Cocktail Blog

This page is a running blog about cocktails. That’s it.

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Aviation – (I did a cocktail demo for Vancouver Magazine) this drink is so random – it’s basically a gin sour with sweetness, but its history is the intriguing part. Originally invented by Hotel Wallick, NY bartender Hugo Ensslin, the Aviation cocktail was created with 1 1/2 gin, 1/2 lemon, 1/4 maraschino liqueur, and the oh-so hard to find 1/8 Creme de Violette. Although a delicious cocktail, classically trained bartenders these days follow suit to Harry Craddock – the head bartender from the infamous Savoy Hotel in London – while using gin, lemon and maraschino and omitting the violette. A tasty drink, a classic, and packs a major punch.

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Bijou – The reason I really love this cocktail is because it has an interesting history – the earliest reference I found came from the Museum of American Cocktail, circa 1869 by Master Bartender Harry Johnson of New Orleans. “Bijou” means jewel in French, and this cocktail combines the 3 most precious jewels known – diamond (gin), ruby (sweet vermouth), and emerald (green chartreuse). Originally the alcoholic weights of the ingredients were layered to showcase the different “jewels”, but since the early 1900s, stirring them altogether proved easier, and kept the cocktail well chilled. Published by Johnson in his book, the “Bartender’s Manual”, the recipe for the Bijou Cocktail is as follows: 1/3 oz gin, 1/3 oz green chartreuse, 1/3 oz sweet vermouth, dash orange bitters – stir gently with ice, double strain into cocktail glass, garnish with cherry. Johnson’s book is extremely dedicated to the classic cocktail recipes of the late 1800s, and its reprints are widely available online for the modern cocktail guru.

Brooklyn “Red Hook” – A certain favourite amongst our group of “bartender friends” is the Brooklyn (otherwise known as the “Red Hook”) Cocktail. Originating around 1910 in Red Hook, Brooklyn, this cocktail combines a hard-to-find ingredient, Amer Picon (a French bitter-sweet spirit with a slight orange flavour), with other well known spirits; French Vermouth, Maraschino Liqueur, and Rye Whisky. A rad alternative to the Manhattan. Brooklyn – 1.50 oz Rye Whisky; 0.50 oz French Vermouth (Dry); Dash of Maraschino Liqueur
Dash of Amer Picon (or an available substitute like Amaro Montenegro – listed at the LDB); Stir over ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry.

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French 75 – This cocktail is the perfect marriage of spirits and wine, seriously. It’s named the French 75 as this cocktail packs as much punch as one would assume the French 75mm artillery piece would – well, I think the artillery would hurt you in a different way, but I would have to agree with its comparison. Created by flying ace Raoul Lufbery during World War I, this cocktail originally started with an utter love for bubbles – champagne more specifically. Only after Raoul wanted more punch did the additions of gin or cognac, lemon juice and gomme syrup come to fruition. French 75 – 1.00 oz gin or cognac, 0.50 oz lemon juice, 0.75 oz simple syrup; shake ingredients well with ice, strain into champagne flute or saucer, top with sparkling wine (about 2-3 oz worth). Garnish with a brandied cherry. Dig in, it’s a refreshing piece of history that never goes out of style.

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Hemingway Daiquiri – Another classic, but a true summer favourite – The Hemingway Daiquiri. This cocktail’s origin can be traced back to 1905, invented by a bar called “Venus” in Santiago, Cuba. What’s a daiquiri? Well, a hefty amount of white rum, sugar and lime, with crushed, blended or cubed ice. Simple. However what we know today as the Hemingway Daiquiri incorporates some tasty additions, and some straightforward technique. Being that this cocktail is named for the famous wordsmith Ernest Hemingway, it would be only fitting that he consumed many daiquiris, to the point that it was named for him. Arguably, this is my favourite spin on the daiquiri, created by Constantino Ribalaigua Vert at El Floridita around the 1920s… and you can leave that blender in the cupboard! Hemingway Daiquiri (alias – Papa Doble or Daiquiri Floridita): 1.75 oz white rum, 0.25 oz maraschino liqueur, 0.50 oz fresh lime juice, 0.50 oz fresh grapefruit juice, 1.00 oz simple syrup. Shake all ingredients together with ice. Double strain into a chilled coupe or martini glass. You can choose to garnish with a lime peel, but the cocktail is so aromatic that it’s not necessary. Have a taste of history, and happy sipping!

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Last Word – It doesn’t come closer to home then this. The Last Word is a prohibition-era cocktail that originated in the Detroit Athletic Club in the 1930s, but its popularity was short lived. 5 years ago, one of America’s top bartenders, Murray Stenson of Seattle’s critically acclaimed cocktail lounge Zig Zag Cafe, rejuvenated this little oldie. Stenson revival of the Last Word came from the Ted Saucier’s 1951 cocktail manual, “Bottom’s Up” (a book still held together with packing tape!). This obscure cocktail holds 4 unique ingredients, whose balance and flavour offers the seasoned palate something truly unique. Today, this cocktail remains timeless, and being that Murray Stenson has been such an incredible influence on many of Vancouver’s top mixologists, it was only fitting that the Last Word feels like home to us north of the border. Last Word – 1.00 Plymouth Gin; 1.00 Green Chartreuse; 1.00 Maraschino Liqueur; 1.00 Fresh Lime Juice; Shake all ingredients with ice, double strain into a well chilled cocktail or martini glass. No garnish required. It’s sweet, sour, pungent, and palate-cleansing. Overall, this drink could be perfection.

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Manhattan – What was often called the “King of Cocktails” – this “drinking man’s drink” (David A. Embury, The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks) was created in the early 1870s, behind the wood at the Manhattan Club in New York City. As its history suggests, this simple, urbane cocktail originated as a tasty aperitif offering at a dinner hosted by Jennie Jerome, mother of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, in honour of U.S. presidential nominee Samuel J. Tilden. The cocktail itself is still extremely popular, and definitely my default drink of choice at a classic cocktail bar. Traditionally made with rye whisky, it is also perfectly acceptable to use bourbon, or Tennessee whiskey as a welcomed variation. Manhattan; 2.0 oz Rye Whisky; 1.0 oz Sweet Vermouth; 2 dashes Angostura bitters; Stir all ingredients gently for 30 seconds over ice. Double strain into a chilled cocktail glass, or as some prefer it, over ice in a lowball/old fashioned glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry – I prefer homemade macerated Osoyoos cherries, but anything will do!

Margarita – Wastin’ away again in Margaritaville… This line couldn’t be more right; however we are NOT waiting for our lost shaker of salt, contrary to Mr. Buffett. This margarita recipe is perfectly balanced, and leaves your taste-buds salivating for another, and another, and another… plus, it’s super easy to make. No blenders, no lime bar mix, no salt, and no ice. The Margarita itself was invented in the 1940s, but at least three bartenders claim its fame. Each of them had different methods, but generally the same cocktail ingredients. This recipe has been updated to reflect the kinds of cocktails people seem to be truly responsive to today, taking into consideration the focus on fresh, quality products. Margarita: 1.75 oz Reposado Tequila, 0.25 oz Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge, 0.75 oz fresh lime juice, 1.00 oz simple syrup, 2 dashes Angostura bitters, 1 fresh, cold, organic egg white. Shake all ingredients together without ice to froth egg white. Add ice, shake vigorously, double strain over a chilled cocktail glass. Enjoy!

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Negroni – as one of the simplest and most delicious classic cocktails that has stood the test of time since its inception in 1919 (Florence, Italy), the Negroni has often found itself at the top of my list for “fool-proof” cocktail choices, as well as accidental experiment (so this story will soon suggest). Theoretically, the negroni can be enjoyed stirred, served straight up, or perhaps over a few cubes of ice as the slight water dilution helps open up the ingredients’ flavours. I made it a point to travel to sports bars, brew pubs, and gimmicky restaurant lounges to order this tasty libation in hopes that someone, somewhere would have the know-how to make it, or would have heard of it in the first place. With only three ingredients, the negroni should be a sinch to make, but as we’ve all encountered in the past, easy for some is brain surgery for others. Let’s suggest the simplest method possible – 1 oz each of campari, red vermouth, and gin; stir over ice, serve over ice, orange twist. Simple. Ya? No. Each place I went to, and their identities will remain anonymous, the bartenders couldn’t follow instructions if their lives depended on it. Once again, I found myself in the unique position of asking: are they out of passion – do they need passionate mentors? Or perhaps, as it stands more often then not, these bartenders just don’t care – they work to make money, and a harmless educational experience behind the wood becomes a territorial defense. Alas, the difference between a bartender and a mixologist – caring vs. who cares.

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Pimm’s Cup – (I did a cocktail demo for Vancouver Magazine) where to begin? It was said at one point that this cocktail made Wimbledon popular… I don’t know too much about that, but I do know that if a Brit caught you drinking this after the sun went down, you’d get a swift kick to the head. The Pimm’s Cup uses 1 1/2 Pimm’s No 1 (gin based spirit, created by James Pimm back in the 1840’s), 1/2 lemon juice, topped with 7UP or “lemonade”, garnished with mint, and cucumber. Originally this was served as an afternoon digestif “tonic” but as history will serve us correctly, they ALL gain major popularity over time. In 1859 James Pimm branded Pimm’s No 1, and created 5 more – whisky, brandy, rum, scotch, and vodka – none of which are made today, except occassionally you may find No 6 (vodka).

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Ramos Gin Fizz – an oldie but a goodie – especially when consumed within 10 minutes of making it! This drink is one of those things that really gives me everything I want. In 1888, Henry C. Ramos concocted this tasty libation at his bar in Meyer’s Restaurant in New Orleans, Louisiana. Origins suggest that it was once called the New Orleans Gin Fizz. It’s a subtle spin on the “sour” cocktail we’re all so fond of, except this recipe calls for the additions of a splash of orange blossom water, 1 cream and topped up with carbonated water. Shake with 2 gin, 1/2 lemon and 1/2 lime juice, 1 simple sugar – along with the above mentioned ingredients. It’s a doozey, but it’s old school – drink it quickly – when a Ramos Gin Fizz separates (cream and acid), it becomes less exciting.

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Sazerac – Originating in New Orleans, the Sazerac is one of the oldest known cocktails prepared in the United States (around the 1830s). She gets her unique name from Sazerac-de-Forge et Fils Cognac, which was part of the original recipe. The first recipe also included aromatic “Peychaud Bitters” (created by an apothecary by the name of Antoine Amédée Peychaud). Today, the popular Sazerac is still made in the traditional New Orleans way, however adjustments have been made to some of the ingredients to ensure anyone can make this tasty alcohol-forward cocktail. Variations for Absinthe include Herbsaint and Ricard, and although there is no variation for Peychaud Bitters, many substitutions can be used to make the cocktail seasonal. Sazerac du Printemps (spring) try Rhubarb or Lemon bitters; Sazerac d’automne (autumn) try Fee’s Whisky Barrel-Aged Old Fashioned bitters. 2 oz Sazerac Rye Whisky (or any premium rye whisky), 3 dashes Peychaud Bitters, 1 raw sugar cube, 1 barspoon absinthe. In the glass of a boston shaker, crush sugar cube with rye and bitters. Stir until sugar dissolves. Meanwhile, have an old fashioned glass filled with ice and set aside to chill. Add ice to the rye/sugar mixture, and stir for about 30 seconds. Empty ice from old fashioned glass, and swirl absinthe around in the glass, discard the remainder. Double strain Sazerac into scented glass, garnish with a lemon peel. Want to try something different? Try a “New York Sazerac” – 1 oz Bourbon Whisky, plus 1 oz Cognac or Brandy.

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Whisky Sour – (I did a cocktail demo for Vancouver Magazine) – the age old classic – originally people were blending whatever was available in the liquor cabinet with that dusty bottle of lime bar mix to make something truly epic – well, it wasn’t – it was just a way to drink whisky when there seemed to be nothing else! The whisky sour has come along way in the meantime – we’re talking about at least 40 years of history. The sours that I make with whisky/bourbon whisky are somewhat more approachable and truly delicious – like most mixologists tend to make them. If you like your cocktails a little on the lighter side – use 1 1/2 rye – if you like them rich and filling – use 1 1/2 bourbon. Combine with 1 egg white, 3/4 lemon juice, dash bitters and 3/4 – 1 simple sugar (depending on your taste), dry shake without ice, and then with ice. Double strain into an old fashioned glass, garnish with a cherry. Simplicity at its best.

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