May 9, 2014

What I’m Drinking: The Lalla Rookh

If you are someone who is adventuresome, who isn’t afraid of, say, wearing a velvet jacket, or making out with someone in an elevator, or drinking a drink that would cause most people to say “jumpin’ Jehoshaphat, what is that,” then you are probably up for trying this drink. The name dates back to a poem by Thomas Moore, first published in 1817. The poem is about the daughter of a Mughal emperor (her name is Lalla Rookh) who’s engaged to some prince, but who meets a poet who sweeps her off her feet with poems and poetic-ness (those poets are so tricky, especially this one, as he turns out to be—spoiler alert—the prince). The drink is old, too, but maybe not that old? I’m not 100% sure. Famous cranky drink writer David Embury said of this drink, in 1948, “This relic of the Gay Nineties is a syrupy-sweet and wholly deceptive concoction.” Which means it can deliver a wallop under all the coo-ing it does.


The Lalla Rookh (from Dark Spirits)

Ice cubes
1 ounce Cognac
1 ounce dark rum
1 ounce vanilla liqueur
1/2 ounce Simple Syrup
1/2 ounce heavy cream
Chilled club soda

1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the Cognac, rum, vanilla liqueur, simple syrup, and cream. Shake poetically (which here means shake a lot, rhythmically).

2. Fill a highball glass halfway full with ice cubes. Strain the mix into the glass. Top with club soda and stir well (again, poetically).

February 18, 2014

Cocktail Talk: Confessions of a Bootlegger

compleat-imbiber-2There are a number of things we miss in the modern age: Myrna Loy, zoot suits, un-ironic swing bands, speakeasies that aren’t just trying to be trendy, and more. We also miss the chance to have “bootlegger” on our resumes. Ah well, at least the unmissable Compleat Imbiber # 2, itself a bit old (from 1958) lets us relive the bootlegging days in an essay it contains. An essay from which I present to you the below quote.

The first violinist, an expert chemist, skillfully diluted the contents of gin, rum, Scotch whisky, Bénédictine, and Cognac bottles which he bought at the crew’s fifty per cent reduction from the second-class barman. (In those days of Honesty, it was ‘second’ and not ‘cabin’ class.)

—Joseph Wechsberg, Confessions of a Bootlegger

December 3, 2013

Cocktail Talk: The Case of the Red Box

case-of-the-red-boxI haven’t read a whole lot of Rex Stout books, which is a bit weird, as his famous detective Nero Wolfe and the era he wrote in both hit me fairly square in my detective-y wheelhouse (not to mention that I love the covers, as I tend to, of books from that age). But hey, these things happen. However, when I came across a copy of his book entitled The Case of the Red Box, in a pocket-sized copy and with a cover that I couldn’t resist, well, I couldn’t resist. And it was a good read, for sure, with multiple murders, a great twist-y-ness, and a lot of beer. Perhaps the strangest thing about Nero Wolfe isn’t that he never leaves his house (or rarely), or that he takes hours every day to deal with his orchids, or that he only eats at home, etc. But that he drinks a ton of beer while interviewing suspects. Awesome! However, the below quote is even better, so I skipped the beer . . . this time.


You do shorthand in that book? Good: put this down. McNair was an inveterate eater of snails, and he preferred calvados to cognac. His wife died in childbirth because he was insisting on being an artist and was too poor and incompetent to provide proper care for her.


–Rex Stout, The Case of the Red Box

February 22, 2013

Cocktail to Cocktail Hour V3, Three, Luminous Angel, and Paul Stanley*

It’s time for the next episode of the almighty Cocktail to Cocktail Hour, and it’s a humdinger! It features another Everyday Drinking segment, where I solve the drinking problem of someone off the street. But this time, it’s not just any ol’ someone off the street, it’s Paul Stanley* from the greatest rock-and-roll band in the land, KISS. That’s right, the Starchild himself had a bit of a drinking query and he came straight to the Cocktail to Cocktail Hour (like all good people). It’s a heck of show, folks, with singing, grinning, and a beautiful drink for Paul called the Luminous Angel, containing Cognac, Elisir M.P. Roux liqueur, orange juice, and Seattle-made Scrappy’s Cardamom bitters!

*May not actually be Paul Stanley in video; may be a genius Paul Stanley impersonator. Please don’t sue us Mr. Stanley. We only did it cause we love you.


November 30, 2012

What I’m Drinking: The Black Pearl

This elegant bubbly number from Good Spirits has a certain savoir faire that gets the point across without becoming all Herb Tarlek about the occasion. By which I mean to say that it’s sexy without being annoying and that it should be served at a time when you’re wanting to have a drink that both tastes good, shows you have class, and is going to be consumed by you and another you that you may just smooch later in the evening.

Does the drink also share the name of a famous movie pirate ship? Sure does. Does this mean that you should start talking like a pirate in the midst of the date-in-front-of-a-fireplace that I alluded to above? Well, I would normally say “of course not,” but if it seems that some “shiver me timbers” and “argh mateys” make sense to you in the moment, then sure, go right ahead. The drink sure won’t mind.

Black Pearl, Serves 2

Ice cubes

2 ounce Cognac

2 ounces Tia Maria

Chilled Champagne

2 cherriest, for garnish

1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the Cognac and Tia Maria. Stir well.

2. Strain the mix equally into two flute or wine glass (though the latter won’t get you any smoove points). Top each with Champagne (should be about 4 ounce apiece). Garnish each with a cherry either dropped in, or speared and floated on top.

October 2, 2012

Cocktail to Cocktail Hour V2: Episode 5, Drowsy Librarian and Ed Skoog

Well, friends, it’s been a bit of a break for the favorite cocktail-making series in the history of cocktail-making series (at least that’s what the Nielsen Company told me), the Cocktail to Cocktail Hour. I can’t say much about the break, only that the world-renowned series director and cameraman and producer of said serier is no longer allowed in Tijuana. But, but, but we’re back! And back in genius fashion as poet Ed Skoog is back in the studio, making a variation on his Dark Spirits’ favorite the Drowsy Chaperone, a new drink called the Drowsy Librarian. He also talks about Grandparents Day, Brazilians, and candy. Watch now!

September 21, 2012

What I’m Drinking: Roffignac

This drink was named for, and was a favorite of, Count Louis Philippe Joseph de Roffignac, who escaped the revolutionary neck-chopper in France and went on to become beloved Mayor of New Orleans from 1820 to 1828. He was a hit among the hoi polloi because, among other things, he introduced street lighting, put in the original French Quarter cobblestones, and drank a lot of this drink.

The drink itself, sadly, has gone out of favor in the intervening days and nights. Probably due to a lack of one of its main ingredients: Red Hembarig. I myself, to be honest, when first writing about this drink in Good Spirits, thought one could probably sub in grenadine or some raspberry syrup for this missing German ingredient (and, honestly, you can, but the drink’s not nearly as good—really, if you do, call it something else entirely). But since then I’ve done a bit more research, and read some more research, and now believe that as the German word for raspberry is “himbeere” and that the German word for vinegar is “essig” that the proper way to have this drink is with a raspberry-vinegar concoction. Which isn’t so wacky as it may sound, as the original famous bartender, Jerry Thomas, has three recipes for the same thing in one version of his late 1880s famous Bar-Tenders Guide). And you know what? With the raspberry-vinegar combo, this drink really sings, and is a swell memorial to ol’ Mayor Louis.

Ice cubes

2 ounces Cognac

1/2 ounce Red Hembarig (or some sort of raspberry-vinegar syrup—see Note)

Chilled club soda

1. Fill a highball glass up with ice cubes. Add the cognac and the Red Hembarig-esque syrup. Stir once.

2. Top the glass off with club soda. Stir once again.

A Note: You could definitely get a bit more serious about the aging of raspberries-and-vinegar here. But, in a pinch, this recipe delivers dandy results. Start by muddling two cups raspberries a bit in a bowl, then add a cup of apple cider vinegar, and stir briefly. Let sit for, oh, overnight at least. Then add everything plus 3 cups sugar and 3/4 cup water to a saucepan. Heat to a simmer, let simmer for around 10 minutes, then take off the heat and let it cool completely in the pan. If you have time, let the whole combo sit together overnight in the fridge. Then, strain through a fine strainer (you may need a spoon to push the fun stuff through) and then cheesecloth. Keep in the fridge.

February 3, 2012

Cocktail Talk: Alexis Soyer Week, Part 3

I’m going to skip the preamble for this post (you can catch that in Alexis Soyer Cocktail Talk I and Alexis Soyer Cocktail Talk II) and get right the quotes, which are again taken from the superb Soyer bio Relish by Ruth Cowen. These quotes are again showing why Soyer fits on a cocktail and drinks blog (even though he’d probably be more associated with the culinary arts as opposed to the cocktail arts. Though really, they go together so nicely). And the first one uses the phrase “oesophagus burners,” which is a phrase I’d like to see back in circulation.

Beneath this terrace, reached via a wooden staircase, was an American-style bar called The Washington Refreshment Room, which was to all intents and purposes the first cocktail bar in London. It provided thirsty customers with such daring modern concoctions as ‘flashes of lightning, tongue twisters, oesophagus burners, knockemdowns, squeezemtights . . . brandy pawnees, shadygaffs, mint juleps, hailstorms, Soyer’s Nectar cobblers, brandy smash, and hoc genus omne.’ More than forty cocktails were on offer, and among the candidates for the job of barmen, said Sala, was ‘an eccentric American genius, who declared himself perfectly capable of compounding four at a time, swallowing a flash of lightning, smoking a cigar, singing Yankee Doodle, washing up the glasses, and performing the overture to the Huguenots on the banjo simultaneously.

 . . .  the festivities almost came to a dramatic end when a paper lantern caught fire and the flames quickly spread across the roof–but a young officer hoisted himself up to the beams and managed to extinguish it. The band resumed, and Alexis produced his special punch–Crimean Cup à la Marmora–a lethal blend of iced Champagne, Cognac, Jamaican rum, maraschino, orgeat syrup, soda water, sugar, and lemons.

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