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looka, <lʊ´-kə> dialect, v.
1. The imperative form of the verb "to look"; in the spoken vernacular of New Orleans, it is usually employed when the speaker wishes to call one's attention to something.  

2. --n. Chuck Taggart's weblog, hand-made and updated (almost) daily, focusing on food and drink, cocktails as cuisine, music (especially of the roots variety), New Orleans and Louisiana culture, news of the reality-based community ... and occasionally movies, books, sf, public radio, media and culture, travel, Macs, liberal and progressive politics, humor and amusements, reviews, complaints, the author's life and opinions, witty and/or smart-arsed comments and whatever else tickles the author's fancy.

Please feel free to contribute a link if you think I'll find it interesting.   If you don't want to read my opinions, feel free to go elsewhere.

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Tales of the Cocktail 2009

Buy my New Orleans music box set!

Doctors, Professors, Kings and Queens

"Doctors, Professors, Kings and Queens: The Big Ol' Box of New Orleans" is a 4-CD box set celebrating the joy and diversity of the New Orleans music scene, from R&B to jazz to funk to Latin to blues to zydeco to klezmer (!) and more, including a full-size, 80-page book.

Produced, compiled and annotated by Chuck Taggart (hey, that's me!), liner notes by Mary Herczog (author of Frommer's New Orleans) and myself. Now for sale at your favorite independent record stores (such as the Louisiana Music Factory, because you should be supporting local New Orleans retailers) or via Amazon if you insist.

The box set was the subject of a 15-minute profile on National Public Radio's "Weekend Edition" on Feb. 6, 2005, and a segment on Wisconsin Public Radio's "To The Best of Our Knowledge" on Apr. 3, 2005. Here are some nice blurbs from the reviews (a tad immodest, I know; I'm not generally one to toot my own horn, but let's face it, I wanna sell some records here.)

*      *      *

"More successfully than any previous compilation, Doctors... captures the sprawling eclecticism, freewheeling fun and constant interplay of tradition and innovation that is at the heart of Crescent City music." -- Keith Spera, New Orleans Times-Picayune.

"... if you DO know someone who's unfortunate enough to have never heard these cuts, press this monumentally adventurous box and its attendant booklet upon them. It's never too late to learn" -- Robert Fontenot, OffBeat magazine, New Orleans

"... the best collection yet of Louisiana music." -- Scott Jordan, The Independent, Lafayette, Louisiana.

"[T]he year's single most awesome package" -- Buddy Blue, San Diego Union-Tribune

"This four-CD box set doesn't miss a Crescent City beat ... For anyone who has enjoyed the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, this is Jazz Fest in a box. ***1/2" -- Dave Hoekstra, Chicago Sun-Times

"... excellently compiled, wonderfully annotated ... New Orleans fans will know much of this by heart, though they may not remember it sounding so good; those who don't know what it's like to miss New Orleans will quickly understand." -- Terry Lawson, Detroit Free Press.

"... a perfect storm when it comes to reissues. This box set is musically exciting, a complete representation of its subject matter, and just plain fun to listen." -- Charlie B. Dahan,

"... one of the best impressions of a city's musical blueprint that you're likely to ever find." -- Zeth Lundy,

"... an unacademic, uncategorized album that suits the city's time-warped party spirit." -- Jon Pareles, The New York Times

How to donate to this site:

Your donations help keep this site going. PayPal's the best way -- just click the button below, and thanks!

You can also donate via the Honor System, if you wish (but they deduct a larger fee from your donation and I keep less).

(Also, here's a shameless link to my Amazon Wish List.)

Buy stuff!

You can get Gumbo Pages designs on T-shirts, mugs and mousepads at The Gumbo Pages Swag Shop!

Looka! Archive
(99 and 44/100% link rot)

2009:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun.

2008:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

2007:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

2006:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

2005:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

2004:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

2003:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

2002:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

2001:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

2000:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

1999:   Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

My Photos on Flickr
My Darlin' New Orleans...

The Flag of The City of New Orleans

Shop New Orleans! Visit the stores linked here to do your virtual online shopping in New Orleans. The city needs your money!

Greater N.O. Community Data Center
New Orleans Wiki

Gambit Weekly & The Times-Picayune
Scat Magazine
WDSU-TV (Channel 6, NBC)
WGNO-TV (Channel 26, ABC)
WNOL-TV (Channel 38, WB)
WTUL-FM (91.5, Progressive radio)
WVUE-TV (Channel 8, FOX)
WWL-TV (Channel 4, CBS)
WWNO-FM (89.9, classical, jazz, NPR)
WWOZ-FM (90.7, Best Radio Station in the Universe)
WYES-TV (Channel 12, PBS)


New Orleans ...
proud to blog it home.

2 Millionth Weblog
A Frolic of My Own
Ashley Morris (in memoriam)
Blogging New Orleans
Dispatches from Tanganyika
Home of the Groove
Humid City
Library Chronicles
Mellytawn Dreams
Metroblogging N.O.
People Get Ready
Da Po'Blog
Suspect Device Blog
The Third Battle of New Orleans
World Class New Orleans
The Yat Pundit
Your Right Hand Thief
Cocktail hour.

"We are still heartily of the opinion that decent libation supports as many million lives as it threatens; donates pleasure and sparkle to more lives than it shadows; inspires more brilliance in the world of art, music, letters, and common ordinary intelligent conversation, than it dims." -- Charles H. Baker, Jr.

   The Internet's most comprehensive
   and indispensible database of
   authenticated cocktail recipes,
   ingredients, reseearch and more.
   By Martin Doudoroff & Ted Haigh)

Museum of the American Cocktail
   Founded by Dale DeGroff and many
   other passionate spirits in Jan. 2005.
   Celebrating a true American cultural
   icon: the American Cocktail.
   (Their weblog.)

Blogging Tales of the Cocktail

*     *     *

The Sazerac Cocktail
   (The sine qua non of cocktails,
   and the quintessential New Orleans
   cocktail. Learn to make it.)

The Footloose Cocktail
   (An original by Wes;
   "Wonderful!" - Gary Regan.
   "Very elegant, supremely
   sophisticated" - Daniel Reichert.)

The Hoskins Cocktail
   (An original by Chuck;
   "It's nothing short of a
   masterpiece." - Gary Regan)

*     *     *

Chuck & Wes' Liquor Cabinet
   (Frighteningly large, and would
   never fit in a cabinet)

Chuck & Wes' Cocktail Book Collection
   (Constantly growing)

Chuck & Wes' Cocktail Menu
   (A few things we like to
   drink at home, plus a couple
   we don't, just for fun.)

*     *     *

Peychaud's Bitters
   (Indispensible for Sazeracs
   and many other cocktails.
   Order them here.)

Angostura Bitters
   (The gold standard of bitters,
   fortunately available everywhere
   worldwide. Insist on it.)

Regans' Orange Bitters No. 6
   (Complex and spicy orange
   bitters for your Martinis,
   Old Fashioneds and many more.
   Order them here.)

Fee Brothers' Bitters
   (Classic orange bitters,
   peach bitters and a cinnamony
   "Old Fashion" aromatic bitters,
   plus new lemon & grapefruit bitters!)

The Bitter Truth
   (A new brand of bitters
   from Germany: orange, lemon,
   aromatic bitters and more!)

Bittermens Bitters
   (Fantastic new small-batch
   bitters company with forth-
   coming products including
   Xocolatl Mole Bitters,
   grapefruit, "tiki" spice,
   and sweet chocolate bitters, wow!    Due to launch 6/09)

*     *     *

   (Camper English)

Ardent Spirits
   (Gary & Mardee Regan)

The Art of Drink:
   An exploration of Spirits & Mixology.
   (Darcy O'Neil)

Bar Mix Master
   (Brad Ellis, New Orleans)

Beachbum Berry:
   (Jeff Berry, world-class expert
   on tropical drinks)

   (Seamus Harris, N.Z. & China)

The Chanticleer Society
   (A worldwide organization of
   cocktail enthusiasts.)

Charming Cocktails
   (Cheryl Charming)

The Cocktail Chronicles
   (Paul Clarke's weblog)
   (Group drinks blog by Vidiot,
   Mr. Bali Hai, Kosmonaut,
   Chico and me).

The Cocktail Circuit
   (Joseph Mailander)

Cocktail Nerd
   (Gabriel Szaszko)

Colonel Tiki's Drinks
   (Craig Hermann, Portland OR)

A Dash of Bitters
   (Michael Dietsch)

Dr. Bamboo
   (Craig Mrusek, bring art and
   alcohol together for a
   better tomorrow!)

Drink A Week
   (Alex and Ed)
   (Lauren Clark)

   (Robert Hess)

Drink Dogma
   (Bobby Heugel, Anvil Bar & Refuge,
   Houston, TX)

Drink Trader
   (Online magazine for the
   drink trade)

Esquire's Drinks Database
   (Dave Wondrich and
   his forbears)

Fine Spirits & Cocktails
   (eGullet's forum)

Happy Hours
   (Beverage industry
   news & insider info)

Imbibe Magazine
   (Celebrating the world in a glass.    All-new site with recipes and back issues!)

In the Land of Cocktails
   (Ti Adelaide Martin & Lally Brennan,
   "The Cocktail Chicks," of Café Adelaide
   & Commander's Palace, New Orleans)

Jeff Morgenthaler
   (Bartender & mixologist, Portland, OR)

Jimmy's Cocktail Hour
   (Jimmy Patrick)

Kaiser Penguin
    (Rick Stutz, bringing us cocktails
    and great photographs)

King Cocktail
   (Dale DeGroff)

La Fée Verte
   (All about absinthe
   from Kallisti et al.)

Liquid Architecture
   (Kim Haasarud)

The Liquid Muse
   (Natalie Bovis-Nelsen)
   (Ladies United for the
   Preservation of
   Endangered Cocktails)

The Ministry of Rum
   (Everything you always wanted to know)

Le Mixeur
   (The Munat Bros. host
   cocktail gatherings in
   Seattle, and write about them
   here. I'm jealous that I can't go.)

The Mixoloseum
   (Blog, cocktail chat online
   & Thursday Drink Night!)

The Modern Mixologist
   (Tony Abou-Ganim)

Moving at the Speed of Life
   (Keith Waldbauer, Barrio, Seattle WA)

Mr. Lucky's Cocktails
   (Sando, LaDove,
   Swanky et al.)

Mr. Mixer
   (Hundreds of cocktail recipes ...
   in Hungarian. Well, why not?
   Sajnos, nem beszélek magyarul.)

The Munat Bros.
   (Seattle-based brothers and
   ardent proponents of fine drinking.)

Off the Presses
   (Robert Simonson)

Oh, Gosh!
   (Jay Hepburn, London)

Rowley's Whiskey Forge
   (Matt Rowley)
   (Matt Robold, The Rum Dood)

Save the Drinkers
   (Kevin Kelpe, Boise, Idaho!)

Scofflaw's Den
   (SeanMike Whipkey & Marshall Fawley)

   (Marleigh Riggins & Dan Miller)

Spirit Journal
   (F. Paul Pacult)

Spirits and Cocktails
   (Jamie Boudreau)

Spirits Review
   (Chris Carlsson)
   (Beverage Tasting
   Institute journal)

Thinking of Drinking
   (Sonja Kassebaum, Chicago)

Trader Tiki's Booze Blog
   (Blair Reynolds, Portland OR)

Two at the Most
   (Stevi Deter, Seattle)

The Wormwood Society
   (Dedicated to promoting accurate,
   current information about absinthe)

*     *     *

The Tiki-licious Luau Spirited Dinner, July 17, 2008
   (Eleven dishes of wonder by Chef
   Chris DeBarr, with fabulous
   tropical cocktails by Jeff "Beachbum"
   Berry and Wayne Curtis. Full review
   of the 11-dish, 4-course meal, with
   photos and recipes for all 5 drinks.)

Let's eat!

New Orleans:
Culinary Concierge (N.O. food & wine magazine)
Mr. Lake's Non-Pompous New Orleans Food Forum
The New Orleans Menu
Notes from a New Orleans Foodie

Food-related weblogs:
Chocolate and Zucchini
Honest Cuisine
Il Forno
KIPlog's FOODblog
Mise en Place
Sauté Wednesday
Simmer Stock
Tasting Menu
Waiter Rant

More food!
à la carte
Chef Talk Café
Chowhound (L.A.)
Food Network
The Global Gourmet
The Hungry Passport site and weblog)
A Muse for Cooks
The Online Chef
Practically Edible
Pasta, Risotto & You
Slow Food Int'l. Movement
Southern Food & Beverages Museum
Southern Foodways Alliance
So. Calif. Farmer's Markets
Zagat Guide

In vino veritas.

Nat Decants (Natalie Maclean)
The Oxford Companion to Wine
Wine Enthsiast
The Wine Spectator
Wine Today
Zinfandel Advocates & Producers

Wine/spirits shops in our 'hood:
Colorado Wine Co., Eagle Rock
Mission Liquors, Pasadena
Silverlake Wine, Silverlake
Chronicle Wine Cellar, Pasadena

Other wine/spirits shops we visit:
Beverage Warehouse, Mar Vista
Wally's Wine & Spirits, Westwood
The Wine House, West L.A.


Reading this month:

Lisey's Story, by Stephen King.

The Ghost Brigades, by John Scalzi.

In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollan.

Listen to music!

Chuck's current album recommendations

Luka Bloom
La Bottine Souriante
Billy Bragg
Cordelia's Dad
Jay Farrar
The Frames
Sonny Landreth
Los Lobos
Christy Moore
Nickel Creek
The Old 97s
Anders Osborne
The Proclaimers
Professor Longhair
Red Meat
The Red Stick Ramblers
The Reivers
Zachary Richard
Paul Sanchez
Marc Savoy
Son Volt
Richard Thompson
Toasted Heretic
Uncle Tupelo

Tom Morgan's Jazz Roots

Miles of Music

New Orleans

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

No Depression


Appalachian String Band Music Festival - Clifftop, WV

Long Beach Bayou Festival

Strawberry Music Festival - Yosemite, CA

Talking furniture:

WWOZ (New Orleans)
   Broadcast schedule
   Live audio stream

Bob Walker's New Orleans Radio Shrine
   (A rich history of N.O. radio)
   (Comprehensive listings)

Air America Radio
   (Talk radio for the
   rest of us)
Joe Frank
Grateful Dead Radio
   (Streaming complete
KPIG, 107 Oink 5
   (Freedom, CA)
KRVS Radio Acadie
   (Lafayette, LA)
Mike Hodel's "Hour 25"
   (Science fiction radio)
Raidió Idirlíon
   (Irish language & music)
Raidió na Gaeltachta
   (Irish language)
RootsWorld's Rootsradio
RTÉ Radio Ceolnet
   (Irish trad. music)
WXDU (Durham, NC)

Films seen this year:
(with ratings):

In the cinema:
Frost/Nixon (****)

Close Encounters of the Third Kind: The Director's Cut (****)
Hellraiser: Bloodline (**)
Serenity (*****)
Third Man Out (***)

Lookin' at da TV:

"Battlestar Galactica"
"One Tree Hill"
"Queer Eye for the Straight Guy"
"The Simpsons"
"Top Chef"
"Father Ted"


A Gallery for Fine Photography, New Orleans (Joshua Mann Pailet)
American Museum of Photography
California Museum of Photography, Riverside
International Center of Photography

Ansel Adams
Jonathan Fish
Noah Grey
Greg Guirard
Paul F. R. Hamilton
Clarence John Laughlin
Herman Leonard
Howard Roffman
J. T. Seaton
Jerry Uelsmann
Gareth Watkins
Brett Weston

The Mirror Project
(My pics therein: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.)

My photographs at Flickr


The Abominable Charles Christopher
by Karl Kerschl

The Amazing Adventures of Bill,
by Bill Roundy

Bloom County / Outland / Opus,
by Berkeley Breathed

Bob the Angry Flower,
by Stephen Notley

The Boondocks,
by Aaron McGruder

Calvin and Hobbes,
by Bill Watterson

by Garry B. Trudeau

Electric Sheep Comix
by Patrick Farley

Get Your War On
by David Rees

by Jonathan Rosenberg

L. A. Cucaracha
by Lalo Alcaraz

by Peter Blegvad

Lil' Abner,
by Al Capp

Lulu Eightball,
by Emily Flake

The Mostly Unfabulous Social Life of Ethan Green,
by Eric Orner

by Walt Kelly

Suspect Device,
by Greg Peters

Ted Rall,
by Ted Rall

This Modern World,
by Tom Tomorrow

XQUZYPHYR & Overboard,
by August J. Pollak


Polly Ticks: (Progressive politics & news)
Daily Kos (My favorite political weblog)
Eschaton (The Mighty Atrios)
Hullaballoo (The Mighty Digby)
Media Matters for America (Debunking right-wing media lies)
Orcinus (David Neiwert)
PostSecret (Secrets sent in via postcards; astonishingly beautiful, funny and sad.)
Talking Points Memo (Josh Marshall)
TAPPED (The American Prospect Online)
Think Progress
TruthOut (William Rivers Pitt & Co.)

Borowitz Report
(Political satire)
The Complete Bushisms (quotationable!)
The Fray (Your stories)
Landover Baptist (Better Christians than YOU!)
Maledicta (The International Journal of Verbal Aggression)
The Morning Fix from SF Gate (Opinions, extreme irreverence)
The New York Review of Science Fiction
The Onion (Scarily funny news/satire)
"Rush, Newspeak and Fascism: An exegesis", by David Neiwert. (Read this.) (Not the actual White House, but it should be)

Weblogs I read:

American Leftist
The BradLands
The Carpetbagger Report
Franklin Avenue
Ghost in the Machine
Hit or Miss
Jesus' General
Making Light
Neil Gaiman's Journal
Not Right About Anything
August J. Pollak
Sadly, No!
This Modern World
Your Right Hand Thief

L.A. Blogs

Friends with pages:

mary & rick
mary katherine
michael p.

The Final Frontier:

Astronomy Pic of the Day
ISS Alpha News
NASA Human Spaceflight
Spaceflight Now


Locus Magazine Online
SF Site

Made with Macintosh

Hosted by pair Networks

Déanta:  This page is coded by hand, with BBEdit 4.0.1 on an Apple iMac 24" and a G4 15" PowerBook running MacOS X 10.5 if I'm at home; occasionally with telnet and Pico on a FreeBSD Unix host running tcsh if I'm updating from work. (I never could get used to all those weblogging tools.)

LOOKA! Bia agus deoch, ceol agus craic.

Hot Sausage Seven Widow's Kisses Pete Fountain Tuba Fats' Jazz Funeral

 "Eating, drinking and carrying on..."  -- Adelaide Brennan

  Thursday, May 28, 2009

Cocktail of the Day: Creole.   I can hardly believe that it's been nearly six months since I've been home to New Orleans. No Jazzfest this year has left me jonesing, seriously. Since my last time home, a true cocktailian bar has joined the ranks of the Crescent City's finest drinking establishments. Knowledgeable bartenders, a great cocktail program, fresh juices, Kold-Draft ice and a great (non-smoking!) space ... I can hardly wait.

That'd be Cure, uptown on Freret and Upperline, residing in a renovated firehouse. Co-owner and head bartender Neal Bodenheimer, a native New Orleanian who lived as an expat in New York for several years and came home after Katrina, has done the city a service. Here's a video interview with Neal about his new bar:

Here's an example of their take on a classic cocktail from their menu. This is an old favorite, from a long line of Manhattan variations featuring some kind of bitter liqueur. Originally this drink was made with Amer Picon, and can still be made that way with the current incarnations of Picon if you can find them, with the mighty fine reformulation of Torani Amer, or with Jamie Boudreau's Picon replica. Cure spins it with a different amaro with fine results.

The Creole Cocktail
(Adapted by Cure, 4905 Freret St. at Upperline, New Orleans)

1-1/2 ounces Sazerac Rye, 6 year.
1 ounce sweet vermouth. (Cure uses Cinzano Rosso)
1/4 ounce Bénédictine D.O.M. liqueur.
1/4 ounce Luxardo Amaro Abano.

Stir with cracked ice until well-chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon twist.

I hope to lead a few expeditions of bartenders and drinkers to Cure during Tales of the Cocktail in July ... just got our plane tickets, woo!

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Mixology Monday XXXIX: Amaro -- The Roundup!  

Another Mixology Monday has come and gone, and now it's roundup time. Hoo, 35 36 drinks! I had a blast going through these, and now that I've gotten everyone together in one post I feel I can go back through everything again without speed-reading them. Great work all around, y'all -- so many great new drinks, plus reminders of classics and old favorites. Let's get going.

Amaro Twilight

Paystyle at Umamimart was the first out the gate, bringing silver tequila (one of my favorite things) together with one of my favorite amari, Ramazzotti, with citrus, honey and herb for the Amaro Twilight, which looks to have a beautiful balance. Getting off to a great start already, and I can already see that my liver's going to go through the wringer trying all of these.

Menta Amaro

Tiare at A Mountain of Crushed Ice chimes in from Sweden with a drink in which she uses a mint version of Amaro Ramazzotti that I didn't even know existed. Oh dear, that's going to mean more expensive mail-ordering from Europe for me ... yay! The Menta Amaro is a simple but terrific-looking digestivo with this unusual amaro plus a bit of one more, given that two is often better than one.

Dolce Milano and Zwack Morris

Meaghan at Spirit Me Away offers us two drinks. First, a lovely "desserty" drink combining one of my favorite rums with Ramazzotti (lovin' all the Ramazzotti mixing going on!), coffee liqueur and cream for the Dolce Milano. Next she offers one based on Zwack liqueur, a re-branded lighter version of Unicum, Hungary's national drink and in its original version bitter as all get out. The newer "Zwack" (called "Unicum Next" in Europe" is a bitt less bitter with a cherry charateristic, and she combines that with Bourbon in the Zwack Morris (and was also apparently crushing on cute boys from "Saved by the Bell" back in her school days, apparently!).

Virginia Guilford, with whom I shared a lovely dinner at the home of Bistro 45's chef Damon Bruner and his wife Edith a while back, doesn't have a website of her own but was kind enough to contribute an original cocktail into the comments section. She created a Manhattan variation based on 3 whopping ounces of Woodford Reserve along with Amaro Montenegro, perhaps the gentlest amaro and what I've called a "gateway amaro," good for beginners. This drink has a lovely, gentle herbal flavor with only a touch of bitterness, and knocked us on our butts on Mixology Monday eve. Voilà, the Amaro Manhattan.

Menta e Cioccolato

Jacob, a Portland bartender who writes at at Liquidity Preference, was inspired by one of my favorite cold evening dessert drinks (hot chocolate with a goodly shot of green Chartreuse) to make Menta e Cioccolato, swapping in Branca Menta. Oh boy, can't wait to try this one too!

Monteleone Cocktail entry from Steve

Steve and Paul of Cocktail Buzz combined their MxMo drink with their entry for the Monteleone Hotel cocktail contest, striving to have it adopted as the hotel's signature drink while bringing more amaro to the masses. (It's a popular idea -- several Montelone entries I've seen, including mine, contain some form of amaro). Cognac and citrus are spiked with a dash of Fernet for the Steve's Monteleone contender.


Fred of Cocktail Virgin Slut wins the award for the most obscure amaro in the roundup, a Spanish product called Mandrágora based on mandrake root. (!) Some of its marketed properties (along the lines of pink elephants and making you a tiger in the sack) might be a bit exaggerated, but still ... given that ingredient's well-known magical properties, one has to wonder if the bottle screams when it's pulled from the bar shelf. Fred's offering is the Mandrágoni.

Aperol Flip

Maria The Bubbly Girl offers one both frothy and fizzy based on Aperol, another great gateway bitter that I love to see cropping up in more and more cocktails. Among many others, her MxMo offering, The Aperol Flip, will be featured in her forthcoming book From The Bubbly Bar: Champagne & Sparkling Wine Cocktails for Every Occasion.

Italian Sunset

Jeff at Undertaking the Bar found himself rapidly approaching the posting day without a big selection of amari in his bar, and went for what was on hand -- our old friend Campari, which seems to be the bitter a lot of us discover first, and one that's more of an aperitivo, slapping your palate to attention before dinner. In the Italian Sunset Jeff uses Campari to lend complexity to Cognac and citrus.

Walla Cocktail

Dinah at goes right to the jugular of the obscure, with a smoky rhubarb-based amaro called Zucca Rarbarbaro. (Dammit, more expensive bottle shipping from the U.K. for me now, arrggh!) Fortunately she offers advice on how to approximate the flavor with another amaro tarted up with rhubarb bitters and liquid smoke (!), which might have to do for now. Her Walla Cocktail certainly seems worth the effort to either make the replica or find the real deal (and I'm likely to go for the latter, since I'm a "truly comical amaro nerd" too.)

Norma Jean

My dear friend Marleigh of SLOSHED! goes for the Cynar, another amaro that never lasts long at our house, and shares with us an original recipe from one of our very favorite bartenders, the charming and talented Vincenzo Marianella. The Norma Jean is an amaro-spiked gin sour that's really terrific. You can sample this and myriad other creations of Vincenzo and his crew at his new bar Copa d'Oro in Santa Monica, a very dangerous mere 7 minutes from my place of employment.

Amici Cattivi

Blair, a.k.a. Trader Tiki, makes me seethe with envy for employing one of my most coveted Italian amari in his collection that has yet to make it into mine -- Amaro Nardini. Not only that, but he combines it with two other Italian amari in a nice big chewy base in what looks like a really exciting cocktail I can't wait to try, the Amici Cattivi (Bad Friends ... heh). Fortunately Blair's a very good friend, not the least of which for offering us this inky-dark, deliciously evil looking (in the best possible way) cocktail that'll be tops on my list once I get up off my lazy butt and grab me some Nardini.

Nevermind the Bollocks

Blair's also hosting a conribution from his friend and fellow Portland bartender David Shenaut of The Teardrop Lounge, whose drinks I've enjoyed from afar thanks to his generous sharing of recipes. I hope to be warming a barstool in front of him in due time, as we're OVERdue for a visit to Portland. David gives us the most entertaining drink name of the roundup, the tequila-based, Cynar-laced Nevermind the Bollocks with a couple more unusual ingredents I'm now gonna want to find.

Bitter Wood

Mike from A Dash of Bitters tries one of the newest amari in my own collection, the one in the sexy slender bottle called Amaro Mio from Lorenzo Inga Distillery in Piemonte. Gin, sloe gin and some gorgeous-looking lemon balm come together in the Bitter Wood Cocktail, which might just win today's award for prettiest garnish.


Jay of Oh Gosh! checks in from across the pond with two drinks, one from one of his favorite bartenders and another from one of mine. Although so far I haven't had the chance to see him in his home base of New York, I've gotten to spend some time with Chad Solomon in his visits to Los Angeles and to New Orleans during Tales and to enjoy his drinks as well. Jay shares one of Chad's the we make frequently at home, the Bensonhurst, as well as the other cocktail that got Wes and me tanked on the evening of Mixology Monday. Jay's featured several cocktails from Gonçalo de Sousa Monteiro of Berlin, and his Negroni variation called the Berlioni is a Cynar-y delight.

Blimps Over Bangkok

Craig, a.k.a. Dr. Bamboo, takes us on an exotic journey (and illustrates it with a guy in a blimp with goggles and a big moustache to help us feel the trip) with both Aperol and Cynar and a new (to me) Thai liqueur called Mekhong. I'd seen it in our local spirits emporium and was skeptical, thinking it a new marketing idea from a guy in a suit rather than a spirit that came organically from the culture, but I was wrong. There's some history behind Mekhong -- it's been around since 1941. Upon further reading I was fascinated by its base being both cane and rice spirits; its flavor is described as "spicy toffee with citrus and vanilla." Craig rather likes it, and bases his Blimps Over Bangkok with equal parts Mekhong and London dry gin. Sigh, more liquor to buy ...

Santo Spirito

Stevi of Two at the Most, whom I had the pleasure to meet and hang out with on our recent trip to Seattle (the first of many), reaches for one of my very favorite bitters, the Sicilian amaro called Averna (and the first Averna cocktail of the roundup!). This is a mid-range amaro, one to step up to after mastering Aperol or Montenegro, which you will most certainly enjoy as it helps lead you to the hard stuff (like Fernet). Her riff on the French 75 is called the Santo Spirito, a lovely name for a drink.

Bitter Bump

Now that Stevi has primed the Averna pump, it begins to flow freely. Bruce of World Wide Drinks brings it out for a citrusy fizz whose name is inspired by the biggest event in his hometown, the Indianapolis 500. If you're last in line to qualify and don't have a good enough time, you're "bumped." Ah well, the driver can always console him- or herself with Bruce's citrusy fizz called the Bitter Bump. (No permalink, but you shouldn't have to scroll back too far unless months have gone by as you're reading this ...)

Fernet Cocktail variation

My friend Andy at (dr)Ink Gorilla joins MxMo for the first time. Welcome, Andy! Watch out, it's addictive. He offers us a variation on the Fernet Cocktail, varying the bitters and syrup, and winning the award for today's heftiest dose of what's probably the heftiest amaro of them all (at least the ones we see on these shores). This one's for hardcore amaro-lovers.

B and B Collins

Amari and other drinking bitters all tend to have a similar formula -- alcohol, some combination of herbs, sugar and caramel coloring (with a certain amount of color coming from the herbs themselves). There are of course countless variations in this formula, including the herbs which provide the bitter elements. Christian of Cocktailwelten decided to go for the herbal end rather than the bitter end, and offers us a B&B Collins. Sein Beitrag ist in Deutsch, so unless you read German you'll need to run it through a translator.

Il Cane Nero

Jake the Drinksnob at Liquor is Quicker went for a product I've read about but have yet to try. China Martini ("china" is pronounced "KEE-na") is produced by Martini & Rossi and is a Calisaya-style bitters. Calisaya, china calissaia, cinchona ... all different terms for quinine, which is what provides the bitterness here. As I understand it China Martini is a liqueur at 31%, rather than the quinine-infused wines known as quinquina or chinato. I'd love to get my hands on some of this stuff, especially now that I'm inspired by Jake's purported hangover cure (which looks quite tasty) that he calls Il Cane Nero.

Ouroboros at Blotto, the Journal of the North American Booze Council (who sound as if they should be running the country) offers us yet another Portlander concoctaion using not one but two amari. Portland beckons me ... I like how they do things up there. I due amari marry rye (because what the world needs now is more rye cocktails) for the Cryptic Memo, which comes to us from Kelley Swenson, the head bartender at Ten 01. (Note to self: Add to list of Portland bars to haunt.)

Black Manhattan variation

Nat at The Alpha Cook offers an adaptation of the Black Manhattan, Averna-tinged Manhattan variation she first encountered at Bourbon and Branch in San Francisco. This version takes it a step further, spiced with Nat's own housemade Apple-Clove Bitters. (And yep, you get to learn how to make that, too).

Amaro Amigo

Craig at Colonel Tiki's Drinks offers us his first drink using tequila, and it's a great month to do so -- I love how tequila marries with bitter ingredients. He's combined two amari also and some lovely ingredients for yet another that I can't wait to try, the Amaro Amigo. I've got a lovely cinnamon tincture at home (sticks of Indonesian, toasted and soaked in Wray & Nephew Overproof Rum for 3 weeks) that's crying out to go into this drink, yum.

Picon Punch!

Sonja of North Shore Distillery, who writes at Thinking of Drinking, is the only one to bring out the Amer Picon (yay!) and whips up two variations on a classic near and dear to my heart, the venerable Picon Punch, one of my most beloved bitter tipples, which is also incredibly refreshing. She uses the current version of authentic Amer Picon (the "Club" version, which is intended to be mixed with wine) as well as the American replica Torani Amer, recently reformulated to taste much like the original Amer Picon, before the proof was cut in half and the recipe changed into the Club and Bière versions.

The Astoria

Sam (a.k.a. Vidiot) writes about cocktails at the group blog Cocktailians, where I am also a contributor but feel horribly guilty for not having contributed anything in a while. (Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa ... *thump chest* ... ow. Believe me, I'm wearing sackcloth in penance as I write (and promise to get my butt in gear and contribute again soon). I feel even guiltier for having foiled his plans to work with rye and mole bitters by posting my own such cocktail early. (I wasn't emitting dastardly laughs, rubbing my hands or twirling my moustache, honestly. I don't even have a moustache.) Fortunately this spiked Sam's creativity and we get yet another lovely cocktail named for a New York neighborhood. The famous borough drinks, plus the Red Hook and Little Italy and Bensonhurst are now joined by The Astoria, with rye (yay!), Ramazzotti and three different fruit bitters by the dash. You knocked that one right out of Shea Stadium, Sam.

Friuli Fizz

Contending for the final entry at 11:59:50 on Monday night, my friend Chris, an L.A. bartender who also writes about his craft and obsession at Blueprint Cocktail, went nuts with one of my favorites, Amaro Nonino, and had a long night of cocktail-creating fun, offering us three Nonino cocktails -- a tangy Friuli Fizz, a chamomile-scented, Nonino-spiked rye sour simply called the Nonino Sour and the Marmalady, which brings in a powerful smoky Scotch and kumquats ... wow. Marmalady (Hmm, is it just coincidence or was Chris reading John Lennon's poetry when naming that last one? "He is putting it lithely when he says / Quobble in the grass / Strab he down the soddieflays / Amo amat amass; / Amonk amink amnibus / A marmalaidie moon ..." Sorry, my mind works in odd ways and that just popped out of it.)

But no, not to be outdone ... Paul Clarke of The Cocktail Chronicles, the guy who got the wacky idea to start this whole MxMo thing, makes it in quite literally at the stroke of midnight as the bells were still chiming, and like Steve combines his MxMo entry with his entry into the Monteleone cocktail contest. It's a superb-looking blend of rye, Aperol, vermouth, crème de cacao and Peychaud's bitters that I also can't wait to try, appropriately named the Two Birds, which is a great name for a drink (well, unless it ends up being called The Monteleone). He's right indeed, I am a bitter man -- well no, I'm a bitters man. I think you're beginning to get the idea that this is a good thing.

Then after Paul finishes at midnight come the procrastinators ... yes, my people!

The Bywater Cocktail

My good friend Matt the Rumdood made it in at a respectable 12:18am on Mixology, um, Tuesday (and yes dude, I would indeed have teased you mercilessly had you not participated!) offers us a drink that was more than worth the 18-minute wait. Chris Hannah is one of the very best bartenders in the city of New Orleans, plying his art and craft at the French 75 Bar at the venerable Creole institution, Arnaud's Restaurant. The Bywater is quite possibly my favorite of Chris' drinks, for many reasons -- it's named after the old Ninth Ward neighborhood where my family is from, it's based on aged rum (coming from Matt I'd expect no less), contains a healthy dose of my beloved Chartreuse as well as one of my favorite amari that reflects the city's Sicilian population. All that and a pretty garnish too. I'm very glad Matt's helping this drink get more attention.


Mike of My Aching Head brings stumbled across a drink that seems to be longtime classic by its flavor -- how could this combination of ingredients not have been around for decades? -- and its popularity, but was in fact invented by Paul Harrington in the 1990s. Robert Hess was the first person I know of to begin popularizing this lovely tipple, the Campari-based Jasmine. Harrington's added some kind of magic to this drink too, an undefinable, non-tangible bit of something that makes it taste like it's been around for decades.

Eagle Rock

Finally, a brief re-mention of my own contribution, the Eagle Rock Cocktail, based on rye and featuring Amaro Borsci San Marzano with the forthcoming (July!) Bittermens Xocolatl Mole Bitters. It's deep and dark and bitter and just slightly sweet with hints of dried fruit, cherry, spice and chocolate. I kinda like it.

Aaaaaand ... that's it! I think. Gabriel is threatening to add a post, although I haven't yet received it and don't think my title of God Emperor of Procrastination is in any danger. Well, actually ... I got this Gargantuan roundup posted only two days later. I might end up being a mere Sandtrout of Procrastination. Sigh.

Upward Dog

[UPDATE on Mixology Wednesday!] Gabriel came through first thing this morning. We have a new God Emperor, and soon his entire skin will be covered with tipsy, hiccupping sandtrout. Unsurprisingly, it was worth the wait. Gabe, in weary traveller mode, wandered into San Francisco's Heaven's Dog, where bartender Erik Ellestad (whom I'm glad to see in this roundup, even indirectly) was asked to make something with Nonino, yet dry and refreshing. The resulting Upward Dog pleased him immensely, and sounds like one we'll return to at home.

Again, thanks a million to everyone who participated. I've got a frakload of drinks to make now.


[ Link to today's entries ]

  Monday, May 18, 2009

Mixology Monday XXXIX: Amaro.   Greetings, felicitations and welcome to MxMo 39! Entries are beginning to trickle in, and I expect a veritable flood of them as the day goes on. Besides posting your entry on your own blog, please post a comment to this topic (and as a backup, email me at mr.sazerac at gmail dot com), and please try to do so by midnight tonight -- well, at least in your time zone. I won't start doing the roundup until tomorrow, and I hope to have it up by Wednesday.

In case you missed the announcement post here or, the theme for this month is amaro -- bitter liqueurs generally intended to consume after a meal as a digestive, typical of but certainly not limited to Italy, and the use of those bitters in cocktails. Why did I choose this topic? Because over the last several years I have become an amaro freak.

It's been a long journey since 2000, when I took my first sip of Fernet Branca -- such a baptism of fire for my first experience with amaro! Sadly, no camera was present to capture the look on my face after taking my first sip, nor was a recorder running to note what was certainly some choice language. In the ensuing years, after samplng more gentle amari and working my way up, I finally had my amaro epiphany, which was the day when I started drinking Fernet Branca not strictly for medicinal purposes after overindulging my tummy, but for pleasure and enjoyment. Now my amaro collection is pretty decent, if I do say so myself (and ripe for expansion): Amaro Abano, Amaro Cora, Amaro Meletti, Amaro Mio Lorenzo Inga, Amaro Montenegro, Amaro Nonino, Amaro Ramazzotti, Amaro di Santa Maria al Monte di NIcola Uignale, Amer Boudreau, Amer Picon Club, Aperol, Averna, Campari, Cynar, Fernet Branca, Gammel Dansk, Jeppson's Malört, Maraska Pelinkovac, Suze, Torani Amer, Underberg and Zwack Unicum ... plus one more which is my most recent acquisition.

Borsci Elisir San Marzano

Borsci Elisir San Marzano was one I'd seen passing references to but had never tried until a few bottles showed up at The Wine House, one of my two major spirits emporia and where a significant chunk of my paycheck is deposited every other week. I took it home, poured some into our nice little amaro sipping glasses, and lit up. It's on the milder end of the amaro spectrum, more hefty than Montenegro, which is my mildest, but one that I thought might be appealing to amaro newbies. The bitter herbs and sweetness are in perfect balance, but there's a lot more going on in this liqueur -- dried fruits, especially figs and plums, touches of chocolate and coffee as well. The liqueur's been around since 1840, developed in Puglia, Italy by Giuseppe Borsci in the tradition of herbal liqueurs developed by European monks.

I looked it up and found interesting recipes on Borsci's website, although none for cocktails, oddly enough. The first recipe (which I also found in its listing on LeNell's website was to soak fresh cherries in it, which sounds fantastic. Grapes were recommended for soaking in a simliar fashion, and there was a fascinating procedure for layering almond-stuffed dried figs with chocolate flakes in a jar, then filling with Borsci amaro. There was Borsci tiramisù, Borsci birthday cake, Borsci over strawberries and even over ice cream. All looked good, yet still no cocktails. I seem to have stumbled across my first dessert amaro.

However, it's recommended chilled or in long drinks as an aperitivo, plus at room temperature as an excellent digestivo, which after several such after-dinner tipplages I can assure you it is, although not as powerfully medicinal as some other amari. After my first sips, though, I started thinking about how I'd use this in a cocktail.

The first thing that came to me was a Manhattan variation. There are several such variations out there that feature various amari (The Red Hook and Little Italy, both favorites, to name two), but it seemed to me that this amaro would work particularly well with a powerful rye base. The hints of chocolate in the this amaro's flavor base led me to want to pair it with something similar, but by no means did I want this drink to be too sweet, or gods forbid, something desserty. Flavors that would lend itself to an after-meal cocktail, sure, or a lead-in to dessert, but not a "dessert cocktail" per se. Crème de cacao, even the less cloyingly sweet version from Marie Brizard, would be right out, and the only ingredient that seemed right was, oddly enough, something I had never tasted.

Those of us who are bitters fanatics have been waiting with bated breath for the eventual release of the products being developed and produced by the newest cocktail bitters company, Bittermens. They'd been working on a tantalizing and exciting range of products ranging from "tiki" bitters to grapefruit and pecan bitters, but the one that got my scalp tingling in anticipation was their "Xocolatl Mole" chocolate spice bitters. As they described them: "Inspired by the classic Mexican chocolate mole sauce, this bitters recipe highlights tequila, aged rum and whiskey cocktails. Try substituting these bitters in a Manhattan, or adding to a Margarita." Holy crapola. I was tremendously excited to hear about this, and disappointed to hear of delay after delay due, oddly enough, not to difficulties vetting them with the TTB, but with local and state health and production permits. And after tasting the Borsci, even though I had never tasted Bittermens Mole Bitters, I knew this was just what my tentative Borsci cocktail needed. (Unless I was completely wrong.)

To add to my frustration, Bittermens sent out a number of samples to bartenders (naturally) and to a few cocktail writers, none of which included me. (Well, other folks to get higher readership, so it made perfect sense.) That didn't help my writhing jealousy as I read my friend Paul Clarke's glowing review of his sample of these bitters a year ago January. I was Chartreuse with envy, but knew I just had to wait. Once my taste of Borsci came along, I must confess I grew more impatient -- this stuff would go great with Borsci in a cocktail, I just knew it. Bittermens posted periodic updates, and it looked as if we'd finally be able to get our hands on a fully released product a bit later this year ... but not in time for my idea for a drink that would be perfect for the MxMo topic I suggested for my turn to host.

Well, all ended well with Wes' and my long-overdue visit to see all our friends in Seattle in April, and Paul very graciously and generously offered me a small sample from his sample bottle of bitters so I could see if my idea would work. Y'know what? It worked. I'm just a lucky so-and-so ... thanks a million, Paul!

I was pretty happy with the drink as I had conceived it, but thought it neede one more little boost, just a tad of Cherry Heering to offer that compementary cherry flavor without making it too sweet -- we get more than enough of that from the amaro itself, and the vermouth. I'm pretty happy with this, and as the Manhattan got to be named after a borough in New York, and as I was lucky enough to get to create a drink named for part of Los Angeles a while back, I wanted to have one named after my own neighborhood.

So ... I must confess that it's a bit unfair that you can't quite make this drink yourself yet, unless you get to one of a number of bars that have Bittermens Xocolatl Mole Bitters on hand (that'd be Zig Zag and Vessel in Seattle; Alembic, Absinthe, Coco 500 and Range in San Francisco; Death & Co., Milk and Honey, Little Branch, PDT, Bourgeois Pig, Mayahuel or Tailor in NYC; Eastern Standard, Drink, Hungry Mother or Craigie on Main in Boston; or Montgomery Place, The Lonsdale, Milk and Honey or The Purple Bar at the Sanderson Hotel in London) or unless you get invited to Paul Clarke or Robert Hess' house to name but two, you'll have to wait until July to try this drink the way I envisioned it -- that's when Bittermens plans to finally release their product (yay!). That's only six weeks away, though, and I think it'll be worth the wait. Don't worry, I'll noodge you again when the time comes.

Use a big rye for this. We're deeply, madly in love with the bonded 100 proof Rittenhouse rye, which is a fantastic product, priced between $16-18 and without a doubt the best rye value on the market. After that try Wild Turkey 101 rye, and we're even tempted to give this one a go with Thomas Handy.

The Eagle Rock Cocktail

The Eagle Rock Cocktail

2 ounces Rittenhouse 100 proof bonded rye whiskey.
1/2 ounce sweet vermouth (Carpano Antica or Vya).
1/2 ounce Amaro Borsci San Marzano.
1 scant barspoon Cherry Heering.
2-3 goodly dashes Bittermens Xocolatl Mole Bitters.

Combine with ice in a mixing glass and stir for 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a Luxardo cherry.

I love one of these after work, and I also liked it after dinner, leading into a big chocolate dessert -- I thought it was a lovely transition. I hope you enjoy it too, once those bitters come out! In the meantime, maybe try it with a dash of Fee's Whiskey Barrel-Aged Bitters, but that cacao spice you get from the Bittermens really does make this drink.

To all the participants in MxMo Amaro, thanks for all your entries so far! We tried a couple last nigiht and got luxuriously toasted. Everyone else, please get your entries posted on your own sites with a comment here by midnight tonight, and I'll get to work on the roundup.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Friday, May 15, 2009

The Monteleone Cocktail Contest -- My entry.   Well, here's hoping this drink gets to be called this for good. As you may recall from previous posts over the past couple of weeks, the Monteleone Hotel in New Orleans is hosting a cocktail contest for their new signature drink, in honor of the 60th anniversary of their legendary and venerable Carousel Bar. The competition will no doubt be as stiff as the drinks, so wish me luck!

While I wasn't really using the hotel's other signature drink, the Vieux Carré, as a jumping-off point, I did want to have rye as a base spirit. As it turned out, there's a slight similarity between the drinks in some of the proportions, but this goes off in a different direction, with a balance of bitter and sweet and spicy and malty that Wes and I both really liked. Here's hoping you like it too (not to mention the contest judges!).

The Monteleone Cocktail (candidate)

The Monteleone Cocktail
(Tentatively named pending cocktail contest results.)

Rue Royale
(Renamed, as another cocktail was chosen for the contest winner)

1 ounce Sazerac Rye (6 Year).
1 ounce Bols Genever.
1 ounce Dolin Vermouth Blanc.
1/2 ounce Averna.
2 dashes Peychaud's Bitters.
1 dash Regans' Orange Bitters No. 6.
Orange peel.

Combine ingredients with cracked ice and stir for 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail coupe and garnish with the orange peel after giving it a mighty twist.

The rye is there to provide a solid foundation of whiskey and spice, and is there for New Orleans. I was fascinated by the combination of whiskey and genever, which the malty, whiskey-like characteristic of this genever in particular. (My original idea was to try this with Ransom Old Tom Gin, a new barrel-aged Old Tom co-developed by David Wondrich, which I tasted in Seattle and went mad for, but it's not available yet.) I wanted an aromatized wine as a moderator, and the newly-imported Dolin Blanc is a fantastic product I've fallen completely in love with. It's a sweet white vermouth, along the lines of a bianco from Cinzano or Martini & Rossi but with a really tremendous flavor, and with the sweetness held back a bit. The Averna is because I love amaro, because wanted a pleasantly bitter element which the Dolin helps balance well, and also to honor the Sicilian heritage of Signor Antonio Monteleone, the founder of the hotel. Peychaud's for spice and for the city, and as I was trying out early incarnations and got close, we thought it needed one little extra bit of brightness, which the orange bitters provide.

Well, that's my story, anyway, and I'm sticking to it.

If it doesn't win I'll still keep making it, and it'll just get renamed. Maybe I'll call it the Antonio, after Signor Monteleone. But let's not get ahead of ourselves; I'd rather it be called the Monteleone.

UPDATE, 5/22/2009: Alas, another cocktail won the contest, but I think this drink is a keeper. It's being renamed the "Rue Royale." (Thanks to Wes for the name suggestion!) And congratulations to contest winner Brian Robinson of The Wormwood Society.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Jazzefst Quote of the Day.   I've been scrupulously avoiding any mention of Fest (or even reading about it) this year, because I couldn't go and I really just didn't want to know, lest I get depressed. This little tidbit cracked me up, though ...

"As Nurse Pontevecchio said to me, 'You don't have swine flu, you idiot, you're just fat!'"

-- Bobby Lounge

Well, maybe you had to be there, but I feel as if I were.


If you do not know the music of Bobby Lounge, you should.

Canadians drinking bitters.   Carol pointed me to this article in the Globe and Mail about bitter liqueurs. Most of it's nothing new to most of you, but I thought it was timely as we'll be celebrating bitter liqueurs with next Monday's Mixology Monday, which we're hosting here this month.

It's good that papers like this are trying to introduce the general public to the joy of drinking amaros and bitters, but I have to slap them when it comes to at least half of their suggested recipes. Don't use vodka as a base spirit, for frak's sake!

If you're just starting out drinking bitter liqueurs, try this one on for size. I posted it a few months ago as part of the big wrap-up of the 17 drinks that were chosen for the Los Angeles Downtown Sub-District Cocktail Contest, but I think it warrants mention on its own, as it's a really lovely drink.

Arts District Cocktail
(by Leo Rivas, Seven Grand Whiskey Bar, Downtown Los Angeles)

2 ounces Rye whiskey
1/2 ounce Cynar
1/4 ounce Bénédictine

Stir for 20-30 seconds & strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a grapefruit peel.

Y'know, since rye whiskey has just a teensy-weensy bit more flavor than vodka. (*smack self on forehead*)

Absinthe of malice.   Well, that's one dopey absinthe pun no one seems to have come up with yet. Let the arrows fly!

In Eric Asimov's current NYT column he does his best to work his way through the veritable flood of absinthes that have come onto the market in the last year, ably assisted in his tastings by Audrey Saunders of The Pegu Club in New York. My own tasting rankings would have been different -- I didn't care for Pernod and really like Jade's Nouvelle-Orléans, to name but two, and the relatively new Absinthe Marteau would be way high on that list, as would the brand-new Pacifique.

His introductory column, however, is quite interesting in that he specifically calls out a "dog," i.e. the dreaded Le Tourment Vert, after having inexplicably praised it a while back. He now found it paled in comparison to, well, every single other absinthe they tasted. Of further interest is the fourth comment, posted by the owner and importer of LTV, in which he tries to defend his product but basically ends up saying that they dumbed it down until it's no longer really absinthe, but it's better than all the rest because it sells well. Sigh.

Look at the photo that accompanies that article, and you'll see one glass full of a liquid that makes you want to sing "One of these things is not like the other." That'd undoubtedly be LTV, which has a color somewhere between Crest Pro Health Mouthwash and Aqua Velva. Avoid.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Cocktail of the day: The Red Rot.   Dayne showed us this one when we were visiting them in Seattle a couple of weeks ago (pictures and cocktail recipes and food porn coming soon, I promise!), and it's a really good one. We'll be having this at home for cocktail hour tonight -- something to focus on for the end of a long work day.

This one comes from the rather talented Misty Kalkofen of Drink in Boston, where she is bartender and Mistress of Ice, and Lauren Clark of Drink Boston, both of whom are also members of LUPEC, Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails ("Dismantling the patriarchy one drink at a time!" ... yeah you rite!).

I'm not sure where Dayne got this particular description he forwarded to me when I asked him for the recipe, but I will reproduce it verbatim, because it's too much fun to simply boil down to a list of ingredients.

The Red Rot Cocktail,
which Rather Resembles the Noxious Liquid Medicine
for Moldy Red Leather-bound Books but Nonetheless
Pleases the Palate.
(Created by Misty Kalkofen of Drink and Lauren Clark of

To one jigger of London dry gin, add
add one half-ounce each of
St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur,
Cherry Heering and
fresh lemon juice, and
two goodly dashes of Peychaud's Bitters.

Shake vigorously with ice and turn into a Champagne saucer.

Loverly. And it doesn't look nearly as noxious as the vile green allergy medicine I had to take when I was a kid.

Monteleone Cocktail contest deadline Monday the 18th.   Are any of y'all entering? You've got less than a week to go to think of a new signature cocktail for the Monteleone Hotel in New Orleans. (See contest details below in the May 6th entry.)

The Carousel Bar, the 60th anniversary of which the winning cocktail will celebrate, opened in 1949. Perhaps you could be inspired by cocktails or popular ingredients of that era. Do a little research on the hotel, or on New Orleans, or anything else that might inspire a recipe.

I've already got my recipe done, and I'm pretty happy with it. I'll post mine on Friday, so as not to conflict with Mixology Monday next Monday.

Speaking of which, the theme for this month's webside mixological madness is amaro -- sipping bitters as opposed to aromatic bitters added by the dash. Italian amaro is most popular, but bitter liqueurs from anywhere in the world are fair game. Here's the announcement post with more details and instructions. Lay your bitter cocktails on me, starting on Monday!

Vindication!   Eating fatty foods can help boost memory, says a new study.

A team at the University of California, Irvine discovered oleic acids from fats are converted into a memory-enhancing agent in the gut. [...]

Evidence shows high levels of oleoylethanolamide or OEA can reduce appetite, produce weight loss and lower blood cholesterol as well as triglyceride levels, making it an attractive candidate as a diet pill too.

Dr Daniele Piomelli and his team discovered that OEA also causes memories to be laid down by activating memory-enhancing signals in the amygdala - the part of the brain involved with memories of emotional events.

Dr Piomelli said there was an evolutionary explanation for this role of OEA. "By helping mammals remember where and when they have eaten a fatty meal, OEA's memory-enhancing activity seems to have been an important evolutionary tool for early humans and other animals.

"Remembering the location and context of a fatty meal was probably an important survival mechanism for early humans."

Maybe if I eat more French fries I'll remember where I left my keys.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Monteleone Cocktail Contest!   Ah, I love a good cocktail competition, and I haven't gotten to enter nearly as many as I'd like. For this one, I'm in.

This year's Tales of the Cocktail is coming up in a little over two months, and it's an exciting event -- a huge convergence of bartenders, cocktail and spirits writers, spirits industry types and especially cocktail geeks come from around the world to sample New Orleans' culture and cuisine, learn about the latest entries into the spirit world as well as ancestors, and get lit. It's a ton of fun. So far every year the event has been based at the Monteleone Hotel in the French Quarter, and this year they're marking history -- it's the 60th anniversary of their famed Carousel Bar (The "Yes, it's really revolving, and no, you're not that hammered -- yet" bar.

In honor of this anniversary, the Monteleone Hotel is sponsoring a cocktail competition. Many of us know that the hotel's signature drink is the Vieux Carré cocktail, invented by their then-bar manager Walter Bergeron in the late 1930s. It turns out that after the Carousel Bar itself opened in 1949, and lasting through the 1960s and '70s, there was another house specialty cocktail, oddly enough called The Monteleone Cocktail. What's even odder is that the recipe seems to have been lost -- nobody at the hotel has any idea how the drink was made.

Carousel Bar, 
Monteleone Hotel, New Orleans

(Oh my God, is that The Observer on the left?!!)

In order to fill in the gap, The Hotel Monteleone is hosting an online contest to accept drink recipe nominations for a new official Monteleone Cocktail. Here are the contest outlines and rules: "The recipes will be judged by VIPs who will be at the Carousel anniversary celebration on May 21. There are no requirements on types of liquor or style of drink, but all drink entries must be received by May 18, so that the ingredients may be acquired and drinks prepared at the May 21 event. Participating bloggers should post their entries online, and all participants should e-mail their drink recipes, along with their name, address and phone number, to athornton (at) hotelmonteleone (dot) com. The winning entry will become the new official Monteleone Cocktail, and the winner will receive four free nights at the Hotel Monteleone during Tales of the Cocktail 2009."

I heard about this a couple of weeks ago, but the hotel wants to get the word out far and wide now, so get your thinking caps on and start mixing. I've got some ideas.

Cocktail of the day.   Well no, it's not a tequila cocktail, since we skipped a post for Cinco de Mayo (and drank lovely Tequila Old Fashioneds: 2 oz. Partida Añejo, 1 tsp. agave nectar, 1 dash each of Angostura Aromatic and Angostura Orange Bitters, and a big swath of grapefruit peel). It's one I read about in Eric Felten's column in the Wall Street Journal back in February ... ahh, I'm nothing if not procrastinatory.

Paul Clarke has been truly kicking butt the last couple of weeks with his "Thirty in Thirty" series, a cocktail post a day for a month. Last Sunday he wrote about a fantastic-sounding drink called the Theobroma (theobroma cacao being, of course, the Latin name for the cacao bean that brings us all that nummy chocolate) in which he quoted a rule from the Esquire Drinks Database: "There is no such thing as a Chocolate Martini!".

This is true, but as Felten points out in his article (and some fine examples from Paul), although chocolate as a cocktail ingredient has been badly misused over the past few decades there is indeed historical precedent as well as some great uses, if done carefully and with the proper balance. As I rule I dislike sweet cocktails, so you're already treading on dangerous ground, but it certainly can be done.

I'm also cautious about dessert cocktails, and the one Eric wrote about certainly falls into that category for me. But despite the fact that it's 2 parts spirit to 1 part liqueur it doesn't seem overly sweet and was just the thing after our dinner the other night.

Key to this drink, I think, is finding Marie Brizard's dark crème de cacao, which has less sweetness and higher proof as well as a deeper chocolate flavor than most inexpensive liqueurs of its kind. Heering is, of course, welcome in so many cocktails I like already, and unsurprisingly it plays very well with the other ingredients. Once Bittermens Xocolatl Mole Bitters is on the market, I'd bet this would benefit from a dash of that too, like Paul's Theobroma.

The Dolores Cocktail
(adapted by Eric Felten)

2 ounces Spanish brandy, or any brandy. (We used Don Pedro.)
1/2 ounce Marie Brizard dark Crème de Cacao.
1/2 ounce Cherry Heering.

Combine with ice and stir for 20-30 seconds. Strain into your prettiest cocktail glass and garnish with a brandied cherry.

Try making this one if someone comes over and asks for a "Chocolate Martini," and serve this to them while telling them there's no such thing.

Hooray!   Or, as my friend Kylee said when she came across these, "Ooh boy, oh boy, oh boy, oh boy, oh boy!!!!! Yay!!!!!!" I have only five words for you, my friends.

Single malt Scotch chocolate bars.

Single Malt Scotch Bar!

Made with Talisker 1992 Distillers Edition single malt Scotch, no less.

Thing is, they're frakkin' expensive -- $15 for three, which comes to about $23 with tax and shipping. Still, I might just have to try it. Or else I could always just get out my bottle of Talisker, some Valrhona chocolate, and enjoy them together as I am sometimes wont to do.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Saturday, May 2, 2009

Happy Derby Day!   Seems like such a lot of hoohah and folderol for a race that lasts about two minutes, but hey, it's tradition, and any excuse to drink a mint julep is a good one. The celebrations and parties are more fun for me than the race, anyway.

If we're talking mint juleps, though, we have to talk about the ultimate mint julep experience, which would be at a bar in front of New Orleans bartender Chris McMillian. I posted this a while back, and Derby Day is the most appropriate time to post it again. If you've never see it before, you'll want to watch it. For that matter, if you have seen it before, you'll want to watch it again.

And the race is on ...

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Friday, May 1, 2009

ANNOUNCEMENT! Mixology Monday XXXIX: Amaro.   Happy Mayday, y'all. (Whistle "The Internationale" if you're of a mind to.) Another month, another Mixology Monday is rapidly approaching. Mixology Monday is a monthly online cocktail party that unites cocktail enthusiasts from around the globe. Once a month, on a Monday, we ponder a topic or theme, and either create new cocktails or find historic ones that fit in with that theme. Everything from bursts of creativity to unearthing near-forgotten cocktails to old favorites are welcome. It's my honor to be hosting MxMo for the month of May, finally getting my lazy keister in gear and offering to do so after 39 months. I'm hoping the topic will be worth the wait, as it's one near and dear to my heart.

The topic for this month is Amaro, which refers to the bitter liqueurs usually drunk as an after-meal digestive, either alone (neat or on the rocks) or in some kind of mixed drink or cocktail. They tend to all share certain characteristics -- drinking bitters are generally made of alcohol with any number of herbs, plus sugar and some kind of coloring. The word "amaro" means bitter in Italian, and although the more famous drinking bitters tend to come from Italy our amaro theme this month is most certainly not limited to that country. Amaro, amer, amargo, what have you. Italy, Spain, France, America, Serbia, Croatia, Germany, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Poland ... wherever somebody drinks a bitter liqueur, that's a source for your drink this month.

My own journey to being an amaro geek took many years. About 9 years ago I first read about Fernet Branca in an article on, back when I was writing reviews for them. I wasn't familiar with it, but the writer referred to it as "the medicine cabinet in my bar." His Italian grandmother had turned him on to the beneficial effects of Fernet after a large meal, particularly an overindulgent one. Her method of serving it was "calda lunga" -- four parts hot water to one part Fernet, with a tablespoon of honey. I was fascinated by this, and picked up a bottle on my next trip to the liquor store. I opened the bottle after my next indulgent meal, and instead of the calda lunga I tried it in the most traditional style, semplice -- by itself in a chilled glass, with a bit of ice. The flavor was ... well, fairly horrid, I thought at the time. Extremely medicinal. But ... I felt better within about five minutes. Truly amazing stuff, and a testament to the power of herbal medicine.

For years I only used Fernet for medicinal purposes, quite literally, but over time began to appreciate the flavor a little bit more. I tried other amaros that I really liked, especially Averna, and eventually got to the point where I drink Fernet Branca for pleasure. Along the road I started picking up more and more amaro, and now I can't get enough of it. Wherever it's from, I want it. I want to sip it alone and I want to use it in cocktails, and since I don't recall our having this particular topic in MxMo so far, I thought it was about time! Now, what to do?

You could use something gentle, like the lovely Amaro Montenegro, or something in-your-face, like the aforementioned Fernet. You could go insane, like a few intrepid Chicago bartenders have done, and actually make cocktails with Jeppson Malört, which is the most mind-bogglingly, unrelentingly bitter liqueur ever. Or you could find something relatively rare, like a pelinkovac from Serbia or Croatia. Just remember we're talking about a bitter liqueur you drink from a glass, not an aromatic bitters you add by the dash. Oh, and one more thing ... while technically Jägermeister is a digestive bitter liqueur and is perfectly legitimate for your post-prandial sipping, it's been done to death by frat boys nationwide. Unless your Jäger cocktail is destined to be a modern classic, I'd recommend skipping that one (if for no other reason that someone will undoubtedly taunt you for it). Or you could say, "In your face, Taggart!" and do a brilliant Jägermeister cocktail that blows everyone away. The world of bitters is your canvas.

Here's what to do:

1. By Monday, May 18, either find or create a cocktail containing amaro or some kind of drinking bitters from any country.

2. Write a post about it on your own site (or on The Spirits and Cocktails Forum on if you don't have a site of your own) on Monday the 18th, then leave a comment with a link to your post either here or on the main post I'll do on the 18th. (They'll have the same comment link.) For safety, email the link to me as well, to mr.sazerac (at) gmail (dot) com.

Link back to me and to the main Mixology Monday site, and please include the MxMo logo as well.

I'm really looking forward to seeing what everyone comes up with this time. Viva amaro!

Permalink for the announcement post:

Cocktail of the day.   This one comes from David Shenaut, bartender at the Teardrop Lounge in Portland. I had planned to make it last night, but Wes already had John Coltharp's lovely Historic Core cocktail ready for me when I got home, and we're still in liver recovery mode after Seattle -- only one drink a night for a li'l while. This sounds terrific, though, and it's my turn to mix tonight.

I'm thrilled to see Dolin Blanc being embraced so quickly. How can it not? It's a fantastic product. All three kids of Dolin Vermouth are, and they're brand-new to this country although they've been made in France by the same family using the same recipes since 1821. They're all lighter and drier, marvelously flavored. The "Blanc" variety is distinct from the Dry, as it's a sweet white vermouth and is so delicious I'm happy to drink it on its own, on the rocks with an orange peel. I'm going to be doing a lot of experimenting with this one. It's starting to get wide distribution on the coasts; L.A. folk can find it at The Wine House in West L.A. or Silverlake Wine.

For L.A. locals, Bitter Truth bitters are avaiable at Bar Keeper on Sunset in Silverlake; in Seattle at De Laurenti in Pike Place Market, or via mail order from Germany.

Right now I only have Hayman's Old Tom, which is on the softer side but still makes a lovely drink with a subtle interplay of flavors. David told me later that Hammond's is "soft and pretty," while the stupendous brand-new barrel-aged Ransom's, made in Oregon based on research and specifications by David Wondrich, is "deep and rich." I got to taste some Ransom's while I was in Seattle, and that stuff is just mind-bendingly great. When it finally makes it down here I'm probably in for a case of it.

The Ephemeral
(by David Shenaut, Teardrop Lounge, Portland)

1-1/2 ounces Old Tom gin. (I have Hayman's on hand; I'll check and see what David uses.)
1 ounce Dolin Vermouth Blanc.
2 barspoons St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur.
3 dashes Bitter Truth Celery Bitters.
Grapefruit peel.

Combine with ice in a mixing glass and stir for 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass or coupe, and garnish with the grapefruit peel.

I hope to do a whole writeup on Dolin soon.

Ten cocktails everyone should know.   Gary Regan had a terrific article a week ago Sunday telling you about, as he put it, 10 drinks that you absolutely must learn how to make if you want to hold your head high in this world of cocktail mavens.

Even better, he gives basic advice for beginning mixers and tells you how to stock a decent bar for under $250. Refer your beginning or remedial cocktail friends to this article, but do pass along one caveat -- unlike Gary's instructions, please do NOT mash up a bunch of fruit in an Old Fashioned. He and I will undoubtedly butt heads over this one (but I will, I hope, have reinforcements like Robert Hess and Jeff Morgenthaler and pretty much all the really good L.A. bartenders), but I don't want a lot of mashed-up fruit in my Old Fashioned. That came along when that drink lost its way. Muddle an orange peel if you want, but as Maj. Margaret Houlihan once said, quite forcefully, "NO fruit."

Then again, if you like it that way, drink it that way. I'll just look at you, shake my head and make you buy the next round.

God'll get you for that, Walter.   We all heard the sad news that the much beloved Bea Arthur passed away last week. I grew up watching her on "Maude," unfortunately didn't watch "The Golden Girls" as much as I should have, but was lucky enough to see her on stage. She was made of fabulous. She kept at it for a long time, too -- check out this hilarious "Sex and the City" parody she did a few years back. And yes, speaking of fabulous, the other girls are indeed Sally Struthers, Katherine Helmond and Charlotte Rae.

April Looka! entries have been permanently archived.

[ Link to today's entries ]

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