The Revolver + flamed orange peel.

You say you want a revolution…

The Revolver.

Created by Joe Santer of Bourbon and Branch, the Revolver is a rather interesting drink. On paper it hardly looks revolutionary – just a coffee tweaked Old Fashioned. However made properly, the Revolver is a revelation. One of those rare drinks that is much more than the sum of its parts, the Revolver is deep, rich, spicy and intense. It really doesn’t taste like a coffee flavoured bourbon at all. Thank goodness. The fact that you can get such complexity from three basic ingredients is really rather surprising. I can’t quite ascertain whether the Revolver is considered a modern classic or not (I suspect not) but it certainly should be. It also proves that there are still new discoveries to be made and they need not be overly complicated. We talked recently about creating infinity bottles and I can think of few better uses of a carefully balanced home blended bourbon than this. Otherwise a rye-forward spicy bourbon works best – although I see no reason not to use a rye whisky if you have any.

Flamed orange peel.

The Revolver is a cocktail that benefits from a flamed orange peel garnish. Actually it’s more of a bar trick that also works as a garnish. It looks impressive but is extremely simple to do (and extremely difficult to photograph as Mrs Proof and I found out to our amusement). Cut a small disc from a fresh orange with a sharp knife. Make sure not to cut it too thin – well into the pith but not into the flesh itself. Hold said disc between thumb and forefinger over the prepared cocktail. Hold a lit match (or lighter) to the centre of the disc and squeeze sharply. Oils from the orange will be squirted through the flame and will ignite briefly (but impressively) before landing on the drink. The peel can then be wiped along the rim of the glass and discarded, dropped into the glass, or both. Please practice this  few times before trying it in front of guests and do so with due care and attention. I’m not much of a video guy so here’s a quick demo from someone who is.


The Revolver.

2oz / 60ml high rye bourbon (eg. Wild Turkey 101, Bulleit bourbon or Four Roses Small Batch).

0.5oz / 15ml coffee liqueur (I used Kahlua).

2 dashes orange bitters (I used Angostura orange).

Stir with ice and strain into a chilled champagne coupé.

Garnish with a flamed orange peel (see above).

Toast Joe Santer, creator of The Revolver.


 

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The Solipsist

Going solo.

The Solipsist.

When mixing with wonderful, wonderful mezcal we need to tread carefully. It’s a spirit that can take over a drink and it pays to use a little less of it than you would of a milder spirit. I’ve found that there is something of a synergy between mezcal and Grand Marnier and given that the latter weighs in at 40% ABV I thought it might take up the slack. So if we consider the mixture of 3 parts mezcal to 1 part Grand Marnier our “base” what shall we make? A sour, a sour! I hear your cry. Very well dear friends, a sour it shall be. Lime juice then? Perhaps, if a little too obvious, but lemon juice goes particularly well with Grand Marnier. So, what about the sweet component? Yes, that’s right; we already have some sweetness from the Grand Marnier. Just a little then, but what? Honey goes so well with lemon we’ll need to give that first refusal. Of course we shake a sour but are we going to serve this one up or on the rocks? I have the sense that this one wants to be served up so let’s go with that. Looks like we got us a drink:


The Solipsist.

1.5oz / 45ml mezcal (good quality, no worm).

0.5oz / 15ml Grand Marnier.

1oz / 30ml fresh lemon juice.

0.5oz / 15ml rich honey syrup (3:1).

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled champagne coupé.

Lemon garnish (optional).

Toast George Berkeley (1685 – 1753).


 

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Blending spirits + infinity bottles.

Infinity x2

Starting an infinity bottle.

When it comes to aged spirits – whiskey, rum and cognac – distillers usually mix the contents of a variety of the barrels in their warehouse to create their final product for bottling. The blenders art is a well refined skill and it takes considerable expertise to achieve the character and consistency that is desired. It can be quite fun to have a crack at something like this yourself. The “infinity bottle” is a great way of blending spirits at home. First save an attractive empty spirit bottle and soak off the label. Then add the spirit of your choice – whisky and rum are good places to start but I suggest keeping like with like, at least at first. In other words don’t be mixing Scotch with bourbon or white rum with aged. It makes sense to start with your favourite spirit as that is the one you’ll be buying the most different types of. Of course you’ll have the great advantage of starting with a selection of finished products so your task is relatively risk free as long as you stick with quality spirits. Use a couple of solid examples of the spirit type as the base and tweak it with smaller amounts of those that have more specific attributes. Try to be conscious of where you want to move the flavour profile of your bottle. Does it need more spice? More smoothness? More sweetness? Drier? Do you want to be boosting the ABV or reducing it? You also need to give any new addition at least a few days to fully integrate itself into the blend – know as “marrying” in the Scotch whisky business. Once you have a blend you like, try not to be too heavy handed with future additions and remember to keep adding a little of your “base” spirits to keep the bottle from going dry. Top it up as you use it because if you let it get too low the balance will be too easily skewed. It can be tempting to throw something into your infinity bottle because you didn’t like it on it’s own but that will usually do more harm than good and can ruin the whole batch: Garbage in – garbage out, as they say. Some people try to catalogue what they put in their blends for repeatability but I personally find it more enjoyable to “freestyle”.

My first infinity bottle started many years ago as a way of making more shelf space; I poured a bunch of almost finished bottles of rum into one and much to my surprise and delight it really turned out to be quite a tasty combination. I kept adding to it in a more considered way, nudging it in one direction or another with a couple of ounces of one rum or another. It became the go-to rum in a Mai Tai or Rum Old Fashioned. Only more recently did I discover that the “infinity bottle” was even a thing. However a single infinity wasn’t enough for me so I’ve just started a bourbon infinity bottle too. Because this is newer I can even tell you roughly what it comprises of – for now – about 35% Makers Mark, 25% Four Roses Small Batch, 25% Wild Turkey 101 and 15% Old Overholt Rye. These choices keep the ABV at just above 45% which I consider the sweet spot for bourbon. The small amount of Old Overholt Rye is intended to hold back the sweetness and add a touch of spice without moving the mix out of the bourbon zone all together.

I hope that gives you the inspiration to start your own infinity bottle – it’s a wonderful route to enjoying and understanding your favourite spirits in a new and unique way.

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The Claymore.

Sliced ice, baby.

The Claymore.

I’m a big fan of Glayva – a Scottish whisky based liqueur with hints of spice, honey and tangerine. Sounds a bit Tiki to me. Should we do some Tiki magic? I thought so. Glayva is strong enough (35% ABV) to use as a base in itself but it is also very sweet and needs a generous measure of sourness to bring it into balance. Since Scotch and lemon juice are best buddies let’s start there. Let’s also use Myers rum because you’re all tired of me calling for rums you can’t easily find and also because it’s a really under-rated dark rum. Myers is a little sweet and any sweetness in a spirit should always be taken into consideration but in this case the extra lemon juice has us covered. I’ve been tinkering with this basic idea for quite a while and it has taken me to an unexpected place – a massive dose of the lemon juice and a little simple syrup. In theory you could cut some of the lemon juice and all the syrup but it’s just not the same. Two dashes of Angostura orange bitters rounds the Claymore off rather nicely.

But what would Tiki be without a bit of icework? Luckily this one is a breeze: Fill your DOF glass of choice about a third full of water and put it in your freezer at an angle of about 45° (hint: a bag of frozen peas makes a useful prop). Next day you’ll have a beautifully frosted glass with a slice of ice in the base. If that sounds like too much work just use a chilled glass. For the full Tiki effect we’ll blend this one with crushed ice. It benefits from a little dilution in any case.

We could get all twatty and call this kind of thing NeoTiki or McTiki but that’s just not how we roll, is it? The name? Well, if you say “Glayva-Myers” quickly enough it sounds vaguely like “Claymore” – an enormous Scottish sword.


The Claymore.

1.5oz / 45ml Myers dark rum.

1oz / 30ml Glayva (if you really can’t find any try Drambuie instead).

2oz / 60ml fresh lemon juice.

0.5oz / 15ml simple syrup (1:1)

2 dashes Angostura orange bitters.

Blend with a handful of crushed ice for 5 or 6 seconds.

Pour into prepared DOF glass (see text).

Toast Jesse Ray – Claymore swinging 1980s, ahem, pop sensation.


 

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Queen’s Park Swizzle + swizzling.

Have I told you lélé that I love you…

Swizzling.

Everyone knows you can shake a cocktail, stir a cocktail or blend a cocktail. But what did bartenders do before there were electric blenders? They swizzled. Swizzling is a great way to make a drink as well being a great word. Swizzling gets a drink super cold, well mixed and diluted and creates a lovely thick frost on the glass but it’s also gentle on your ingredients. There is a small but significant set of Tiki drinks known as swizzles, the King of which is the Queen’s Park Swizzle. Hmmm. To swizzle you need some crushed ice and a swizzle stick. Kind of. The true swizzle stick – or bois lélé – is the branch of a certain Caribbean bush that is snapped in a certain way to create a kind human powered blender attachment. You place it in a tall glass, fill with crushed ice and chosen liquids (let’s be honest we’re talkin’ rum here) place the stick between your palms and rub them back and forth with all holy fury. Lift you hands as you spin the shaft (right on!) to mix the drink evenly. There is no more satisfying way to mix a drink; I could just swizzle all day. The problem is that genuine swizzle sticks are a bit pricey for what is, after all, A Fucking Stick (and that’s a relatively cheap one) so I suggest just using a bar spoon in the same way until you are sure you want to become a regular swizzler. Why someone doesn’t market a stainless steel version of one of these sticks is beyond me.

Queen’s Park Swizzle.

King of the swizzles, the Queen’s Park Swizzle, was invented at the Queen’s Park Hotel in Trinidad in the 1920’s. Fortunately. The QPS was a favourite of Trader Vic who famously called it “the most delightful form of anesthesia given out today.” I can’t argue with that. The astute cocktailien will immediately notice similarity to the Daiquiri formula but with a little more sugar syrup and the addition of mint and bitters. Or that it’s a Mojito with darker rum and bitters. The extra sugar is for two reasons; a long drink needs a touch more sweetness due to the extra dilution and, in any case, we need to counter the bittering effect of all that Angostura to maintain the drink’s balance. While Demerara rum is often called for in the QPS I particularly like it with Plantation Original Dark rum which is partially sourced from Trinidad and also just happens to be one of the most versatile and value-for-money rums around. Because this drink contains mint we have to take care not to swizzle it into tiny pieces (always a no-no) so I assemble my QPS as follows:

Insert the swizzle stick (or barspoon) in an empty Collins type glass and fill it 3/4 full of crushed ice. Add the liquid ingredients including 2 or 3 dashes of bitters and swizzle hard for about 20 seconds, raising the stick up through the ice and back down. Then add the mint and swizzle much more gently to incorporate without shredding the leaves. By now the drink will have settled somewhat and the glass should have a good frosty coating. Remove the swizzle stick and top up with crushed ice and fire another 3 or 4 dashes of Angostura bitters on top. Insert a straw and stir just enough to distribute the bitters through the top layer of ice. Add a mint sprig and proceed with anaesthetisation.


Queen’s Park Swizzle.

3oz / 90ml dark or Demerara rum (I used Plantation Original Dark).

1oz / 30ml fresh lime juice.

1oz / 30ml simple syrup (1:1 and preferably made with demerara sugar).

5 to 7 dashes Angostura bitters in total (see text).

5 or 6 mint leaves.

Follow process described above.

Garnish with mint sprig. Add straw.

Toast the Queen’s Park Hotel in Trinidad (1895 – 19??)


 

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The Sidecar.

Mission accomplished!

The Sidecar.

Here’s a cocktail with a solid 100 years on the clock. Created in Paris (probably at the Ritz Hotel) during the first world war, legend has it that it was the tipple of choice of an army officer who used to travel around in a motorcycle sidecar. At the time such a thing was no doubt considered a bit unusual if not downright eccentric and hence the drink found its name. Consisting originally of equal parts Cognac, lemon juice and Cointreau (known as the French recipe) the Sidecar was later converted to a 2:1:1 ratio (known as the English recipe). But using either of those old school recipes results in a very tart and bracing drink, moderated only slightly by a sugared rim. It does make me wonder if Cointreau was sweeter in the past than it is now. More modern bartenders have brought the drink into a more pleasing balanced form by adding a little more sweetness and – usually – omitting the sugar from the edge of the glass. I think the new version really is a thing of decadent delight even if it’s really just a brandy sour at heart. Choice of brandy is key to a good Sidecar and as a bona fide French Cognac of at least VS level is the minimum requirement. Go VSOP by all means as the extra smoothness will do no harm. Cognac is a delightful spirit to mix with, almost always resulting in a rich and velvety experience, and the Sidecar is the perfect place to begin.


The Sidecar.

1.5oz / 45ml Cognac (I used Courvoisier VS).

0.75oz / 22.5ml fresh lemon juice.

0.75oz / 22.5ml Cointreau (you could also try other orange liqueurs).

0.25oz / 7.5ml simple syrup* (1:1).

Shake well with ice and double strain into a chilled champagne coupé.

Toast Captain X – his name lost to history – and his three-wheeled cocktail quest.


*Skip the syrup element to taste of the old school version.

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Jungle Bird – three versions.

A-well-a ev’rybody’s heard about the bird…

Three little birds.

Created at the Kuala Lumpur Hilton in the mid to late 1970’s the Jungle bird is an unusual Tiki drink in a number of ways. How many bona fide Tiki drinks were created during The Dark Ages? Approximately one. How many Tiki drinks contain Campari? Roughly one. And how many Tiki drinks re-jigged themselves to become modern revival classics? Not all that many. But this little bird had a long and troubled flight to fame. Soon after its birth the poor Jungle Bird was all but extinct, killed off by – yep, you guessed it – The Dark Ages. As so often we have Jeff Berry to thank for the Bird’s resurrection in his 2002 book Intoxica! (which was later folded into Remixed) but the Bird wasn’t done evolving just yet. We’re getting ahead of ourselves though. The original Jungle Bird was a an interesting drink thanks to the unusual inclusion of bitter Campari but it was still pretty mild due to a low rum count and a rather heavy hand on the pineapple juice pour. It was good but not yet great:

Jungle Bird (v1.0 1970’s).

1.5oz Myers’s Jamaican rum.

0.75oz / 22.5ml Campari.

0.5oz / 15ml fresh lime juice.

0.5oz / 15ml simple syrup (1:1).

4oz / 120ml fresh pineapple juice.†

Shake with ice and pour unstrained into a medium sized glass.

The internet says it was New York startender Giuseppe González* who made the key transformation of slashing the pineapple content and playing around with the rum component in 2010. That resulted in the inclusion of Cruzan Blackstrap, a unique, dark, rich, spicy and sweet Caribbean rum that does a nice little tango with the Campari. As a result it’s a much more satisfying drink than the original. Of the three recipes here Giuseppe’s is easily the best so, as long as you have access to Cruzan Blackstrap this is the recipe to use.

Jungle Bird (v2.0 2010’s).

1.5oz / 45ml Cruzan Blackstrap rum.

0.75oz / 22.5ml Campari.

0.5oz / 15ml fresh lime juice.

0.5oz / 15ml simple syrup (1:1).

1.5oz / 22.5ml fresh pineapple juice†.

Shake with ice and strain into a glass containing a big ice block.

The problem is that Cruzan has, in recent years, become impossible to acquire here in Europe and the secret pipeline I’m building to St Croix is barely past the Azores. Given this dilemma perhaps we should take a leaf from Giuseppe’s book and work on that rum component ourselves. While there is no close match for Cruzan Blackstrap on these shores we should be looking for something dark and deep. A little more kick wouldn’t go far wrong either. I think this might be a job for one of my favourite rums; Wood’s 100, a navy proof Demerara rum that is bottled and sold in the UK – and sometimes a little further afield. It’s powerful stuff that’ll put hair on your chest and, hopefully, feathers on our Bird. A 50:50 mix of Wood’s and Myers’s hits the spot:

Jungle Bird (v3.0 2017) aka Surfin’ Bird.

0.75oz – 22.5ml Wood’s 100 Navy Rum (57%ABV)

0.75oz – 22.5ml Myers’s rum

0.75oz / 22.5ml Campari.

0.5oz / 15ml fresh lime juice

0.5oz / 15ml simple syrup (1:1).

1.5oz / 22.5ml fresh pineapple juice†.

Shake with ice and strain into a glass containing a big ice block.

Toast the Bird.


*According to research by Thirst Magazine.

†The best option by far is juice squeezed from a fresh pineapple but the bottled juice from a good health food store is a reasonable second choice. Carton juice? Nah, not so much.

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The Gold Rush + A Proper Drink.

The gold standard.

The Gold Rush.

Sometimes you just want a simple cocktail devoid of fancy ingredients and techniques. Sometimes you want a cocktail that doesn’t have a complicated history or backstory. Sometimes you want a Gold Rush. Created by Milk & Honey (kind of) co-founder T.J. Siegal, the Gold Rush contains just three ingredients, all of which you should have to hand: Bourbon, lemons, honey. You can use any bourbon and it will certainly leave its stamp on this very forgiving drink but I like my Gold Rush smooooth. Double charcoal filtered Gentleman Jack – yes, I know it’s technically a Tennessee whisky rather than an actual bourbon – fits the bill quite nicely here, resulting in an extremely high quaffability quotient. And yes, I know the Gold Rush is very, very close to being a Whisky Sour but somehow honey in place of simple syrup makes a big difference. Sasha Petraske must have thought so too as he put it right there on the name of his bar.


The Gold Rush.

20z / 60ml bourbon (I used Gentleman Jack).

0.75oz / 22.5ml fresh lemon juice.

0.75oz / 22.5ml honey syrup (3:1 honey/water).

Shake with ice and strain into a DOF glass containing a large block of ice.

Toast T.J. Siegal for a great drink and allowing M&H to exist.


A Proper Drink.

If you are interested in the story of the cocktail revival I suggest A Proper Drink by Robert Simonson. It’s definitely a book for the cocktail nerd rather than the general public – although it does contain a small number of excellent recipes. But if cocktail nerd is where you’re at – or where you’re headed – this really is essential reading. For me it was the book that finally put all the pieces of the puzzle together. Oh, and The Gold Rush is right there on page 96 at the end of the chapter on Milk & Honey.

A Proper Drink by Robert Simonson. Ten Speed Press ISBN 978-1-60774-754-3.

 

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Apprentice + internet recipe hunting.

You’re fired! Not.

Internet recipe hunting.

We’ve got it easy these days. The internet gives us access to an enormous array of cocktail recipes – and of course I’m pleased to play some small part in that. But the downside of this ocean of cocktails is that there is a lot of crap floating around there too. So how do we recognise a good recipe? Well there are certain clues. Does the recipe look balanced? There should be a balance of sweet to sour or sweet to bitter in almost any decent cocktail so if you are seeing only sweet, only sour or only bitter ingredients that should be an immediate warning sign. Does the recipe call for quality ingredients? Those that call for specific brands are likely to be more considered creations. If a recipe consists of Jagermeister, orange soda and vodka that tells you that it’s some kind of student dare chugger. Are the quantities realistic? You should be looking for a total volume of around 3 – 4.5oz for most cocktails (a bit more for Tiki) and a alcohol equivalence of 1.5-2.5oz at 40%ABV (again a bit more for Tiki). For long drinks you should be seeing something similar but just “lengthened” slightly with ice and soda or a decent mixer such as ginger beer. Of course there will be exceptions and outliers but these tips should filter out most of the dross. On the other hand you also need to be on the lookout for the kind of overworked hipster BS cocktail that’s all presentation without any real quality content. Over-emphasis on the garnish and particularly obscure liqueurs and bitters are your warning signs of this kind of “Fur coat and nae knickers*” drink.

If you do see a recipe that looks interesting, write it down and try it out. If you like it keep that recipe in a safe place for future use. And just in case you should end up writing about it, note the source. While there is no copyright on cocktail recipes (with a trio of silly exceptions) it is considered polite and proper to give credit where due, whether to a particular individual, bar or website. While we on the subject of recipe collection might I recommend the Android app I use for all my recipes. Note Everything is particularly well suited to making a simple cocktail recipe book and the Pro upgrade allows backups to Dropbox. After all it would almost kill us to lose all those great recipes.

Here’s a recipe that caught my eye and now, a few months later, I can’t find the original source. Luckily I wrote down enough details to be able to credit its creator – Trey Hughes of Portland Hunt and Alpine Club. The Apprentice isn’t on their current menu but Trey is mentioned as the bar manager so that seems to fit. It’s an example of the increasingly popular “brown and stirred” category of cocktails that balance spirits, liqueurs and amari of differing sweetness and bitterness. This recipe easily passes the above tests and is devoid of daft garnishes and unnecessary bitters that are there only for exclusivity. Ingredients are (largely) called for by name and reasonably available and the quantities suggest that some fine tuning has taken place. By no means a classic or even a well known drink, the Apprentice is just an example of how to identify a promising original recipe on the internet. To prove the point – I didn’t even make and taste this drink until I’d written all of the above. Is it any good though? Yep, not bad at all. Cheers Trey!


Apprentice.

1.5oz / 45ml rye whiskey (I used Old Overholt).

1oz / 30ml Campari.

0.75oz / 22.5ml Amaro Montenegro.

0.25oz / 7.5ml Heering (an excellent Danish cherry liqueur).

Stir with ice. Strain into a chilled champagne coupé. Garnish optional.

Toast Trey Hughes – creator of the Apprentice.


*Scottish saying: Spending all the money (or effort) on appearance by skimping on the basics.

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The Last Mariachi + mezcal.

Ay, ay, ay, ay.

The Last Mariachi.

Here’s the thing: I’ve recently developed a bit of a mezcal habit. For a long time I thought, like many of us, that mezcal was a cheap and somewhat dodgy version of tequila. And it often was. It turns out the Mexicans have been running a clever game and keeping the good stuff for themselves. Who knew there even was good stuff? Well there most assuredly is and it really is something very special. At the risk of generalisation the good stuff doesn’t contain a drowned worm and inhabits a similar range of prices to single malt Scotch and in many ways the single malt comparison is the best way to think about quality mezcal. Each village makes its own mezcal in a labour intensive and time-honoured fashion from various species of agave plant. It’s a wonderfully aromatic spirit with smoky, spicy, floral and earthy notes and a strange ability to cut through other flavours which makes it a tricky spirit to mix with. That most of the drinks containing mezcal taste mostly of mezcal is fortunately a happy thing but it does make it difficult to let other flavours have their say. I’ve found the solution to this is to use a second spirit to keep the mezcal under control and let other notes back in. As here, a reposado tequila usually does the trick but I’m keeping my options open. This time I decided to see how mezcal responded to the Tiki treatment and I think it was well worth the effort. I almost called it a Mexican Milkshake but I wasn’t sure that sounded very appetising so I settled on The Last Mariachi instead. If you want to release your own inner mariachi you’ll need to know how to make some coconut syrup first: Pour 125ml of boiling water over 220g of fine sugar and stir until clear. Add 250ml coconut milk and stir in. Add 3ml of coconut extract (optional). It will keep in a sterilised bottle in the fridge for several weeks and is also suitable for freezing.


The Last Mariachi.

1oz / 30ml mezcal (I used Los Siete Misterios Doba-Yej*).

1oz / 30ml reposado tequila (I used El Jimador).

1oz / 30ml white grapefruit juice (fresh or good quality bottled).

1oz / 30ml fresh lime juice.

0.5oz / 15ml Licor 43 (a sweet Spanish liqueur with strong vanilla notes).

0.5oz / 15ml coconut syrup (see text above).

Shake with crushed ice and pour unstrained into DOF glass.

Toast Ron Cooper who was largely responsible for freeing the mezcal.


*Del Maguey Vida would be another excellent choice.

 

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