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Gin Punch

I was craving that gin punch.

At the kickoff of Plymouth Gin’s Historic Los Angeles Cocktail Tour last month (which I still haven’t written about, because I’m a lazy bastard and God Emperor of Procrastination), Dave Wondrich handed us each a flask filled with what he described simply as “gin punch.” It was great.

A couple of weekends ago Wes and I were asked if we wanted to bring cocktails to a pool party and barbecue we had been invited to. The answer to that is always “Yes!” but often we tend to feel more like enjoying the party than mixing drinks the whole time, particularly when a pool is involved. This is one of those times that calls for punch, and my mind snapped back to Dave’s gin punch and how much I enjoyed it.

I went right for my copy of his marvelous book Imbibe! (the work copy, that is; we have two copies of it — one pristine and autographed, and the other one that we’re beating the crap out of in our kitchen and bar, and which already has a cracked spine and loose pages). There on page 77 was a punch recipe that seemed awfully similar to the one we had that day, and was undoubtedly It.

Given who the sponsor was, the gin we had that day was Plymouth, although the original recipe from the early- to mid-1800s was based on “Holland gin,” or genever. If you want to be authentic, make it with an oude genever, or try Maytag’s excellent Genevieve Genever-style Gin. Dave says even a London dry will work, and that’s what we used, because we had about 2 liters of Beefeater on hand and didn’t want to use up all our Boomsma or Genevieve.

For the raspberry syrup you can use Monin or even Torani in a pinch. The best raspberry syrup we’ve ever come across is from Harry and David, those folks that sell the amazing (and amazingly expensive) flats of fruit as gifts, and lots of other expensive bottled and bagged stuff too. Their raspberry syrup is amazing, richly flavored of fresh berries, not too sweet, and stays well-blended in the drink. Problem is, I just checked their online catalog and it doesn’t seem to be listed anymore. (D’oh.) As far as I can tell the product is discontinued.

Dr. Cocktail is fond of Smucker’s Raspberry Syrup, and it’s really good too. We found that it’s heavy and has a tendency to sink to the bottom of a drink rather than stay blended. This is not necessarily a bad thing — it just means you shouldn’t dawdle over your drink!

Or hell, just make your own.

Raspberry Syrup

2 cups fresh raspberries.
1-1/2 cups sugar, plus 2 tablespoons.
2-1/2 cups water.
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice.

Combine the raspberries, 2 tablespoons of sugar and 1 cup of water in a saucepan and cook gently over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the berries begin to break down and release their juices, about 5 minutes.

Add the rest of the water and the lemon juice. Bring to a boil then immediate reduce to a low simmer, skimming any foam that forms. Simmer, stirring frequently, for 15 minutes.

Pour through a strainer, and press the fruit to squeeze out all the juices. Return to the pan, add the rest of the sugar. Stir until sugar dissolves, bring to a boil again and immediately reduce heat to a low simmer; simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool

Bottle and store in refrigerator for up to 4 weeks.

YIELD: About 3 cups.

We didn’t have any raspberry syrup on hand, so we ended up kicking it up a bit by substituting the venerable Chambord black raspberry liqueur (which is made with blackberries as well). I had a lot of it on hand, after judging a local Chambord-sponsored cocktail competition a couple of weeks ago (and no, I haven’t written about that yet either, sigh).

I multiplied the recipe below by twelve to serve everyone, and had enough left over for us to have a nice li’l bowl of punch in the fridge for a few days. I think I might have to keep that practice up. Anyway, here’s the version of the punch I made, in a single-serving size:

Gin Punch
(Chuck’s version, based on the 19th Century recipe in Imbibe!)

3 ounces Beefeater gin.
1-1/2 ounces water.
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice.
1/2 ounce Chambord (or raspberry syrup).
1/2 ounce simple syrup.
1 teaspoon maraschino liqueur.

Serve over ice in tall glasses, garnished with a slice of orange and berries in season. Provide straws for sipping.

This was good. They put a lot of this stuff away at the barbecue, and were very complimentary. Don’t let its pinkness put you off, though. It’ll knock you on your keister if you’re not careful. (A couple of people at the party cut it with lemonade, about 80% punch to 20% lemonade. Try some of the fizzy French-style, which would probably be very good in this.)


New Orleans Cocktail of the Day: Bywater

I could have used a big drink right around the time I found out my bank had failed, but I only saw the news right before I went to bed. (Come to think of it, a big shot of Cognac would not have been untoward, but I just went to bed instead.) Fortunately we had had a lovely drink last night, and a New Orleans original by Arnaud’s French 75 bartender Chris Hannah, who served this to Paul Clarke during Tales and gave him the recipe.

This kind of imagination, creativity and willingness to make needed ingredients from scratch is what makes Chris one of the very best bartenders in the city. This is also my kind of drink — bitter and herbal! But that’s not the main flavor profile, only part of a more complex whole, with the tiki-spiced sweetness of the falernum and the lovely warm vanilla-sugar-toast of the rum as the base spirit. The name also can’t be beat — it comes from the New Orleans neighborhood in the Ninth Ward where my mom and uncles grew up, where my grandparents had their neighborhood corner grocery, and where I spent a lot of time as a kid.

The Bywater Cocktail
(Created by Chris Hannah, Arnaud’s French 75 Bar, New Orleans)

1-3/4 ounces Cruzan Estate Diamond Rum, 5 years old (or Cruzan Single Barrel).
3/4 ounce Amer Boudreau (or Torani Amer).
1/2 ounce green Chartreuse.
1/2 ounce falernum.

Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Those are Chris’ recommendations for the rum, but any aged, smooth rum would probably work. I would imagine that the new reformulation of Torani Amer would work well too.

Although we did enjoy it the version I made was not quite there — I have a good supply of homemade Amer Boudreau, New Orleans 3 year old dark rum sat in for the Cruzan (all I had Cruzan-wise was our house pouring rum, the Cruzan 2 year) but at the time I made this I had yet to make a batch of my own falernum. I flipped a coin between John D. Taylor’s Velvet Falernum and Fee Brothers Falernum syrup, and it came up tails. While the Fee’s works well in tropical drinks it was too sweet for this drink, and threw the balance off. (We drank it anyway; even though it was unbalanced I do try not to let good booze go to waste, and it was almost there.) Paul’s absolutely right that the drink needs the acid of the lime juice from the homemade falernum for balance.

[UPDATE: This drink would work really well with Taylor’s Falernum, but it’s quite spectacular with homemade.]


Potions of the Caribbean

Continuing with the World’s Slowest and Most Procrastinatory Tales of the Cocktail recap … Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, Wayne Curtis, author of And A Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails, Martin Cate of Alameda’s fabulous Forbidden Island tiki bar, and Stephen Remsburg, rum expert and owner of what is probably the world’s most vast private collection of rums, took us on a tour of the Caribbean, and a tasty one it was.

As fun and informative as so many of the seminars at Tales were, I think this one has to win the award for Most Entertaining Seminar, certainly winning the Best and Funniest PowerPoint Presentation Ever. Jeff got our attention with the trumpeting of the conch, began his presentation and finally called for his “laser pointer” …

Jeff "Beachbum"  Berry and his "laser pointer"

“It looks like a harpoon!” you say. Yes. Yes, it does.

Jeff went on to describe Caribbean punches, the general category of which dates back to at least the 1600s, and provided for us the basic rule-of-thumb people used when concocting them: “One of sour, Two of sweet, Three of strong, Four of weak.” A little spice thrown in for good measure, and that’s a pretty good general recipe for punch. You can see some of the examples on Jeff’s slide — arrack or rum were often the strong, the latter especially in the Caribbean. Lemon or any available citrus for the sour, sugar for the sweet (natch). Water generally stood in for the weak, as did tea, which also provided a spice component. A grating of nutmeg was a typical (and quite lovely) touch atop a punch back in the day.

We got things going with a little bit of punch for ourselves, too.

Meeting House Punch

112-1/2 ounces Rhum Clément VSOP (or any good dark rum).
75 ounces Cruzan Estate Light Rum.
400 ounces Red Stripe beer.
25 ounces fresh lemon juice.
25 ounces Muscovado sugar syrup.

Mix in a (very) large punch bowl. Add ice (preferably a huge block) and lemon wedges.

You might want to cut the recipe down a bit.

I had never had beer in a punch before. It was unusual but quite delicious, and not surprisingly it went really well with the citrus elements. I never was a fan of the lime wedge in the sodapop-light beer thing, but it all went together here.

Unfortunately my notes are sparse, hurried and scribbled, but there are some cryptic indications of some of the stories Jeff told, one of my favorites of which being about “sucking the monkey” — supposedly monkey carcasses being brought back to port for the taxidermist were stored in alcohol, and thirsty sailors would tap the barrels to drink it with straws, not particularly caring what was pickling inside. (Seems apocryphal; Brewer’s Dictionary of Fable and Phrase has another explanation featuring no actual monkey carcasses, as does another post about seafaring terms. I have heard, however, that bodies of officers killed in battle were preserved similarly in alcohol, and tapped by sailors dyin’ o’ da t’irst; hence, “sucking the Admiral.” Yeesh.)

Then I won a prize! Jeff called out a question, looking for a famous tiki drink containing sherry, and I got my answer out first — “The Fog Cutter!” Jeff then tossed me my Major Award — a vintage paperback copy of Thor Heyerdahl’s Aku-Aku. It was my favorite prize since I won the blackout at my high school’s Band Bingo in 8th grade. (Fifty bucks!)

We got a lot of fascinating history from Jeff about the development of Caribbean and tropical-style cocktails and bars in the States — Don the Beachcomber, primarily, in Los Angeles in the early 1930s — and then in Key West and Cuba. Hemingway entered into the story, both in his longtime exploits in Cuba as well as a ripoff bar a friend of his copied and opened in Key West. Then came one of Papa’s favorites as our next cocktail:

La Florida
(Adapted, as served at the Potions of the Caribbean seminar)

1 ounce Rhum Clément VSOP.
1/8 ounce Rhum Clément Créole Shrubb.
1 ounce fresh lime juice.
1/2 ounce sweet vermouth.
1/4 ounce white crème de cacao.
1/8 ounce grenadine.

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

Jeff Berry and Wayne Curtis

Wayne Curtis rose to speak, taking us further on to Cuba and the many hotel and free-standing bars in and out of Havana. Some are obviously no longer there (Trader Vic having picked an unfortunate location for his Havana outlet, the Havana Hilton, which a fellow named Fidel ended up using as his HQ for La Revolución … oops). Wayne told the tale of going to the bar in what’s left of that hotel, ordering a Mai Tai and being served something red and nasty and hideously sweet. “This is not a good argument for socialism.” Hee.

Our next cocktail! Jeff told us about the venerable Rum Pot, and offered us this adapted version:

Rum Pot

6 ounces El Dorado 12-year-old Demerara rum.
3 drops vanilla extract.
3/4 ounces passion fruit purée.
3 ounces orange juice.
3 ounces fresh lemon juice.

Shake well with ice and pour unstrained into glass. Serves 3.

For some reason I had the above recipe written down, but this one came on the recipe card:

Rum Pot

1-1/2 ounces El Dorado 12-year-old Demerara rum.
1/4 ounce Fee Bros. French Vanilla Syrup.
1/2 ounce Funkin Passion Fruit Purée.
3/4 ounce orange juice.
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice.

Shake, strain, etc.

Heck, try ’em both!

This drink, as well as the Java Punch I made for MxMo the other day, really makes me fond of vanilla in cocktails, especially in extract form so I get the flavor without the sweetness of syrup. I’ll be playing more with this as time goes on.

Martin did a hugely entertaining slide presentation about the old island technique of making a concoction with rum and fresh pimento (allspice) berries and burying it in his backyard for six months. Marleigh noted this in her “things I learned at Tales” post — “6. Find Martin Cate’s house and dig in the backyard, because he buries jugs of punch back there!” Unfortunately I didn’t get any kind of recipe for what he made, so if anyone’s got it I’d love to see it.

Woo, and time for another cocktail! Not only that, a cocktail served to us by the lovely Jeanne Vidrine, Tiki Queen of New Orleans.

Cocktails from the Tiki Queen

Steve Remsburg began his portion of the talk, and spoke fondly of one Jasper LeFranc, who had been head bartender at the Bay Roc Hotel in Montego Bay, Jamaica for over 30 years. This one pretty much epitomizes the best flavors that the Caribbean has to offer, is simple to make and will wow your guests:

Jasper's Jamaican Cocktail

Jasper’s Jamaican Cocktail

1-1/4 ounces Cruzan Estate Dark Rum.
1/2 ounce St. Elizabeth’s Allspice Dram (or any other allspice liqueur including homemade).
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice.
1/2 teaspoon rich simple syrup.

Shake with ice until very cold and strain into a cocktail glass. Grate some nutmeg over the top.

Everything marries so beautifully here — the dark rum, the myriad spice flavors of the allspice, the tang of the lime plus that unique limey flavor … just gorgeous. If you can’t yet find St. Elizabeth’s where you live, you can use my pimento dram recipe.

Steve proceeded to give us some priceless recipes, including this one which quite possibly was worth the price of admission — Jasper’s own special rum mix, which he personally gave to Steve years ago and which he used as a base for several of his drinks.

Jasper’s Special Rum Mix

Take the freshly squeezed juice of 12-15 limes, depending on size. Pour this into a measuring cup and note the quantity.

To the fresh lime juice — you may have to transfer to a larger mixing vessel — add 1-1/2 to 2 equal measures of granulated sugar. Note the relative sweetness of the mix is entirely up to the user. In Jamaica, rum drinks are somewhat sweeter than what would be popular here. Jasper used two parts sugar.

Add 1-1/4 ounces of Angostura Bitters to the mixture. Then add 1/2 of a freshly grated nutmeg to the mixture.

Stir until the sugar is dissolved, then pour mixture into empty bottles and store in the refrigerator. Give the bottle a strong shake before each use.

Jasper used this mix in these drinks, among others:

Planter’s Punch

In a 10 ounce highball glass, pour:

1 ounce Jasper’s mix.
1-1/2 to 2 ounces dark Jamaican rum (Jasper used Appleton Dark, which is no longer sold in the U.S. — substitute Myers).

Fill the glass with ice and stir vigorously. The ice will settle, so add more cracked ice to fill the glass.

Garnish with fresh mint sprigs, a sliced orange and a cherry or sliced lime — garnish any way you want.

# # #

Rum Punch

Prepare exctly as you would the Planter’s Punch, but use Wray & Nephew White Overproof Rum and garnish as you like. (W&N Overproof is the most popular rum in Jamaica, by the way.)

# # #

Witch Doctor

In a mixing can or blender jar add:

1 ounce Jasper’s mix.
1/2 ounce triple sec (Cointreau).
1/2 ounce cherry brandy (Cherry Heering).
1-1/2 ounce golden Jamaica rum (Appleton Special).

Mix with crushed ice for a couple of seconds and pour drink into glass. Add ice to fill glass and garnish with an orange slice and cherry.

This was served at the Bay Roc as a cocktail over ice in an Old Fashioned glass. Steve says he prefers it as a punch in a 10 ounce highball glass, but the choice is yours.

# # #

Mule Shoe

Prepare exactly as you would the Witch Doctor, but substitute Wray & Nephew White Overproof Rum.

Steve adds, “Hope you enjoy them and that this experiment leads ot a greater appreciation that the rum really does make all the difference in the flavor of the drink. Pay attention to the rum you use, and take note of the differences they make in your drinks.”

And we’ll leave it at that, as my hands hurt from typing … I need an ergonomic keyboard!


Mixology Monday XXXI: 19th Century Cocktails

Yeesh, talk about barely making it in under the wire (once again). I wasn’t supposed to be in town, actually, and was far too disorganized to do it in advance and have the post ready to go. Mainly that was because I was schvitzing about Hurricane Ike heading directly toward Houston, which is where I was supposed to be going to see my sister, brother-in-law, fabulous nephew Thomas and fabulous brand-new niece Molly, whom I haven’t even met yet. We were supposed to go last Friday, but on Thursday they bugged out … to New Orleans, of all places, not where you usually think of going to get away from a hurricane. All’s well for them, though — they had a tree go down in their front yard in Houston, but no damage to the house. (They were far luckier than all those poor folks in Galveston, good lord.)

And it’s not like we haven’t been drinking all weekend either — delicious yet deadly punches by Marcos Tello and Eric Alperin on Thursday, courtesy of the House of Chambord (I’ll see if I can pry the recipes out of them) and a big fat hangover on Sunday. It finally occured to me this morning that if I was going to get a post up today I needed to get my butt in gear. Fortunately I’d been doing some reading right along the lines of what we were going to be doing this month.

A wonderful company called Mud Puddle Books has been releasing several once-extremely difficult to find cocktail books from the 19th and early 20th Centuries, books which otherwise might have set you back hundreds of dollars. It’s wonderful — and essential — that these books are back in print, because for cocktailians they are a big part of our history. We want to know where all this stuff came from, and while there has been extensive research, and we have Jerry Thomas’ and others’ books, there were several key volumes of cocktail history that were only available to collectors who either had deep pockets or were just lucky enough to get them before there was a demand.

I’ve got everything they’ve put out so far, and I’ve been devouring them with glee. Besides being informative, they’re beautifully done — in the original typefaces, and with original illustrations and period advertisements — they’re damned entertaining too. There are also new introductions by the likes of David Wondrich, Ted “Dr. Cocktail” Haigh, Robert Hess and Dale DeGroff. The one I’ve been reading this week is Charlie Paul’s 1902 edition entitled Recipes of American and Other Iced Drinks.

Recipes of American and Other Iced Drinks, by Charlie Paul

Dale wrote the introduction to this one, and although it was published in 1902 it gives a pretty amazing look at the state of drinking at the end of the 19th Century. Such a terrific little book too; besides all the recipes (including some startling variations on drinks we now consider standards, like the Manhattan and Mint Julep) the illustrations alone are worth the price of the book. Dale says, “The illustrations of 19th Century bar tools were extraordinary; a few of which I’ve Imperial Shaker since seen reproduced in some modern texts. The illustration depicting the Imperial Shaker was enough to make me want to search the world for this wonderful drink-cranking device and build an entire bar around it.” That would be it to the right; click to enlarge.

Now, what to pick? There are so many I wanted to try, including ones with a pinch of cayenne pepper (with and without egg), a pousse-café topped with an egg yolk and then a “pyramid” of whipped egg white, topped with dashes of bitters (which I’m definitely going to try). I would have done that wonderful Mint Julep variation. which includes brandy, rum, yello Chartreuse and which is dashed with Claret on top of the ice, which Charlie describes as “a drink fit for a king.” Then there were a few like these, which I thought maybe I’d skip:

(Good Morning Tonic for Headache)

Draw 2 ounces of Orange Syrup into a 12-ounce glass and add 1/2 drachm of Aromatic Spirits of Ammonia; about half fill the glass with Soda Water, then add half teaspoonful of Bi-carbonate of Soda. Stir well and handle quickly. ( This Cocktail should be drunk at once.)

“Handle quickly”? What, before it blows up? No, I took a pass on this one.

I really wanted to make something with Old Tom gin. I had gotten a chance to taste some of the batch Eric brought into town with his distributor (currently available at Hi Time Wine and Spirits in Costa Mesa, far enough that it might as well be in Kazakhstan, with more due soon at my local haunts, Beverage Warehouse and The Wine House) last Tuesday at Seven Grand. Just as tasty as I remembered it, and John made us a lovely 19th Century-style Martinez with it. But I didn’t have any on had, so nix that.

What I thought I’d do is a punch. Punch was the mixed drink of choice for a very long time, and was beginning to be displaced by all the cocktails, fixes, flips, fizzes, daisies, sangarees, slings and other mixed drinks that were invented by the scores in the 19th Century, but by this time punch was still holding on. There were some good-looking recipes in there, but I wasn’t particularly inclined to make a whole bowlful of it. (Not that I couldn’t get several friends over at a moment’s notice to help us drain the flowing bowl, but I was lazy.) I came across one by-the-glass punch recipe that looked simple and tasty, and filled the bill on both counts.

This fits in with the basic formula for punch, as David Wondrich described to us in his terrific seminar on punch at Tales (which I’ll recap one of these days). It’s essentially wine or booze, citrus, soda or water, sugar and some kind of wild card (berries, tea, spices, etc.). It’s easy to make, refreshing during these waning days of summer and was pretty damned tasty.

Java Punch

Java Punch

Fill tumbler with chipped ice; put in half a teaspoonful of powdered sugar, a teaspoonful of vanilla syrup; squeeze half a lemon in; add a liqueur-glassful of brandy and the same of rum; shake well and strain off, putting an orange slice on top.

Or, in slightly more modern measure:

1 ounce brandy.
1 ounce rum.
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice.
1 teaspoon vanilla syrup.
1/2 teaspoon simple syrup.
Orange slice.

Combine liquors and syrups in a shaker with ice; shake until very cold and frothy. Strain over fresh ice into an Old Fashioned glass. Top with a grating of fresh nutmeg and garnish with an orange slice.

Charlie’s original recipe didn’t call for nutmeg, but as many 19th Century and earlier punches were finished that way, I added that to the top for a nice aroma and one more “wild card” dimension to the flavor. The recipe is easily adaptable to your own taste; if you like it tarter, up the lemon to 1 ounce, or if you like it sweeter maybe an extra half-teaspoon simple syrup. I think the vanilla flavor is in perfect balance with just the one teaspoon of vanilla syrup, though. The brandy I used was Hine VSOP Cognac, the rum a 12 year old Guatemalan called Zaya, which sadly is going away soon and will no longer be available. (I was feeling extravagant.)

Pass the punch!

P.S. — Okay, so as I’m about to post my MxMo entry at Bibulo.us, I see this little bit at the end of the post: “Bonus points to anyone who can bring us early William “Cocktail” Boothby recipes, especially pre-1900 versions of the Ruby Cocktail.”

Well, I had just gotten in a reproduction of the 1934 version of Boothby’s World Drinks and How To Mix Them. I really hadn’t gone through it that much yet, but I found myself shifting into the mode that caused one of my chef-teachers in the UCLA Culinary Arts program to dub me “The Overachiever.” (She may have been five feet tall in heels, but she kicked my ass every single class. She was amazing, actually. But I digress.)

I found The Ruby Cocktail with two additional variations, the second containing gin (which I thought would help dampen the sweetness of sloe gin, the primary ingredient) and the third containing egg. I’m out of eggs, so No. 2 it was.

The Ruby Cocktail No. 2

The Ruby Cocktail No. 2

1/2 ounce sloe gin.
1/2 ounce gin.
1/4 ounce sweet vermouth.
1/4 ounce dry vermouth.
2 dashes Bénédictine.

Shake with ice and strain into a small cocktail glass.

This makes a nice li’l 2-ounce drink.

I was a little less than impressed at first, but as I sipped it continued to grow on me. The gin and dry vermouth help dilute the sweetness of the sloe gin, and you get just a touch of herbs from the dashes of the liqueur. Not usually the balance I’m looking for in a drink, but not bad. I kinda want to try the egg white version now.

Okay, enough with the overachieving …


Cocktails of the Day: Little Italy, &c.

Going out to a bar and closing it down on a school night. You’re a bad boy, Taggart.

This is an occasional occupational hazard of having friends who are bartenders, of course. Late nights are no problem for those guys, but for me and another friend who had to get up early today, the getting-up part was a bit dicey. By the time I got on the road this morning I was pretty much over it. Could be famous last words, though — let’s hope I don’t just conk out a little later on.

Last night was a long overdue visit to Seven Grand, occasioned by our friend Eric‘s visit to start getting Old Tom Gin into the L.A. market (yay!). More on that a bit later.

Order of the day was Bartender’s Choice, which I love doing there — it’s one of the few places I’ll let someone just make me anything and trust that it’ll be wonderful. (It gladdens my heart that the number of such places is slowly but steadily growing.) Our friend John took marvelous care of us, and when I asked to be surprised he asked what I was in the mood far — “Something on the tart and fizzy side, maybe something more on the bitter side?” Bitter always works for me, and John presented me with a wonderful Audrey Saunders variation on the Manhattan, with Cynar, the artichoke flavored bitter aperitivo, sitting in for the aromatic bitters.

This is Audrey’s original recipe below; John varied it slightly by cutting the sweet vermouth back to 1/2 ounce but using the powerfully spicy and flavorful Carpano Antica Formula, and garnishing with a lemon peel instead of two cherries on a pick.

Little Italy Cocktail
(by Audrey Saunders, Pegu Club, New York)

2 ounces rye whiskey.
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth.
1/2 ounce Cynar.
2 good-quality cocktail cherries.

Combine with ice and stir for 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with the cherries, speared on a cocktail pick. (Variation: cut vermouth back to 1/2 ounce but use Carpano Antica or Vya, and garnish with lemon peel.)

The rye and the Cynar played very well together, with their alchemy creating chocolatey notes in this drink that I really loved. I’m very curious to try augmenting that with a dash of Bittermens Xocolatl Mole Bitters.

Damien ordered a Negroni variation that was really tasty too — substitute Partida Blanco tequila for the gin, add a barspoon of absinthe and serve on the rocks with an orange twist.

We tried a ton of other things too — a Martinez Cocktail using the Old Tom gin, the way it was originally made (although with a slight variation in proportion — 1:1 with the gin and vermouth). As we had several of Eric’s products on hand (as well as the guy who makes them, visiting from Austria!) we tried a few of those in cocktails as well. Mr. Purkhart himself asked for something using his Crème de Violette, and was given a variation on the Ramos Gin Fizz, sort of a violette fizz: Swap out Old Tom gin for the London Dry, substitute 2 barspoons of the violette instead of the orange flower water, and add several drops of Regans’ Orange Bitters No. 6 to the frothy head and swirl around with a toothpick. Holy crap, that was good.

Then they were kind enough to make two of mine. Eric brought out the St. Elizabeth’s Allspice Dram and asked for a Réveillon, so we had a bit of Christmas in September. Then John asked about the Hoskins recipe — he had had one at Zig Zag but hadn’t made one himself — so we got one and shared it with him and everyone else. So nice to be able to get one of those in a bar. Speaking of the good ol’ Hoskins, I hear tell that Torani have reformulated their Amer, removing the vegetal characteristic that so many people found off-putting and making it taste much more like Amer Picon did. If so, I can’t wait to taste that!

All that, plus a visit to Leo’s Tacos at 2:30am. Great night.