Sunday, January 24, 2010

This is it - my blog is officially moved to

If you have subscribed to this blog, please take a moment and redirect to my new wordpress blog at Now that everything has been moved over, the Jerry Thomas Project is back in full swing.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Jerry Thomas Project - Repeal Day Cocktails

A little catch up with the Jerry Thomas Project. I’ve still been making drinks, but haven’t a spare moment to blog about them. Repeal Day offered a chance to put together a pre-prohibition cocktail list and I chose drinks entirely from Thomas’s book. Repeal Day was a success and I had quite a few people come in because of the marketing I had done and I also had a lot of people get really excited about being able to try Thomas’s drinks. Now that the holidays are over and I am not chained to the service bar for 14 hours a day, I can take the time to figure out some ways of getting people excited about Thomas’s drinks and for the project itself.
So for December 5 Repeal Day 2009 (seventy-six years to the day the prohibition was lifted) we served the Whiskey Daisy, the Brandy Smash, the Saratoga Brace up, the Whiskey Cocktail, the Martinez Cocktail, the Stone Fence, and the Santa Cruz Sour. The menu also had little prohibition lore on it like, “Which state never passed prohibition?” to which the answer is Maryland.
As for the drinks:

The Whiskey Daisy
I loved the whiskey daisy so much that I put it on the happy hour menu. It also has a more modern taste as it is well balanced with citrus and sweet. I’ve found that a lot of Thomas’s drinks that they are very sweet because Thomas will use gomme syrup but no citrus. The whiskey daisy satisfies, with a beautiful combination of whiskey, lemon juice, and orgeat syrup. Orgeat syrup is an almond syrup that we make in house using blanched almonds, sugar, water, and a fresh orange.

The Brandy Smash
The key to making a good smash is letting the mint steep long enough in the spirit to get a rich minty flavor. I really love this way of infusing the flavor and you would be quite surprised what a five-minute mint steep will accomplish. I am not the hugest fan of muddling as I believe there are a lot of other ways to impart flavors and muddling is messy and time-consuming. (As I know there are a million muddler aficionados who are cursing me right now, but take a moment and let the mint steep, I think you will be surprised.) The brandy smash consists of mint-infused brandy, angostura bitters, and gomme syrup.

The Saratoga Brace Up
This was my favorite of the all the cocktails on the list. The Saratoga Brace Up is composed of brandy, fresh lime, egg whites, and a splash of absinthe. It had a lot more depth and complexity than a lot of other of Thomas’s cocktails. I loved the frothiness and the creamy mouth feel from the egg whites, the warm vanilla tones from the brandy, and the snap at the end from the absinthe. To this point, this is my darling of the Thomas cocktail repertoire.
A quick note about brandy. I find it nearly impossible to sell as everyone thinks of it as something their grandfather drank when he was ill. I’ve done a bit of wordsmithing and started calling it American Cognac – and by jeez! Now everyone wants it.

The Whiskey Cocktail
The Whiskey Cocktail contains whiskey, boker’s bitters, and gomme syrup. I was excited to put this together because I got to use two of the hard to come by ingredients (boker’s bitters and gomme syrup). I’m quite pleased with my boker’s bitters and they could make warm piss divine. As not very much gomme syrup goes in this drink, I didn’t notice it was all the much sweeter. Very nice; it definitely needs a hard shake as the water opens it up and brightens up the bitters.

The Martinez Cocktail (I’d be interested to know why he named it this, but there is no mention. I assume it was named after someone.)
This drink too utilizes Boker’s bitters along with Old Tom Gin and maraschino liqueur. If you are not familiar with Old Tom Gin, it is a gin that was popular in the 19th century and is more in a jenever style in that juniper is not the prevailing essence. The Old Tom Gin I use is Ransom, which is made here in Oregon and has a beautiful pink hue to it as it is finished in Pinot Noir barrels. As this drink calls for very little maraschino or boker’s bitters to be added to it – I didn’t find it to be much of a cocktail but rather more along the lines of a gin martini. The Old Tom Gin has such a demanding flavor that you really have to counter to get another flavor to pop when mixed with it. The maraschino added a sweetness that I didn’t care for, as the gin is already fairly sweet (as far as gins go). Not one of my favorites. But I really wanted to showcase the Old Tom Gin because it is so pre-prohibition and I love that Ransom is an Oregon product and this drink did just that.

The Stone Fence,
The Stone Fence is probably one of the easiest cocktails I’ve made of Thomas’s. It is just rye whiskey and apple cider. We have a delicious apple cider that we use to cider brine our pork chop. This is a great drink for fall when there is cider everywhere in the Northwest and there is just an overwhelming overabundance of apples.

The Santa Cruz Sour
This is the drink that we sold the most of. The Santa Cruz Sour is a combination of rum, lemon juice, sugar, and soda water. Santa Cruz rum refers to rum from the Virgin Islands, so I used Cruzan dark (I lived in the U.S. Virgin islands so I have a certain affinity for Cruzan). I used the dark rum because it has a lot more flavor than white rum and I thought it would complement the lemon and sugar better than white rum. Thomas calls for sugar, but I ended up using simple syrup as sugar doesn’t mix well with cold ingredients. I do love Thomas’s call for garnish on this drink: orange and fresh berries (perhaps not the drink to make in the middle of the winter)

Sorry to post this a month after repeal day, but hey – I’m still celebrating!!!!!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Where have I been?

Please excuse the lack of posts this past month, as I am trying to move the blog over to wordpress (which sounded soooo easy, but hasn't been). I promise to catch you up on the Jerry Thomas Project this week, along with the last couple of Cheers columns. Thanks for being patient and look for my blog at in the next couple of weeks. I'll put a link on this page when the wordpress blog is ready to roll.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Collateral Damage

There are few ways that you can attempt not to pay for your drinks. While the bartender has your attention, you can break your neighbor’s highball so that she has to clean up ice cubes, slivers of glass, and spilled whiskey and seven. And while her head is turned, you can play Houdini and disappear. Or you can give her a bunk credit card to open a tab. Or you can wad up your money up so tight that it takes so much time to unfold it that when she is aware that she has been shorted that you have gone awol. But if that she is me, I will find you and make you pay, Nothing makes me madder than someone trying to pull the wool over my eyes. I have pursued unpaid bar tabs to other bars, I have filed charges against people with stolen or fraudulent credit cards, and I have even hunted down two grown men to find them huddled blocks away in their tiny barren apartment to make them pay me for two Irish Car Bombs.
Delusion doesn’t count as a defense. This past Friday a gentleman’s debit card didn’t run, so I held his wallet while he went scouring for cash. Returning with no money, he claimed that while he was at the bank someone there had told him that his charge had already gone through, so he would just take his things and be on his merry way. I am still not sure if he talked to his reflection in the ATM machine or screamed through the glass to the poor janitor vacuuming at 2 a.m. But let’s just say, a lot of places have gone 24 hours - but excluding the ATM the bank has not. Needless to say, he left some collateral.

Collateral damage

2 ounces of Seagram’s 7
4 ounces of 7-up

Monday, November 30, 2009

Repeal Day is this Saturday!

Once again let's thank Jeffrey Morganthaler for recognizing Repeal Day and putting some spark into what should be America's favorite holiday. Can you imagine a world where you couldn't have a gorgeous glass of wine with a nice meal or envision a sports bar without beer? December 5 is the day to celebrate. At my bar we are having a special celebration with a pre-prohibition cocktail list with such delights as the whiskey daisy, the saratoga brace up, and santa cruz sour. Anyhow, you have a week to make plans for this special day where you don't have to have an excuse to drink - to drink is the reason for the holiday.

Here's some prohibition trivia:

In 1921 prohibition agents seized 414,000 gallons of alcohol. In 1929, eight years into prohibition they siezed 11,860,000 gallons of alcohol (28 times more). Way to go moonshine!

Some commercial wine was still produced in the U.S., but was only available through government warehouses for use in religious ceremonies, particularly for communion in Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Episcopal churches and in some Jewish ceremonies. "Malt and hop" stores popped up across the country and some former breweries turned to selling malt extract syrup, ostensibly for baking and "beverage" purposes.

Whiskey was available by prescription from medical doctors. The labels warned that it was strictly for medicinal purposes and any other uses were illegal. But even so doctors freely wrote these prescriptions and druggists filled them without question, and the number of "patients" increased dramatically. (Sound like something else that is currently illegal?)

Even some prominent citizens and politicians later admitted to having used alcohol during Prohibition. President Harding always kept the White House bar well stocked with bootleg liquor, though, as a Senator... he had voted for Prohibition!

Prohibition also presented lucrative opportunities for organized crime to take over the importation ("bootlegging"), manufacture, and distribution of alcoholic beverages. Al Capone, one of the most infamous bootleggers of them all, built his criminal empire largely on profits from illegal alcohol.

With alcohol production largely in the hands of criminals and unregulated clandestine home manufacturers, the quality of the product varied widely. There were many cases of people going blind or suffering from brain damage after drinking "bathtub gin" made with industrial alcohol or various poisonous chemicals.

Yay for Repeal Day!

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Jerry Thomas Project: Whiskey Cocktail & Boker's Bitters

The Boker’s bitters are done! They aren’t perfect, but they are the best and only Boker’s bitters I’ve ever made. And I think they are absolutely delicious. My only real qualm is that I couldn’t find any tincture of cochineal (which is the shell of a pregnant little red insect), as our resident witch doctor is in Phoenix for the winter.

A real quick glance at Boker’s bitters: they were one of the most popular cocktail bitters at the turn of the century and a good quantity of Thomas’s recipes call for Boker’s bitters. But prohibition ensured that almost all of the bitter companies went out of business, never to be reconstructed after Repeal Day. The truth is, no one really knows what Boker’s bitters tastes like as there has only been one bottle found in modern day that showed up at the London Bar Show in 2006 and unfortunately, there wasn’t enough to go around.
So I made one of the first cocktails in the book that I earlier had to skip over because I was missing almost all of the ingredients, but now everything is in stock.

The Whiskey Cocktail
2 ounces of whiskey
3 drops of gum syrup
2 dashes of Boker’s bitters

It was really delicious. The Boker’s bitters have a lot of fascinating flavors and a lot of depth. I really like the addition that the cardamom gives the bitters. I have used cardamom before in bitters, but I used too much and it trumped all the other flavor suggestions. Anyhow, here is my tweaked recipe for Boker’s Bitters.

2 cups 100 proof vodka
(I have used a myriad of different bases -- whiskey, rye, vodka, high-proof rum, and ginger vodka) when making bitters and I have found that I can taste no difference once the ingredient has spent so much time in the solution)
.5 ounce of quassia
.5 ounce of catechu
.5 ounce of calamus
Peal from one small orange
5 cardamom pods
I let this compound sit for three weeks, and then I ran it through some cheesecloth. It’s got a very nice balance of flavors with a long slightly astringent finish. The cardamom really adds a lot of depth and an underlying layer of mystery.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Gomme Syrup

Tonight I broke out the gomme syrup and made a lemon drop with regular simple syrup and a lemon drop with gomme syrup and quite honestly, I couldn't tell the difference. I had three other people with excellent palates blind taste the two lemon drops and nor could they taste any distinction. On it's own, the gomme syrup has a distinct flavor and texture, but as it is so sweet you need not use much of it and I don't believe that the texture is coming through in a mixed drink. Obviously, further research must be done.
As I am not accustomed to mixing with the highly concentrated gomme syrup I also found that I had to keep tinkering with it and the other ingredients to get a good balance. I do hope that I am not such an old dog that I can't learn new tricks, but as for now I prefer simple syrup. It is quite easy to make, I know exactly the proportion to use, and I can't personally taste any difference.

Recipe for simple syrup
1 cup sugar
1 cup water

Bring to just before a boil and then immediately take off the heat. Let it cool and enjoy!

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Jerry Thomas Project: Whiskey Smash, Brandy Smash, and the Gin Smash

For those of you who haven’t read my entire blog, I am currently in the process of recreating all of Jerry Thomas’s cocktails from his 1887 book, Jerry Thomas’s Bartenders Guide Receipts for Mixing All Kinds of Punch, Egg Nog, etc. Thomas is the grandfather of American Mixology and lived pre-prohibition, pre ice machine, pre car but was able to travel the world and make a career out of mixing drinks.

Finally, some progress. First, the gomme syrup is done.
(Gomme syrup is a syrup very similar to simple syrup that's used as a sweetener. But instead of just using sugar and water to make the syrup, you add a little gum arabic. Gum arabic is a very complicated fusion of long and short chain sugars and is used on the back of postage stamps or on envelopes to make them seal. Anyhow, you can make a very decadent simple syrup by reducing the amount of water to sugar as gum arabic is a stabilizer and it will help prevent the mixture from crystalizing.)
I took 2 ounces of gum arabic and let it sit in 2 ounces of water overnight. The next day is was rather putrid looking with black floaties in a yellowish viscous sap. It distinctly reminded me of a time I had a bottle of Knob Creek that fruit flies infiltrated and turned it into a devilish solution of grey bourbon with thousands of dark mites. So I wasn’t real apt to turn this gum arabic solution into something I planned on drinking.
But I’m not afraid of something that looks like thousands of drowned fruit fly babies, so I added three cups of sugar and one cup of water and brought it to a boil. It foamed up intensely with thick yellow bubbles. I ran it through a chinois (which is a very very fine mesh colander) but there were still odd little bits floating in it so I ran it through some cheesecloth. The texture was very silky and the flavor was slightly chalky. The flavor reminded me of necco candy buttons (the little tiny rainbow dots of sugar that come on rolls of paper). I haven’t mixed it with anything yet, so I will be interested to see if I like it or not. On first impression, I wasn’t a fan of the chalky flavor but I am fascinated by the texture.

So I made three cocktails: the brandy smash, the whiskey smash, and the gin smash. The whiskey smash in particular has made a bit of a resurgence and my beloved work mate Jonathan Hardy has taken to making a whiskey smash sazarac that he prides himself on (and a bit unfortunately has created a bit of a following for as the drink takes about 15 minutes to make). Nonetheless, he allows the mint to steep in bourbon (usually Jefferson’s) for 10 minutes. He then smashes about two handfuls of ice between linen with a hammer and dries off the excess water. He then rinses the glass with absinthe, adds the bourbon, adds the “dehydrated” ice, a splash of angostura bitters, and a splash of peychaud’s bitters. It’s rather tasty, just very time consuming.

Unlike Hardy’s version, Thomas doesn’t say how long to leave the mint in the spirit. He also doesn’t use any bitters, but rather a teaspoon of white sugar. I had Hardy smash ice for me and “dehydrate” it. Although the moment the ice hits room-temperature booze, it immediately begins to melt so I don’t know if it makes a difference or not. Nonetheless, it does look rather sleek and frosty before you put it in the glass. I found that the sugar didn’t really dissolve, it just sat at the bottom of the glass. The brandy was our favorite, it was better balanced and the mint really flattered the drink. Our least favorite was the gin, which surprised me as it seems that mint and sugar would make gin taste amazing. But it really didn’t make the biggest difference. I used Ransom gin, which is a pre-prohibition style of gin that uses malted barley as the base wort, is distilled in alembic pot stills, and then finished in Pinot Noir barrels (which makes it slightly pink). It is divinely delicious and every time you taste it, something new will pop out at you: mint, lavender, coriander, lemon, hops, cardamom, and juniper to name a few. But I think because it has so many layers, the mint dousing didn’t drastically modify its character.

Nonetheless, I recommend to anyone to put some mint leaves and let them soak for 10 to 15 minutes in 2 ounces of any type of spirit. You will be surprised by how much mint flavor imparts in such a short amount of time.

Brandy Smash

1 teaspoon of white sugar
2 tablespoons of water
3 - 4 sprigs of mint
2 ounces of brandy

Let the mint sit in the brandy for 10 minutes with the sugar and water. Add shaved ice and enjoy.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Hot toddy - what kind of booze should I put in it?

So after I put up the hot toddy post I got a lot of questions about if you can use brandy, or rum, or bourbon in a hot toddy. You can use whatever you have in the house. I’ve made hot toddies with lemon vodka and lemon ginger tea. Quite honestly, if your balance of honey to lemon is good, this is a drink you can’t really mess up. If you don’t care that much for the taste of alcohol, go with brandy. It will coat the throat and be easy on the palate. If you like a more robust hot toddy, then by all means use a good strong whiskey or even throw in a little blended scotch.

Never fail you hot toddy

2 ounces of honey
2 ounces of lemon juice (use fresh if you have it but if not the little plastic lemon will do in a pinch)
2 ounces of alcohol (traditionally brandy (which is what cognac is), whiskey, or rum) but you can also use flavored vodkas, tequila, whatever you have lying around
4 ounces of hot water

Put the ingredients together in a coffee cup and stir with a spoon (as easy as that!)

The hot toddy is one of the easiest drinks to put a spin on. Drop your favorite tea bag in it and add some more depth and dimension to your winter warmer.

Jerry Thomas Project

Two major obstacles will be tackled this week. Gum arabic is soaking in water as I write this so gomme syrup shall be ready this week and the boker's bitters appear to be done.

More to come.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Work, Work, and more Work!

Now that an exhaustive two weeks are over I can devote my free time back to the Jerry Thomas Project (there the Broker's bitters have currently been brewing for two weeks and should be ready very very soon). I also got a bag of gum arabic - so I can make some true gomme syrup. I overhauled the cocktail list for fall - still want to do a couple of tweaks such as add a deconstruced hot toddy but for the most part I feel this is the best cocktail list I've done yet (although I always feel that way when I put the new one out). I wasn't going to do a pumpkin martini as I felt it was a bit cliche this time of year, but I got so many requests that I relented and man am I glad I did. It came out absolutely delicious and really tastes just like a pumpkin pie.

Bend Blacksmith Cocktail List November 2009

Vulcan (The Blacksmith God) 8
This drink takes the Blacksmith Idea of New Ranch Cuisine and Spins it into a Cocktail - Maple-Infused Vodka, Ancho Chile, With a Hint of Lime and Epazote
Absinthe - it’s legal after 90 years
Le Tourment Vert - French Absinthe with rich sweet botanicals 12
Kübler- from the Swiss Alps with floral and herbal aromatics 14
Lucid – French with grassy notes with a slight numbing sensation 14
Please try a half pour of each for 18

Guava Mojito 7
Guava Rum, Guava Purée, Fresh Mint, Fresh Lime, and Soda Water
Cucumber Mojito 7
Cucumber Purée, Fresh Mint, Fresh Lime, and Soda Water
El Scorcho 8
Habañero-Infused Vodka, Pineapple, Ginger Syrup, Lime, & Siracha with an Jalapeño Foam- This drink is ÜBER HOT!
Cured Mary 9
Bacon-Infused Vodka, Housemade Bloody, with a Bacon Bit Rim
Hick Coke 7
Hickory-Infused Bourbon and Smoked Coke
Save the Pacific Lamprey – He Needs Your Love Too!! 10
Hypnotic, Citros Vodka, Pineapple, and Fresh-Squeezed Citrus
Sum Yung Gi (Red Curry) 8
Coconut Rum, Mazama Pepper Vodka, Fresh Lime, and Ginger Syrup
Tamarind Margarita 8
Tequila, Tamarind, Orange Liqueur, and Fresh Squeezed Lime
Gin & Q's Tonic 7
Gin with Handcrafted Tonic Water Containing Rich Citrus and Botanicals
Floral Fusion 8
Hibiscus-Infused Vodka, Crème de Violet, & Fresh Squeezed Grapefruit
Zwack Attack Sidecar 8
Zwack Herbal Liqueur, Orange Liqueur, with Fresh Lemon and Lime
Hot Pink 10
X-Rated Liqueur, Mazama Pepper Vodka, and Fresh Lemon and Lime
Sour Patch 8
Lemon Vodka, St. Germain, and Fresh Citrus with a Super Sour Rim
Bubble Trouble 8
Lime Bubblegum Vodka with Lime Cordial & Apple Schnapps Shaken Frothy
Manhattan Flight 9
Three Baby Manhattans w/ Dolin Rouge and 3 Types of Housemade Bitters
Butterscotch Manhattan 8
A healthy pour of bourbon with our housemade butterscotch
Hard Dog Fizz 8
Gin, Juniper Cream, Orange Juice, Egg Whites, and Fresh Lime
Snik Khers Martini 9
Super Decadent Chocolate Martini w/ a Caramel Peanut Chocolate Rim
Pumpkin Partiality 8
An Absolutely Delicious Pumpkin Cocktail that Rivals Your Mama’s Thanksgiving Pie
Chai Tini 9
Voyant Chai Liqueur, Vanilla Cream, & Cinnamon Syrup

And then for Happy Hour I've been doing a lot of classic cocktails - a fun way to bring some of them back into fashion.

Fizzy Lizzy
Blueberry vodka, blueberry mint purée, fresh squeezed lime, and soda water
Gin Jin
Gin, juniper mint syrup, and fresh lime
Brandy Bop
Brandy with Peychaud’s bitters, ginger syrup, & lemon
Bloody Mary
From-scratch bloody mary with Keea's famous pickle
Grapefruit Go Go
Vodka, orange liqueur, grapefruit juice, & fresh lime

Rum Runner
Dark rum with banana and blackberry liqueurs, oj, and pineapple
Whisky Daisy
Bourbon, orgeat syrup (made from almonds) and fresh lemon
Peach Perfect
Vodka, peach puree, mint syrup, and fresh lime
Bubble Gum Lemondrop
Bubblegum-infused vodka, fresh-squeezed lemon & simple syrup
Agave Bliss
Tequila, grapefruit juice, fresh-squeezed lime
Sloe Gin Fizz
Sloe gin, gin, fresh-squeezed lemon, and soda water
Singapore Sling
Cherry brandy, gin, Angostura bitters, and fresh lime
Cherry Yum Yum
Vanilla vodka, fresh lemon, and cherry juice

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Jerry Thomas Project Measurements

I dusted off David Wondrich’s Imbibe today, as I know he has quite a bit to say about making pre-prohibition cocktails. Most importantly found was the table of measurements - which is quite handy but takes away from the notion that Thomas was mixing drinks with wine glasses of absinthe - when in fact a wine glass is only two ounces.

1 wineglass = 2 ounces
1 jigger = 1.5 ounces
1 pony = 1 ounce
1 tablespoon = .5 ounce
1 teaspoon = .3 ounce or .5 ounce (interesting as there are 3 teaspoons in a tablespoon)

And last but not least, I am not sure if Thomas was using a U.S. pint (16 ounces) or an imperial pint (20 ounces) or if he was using a U.S. quart (32 ounces) or an imperial quart (40 ounces. It appears that the British redefined their measurements in the early 19th century as a response to the commercial alcoholic beverage industry; the Americans did not follow suit, thus the discrepancies. But this means that our measurements have stayed the same since early American immigration and as Thomas was mixing here in the States - my guess is that he used American measurements (although I can’t see where it says for sure).

The Jerry Thomas Project The Saratoga Cocktail

For those of you who haven’t read my entire blog, I am currently in the process of recreating all of Jerry Thomas’s cocktails from his 1887 book, Jerry Thomas’s Bartenders Guide Reciepts for Mixing All Kinds of Punch, Egg Nog, etc. Thomas is the grandfather of American Mixology and lived pre-prohibition, pre ice machine, pre car but was able to travel the world and make a career out of mixing drinks.

Things are looking up for the Boker’s bitters as the last of the ingredients arrived this week and I will start the infusion process tomorrow evening. I figure that they should be done by the first week of November and for the meantime I will plug away at the cocktails that don’t contain Boker’s bitters (although I’m thinking that the vast majority appear to be comprised of what I hope to be a little jewel of an ingredient).

So today I made the Saratoga Cocktail and the Whiskey Daisy. The Saratoga Cocktail is named after Saratoga Springs, New York which was a primer resort at the time of Jerry Thomas. Due to an abundance of sparkling warm water that came out of the ground, a huge tourist business was built with hotels and restaurants lining the streets. In addition to the spa seekers, gamblers ventured to Saratoga for their grandiose racetrack and casinos.

The Saratoga Cocktail contains Angostura bitters, brandy, whiskey, and vermouth. All in equal parts, except for the bitters, which of course is only a couple of dashes. The drink was good, very similar to a Manhattan but much sweeter (due to the brandy). I also wasn’t quite sure which vermouth to use, but I decided on sweet vermouth as it is just not my nature to put whiskey with white vermouth - although I guess I should try it.

The Whiskey Daisy is mixed by using 3 dashes gum syrup (I used plain simple syrup - I still have not found the time to make real gum syrup), 2 dashes orgeat syrup, lemon juice, and bourbon. All the ingredients are mixed together and then topped off with Soda water or Apollinaris water (which I came to find is bottled in Germany and was once owned by the Nazis but now is owned by Coca Cola - I feel like there could be more to that story). As no one in my quaint village sells Apollinaris water (every place I called had me repeat what I was seeking at least three times and Whole Foods put me on hold for approximately 11 minutes transferring me from one belabored miserable hourly employee to the next until they determined that it was not in their current inventory) I just used soda water from the gun. When I first made this drink, the lemon was a little overpowering and I felt that it needed to be balanced with more syrup. I added some orgeat syrup (as I love it) and I found this to be one of my favorite Jerry Thomas cocktails. It was tangy and delightful on the pallet with a zing of lemon and roundness from the almond syrup. The soda water gave it a little sparkle. Perhaps I’ll put the revised Whiskey Daisy on the happy hour cocktail menu.

Here’s my recipe for orgeat syrup

2 cups blanched almonds
2 cups water
2 cups sugar
1 orange
1 teaspoon almond extract

Bring the almonds, water, sugar and one cut orange to a boil - take off the heat and let sit overnight.
Squeeze the orange of any fruit juice it might still have and add one teaspoon almond extract after the syrup has cooled. Strain the almonds and orange remnants out of the syrup.
How do you say orgeat? Or shaaht

And then another common question I hear: what are bitters?
Bitters are an alcoholic beverage that contains herbs and botanicals, at least one of which has to have a bittering component. Originally bitters were marketed as medicines (and today most bitters you find are in the digestive section of your local health food store) but they are mostly used for cocktail flavoring. They have a very intense flavor that is typically not very desirable on their own. Every bar has angostura bitters, so next time you are out - ask to sample a little with some soda water. Angostura bitters are a great thing to keep around the house also as they are great for tummy aches (put a couple drops in some soda water and within a half hour any misery you were facing will typically be gone) and hiccups, douse a lemon or lime segment in Angostura bitters and eat all the fruit. Most people hate how this tastes, but I promise, it will cure your hiccups.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Feel Good

Been on vacation lately and thought you were feeling so much better from much needed rest and relaxation? Or it could just be the case you spent a week downing blended drinks where there’s heap of anti-depressants in the drinking water. Why cities are afraid to post results of what’s mingling in their municipal water supply is a real shame. Especially since forty percent of bottled water comes from municipal sources and they could use these findings for a whole new genre of marketing. Wouldn’t it be great to choose your water according to your needs and desires? Feeling a little run down, choose water from a source that has high levels of anti-biotics in it. Thought about slicing your wrists yesterday, don’t worry the lower Mississippi’s got some water for you packed full of Prozac and Zoloft. Sport teams looking for a leg up, they can have their training camps where trenabolic and other anabolic steroids reign supreme in the drinking water.

The entire art of mixology could change as you certainly can’t add pharmaceuticals to people’s drinks, but you can add water. Local distilleries could advertise where they got their water from, forget about Grey Goose’s H2O that’s naturally filtered over champagne limestone. Get excited about Estra Vodka distilled with water from the world’s highest concentration of Ortho Tri-cyclen. No need for the morning after pill when Estra and tonic is your drink of choice. The older gentleman can feel good about having two when his vodka martini is made from Viagravodka, distilled with pure Florida tap water. You can’t feel bad about having another French fry with your vodka cranberry made with HDL vodka distilled from the finest quality drinking water with the highest parts per million Lipitor of anywhere in the world! It’s true, pills and booze don’t mix - but pill infused water, well that’s a whole different story.

Life’s Good

6 ounces of Viagravodka

Shaken and served up

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Hot Toddy

As the nights cool off and you start thinking about putting the air conditioning unit away and just turning the furnace on for a couple of minutes, it might be time to make a warm nip. Nothing is as heart warming as the classic hot toddy. It has a perfect balance of lemon, honey, and bourbon that calms the nerves, warms the belly, and soothes the throat.

The hot toddy is an old drink whose history is left largely unknown. It was most likely created in the 1700’s in Scotland to make the taste of smoky peaty scotch more palatable to women. No one knows who created this drink or who named it. Some believe that since there was a lot of trade with Great Britain and India at this time that the name might have come from an Indian beverage named toddy, which is created from fermenting palm tree sap. Others believe that the name came from Allan Ramsay’s 1721 poem, The Morning Interview, in which Ramsay refers to the water used for a tea party as coming from Todian Spring (which was also called Tod’s well). As Todian Spring is the water supply for Edinburgh and as hot water is one of the most important ingredients in a hot toddy, it’s possible this is where our beloved warm libation acquired its name.

The hot toddy is one of the most loosely defined cocktails having only to contain a spirit, a sweetener, and a warm base. Toddies can be made from tea, coffee, apple cider, sugar, syrup, brandy, bourbon, or rum. But the most traditional toddies are made from honey, lemon, hot water, and bourbon.

When making a hot toddy you should use quality ingredients as there is no place to bury a cheap or flawed ingredient in this drink. When choosing what honey to use, ensure that you are selecting a high-quality honey with a low water content. Honey that has a water content of 19% or higher will tend to ferment and lose its freshness. One simple way deciding which honey has less water is to take two jars of honey, turn them upside-down, and watch the bubbles rise. The honey with more bubbles that rise faster has more water, and that is not the honey you want.

Ensure that you use fresh lemon as pasteurized lemon juice has a bitter aftertaste and does not have a well-rounded fruity flavor. To buy a super juicy lemon, there are some little tricks: first smell it, you want the lemon to have a strong lemony scent. Next, give the lemon a slight squeeze. If it feels firm, it contains juice. If it feels soft or has an airy, it is most likely a dry lemon. To get the maximum amount of juice from your lemon, put the lemon down on a hard surface, press on it, roll it around before you cut it open for squeezing.

Last but not least, make sure that you use a quality bourbon, rum, or brandy in your hot toddy. Bourbon has a stronger flavor than rum or brandy and when you use it in a toddy it is going to stand out. This is an excellent choice for someone who likes to taste the alcohol in his drink or someone who likes that warm feeling as a good spirit titillates the throat. Rum is a great choice if you like your cocktails a little sweeter, as rum is made from sugar cane and has a sweeter profile than most other spirits. Brandy (or cognac) makes for an extremely well balanced hot toddy.

To make a traditional hot toddy:
Cut a lemon into eighths.
Take half of the lemon and muddle it into a coffee cup
Add two ounces of high-quality honey
Add two ounces of your choice of spirit
Add four ounces hot water
Stir until all of the ingredients are well blended.

Go sit out on a cool evening and enjoy the beginning of fall.

The Jerry Thomas Project The Fancy Vermouth Cocktail

Boker’s bitters might lead to a huge delay in the Thomas Experiment, as it appears that almost every drink has at least a drop of this mystical tincture. I have the sneaking suspicion that Jerry Thomas would be fascinated by how easily I retrieve ice, typically I only have to yell, “¡Tao, tráeme hielo!” (Although I’ve got to hand it Tao, who is más duro que burro, that I rarely ask for ice as he is a mad man when it comes to washing glasses and getting ice.) Anyhow, I can only imagine Thomas’s fascination with a machine that just spits out little ice cubes day and night - no chipping, no shaving, no hammering from a block that was brought from across town. And in return, I would be fascinated by how easily he could get Boker’s bitters.

Today’s creation was the Fancy Vermouth Cocktail (fancy indeed!) which had a slightly metallic sweetness and an undisputed disruption of any pleasantries as its ingredients didn’t blend or flatter one another.
Fortunately, I had the time to make another of Thomas’s cocktails, the Absinthe Cocktail (Once again, may I applaud Thomas in his creativity in naming his creations). Which is comprised almost entirely of absinthe (which I love) and as the 2 dashes of anisette and the 1 dash of angostura bitters did very little to sway the taste of the absinthe, I found this drink absolutely alluring. The bitters did give the absinthe a bit of a black peppery note.

I’ve decided to peak ahead and see what I might need to order to make this dream of making all of Thomas’s drinks a reality. Quite honestly, I work at a very well stocked bar and I didn’t think that making all of these drinks would be that difficult at all. In fact, I thought it might not be challenging enough to even bother, but I thought it would be educational nonetheless. Well, it’s proven to be much more difficult that I originally assumed, as many ingredients are difficult to come by and there is no way I could do this without the advent of the internet. It’s made me think a lot about a many who never saw a car, but I can’t make his drinks without a high-speed Internet connection and a FEDEX man.

Just a couple of items that popped out at me:
Capillaire, which is a syrup made from maidenhair fern (whoops forgot to plant that last spring!). Like most syrup ingredients in the 19th century, it was used for medicinal purposes in this case being heart problems and hair loss. Supposedly it tastes wretched. I have no clue where I am going to get this, as I see no one selling it on-line.
Catawba Wine which is wine made by Native Americans. Unfortunately, once most of the tribes opened casinos - Native American viticulture went down the tubes. Supposedly, you might be able to buy Catawba wine in Ohio - so maybe I’ll stumble across some while I’m in Western Pennsylvania next week!?!?
Isinglass which is sourced from fish’s air bladders. Isinglass has been replaced with gelatin for most recipes, but it is still used in clarifying beer in brewing - so it appears isinglass will not be so hard to find.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Jerry Thomas Project The Coffee Cocktail (The Thomas Tawny)

So today I made the coffee cocktail. A quick note on Thomas’s cocktail names - he may have been a real showman with diamond buttons and flame-throwing antics, however his ability to name his creations has much to be desired. Thomas even says, “The name of this drink is a misnomer, as coffee and bitters are not to be found among its ingredients, but it looks like coffee when it has been properly concocted, and hence probably its name.”
Well if it supposed to look like coffee when it is properly concocted, I can tell you right now that I didn’t make it right. The drink gets powdered white sugar, 1 fresh egg, 1 large wine-glass or port wine, 1 pony of brandy, and 3 lumps of ice. I really wasn’t that keen to put the entire egg in the drink and I thought maybe just to put the white in, but I wanted to follow Thomas’s recipes so in spite of my uneasiness about dropping what is baby chick embryo food, I decided to just close my eyes and just dump it in without further ado. I didn’t have powdered sugar, so I put some sugar in the robot coupe to make a very fine powdered sugar. After shaking I topped with some grated nutmeg.
My drink came out a very pleasant dulled violet color, a color I don’t see often when mixing drinks. Most likely because I don’t use port wine for anything, although a couple of years ago I did a Manhattan with port - but there wasn’t enough in the drink to turn it Spartan purple.
The egg made the drink extremely frothy and gave the libation a viscous quality. I think if I made it again, I would just stick with the white and omit the yolk. Otherwise, the drink was quite tasty with nice dark currant and toffee notes (I used Taylor Fladgate 20 year). I couldn’t taste the nutmeg that well, I would be tempted to make a nutmeg syrup and omit the sugar and nutmeg and impart the flavors that way. I think the nutmeg might shine a little more and add some depth to the cocktail.
Anyhow, one worth trying.
Here is my updated recipe of the Coffee Cocktail to which I am also renaming

The Thomas Tawny
1 teaspoon nutmeg syrup
4 ounces tawny port
1 ounce brandy
1 egg white

Shake vigorously to incorporate the ingredients together and strain into a cocktail glass. Preferably one that has some character.

Nutmeg Syrup
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
3 teaspoons ground nutmeg
Bring to a boil while stirring, take off the heat and let cool

The Jerry Thomas Project The Champagne Cocktail

So today I ran into a huge stumbling block when trying to make the Whiskey Cocktail. I don’t have Boker’s bitters and since the cocktail is just whiskey, gum syrup, and Boker’s bitters I’ve decided that I need to try a lot harder to make a batch of Boker’s bitters before I make this cocktail. The next four cocktails utilize Boker’s bitters - so they are going on the backburner until I get some made.

O.k. so seriously, why can’t you buy Boker’s bitters? They seem to be Thomas’s favorite bitters. David Wondrich, who has written extensively on pre-prohibition mixology, says that they were the leading cocktail bitters for much of the nineteenth century but just like the horse and carriage they are now only found in Amish barns (the Rumspringa kids drink them for fun) or on the shelf of super geeky mixologists. Making Boker’s bitters has proven harder than anything should be in this day of Internet love. Catechu was holding me up, thank god I don’t have to call places and ask for it - as I don’t even have a clue how that word is pronounced. I finally figured out that catechu comes from the betel nut - so that is what I am going to use to make Boker’s bitters. I found the best price for betel nuts on a site that also sold ten different book titles on pagan spirituality, so it will be interesting to see the junk mail I get from these mailing lists. Everything has been ordered, so hopefully I can start the bitters early next week and they will be ready by the middle of October.

Instead I made the Champagne Cocktail, which is still a cocktail that I get orders for on occasion. Not as often as ten years ago, but every once in awhile I’ll have a woman order one. My most current patron who orders them always tells me how to make it, which always makes me want to roll my eyes and glare at her for a good fifteen seconds but no one would find me charming then, now would they? So instead, I smile reassuringly as she tells me about the sugar cube.

Thomas uses a lump of sugar, I just used a cube. We’ve made sugar “cubes” in the restaurant before and I really should have take the time to make such a lump - but I didn’t want to wait a day to make a sugar lump so I just vied for the simplicity of the store-bought cube. Or I could be trying to make it a lot harder for no reason because it could also just be old vernacular for a cube, as the Brits say lump when they really mean a cube. Anyhow, I don’t think the flavor would change - just the lump would dissolve faster and you probably would get more bubbles as the lump might have more surface area. Thomas says that a quart bottle of wine will make six cocktails, so each cocktail is a little more than five ounces. This one was simple and I already knew it was delicious. In my decadent younger days my friends and I would drink Pez Clicquot Cocktails, using pez candy as the sugar lump and foregoing the bitters.
(If only wine still came in quart bottles!)

As for gum syrup, I am going to make a batch using gum arabic - as I would really like to know the flavor difference between that and simple syrup.

Concerning ice, Thomas calls for putting a small lump of ice in his champagne cocktail. Which I wouldn’t typically do, but I did for this drink. It occurred to me that Thomas’s ice most likely came in huge blocks and he either had to chip it or shave it away. Wondrich confirmed my believe and clarified that the debate over ice was just as hot in 1887 as it is today, Thomas argued shaved ice should be used in drinks where there was no water added and lump ice should be used when using egg, milk, wine, and vermouth (but the ice should be removed before you served the drink - although he doesn’t say to remove the ice in the champagne cocktail recipe). Today we argue if you should use commonplace restaurant ice, freeze your own ice and chip it, create ice balls one at a time with a $200 machine from Japan, or purchase a Kold-Draft ice machine (which makes the densest coldest commercial ice available). It makes you wonder what ice is going to be like in another 130 years.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Jerry Thomas Project The Improved Brandy Cocktail

Today I made the Improved Brandy Cocktail which I don’t think was improved upon at all. Unlike the Brandy Cocktail that was rich and satisfying with beautiful vanilla undertones and a sweet cherry nose this drink bordered on medicinal. I made the drink three times, first using Lucid Absinthe – a French absinthe (the first on the U.S. market). I like mixing with it because it has a strong anise flavor and my favorite absinthe we carry, the Kübler; I like to save for sipping. The drink was a little rough with the Lucid, so I tried making it with Kübler – which changed the drink ever so slightly (I was hoping to get a bit of the creamy mouth feel you find in the Kübler) but I would like it with a bit more anise flavor so I would definitely add more. The finish created bumps on the tongue like peppermint. I would also squeeze more lemon oil in the drink than he recommended, as I would like the citrus to stand out a little more. I made the drink again, the third time using bourbon which was much more delicious, bordering on the flavor profile of a sazerac.

I’ve decided that it might be helpful to have Mr. Thomas’s recipes in ounces for those who want to make them at home. (Maybe a bit of a translation after more than one hundred years).

5 ounces of brandy
1 dash of Kübler absinthe
2 dashes of Maraschino Liqueur
3 dashes of simple syrup (I might leave this out)
2 dashes of Angostura bitters
1 large piece of lemon rind (squeeze to expel the oil into the drink)

Shake and strain into a martini glass
Squeeze the lemon oil into the cocktail after you’ve strained

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Jerry Thomas Project The Brandy Cocktail

Oh Julie and Julia, taking the blogosphere to a whole new level. I was quite sure that you couldn’t turn a child’s action figure into a feature film but the colossal hit Transformers proved why I am still standing behind a bar and not working for a big studio in L.A. So I certainly could never have guessed that you could turn a blog about epicurean cooking into what is one of this summer’s most talked about movies. But it inspired me to make all of Jerry Thomas’s cocktails and put it on my blog. Jerry Thomas isn’t a name you hear often, even in the upper echelon mixology world. It’s too bad most of us don’t know more about him as he is considered the father of American mixology and published the first cocktail recipe book, Jerry Thomas’s Bartenders Guide. Not only was he a master at mixing drinks, he also had a show of flare with flashy clothing and some juggling tricks.

So for the next couple of months, I will make all of Jerry Thomas’s cocktails from the book Jerry Thomas’s Bartenders Guide that was published in 1887. These cocktail recipes are all pre-prohibition and were certainly created long before the spirits market started spiraling into what after spending two days at a liquor convention will convince you has gotten completely out of control. There were certainly no TY KU’s (which is a spirit distilled from sake and yuzu that comes in a glowing green bottle) or vodkas with caffeine and guarana. I have to wonder with the plethora of vodkas on the market, who is thinking that they can out-market Absolut or Grey Goose. The people not buying one of the five major labels who decide to buy a small batch spirit are unfortunately few and already there are hundreds of choices. Not that I want to discourage the small batch distilleries, but I feel a bit overwhelmed by one spirit after another that has very similar flavor profile and slightly more or less attractive packaging.

I’ve decided to make the drinks in order of the book. The first drink is a Brandy Cocktail. Obviously, Thomas didn’t have the menagerie of glassware we are accustomed to today either. He specifies either a large, medium, or bar glass. He also doesn’t use ounces, just the measurement of wine glass.

The first drink is a Brandy Cocktail which calls for a small bar glass. As he later specifies to shake and strain it into a cocktail glass (what many call a martini glass), that is the glass I went with. He calls for 3 to 4 dashes of gum syrup, which he doesn’t give a recipe for, but I used simple syrup which we make using equal parts sugar to water. He then calls for 2 dashes of bitters (Boker’s or Angostura) and as I don’t have Boker’s bitters – I used Angostura. I have desperately tried to make Boker’s bitters but unfortunately, I have not found anywhere that sells catechu or tincture of cochineal (although it sounds like this might have only been used for color and I don’t know if it affected the taste of the bitters or not but as the recipe calls for such a large quantity I do believe that it must affect the flavor),.

Thomas calls for a wine glass of brandy, which we use Riedel stemware at my bar (a 30 ounce glass) so I decided to not use an entire wine glass. I was a bit afraid to add the 1 or 2 dashes of Curacao, as I only have blue and I thought it might turn the drink some nasty color. But the few dashes did very little to the hue and actually added some depth to the amber color of the brandy.

The drink was a lot tastier than I thought it would be. I assumed that it would be a bit too sweet with the simple syrup and the Curacao, but it was more like a brandy Manhattan with nice vanilla undertones.

Nice job Mr. Thomas.

Here’s a recipe for Boker’s bitters. Send me a sample if you find all of the ingredients to make them. (you might want to decrease this recipe - or else you are going to have six lifetimes of Boker’s bitters)

4 liters of whiskey
3 ounces of quassia
3 ounces of catechu
3 ounces of calamus
2 ounces of cardamom
40 ounces of tincture of cochineal
5 ounces of burnt sugar
24 liters of water