Saturday, December 19, 2009

Too soon, Gin and Titonic, too soon

It’s been nearly 100 years since the first Titanic disaster, and barely 10 since the second. The only thing tackier than James Cameron’s $200 million blockbuster are these $5 party stoppers. Recreate your favorite maritime tragedy every time you sip on that sweet, sweet oblivion. What self respecting drunk wouldn’t want three little icebergs and a mini-Titanic floating around in their cocktail, clinking and pinging delightfully against the rim, mimicking the haunting screams of the damned?

Hey everyone, the punch has been spiked! With sadness.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The joy of drinking photo essays

No, it's not about imbibing a photo essay. It's a photo essay about imbibing. Check out this rallying photo essay on Slate. There is something so liberating about the good times captured in these pictures. Sure, we should add the grown up, stuffy note about the perils of drunkenness. But, come on: Did you not smile when you saw this picture? :-)

As a side note, we have some serious updating to do. Lots of cool new experiences and experiments. To come!

(To be honest, Guy found this first.)

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Gibson, Washington D.C.

Noelle and I visited one of D.C.'s speakeasies, "The Gibson," this evening. The outside is exactly what you'd expect; a blank building face with a single (fluorescent, as opposed to the more classic incandescent) light above a windowless door. The atmosphere inside is really rather nice; it reminded me of Bourbon and Branch in SF, only quieter and better music, which was jazz and early Ska, for the most part. The host was far from polite, which is standard for the pseudo-speakeasy, but he did lack the gentlemanliness of the hosts at, say, the Violet Hour.

We were fortunate enough to get bar seats, since we arrived at 6 pm, which is when the Gibson opens. As is my habit, I asked the bartender which drink was her favorite to drink, and which was her favorite to make. The answer was the same, some unremarkable number on the menu, which she described as "sweet." I declined that drink, and opted instead for the Meridian: Tanq 10, Dolin Blanc vermouth, Dolin Dry vermouth, Creme de Violette, rose water, orange bitters. The Meridian, my bartender told me, was invented by Jackie, another bartender at the Gibson.

It was at this point that I began noticing strange things about our bartender. My suspicion was first aroused when she took out a giant ringed stack of index cards and began to flip through them. I heard her whisper to Jackie that "her cheat sheet" was gone. Oh dear. Jackie told her the recipe - coached her along as she made it, in fact - and the bartender did admirably. The drink, I think, is flawed by design. The Creme de Violette and rose water, designed to bring out the floral notes in the Tanq 10, somehow didn't work. The dual vermouths ended up overpowering the drink, rendering it remarkably unsubtle and unremarkable. Noelle's drink was hardly any better, but she can write about that.

Qualifier: I do not blame our bartender for being new. Everyone starts somewhere, and who the hell am I to say, anyway? But I am blaming the Gibson for putting someone on a Friday night shift who doesn't even have the house drinks memorized. That's just bad business. The customers gets sub-par drinks, the bartender feels bad about him or herself, and they can't interact because the bartender is too busy trying not to panic. Bad form, Gibson, train your people better.

Before calling it quits, I wanted to see how Jackie's chops were. The best way to gauge someone is by testing their Old Fashioned, I think. Jackie did not do so well. Firstly, she used Old Overholt rye. An Old Fashioned is a great way to show off a middle quality bourbon, gussy up a low quality bourbon, or wreck a high quality bourbon. Not sure how rye got invited to the party, but whatever. She used what appeared to be a white sugar simple syrup, which, while not bad in principle, fails to bring out any subtler notes in the spirit. Finally, she was so heavy handed with the Fee Brother's "Old Fashioned" bitters that the bitters and the sugar were all I could taste.

The lighting was nice.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

What a horrible Veterans Day

How can we celebrate this patriotic national holiday when Pabst is being put up for sale?

Pabst is nearly cheaper than water, so it's the natural choice for those of us on a tight budget (Yes, that IS a hint to our wealthy readers. Donations are accepted). Noelle and I really enjoy it because it's light on the wallet, light on the stomach, and still tastes good. Most cheap beers leave me feeling like crud after just one, not to mention their wateriness. And at 11 bucks for a case of 24, well, hell, I'm getting tears in my eyes.

God Bless America, and God Bless Pabst! *Salute*

Hipsters get out your tissues.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Monday, September 28, 2009

Bubbles aren't just for cheap thrills

Apparently, the bubbles in champagne and sparkling wine do more than throw a party in your mouth (to which everyone is invited). Quoth the BBC: "Research shows there are up to 30 times more flavour-enhancing chemicals in the bubbles than in the rest of the drink."

So next time someone offers you champagne in a solo cup at New Years, you can throw it in their face, citing this article. Don't expect an invite for next year, but hey, who wants to go to that kind of party anyway?

Champagne bubbles' flavour fizz

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Most Successful Experiment To Date

Usually recipes of my own creation come out horrendous at first, but this one blew my mind. I give all credit to Noelle for helping me with the proportions:

1.5 oz Rye
.5 oz blackberry cordial
.25 oz simple syrup
.25 oz Amaro

7 drops peychauds
3 drops Fee's Whiskey Barrel Aged bitters
Lime peel garnish, squeeze oils liberally over drink

Last night I made this drink stirred, but I found that as it warmed, the blackberry cordial began to separate a bit. Tonight I shall try shaking. I'm thinking a swizzle stick would work nicely. This drink as a BEAUTIFUL color, and as soon as I get the picture uploaded from Noelle's camera, I'll post it.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Whiskey Smash

The Whiskey Smash is the perfect refreshing cocktail. The classic combination of lemon and mint makes a great companion for any hot summer's day or maybe even a picnic.

And actually, a picnic is what our friend Lorraine Thompson (@WritersKitchen) was planning. I suggested a Whiskey Smash, and as luck would have it, Josh had just spent yesterday evening adjusting the proportions.

For most cocktails recipes, we defer to our cocktail hero Toby Maloney. He provides a great YouTube video on how to make his version of a whiskey smash--and with flair! But for some reason, when we replicated the recipe at home, it always came out too sour and a little oily. So, this is how Josh adjusted the Whiskey Smash:

The Whiskey Smash

2 oz Rye (we used Wild Turkey--at least 100 proof is usually great)
1 oz simple syrup (we use a 1:1 ratio)
Quarter of a lemon, cut in half
handful of mint

Muddle the mint and lemon (you can "push" the lemon, instead of pulverizing it). Add the sugar and rye. Fill your shaker with ice. Shake it hard. Strain. Serve over ice.


Sunday, September 6, 2009

Kold-Draft Ice

Ice is a big deal. Not Vanilla, not T, not Cube - Kold-Draft.


Apologies for the lame introduction. Kold-Draft brings out the worst in me. Worst, as in, driving a sketchy van to the back of a Waikiki hotel to pick up a bucket of the stuff in a trash bag and then drive home with the A/C on full blast. True story. Erik Adkins of Heaven's Dog once told me that if you got a map of Kold-Draft ice machines in San Francisco, you'd have a map of the best cocktail bars.

Kold-Draft ice gets things colder, keeps them colder longer, and won't dilute the taste of your drink. It whips up a nice meringue, too. It's made by shooting water into a super-cold, upside ice try. The water freezes one layer at a time, producing denser, purer ice. That's the gist, for the skinny, go here.

So, what's the point of this post? Is Kold-Draft paying me? No (but, if you're reading, and would like to send me a few bucks, I've got some serious student loan debt). The point is that I got to use some of this, and it makes a huge, huge difference in the drinks I made. The stayed cold until I finished them, dilution was more under my control, and it made a better froth on my drinks. Don't screw around with your ice, people! Use filtered water and cold, cold freezers! The bigger the better, too.

Friday, September 4, 2009

100 Cocktails to Try Before You Die

Only 100?

Just joking. Anvil Bar and Refuge, a Houston joint, has put together a pretty sweet list. It's fun checking off what you've had before. And I loved being inspired by the drink recipes I've never tried. For instance, I've never had a port flip: Ruby Port, cream, and egg. Or how about a Cocktail a la Louisiane? Rye, benedictine, Italian vermouth, absinthe, and peychauds.

See how you measure up on the list. I've tried 52 of them! I can't figure out if that's good or bad.

Aside from that, it makes me suddenly want to visit Texas...

Friday, August 28, 2009

Religious Cocktails

Since most of my time is spent studying religion(s), is it any surprise that I try to come up with religiously based cocktails? Forgive me for heavily leaning on the Judeo-Christian tradition, but Buddhism and Hinduism don't love booze so very much. Moreover, since I've recently moved, I've had to abandon my booze collection, so I haven't actually MADE these yet. I think the ideas are interesting, though, and shouldn't be thrown away immediately.

I: Manna from Heaven

Manna was the miraculous food source provided to the Israelites as they wandered through the desert. As you may or may not know (depending on your level of free time and interest), manna had the appearance of white coriander seeds and tasted like honey.

1.5 oz Aalbord Akvavit. Spring for the gold stuff, don't be cheap and by the white stuff, since it's pretty harsh. Akkavit is a Scandinavian spirit; it's name means "Water of Life." This brand specifically is from Denmark. It's basically a neutral spirit flavored with various herbs, in this case, dill and coriander.

.5 oz Barenjager honey liqueur

.5 oz Heavy Cream

Shake well with ice, strain and serve straight up, with an orange garnish. The orange isn't Biblical, just tasty.

II: Milk and Honey

Ok, I know this is a really common theme in cocktails. But, I want to take it in a different, more historical direction. In its Biblical context, Honey likely referred to a date syrup, which would be thick and likely sweet.

1.5 oz Rye whiskey

.5 oz date syrup, sweetened with honey or Barenjager

.5 oz heavy cream

Shake this drink pretty hard with big ice. Pour into a collins glass filled with ice, top with sparkling water

III: The Bitter Herb

A bitter herb is found on a Seder plate, which is the meal eaten at passover. The bitter herb is usually something like horseradish; its bitterness symbolizes the bitterness of slavery.

1 oz Campari
.5 oz Noilly Prat dry vermouth
.5 oz Cynar (or Akvavit?)

Stir with ice, garnish with flamed grapefruit.

Again, haven't made these. If someone is brave enough, let me know how it goes.

Two Awesome Experiments

Noelle bought some lilikoi (passionfruit) this afternoon, and had the brilliant idea of turning our useless, crappy tequila into a useful, delicious infusion. I used the lilikoi-quila to make a sour:

Lilikoiquila Sour

1.5 oz infused tequila

.75 oz lemon juice

1 oz simple syrup

Shake well with ice, garnish with lemon peel and angostura.

(No picture of this one - Noelle's mom drank it too fast...)

Another excellent drink was inspired by Mrs. Chun's love of both sours and fruit. "What about preserves? Could you use...let's see, we have.. apricot preserves.."

Well, I don't know Mrs. Chun... you tell me:

The Squirrelly Bird

1.5 oz Wild Turkey Rye

.25 oz apricot preserves

.75 oz simple

.75 oz lemon juice

Shake really, really well. Garnish with lemon peel and Fee's Whiskey Barrel Aged bitters.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Laphroaig Project

Oh my goodness. Well, while I have been negligent in producing posts (which are just itching to come out), Owen Westman of Bourbon and Branch has been busy being awesome. While I have mixed feelings about Bourbon and Branch, the Prohibition-styled SF speakeasy, this new drink called the Laphroaig Project looks amazing. As the article notes, it's hard to find recipes incorporating Scotch besides, say, a Blood and Sand. For ourselves, whenever we have Laphroaig on hand, we are too busy celebrating its deliciously smooth and smokey peatiness to bring ourselves to adulterate the spirit with any cocktail antics. But Mr. Westman looks like he's onto something.

Here's the recipe (and picture), jacked with gratitude from this fine article.

The Laphroaig Project
1 oz Green Chartreuse
1 oz lemon juice
½ oz Laphroaig Quarter Cask
½ oz maraschino
¼ oz Yellow Chartreuse
2 dashes Fee Brothers Peach Bitters
Shake all ingredients with ice and strain in to an ice-filled old-fashioned glass. Garnish with lemon zest twist

Looks like a twist on a Last Word! Which is one of my very favorite drinks.

Hope you find this recipe as inspiring as I do. As for me, I've been tinkering more with my Pho-inspired cocktail. Success looks dubious, but if I find any, I will definitely report back.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Heaven's Dog

With only two weeks left in San Francisco, Noelle and I decided to check out one more bartender on Don Lee's list: "Erik at Slanted Door." Some time ago, we went to the Slanted Door, only to find that Erik had left, and was now doing the cocktail program at Heaven's Dog. We were told the Dog was in Oakland, which neither Noelle nor I were particularly excited about. As we explored other bars in the city and talked to other bartenders about places to go, the Dog was always mentioned. Last week, when Noelle had the bright idea to actually check where it was, we were pleasantly (kind of?) surprised to see that was actually in SOMA, right smack in the middle of the city! So last night, we decided to go.

To be frank, we weren't expecting much, as we've realized most of the people on Don's list are now in management, and thus no longer mixing drinks. The Dog was pretty crowded, but we headed down to the end of the bar, where servers usually congregate and drinks get trayed and shipped off to tables. Usually this bit of real estate is jealously guarded by the wait staff, so when a giant man walked up to us, looking not unlike a bouncer, I got a bit worried. Don't judge a book, I guess; he turned out to be one of nicest guys we've ever met, let alone met at a bar. He asked us what we wanted, gave us some suggestions, and handed our order off to one of the bartenders. We both got items off the menu at first. Both drinks were highly spiritous. That's usually an early indicator of a pretty damn good cocktail program; the higher the proof, the better the recipe.

I went for a Remember the Maine: Rye Whisky, Sweet Vermouth, Cherry Brandy, Absinthe, Bitters. This drink comes from Charles H Baker's The Gentleman's Companion, and was excellently crafted, apart from being a just bit too heavy on the absinthe for my taste.


Noelle opted for a Bittered Sling: Armangac, sugar, water, bitters and nutmeg. I'm not sure the origins of this drink, but it is very, very tasty. It warms you all the way down, that's for sure. The nutmeg was a really great addition, though I think nutmeg bitters would be a better addition, since that may be preferable granules of nutmeg in the drink. Otherwise, it was an excellent way to put the armangac through its paces.


In case you're wondering, yes, that's one giant chunk of ice. It's quite clear, even if it doesn't come through in the picture. They use a rather ingenious method of making the ice clear, but it's top secret!

When we got the drinks, the man who took our order came back to ask how they were. After hearing that Noelle - who is all of 90 pounds and, as an tiny Asian girl, probably shouldn't be drinking so much liquor in such a concentrated amount - liked her drink, he admitted that he was a bit worried about recommending such a strong drink to such a small girl. We laughed about it, then we chatted about how cocktail culture is really spreading, and 21 year olds today are drinking much better than he drank at that age. He told us that when he started getting into the scene, there were only a handful of places to go. "I would go to New York and hit a couple of bars, and when I would tell my friends, they had no idea what I was talking about." He gave his card, and o the joy! his name was Erik.

Although he didn't mix for us last night, we asked if we could come back to see him. So, be ready for another post on Monday!

One more note: I absolutely cannot say enough about the customer service at Heaven's Dog. Each bartender had every aspect of their craft down to a T. Gary Regan could have written The Joy of Mixology from watching these guys. They're all pros, they're incredibly nice, and they won't be there too much longer, so GO! Go now!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Queen Park Swizzle

I came upon a really lovely recipe for a Queen Park Swizzle this evening. The ingredients included lime and mint—great flavors for a summer’s night. Even more enticing: the blogger said he first tried this drink at Milk and Honey, of NYC and London fame!

So I tried it out. Here’s the recipe, via

- 2oz aged white rum

- 1/2 of a lime

- 1/2oz simple syrup

- 2-3 sprigs of mint
- A few dashes of Angostura bitters

- Club soda

- Plenty of crushed ice

The technique for this cocktail is a little different than anything we’ve used in the past. There’s no shaking involved, so we’re going to build the entire cocktail right in the glass. Start by squeezing half a lime into the glass. (Some people will choose to drop the shell of the lime in once you’ve squeezed it – your choice.)

Next add the simple syrup, and the leaves of 2-3 sprigs of mint. Finally, add the rum, and fill the glass with crushed ice. The use of crushed ice here versus cubes is important – you want the ice to really mix with the ingredients. Once you’ve added the crushed ice, use a swizzle stick to – yes – swizzle the cocktail. That is, use the swizzle stick to agitate the ingredients along with the ice, which will not only help mix everything, but also chill it (you’ll notice a nice frost form on the outside of the glass within 30-60 seconds.)

A few notable substitutions. I didn’t have any aged white rum laying around, so I used the white Bacardi I had instead. I also used some dark demerara sugar, not white sugar, since I thought it might work with the lime and rum.

Overall, the drink came out quite tasty! It’s light, bubbly, and a bit more spicy (due to the angostura) than similar drinks, such as the mojito and caipirinha.

I did have some initial issues with the layering—sipping from the top, I could only taste the soda water and angostura. So I had to give it a mix before everything came together (although this ruined the beautiful angostura float).

Making it again in the future, I’d like to peel back on the amount of lime. A proper highball glass would also capture the layered aesthetic better. But overall, yummy.

Before closing this entry, I’d like to speak to one aspect of my cocktail tonight. What, Bacardi white rum? Blasphemy, Noelle! Blasphemy! And to you, I say, I am unashamed of using such a common spirit. I don’t think we’ve ever addressed this explicitly in our blog, but Josh and I like to think of our cocktails as the drink for the common man or woman. Our goal is to make well-balanced cocktails that don’t need hoity-toity spirits you’ll have to smuggle in from the Netherlands. We love the craft and the taste and damn right we’ll be tasting the more exotic spirits at the bar—we raise our glasses to you, fancy ingredients and ingenious bartenders! But you won’t find that stuff in our kitchen. Our mission is to make classic cocktails affordably.

By the way, Spirited Cocktails is a delightful blog that seems to focus on serious, classic cocktails. The author, Joshua Hoffman, writes out of New York, which seems to give him some extra cred. ;-) I took the extra step and added the blog to, so you can also look for it there. I look forward to trying out many more drinks from this blog.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Briar Patch and Lady Clover

There is really no adequate introduction for drinks by master mixologist Toby Maloney. His cocktails have never failed us, whether at his thoroughly delightful bar in Chicago, The Violet Hour, or using his recipes at home.

And, most amazing, Mr. Maloney is a generous man who freely shares his knowledge and recipes online, all in the name of celebrating the craft. I was perusing the thread today and became excited by his instructions on making your own blackberry cordial, especially since it’s berry season. So after work, Josh and I headed to the market around the corner and bought two beautiful boxes of blackberries.

Mr. Maloney’s instructions were as follows:

Take 2 pints of blackberries, and 2 cups of simple, muddle the bejesus out of the berries, and add simple. Stir. Wait a while, stir. Repeat. Repeat until the liquid is very dark. Strain through a chinois. I like to add a dash or two of Angostura. If you think that it will be hanging around for awhile, add a splash of gin.

The instructions were straight-forward enough, and we seemed to survive the making process. But what to mix with it?

So tonight we tried two new recipes by Mr. Maloney, which use blackberry syrup: The Briar Patch and Lady Clover (both featured at one time at TVH).

Here are his instructions (we didn’t have any Plymouth, so we used what we had on hand—Tanqueray).

Lady Clover

2 oz Plymouth

.75 oz House Blackberry Syrup

.75 oz Fresh Lemon Juice

Egg White

7 drops Peychaud’s Bitters

Top: Soda Water

Glass: Collins

Garnish: 5 drops Angostura Bitters

Ice: 3 KD cubes

Combine all, mime shake. Add ice, shake, strain over fresh ice, top with soda, garnish.

Briar Patch

1.5 oz Plymouth Gin

¾ oz Fresh Lemon Juice

½ oz Simple Syrup

¼ oz Home made Blackberry Cordial

Glass: Collins

Garnish: Blackberry and Knotted Pigtail Lemon Twist

Ice: Crushed

Build in shaker. Shake hard 3 times with Kold Draft Ice. Strain into Collins Glass filled with Crushed Ice. The crushed ice will recede. Top with more crushed ice then lace with blackberry cordial.To make the Cordial take one pint of blackberries and muddle in a non reactive container.

Grand success!!! The Lady Clover was especially delicious. The egg white lent a special lightness to the cocktail. It’s smooth, but layered. Lots to entertain your tongue. The Briar Patch was also tasty, but I think our lemon is a bit tart, so it came out slightly sour. Since we made that one first we were able to adjust for the Lady Clover.

Hope you can enjoy these recipes as much as we did!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Kitchen Concoctions: Gin and Grapefruit Cocktail – Success!

A few days ago, I blogged about the new grapefruit I bought and thought about how I could make a gin cocktail with it. I tried it last night, and it was a great success!

Here is the recipe:

2 oz Tanqueray gin

¾ oz grapefruit juice

½ simple syrup

¼ oz campari

one egg white

Shake hard with large ice and garnish with angostura.

The result was a light and fluffy cocktail, almost creamy because of the egg white. The campari gave it a deeper finish and prevented the simple syrup and grapefruit from overpowering the cocktail. The grapefruit seemed to accentuate the gin without washing it away. I loved the smell of the angostura at the beginning and how it tasted with the last bits of the drink.

Josh liked mine so much that I made one for him, too!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Summer Cocktails

Yesterday I wrote about an article by Gary Regan on 10 Essential Cocktails. There's another noteworthy link on that same page: Summer Cocktails. Some great ideas there.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Note to self: Gin:Grapefruit :: Ham:Eggs

I bought two gorgeous grapefruits, all dark pink and heavy, from the market for only $1.50. So now I'm thinking of some sort of grapefruit and gin cocktail. My roommates are quite fond of gin slings--they use Bombay, fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice, sweet vermouth (I think), angostura bitters, and soda water.

I think I want to try something simpler. Tanqueray, grapefruit juice, simple syrup (Demerara), and angostura. I could throw in an egg white for texture. A kind of variation on a sour, I suppose.

I also noticed a recipe that calls for gin, grapefruit juice, and maraschino liqueur. Something else to think about...

Does anyone else have favorite grapefruit cocktails?

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Classic Caipirinha and the Caipirinha De Uva

We made a lovely bunch of cold afternoon drinks today: The Classic Caipirinha and the Caipirinha De Uva.

Just this afternoon, after all, we had picked up a bottle of Cachaca, a type of rum from Brazil. We were looking for something affordable that would also make some solid cocktails. The store employee pointed us toward this bottle: Prassununga Cachaca 51.

He said that it’s the standard label in Brazil, and that many of his customers come in and say they buy the exact same thing when they’re in South America. And at $17, it wasn’t terribly expensive—although when the employee told me that you can usually get it for $9 in its home country, I felt less smug. Ha!

So we mixed up two drinks, using Dale Degroff’s recipes:


1/2 lime, quartered
3/4 oz. brown sugar syrup or 1 teaspoon brown sugar (we used Trader Joe’s turbindino, which worked great. Demarara sugar is also highly recommended)
2 oz. cachaca (or if you can't find any, use a really good rum)

Chill a rocks glass with cracked ice. Place the lime quarters in the bottom of a mixing glass, add the syrup, and muddle, extracting the juice and the oil in the skin from the lime quarters. Add the cachaca to the mixture in the mixing glass, dump the ice from the rocks glass into the mixing glass, and shake well. Pour the entire contents of the mixing glass back into the chilled rocks glass (yes, this is one of the few drinks that retain the ice used while shaking the drink) and serve.

Note: If you use rum for a caipirinha, it's suddenly a caipirissima.

CAIPIRINHA DE UVA (my favorite of the two)

1/2 lime, quartered
4 seedless red grapes
3/4 oz. brown sugar syrup (see recipe below), or 1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 oz. cachaca (or if you can't find any, use a really good rum)

Chill a rocks glass with cracked ice. Place the lime quarters and grapes in the bottom of a mixing glass, add the syrup, and muddle, extracting the juice and the oil in the skin from the lime quarters. Add the cachaca to the mixture in the mixing glass, dump the ice from the rocks glass into the mixing glass, and shake well. Pour the entire contents of the mixing glass back into the chilled rocks glass (again, one of the few drinks that call for this) and serve.

Note: If you use rum for this, it's suddenly a -- you guessed it -- caipirissima de uva.

Delicious! Cold, refreshing, fruity, but not too sweet—the perfect afternoon drink.


(The Caipirinha De Uva)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Joy of Drinking

Walking down the hall this evening, work clothes still on, drink in hand, I was suddenly struck by a sense of tradition. How many men had done what I just did? Came home from a long day at work, lovingly fixed themselves a drink, and retired to their study to read, relax, think, or create.

Now, as I sip an ice cold Brandy Old Fashioned, I realize the meaning behind the title of this blog – ironic, since I named it. At the time I thought it cute and succinct; now I realize that it hints to something deeper; that there is much more to drinking. It’s not just a way to lubricate otherwise awkward social situations, as my college friends assumed. Nor is it a way to warm yourself from reality’s biting chill. It can be these things and only these things, but for me, alcohol is inspiration.

A true artist takes things that have little or no beauty of their own and makes them beautiful. Red, on its own, is a wonderful color. So is blue, and so is green. When the right person lets them play around on a canvas together, the outcome is so much more than the sum of the parts. Brandy, on its own, is a deep, sweet and smoky drink. Simple syrup is sweet and grassy. Fee Brother’s orange bitters taste disturbingly similar to an actual orange, and Angostura bitters, own their own, are hardly pleasant at all. Somehow, when I put them together, the result is magic. The ritualistic preparation of the drink, the bartending tools, even the clothing, throws the drinker into timelessness.


Toby Maloney, chief Intoxicologist at the Violet Hour in Chicago, is the example of what I’m trying to convey. His style of dress is classy, dated yet somehow timeless, and clearly says, “I tend bar.” If this picture were in black and white, I would think it was straight from a Prohibition Era speakeasy. Instead, it’s from his modern speakeasy, the Violet Hour, which has the best cocktails – and the best drinking experience – I’ve ever had. What Toby does, and what I strive to do, is not to make something that tastes pleasing, eliminates awkwardness or clouds reality. Crafting, consuming, and serving cocktails is art, and that makes it an unspeakable joy.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Kitchen Concoctions: Rye Cocktail

Noelle once again proved her cocktail bad-assery tonight, by stopping me from adding Mathilde to a new concoction. I did a minor taste test of the drink in question...ehh... this Mathilde doesn't really mix very well. Each time I try it, I get really excited, and every time I'm disappointed (with one or two minor exceptions).

I somehow realized that I have yet to try rye whiskey and the honey liqueur, Barenjager, together. This struck me as odd, since I've tried Barenjager with just about everything in the liquor cabinet. These are the proportions I used:

1.5oz Rittenhouse Rye (100 proof, which is actually too high a proof for a moderate quality rye)
.5oz Barenjager
Dash of Regan's bitters
Dash of Fee Brother's Whiskey Bitters

Stir stir stir, serve up in a pre-chilled glass. Cut off a bit of lemon peel and squeeze the oils onto the top of the drink. Kiss the lip of the glass with the peel, but don't actually put the lemon peel into the drink, as that would be overpowering.

The result is a shocking success, in my own humble opinion, which was immediately verified by Noelle. This is a good boost to my cocktail confidence, since I haven't made a good drink in months. It's a deep, deep drink. Since the Rittenhouse Rye has such a richness to it and the Barenjager tastes like real honey, the flavor is wonderful! Not to toot my own horn... like I said, this is the first tasty drink in some time.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Kitchen Concoctions: A Drink for Allergy Season

‘Tis the season! Stuffy nose, scratchy throat, itchy eyes, throbbing head, swollen sinuses. Yep, allergies have come to the Bay Area!

So I thought we’d try to whip something up, inspired by @foodieguide during the last season (Flu Season).

Here’s your Allergy Drink Recipe:

To boiling water add:
-fresh mint
-fresh lemon juice (feel free to drop both sides of the peel in)
-angostura bitters (old wives tales narrate angostura’s magical medicinal wonders—this has, of course, never been proved. But I just like the flavor, especially with mint)

The result:
A tangy, hot drink that is rather invigorating for a hay fever sufferer. It definitely soothes my itchy throat and calms my headache.

Possible tweaks:
My only wish is that I didn’t hit the bottom of my honey jar and could have added much more (must make trip to next farmers market). A thicker, sweet consistently would have been nice. One other experiment would be to add orange bitters instead of angostura.

What do you drink when you’re suffering from allergies or colds? I’ve heard hot toddys work wonders!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Epic Julep Variation FAIL

I was pretty pumped to get some Mathilde raspberry liqueur. If you taste it on its own, it's like drinking a raspberry, no joke. The problem is, it doesn't mix very well. I think the key is to give the drink a hint, just an idea of the liqueur. If you want to give something actual raspberry flavor, well, look elsewhere. Unfortunately, I learned this lesson after attempting to make a raspberry flavored mint julep.

-1/2 oz raspberry liqueur
-2.5 oz Jim Beam (mmmm)
-loads of mint
-Fee's Whiskey Bitters

Now, in my head, this came out AWESOME. In reality, it came out a bit acrid. I ended up adding a bit more Beam and it balanced out. Sadly, I don't think this recipe is usable as it is. It needs some serious changes, but I don't know what. Any suggestions?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Joys of Drinking--on the Cheap

Hehe it’s funny AND it has to do with cocktails! The New Yorker put out “Cocktail Recipes for the Recession" in its Shouts and Murmurs section. Enjoy!

We're on Alltop!

Featured in Alltop

If you haven't already noticed, we have joined the happy ranks of drink blogs and resources on Alltop. Yay! Check out some of the other best resources on getting your cocktail on at There are tons of other interesting topics to browse, too. I know because I put together a fair amount of them for Alltop. :-p (I swear they're still legit, though!)

Go celebrate with a drink, mates!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Atlantic Monthly: "Cocktails of the Past"

Check out this new piece by the Atlantic on one guy's exploration of classic cocktails. It's a rather light inquiry, but I always invite discussions of taste and sentiment. Also, note that he talks about Creme de Violette (Josh blogged about our tasting in the past) and the Aviation, which is one of my favorite drinks.

Find the article here:

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Dear Pearl: I Still Do Like You

Dear Pearl,

Before I say all this, I have to say that I really do like you. I’ve written about you and your unique list of modern tropical drinks in the past. And I still like your spacious layouts, with three bars and all types of nooks, high tables, tall stools and soft, velvet cushions. Your happy hours are so pleasant—the discount drinks and appetizers, the easy accent lighting. Your staff is even kind and friendly. And, of course, your drinks were a delight, especially your old-fashioned.

But this last occasion something felt off. It all started when I ordered this first drink:

The Cherry Manhattan

Ingredients: Phillips Union cherry whiskey, sweet vermouth, two dashes of bitters, and a splash of cherry herring.

It looked pretty, up in a martini glass, all red and glossy. But it tasted like medicine! More syrupy than fluid. So sweet and no earthy whiskey.

And then I ordered:

Papa Doubles

Ingredients: 10 cane rum, Luxardo maraschino liqueur, rock candy syrup, fresh grapefruit and lime.

Luxardo is one of my favorites, so I splurged and reached for this second drink, supposedly a Cuban daiquiri, according to the menu! But it was too thick, weighed down by muddled grapefruit and lots of syrup. It tasted like concentrated juice.

Alas, perhaps myself is to blame for not sitting at the bar. I do have to say, though, that your food was stupendous. My friend Phil ordered Kobe beef and seared ahi. The tender beef arrived on a tall stack of wide potatoes, fried just right so that they were crunchy on the exterior and fluffy on the inside.

The ahi was so fresh, too, and sauce was just amazing! Not too fishy. Firm and not mushy.

In the end, I still respect you, Pearl. And I do plan to return another happy hour some day. Your environment is just so comfy, and my friend experience was so wonderful. But perhaps I may not order these specific drinks.



Saturday, January 3, 2009

A Word on Port

For that of you who read our laudations of alcohol in certain of its multifarious manifestations, you may wonder why we neglect all things spawned from grapes. To put it simply: It’s too damn complicated and too much has been said about it already.


I have to talk a little bit about Port. I have to tell you, I feel guilty doing it. We’re strictly about cocktails here at the Joy of Drinking. Our offices are filled with swizzle sticks and julep strainers, not merlots and shirazes. I’ll take a glass of scotch over a glass of wine, thank you, and I’ll write about it to boot... See? There I go again, off on another anti-wine rant. It’s not that I don’t like the stuff, it’s just that I’m ignorant, so I keep my mouth shut.


How do I dare talk about Port? Well... How can I justify it? Hmm, what is Port, exactly? Wine fortified with brandy, eh? That’s sort of a mixed drink. In fact, that’s definitely a mixed drink. PERFECT.

Moving right along: Quinta de la Rosa’s “Lote No. 601.” This Ruby Port should run you about 22-25 bucks, and it’s just about worth it. It’s head and shoulders above your average Graham’s Six Grapes, that’s for certain. I recommend this Port, with that caveat that it’s easily accessible, and you can definitely get more bang for your buck elsewhere.

It’s flavors are very, very nice. It’s a perfect drink if you have a sweet tooth, which I have. It’s sweet, but not store-bought-apple-pie-warmed-with-ice-cream-sweet. It’s not a restaurant cocktail, is what I’m saying; it won’t make you cringe. It’s got such a depth to its sweetness that you’ll find yourself savoring it, trying to unpack its flavor. There’s a hint of toffee there, which reminds me of my all time favorite, a Tawny by the name of Old Codger Port (from Australia! I’ll be damned, mate).

I highly suggest, Meredith (assuming you’re still reading this. If not, our readership has dropped to nil), that you invest in a nice bottle of Port. Unfortunately, you get what you pay for. If you can find Quinta de la Rosa, grab it. You can tell your friends you paid three times what you did for it, and they’ll probably believe you. It’s also an excellent introduction into the world of Port.

(I apologize for the lack of moodily lit photos.)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Kitchen Concoctions: A Cocktail for the Holidays

To me, Tanqeray tastes like Christmas. Somehow the juniper spirit reminds me of crisp December days with my nose to the family room tree and cider mulling on the stove.

So I thought I'd try to make a holiday drink with Tanqeray--my gunggung's (grandfather's) spirit of choice and one of my own favorites. Here's the recipe for what I threw together:

In a mixing glass with cracked and large ice, stir in:

1.5 oz Tanqeray gin
3/4 oz sweet vermouth
1/4 oz maple syrup
dashes Peychaud/orange (preferably Regan's) bitters

Stir for 30 seconds and strain it into a martini glass.

Garnish: flame an orange peel above the glass.

Hope you like it alright. Happy holidays to you!

*Note: You'll see in this picture that I actually didn't use a martini glass. This is because someone else was using the only martini glass I have! :-\