The Japanese Cocktail + home-made orgeat.

Japanese Cocktail; new style.

The Japanese Cocktail.

Appearing in the first ever cocktail book – Jerry Thomas’ Bartenders Guide (sic) of 1862 (#113, page 51) – the Japanese Cocktail is a curious drink. Although this hallowed tome contains almost 500 recipes only a handful are cocktails as such and the Japanese Cocktail is one of those few. As was usual in early books the author tells us nothing more than the recipe but cocktail historian David Wondrich has a theory that goes something like this: Shortly before the publication of Bartenders Guide Japan opened up its previously insular culture and sent some diplomats to New York. It happened that they stayed quite close to Jerry’s bar (and Jerry T. was something of a superstar in those days). While the diplomats were presumably the usual stuffy crusty old types their much younger translator was a certain Tateishi Onojirou Noriyuki who was better known as “Tommy” (well, duh!) and was apparently quite popular with the New York ladies. Wondrich hypothesizes that Tommy was a regular at Jerry’s bar and that the Japanese Cocktail was either made for him or in honour of him. So far, so good. We like an ancient cocktail with a good back-story. We also like a nicely balanced cocktail which the Japanese certainly is not:

As printed in Bartenders Guide 1862 (copyright expired).

So unless Bogart’s long-extinct bitters were the most bitter substance ever created or 19th century orgeat was much less sweet than today we are left with a seriously unbalanced cocktail. Bummer. However, I’ve recently noticed a (new?) trend of rehabilitating the Japanese Cocktail by adding a little lime juice to turn it into a more balanced sour style drink and serving it “up”. Count me in. To make it even more specialer use some delicious home-made orgeat, the recipe for which follows thereafter. Those interested in perusing old cocktail books should note that the 19th century “wine glass” used to measure spirits was quite small – around 2oz / 60ml.

Japanese Cocktail.

2oz / 60ml Cognac (VS is fine, VSOP if you want to be a bit flash).

0.5oz / 15ml orgeat (preferably home-made as detailed below).

0.5oz / 15ml fresh lime juice.

2-4 dashes of aromatic bitters.

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

Garnish with lemon peel.

Toast Tommy and Jerry.

Home-made orgeat.

Turn this…

Orgeat is an almond flavoured syrup. Depending on where you live, you should be able to buy orgeat – Monin brand is decent and widely available – but it’s much tastier to make your own. There are many recipes online that involve using whole almonds and while I’m sure they are great they are also quite labour intensive. The method below is simple, tasty and pretty stable – if made correctly. The trick is to use almond milk instead of whole almonds but you need to be sure to use the best you can find; certainly unsweetened and preferably organic. If you still have a choice go for the one with the highest percentage of almonds in the ingredients list. The recipe is simple but don’t be tempted to skip the blending stage or your syrup will separate, which is annoying. That apart the orgeat seems to keep extremely well in the fridge.

…into this.


300ml almond milk (see above).

400g fine white sugar.

Warm (not boil) together in a clean pan and stir until smooth.


0.5oz / 15ml almond extract.

0.5oz / 15ml orange flower/blossom water.

Allow to cool then blend at high speed for at least 30 seconds.

Store in sterilised bottle.



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The Black Watch.

All right, so you noticed that’s not Black Watch tartan. It’s as close as I could get. Don’t tell anyone.

The Black Watch.

Since it’s St Andrew’s day – Scotland’s national day – I thought I might post something appropriate. Named after a Scottish military unit, The Black Watch is a variation of my own Lord Lucan. I changed the ingredients and proportions slightly and was looking for an excuse to test my newest bottle of bitters. I’m not usually a big fan of Fee’s bitters but I’d heard good things about their Black Walnut bitters. And very nice they are too, giving a pleasant nutty woodiness to all they touch. If you’re a bitter fan I’d recommend them but if you just want to make a Black Watch you could go without or use a dash of good old Angostura. This drink is deep and dark yet still allows the flavour of the whisky to shine through. Hopefully it’s more accessible than its twin brother as Averna is usually more available than Lucano. Ramazzotti would also work as they are quite close in profile – I’d call Averna “earthier” and Ramazzotti “brighter”. You could certainly try a different Scotch and a good blend such as Johnnie Walker Black Label or even a young malt would be perfectly at home in this mix. In general, Scotch, amari, sweet vermouth and bitters are a combination that can be very rewarding to experiment with so let’s hear those mixing glasses clinking!

The Black Watch.*

2oz / 60ml Scotch (I used Monkey Shoulder).

0.75oz / 22.5ml Averna (or Ramazzotti – see text).

0.5oz / 15ml Punt e Mes (or a lesser sweet vermouth if you must).

2 dashes Fee’s Black Walnut bitters (or 1 dash Angostura).

Stir with ice and strain into a DOF glass containing a big chunk of clear ice.

Garnish with a twist of lemon peel.

Toast The Black Watch – marching around in kilts since 1725.

*Yes, I am aware of an existing drink of the same name. If you’d rather drink a mixture of Scotch, Kahlua and soda be my guest. I’m reclaiming the name from the Dark Ages.

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Daisy Duke.

As served at the Boar’s Nest.

Daisy Duke.

A daisy is a largely forgotten class of cocktail that is made by adding a little soda water to a sour style cocktail. Everyone loves a daisy but when I was twelve years old the Daisy I was in love with was on my TV screen every weekend. I expect we won’t be seeing much more of The Dukes of Hazzard due to Daisy’s cousins flying around Hazzard county in a whip positively dripping with controversial symbolism. Still, I decided that if I was going to make a daisy it would have to be one that honoured Catherine Bach’s character from those halcyon days. This should have been a fairly easy brief – Southern, feminine, bourbon based – but the profile I was looking for proved stubbornly elusive. I almost gave up a couple of times but persistence eventually paid off and with a bit of inspiration from Donn Beach and Sasha Petraske I settled on the honey and passion fruit syrup combo for the sweet component – which fit perfectly on every level. Think of it as kind of Southern country bourbon lemonade. You could use any decent bourbon but I like to use Four Roses Small Batch because; a) it’s a really nice bourbon that works well in this drink, b) it fits the “sweetheart” brief perfectly and c) I got a load of it dirt cheap. The Daisy D, being a rather fun and tongue-in-cheek cocktail is a prime candidate for the jam jar shake but it can be made just as easily in a shaker with crushed (or even cubed) ice. Friends who liked this drink suggested I branch out with a whole family of variations. I’m thinking maybe a Jesse Duke with rye instead of bourbon. Y’all got any other suggestions?

Daisy Duke.

2oz / 60ml bourbon (I like to use Four Roses Small Batch).

1oz / 30ml fresh lemon juice.

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

0.5oz / 15ml passion fruit syrup*.

1oz / 30ml soda water.

Shake with crushed ice in a jam jar.

Toast Catherine Bach who played Daisy Duke from 1979 – 1985.

*Details on syrups here.



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Terrible Love.

Terrible Love (and I’m walking with spiders.)

Terrible Love.

I recently created a drink named after a song by The National but it seems I’m not the only one to have done so. I was perusing my new copy of the Death & Co cocktail book* when I noticed this recipe which has the same name as the opening track on The National’s 2010 album High Violet. Furthermore the book has a useful page on flavour combinations, one of which is mezcal and Suze which I had already been fiddling with myself and is the salient combo of the Terrible Love. How could I resist?Created by Phil Ward in 2013 the Terrible Love is quite straightforward; a mezcal base, Suze for a bitter component and sweet elderflower liqueur for balance. A dash of orange bitters and a grapefruit twist add just a touch more complexity. As we know mezcal is a very dominant spirit and in this case Phil has deliberately let its unique character shine through giving us a drink that doesn’t try to be something that it’s not. If you don’t like mezcal you won’t like the Terrible Love but if you do this cocktail is a great delivery system for your favourite mezcal. And in my case that would be Los Siete Misterios Doba-Yej although the original nominates Del Maguey Chichicapa. But let’s talk a little more about Death & Co’s book. Big, black and square (that’s it under the glass in the photo) to be honest it’s annoyingly unwieldy but that aside if you are looking for an all in one modern cocktail book that covers all bases and gives an insight into a modern cocktail bar you need look no further. Your basics of tools, technique and recipes are all there but what is invaluable is the window into the philosophy and energy that make Death & Co one of the top cocktail bars in the world.

Terrible Love.

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

0.75oz / 22.5ml Suze.

0.5oz / 15ml elderflower liqueur (eg. St Germain or Fiorente).

1 dash orange bitters.

Stir with ice and strain into a DOF glass containing a large chunk of clear ice.

Garnish with a grapefruit twist.

Toast Phil Ward of Death & Co, New York.

*Thanks Franco and Qristina!

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The Bee’s Knees & The Business.

None of your bee’s knees.


The Bee’s Knees & The Business.

Sometimes cocktails can seem like hard work. Many modern recipes are somewhat complex and often their ingredients can be hard to source. This is probably a bit inevitable as most of the obvious combinations have been codified long ago. We need to go a little off piste to express our creativity these days and it can be all too easy to take it too far. Guilty as charged m’lord. We need to remind ourselves from time to time that excellent cocktails don’t need to be complicated. A look at Sasha Petraske’s Regarding Cocktails reminds us that our current cocktail renaissance was actually founded on some pretty straightforward recipes. You won’t find any particularly esoteric ingredients beyond a few simple home-made syrups in Sasha’s repertoire but you will find some beautifully straightforward classics and derivatives thereof. Which brings us to these two drinks. Gin is a spirit that doesn’t like to be messed about with too much and these recipes give it the respect it deserves. The Bee’s Knees is a very old drink from around the time of prohibition and is simply a gin sour sweetened with honey instead of sugar. The peculiar name is twenties hipster slang for “the shit”. Luckily The Bee’s Knees or the similar expression The Cats Pajamas make better cocktail names. And if you’re thinking, like I was, Oooh I’m gonna invent a cocktail and call it The Cat’s Pajamas, we’re too late. For the brave “The Shit” still appears to still be available as a cocktail name. The Bee’s Knees was a favourite of Sasha’s but he also morphed it into The Business by switching the lemon juice for lime. While the original was good it always reminded me a little of lemon and honey throat lozenges which The Business doesn’t. Another way of viewing The Business would be that it’s simply a honey sweetened Gimlet. In any case, both the Bee’s Knees and The Business are blindingly awesome drinks that are ludicrously simple to make. So, what are you waiting for? Oh, right the recipes. OK – here you go – get to it!

The Bee’s Knees.

2oz / 60ml gin of choice.

1oz / 30ml fresh lemon juice.

0.75oz / 22.5ml rich honey syrup (3 parts honey to 1 part hot water).

Shake with ice and strain into chilled cocktail coupé.

Toast Apis mellifera.

The Business.

2oz / 60ml gin of choice (I particularly like Bombay Sapphire in this one).

1oz / 30ml fresh lime juice.

0.75oz / 22.5ml rich honey syrup (3 parts honey to 1 part hot water).

Shake with ice and strain into chilled cocktail coupé.


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Satan’s Whiskers.

Twisted whiskers.

Satan’s Whiskers – straight, curled or twisted ?

This curious drink goes back to at least 1930 when it showed up in the Savoy Cocktail Book written by Harry Craddock. As Harry simply compiled a gargantuan mountain of recipes without telling us where they came from, the trail seems to stop there. Satan’s Whiskers, perhaps fittingly, is a bit strange in that it doesn’t conform to any of the known cocktail templates. “Of Italian vermouth, French vermouth, gin and orange juice, two parts each; of Grand Marnier, one part; orange bitters, a dash. Shake well and strain into a cocktail glass.” says Harry. Hardly a sour, aromatic, Negroni derivative or, well, anything but if you want to break out of the conventional cocktail strata this is a great place to startTo make things even stranger there are two versions; the above being the “straight” and another with orange Curaçao instead of Grand Marnier being “curled”. Most modern versions of the Satan’s Whiskers stay remarkably true to the original recipe even though the argument over whether straight or curled is the most “diabolical” rages on. My own personal experience of this drink was shaped by a (possible) misprint. Ted Haigh’s Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails calls for a teaspoon of bitters while all other recipes call for a dash. A teaspoon is more like six dashes and it’s damn good that way, typo or not. I’ve never really been comfortable with the small gin component either, so for once I’ve gone off piste and suggest the formula below which boosts the gin at the expense of the vermouth components, albeit slightly. Feel free to tinker but if you go for the curled version I’d advise you to use a quality Curaçao such as Pierre Ferrand. As for the teaspoon of orange bitters; Trust the Force, Luke

Satan’s Whiskers (twisted).

1oz / 30ml London dry gin.

0.5oz / 15ml Italian (sweet/red) vermouth.

0.5oz / 15ml French (dry) vermouth.

0.5oz / 15ml Grand Marnier (or Curaçao if “curled.”)

0.5oz / 15ml fresh orange juice (squeezed immediately before mixing.)

6 dashes / 1 teaspoon / 5ml orange bitters*.

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled champagne coupé. Orange twist for garnish.

Toast, hmmmm, better go with Harry Craddock or it might look bad.

*Just a single dash would be the “straight” version.

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“The precious blood!”


I’m not usually one for Hallowe’en cocktails but I’ll make a exception just this once. My contribution to the genre is the Nosferatu which owes its inspiration to the dinner scene in the 1922 seminal horror classic of the same name. I was more interested in creating something that tasted subtly gothic than making some kind of pumpkin spice smoothie and as such the Nosferatu is a fairly restrained affair. A key component is the grenadine soaked hibiscus flower (or petals) that are a by-product of my home-made grenadine recipe. It should also be noted that the colour and flavour of the drink is quite dependent on the kind of crème de violette used. I have Marie Brizzard which is strong in flavour but light on colour so my version has only the faintest tint of violet (I suspect the pale yellow of the Lillet also cancels out some of the violet colour). If using other brands you should adjust the amount as required. The drink should be prepared and placed before your guest and only then the hibiscus dropped in whence it will sink to the bottom while leaching out blood-red grenadine like a drop of blood into a glass of white wine. It stays obediently at the bottom of the glass until the drinker is rewarded with a final guilty sweet sip in an otherwise bitter edged cocktail. Happy Hallowe’en!


2oz / 60ml London dry gin (I used Bombay Sapphire).

0.75oz / 22.5ml Lillet blanc.

0.25oz / 7.5ml crème de violette (I used Marie Brizzard).

1 or 2 dashes of celery bitters (optional).

Stir with ice and strain into the most gothic glass you can find – well chilled of course.

Drop one grenadine soaked hibiscus flower (or a few petals) into the drink as you serve it.

Toast director F.W. Murnau and his 1922 masterpiece Nosferatu.


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Calico Jack + home-made spiced rum.

Captain Jack: Swallow.

Calico Jack.

Let’s look an example of making a new cocktail by taking an established classic and modifying the crap out of it. The Calico Jack is a Daiquiri derived cocktail I came up with many years ago and hadn’t made in a long time. I suppose I thought that because it was an early experiment that it probably wasn’t all that great. Not so – it turns out I got lucky with this one. As you recall a Daiquiri is an 8:3:2 ratio cocktail (2oz rum, 0.75oz lime, 0.5oz syrup) but if you want to use it as a base for experimentation – which it is superbly well suited to – I suggest rounding it out to 2:1:1. This is not just for simplicity but also because most liqueurs are somewhat less sweet than sugar syrup. Our “strong 2” is rum but I’m using a home-made spiced rum instead of the usual white rum. More on that later. The “sour 1” stays the same; lime juice. The “sweet 1” we split between two liqueurs; falernum and an orange liqueur. In this case I used the superb Clement Creole Shrub but this could just as easily be any triple sec or (non-blue) curacao. Each of these components apart from the lime juice has a little spice that it brings to the party and we round it all off with a dash of Peychaud’s bitters which has a pronounced anise profile. In short we built a spice bomb. But you could just as easily construct a flower bomb or even an umami bomb. The possibilities become almost endless if you also change the base spirit and/or sour part. If you follow the base formula you will almost always come up with something somewhat drinkable – so go for it. The Calico Jack bears some similarity to the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club cocktail which I was unaware of at the time of creation but, in retrospect, the use of spiced rum, Peychaud’s and different proportions probably lets me off the hook on any plagiarism accusations. The Calico Jack is named for a famous pirate who was eventually captured because he was too full of rum to fight. Sound about right.

Calico Jack.

2oz / 60ml spiced rum.*

1oz / 30ml fresh lime juice.

0.5oz / 15ml falernum (preferably home-made).

0.5oz / 15ml orange liqueur (see text above).

2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters.

Shake with ice. Strain into a chilled champagne coupé. Float one whole star anise on the surface (optional).

Toast “Calico” Jack Rackham. Because; pirates!

*Very preferably home-made as detailed below or, if you must, Captain Morgan’s or Bacardi Oakheart but it won’t be nearly as good and might be too sweet. Warned.

Home-made spiced rum.

Spiced rum is a pretty new creation – which is why you won’t find it in any classic Tiki recipes. And it’s not really that “spiced” more like sweetened and vanilla’d. Which is fine if you like that kind of thing. But we can do better. Do I say that too much? I do, don’t I? Anyway it’s true, we can. The first trick is to use some decent rum as a base – any good gold rum that you would be happy to drink on its own and is at least 40%ABV will fit the bill. I like to use Havana Club Anejo or the funky Coruba NPU but a Barbados gold rum would be another good choice. Combine 700ml of such with 12 crushed allspice berries, 2 ounces by volume of dried orange peel (thinly shredded) and a teaspoon of crushed caraway seeds. If you want some vanilla flavour either add 10ml (2 teaspoons) of vanilla extract or add a vanilla bean at the end of the process. Leave the mixture to infuse for one week, shaking a couple of times a day. After a week strain it out through a unbleached coffee filter. Transfer the infused rum into a clean sterilised 1 litre bottle. Add 2oz of rich (2:1) demerara sugar syrup and top up the bottle with dark rum and give a good shake. My preference here is Myers’s. If you want to you can add a whole vanilla bean too. Give it another week to settle and then make yourself a couple of Calico Jacks. Arrrrr.




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Hanky-Panky + Fernet Branca.

The real Hanky-Panky.

Hanky-Panky + Fernet Branca.

The Hanky-Panky is a seriously old school cocktail created by Ada Coleman of the American Bar of the London Savoy Hotel sometime before 1923. Ada or “Coley” as she was affectionately known was very probably the first female celebrity mixologist (at a time when the profession was almost totally male dominated) and because of this we know the creation story of the Hanky-Panky from her own words as printed in a 1925 edition of The People newspaper:

The late Charles Hawtrey… was one of the best judges of cocktails that I knew. Some years ago, when he was overworking, he used to come into the bar and say, “Coley, I am tired. Give me something with a bit of punch in it.” It was for him that I spent hours experimenting until I had invented a new cocktail. The next time he came in, I told him I had a new drink for him. He sipped it, and, draining the glass, he said, “By Jove! That is the real hanky-panky!” And Hanky-Panky it has been called ever since.

Sir Charles Hawtrey (not to be confused with the post-WWII comedian of the same name) was a prominent comic actor and theatre producer of the day and a regular of Ada’s – along with Mark Twain, Marlene Dietrich, Charlie Chaplin and the Prince of Wales. While “hanky-panky” later came to have a sexual connotation at the time it meant something more like “trickery”. It’s hard to see just what Sir Charles was getting at but the name has been a source of amusement ever since. Anyway, what Ada had done was add a teaspoon of Fernet Branca to an already popular drink of the time, the Gin and It. Now that might not sound like much but Fernet Branca is an intensely powerful ingredient that punches well above its weight. Let’s take a time-out to look at it:

Fernet Branca.

Fernets are a sub-type of Italian Amari, or bitters, and Fernet Branca (Branca is the brand and Fernet is the description; kind of like Coca-Cola, but in reverse) is by far the best known. More intense and medicinal than their cousins they have a fearsome reputation yet hold a special place in the peculiar world of cocktail bartenders. For Fernet Branca is known in such circles as “the bartenders handshake” – a little shot of bravado that shows you are part of some special elite. If, after an evening sitting at their stick admiring their work and comparing notes, the bartender places a shot of this dark elixir before you, rest assured you have been paid the highest of compliments; “brother/sister you are one of us” being the implied message. That aside, there is also a kind of secret bartender game (especially in the USA) that involves special Fernet Branca “coins”. Should a visiting bartender produce such a coin the resident bartender is morally obliged to furnish the former with a free shot of Branca. However if the latter produces his own coin the visitor must pay for a shot each for them both. Basically, a kind of Branca “chicken”. If that wasn’t already bonkers enough, Fernet Branca and Coke (Fernet con Coca) is the unofficial national drink of Argentina. Yes, that’s right; it’s Italian. At 39%ABV and at room temperature Fernet Branca tastes like a potent dose of old school cough mixture, sweetened by about twenty dashes of Angostura bitters. It goes down better ice cold but is still somewhat “bracing” to put it mildly. I happen to know for a fact that Satan pours it over his Cornflakes in the morning. But, on the other hand, used sparingly, Fernet Branca adds layers of complexity to a cocktail like no other ingredient can. Which brings us back to Ada and the Savoy.

Interestingly, the 1930 Savoy Cocktail book, written by Ada’s successor, Harry Craddock, contains (as well as the Hanky-Panky) a drink called the Fernet Branca Cocktail which appears to be a re-proportioned version at two parts gin to a part each of Italian vermouth and Fernet Branca; basically a Hanky-Panky on steroids. Harry rarely added any notes to the recipes but in this case he states;

One of the best “morning after” cocktails ever invented. Fernet Branca, an Italian vegetable extract, is a marvellous headache cure.

That may be but I’m sticking to Ada’s version. Of late some bartenders appear to be adding a little orange juice to their Hanky-Pankies but we’ll be having none of that hanky panky here at Proof. Below is the original “Coley” recipe that has stood the test of time perfectly well thank-you-very-much.


1.5oz / 45ml dry London gin.

1.5oz / 45ml Italian vermouth (aka red/sweet)

1 teaspoon (5ml) Fernet Branca

Stir with ice and strain into chilled champagne coupé.

Garnish with an orange twist, cut or squeezed over the glass.

Toast Ada “Coley” Coleman (1875 – 1966), the first female “startender”.


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The Treacle.

A tale of two treacles.

The Treacle.

We looked recently at The Bramble created by Dick Bradsell. This time we’ll explore a less well known drink of Dick’s called The Treacle. Now if you’re British you’ll need to be patient for a minute while I get everyone else up to speed. The term treacle covers two products used in baking; golden syrup which is sweet, sticky and, well, golden and black treacle which is black, sweet, sticky, tarry with a bitter edge and a hint of spice (and the one that’s relevant to us here). It’s easy to say those are just British equivalents to corn syrup and molasses but they have more complex flavours than those. As well as that treacle seems to occupy some mystic place in British children’s literature, not least as a favourite of a certain annoying little goody-two-shoes teenage wizard. But back to the cocktails. Mr Bradsell’s The Treacle is an unlikely sounding mixture that, as originally written, also has a slightly convoluted mixing process. But don’t worry about that; I’ve straightened it out for you and it works just fine. That’s right; it’s a Rum Old Fashioned with an apple juice float – there’s no fooling you guys! I wasn’t sure what to expect of this cocktail but when I made it for the first time and took my first sip I actually laughed out loud and exclaimed in wonder, “It taste’s just like black treacle!” Not bad for something made of rum, bitters, sugar and apple juice. That’s exactly the kind of trick that makes a man like Dick Bradsell a cocktail legend. So if you’re wondering what black treacle tastes like there’s no need to track down that little red tin of Tate and Lyle’s, just mix up one of these.

The Treacle.

2oz / 60ml Myers’s dark rum (really it must be Myers’s).

2 dashes of Angostura bitters.

2 teaspoons of 1:1 demerara syrup*.

Stir with ice and stain into a DOF glass containing fresh ice or a large block of clear ice.

Add a strip of orange peel.

Float 0.75oz / 22.5ml of cloudy apple juice (apple cider in American English) on top.

Toast Dick Bradsell (1959 – 2016).

* Make just like regular syrup but use demerara sugar or a mixture of white and demerara sugar. If you can’t find demerara other types of brown sugar will get you close enough.

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