In 2011 we'd served gimlets for guests of the Key West Literary Seminar from my brother Josh and sister-in-law Bonnie's Airstream--the beast was out of commission last year, getting a new engine and various upgrades by mad inventor bro, and this year she was back in full effect. We decided to serve from the Airstream at a party held on the lawn of Harry S. Truman's Little White House. But first she needed to get a good sprucing up. And: we had to come up with some cocktails for the evening.
A huge fan Aperol, I had been struck by an ingenious cocktail of Enzo Lim's that he'd made for me at his bangin' Fhilipino restaurant in the East Village, Maharlika. "The Fort" is a beguiling fusion of Aperola, guava juice, lemon juice and celery bitters. Front-loading a drink with Aperol is a ballsy move and this one really succeeds. When I found myself staring at the 6 bottles of Aperol I'd ordered the morning of the party I decided to attempt to recreate "The Fort" in punch form, following Enzo's proportions. Worked out quite well, particularly for the Aperol lovers in the crowd. In an attempt to retrofit this one to our Graham Greene theme I dubbed the punch "The Power and the Glory" after Greene's novel--the boldness of the drink just seemed right for that title. So, with huge thanks to Enzo:
THE POWER AND THE GLORY a.k.a. THE FORT
1 1/2 oz Aperol
1 1/2 oz Guava juice
1/2 oz lemon juice
Dash of Bitter Truth Celery Bitters
Add ingredients in a shaker; add ice and shake.
Splash with soda.
Strain over fresh ice.
Garnish: lemon wedge.
Our transportation to the Airstream--the family ride, an admirably beat-up Honda truck, driven by little brother Ian.
Our cocktail lounge on wheels.
Our home for the evening, with Hannah Scott along for the ride.
Sean was mixing up a vodka based punch, silky and smooth and friendly and as usual the hit of the evening. A more herbaceous variation on his "The Third Man" from our opening night party, "The Loud American" employed fresh thyme and lemon balm which I'd picked up (potted) at Key West's amazing nursery, The Marc House.
THE LOUD AMERICAN
2 Lbs. sugar
2 bunches fresh thyme
2 bunches fresh lemon balm
Muddle peels of citrus and herbs in sugar and let sit for at least an hour, muddling periodically.
Brew 64 oz green tea (10 tea bags) 2 min.
Pour hot tea over muddled peels, stir until sugar is dissolved.
Add roughly 16 oz lime juice and roughly 16 oz lemon juice to stock mixture. (to taste)
Add 3 litre bottles of Absolut vodka and 3-5 liters of soda water and serve over ice.
Garnish with lemon wheels, a few sprigs of fresh lemon balm & fresh thyme.
We served through the Airstream's windows, but many if not most of our guests stuck their head into the cab and it became quite the ad hoc VIP lounge.
On the occasion of his birthday I've decided to revisit Mark Buettler's Perfect Louis. While Mark and I are partners in Brooklyn Hemispherical Bitters and he makes some very delicious celery bitters, we don't sell them--but the Bitter Truth Celery Bitters work very, very nicely in this riff on a Perfect Manhattan. I recall Mark used some lovely light organic honey from the Bay Area for his white honey syrup--make sure to get something delicate.
1 oz Bourbon (Mark prefers Old Forresters) 1 oz Dry Vermouth 1 oz Sweet Vermouth 1/2 oz White Honey syrup (equal parts white honey and hot water) 2 dashes Angustora bitters 2 dashes Celery bitters
Another drink we made at the Key West Literary Seminar this year was essentially just a really, really good Mexican hot chocolate, leaded. We took Dagoba Xocolatl Drinking Chocolate with good milk, added Don Julio Reposado and topped with 365 lite whipped cream. Ordinarliy using the canned stuff would be considered cheating but when making a couple hundred of these I absolved us of shame over this corner-cutting. Then a little drizzle of dark agave on top of the whipped cream, and a couple healthy dashes of Bittermen's Xoacatl Mole Bitters, giving it that heady, spicy nose and the massive complexity of mole. We shaved some dark chocolate with chiles on top to finish it off, and watched the chocolate fiends go nuts. We had folk coming back for thirds, and grabbing four at a time.
There was a lot of discussion at the "Yet Another World" themed Seminar of utopian vs. dystopian visions of the future. Guest speaker Margaret Atwood posited something a little less definitively cheerful or gloomy with her word "ustopia", which posited that a post-apocalyptic futureworld would merely be defined by us, by society, or its remnants. When KWLS Board Member Nancy Klingener was polling guests and players at the Seminar on what their essential skills might be in a post-apoco society (read here) Atwood's response was, "You're assuming there will be a society." So in fact maybe it is rather gloomy. At any rate we took her term as an inspiration to posit a world where chocolate, and tequila, flows freely for all, the the "Chocotopia" was born.
1 1/2 oz Don Julio Reposado
1 1/2 oz Dagoba Xocolatl Drinking Chocolate
Add the tequila to the chocolate, top with whipped cream. Drizzle some dark agave on the cream and a couple dashes of Bittermens Xocolatl Mole Bitters. Finish with shaving some chile dark chocolate on top of it all, and enjoy while dodging zombies, mutants and extreme survivalists.
While visiting Austin I was lucky enough to be invited to the local branch of the USBG's holiday party where I met a whole slew of local bartending talent. The evening was held at Franklin's BBQ, recently rated best BBQ in the country by Bon Apetit, and thus I was able to neatly bypass the daunting lines that one must brave to get in to sample the justly lauded food. There was also some pretty balls-out karaoke (Neil Diamond sounds somehow better when sung by a woman, I learned), a Makers punch with beet juice served in a water cooler (hot or cold option) and plenty of laconic Texas charm. Coupled with the herculean partying stamina of bartenders, this all made for a great night and a treat for this visitor.
Met Houston Eaves of Contigo at the party amd found myself perched at his bar the next night, along with Bill Norris of The Alamo Drafthouse (and the unofficial ringleader of the Austin cocktail scene.) We sampled most of Eaves' toddy menu--toddies were on offer at lots of bars around town, as the weather was cool and damp, but these were on different level. Complex like a proper cocktail, and created with an ingenious heating method using a short weighted tin (only $7.95 from Cocktail Kingdom) propped on top of hot water in a pint glass to warm the elements gradually.
Fill your mug and half-fill a pint glass with hot water. Place a short metal tin in the pint glass. In the metal tin, add:
1 oz añejo tequila
.5 oz chartreuse
.5 oz honey syrup
.5 oz lemon juice
1 dash housemade ginger/citrus bitters*
Stir to blend ingredients, dump hot water from mug, add contents from tin, and top with 4 oz hot water. Express oil from wide lemon swath, and drop in the drink.
(*From H.E.: It's just a blend of dried ginger, lemon, tangerine, bitter orange, & gentian. It's pretty good without the bitters as well, but they add a little extra depth.)
Fill your mug and half-fill a pint glass with hot water. Place a short metal tin in the pint glass. In the metal tin, add:
1.25oz Wahaka Espadín Mezcal
.75oz Licor 43
.5oz lemon juice
Stir to blend ingredients, dump hot water from mug, add contents from tin, and top with 4 oz strong-brewed black tea. Garnish with lemon wheel on mug.
WINTER AT WIMBLEDON
Fill your mug and half-fill a pint glass with hot water. Place a short metal tin in the pint glass. In the metal tin, add
1.5oz Pimm's No. 1
.5oz London dry gin
.5oz Domaine de Canton
.5oz lemon juice
.25oz mint simple syrup
Stir to blend ingredients, dump hot water from mug, add contents from tin, and top with 4 oz hot water. Express oil from wide lemon swath, and discard. Garnish with mint sprig.
BRANCA-MENTA HOT CHOCOLATE
Warm a mug with hot water. Discard the water. Build in mug
5oz Salted Almond hot chocolate
Top with a couple of barspoons Fernet-Branca whipped cream. Garnish with 1 mint leaf. Enjoy!
This weekend skip the beer at the picnic, the Bloody Mary at brunch or the dreaded cloying Tropicana Mimosa and opt for the ballsy Pink Gin. The Royal Navy first popularized the simple drink, introducing home-base gin Plymouth to Caribean Angostura Bitters. Methods vary, but one clean approach that dates back to an era before refrigeration is quite elegant. Add 3 drops of Angostura to a bowl shaped glass. A wine glass or a curved tumbler, as pictured, are good options. Carefully swirl the bitters around until you've coated the lower half of the glass. Add about 1 1/2 ounces of Plymouth gin, then top with equal parts very, very chilled water. If you can pull the water from a cold stream that's lovely, but chilling it on ice works--just strain it properly so that no ice shards make their way into the drink. Swirl slightly to introduce these 3 simple elements together, and enjoy. Finish before it warms up. Repeat as needed.
The dust is settling and the sleep patterns are beginning to return to normal after the balls-out marathon week of competitions, seminars and truly epic revelry that is the Cocktail World Cup. When 21 bartenders from around the world, assorted cocktail writers and media and a ton of brand folk get together the game is changed, party-wise. An interesting thing though--there was a real fraternal aspect to the late nights, of bartenders coming together through some real shared sensibilities and passions. And almost inhuman stamina. Which you needed to get up in the morning and listen to people like David Wondrich and Salvatore Calabrese drop knowledge. Sensory overload all around. Above, a shot from behind the judges at the final competition in the Cup, held in a giant circus tent somwhere in the wilds around Queenstown.
Team Italy's Daniele Dalla Pola brandishing bitters (Brooklyn Hempispherical Rhubarb Bitters, to be precise) at one of the highlights of the week. After a punch competition (dauntingly judged by David "Punch" Wondrich, the man who knows more about the stuff thatn anyone else) the teams of bartenders took turns behind an incredibly well-stocked bar and made cocktails for the assembled, who included actual real local folk, not just the ingroup of 60 who traveled as a pack all week. it was great to see the bartenders just freehanding cocktails and making drinks to order, and making drinks up.
3 of Daniele's creations from his turn at the bar, all employing rhubarb bitters. I'm particularly proud of being able to carry 3 drinks in one hand.
At the punch challenge, Team New Zealand rocked a punch served from a gourd.
For this challenge teams had to build a cocktail around wine, wine from the very vineyard we were at, the very beautiful Peregrine.
Here at Embury our affection for Sydney's Eau de Vie is well documented, both here and in The New York Times. (The really smashing Sydney-centric cocktail blog Everyday Drinking confirms our high opinion of the team's mad skills in a series of posts here.) On the eve of the stellar bar's one-year anniversary soon-to-be lead barman Philip Gandevia sent along "several experimentations" that employ our Brooklyn Hemispherical Bitters. We were inpired to finally bottle the bitters to share with Team Eau de Vie, and their very name alludes to a trans-hempispherical bitters exchange with this bar on the other side of the world. So we're incredly pleased to see them put to such high level use by Gandevia.
SMOKEY 'Ol SEOUL LOVE
50ml Reposado (Ocho works well, DJ just fine) 12.5 Grenadine (the good stuff... Pomegranate juice and all 15 kills it in sweetness, but 10ml is not quite enough) 3 dashes Peychauds (the drink's gotta be pink) Liberal with Brooklyn Hemispherical Sriracha Bitters 10ml (or so - barspoons a bit shy, but dont let it dominate) smokey single malt goodness (or something illegal...)
Stir with love. Garnish with a lemon twist - but discard and donate to some lacklusture gin drink. Add a cherry if you feel it needs it, but the drinks pretty enough as is.
50ml Tanqueray (or solid London Dry) 3 Fresh strawberries 20ml Lemon 20ml Apple juice (go cloudy if possible) 2 Chunks mandarin Srig of rosemarry (no stem just leaves) Dash egg white 15ml honey water (organic) Tspn corriander seed
Crush then shakey shakey (Can infuse strawberrys in gin ala tequila por mi amante) and Brooklyn Hempispherical Strawberry Bitters to top.
This cocktail comes from Embury Director of Photography Chad Mumm (all his videos here). Chad and his fiance Ashley live in the East Village and their kitchen has a narrow window that looks out at the opposite building about 4 feet away. But sunllight does come through the window for a couple hours every day, and Ashley has a a fine little herb garden working. The star of the garden is the robust baby basil queenette (l) with small leaves of delicate flavor, far less pronounced than the larger varietal. On a recent night Chad threw some of the baby basil into a mixing glass with Plymouth and Campari. Just a few rosemary leaves muddled in added an interesting earthy element, and Fee Bros' glycerin-based grapefruit bitters supplied just the touch of something sugary that anchored the whole thing, and the grapefruit nose completes the story. A tea strainer (a must for the home bar!) separates the floating bits of ice and leaves and leaves you with a chilled pink drink, ascerbic and herby but with an overlay of welcome sweetness. This all reminded me of how key it is to have fresh herbs in your home--even in small pots, soaking up sun on cold winter days safely behind glass. A beautiful secret weapon for impromoptu cocktailing and experimentation. J.R.
BABY BASIL QUEENETTE
2 oz. Plymouth gin 1 oz. Campari 1/2 oz lemon
In a mixing glass muddle a few sprigs of rosemary, top with ice and add liquid elements, tearing up some baby basil to the top. Shake well, and strain with a tea strainer into a coupe. Add a dass or two of Fee Bros. Grapefruit Bitters and serve.
Pursuant to my piece in the New York Times T Magazine on the Small Bars of Sydney we'll be running cocktails from the bars included therein. First up is Eau de Vie, the snug, elegant and damn near perfect speakeasy in Darlinghurst. Barry Chalmers, a wry Scotsman, runs the show there, and we spoke about how the crew had been cherry-picked for their respective strengths. The personalities behind the bar are quite diverese and complement one another both in style and specialties. It's a well cast gang, all with immense cocktailing skills and deep knowledge of spirits. Barry's made this cocktail for me while I was there, an audacious attempt to fashion a cocktail around of the profoundly peaty Islay single malt, the Ardberg Ten Years Old. Having partaken of the very cocktail Barry's making in the above photo I can attest to his success with this endeavor.
THE TAMING OF ARDBERG
40 ml Ardberg Ten Years Old 20 ml Martini Rosso 10 ml Averna 1 Bar spoon Muscovado sugar 1 Dash Angostura Bitters 1 Bar spoon Kirsch