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Cocktails on Arrakis, Part 1

[N.B. -- If you 1) haven't read Frank Herbert's Dune novels, and/or 2) aren't a geek, then this post is likely to make little sense to you.]

My old friend Chris Caldwell, a writer and cocktailian living in Denver, issued the following post on his Twitter feed the other day:

“And how can this be? For he is the Kwisatz Sazerac!” #cocktailsonarrakis

I laughed, I groaned, I shouted “ARRGGGHHH!”, I wanted to buy him a drink, I wanted to slap him upside the head with a flyswatter. In other words, my natural reaction to a really great/awful pun.

But it got me thinking.

I wrote him back right away and said, “Shai-Hulud’ll get you for that, Chris. That said, The Crysknife would be a great name for a drink.”

He replied, “That was better than ‘I must not beer. Beer is the mind-killer. Beer is the little death that brings total oblivion.’” Oh, gods. *facepalm* Okay, it’s a good thing I wasn’t in the room with him, because he’d have flyswatter prints on both cheeks.

“Or ‘May thy coupe glass chip and shatter.’” Hmm, that’s better. Now we’re getting somewhere.

“Or ‘When you reach the bottom of the drink you dare not drink, you’ll find me staring back at you!’” Oh, oh … the boy’s on a roll.

I told him that now he has to make a Kwisatz Sazerac. It would, of course, have to have a faint whiff of cinnamon, to recall the spice melange — “the smell – bitter cinnamon, unmistakable.”

Not only that, we need to get to work on other Dune cocktails too. The Crysknife, of course. The Heighliner? The Gom Jabbar! Chris said, “A Gom Jabbar would be an awesome drink! ‘I remember your gom jabbar, you remember mine!’” I mentioned this to Matt “Rumdood” Robold, and he immediately said, “You mean a Gomme Jabbar, of course.”

*SCREAM!* Genius!!

A while after our initial conversation Chris got back to me with the results of his experimentation. “Surprisingly good,” he said. It’s really just a simple Sazerac variation, but the geeky pun is just too priceless to pass up, and warrants a post of its own — the first, I hope, of several posts featuring Cocktails on Arrakis.

It’s still a rye base with a rinse of absinthe. A spiced simple syrup is the main difference, plus some orange bitters (the color of the spice) and an orange peel instead of lemon.

Don’t add a splash of the Water of Life, though, because you’ll die an agonizing death. Or, if you’re female and can transmute the poison, you’ll become a Bene Gesserit Reverend Mother. Or if you’re male, and you don’t die, you become …

(by Christopher Caldwell)

2 ounces Rittenhouse 100 bonded rye whiskey.
1 barspoon Spice-Must-Flow Syrup.
3 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters.
1 dash Regans’ Orange Bitters.
Splash of absinthe.

As in a traditional Sazerac, coat a chilled Old Fashioned glass with the absinthe and discard all or most of the excess. Combine rye, Spice-Must-Flow syrup and bitters in a chilled mixing glass and stir with ice for 30-45 seconds. Strain into the absinthe-coated glass. Twist the orange peel over the drink. It is the will of Shai-Hulud that you drop the peel into the drink (especially if you’ve cut it to look like a sandworm).


1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cinnamon stick
1/8 teaspoon green cardamom seeds (not pods)

Crush the stick and seeds in with a mortar and pestle. Toast the spice gently in a small saucepan, tossing constantly, until it begins to become fragrant. Add the water and sugar and heat gently, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and allow the syrup to steep for 15-20 minutes. Strain out the spice through a fine strainer and pour into a jar. Keep in the fridge; should last about a month.

Stay tuned for the Gomme Jabbar — the high-handed enemy. My idea for the base was a navy-strength gin; Matt thinks Wray & Nephew Overproof, which I may like better and should be sufficiently deadly. Don’t worry, though — it kills only … animals.

P.S. — Chris has one of the most consistently great Twitter feeds of anyone I know. Follow him.



I love three-ingredient cocktails.

Heck, I love two-ingredient cocktails, but they’re a bit rarer. There’s just something magical about the alchemy of putting just two or three things together and sipping the results of the alchemy. Plus, on a practical level … well, I do love me the 9- or 10-ingredient tiki cocktails, but I’m not sure I’d want to be knocking them out all night (says the lazy bastard who lives inside me).

When we were hanging out at The Varnish for the Left Coast Libations book release party a couple months ago, guest bartender Anu Apte of Rob Roy in Seattle made one for us and for book co-author Ted Munat that wasn’t actually in the book, or on the bar menu that evening. Always willing to try something new (and always agreeing with Wesly when he says, “What the world needs now is more rye cocktails”), I said I was game.

“It’s called a ‘TLC,’” Anu said. “I came up with it just for Ted.” *

“Sounds lovely!” said I. “Does the name stand for the usual?”

“Nope, said she. “‘Ted Likes Chartreuse.’”

Marleigh, Wes and me: “Awww!”

She may have come up with it for Ted, but it’s also for all the Teeming Millions of us out there who also like (or love) Chartreuse.

(by Anu Apte, Rob Roy, Seattle)

2 ounces rye whiskey.
1/2 ounce green Chartreuse.
1/4 ounce apricot liqueur (Apry or Rothman & Winter Orchard Apricot).

Combine with cracked ice, stir for 30 seconds and strain into a chilled cocktail coupe. Garnish with an orange peel.

* – Conversational details which I attempt to recall from a time during which I have been imbibing may not be exactly historically accurate, but it’s more or less the gist of it.


Cocktail of the Day: The Blinker

I was perusing my old cocktail index on The Gumbo Pages’ beverage page and realized that in the Great Cocktail Article Migration of 2009 I missed a few, including this one. Eek! What was I thinking?! Rectification of oversight commences!

This one may be familiar to many of you, but if you’re scratching your head thinking, “Nope, never seen this one before, and grapefruit juice? Ew!” it’s another “forgotten” cocktail that comes to us courtesy of Ted “Dr. Cocktail” Haigh, who first served it to us years ago. The Blinker is the creation of a bartender whose name has escaped into the mists of history, but it was first mentioned in print in 1934 by bartender Patrick Gavin Duffy. (There’s a bit more about it in Doc’s most excellent book, Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails.)

Doc tinkered with the recipe; originally the drink was made with grenadine (and a horrifying amount of it, equal to the grapefruit juice). Raspberry syrup gives it a lovely complexity, especially when considering most commercially-made grenadines. I think it’s a terrific variation.

The thing that made the drink Doc made for us so much better than the first one we made at home was his use of Smucker’s brand raspberry syrup, right from the grocery store, instead of the Torani raspberry syrup we used. Nowadays for prepared syrups I’d generally go with Monin, which would also be good. But man … that Smucker’s stuff had an fabulously fruity, aromatic and intensely jammy quality (unsurprisingly) that really put this drink over the top. Even better was a raspberry syrup from Harry and David, the Fruit of the Month Club folks, which was hands-down the best raspberry syrup I’d ever tasted (and didn’t have the tendency to sink to the bottom of the drink that Smucker’s has). Sadly, the product’s been discontinued.

If you have a really good, homemade pomegranate grenadine or an excellent commercial product like Trader Tiki’s Hibiscus Grenadine, by all means use that if you like. Otherwise, try the Smucker’s, or better still, a homemade raspberry syrup from fresh (or even frozen) raspberries.

Of course, it goes without saying that you should not use bottled grapefruit juice. Freshly-squeezed white grapefruit juice, please. It takes half a minute to cut and squeeze a grapefruit, and it’s eleventy million times better. Also, if you’re one of those folks that doesn’t like grapefruit juice, this may be your conversion moment; you’ll like it here, even if you only ever have it in this cocktail (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

Enjoy the Blinker — it’s a simple yet really lovely drink, and don’t worry about the silly name (drives Doc crazy).

Oh, the image below is temporary, shamelessly purloined briefly borrowed from the fine folks at Modern Drunkard magazine, who in turn lifted it from Ted’s book (naturally, since the article was an interview with Ted about his book). I’ll have one of my own up by the weekend, especially since I haven’t had a Blinker in a while, and I want one.

The Blinker Cocktail
Shamelessly purloin-- er, borrowed image from Modern Drunkard, to be replaced real soon now

2 ounces rye whiskey.
1 ounce fresh grapefruit juice.
1 teaspoon raspberry syrup.

Combine with cracked ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously for no less than 10 seconds, until very cold; strain into a cocktail glass.

Doc didn’t garnish this, and I don’t know if the original recipe called for a garnish, but we like a pretty grapefruit peel curl cut with a channel knife (Doc opts for lemon). Don’t squeeze any grapefruit oil over the drink, though; we don’t want this one to be too bitter.

To quote Wes, “What the world needs is more rye cocktails.” Amen.


Cocktail of the Day: The Deshler

So, the other day I found myself looking for a recipe for a Heavy Metal Cocktail, or a Black Sabbath Cocktail, or a Dio Cocktail, something that didn’t sound, you know, hideous.  And they all did, every single recipe I found that even remotely fit the theme, mostly because they all revolved around Jägermeister (maybe it’s the umlaut?) and cinnamon schnapps in some proportion.  Not my thing, but more power to you if it’s yours.

As an aside, well may you be wondering why this particular search.  It was because, sadly, Ronnie James Dio had died.  Heavy metal is also not really my thing, but RJD was nothing less than a force of nature, and I’m truly sorry that he’s gone.  Feel free to read this wonderful and loving tribute by Mark Morford, who waxes far more pithily eloquent than I could possibly manage.  Read, ponder, genuflect, make the sign of the horns.  And then come right back here.

Okay, so my search for a potable Heavy Metal Cocktail was a miserable failure.  I was stuck, though, because I knew it was my turn to mix.  This is not something we take lightly at our house; you may have a similar arrangement chez vous.  I was well and truly on the hook, and my one Brilliant Idea had not so much panned out as flamed out, and I had no Plan B.  What to do?  CocktailDB to the rescue!  I’m not really sure exactly how I ended up where I ended up–and I do still have one other recipe from that particular search frenzy that I mean to try, as it sounds really good, more on that later–but I ended up looking at a recipe for something called the Deshler Cocktail.  I noticed that it started off with rye whiskey, and I was pretty much sold, right then and there.  I present it here for your consideration.

The Deshler Cocktail


1-1/2 ounces rye whiskey
1 ounce Dubonnet rouge
1/4 ounce Cointreau
2 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
2 orange peels and 1 lemon peel (in the mixing glass)
1 orange peel (for garnish)

Combine first four ingredients with ice in mixing glass; express the oils from the orange and lemon peels and add. Stir for no less than 30 seconds. Strain into chilled cocktail glass and garnish with another orange peel.

Although all the recipes I found online were essentially identical, with only minor variations (like substituting Mandarine Napoléon for Cointreau, say, or not specifying Peychaud’s Bitters, thus implying Angostura and/or leaving the door open to experimentation), Chuck did find mention of one interesting twist on the recipe:

…in The Official Mixer’s Manual, Patrick Gavin Duffy ups the Dubonnet to a full jigger and lowers the Cointreau to 2 dashes. The edition I have is from 1975, so I’m not sure if that was original Duffy or the later “revision/enlargement” by Robert Jay Misch.

Just something to keep in mind as you experiment mixologically…because you will.

This cocktail as presented is complex and bracing, with both spiciness (from the rye) and fruitiness (from the Dubonnet even more so, I think, than from the relatively dry Cointreau).  Peychaud’s Bitters are both bright and slightly astringent, which I quite like here, although using a more traditionally spicy bitters like Angostura would be a worthwhile experiment.  As a general rule, the spicier your rye, the better, In My Humble Opinion, especially in a drink like this, where contrasts rule the day.  I used Rittenhouse 100, which we use for pretty much all our daily mixing–it’s that good, and a bargain besides.

As I am wont to say, the world needs more rye cocktails.  Although this one isn’t brand new, it was new to me, which makes it a most excellent discovery, and a very handy addition to my repertoire.  I shall doubtless be breaking this one out with some regularity.

TDN Kahlúa: Levez-Vous

I know, the edition of Thursday Drink Night (brought to you by the CSOWG and the Mixoloseum Bar chat room) sponsored by the good folks at Kahlúa was supposed to be three weeks ago, on April 29. Turns out it had to be postponed, even though I had scheduled a post to go up during my Jazzfest vacation. No TDN that night after all, but hey, a very tasty coffee liqueur cocktail recipe went up.

This time I had some time to think and prepare, and was able to offer an original drink. There was a bit more incentive this time, as our sponsor added this to the fray:

The “Kahlúa Brunch Drink Challenge” — submit your hot or cold (but not blended, please) “Kahlúa Brunch Drink” idea during this TDN and a panel of both marketing and mixology experts will choose one to be featured at a Tales of the Cocktail coffee bar. To find out which drink was chosen, just show up to the coffee bar Wednesday morning of Tales — the selected drink will be credited, of course, and will be available each morning, Wednesday-Saturday.

Sheesh. We’re not going to make it to Tales this year, so if I win I won’t even get to serve my drink. Hrmph. Oh well … whether I win or not, I’m still happy with the drink. My idea was a cold eye-opener that still had a coffee kick. I included Kahlúa as per the rules but added cold brewed coffee to extend the coffee flavor without additional sweetness (New Orleans-style coffee & chicory is, of course, preferred). The rye and brandy base make for a good New Orleans drink too, with a little bitter orange edge from the Torani Amer plus that dash of the newly-resurrected 1934-style Herbsaint Original (a nod to my Italian music teacher in high school, who was fond of a slug of anisette in his coffee).

The rye I used was Sazerac (“Baby Saz,” the 6-year) and the Cognac was Pierre Ferrant 1er Cru du Cognac Ambre, which is a 10-year (substitute any good VSOP). The photo … is nonexistent, ’cause I actually had two drinks to work on last night and I was too lazy to set anything up. You can probably imagine what it looks like. (Maybe I’ll edit the post later on and add one, but for now … sorry.)


1-1/2 ounces Sazerac Rye
1/2 ounce Pierre Ferrand Ambre Cognac
1/2 ounce Kahlúa
1/2 ounce cold brewed coffee
1/2 ounce Torani Amer
2 dashes Legendre Herbsaint Original
1 dash Regans’ Orange Bitters No. 6
Orange peel

Combine ingredients with ice in a mixing glass and stir for no less than 30 seconds. Strain into a 6-ounce cocktail coupe and garnish with the orange peel after expressing the oil and rubbing it on the rim.

Wes remarked that he didn’t see a brown drink as particularly “brunchy,” but people drink coffee or coffee-based drinks at brunch, don’t they? Anyway, I wouldn’t complain if you insisted on a splash of cream, but I like it this way.


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