Juice from 1/2 lemon
.25 ounces orgeat syrup

Don't let the bright color fool you. The Bluebird is stronger than it looks (like many pink drinks). Despite a similar name, it has no crossover with the Jungle Bird. In terms of color and taste, the Bluebird is quite similar to the Frank Sinatra. Both have a clear base spirit, blue curaçao, lemon juice, and a sweetener.  The Bluebird's use of orgeat syrup, which you find in the well known Mai Tai and the not as well known Attorney Client Privilege, is unusual but it works. Other versions of the Bluebird have no syrup and lemon juice, but add triple sec. However, curaçao is a type of triple sec, so if you add a second triple sec there's a risk of going overboard with the orange flavor. I prefer a more balanced Bluebird that's still tart and refreshing.

The Bluebird is a good warm weather drink.  Of course, there's no reason you can't have it year round. Anyone who says otherwise is just a bad old puddy tat.


In The Cocktail Tonight -- The Phil Collins

Phil Collins had an impressive number of top 40 hits during and after his career as the drummer then lead singer of Genesis. "In The Air Tonight" was his first, and perhaps most famous, solo hit. It is a standard on 1980s and classic rock music channels, and it made noteworthy appearances in the Miami Vice TV series and the first Hangover movie. The Hawthorne bar in Boston introduced me to the Phil Collins at an event during Tales on Tour in San Juan.

Phil Collins1.5 ounces gin
.75 ounces yellow Chartreuse
Juice from 1/2 lime
Soda water

Combine the first three ingredients in a shaker with ice, shake with the intensity of the famous drum sequence in the song, strain into a chilled glass (a Collins if you have one), and top with soda water. Cucumber or lime garnish optional.

Gin and Chartreuse really go well together.  The Bijou and the Last Word are classic examples. The Phil Collins I had in San Juan used Hendrick's gin, which was a sponsor of the event. Different gins have slightly different flavors, so which one you use will affect the Phil Collins. The original recipe calls for cucumber vodka instead of gin, and it adds a little super simple syrup and a dash of cranberry bitters. Like the one in San Juan, my version of the Phil Collins does not contain syrup or bitters. If it is too tart for you, add a quarter to half an ounce of super simple syrup.

Make yourself a Phil Collins, and answer this -- can you feel it coming in the air tonight? If you just thought, sang, or said the words "Oh Lord," cheers!


Absinthe Beauty in New Orleans -- Belle Époque

Belle Epoque 1Absinthe has a certain mystique. Many have heard of it, few have had it. The anise (licorice) flavored spirit became popular in France in the late 19th century during the Belle Époque, a period of French cultural and artistic ascendancy. Even though absinthe became legal again in the United States in 2007, places that stock more than one brand, much less know about it, are few and far between.

Enter Belle Époque, a fairly new bar in New Orleans. Literally steps away from the raunchy merriment of Bourbon Street, Belle Époque figuratively is a world away. Mixing a look evocative of late 19th and early 20th century Paris with a low key and fun atmosphere, Belle Époque is a great place to learn about and drink absinthe. It even has two original fountains for the louche ritual, a process that combines absinthe with water and sugar to make the absinthe cloudy and milky green.

Belle Epoque 2The design of the drink program also is quite impressive. In addition to a wide selection of absinthes (who knew it could be red?), Belle Époque classifies cocktails by how much absinthe they contain (I particularly enjoyed the Ear and Loathing and the Viking Funeral).

If you've read other Wulf Cocktail Den bar reviews, you know to me the people in the bar are just as important, if not more important, than the drinks. Belle Époque hits the mark. For example, bar manager Laura Bellucci, who is smart, dynamic, and gracious, took us on an impromptu history tour of the multi-story space. If the original chandeliers in the upstairs event rooms don't dazzle you, the view from the balcony overlooking Bourbon Street will. 

Belle Époque is ascendant on the New Orleans cocktail scene for good reason.  Next time you're in town, go see why. Vive la Belle Époque!


A Drink For Two Presidents -- The Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt and his distant cousin Franklin Delano Roosevelt are the two of the more famous Presidents in American history.  Teddy, the 26th President, claimed he wasn't a big drinker (although he was partial to a Mint Julep), and FDR, the 32nd President, definitely was a big drinker who mixed cocktails for his White House guests (and Repeal Day occurred while he was in office).  Chris Kelley at Morris American Bar in Washington created the Roosevelt, and this is my adaptation.

Roosevelt1.5 ounces rye
.5 ounces apple brandy
.5 ounces vermouth (see below)
.5 ounces Benedictine DOM
2 dashes Angostura or other aromatic bitters

Combine in a mixing glass with ice, stir with the resolve of the subject of Teddy's "The Man In The Arena" speech and the warmth of FDR during one of his Fireside Chats, and strain into a chilled glass.  Amarena cherry garnish optional.

Kelley didn't specify which type of vermouth or bitters to use. I used aromatic bitters because they're versatile. The vermouth is the interesting variable.  It really depends if you want the Roosevelt more dry or sweet. Using dry vermouth in a rye based drink is reminiscent of a Scofflaw, and using sweet vermouth is reminiscent of a Manhattan.  If you like the combination of rye and apple brandy, you'll probably also like the Diamondback and the American Apple. You'll find Benedictine DOM, a rich French liqueur, in cocktails such as the Whiskey Queen.  Clearly this Roosevelt has no relation to the rum based drink with the same name. For a similarly themed rum based cocktail, have an El Presidente.

Be Presidential, raise a glass, and toast Teddy and FDR!


New And Old School Drinking In Venice -- Time, Il Mercante, and Harry's

When Ms. Cocktail Den and I went to Venice we wandered the streets, ate a lot of great food, got caught in historic acqua alta (high water) with resulting flooding ..... and of course had some cocktails. We saw some of Venice's storied cocktail past and got more than a glimpse of its bright cocktail future.

Time Social BarLocated in the Canareggio district, TiME Social Bar (not a misprint) combines creative cocktails with a friendly and low key atmosphere. The space itself is small and bright, and the music was loud enough to be heard without being distracting.  Quite fortuitously, we happened to meet Alessandro Beggio, the owner of Time.  Like his bar, he was generous in spirit (pun intended). What about the drinks? In a word -- buonissimo (very good in Italian). Time's casual vibe belies its interestingly sophisticated cocktail menu. Alessandro and his team clearly put a lot of thought and effort into it. The drink components are a mix of familiar and exotic, and as you can see in the photo on the left, their presentation is well executed.  On a personal note, I was very impressed one of the drinks, the Caribbean Negroni, included homemade mamajuana.  I definitely didn't expect to see that liquor on the European side of the Atlantic Ocean. Time is only 20 minutes away from the tourist hordes in St. Mark's Square, and it's worth the short walk.

Il MercanteSpeaking of bars not far from famous landmarks, Il Mercante is only a 10 minute walk from the Rialto Bridge. Spread over two levels, the space is tastefully decorated with an an intimate and vaguely seductive atmosphere. It's the type of place where you'd want to take your significant other for a drink.  That said, it's certainly not fussy or pretentious.  As its name suggests, Il Mercante evokes the journeys of merchant adventurers. The cocktail menu is inspired and creative.  Much of the rotating menu is designed to pair with particular Italian and international.  Another section of the menu has really good twists on classic drinks. I opted to have a Reef, a libation marrying whiskey, house pimento dram (used in drinks such as the Donna Maria), mango, and pepper. I'm drooling just thinking about it. The people at Il Mercante are friendly, knowledgeable, and approachable. We had the pleasure of meeting Daniele, a man who is committed to his craft.  The low light and my bad eyesight may have deceived me, but I'm fairly certain I spied a martini glass tattoo on the inside of his forearm. That's dedication.

Harry's in VeniceDedicated to serving cocktails for many decades, Harry's is the quintessential old school bar in Venice. Overlooking the Grand Canal, it's a stone's throw from St. Mark's Square and been the watering hole for many famous people.  Let me be blunt -- you'll pay very high prices because of the history and location. Sometimes high prices definitely are worth the history, location, and the drinks. The Hemingway Bar at the Ritz Hotel in Paris is a great example.  However, aside from a really good Bellini at its birthplace, the drinks at Harry's are good but not great. In addition, while the people there were pleasant and efficient, they were not terribly warm to tourists like us (they were much warmer with the older gentlemen who clearly were regulars).  Perhaps because just as St. Mark's floods with water, Harry's floods with tourists. Ms. Cocktail Den enjoyed our experience there more than I did.  One thing I did like is Harry's prohibits people from taking photos of customers (I asked for permission before I taking photos of the bar and my Negroni).

So what's my advice if you want cocktails in "La Serenissima" (a nickname for Venice meaning "the most serene")?  Make time to go to TiME, be adventurous and journey to Il Mercante, and recognize Harry's for what it is. Saluti!