Port Cocktails: The Chocolate Cocktail No. 1

That bottle of ruby Port still isn’t empty, and we’re going to keep making cocktails with it until it is. When thinking of what to do next this one immediately came to mind, especially because it’s one of those wondrous tidbits of cocktail alchemy where ingredients go together and end up tasting entirely like … something else.

That something else in this case is chocolate. Kinda. ("Well, it certainly doesn’t not taste like chocolate," as Wesly put it.) No, it’s nothing like the so-called “Chocolate Martini” (of which I maintain there is no such thing, because a Martini contains gin and vermouth and sometimes orange bitters and never, ever chocolate), nor even like the several legitimately tasty chocolate-based cocktails, since this cocktail contains no chocolate at all, with the possible, optional exception of a slight dusting of cocoa on its surface as garnish, and to provide a tidbit of aroma. Even without that … it looks like chocolate and (kinda) tastes something like chocolate too. It’s really fun.

This one’s a relative of another port-and-egg cocktail that we’ll do a bit later on, and both of them fall into the category of what Maks Pazuniak called “mindfuck cocktails” in his and Kirk Estopinal’s now sadly out-of-print book Rogue Cocktails (which will be back in print in a revised edition and under another title soon, we hope). That’s another technical term for “cocktail alchemy,” of course.

Maks and Kirk listed this one as the “Chocolate Cocktail No. 2,” adapted from Patrick Gavin Duffy’s The Official Mixer’s Manual, which was first published in 1934. Duffy lists two Chocolate Cocktails, with No. 2 being “3/4 Port, 1/4 yellow Chartreuse, 1 egg yolk and a teaspoon of crushed chocolate.” Duffy’s No. 2 version is a jigger each of yellow Chartreuse and maraschino, with an egg yolk and a teaspoon of superfine sugar. I don’t see how the second one is going to taste much like chocolate, and didn’t particularly feel like spending a jigger of that rather expensive Chartreuse to find out (maybe one day). Their version, which brings the proportion down from 3:1 to 2:1, seemed to work very well, but to increase decrease confusion I think I’ll crank its number back to one.

The Chocolate Cocktail No. 2


2 ounces ruby Port
1 ounce yellow Chartreuse
1 egg yolk

Combine with ice and shake hard for 20 seconds. Strain into a cocktail glass and dust the surface of the drink with a bit of cocoa as garnish.

Who would’ve thought that port, Chartreuse and an egg yolk tastes kinda like chocolate. Nifty and very tasty.

Speaking of Patrick Gavin Duffy, my copy of his book came to me secondhand, as do many of my books. My dad had an extremely brittle and crumbly paperback edition from the early 1960s that up until five years ago was still around, although held together with a rubber band (the glue holding the spine together had long since dried out and crumbled away). Unfortunately, the Federal Flood resulting from Hurricane Katrina’s storm surge being channeled right up the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet and into my parents’ part of the city drowned that book, along with everything else in the house.

My own copy is a hardback reprint from 1975 (revised and enlarged by Robert Jay Misch) which came with a gift inscription:

For Peg and Jim –

who don’t need much
of my help as “mixers”
(Careful of the cocktail on p. 48)

All the best,

Bob M.


Presumably the “S.F.” is San Francisco, which also makes sense when you turn to page 48 to look up the cocktail he warned them about. To my delight, it’s Ada Coleman’s wonderful Hanky Panky, featuring that favorite bitter of the City by the Bay, Fernet Branca. After 34 years I don’t know if Peg and Jim and their friend Bob are still with us — I certainly hope they are — but I sure wouldn’t mind knocking back a few Hanky Pankys and Chocolate Cocktails with them. Your old book has a good home.


Drago Centro’s Cocktail Contest, Week 1

Chef Celestino Drago’s latest Los Angeles restaurant Drago Centro has looked and sounded so good for so long (a whole year and a half!) that it was almost criminal that we hadn’t been there yet. We finally made reservations for this past Saturday night, which promised to be an evening full of WIN. (And it was, in a couple of ways. Dinner was fantastico, bellissimo! I’ll have some food porn up from that later.)

We’ve been big fans of Chef Drago’s other restaurants around town (and I still miss his late, lamented Sicilian restaurant L’Arancino in West Hollywood). In addition to the enticing menu they’ve got a very good cocktail program (regularly spoken of with enthusiasm by our friend Mark, who’s a bartender there) that’s headed up by sommelier and beverage director Michael Shearin and head bartender Jaymee Mandeville.

Michael and Jaymee have been up to something interesting. They’ve organized something called the People’s Cocktail Contest, and it’s primarily happening via Twitter. Yes, I’ve been dragged screaming and kicking into the Twitter thing (I still refuse to use the word “tweet” as a verb), and despite having had problems with certain Twitter+food combinations in the past, I found myself inexorably drawn into this one (especially since it involves making cocktails and doesn’t involve anyone sending hundreds of the Teeming Masses into my neighborhood to wait 90 minutes in line for an expensive taco). Here’s how it works:

The contest lasts for four weeks. Each week on Monday, a “secret ingredient” will be announced via Twitter. (“Kyo no tema … KORE DESU!”) Participants will create an original cocktail featuring that ingredient. Cocktails are judged on appearance, aroma, taste, creativity, name, and its compatibility with the existing Drago Centro cocktail list. You post your recipe on Twitter, directing it to Drago Centro’s account (@DragoCentro) with the hashtag #pplscocktail to identify it. Include all instructions, muddle, shake, stir, whatever, and use 2-3 posts if you have to. The secret ingredient will be different each week, and each weekly round will end on Friday at noon. After 4 weeks the winners will battle it out live for a panel of judges. The winner will have his or her cocktail featured on Drago Centro’s list.

Week 1 was this past week, and last Monday the secret ingredient was announced, something “seasonal and appearing at all of our local farmer’s markets … BLUEBERRIES.

Well! That sounded fun. I gave it some thought, then decided to work with flavors that I knew worked well together, to use an Italian amaro and to keep it simple. I’ve enjoyed berry-infused whiskeys before, both Bourbon and rye, and decided to go with a higher-proof Bourbon. I probably would have preferred to steep the berries in the spirit for a couple of weeks, but there wasn’t enough time, so vigorous muddling was called for.

The first tries yielded not enough blueberry flavor, so I upped the number of berries until it seemed right. 12-16 was definitely too few, and about 20 seemed right. Taste your blueberries for tartness and flavor to determine how many you’ll need. The amaro was Ramazzotti, one of my favorites, not too bitter and with a nice flavor from Sicilian orange peels, along with rhubarb and a touch of cinnamon. I love the flavor of blueberries and cinnamon together — I recalled a fantastic risotto I had at Trattoria Tre Venezie in Pasadena with wild blueberries and cinnamon — and wanted to accentuate that cinnamon flavor while bumping up the sweetness just a bit. My friend Blair’s excellent new product did the trick, but you can make your own cinnamon syrup by steeping cinnamon sticks in hot simple syrup, or adding a cinnamon tincture to simple syrup if you’ve got it.

I wanted to name the drink after Violet Beauregarde, who was turned into a gigantic blueberry in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” but “beau regarde” (literally “beautiful look,” in French) didn’t sound like something that’d fit into the cocktail menu of an Italian restaurant where all the drink names are in Italian. A quick (and bad) Google translation of “beau regarde” into Italian yielded “bello sguardo,” the grammatical and idiomiatic correctness of which got a “Nope” from Italian speaker and general manager Matteo Fernandini at the restaurant. He said he’d give it some thought, but I didn’t think to ask him later (and he was somewhat busy with that whole running-a-restaurant thing). Anita came to the rescue yesterday, saying that if we’re trying to be literal with “beau regard(e),” a better rendition would be “bell’aspetto,” an Italian expression for “handsome.” Bingo. Thanks, Anita. (I should really start learning some Italian.)


2 ounces Woodford Reserve Bourbon whiskey
Small handful of blueberries (12-20, depending on size, to taste)
1/2 ounce Amaro Ramazzotti
1 barspoon (tsp) Trader Tiki’s Cinnamon Syrup
Lemon peel

In a mixing glass, muddle the blueberries thoroughly in the whiskey. Add the Amaro and syrup, ice and shake for 15 seconds. Double-strain over ice into a large Old Fashioned glass, and garnish with a large swath of lemon peel.

Although not shown here, I also like to add three blueberries on a cocktail pick to the garnish.

We tried another one last night using Knob Creek Bourbon, at a higher proof of 100. We really liked it. We may even have liked it better. (Bonkers Wesly wants to try it with Stagg now.) Play around with your own favorite higher-proof Bourbon, but the “official” version still uses Woodford.

Oh, by the way, yesterday afternoon they sent out a Twitter post that out of fifteen entries — including one described as tasting “just like pot” (?!) — this past week’s winning cocktail was … this one. Hoo!


A new theme ingredient goes up this afternoon. Check the @DragoCentro Twitter feed to find out what it is.


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.


Port Cocktails: The Suburban

“Drink more Port, boys and girls. Drink more port,” said Wesly.

“I like that,” I said. “May I quote you?”

“It wasn’t terribly profound; it just came out.”

“Sometimes the stuff that just comes out is the best stuff of all.”

“That’s what SHE said.”

Welcome to my life.

Ever since he saw that episode of “The Office” on the plane back from Spain, I hear that line at least once a day. But I digress.

Getting back to more relevant quotes from Wesly, he adds that “what the world needs now is more more rye cocktails,” one of my favorite expressions of his. Since this is a cocktail that’s been around for going on a century and one you’ve likely never heard of (I certainly hadn’t), in this case it’s a rye cocktail that just needs to be brought to more people’s attention. It’s also a Port cocktail that needs to be brought to more people’s attention as well — cocktails containing Port wine are delicioso. We’re still working on that bottle of Port I picked up the other day, and since it won’t keep forever I want to finish it within a few weeks. Hence, we shall continue posting about cocktails featuring ruby Port until the bottle is drained. Then I shall buy more.

See how that works? I like it.

I came across this one while browsing through Dave Wondrich’s Esquire drinks index, and it caught my eye for the same reason Dr. Wondrich finds it unusual. Rye whiskey and dark rum in the same drink, that’s a big fat yes. But with Porto as well?! That’s wacky! (In the best kind of way.) I wanted to try it right away.

The drink originated at the old Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York, named for a wealthy gent who raced horses, and for the horse race in which his steeds figured prominently. What does that combination of spirits and wine actually taste like, you may ask. From the above link: “If you could distill carved-oak paneling and club chairs, leather-bound volumes and three-cushion billiard tables, this is what you’d get. Mellow, robust, comfortable. The rum mellows the tang of the rye, the port tames the raw edge of the distillates, and the bitters add a touch of the exotic, like the stuffed head of that rare Asian gazelle that hangs over the doorway.” Well … no gazelle heads at our house. The closest we come to that are the jackalope heads looking down on us when we drink at Seven Grand. We do, however, have a club chair and leather-bound volumes, both appropriate company for this lovely drink.

The Suburban is more of an autumnal or wintery drink, and not one for the summer, as Dr. Wondrich notes. As I write this summer is still a month off, and our spring has been fairly cool — we’re still getting lows in the 50s at night, so it’s still snappy and bracing enough to sip this tipple. (I’m a New Orleanian after all, and as my friend Robb once said, that means that for me anything under 70°F is “cold,” and anything under 60°F is “very cold.”) And sip it we did, and did indeed enjoy it.

The Suburban Cocktail


1-1/2 ounces rye whiskey
1/2 ounce dark rum
1/2 ounce ruby port
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 dash orange bitters

Combine with cracked ice in a mixing glass and stir for 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. No garnish.

Godsdammit … this and the Curari and the others I’ve been making recently are so good that I’m going to need to keep an open bottle of Port around all the time. Can we not have stasis boxes, like in Larry Niven’s “Known Space” sf novels, boxes inside which time does not pass, so that my myriad aromatized wines won’t go bad?


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