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I’m back in L.A. now, having made the year’s final visit to Seven Grand for yet more cocktail cheer, where Dave took mighty good care of us. I managed to pick up a dose of sniffles and coughing while I was back home, so Dr. Dave first served up something that cures what ails ya:

Hotty Toddy

2 ounces Cognac.
3/4 ounce honey syrup (combine honey and hot water 1:1 to make).
Hot water.
Nutmeg and star anise.

Grate a bit of nutmeg and star anise into a small stemmed glass (an Irish coffee glass would work well). Add the Cognac, honey syrup and hot water and stir to combine. Garnish with a nice oily lemon peel.

Next up was a tall drink Dave whipped up, also medicinal, with fresh grated ginger and rye. He asked me which rye I wanted and I wanted one with a punch (well, it’s medicinal after all), so we went with the new release of Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye, which I love. It’s powerful, coming in at 127.5 proof, and it screams “RYE!” at you, big and spicy and fruity. I felt it could stand up to all the other ingredients and still be assertive, and that it was. (Given the way I’m still coughing as I write this, I should go upstairs and make another one right now.)

Rye Brouhaha at Seven Grand

(Yeah, crappy iPhone pic, but what're ya gonna do?)

Rye Brouhaha

2 ounces rye whiskey.
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice.
1/2 ounce simple syrup.
1/2 ounce pineapple juice.
1-2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger, to taste.
1 egg white.

Grate some fresh ginger into a shaker and add the whiskey, juices, syrup and egg white. Shake like mad until cold and frothy. Strain into a tall glass with ice, then top off with a bit of seltzer. Garnish with a slice of fresh ginger.

Next I wanted an Old Fashioned but with a whiskey I had never had before. Dave immediately recommended the 2008 release of William Larue Weller Bourbon, the fifth member of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection which had somehow eluded me all this time. It’s undoubtedly my obsession with the Sazerac 18 year rye and the Handy Rye, plus the “haz-mat” George T. Stagg and the lovely Eagle Rare 17 that had kept me distracted. I’m sorry I waited, although I had read later that previous years’ releases of WLW were somewhat weak. Not this one.

This is a gorgeous whiskey, not as punchy as a rye (it’s wheated, as I recall) but it gets a lot from the wood — vanilla, caramel and holiday spices like cinnamon. It’s also beautifully smooth, with no alcohol burn despite its high proof (125.3). I’m gonna have to dig some of this up if I can (limited availability and all), as if I haven’t already spent a fortune on whiskey the last couple of weeks …

Old Fashioned with William Larue Weller Bourbon

(Another crappy iPhone pic)

Then home and off to bed. We’ve got smothered cabbage and black-eyed peas to make tomorrow.


A tasty Old Fashioned variation from New Orleans

Recapping my ’08 trip home to New Orleans for Christmas

Next up was a lovely Old Fashioned variation of Chris’ that he’s currently calling “New Orleans is Drowning,” adding that “I gotta come up with a better name for this.” The bitters represent our Caribbean heritage, the Cognac is for the French, the rye for the Americans and the Campari rinse is for the Italians. (The Spanish, Africans, Irish and Germans get left out in this drink, but frankly adding three more ingredients would tend to get things a little crowded. Maybe we can come up with a No. 2 version to honor those other parts of New Orleans’ mix.)

In the meantime …

“New Orleans is Drowning”
(Adapted from a perhaps soon-to-be-renamed Old Fashioned variation by Chris McMillian)

1 ounce Cognac.
1 ounce rye whiskey.
1 teaspoon rich simple syrup.
3-4 dashes Angostura bitters.

Add the simple syrup, bitters, Cognac and rye to a mixing glass filled with ice and stir with ice until well chilled. Rinse an Old Fashioned glass with Campari, then strain the Cognac-rye mixture into it and garnish with an orange peel.

Chris’ preferred method is to use a sugar cube and splash of water rather than simple syrup. For that method add the sugar and bitters to the mixing glass, then the water. Crush the sugar cube with a muddler and muddle until the sugar is completely dissolved. Then proceed with the rest of the ingredients.

I’m hoping I remembered the details correctly on this one. I was getting a little fuzzy in the memory department by this point.



[UPDATED] Recapping my ’08 trip home to New Orleans for Christmas

To round out our evening we headed to the Renaissance Père Marquette Hotel to visit the dean of New Orleans bartenders, Chris McMillian. He now holds court at The Bar UnCommon, a bit of a pun on the hotel’s location on Common Street near Baronne Street. (I love me a good pun.) Chris is a gracious and extremely knowledgeable host, and at his bar you’re always certain to be served something wonderful.

Now that Plymouth has finally begun releasing their magnificent sloe gin in the U.S. (albeit in maddeningly small quantities), we’re finally able to begin exploring what a wonderful liqueur it is, and why it was really the only sloe gin to consider for a long time. Now we also have Stephan Berg and Alex Hauck’s new Bitter Truth Sloeberry Blue Gin, plus there’s a wonderful domestic substitute if you can’t find the imported stuff — Averell Damson Gin is made from damson plums from upstate New York, and while damsons are somewhat sweeter than sloes it’s a quite viable substitute.

Here’s a wonderful Negroni variation Chris made us, with sloe gin sitting in for the sweet vermouth:


1 ounce gin.
1 ounce Plymouth sloe gin.
1 ounce Campari.
1/2 ounce orange grapefruit juice.

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist.

(I’d swear in court that I heard Chris say it was orange juice, but Michael says Chris said grapefruit and has made it that way for him three times. I must be losing my mind.)


Ojen Frappé

Recapping my ’08 trip home to New Orleans for Christmas

Next up was a trip to Lüke, one of my very favorite places in the city. Not just mine — when my friend Rocky in Seattle saw my update that I was eating there, he sent back, “I hate you with a deep and burning passion. From Hell’s Heart I stab at thee!” (Envious, a little? Heh. Aah, he knows that I’d have teleported him there in a second if I had the technology.)

As is my wont, when I go to Lüke I frequently drink an Ojen Frappé. Ojen (OH-hen) is a sweet anisette made in a small village in Spain that, for some reason, New Orleans fell in love with ages ago. Ojen cocktails appear in Stanley Clisby Arthur’s famous 1937 tome Famous New Orleans Drinks and How to Mix ‘Em, appeared at many famous New Orleans restaurants, and an icy Ojen Frappé was the traditional toast for Rex, King of Carnival, every Mardi Gras.

There’s just one little problem. Ojen isn’t made anymore.

Turns out that people in Spain, and even the people in Ojen, got out of the habit of drinking it and there was really only one place in the world where it was still being consumed at all — New Orleans, where it’s been popular for a long time. Unfortunately we weren’t enough to keep an entire distillery going, and the Manuel Fernandez distillery decided to discontinue the product, sending some New Orleanians into a bit of a panic. One final run of 500 cases was commissioned, and … we drank it. It’s gone. Well, other than people’s personal stocks and several cases the Rex organization put away. (And three bottles in my bar.)

Lüke bought a big chunk of the remaining stock so that they could offer the cocktail on their regular menu, and until they ran out it was one of the last bars in the world where you could get this drink.

If you’ve got any Ojen left, this is a great way to drink it. If not, you can approximate the flavor by using Anis del Mono Dulce from the Vicente Bosch distillery in Catalonia (the sweet variety, not the dry “Seco” variety), or Marie Brizard Anisette.

According to a comment in the above nola.com link, Lüke are now making this drink with Obsello absinthe, making it their version of an Absinthe Frappé to which I imagine they’ll have to add some simple syrup. Use an ounce to ounce-and-a-half of Obsello absinthe and a tablespoon of simple syrup instead of the Ojen or anisette.

Ojen Frappé

Ojen Frappé

2 ounces Ojen (substitute Anis del Mono Dulce or Marie Brizard anisette).
3-4 dashes Peychaud’s bitters.
Splash seltzer.

Pack an Old Fashioned glass with crushed ice. Add ojen, bitters and seltzer, and stir until the glass is frosty.

By the way … the above drink, plus this, is what set Rocky off:

Choucroute Garni, at Lüke Restaurant

Choucroute garni, or “dressed sauerkraut,” is a classic Alsatian dish of sauerkraut and onions cooked in pork stock, white wine (usually Riesling or Gewürzraminer) and spices (usually juniper berries, cloves, black pepper and more), along with pork products of various kinds. At Lüke the choucroute comes with housemade spicy pork sausage, Berkshire pork belly and pig knuckles.

It was absolutely heavenly.


Goodnight St. Nick

Recapping my ’08 trip home to New Orleans for Christmas

After The Swizzle Stick was a visit to a new place — not only new to me, but brand new to the city too, having opened at the beginning of October. Rambla is a Basque-influenced Spanish tapas restaurant at the International House hotel in the 200 block of Camp Street. It’s owned by the same folks who own Cuvée on St. Charles and Dakota on the Northshore, so it’s already off to a good start. Mary had been in Rambla a few weeks ago, checking them out for inclusion in Frommer’s I imagine, and put me in touch with their bartender Maksym Pazuniak, who’s a really nice guy, a graduate of B.A.R. and really cares about quality cocktails.

Maks and his colleagues are doing a great job with the cocktail menu there, with several really tasty-looking offerings: Spanish 75, a variation on the local penchant for making French 75s with brandy instead of gin, with Maks’ version done with LePanto brandy de Jerez, fresh lemon juice and Cava. The Sardinia combines Tanqueray gin, fresh lemon, housemade rosemary syrup and a splash of Campari, and a Pecan Hot Toddy warms dark rum and sweetens it with a housemade spiced pecan syrup.

Maks offered to make this one for me, a holiday-themed variation on an Old Fashioned and one of his own creations. I’m approximating the proportions from having watched him make it.

Goodnight St. Nick
(adapted from Maks Pazuniak, Rambla, New Orleans)

2 ounces Sazerac rye whiskey, 6 years.
1/2 ounce allspice dram.
1/4 ounce grade B maple syrup.
2-3 dashes Fee’s Whiskey Barrel-Aged bitters.
4 or 5 fresh cranberries.
Orange slice.

In a mixing glass muddle the cranberries and orange slice. Add the remaining ingredients and shake vigorously until very cold, then double-strain into an Old Fashioned glass with ice.

I don’t think St. Nick would mind being left one of these. (We always just left milk, cookies and whiskey.)

[UPDATE: Maks is currently doing wonderful things behind the stick at Cure in Uptown New Orleans, and writing about them at beta cocktails.]