Book Launch Party Recap: San Diego Edition

The Rope Burn cocktail served at our launch party!

The Rope Burn cocktail served at our launch party!

The first of our two cocktail parties recently took place at The Lion’s Share in their fantastic event space above the restaurant. A bunch of our Kickstarter supporters stopped by, in addition to members of the public, and we were even able to sell a few copies of our book!

In this post, I want to briefly cover the menu that we served at the event, which featured both cocktails from our book, some recent unpublished recipes that I’ve been working on, and some modern recipes from bartenders around the world.

Here’s the menu…


The goal with the menu was to feature a range of cocktails from citrusy and bubbly cocktails to more spirit forward recipes featuring a range of spirits.

The classic recipes can be found online or in our book.  The modern recipes that we used can be found below, along with some notes for each recipe.

Crossing the Pond

1.5 oz Blanco Tequila
1 oz Lime juice
0.5 oz Oloroso Sherry
0.5 oz Demerara syrup
2 dashes Bittermens Orchard St. Celery Shrub
1 egg white

Garnish with a few drops of Boy Drinks World Serrano Cocktail Spice

The Crossing the Pond recipe was developed from several positive experiences that I had with pairing various flavors. First, I’ve seen sherry and celery work well together a few different times and that was something that I wanted to try in a cocktail. Second, I tried a tequila and celery bitters sour with an egg white that I quite liked, but didn’t quite have the complexity that I like in a cocktail. Putting the two concepts together yielded a good drink, but the addition of the spicy bitters as a garnish produces an aromatic that made the drink something unique.

Champs de Lavande

1 oz Old Forester Bourbon
1 oz Carpano Bianco Vermouth
0.75 oz Lemon Juice
0.5 oz Salers gentian liqueur
0.5 oz Honey syrup (1:1)
2 dashes Scrappy’s Lavender bitters
1 dash Regan’s Orange bitters

Garnish with a lemon peel.

This is a recipe that I’ve written about before and was featured on The Lion’s Share menu during April 2015. It’s influences are the Scofflaw, the whiskey sour, and my love of Lavender bitters.

CL 75

1.5 oz Rye whiskey
0.5 oz apricot liqueur
0.5 oz lemon juice
0.25 oz orgeat
1 dash orange bitters

Top with 1 oz champagne as a garnish.

This recipe was developed in response to a request from two co-workers that wanted a cocktail that combined their two favorite alcoholic beverages: rye whiskey and champagne. When I searched for drinks using this combination, I was shocked to find very few options, so I decided to seek out my own recipe based in part on the classic French 75 recipe. After quite a number of iterations, I came up with this recipe in collaboration with bartender Mary Palac at the bar Singlebarrel (now Haberdasher).

Un Altro Cielo

1.5 oz gin
0.75 oz Aperol
0.5 oz Ancho Reyes
7 dashes Scrappy’s Lime bitters

No garnish.

This recipe was born out of a cocktail request at my weekly cocktail hour at work, in which a sour-style cocktail was requested but the only citrus-like ingredient that I had available was a bottle of Scrappy’s Lime bitters. The initial formulation of this drink resulted from that experience, and then was improved through the discovery by Robert Yumul of The Lion’s Share that an ever more generous helping of Lime bitters improved the cocktail. The name is inspired by the Seventh Heaven cocktail, of which this drink somewhat reminds me.

Black Manhattan
Bourbon & Branch, San Francisco

2 oz Rye whiskey
1 oz Averna
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 dash Orange bitters

No garnish.

A great Manhattan variation from the incomparable bartenders at Bourbon & Branch in San Francisco.  You can find this recipe in our book.

The Rope Burn
Allan Katz, Caña Rum Bar, Los Angeles

1 oz Smith & Cross Rum
1 oz Aperol
1 oz Bonal Gentian Liqueur

Garnish with a grapefruit peel.

The Rope Burn is an equally amazing cocktail that plays off the incredible funkiness (i.e., hogo) of Smith & Cross Rum.  This is by far my favorite Negroni variation of all time. If you make this drink at home, be sure to have a grapefruit for the garnish. Just like an orange peel garnish makes a Negroni great, the grapefruit peel makes this drink great.

I hope you enjoy these recipes.  If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments.  Cheers!

This month’s “homegrown” cocktail at The Lion’s Share: Champs de Lavande

The Lion’s Share is one of the best cocktail bars here in sunny San Diego, and a place that I’ve been going regularly nearly since it opened about three and a half years ago. Ever since they opened, they have featured on their cocktail a monthly special called the “Homegrown Cocktail,” which is a recipe created by a local bartender from the San Diego area. A bunch of great cocktails have been featured as the homegrown over the years. Among my favorites is a recipe called the Great Scot, which is a great combination of Laphroaig, Campari, and (gasp) egg white. I still wish I had the exact version of that recipe, and not just the reverse engineered recipe that I linked to above.

The chalkboard that announces each month's homegrown cocktail on the wall at The Lion's Share

With all the great history behind the Homegrown, I am super excited that this month the featured recipe was created by yours truly! We call it the Champs de Lavande.

The Champs de Lavande cocktail on the bar at The Lion's Share

The Champs de Lavande cocktail

Champs de Lavande

1 oz Old Forester Bourbon
1 oz Carpano Bianco Vermouth
0.75 oz Lemon Juice
0.5 oz Salers gentian liqueur
0.5 oz Honey syrup (1:1)
2 dashes Scrappy’s Lavender bitters
1 dash Regan’s Orange bitters

Shake and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon peel.

Salers is not always available, but you can substitute Suze. Dolin Blanc is a reasonable substitute for the Carpano Bianco.

This drink is a variation on a recipe that I’ve been serving at home for more than a year to strong reviews, called the Lavender Mistake (so-called because my original recipe called for Mezcal, but one day I accidentally made it with Rye whiskey instead and the result was far superior).

The Lavender Mistake

1.5 oz Rye Whiskey (Sazerac 6 year)
0.5 oz Benedictine
0.5 oz Salers
0.25 oz Honey syrup (1:1)
1 dash Scrappy’s Lavender bitters

Stir and strain into a cocktail glass. No garnish.

The key to both this drink and the Champs de Lavande is the interplay between the Salers, honey, and lavender flavors, particularly the gentian liqueur and lavender. This latter combination was first introduced to me by a bartender at the Experimental Cocktail Club in Paris, who when asked to make a White Negroni with Suze produced a drink that also included lavender bitters to great effect.

Although the Lavender Mistake is a great drink, I decided to modify it for the Homegrown because the original is rather spirit forward and I wanted a recipe that was a little more refreshing and accessible. Adding a sour-style component, through the lemon juice, was a straight-forward way to accomplish this goal, but the result was that the citrus dominated the more subtle flavors of the Salers and lavender that I wanted to highlight. To fix this, I borrowed a concept from the classic Scofflaw cocktail, which uses an ounce of dry vermouth as a means to soften the combination of a sour-style mix of lemon juice and grenadine with rye whiskey. The result in the Champs de Lavande is a cocktail with a complex intermingling of flavors without any dominating the others.

If you’re in San Diego, please head down to The Lion’s Share to try it out! As an extra incentive, $1 from each Homegrown cocktail sold is donated to charity. This month, Naomi and I selected California Labs & More Dog Rescue as our charity of choice, from which we recently adopted our dog, Cookie Monster. So, when you order the drink, know that you’re also helping out a great cause!

Our recently adopted dog, Cookie Monster, a lab/shepherd mix

Tasting Several Aged Gins

I was very happy today when my new bottle of St. George Spirits Dry Rye Reposado Gin arrived on my doorstep. Aging gin has become trendy in the last year or so among many microdistilleries and this aged version of St. George’s Dry Rye gin, which is much like a genever, is one of the latest to be released. This seemed like a fun occasion to write another blog entry, for the first time in awhile, and to break out some of the other aged gins from my collection.

Here’s what I tried out:

  • The aforementioned St. George Dry Rye Reposado Gin (49.5 abv)
  • Rusty Blade Gin (K&L exclusive batch KL1112, 62% abv)
  • Peterman Platinum Graanjenever Special Reserve (40% abv)
  • Ransom Old Tom Gin (44% abv)

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Weddings: Leianna & Morgan

Last night was Leianna & Morgan’s wedding at the Bybee Farms Blueberry Farm in North Bend, WA at the foot of Mt. Si. The wedding had a country theme and an awesome bluegrass/jazz band, not to mention a beautiful and very entertaining ceremony officiated by Leianna’s cousin Billy.

My role was to provide the cocktails for the reception. A couple months ago I did a tasting with Morgan & Leianna to choose the drinks that we would serve, and, as I wrote about previously, they selected the following cocktails:

  • Gin-Gin Mule
  • Blue Lavender
  • Mai Tai
  • TBD Whiskey Punch
  • Dark & Stormy

Details for each of these can be found below.

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Wedding Cocktails: Events 1 & 2

Over the past couple months, I have been asked to handle the cocktails for the weddings of two of my friends: Kelly & Ed from San Diego and Leianna & Morgan from Seattle.  Outside of throwing a couple cocktail parties, I don’t have a lot of experience in putting together a set of cocktails to cover the diverse tastes that come with the wide range of ages and backgrounds found in a wedding audience.

For both, I conducted a tasting with the couples beforehand to explore the range of cocktails that would be possible. The hardest step I found was to come up with a tasting list that covers a wide range of styles and base spirits while limiting the complexity of preparation of each drink.

Check out the details after the jump.

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Quora Answer: What are some of the most unusual cocktails?

This is another in a series recapping answers that I’ve given to various cocktail questions on Quora. This answer covers some liqueurs most people may not be familiar with that are useful for making interesting cocktails.

The question: What are some of the most unusual cocktails?

There are a ton of options to put here, and I think the answer is heavily dependent on how deep you are in the cocktail scene already.  The original asker mentions the Mojito and Long Island Ice Tea, which suggests relatively basic knowledge of the cocktail scene and a desire to learn about things that can be easily made in most normal bars.  To cover this group and people with more experience, I’ve divided my suggestions into a couple tiers.

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The Reverse Manhattan

A new favorite drink of mine is the “reverse manhattan,” which consists of the same ingredients as a regular Manhattan but with the quantity of the principle ingredients of whiskey and sweet vermouth reversed.  This means that you get a big pour of sweet vermouth and a smaller pour of whiskey, leading to a cocktail with lower alcohol content but a more pleasant aroma.

I got the idea from a blog post by Camper English on the science of dilution in which he mentions that Audrey Saunders has been experimenting with “inverted cocktails” in order to play with stronger and more complex aroma profiles. Apparently, the idea is that drinks with lower alcohol content will be more aromatic because there are fewer alcohol “clusters” in the drink that will attach to the aromatic molecules in a drink and lower the rate at which they might escape from the drink.  I have no idea about the science behind this hypothesis, but in practice I have noticed that lower alcohol content cocktails seem to have stronger aromas.

The reverse manhattan is also a drink that I think falls into the new family of suppressor cocktails that have recently become a trend in Atlanta. The idea is to construct cocktails with complex flavors that are low in alcohol by utilizing lower alcohol ingredients, such as wines, vermouths, and fortified wines. I’m particularly drawn to this class of cocktails because I often have to work in the evenings with a cocktail next to my laptop, and I often find myself driving home from the cocktail bar afterward. Thus it’s important to choose cocktails with low alcohol content.

Most suppressor cocktail recipes that I’ve seen use a fortified wine like sherry as a base. That means that the reverse manhattan is still a little bit stronger than most suppressors, but can still have quite a lot of complexity depending on your choice of each specific ingredient. A high quality sweet vermouth, like Carpano Antica, Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, or Vya is essential. I’m still exploring, but the choice of whiskey and bitters also has an important effect. There are so many combinations to try that I’m sure this is something I’ll be trying different variations on for quite awhile.

The Reverse Manhattan

  • 2 oz Sweet Vermouth (Carpano Antica works well)
  • 1 oz Rye Whiskey
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
I usually skip the garnish, but a brandied cherry would work well.

From the Past: Two of My Own Cocktail Creations (Dec 6, 2010)

This is the first in a series of posts discussing cocktail exploits or recipes from before I started this blog. This post comes from my old blog and discusses a few recipes I came up with shortly after I began learning about vintage cocktails. Both are simple variations on common cocktails that I found to be pleasant.

December 6, 2010: Two of My Own Cocktail Creations

I’ve been getting into vintage cocktails and cocktail making over the last few months.  I mostly make the stuff I find in books or online, and of late almost everything I’ve been trying has been from the excellent Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails. Of course, I have also tried making my own variations. These are generally not worth recording, but I’ve come up with two that I don’t want to forget.

A pretty obvious variation of the Sidecar, but the honey flavor adds something beyond the typical recipe.

1oz Cognac
1oz Fresh-squeezed Lemon Juice
1/2oz Honey
3 dashes Orange bitters

St. Germain Manhattan
It’s not hard to find a recipe that combines St. Germain Elderflower liqueur and bourbon, but I found the addition of a few dashes of Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur cut the sweetness of the St. Germain and made the drink much more balanced.

1.5oz Maker’s Mark
1oz St. Germain
3 dashes Agnostura aromatic bitters
3 dashes Domaine de Canton

I assemble all of my drinks in a cocktail shaker, add ice, and then shake.  This is especially important for the Hivecar though, since you’ll probably want to heat the honey to make it mix better. (Editor’s note: The Manhattan should actually be stirred, but I didn’t know that at the time)

While I’m writing about cocktails, I’ll also mention another favorite of mine that is related to the Sidecar.  We found this somewhere on the web, but I can’t find the reference or the name.

Cognac, Cointreau and Bitters
Serve in a snifter and sip…This one is strong.  The bitters are essential.

1oz Cognac
1oz Cointreau
3 dashes Agnostura bitters