Monday, December 29, 2008

Post-Christmas Post


Holly Jolly Roger

2 oz. Cruzan blackstrap rum
2 oz. spiced apple cider
½ oz. Torani hazelnut syrup
¼ tsp. absinthe (La Fee works well)

Combine everything in a shaker with ice. Shake well and strain into an ice-filled rocks glass. Garnish with a lime wedge.

I’m late to the party again. Normally I’d post about a Santa-inspired drink before the 25th of December, but all the holiday prep (and maybe a few parties) conspired to keep my productivity at staggeringly low levels this Yule.

But some good came of it. At one of the aforementioned parties I got to spring the above recipe on a group of unsuspecting revelers. They seemed to like it, so I figured it’d be worth reproducing here.

If you choose to make it, enjoy it while pondering why Santa Claus may just be a pirate.

At first glance, it may not seem that Santa Claus and pirates have much in common. But closer inspection reveals that the two share quite a bit more than initially meets the eye. Am I suggesting that a beloved holiday figure is barely any different than a bloodthirsty brigand? Certainly not. But I have noticed there are some startling parallels. I submit the following:

1) Beards. As anyone who has seen pirate movies can attest, buccaneers love beards. Santa’s got one too.

2) Swag. Any pirate worth his salt has a sack full of treasure somewhere. Kris Kringle is almost always depicted with bag of goodies as well.

3) Flamboyant clothing. Pirates are noted for dressing stylishly, and Santa is no slouch in that department either. With his bright red suit, flashy hat and leather accessories, he’d be right at home on board any privateer vessel. Speaking of vessels…

4) Mode of transport. Not only do pirates dress well, they travel in style too- Only the sleekest, speediest craft will do. And to top it off, these ships are bristling with weaponry. Not to be outdone, Father Christmas has a flying sleigh powered by magical livestock. No cannons, but who needs ’em when you can go airborne in seconds and outrun pretty much anything?

5) Crew. Pirates rarely work alone. Even the most resourceful scalliwag wouldn’t get far without a gang of like-minded mates along for backup. St. Nick has his crew also. Those li’l guys with the pointy hats and curly shoes may not go along on the mission, but they do all the invaluable preparations that allow The Man With The Bag to get things done.

6) Covert Operations. Pirates often commit their deeds undercover of night and with great speed and stealth. Santa has this down to a science, invading a staggering number of homes in a short amount of time, leaving nary a trace.

7) Headquarters. By necessity, pirates must choose remote, often difficult-to-access locations from which to stage their campaigns and store supplies. Likewise, the exact whereabouts of Santa’s base of operations is known to almost no one, and exists in a far-flung region that only the most intrepid soul would even attempt to find (and likely at great personal peril due to the harsh climate).

8) Grog. It’s not much of a leap from “Yo Ho Ho” to “Ho Ho Ho.” While there may not be documented evidence of Mr. Claus openly swigging from a rum bottle, I think his rosy cheeks and jolly demeanor suggest there’s more than hot chocolate in his mug.

In closing, I must stress the Santa/pirate correlation is purely speculative. In fact, there is ample evidence indicating that Santa Claus is a force for good, benevolently spreading both material wealth and goodwill with equal enthusiasm. Nonetheless, I recommend staying vigilant during the holidays. Brace yourself with strong drink if the situation warrants.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Father - Son Duo Invades Boozefest!!!


Good thing: My father likes Bourbon.

Not So Good Thing: He has been drinking one brand exclusively for many, many years.

That second one may be on the verge of changing. Recently my father said to me, “You know, I’d really like to have someone line up a bunch of different Bourbons so I could see what the differences in taste are.” The timing of that remark couldn‘t have been better, given that the Pittsburgh Whiskey and Fine Spirits Festival was mere weeks away.

Cut to Heinz Field, home of the venerable Steelers. Normally that place is crammed full of arguably the most zealous, old-school smashmouth NFL fans you’ll find anywhere.* But that night there was no one bleeding black-and-gold, no ferociously swirling Terrible Towels, and certainly no beer. That night Heinz Field was about whiskey (and other fine spirits, according to the promotional materials).

No, the normal “Tailgating begins at sunrise” crowd that fills the parking lot every game day was replaced by a well-behaved gaggle of liquor enthusiasts patiently awaiting entry. Upon entering, we were promptly whisked via elevator to a spacious, posh lounge area lined end-to-end with tables bearing a variety of adult beverages being simultaneously pimped and consumed.

The crowd was well-dressed, conducted themselves appropriately, and gave off an upscale vibe, so I recognized right away I was completely out of my element. But I was not going to let the conspicuous lack of Hawaiian shirts and keg cups stand in the way of my mission. There was serious sampling to be undertaken.

But rather than unspool some lengthy blow-by-blow narrative, I’ll simply hit the highlights in the itemized list format that’s become so popular these days. Clip n’ save for future reference!

~ Heeding Paul Clarke’s sage advice, we hit the Sazerac table first. As predicted, pretty much everything there was amazing. Their Antique Collection (George T. Stagg Bourbon, Thomas Handy Rye, Eagle Rare Single Barrel Bourbon, etc.,) is impeccable. If you find it, buy it.

Also, the Buffalo Trace Bourbon was top-notch, and upon tasting the 20 year-old Van Winkle Reserve, my father’s assessment was, “Well after that, it’s all pretty much downhill isn’t it?” (we carried on nonetheless)

~ I focused mainly on American whiskies, but took an occasional detour. One of these was to try New Amsterdam gin, which is clean, soft, and has an appealing citrus aspect. Also, it’s a total steal for the price.

~ My father branched out a bit more than I did, and among the non-whiskey offerings he enjoyed was Marie Brizard’s Parfait Amour and Kubler absinthe, served up complete with the whole fountain & sugar cube tomfoolery. The green fairy may very well have an new devotee.

~ One of the more distinctive whiskies being presented was Penderyn Single Malt Welsh Whiskey. My father loved it, and I thought it wasn’t bad either. I’m too much of a whiskey novice to fully articulate a flavor profile, but suffice to say it tasted like no other whiskey I’ve had (and I mean that in a good way).

~ Speaking of single malts, Michael Collins Irish Whiskey is a nifty product, and if you’re a fan of that category, I’d suggest giving it a go, if for no other reason than it’s powerful oaky finish. It’s probably blasphemous to say so, but I’d love to experiment with mixing this stuff to showcase that woody aspect somehow.

~ I also dipped into some Scotch: The Glenrothes Select Reserve wasn’t really my bag of beans, but the Tomatin Single Malt 18 yr. old has a very good shot at ending up in my liquor closet if I can track some down.

~ Dad also snuck in a few sips of Patron, which appears to have undone decades of Tequila prejudice on his part. I know Patron takes some abuse for its marketing methods and price point, but that aside, I think it’s a perfectly decent-tasting Tequila and worth the occasional splurge.

~ Vodka: There was an ocean of this stuff available. Why anyone would go to a whiskey-centric event and drink vodka is a mystery, but it was happening all around me.

Overall, it was a tremendous event. I saw smiling faces everywhere, and there seemed to be a lot of people genuinely interested in seeking out good product (as opposed to simply seeing how much booze they could absorb in a 3-hour window) The only “downside” to the whole event was that there was just too much to reasonably (and safely) sample in a single evening.

Which is why I really hope they do it again next year.

* I realize Packers fans may dispute this claim, but sorry, the Steeler Nation gets the edge here. And to any Raiders fans who may feel slighted, please note that “batshit crazy” is not the same thing as “diehard fan.” Turning your stadium into a GWAR concert every Sunday doesn’t automatically translate into a deep, abiding love for your team.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

MxMo 32: Guilty Pleasures


TV and movies must be trying to tell me something . This is the second consecutive post where something I drink is linked with a film or show. Much like Mad Men (which I referenced in my previous post), the movie The Big Lebowski has an alcoholic component- specifically, one drink: The White Russian.

Now I’m sure you’re thinking, “But Dr. B., White Russians are made with vodka, and don’t booze nerds universally loathe vodka??”

Normally I would respond with an unequivocal “yes”, but something tells me this month’s theme will have more than one self-professed drink snob sheepishly admitting that vodka does periodically cross his or her lips. Busted!


Briefly back to The Big Lebowski: I’ve discovered in the course of entirely unscientific testing that The Big Lebowski falls in the category of things people either love irrationally or despise (another parallel with Mad Men, by the way). Actually, now that I think about it, this applies to the entire Coen Brothers’ body of work. (The Bamboo Babe and I have had epic arguments over the merits of Barton Fink, for example).

But concerning the White Russian, I’d wager that Lebowski did more to increase the profile of the White Russian than anything in recent memory (my memory, anyway). I don’t think there was any formal product-placement shenanigans at work in the film, but regardless, the folks who make Kahlua owe the Coens big-time. Vodka companies should probably thank them too, but they’re likely too busy figuring out new wacky marketing schemes to steal the spotlight from Dan Aykroyd’s “filtered-through-diamonds-and packaged-in-a-skull-shaped-bottle” product.

On the guilty pleasure angle, I honestly don’t remember the first time I had one. I may not have immediately liked it, but something kept it on my radar. Maybe it was the ease of assembly. Perhaps the accessible ingredients. Maybe it’s just that it doesn’t taste half bad if you make it right. Personally, I find this recipe to my liking:

White Russian

2 oz. vodka
1 oz. Kahlua
cream (or half & half, or whatever similar dairy product you find palatable)

In an old-fashioned glass filled with ice cubes, add vodka, Kahlua and cream to fill. Stir if you feel like it.

I should point out that I already take a decent ration of abuse from some of my colleagues for confessing that I occasionally drink vodka. Obviously, this post won’t help. But I can withstand whatever they level at me.

As long as they don’t take my rug.

UPDATE- I was just alerted to the fact that Vidiot over at Cocktailians proves that great minds drink alike.

UPDATE Part 2: The Revenge- The roundup has arrived, so go swing by Two at the Most and witness the collective shame. You're soaking in it!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Mr. Draper drinks rye.


Ever have a drink or two while watching TV? I know I do. Sometimes I’m absentmindedly sipping whatever happens to be handy while channel surfing. Other times I make a point of having a specific drink (or type of drink) that seems appropriate for what I’ll be watching. Certain shows just demand it. Mad Men is one of those shows.

To allay any fears, I’ll state right now that I will not be rambling on for several paragraphs about the show. There are tons of places you can go to read people rhapsodizing about how great it is. If you’re a fan, you understand the fuss. If you’re not, it’s unlikely any amount of gushing will make you a convert.

Personally, I’m a devotee. I happen to think it’s far and away the best thing on television right now, and it’s one of few shows I never miss. And I never miss it with a drink.

Sometimes it’s a Martini. Sometimes it’s a Mai Tai. I think I had a few Cuba Libres once, but don’t hold me to it. However, I do know that I’ve had rye on the rocks on more than one occasion, and realized during one particular episode that it was the spirit of choice on both sides of the screen that night.

So in a nod to a show that masterfully combines detail and restraint, I suggest indulging in a drink that does the same: The Old-Fashioned. (made with rye, naturally)


1.5 oz. rye
1 sugar cube
2 dashes Angostura bitters
One orange slice

In an old-fashioned glass (convenient, eh?) muddle the orange slice, sugar cube and bitters. Drop in 2 or 3 large ice cubes, add rye and stir.

What can be said about a classic like this that hasn’t already been said before by people far better at it than I am? Suffice to say that if you make it correctly, you’ll know. As for which rye to use, I believe personal preference should be the order of the day. I tried three: Wild Turkey, Old Overholt, and Sazerac 6-year old. The Bird is smooth, the Double-O is piercing, and the Baby Saz is like a warm, soft blanket. All of them work well.

I should note that the recipe shown above is a hybrid of those listed in Ted Haigh’s Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails and Hollinger & Schwartz’s The Art of the Bar. It suits my taste, and I feel it’s faithful to the original intent of the drink. Like other members of the classic cocktail canon, there is considerable debate over what constitutes an authentic, accurate Old-Fashioned…and I’m not going to throw gas on that fire.

Of course, you could always do away with silly things like recipes and just put some goddamn rye in a glass and drink it. If it’s good enough for Mr. Draper, it’s certainly good enough for the likes of you.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Lion's Tail/ Jasper's Jamaican Cocktail


Lion’s Tail

2 oz. Bourbon
½ oz. St. Elizabeth allspice dram
½ oz. Lime juice
1 dash Angostura bitters

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

- Courtesy of the fine collective that is LUPEC Boston

One of my favorite things about the Web is that it grants people a means to share common, interests. Do you collect strange objects? Are you into obscure history? Have you spent weekends engaging in odd activities? Then there are probably sites, forums and chat rooms that cater to your area(s) of interest.

Me, I like playing with booze (and apparently writing about it too). Fortunately, there is a whole online community that does likewise, as evidenced by that big pile of links over on the right. I say “fortunately“, because without them, I’d pretty much be cooking up drinks in near-solitude, with no one to swap recipes with, compare notes, find out about new products, arrange get-togethers, etc. A man who just made his first Zombie and has no one to talk to about it is a sad thing indeed.

Which is why I try to read as many cocktail blogs as possible, as often as I can manage. Given how large and enthusiastic the online cocktail geek community is, it can be daunting. But even when I can only take a quick peek here and there, I always get a good glimpse into what my fellow booze nerds are up to…and come away learning something. At the very least my curiosity gets jump-started.

Such was the case a few days ago when I ran across the Lion’s Tail over at the LUPEC Boston site. The recipe caught my eye because:

a) it contained Bourbon, which I’ve been enjoying the heck out of lately.

b) it contained allspice dram, which I’ve been looking for an excuse to use whenever I can.

c) I couldn’t imagine what it would taste like, so I was definitely intrigued.

I thought, “This is what boozeblogging is about. Somebody puts up a drink recipe they like, and hopes someone else will try it and like it too.” (Granted, it’s not entirely what boozeblogging is about, but it’s one of the aspects I like best).

Once I stopped trying to imagine what the drink would taste like and actually made the darn thing, I liked it. It’s got a tartness that pokes you in the first sip or two, but gradually mellows. The allspice dram really puts its stamp on things, and strangely, the Bourbon felt like it almost disappeared. I don’t mean that in a bad way…it just seemed to react so smoothly with the other ingredients that it was as though it had become some nifty new flavor altogether.

In a nutshell, it’s very drinkable and I tip my hat to the LUPEC gals for making me aware of it. But the whole time I was sipping away, I kept thinking, “Why does this seem so familiar?”

I think it’s because one of the drinks I’ve been enjoying ever since discovering it at Tales of the Cocktail is “Jasper’s Jamaican Cocktail.” After reviewing the ingredients for both, JJC and the Lion’s Tail strike me as being pretty similar:

Lion’s Tail

2 oz. Bourbon
½ oz. St. Elizabeth allspice dram
½ oz. Lime juice
1 dash Angostura bitters

Jasper’s Jamaican Cocktail

1 ¼ oz. Cruzan Estate Dark Rum
½ oz. St. Elizabeth allspice dram
½ oz. Lime juice
½ teaspoon Fee Bros. Rock Candy syrup

They part company with regard to base spirit and their respective bitter/sweet angle, but otherwise I’d say they could at least use each other’s ID’s to get into a bar. The nice thing is, they are actually two different drinks, taste-wise. If you like your drinks a tad sweeter, I’d suggest going for Jasper. If you want a little more edge, The Lion’s Tail is probably up your alley.

But they’re both very good. I suggest you make one of each, and enjoy them while reading some blogs. Or better yet, make one of each and then POST on a blog- I need something to read.

Random Recommendation: Even though the recipe doesn’t call for it, the Lion’s Tail seems like it wouldn’t be half bad with a couple drops of Absinthe in it.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Luau Grog/Ice Cone Capers


Luau Grog

3/4 oz. fresh lime juice
3/4 oz. grapefruit juice
3/4 oz. soda water
1 oz. honey mix*
1 oz. gold Puerto Rican rum
1 oz. dark Jamaican rum
1 oz. Demerara rum
Dash of Angostura bitters
2 oz. crushed ice

Put everything into a blender saving ice for last. Blend at high speed for no more than 5 seconds. Pour into a double old-fashioned glass. Serve with ice cone.

*To make honey mix, heat one part honey and one part water until honey is thoroughly dissolved. Once cooled & bottled, it will last approx. one week in the fridge.

- From "Sippin' Safari" by Jeff Berry

I’m going to get this out of the way right up front. I made this drink because of the ice cone.

True, the recipe initially caught my eye because I’m a fan of a couple other drinks hailing from the Luau menu (those being the Jet Pilot and their version of the Scorpion). And even though the Luau Grog is an ever-so-slight reworking of a Navy Grog, I still wanted to give it a go and see what it was all about.

But really folks, it’s all about the ice cone.

After a cursory spin around some other boozeblogs, I noticed that Paul had previously tackled this very same drink, Blair had done a run-through on the Navy Grog, and Tiare had done some experimenting with various ice molds. But it seems nowhere near as many people had fiddled around with ice cones as I’d assumed. Were they that hard to make?

I’ll admit *I* was intimidated. But after a little reflection, I thought, “Hey, I hollowed out a pineapple without causing arterial spray, so how hard can it be to pack some shaved ice into a beer glass??”

What follows is my saga of ice cone creation. It’s a tale filled with joy, wonder, disappointment and self-discovery. Join me, won’t you?

I started by consulting the instructions provided in both Jeff Berry’s Sippin’ Safari and the profile piece on Berry in the May/June ‘07 issue of Imbibe (both include the recipe for the Luau Grog, and I wanted to cross-reference them for any variances).

The instructions in both sources were identical:

“For the ice cone, pack a pilsner glass with finely shaved ice, run a chopstick through the middle to make a hole for the straw, and freeze the cone overnight.”

Simple enough. I grabbed a pilsner glass, made some shaved ice, filled up the glass and made the chopstick-hole. Then into the freezer.

Here’s where things got interesting.

After a few hours in the freezer (I didn’t see the need to make it an overnight affair- my freezer is pretty robust and I figured 4 hours would be plenty of time for the cone to set up nicely.), I took out my ice-filled glasses (I made two cones), and got ready to whip up some authentic Luau Grogs.

But there was a small matter of getting the cone out of the glass. Turns out those suckers were locked into their glasses like they’d been welded there. I tried to gently rotate one of the cones to break it’s grip…to no avail. My next idea was to gingerly slip a knife between the cone and the glass and slowly work it around. I immediately broke the glass with this method. Good thing I made two cones.

With the second one, I put it under the faucet and slowly ran warm water over the outside of the glass. After a few seconds, things warmed up to the point where the cone slid free of the glass. But it came out in three separate segments that I had to thread back together with the straw…like stringing a big icy necklace. But I made the drink, put in my gimpy cone and basked in my pseudo-success.

The very next day, I had an email exchange with several other boozebloggers discussing the differences between the Navy Grog and the Luau Grog. This prompted me to look up the Navy Grog recipe in Jeff Berry’s Grog Log where I noticed something important.

Following the Navy Grog recipe, there are instructions for making the ice cone. Here they are:

“Pack ten-ounce Pilsner glass with finely shaved ice. Run a hole through center with a chopstick to make a passage for straw. Gently remove cone from glass and freeze overnight.”

It’s the first part of the last sentence that makes all the difference. REMOVE CONE FROM GLASS and freeze overnight. This step is crucial, and it’s missing from the other instructions.

Armed with my newfound knowledge I set about to make some more ice cones. But a new challenge surfaced: I remembered I had 2 different styles of pilsner glass.


I had already used the straight-sided, stemmed one (glass “A”) earlier. The other one (glass “B”) held the same amount and would produce a cone of equal height, but it would obviously differ in shape. Would it matter? Only one way to tell- I made some cones using each glass.

In a nutshell, I got nice, solid, serviceable cones from each one. Personally, I prefer the ones made with the flare-sided glass, as its flat, wider bottom results in the top of the cone having a bit more heft. It’s mainly an aesthetic concern, but the thinner, pointy top of the other cone is more likely to break off when inserting the straw or while drinking.


And it’s at this point that anyone besides the 7 other booze nerds who make up my entire readership exclaim, “Jesus Christ, I can’t believe this guy is obsessively documenting the minute differences between tiki drink ice cone shapes !!”

Guilty as charged. And it only gets worse:

In the interest of the public good, I took it upon myself to offer a step-by-step ice cone-making process that worked pretty well for me. Hopefully it’ll work for you too.

1) Make some shaved ice by whatever method you prefer. (I don’t have a fancy ice-shaving gadget, so I just pulverize the daylights out of some small ice cubes in a blender until I get a snow-like consistency.

2) Pack your ice firmly into a 10-ounce pilsner glass all the way to the rim. This is the time to make sure you’re using only the finest ice bits. Allowing bigger hunks of ice into your cone will create points where it can fracture easily. I’m sure there’s technical term for this, but I’m an artist, not a Materials Science guy. I draw pictures instead:


3) In the center of the ice, push a chopstick the whole length of the glass to make your straw hole.

4) Leaving your chopstick in place, gently push down on the ice to re-pack any of it that may have gotten dislodged when making the hole.

5) Gently pull the cone from the glass (it should rotate freely and easily slide out…you can probably use the chopstick as a handle)

6) Cradling the cone gently, stand it upright in your freezer (I’d advise placing your cone on something with a smooth surface like plastic or wax paper so you can easily remove it later. (Don’t use something like a paper towel or a cloth). If you haven’t done it yet, remove the chopstick.

7) Optional Step: After the cone has been in the freezer long enough to re-harden, use a small spray bottle (Those vermouth misters and salad-oil spritzers work well) to give it a few spritzes of cold water. This will put a bit of a hard shell on the outside of the cone and help it hold together.


8) When the cone is fully frozen (a couple hours should do it, depending on your freezer), pull it out and insert the straw. You may have to gently open up the hole on one end (or both) if any of the ice shifted during all this nonsense.

9) Put it in your drink and sip away!

Speaking of the drink…

It’s pretty good. It definitely “tastes tiki”, but after having a few I couldn’t help but think it needed just a touch of something. The flavors all worked well together, but the total package seemed just a little flat & thin-tasting to me.

My remedy was to add a ¼ oz of falernum to pep it up and add a little spicy roundness. I like it much better this way.

So now that I’ve made the ice cone-crafting process sound really enticing, who’s up for making some? The first person to send me photographic evidence of their labors will, ummm…win a prize. Or maybe just my admiration. Yeah, that’s probably more likely than a prize.

UPDATE: I regretfully overlooked Mr. Bali Hai's fine efforts. See the juicy photos of his Navy Grog complete with ice cone here.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

MxMo XXXI: 19th Century Cocktails


Mississippi Punch

2 oz. Brandy
1 oz. Jamaica rum
1 oz. Bourbon
1 tbsp. Powdered sugar
Juice of half a large lemon

In your shaker, stir the sugar and lemon juice together until the sugar dissolves. Add the remaining ingredients and a tumblerful of shaved ice. Shake well and serve unstrained in a large glass (I find a pint glass works well.)

Garnish with small pieces of orange and berries in season. A straw is recommended.

- Adapted from Imbibe! by David Wondrich.


A few notes:

~ I made two of these: one using Maker’s Mark, and one with Wild Turkey 80 proof. Neither of these are my favorite Bourbons by themselves, but they work fine in this recipe.

~ For the “Jamaica Rum“ intended for this recipe I followed the advice given earlier in the book:

“…Pusser’s Navy Rum is acceptable, as is Gosling’s Black Seal; better than both is an equal-parts mixture of the two.” (which is what I made)

~ Garnish-wise, I didn’t have an orange handy…but I did happen to have some fresh blueberries. I tossed a handful of those on top, and enjoyed watching them slowly sink as I sipped the drink. The overall effect was like an alcoholic, slushy bubble tea.

~ I don’t currently own a dedicated ice-shaving gadget so I just blew the bejeezus out of some ice cubes in an ordinary blender and what sprang forth was a pretty good approximation of shaved ice. In this drink it’ll do.

~ After sampling the first one, the Bamboo Babe suggested adding ¼ oz. Allspice/Pimento dram to the second. I used St. Elizabeth and it was a fantastic addition…it married perfectly with all the other flavors, and gave everything a depth & roundness, improving an already great drink. It’s insights like this that remind me that I’m with the right woman.

I’m fairly certain I’m the last booze nerd on the planet to get my copy of Imbibe! Since I just picked it up very recently, I haven’t yet fully plowed into it. I’m reading a bit here, a bit there, and skimming the recipes to get an overview. However, when I remembered that this month’s MxMo theme was 19th century drinks, I knew I had to pull a recipe from this book, regardless of how cursory a spin I took through it.

So even though I missed the MxMo deadline and am officially late to the party (Although the fine folks hosting MxMo this month at have kindly made allowances for idlers like me.), I settled on the Mississipi Punch. There’s a whole section on punches, and most of them look pretty darn good to me. However, I like Bourbon and rum, and happened to have all the requisite ingredients in the house, so the Mississippi was the lucky winner.

At first I was skeptical because of the 2 oz. of brandy called for. Brandy is a taste I’ve yet to acquire, but I reasoned (or more accurately, hoped) that the other ingredients would do their part and keep things balanced. Fortunately I was right.

The Mississippi Punch is one of those drinks that has the characteristic of all the base spirits blending together well, yet each one still being able to be picked out. There is probably a name for this phenomenon, so I’ll rely on my more knowledgeable colleagues to clue me in. Also, it’s a strong drink, but doesn’t have an overly boozy burn. It definitely evokes the era when tipplers weren’t shy about getting a snootful …but still wanted it to be flavorful and have the veneer of class.

You can also look at it this way: If you have Bourbon, rum and brandy lying around and don’t particularly like any of them on their own, the Mississippi Punch is definitely for you. You could probably even make a game out of challenging your fellow drinkers to identify the 3 base spirits. The first one to correctly identify them all gets to wear some sort of distinctive hat signifying his/her status.*

* but considering a lot of booze nerds wear odd hats anyway, the impact of this particular prize may be somewhat lessened.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Brick, the Bitters, and the God of Thunder


It’s a month later, and the ripple effects of Tales of the Cocktail are still being felt at here at Casa de Bamboo. Specifically, I’ve been poking through a huge stack of recipe cards that was included in my TotC goodie bag. For those who haven’t seen it, this stack of cards is over 3 inches thick and contains instructions for numerous adult beverages (as well as a handful of food items). It’s my understanding that every single recipe in this collection was prepared and served somewhere, sometime, during TotC. Mind-boggling to be sure, and it’s not a feat I’ll be attempting myself. My available time and budget is far exceeded by the sheer number of recipes.

Hence, I’ve nicknamed this giant wad of cards “The Brick.”

After browsing through The Brick in the days following TotC, I decided the first drink I’d try to reproduce was the “Improved Whiskey Cocktail”. This drink was one of several I’d sampled at the TotC Happy Hour, and I really liked it. It also contains two of my favorite ingredients- Bourbon and Maraschino.

Here is the recipe as printed on the card:

Improved Whiskey Cocktail

2 oz. Bulleit Bourbon
2 dashes Fee Bros. Whiskey Barrel Bitters
1 teaspoon Fee Bros. Rock Candy Syrup
½ teaspoon Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
1 Dash Pernod Absinthe

Strain into chilled cocktail glass and twist a swatch of thin-cut lemon peel over the top.

Created by David Wondrich

The only ingredient I didn’t have handy was the Whiskey Barrel Bitters, but a quick online order remedied that. Of course this meant I had to wait a few days before whipping up the drink, but I wanted to make sure I had all the requisite components in place- I thought this recipe was outstanding, and I didn’t want to goof it up by omitting or substituting anything. So I sat, marinating in my obsessive nature and waiting for the guy in the big brown truck to deliver my tiny bottles (Yeah, I said “bottles.” As long as I was already ordering, I picked up a couple other flavors. Don’t act like you haven’t done it too).

But back to the Happy Hour. Imagine a large hotel ballroom, the perimeter ringed with tables. Now put several more tables in the center of the room like giant island-style bar. Behind each of these tables put someone frantically mixing drinks nonstop. Now fill this entire space shoulder-to-shoulder with booze nerds desperately trying to sample drinks and carry on conversations. Finally, add in a harried hotel staff weaving throughout the whole thing, clearing empty glasses and replenishing supplies at a manic pace.

It’s hot, cramped, and loud. But the general atmosphere is one of good-natured frenzy, on the part of both the mixers and the sippers. As time goes on, more people add to the ranks, ratcheting up the crush until it feels as though you’re submerged in a booze-infused sensory sludge, helplessly slipping into a fugue state.

Fortunately, every so often you’re jolted back to life by the cannon-fire sound of ice being pummeled into submission by David Wondrich. Ensconced at a corner table, he wielded an enormous wooden mallet, the kind cartoon cats and mice use on each other. With every blow, thunder erupted and drinks were forged. I like to think it was his way of periodically reminding everyone that yes, socializing is fun, networking is necessary, but we’re here for the drinks, people.

In this case, the Improved Whiskey Cocktail.

This time around I’ll dodge my usual ham-fisted attempts to dissect the recipe. If you like whiskey, you’ll probably like it- It’s damn good. Gather up the ingredients and try it out at home. Preferably with a big hammer in hand. A Viking helmet wouldn’t hurt either.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Ain't Life Grand?







Don't kill the messenger, Jeffrey. They made me do it.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Tales of the Cocktail: Words and Pictures

“Pathetic earthlings. Hurling your bodies out into the void, without the slightest inkling of who or what is out here. If you had known anything about the true nature of the universe, anything at all, you would've hidden from it in terror.”

- Ming the Merciless

This was my first time visiting New Orleans and attending Tales of the Cocktail, so I was excited at the prospect of a nearly week-long double whammy of booze and culture. Being someone who likes playing with both words and pictures, I had visions of doing some grandiose Hunter S. Thompson/Anthony Bourdain-style travelogue, replete with profound insights into the human condition and comprehensively documented in a lush, day-to-day journal format.

It became apparent sometime around day 4 that this was not going to happen.

You see, up until then, I had been taking tons of notes, trying to make as many drawings as time would allow, and even snapping a handful of photos. But there’s just so Goddamn much to see and do down there, it all just got away from me. I realized that there was no way I could effectively record all the things I experienced and subsequently package it all up for consumption. I’m only one man.

So what follows is simply a collection of impressions…nuggets of info that somehow made it back home stored either in my notebook or in my head. I hope that collectively they’ll give a glimpse into what transpired over 6 days or so at a cocktail convention in New Orleans. If you were there, some of this may look and sound familiar. If you weren’t there, I bear no responsibility for anything you see here encouraging or deterring you from attending next year.

~~~~~Random Observations~~~~~

~ I’m really trying hard not to stereotype all businessmen who travel by plane as attention-starved, self-important jackasses, but it’s really difficult not to do so when every flight contains at least one guy who is compelled to initiate a loud cell phone conversation the second the wheels hit the ground. And it’s bonus fun whenever one of these fine specimens spends the entire flight hyperactively fiddling with his laptop, Blackberry, phone, and pocket calculator in rapid succession. Next to me.

(To the guy on the flight from Charlotte to New Orleans: Well done sir- I’m sure your boss is grooming you for upper management as a result of your dedication and diligence. Thanks for jabbing me with your elbow for almost an hour straight. Now I know why they serve booze on planes).

~ The shuttle from the airport to the French Quarter is a convenient, inexpensive way to get where you’re going, but it isn’t particularly speedy, nor does it seem to follow any discernible logic with regard to route. Once your van/bus arrives in the Quarter, you are treated to a seemingly aimless tour of all the hotels in this legendary neighborhood, in no specific order. You will travel up and down the same streets over and over (albeit in different directions) until your hotel presumably appears.

You know how in action movies there’s often a car chase through a third-world street bazaar knocking over fruit stands and squeezing through alleyways not intended for cars? It’s like that, except at half-speed.

~ I’m still trying to figure out what method the baggage handlers used to smash my steel wristwatch into eight pieces. I’m impressed, but this is why I never spend more than 40 bucks for a watch.

~ Whoever came up with the concept of a slowly rotating bar is a mad genius. It’s a great way to meet people, but sustaining conversations proves more difficult if one party is moving and the other is not.


Spinning at the Carousel Bar

~ If you remain in the Carousel Bar long enough, you will eventually see every single person attending Tales of the Cocktail.

~ Boozebloggers must have something akin to a bat-signal. On the first night, after an hour or so in the Carousel Bar, almost every other blogger in attendance showed up within 15 minutes of each other. (But I should note that I was well into my 2nd Martini at this point, so my perceptions may have been less than accurate). Spontaneous assemblies of this sort repeated themselves throughout the event. I need to look into this phenomenon.

~ As has been noted elsewhere, boozebloggers, (particularly those with tiki leanings) favor island-style shirts, brimmed hats made of organic materials, and facial hair. I don’t know if there is any connection between this look and a predilection to open marriage, but at least one person in the elevator at the Hotel Monteleone wondered aloud if we were part of a swinger’s convention that was rumored to be in town at the same time.

~ It’s nice to see Maraschino liqueur behind a bar.

~ If you find yourself in the company of several boozebloggers lurching through the kaleidoscopic blur of the French Quarter at night, realize that you will be likely be stopping at Pat O’Brien’s for hurricanes, even though no one particularly wants to (I still haven’t figured out exactly how this happened).

And despite all participants swearing a blood oath to never reveal that we went Pat O’Brien’s for Hurricanes, photographic evidence immediately appeared on several websites (I still haven’t figured that out either. Apparently a man’s word means nothing these days).

~ At any gathering where three or more people are drinking, Jagermeister will inevitably appear.

~ Late-night “invitation-only “ parties can be fun, but more so for the secrecy that surrounds them than for the actual social interaction that occurs once you gain admittance. Also, you will see people at these parties that you will never see before or after. It’s as if they’ve been teleported in just for that specific occasion. You could set up an “invitation-only” party in the heart of the Amazon rainforest and instantly 2 dozen women with fake breasts and their varnish-headed boyfriends will materialize from somewhere.

Also, these parties will cause hotel security to be called multiple times. Plan accordingly.

~ Despite the South having a reputation for doing everything at a slower pace than the rest of the world, they apparently suspend this approach during Tales of the Cocktail. Everything seemed to be moving much faster than I was…even when I was sober.

It’s not unlike the video for the Ramones’ “I Wanna be Sedated”.

~ I normally avoid coffee, but drinking a cup while taking your morning shower has a definite rejuvenating effect and is a time-saver to boot.


Coffee in the shower Wednesday morning

~ There seems to be no limit to the money that corporate sponsors are willing to spend to get you to drink their hooch. I won’t name any specific brands, but there were some serious dog-and-pony shows that could have been set aside in favor of more effective smaller, targeted promotional efforts. Flashy can be fun, but when people are leaving your event less than an hour after it begins because it’s an assault on the senses, you may want to rethink your strategy.

~ One of the defining moments of the trip was witnessing someone during a Tales event gleefully telling the person he was on the phone with how drunk he was. I am 99% sure this person was not actually a Tales attendee. Oh well…share the wealth, I say.

~ It’s a lot of fun watching someone from the UK trying to pronounce “Tchoupitoulas”. Hell, I’m from here and I can’t pronounce it.

~ Whoever was in charge of keeping bottled water in good supply throughout the event deserves a medal.

~ Speaking of water, I drank far, far, more water and caffeine than I did alcohol. No one believes me though.

~ The blogger reception was a great opportunity to meet all my online pen-pals. It’s nice when people who compulsively document their drinking habits publicly have a chance to get together and compare notes.

~ Absinthe/pastis and Peychaud’s bitters are flavors I don’t need to taste for a long, long time. I think they put Peychaud’s in the O.J. at the breakfast buffet for Christ’s sake.

~ I awoke one morning at 5:12 and was unable to go back to sleep. I don’t know who or what to blame this on, but it did allow me to witness a guy slowly riding a bicycle on the street below in the pre-dawn haze. That guy probably has a story.

~ Kudos to whoever’s idea it was to place a fully-stocked Red Bull fridge in the media room. But there was something ironic about being at arguably the biggest drinking event on the planet and no opener being available for the bottled beverages.

~ If you want the closest thing to solitude outside of locking yourself in your room, hang out in the lobby of the Hotel Monteleone from 7-9 a.m. during Tales of the Cocktail.


At 7 a.m. the Lobby of the Hotel Monteleone is a ghost town (But even the ghosts are drinking)

~ I was fortunate enough to meet several luminaries in the cocktail community, and with only one exception, I met all of them simply while hanging around or walking from event to event. If there’s someone you really want to meet, I’d say you’ve got better odds of running into them waiting for an elevator than you do trying to plow through a crowd of admirers at an appearance. But maybe I just had good luck.

~ I didn’t particularly want to do a full-tilt Bourbon tasting at 10:30 a.m., but I somehow struggled through it.

~ The “Cocktail Hour” was far longer than an hour. It also featured the biggest crowd of drunks I’ve ever seen crammed into one small area without a fistfight, public displays of affection, or vomiting occur. It was a swirling, crazed mass of drink enthusiasts, and hats off to all of them for keeping it classy (as far as I could tell).

~ The “Juniperlooza” event was a gin-lover’s dream, and offered what was to become the most sought-after piece of swag. I saw a miniature black market spring up later that day with people selling those bartender’s toolkits in exchange for cash, event tickets, and sexual favors*.


Just a few samples at the Juniperlooza event

~ One of the best quotes of the week was from Kaiser Penguin's Rick Stutz: “It’s not a guilty pleasure to like the Smiths. It is if you like LaBouche.”

~ Even at 9 in the morning, New Orleans can get pretty freaking hot.

~ The Hotel Monteleone has a really great rooftop pool & bar, but I somehow never managed to get to it. This was a gross oversight, especially considering I’m usually dressed like I’m going to the pool even when there isn’t one nearby. I won’t let it happen again next year.

~ An interesting social experiment: See how long it takes a hotel full of booze nerds to start grousing about elevators that are too few in number and too slow. I think I actually saw someone handing out torches and pitchforks to a mob headed for the management offices.

~ Awards shows are good fun. More so when all the categories are booze-centric.


Searching for a place to eat breakfast Friday morning

~ If you find yourself among a group of people in someone’s hotel room and there is a large collection of opened bottles of alcohol lying around, a good time will likely ensue. If one of the people you are with is a skilled bartender who offers to spontaneously make up drinks using this motley assortment of liquor, take her up on it….you’ll get something pretty tasty.

~ I’m going to do my damnedest to be there again next year. Who’s with me?

* This is not true, but people were really clamoring for them.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Raspberry-Thyme Smash -or- The Case of the Curiously Oversized Muddler


For well over a year I’ve been ripping drink recipes out of magazines and collecting them in an overstuffed 3-ring binder. This must indicate I’m an optimist at heart, because at this point I’ve got way more recipes stashed than I’ll likely ever get around to making. But occasionally I pull one out, round up the requisite ingredients, and have at it.

Like a lucky game show contestant being yanked from the audience, the Raspberry-Thyme Smash was plucked out of the pile and put through its paces. It was featured in the July ‘08 issue of Bon Appetit, and looked like a promising candidate for both a great Summer beverage and a way to convince myself I’m pursuing a healthy lifestyle (It contains fruit).

Raspberry-Thyme Smash

2 fresh thyme sprigs, divided
7 fresh raspberries, divided
2 1/4 oz. gin (Hendrick's is suggested)
1 oz. simple syrup
1 oz. fresh lime juice

Remove leaves from 1 thyme sprig. Place leaves in cocktail shaker with 6 raspberries and muddle. Fill shaker with ice and add gin, simple syrup, and lime juice. Shake vigorously and strain into ice-filled highball glass. granish with raspberry threaded onto thyme sprig.

Served at the BLT Market in New York

What I didn’t realize was that this drink had a secret ingredient: A giant muddler. Actually, I should state up front that I’m pretty certain what I have is not a muddler. I speculate that it is probably some kind of antique potato masher, but it pretty much resembles a muddler (assuming your bartender is a Norse god).

This gargantuan item, like much of my barware, came courtesy of my father who ran across it at a flea market. Upon presenting me with it, he claimed that neither he nor the seller knew what it was, but since it looked vaguely like a muddler (albeit of outsized proportions), he decided to pick it up for me.

Basically, it’s a 15-inch long cylinder of hardwood that flares at one end to a diameter of almost 2 inches. It weighs approximately a pound, and is completely devoid of any decoration or inscription that would give a clue as to its origins or purpose. Ever see those belaying pins that pirates are always clobbering each other with in the movies? It’s kinda like that.

But the important thing is that it muddles. It really freakin’ muddles. But it’s not so big that it doesn’t have room to maneuver in my mixing tin, and it’s considerable length keeps me from banging my knuckles against the rim. There’s also enough handle available to grip it in a variety of ways, so as far as I’m concerned, this thing is my new muddler.

But every time I pick it up* I feel compelled to bellow a plea to some pagan spirit and tear my shirt off (I make all drinks in the privacy of my own home, so mercifully no one will have to witness this awful spectacle).

So I take it as some sort of cosmic coincidence that the Muddler of the Gods™ showed up right around the time I found the Raspberry-Thyme Smash. The drink is wonderful, and everything a refreshing Summertime sipper should be. It is supremely balanced, and flavor-wise all the ingredients meld perfectly. So get some fresh raspberries while they’re still in season and try this one out!

And remember- when muddling, use your legs, not your back. And have a friend help you if necessary.

*something I was initially unable to do, until I began a rigorous weight-training regimen.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Fruit Cup


I’m embarrassed it’s taken me this long to make a drinking vessel out of a pineapple.

It really should have happened long before now. I’ve been fiddling with tiki-style drinks for well over a year, and I regularly buy whole pineapples, so it’s not like I don’t have them lying around. I’ve also attended at least a dozen Jimmy Buffett concerts, where unorthodox beverage containers abound (lawn flamingos, beer mugs made of a single piece of ice, etc.), so I really should have gotten on the stick by now.

After noticing one of the recipes in Jeff Berry’s Sippin’ Safari could be served in a pineapple, I decided to finally take the plunge. The first step was determining if there was a tried-and-true technique for transforming a large piece of fruit into a fun and functional drink container.

Turns out there isn’t one. Or more accurately, I couldn’t find one. The first thing I did was to contact some of the big brains in the booze nerd community and see what they do. I was surprised to find that most of the people I spoke to hadn’t yet attempted it, and the responses from those who had essentially boiled down to “Cut the top off, and scoop out the insides.”

I also did a little poking around on the web, but that was slim pickings too. There’s a promising-looking gadget designed specifically for taking the guts out of a pineapple, but the reviews were mixed. It appeared that I was headed for trial-and-error territory.

Now I’m the kind of person who doesn’t like to make things more complicated than they need to be, so I stuck close to the “cut off the top and scoop out the insides” method . I’ve made many jack-o-lanterns over the years, so my reasoning was that this would probably be pretty much the same, albeit on a smaller scale and with contents you’d actually want to eat.

I discovered that things shook out to be basically a three-step process:


1) Slice off the top. I cut horizontally about 1.5 to 2 inches below the leaves. If you want a wider, shorter cup, just make your cut farther down. I used my trusty Chinese vegetable knife, but feel free to use the cutting tool of your choice (machete, katana, chainsaw, etc.)


2) Outline a cavity. Run a small knife (I found a grapefruit knife works well) in a circular path near the outside of the pineapple. I recommend you don’t make this cut right up against the rind. Leave at least a half-inch of “meat.”- It’ll add strength to the cup once it’s hollowed out.

Also, this is the step when you’ll discover pineapples are surprisingly soft. Despite their rough exterior, they’re very easy to puncture. I immediately put a hole in mine even though I was trying to be as gentle and deliberate as I could.


3) Shovel out the insides. I used a stainless steel salad spoon, but any rigid, scoop-like implement without sharp edges or corners will probably do the trick. The core in the center will give you the most resistance, but you can use your small knife from step 2 to carefully carve out any stubborn bits.

Like step 2, there’s a bit of guesswork involved here. Just make sure you don’t scoop too deep or too close to the sides, otherwise you‘ll be creating an organic dribble glass.

Optional step: If you want to keep the top to use as a lid, just cut a small notch in the edge for a straw and replace it. You can fasten it to the bottom with a toothpick or cocktail umbrella.

As for the drink itself, I went with the Pina Paradise, from the aforementioned Sippin’ Safari.

Pina Paradise

½ oz. Fresh lime juice
½ oz. Grapefruit juice
½ oz. Orange juice
1/4 oz. Sugar syrup
¾ oz. Gold Puerto Rican rum (I substituted Cruzan)
¾ oz. Martinique rum (I used St. James Royal Ambre)
2 one-inch-square chucks of fresh pineapple
Dash Angostura bitters
6 drops (1/8 teaspoon) almond extract

Place in a blender, without ice, and blend at high speed until pineapple is liquefied. Pour into a cocktail shaker half-filled with ice cubes. Shake well, then pour into a hollowed-out pineapple or tiki mug.

It’s not bad. The rums come through pretty well (especially the Martinique) despite the number of other ingredients. The grapefruit, orange, pineapple and lime do well as a fruit base, and the almond extract is a nice touch- Although I may have to make this again and see what happens if I substitute orgeat.

Overall, it’s a tasty but not particularly remarkable drink. I found it a bit flat, but the Bamboo Babe loved it, so I’ll keep it in the rotation. But in the future, when I’m making another pineapple cup, I’ll likely opt to fill it with a Painkiller or something with a bit more oomph.

To wrap up, here’s a breakdown of my pros & cons for drinking out of a pineapple:


Expense. Where I live, whole pineapples run between 4-5 bucks apiece. That can easily be a prohibitive cost depending on how many people you’re serving.

Labor. The time you spend making the cup detracts from time you can be drinking.

Flavor Factor. Whatever drink you put in the cup will be flavored with pineapple to some degree.

Weight. Even a hollowed-out pineapple can get a little heavy and unwieldy after a while.


No-Slip Grip. The rind of a pineapple is a natural high-friction surface. If you drop it, it’s not the pineapple’s fault- you probably should have stopped two drinks ago.

Environmentally Friendly. Pineapples are biodegradeable, so when you’re done, compost it, chuck it in the woods, or simply drop it through the sunroof of your snooty neighbor’s Mercedes.

Edible. You can eat what you’ve hollowed out.

Style Factor. I mean, you’re drinking out of a pineapple…how cool is that?

So give it a shot- It’s not as tough as it might look, and it’s a heck of a lot of fun. And as always, tips, advice, cautionary tales, etc., are welcome.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Capetown Collins


Capetown Collins

2 oz. Gin (Any straightforward London dry should do the trick)
½ oz. Fresh lemon juice
2 oz. Rooibos-rosemary syrup

Place all ingredients in cocktail shaker with ice. Shake well, and strain into ice cube-filled Collins glass. Garnish with rosemary sprig.

Rooibos-rosemary syrup

Simmer one cup water, sugar, and a rosemary sprig in a medium saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Add 1½ teaspoons loose rooibos tea leaves and let steep for 1 hour. Strain through fine mesh strainer and bottle it.

Contrary to what many believe, not all my time, money and energy goes into playing with booze. I sometimes play with food too. Noting this, generous family members have given me subscriptions to several food magazines, among them Bon Appetit, from which I ganked the above recipe.

In the May ‘08 issue, someone had written to the magazine asking for the recipe for the Capetown Collins, which is served at a place called No. 9 Park. I figured if someone liked a drink enough to write to a magazine to find out the particulars, it’s probably worth a go. Plus, it contains gin…and as an avowed gin evangelist, I need to promote it’s use whenever possible.

Long story short: I really liked it. It’s a great warm-weather choice (the Bamboo Babe envisioned it as a fine option for occasions when you find yourself outdoors on a thick, humid night). The rooibos-rosemary syrup is a nice flavor combo and matches up with the gin and lemon perfectly. It’s nicely balanced too, although if you like your drinks more on the tart side (like me), just scale back the syrup until you get it where you like it.

Cold drink. Lawn chairs. Bare feet in grass. You get the idea.

A note about where to find rooibos tea: I got mine at the local food co-op (hippies always have the best tea selection), so you’re likely to find it at places like organic grocers, health food stores, and decent coffee/tea joints.

Monday, May 12, 2008

MxMo: Rum


Jamaica Mule

2 oz. White rum
1 oz. Dark rum
1 oz. Gold rum
1 oz. Falernum
1 oz. Lime juice
Ginger beer

Shake everything except ginger beer with ice and strain into a large tumbler (at least 12 ounces…preferably larger) over ice. Fill with ginger beer and garnish with pineapple chunks and crystallized ginger.

Adapted from 1001 Cocktails by Alex Barker


Sometimes I seriously consider renaming this blog “I drink crappy cocktails so you don’t have to.”

By and large, the majority of recipes I dredge up are perfectly fine. There’s only been a been a few where I only took a sip or two before making a cartoon face and dumping it. But recently I seem to be finding myself selecting recipes that look promising on paper, but reveal themselves to be significantly flawed upon tasting. However, these drinks aren’t bad enough to abandon altogether, so I end up trying to salvage them somehow. They look like they should work in principle, so I begin fiddling with proportions and swapping ingredients around.

Such is the case with the Jamaica Mule. In 1001 Cocktails it’s listed as a variation on the classic Moscow Mule, using rum as the base spirit rather than vodka. Since rum obviously plays well with both lime and ginger beer, I figured this was a sure bet.

The big snag wasn’t the concept of the drink, but rather what specific ingredients to use. The recipe only states white, gold and dark rums, but offers no hint as to what styles or brands might be good choices. I began rummaging through my liquor closet, pulling out various rums and looking for possible candidates. (At this point the Bamboo Babe began heaping good-natured abuse upon me as she feels I own far too much rum)

Anyway, I love to experiment and tinker with recipes. However, I hate to waste good booze. So I made a pact with myself that I would give this drink 3 attempts, and if I couldn’t find a configuration I was happy with by then, I’d consign it to my personal cocktail graveyard. Onward I stumbled…

First stab:

2 oz. Havana Club Anejo Blanco
1 oz. Myers’s
1 oz. Pyrat XO
1 oz. Falernum (Fee Bros.)
1 oz. Lime juice
Ginger beer to fill

My thinking here was that using a decent quality light rum would set up a good base for the rest of the drink, and the Pyrat’s strong orange character would complement the lime flavors. Unfortunately, I underestimated just how strong the orange in the Pyrat was, and it came to the top in every sip. Plus, the falernum was way too evident. The whole thing ended up with a harsh, abrasive texture and was really unbalanced.

Second stab:

2 oz. Cruzan light
1 oz. Lemon Hart Demerara
1 oz Appleton V/X
½ oz. Falernum
1 oz. Lime juice
Ginger beer to fill

For this attempt, I cut back on the falernum, but it was irrelevant. This combination of rums is awful (at least in these proportions), and the less said about it the better.

Third stab:

2 oz. Havana Club Anejo Blanco
1 oz. Gosling’s Black Seal
1 oz. Appleton’s V/X
½ oz. Falernum
1 oz. Lime juice
Ginger beer to fill

Third time’s a charm? I’ll tentatively call this one a success (How’s that for confidence?). This is definitely the smoothest of the three, and it’s the easiest on the tongue. There’s no burn…just some pleasant tingle on the finish from the ginger beer, which in this configuration settles in much better with the rums.

Also, this recipe is the only one of the three that seems to truly echo the Moscow Mule and tastes faithful to the original idea. It has the vibe that I believe the creator(s) intended.

One important note: This recipe needs a spicy, somewhat bitey ginger beer. The brand I used was Jamaica’s Finest, a zippy, not-too-sweet locally-made brand. Marleigh managed to find it in her neck of the woods, so it may be widely available. It’s really good…get it if you can.

And if you haven't done so already, head on over to Trader Tiki's and check out all the other glorious rum concoctions!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

For Medicinal Purposes Only


Jet Pilot

½ oz. Fresh lime juice
½ oz. Grapefruit juice
½ oz. Cinnamon-infused sugar syrup
½ oz. Falernum (Fee Bros.)
1 oz. Dark Jamaican rum (I used Myer’s)
¾ oz. Gold Puerto Rican rum (I subbed Cruzan)
¾ oz 151-proof Lemon Hart Demerera rum
Dash Angostura bitters
6 drops (1/8 teaspoon) Pernod
4 ounces crushed ice

Put everything in a blender, saving crushed ice for last. Blend at high speed for no more than 5 seconds. Pour into an old-fashioned glass.

Having spent a considerable chunk of April out of commission with pneumonia, I regrettably missed out on some drinking & posting I’d been meaning to do…including taking part in last month’s Mixology Monday. However, one advantage to this particular malady is that you always feel like you’ve had a couple of stiff drinks. It’s not the kind of buzz you can really enjoy though, because you’re constantly coughing and feeling like utter crap. But it does do wonders for your alcohol budget.

So right around the time my recuperation seemed imminent, a nice thing happened- I managed to acquire some Lemon Hart Demerara 151 rum (I’ll avoid the specific details as to how I finally got ahold of it because I don’t want the PLCB commandos parachuting into my backyard like that school scene from Red Dawn).

I also realized a batch of cinnamon-infused simple syrup in my fridge was nearing it’s expiration date, so the only reasonable course of action was to whip up a Jet Pilot. Plus, the vitamin C in the lime & grapefruit juice would certainly help with keeping me hale & hearty.

Did I mention I got to play with my ice crusher and mortar and pestle?

Anyway, The Jet Pilot appears in Jeff Berry’s excellent Sippin’ Safari, and it’s a keeper as far as I’m concerned. The conventional wisdom among tiki drink enthusiasts is that although many recipes feature a large number of ingredients (which presumably ratchets up the probability you‘ll screw something up), the end results can be strikingly balanced. The Jet Pilot is definitely one of those recipes. Rick and Robert thought so too.

As I mentioned, the balance of flavors is great. The cinnamon is front and center but doesn’t dominate. The rums blend beautifully, with the smoky burn of the 151 filtering through. The juices and falernum perk things up, and with only 6 drops (believe me, I measured this exactly) my old nemesis Pernod seemed in perfect proportion. This drink is now firmly entrenched on my list of “go-to” tropicals.

So will having a few Jet Pilots help you shake a stubborn illness? As the saying goes, “individual results may vary”. But while you’re behind the bar, make a few impassioned pleas to the tiki spirits- It could speed your recovery.

Monday, April 7, 2008


Got 5 days to kill in mid-July?

If so, great! You should head to New Orleans for Tales of the Cocktail. If not, change your plans so that you DO have five days to kill, and then head to New Orleans for Tales of the Cocktail.

But regardless of whether you can or can’t make it, you should still regularly visit, a collaborative undertaking that showcases the efforts of over two dozen bloggers who will be attending TotC. These dedicated souls will be posting regularly in the months leading up to the event, as well as during the proceedings, so check in regularly to see lots of booze-themed words and pictures conveniently collected in one place.

And if while attending TotC you should happen to see someone furiously pecking away at a laptop*, there’s a good chance it’ll be one of’s contributors. Feel free to provide that person with a drink- They’re working hard for you.

*Except for me. I don’t own a laptop, so I’ll be the dork with the sketchbook.

Friday, March 28, 2008

What I've Learned


Last month I looked at the calendar and realized that I started this blog a year ago. I remember thinking that the absolute last thing I was going to do was one of those “Happy Birthday/anniversary”-type posts.

But then I changed my mind. I do that.

What prompted me was a regular feature that Esquire magazine does called “What I’ve Learned”. It’s my favorite part of the magazine*, and for those who haven’t seen it, the magazine asks a notable personality to provide whatever observations on life they feel are worthwhile. Here's a good one.

Never one to shy away from freely spouting my own crackpot take on things, I decided it was high time to jump in myself:

~~~ What I’ve Learned in OneYear of Boozeblogging~~~

~ The boozeblogging/online cocktail community is comprised of unbelievably friendly, generous, and encouraging people. Although I’ve yet to meet any of them in person, I’ve had many fun & informative exchanges via email and comments, and everyone I’ve gotten to know has been very kind. Interacting with my fellow drink geeks is a big reason why I continue to be enthusiastic about learning as much as I can about cocktails.

~ Starting a blog when you’re expecting your first child may not have been the brightest thing to do from a frequency-of-posting standpoint.

~ Pennsylvania has got to be one of the lousiest places in the entire country to buy booze. I knew this prior to starting my blog, but I didn’t fully realize just how maddening it can be until I attempted to try to lay hands on some slightly-off-the-beaten-path drink ingredients.

Rather than going into a full-bore rant, I’ll direct interested readers to this article, which does a pretty good job of providing a glimpse into the lunacy that is PA’s liquor sales system. This one is good as well. (Thanks to Cynthia for bringing these articles to my attention)

~ There is no substitute for fresh squeezed juice.

~ A year ago I hadn’t the faintest idea what the hell Falernum, Orgeat, or Pimento Dram were. Not only did I learn, but I now know people who actually make their own from scratch.

~ Don’t fear the brown! ’07 was the year I really embraced whisk(e)y. My mother-in-law turned me onto Scotch, and I discovered I really, really like rye. And though my taste for Bourbon has been spotty over the years, I recently ran across a few that I’d knock small children aside to get at (I’m talkin’ about you, 23-year-old Pappy Van Winkle!).

~ Oregon apparently has a disproportionate amount of skilled and talented bartenders. While they are indisputably nifty as individuals, they recently decided to increase their prowess by several levels of magnitude and become collectively awesome.

~ People can get excited about bitters. Really excited.

~ I am now unable to go past any used book store without stopping in to forage for old bar guides.

~When properly made, tiki drinks are fantastic. They’re definitely worth the time and trouble

~ On recycling day, all my neighbors’ bins empty out with a series of dull thuds. Mine sounds like an avalanche in a chandelier store.

~ People who enjoy making quality drinks also tend to be damn fine photographers. Like this guy, this gal, and this guy, just to name a few.

~ I own an antique lime squeezer and not one, but two manual ice crushers. People will give you these things once they become aware of your interest in cocktails.

~ Even though I knew this before starting a blog, I have an incredibly loving, patient, and understanding wife. Aside from allowing my bottles & barware to take up an inordinate amount of space in the house, she also is willing to try all the recipes (no matter how odd) I scrounge up.

And if that wasn’t enough knowledge & wisdom for you, Gabriel over at Cocktailnerd recently posted a fun and educational list that highlights the things he learned about crafting cocktails during a lengthy power outage. Print it out and store it with your extra batteries and candles!

*Apologies to Mr. Wondrich

Monday, March 17, 2008

Identity Crisis



I’ve noticed a fine tradition among many boozebloggers is to try a recipe and then tinker with it to suit their personal taste. I’ve done this occasionally, but more often than not, I tend to be happy with the initial results yielded by most recipes. I take this to mean one of two things:

1) I’m fairly lucky when selecting a particular recipe
2) I’ve got pretty low standards

Regardless, when I was looking for a high-octane drink to try out for this month’s MxMo (kindly hosted by Rick over at Kaiser Penguin), I figured I wouldn’t have too much difficulty finding something tasty and interesting. I scrounged up a candidate in Alex Barker’s 1001 Cocktails, and here’s the recipe exactly as it appears in the book:

Indian Summer

1 measure vodka
2 measures Kahlua
1 measure gin
2 measures pineapple
tonic water

1) Shake the first four ingredients well over ice until frosted.
2) Strain into a medium cocktail glass or wine glass and top up with tonic water to taste.

(I took “measure” to mean “ounce” in order to satisfy the minimum alcohol content requirement)

The tinkering began immediately. I felt that instead of straining it into a cocktail/wine glass, this drink needed to be served over crushed ice in a double-rocks glass (if for no other reason than a double-rocks would be able to hold more). Other than that, I prepared it as indicated.

It was, well, okay. Tasty? Sort of. Interesting? Not terribly. The Kahlua and pineapple completely dominated. It was also too sweet for my liking, so I wanted to get some tartness happening. I knocked a half-ounce off the Kahlua & pineapple juice, upped the gin to 1 1/2 ounces and added ¾ ounce of lime juice, resulting in this:

Something Like The Indian Summer

1 oz. vodka
1 1/2 Kahlua
1 1/2 oz. gin
1 1/2 oz. unsweetened pineapple juice
¾ oz. lime juice
tonic water

Again, I shook everything and poured it over crushed ice in a double-rocks glass, topping with tonic water. This time around the balance was better, but it still tasted primarily of Kahlua & pineapple. An improvement, but it still wasn’t doing much for me overall.

Here’s where I kinda went off the rails and realized my obsessive fiddling would be taking this drink somewhere it never intended to be. First, the tonic water seemed unnecessary- it really didn’t add anything, and it just seemed to thin the flavors, so I left that out. Second, I scaled the Kahlua back another half-ounce. Third, I eliminated the vodka and substituted one ounce of rum.

The rum I chose was Brugal anejo. I’ve had a bottle for while now, and I have yet to use it in something where I’ve liked it much. To me, it has a bit of a harsh bite that I have a tough time getting past…but bite was exactly what this drink was lacking. I also threw in a couple dashes of Angostura bitters to pull things together.

So now I had this:

Something That Really Isn’t The Indian Summer Anymore

1 ½ oz. gin
1 oz. rum (Brugal anejo)
1 oz. Kahlua
1 ½ oz unsweetened pineapple juice
¾ oz. lime juice
2 hearty dashes of Angostura bitters

I shook it all and once more used the trusty double-rocks/crushed ice combo. And I actually didn’t think it turned out too bad. The rum and bitters give it some decent spice, and the ingredients seem to level out much better. It’s got some depth, and I like it.

Keen-eyed readers will of course notice this haphazard concoction is seriously verging on tiki territory (if it isn’t already there). For all I know, there may be actually be a tiki-style drink that uses this exact combination of ingredients- I’ll have to check that out sometime. Either way, I don’t think I’m quite done fiddling yet. Perhaps a few drops of mint bitters might be in order…

Wednesday, March 12, 2008



I know what you’ve all been thinking: “Dr. Bamboo’s blog is okay…but what would really be neat was if there was some way his crackpot musings and goofy pictures could be printed on paper and sent to my mailbox!”

Oddly enough, this can happen.

Since last Fall, I’ve been moonlighting as the drinks columnist for Bachelor Pad Magazine. I probably should have mentioned it back then, but I tend to procrastinate.

BPM is the brainchild of Java, all-around swell cat and proprietor of online hot spot Java's Bachelor Pad. He was kind enough to ask me to contribute, and I was happy to oblige. Aside from lifestyle advice, movie reviews, entertaining tips and nifty pinups, the magazine also contains a cocktail recipe and original illustration by yours truly. (The above image is from my column in the premiere issue…if you can guess which drink it represents, you will win a valuable cash prize *)

So why am I bringing it up now? Because issue #3 is now available! To check it out, go here.

*Not really

Friday, February 29, 2008

Kinda like a Negroni...kinda like a Manhattan...


The Boulevardier

1 ½ oz. Bourbon (I used Bulleit)
1 oz. Campari
1 oz. Sweet vermouth
Stir with ice in mixing glass and strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with orange slice, lemon twist, or cherry.

The other night I was gripped by a desire for Bourbon (I‘m usually gripped by a desire for gin or rum, but whisk(e)y has been clamoring for my attention with alarming frequency these days). I began searching for a suitable Bourbon-centric recipe, and struck gold with the March/April 2007 issue of Imbibe. In his column, the venerable Ted Haigh (a.k.a. Dr. Cocktail) details the history and composition of the Boulevardier with his usual top-notch skill...and I was sold.

I cracked the seal on a newly-purchased bottle of Bulleit, and dove in. As the Dr. notes in his column, this is basically a Negroni using Bourbon in place of gin. I’m a fan of the Negroni, so I figured I’d still be in safe territory once I made the swap.

When this drink settles in the glass it becomes a color I can only describe as “rosy-rust”- a truly beautiful hue that makes me think it needs to be on the cover of a cocktail guide asap (All you camera-slingers out there may want to make this one just for the opportunity to take a picture of it).

After a few decent sips got me well underway, I realized my overall impression was that this drink really tastes vintage. The ingredients pull together in a flavor combination that screams early-20th century (Haigh notes that the recipe first saw print in 1927). While definitely a whiskey-based recipe, the characteristic Bourbon flavor gets masked fairly well for the most part...the Campari and vermouth tag-team it, relegating it to an end note, revealing itself mainly on the finish.

I also realized about halfway through that this drink bears a striking resemblance to the Manhattan. The Campari lends it’s distinctive taste, but there’s still no hiding the tell-tale whiskey/sweet vermouth nucleus of the Manhattan.

So is the Boulevardier a Negroni with Bourbon instead of gin? Yes. Is it a Manhattan with Campari added? Sort of. (All the Manhattan purists will no doubt be gathering with pitchforks and torches as I type this).

Either way, it’s a great drink. And if it’s further incentive, it’s yet another drink I’d put in that category of “whiskey drinks for people who don’t like whiskey.” I used to be one of those people, and it didn’t take much to convert me. If I’d had a Boulevardier at a key moment, it would have taken even less.

UPDATE: I just realized that Paul over at the Cocktail Chronicles did a great write-up on this drink where he uses rye in place of Bourbon. Go check it out!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Japanese Caipirinha??


Caipirinha (standard recipe)

1.75 oz Cachaca
1/2 Fresh Lime
1 teaspoon superfine cane sugar

Cut ½ lime into thirds and muddle with the sugar in a rocks glass. Fill with ice cubes and add cachaca. Place mixing tin over glass, invert and shake well. Pour contents (do not strain) back into glass, and garnish with lime wheel.

(Like many cocktails, the Caipirinha’s ingredient proportions vary considerably depending on the recipe. It appears that most people adjust the amount of lime, sugar and cachaca to suit their taste. The above recipe is my favorite.)

Caipirinha (variation)

1 oz. Cachaca (I used Pitu)
1 oz. Sake (I used Momokawa Diamond)
1 tsp. Ground crystallized ginger
1/2 Fresh Lime

Grind the crystallized ginger until it forms a coarse paste. (I used a mortar & pestle, but since the ginger is soft, you should be able to grind it up easily in a bowl with the back of a spoon)

Cut 1/2 lime into thirds and muddle with the ginger in a rocks glass. Fill with ice cubes and add cachaca. Place mixing tin over glass, invert and shake well. Pour contents (do not strain) back into glass, and garnish with lime wheel.


I discovered the Caipirinha about a year ago and I immediately loved it. The simplicity of its recipe appealed to me, and the no-frills sweet/sour/spirit combo is fantastic. Plus, I get to play with my muddler. Any drink that calls for squashing stuff with a hunk of wood is OK in my book.

So when I was considering which classic drink to corrupt with my graceless tinkering, I gravitated toward the Caipirinha. I knew I didn’t want to add anything, which could potentially change the entire character of the drink. I also didn’t want to remove an ingredient and destroy the great three-way balance among the ingredients.

This left me with substitution. But rather than trying out random ingredients in a maelstrom of trial-and-error, I decided to let aroma be my guide. I closed my eyes and took several whiffs of the open cachaca bottle to see if it suggested anything (I’m an unapologetic bottle-sniffer, and can often be found rapturously inhaling the delightful fumes from my bottle of Luxardo maraschino. Don’t judge me.).

It wasn’t long before I had one of those “light-bulb-over-the-head” moments. Ginger seemed like it might be complementary, and since I had the crystallized kind (which contains sugar) handy, that’d take care of the sweetness.

After mashing some up in my trusty mortar & pestle, (getting to use another gadget...bonus!) I tried out the conventional recipe…substituting the ginger for the sugar. Unfortunately, the ginger got lost, overwhelmed by the punchy cachaca.

That’s when I opened the fridge and spotted the unopened bottle of sake.

Some sort of perverse inspiration struck, and I made another quick tweak: I knocked the ¾ oz. off the cachaca and replaced it with an ounce of sake. Yeah, I know I technically violated my earlier rule about not adding anything, but it’s my own rule and I can bend it if I want.

Anyway, I think it works. The cachaca still forms the backbone of the drink, but the sake puts a crisp, dry angle on it. And adding it somehow freed up the ginger, which now comes out as just a little wisp on the finish. Best of all, it still tastes fundamentally like a Caipirinha, which is great because I didn’t want to totally transmogrify the thing into something unrecognizable.

The only problem was I had no idea what to call it. I figured something like “Asian-inspired caipirinha” or “Caipirinha Japanese-style” was perfectly accurate, but lacked zip. I’ll keep working on it. Suggestions, as always, are encouraged.

And don't forget to swing by Jimmy's Cocktail Hour and check out all the other great contributions to this month's Mixology Monday!