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Yes, it’s what I do, but it’s not what I’m talking about at the moment.

This is an original creation of my friend, the cocktailan and writer Paul Clarke, who was responding to a challenge on the eGullet Fine Spirits & Cocktails Forum to come up with a good drink containing limoncello. While it’s a fine digestivo by itself, it seems to have been neglected as a potential ingredient in classic cocktails. Paul came up with this one, named because it took him so long to post his drink at the forum (yeesh, sounds like me, and given my own propensities could easily have been named for me).

It’s mighty tasty, and is now the second cocktail in my repertoire to contain limoncello after Dr. Cocktail’s creation, the Lemony Snicket. It kicked our butts, too. “Jeez, hang onto the handrail going down the stairs!”.

The Procrastination Cocktail

2 ounces Bombay gin (regular, not Sapphire).
3/4 ounce Noilly Prat dry vermouth.
3/4 ounce limoncello.
Dash of green Chartreuse.

Stir with ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass.
Garnish with lemon peel.

If you really want this to kick your butt, and if you have some, dash in the 142 proof Élixir Vegetal de la Grande Chartreuse.

The Diamondback Cocktail

This was contributed by cocktailian bartender extraordinaire Murray Stenson, of the Zig Zag Café in Seattle. Murray said, “Monday you mentioned Chartreuse, Tuesday you mentioned rye … why not try this one? It has become popular at the Zig Zag.” We did. Wow!

The Diamondback Cocktail
(from Bottoms Up, by Ted Saucier)

1-1/2 ounces rye whiskey.
3/4 ounce green Chartreuse.
3/4 ounce applejack (we used Laird’s 100 proof apple brandy).

Shake with cracked ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
No garnish.

This was really, really good; complex, sublime, beautifully balanced. Wes said that he found it a very summery cocktail, much to his surprise, given the ingredients. I loved it, and was immediately curious to try it again with yellow Chartreuse. Murray said in other topic’s comments section that they’ve tried a Green Diamondback, Yellow Diamondback and even a green/yellow combination with success. “‘Sublime’ is a perfect description,” he said. Why thank you; ’twas the first word that popped into my head. And thanks for sending the recipe, too!

The Roffignac Cocktail

Gary Regan, sans The Professor today, contributes an article to the San Francisco Chronicle with some authentic pointers for that most French of spirits.

Americans tend to sip their Cognac neat, at room temperature, or warmed slightly by cupping the glass in the palm of the hand. It’s an elegant postprandial potion.

And those with a passion for classic cocktails take their Cognac with Cointreau and fresh lemon juice in the form of a sidecar, one of the world’s most sophisticated mixed drinks.

In France, though, where style is always the name of the game, those in the know drink their Cognac over ice in tall, slender glasses, mixed with all manner of juices and sodas. Are we missing out on something? You’d better believe we are.

On a recent trip through the Cognac region of France, I visited most of the major Cognac houses and expected to be told that nothing should be added to the treasured elixir lest it become contaminated beyond recognition. I was gravely mistaken. I was treated to Cognac mixed with tonic water, ginger ale, club soda and even cranberry juice. The fact is that Cognac has so much character and flavor that it holds its own no matter what you add to it.

How about an old, old New Orleans classic?

The Roffignac

2 ounces Cognac.
1 ounce raspberry syrup.
Soda water or seltzer

Fill a highball glass with ice. Add the first two ingredients, then top off with soda or seltzer. Swizzle and serve.

Count Louis Philippe Joseph de Roffignac was Mayor of New Orleans from 1820 to 1828, and was famous and beloved for, among other things, introducing street lighting to the city and laying the first cobblestones in the French Quarter. He also lent his name to this favorite concoction, sort of an early 19th Century highball.

According to printed recipes the original sweetening agent for this drink in New Orleans at the time was something called “Red Hembarig.” I hadn’t the slightest idea what this was, but when it was pointed out that the German word for raspberry is Himbeere, many agreed that it was probably a misspelling of a German variety of raspberry syrup that was used.

I’ll still use my VS or even VSOP for drinks like this, but for that $60-per-bottle Pierre Ferrand 20-year-old stuff … well, I still like sippin’ that stuff neat.


I have René Engel to thank for getting me to like these, back in the late ’90s.

I learned a bit more about this drink during Chad Solomon and Christy Pope’s brandy seminar in Los Angeles in 2007, sponsored by Hennessy Cognac, during the part where they were tracing the development of cocktails in Europe.

While the cocktail can be called America’s first great contribution to the culinary arts, the Europeans finally started to catch up in the early 20th Century. One classic that emerged from that period, and is perhaps the best-known brandy cocktail today, despite its relative obscurity with the general drinking public, is the Sidecar, which emerged around the end of World War I. As with many cocktails there are myriad stories as to its origin; Harry MacElhone, in his classic work Harry’s ABC of Mixing Cocktails, cites a bartender from London by the name of Pat MacGarry. David Embury, author of The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks, gives credit to an American officer in Paris who asked a bartender for a kind of brandy sour and named it after the side car of his motorcycle. Whoever did it … well, thanks. We like it.

And whoever did it … it’s not an entirely original concept, having descended from the Crusta, and being in a category of drinks Gary Regan calls “New Orleans Sours;” i.e., spirit, orange liqueur, citrus. The original proportion, as it was made in France during its beginnings, were equal proportions of brandy, triple sec and lemon juice. Perhaps it’s just that tastes have changed, but in this proportion I place this into a category of drinks I call “Not Very Good.” Not bad, just undistinguished. Try a small one, with 1/2 ounce of each ingredient — I suspect you’ll agree.

Later on the proportions evolved to 2 parts brandy and 1 each of triple sec and lemon juice, which some people still favor but others find too tart. Try it and see what you think.

For a while I started making them in the “classic” proportion of 4:2:1 (which is incidentally a good starting-off point if you’re trying to create a new drink with spirit, liqueur and citrus; you can vary from there as you need, and add seasoning via dashes of this and that). That’d be 2 ounces Cognac, 1 Cointreau and 1/2 lemon. Still a good drink.

However, Christy and Chad, as well as several of the other bartenders present, favor a 3:2:1 proportion, which oddly enough is the proportion I’d been using for my Margaritas but not my Sidecars. I will now. It was goo-ooo-ood.


1-1/2 ounces Cognac.
1 ounce Cointreau.
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice.

Combine with cracked ice in a cocktail shaker and shake for
no less than 10-12 seconds. Strain into a sugar-rimmed
cocktail glass.

Gaz Regan is quick to point out that you will have to adjust the proportion and balance of the ingredients depending on which Cognac you use; Courvoisier does not give you the same Sidecar as Hennessy does! Experiment! It’s fun!

I’m not a huge fan of the traditional sugar rim either, so a good compromise to satisfy every guest is to sugar only half the rim. Don’t ever use one of those sponge-dipper glass rimmers, either. To rim a glass with sugar (or salt for Margaritas) rub a cut piece of lemon on the outside of the glass and dredge the moistened exterior rim of the glass in a saucer of bar sugar.


Vermouth Cassis

One of three cocktails we had to celebrate Bastille Day today, it’s also referred to as a Pompier (“Fireman”) and is a very traditional French cocktail. We recommend Dolin Extra Dry or Noilly Prat Original Dry.

Vermouth Cassis

3 ounces French (dry) vermouth.
1/2 ounce crème de cassis.

Combine over ice in an Old Fashioned glass and stir. You may
also combine over ice in a Collins glass, add soda or seltzer
to taste and stir.

Sip this and sing along with the fabulous Robert Preston in “Victor/Victoria” …

They make each moment as gay
As le quatorze juillet!
It’s what they mean
When they say
Gay Par-eeeeee!