Spirits, Sugar, Water, Bitters

(This is about cocktails.  If you are not interested in this topic you may want to skip this long post.)

So, I received this book from my father for Christmas in 2021.  

It is a history of cocktails.  I read it and was fascinated.  So now I am embarking on making all of the cocktail recipes in historic order.  

I started with the first chapter Our Founding Drinkers (1490s-1790s) with General’s Orders on September 11.  This is because I had all of the ingredients for it which are aged rum, rye whiskey, fresh lemon juice, simple syrup, Cherry Heering and Angostura bitters, This is a modern drink created from the colonial standbys including General Washington’s favorite, Cherry Bounce (the Heering is a substitute).  It is named after the General’s alcohol ration orders for the troops on March 1, 1778.  

Something seemed to be incorrect with the recipe, either the amounts or the glassware.  But it still tasted good.  I managed to forget to include the Heering in the photo though.  

Next was Fish House Punch on September 16.  I have made this before and ended up in front of the toilet most of the night with the bathroom spinning around me.  It turned out George Washington had a similar reaction to the drink.  

This recipe includes lemon juice and peels, Demerara sugar, Smith & Cross traditional Jamaican rum, VSOP Cognac and nutmeg.  It is supposed to include real peach brandy which I could not find so I used a suggested apricot liquor instead.  

This is from the Schuylkill Fishing Company was the first angling club in the Thirteen Colonies (opening in 1732) and remains the oldest continuously operating social club in the English-speaking world.

I initially had to muddle the peels with the sugar until paste forms.  I was never quite sure when it was a paste though.  

You then add boiling water, let it cool and then strain out the peels.  The juice and spirits are then added.  You then add cold water and grate nutmeg on top.  

Both Tom and I really enjoyed this drink.  It may be more watered down than my previous foray or maybe I was more careful, but there were no issues.  Mo enjoyed it at the Boles as well.  

Next came Stone Fence on September 22.  This is just a combination of rye whiskey, Angostura bitters, hard apple cider and a mint sprig.  The legend is that Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys drank this at the Catamount Tavern before storming British Fort Ticonderoga in 1775.  They had it with rum, but later it transitioned to rye whiskey.  

For me it just taste like cider with a little whiskey, nothing too special  But glad it helped the Green Mountain Boys.  

Next was a project.  Syllabub was a three day project starting September 25.  The drink is a mixture of Madeira, Riesling, confectioners sugar, lemon juice, chopped pineapple, lemon zest and rosemary springs.  The whipped cream is the same ingredients with heavy cream.  The first day you mix the ingredients and refrigerate them overnight.  On the second day you strain the cream mixture and whip it.  It never seemed to whip well for me though.  Then the third day you strain the drink mixture, place some in a cup and top it with the cream.  Surprisingly the cream did seem to be whipped at this time, sitting on a layer of liquid.  

It was quite yummy and an interesting flavor.  It is certainly a dessert but a fun one.  It is worth the 3 days of preparation.  

I had to purchased some supplies to make the rest of the recipes in the book.  This was challenging as there are some exotic (to me anyway) ingredients in this book.  Here is my shopping list.

And here is what I purchased.  Total Wine and More was a savior for me.  I had to substitute Goslings rum for blackstrap, and I somehow ended up with Jerez rum instead of brandy.  But otherwise I found what was asked for in the recipes.  

Next I made the Apple Toddy, using Bramley Apples that Tom had purchased (my favorite apple).  I baked two of the peeled and cored apples with whole cloves and cinnamon sticks.  Then they were muddled with brandy, water and confectioners sugar (I used Swerve).  I will strain and them refrigerate it at for at least one month.  Traditionally they were made at Thanksgiving for Christmas.  I am not sure mine will last that long.  We shall see.  

On October 3, I moved on to the second chapter Birth of the Cocktail (1790s-1850s) and made Old Fashioneds.   This is my grandfather’s favorite drink, but this one uses Rye Whiskey rather than bourbon. There is no water.  And there is no orange nor cherry.  I actually like it although it is quite strong.  I waited for the ice to melt some.  

On October 10, I made Mint Juleps.  And I still have some fresh mint outside of our back porch.  And it is the first time for me using my new Julep cups, so that was fun.

On Friday I made us Sherry Cobblers.  I like sherry but rarely drink it, so I was looking forward to this.  I had already purchased the Oloroso sherry for this drink.  It is just sherry, simple syrup and muddled orange.  Once again the amounts seem weird.  It was 2 ounces of sherry in a Highball glass topped with ice  So it didn’t fill the glass.  

And we thought it was pretty boring.  I added more sherry just so I could taste it.  I doubt I will make this drink again.  

But later that night I sipped the sherry straight out of the skull glass I got as a present from Pam (Thanks Pam!) while watching Derry Girls.  It was a fun pre-Halloween drink.

Next came Sazerac. I have certainly made this drink before, and Absinthe intrigues me.  Once again though, it is basically straight whiskey.  So I did end up adding ice cubes.  It is tasty.

To round out the month of October I finished this chapter with the Lost Boys Cocktail. This is a cocktail that the author invented so is not historic.  I had to find the Xocolatl Mole bitters first though.  This cocktail had ice so I was happy.  And I absolutely loved the complex flavors of this drink.  I definitely will make this drink again, particularly since I now have a bottle of these bitters.  

To start the month of November, I started a new chapter.  It is the Golden Age, 1860s – 1910s.  And I started with a Manhattan. I have made this drink before, of course.  But this time I was somehow out of sweat vermouth.  So I goggled around and found a site that suggested that port makes a good substitute.  So I used a port.  

I couldn’t find brandied cherries for this recipe (although I have made them before).  So I used these Bourbon cherries.  

It was good.  You could taste the port, but it was not overpowering.  

Next in November was Martinez.  I had to substitute quite a but for this recipe.  I thought I had Old Tom gin but did not.  In fact, I only had a seaweed infused gin and Sloe gin.  So I chose the latter.  Plus once again I still didn’t have sweet vermouth so used the port again.  This time though the port was too much.  The drink was too sweet and almost jammy.  I should have made it correctly.  

Next was a Martini.  The book’s author had been named the best Martini maker in America.  I followed his recipe but missed his advice in the forenotes that I should freeze the gin, refrigerate the vermouth, carefully stir the mix and use a thermometer to make sure it is 29 degrees.  His recipe is half vermouth and half gin, unlike other recipes I have tried which really minimize the vermouth.  I was careful to stir this thoroughly and get it quite cold.  It was good.  I am not a huge Martini fan, but this is one of my favorites.  I missed the olive though.  

Next was a Daiquiri, simply white rum, lime juice and simple syrup.  But this one was quite strong, in contrast to the Martini.  It was good, but I would prefer a little more lime juice and a little less rum.  

Next was the Steady Cocktail.  This was basically a Martini with Chartreuse since I couldn’t find Elixir Vegetal de la Grande-Chartreuse as I haven’t been to France recently (or ever).  The Chartreuse gave it a nice different flavor but still basically a Martini, not my favorite drink.  

Then for Thanksgiving, I broke into the Apple Toddy I had made previously.  I warmed some up on the stove as our microwave had died.  I served them in teacups as suggested.  It was good but strong.  

I am trying to pick up the pace in December as I have not made much progress in finishing this book’s recipes.  So I decided to forgo my usual Advent calendar and do a cocktail per day (when I am not working).  And I started a new chapter, Lost Generation 1920s – 1930s.  So I started December 1 with a Scofflaw cocktail, meant to mock the law in Prohibition times.  But it was actually from Harry’s New York Bar in Paris where it was perfectly legal.  It is rye whiskey, dry vermouth, lemon juice, grenadine and orange bitters.  This was a perfectly lovely cocktail.  Not great, but good.  

Despite my decision, I managed to forget to make a cocktail on December 2.  So on the third I made Orange Blossom. He described is as the nadir of cocktail making but was reportedly a favorite of F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda before they decamped to Paris.  All it is is equal parts orange juice and gin.  I was nervous about this drink as I had a bad experience with Screwdrivers as a younger person and cannot stomach them anymore.  But this was better. The gin was a nice flavor, and I used fresh squeezed orange juice.  It still was pretty boring, however.  

I worked December 4 so next was the fifth and 3 Mile Limit.  This denoted the distance to international waters where drinking was legal during Prohibition.  But apparently (I did not realize) drinking alcohol never was illegal.  It was the transport, manufacture and selling that was illegal then.  But anyway this is a tribute to the 3 mile limit.  It is brandy, rum, a dash of lemon juice and a bar spoon of grenadine.  So this is a strong drink.  I ended up adding ice cubes as it was too strong for me.  It was OK but not great.  Nice to pay some tribute though, to those souls that found a way to drink a cocktail in those times.  Plus it is Prohibition Repeal Day, today since 1933.

On December 7 I made 12 Mile Limit (after the current international boundary).  This adds rye whiskey to the 3 mile limit, but I think, more importantly, there is a lot more grenadine.  I actually liked it.  Grenadine is made from pomegranates so a nice holiday drink, if you were to ask me.  

On December 11, I made the December 5th Cocktail, another homage to Prohibition’s repeal.  This one is created by the author.  First I had to purchase ginger liqueur which was  little tricky to find.  

To this you add Cognac, lemon juice and aromatic bitters.  But this drink was incredibly good.  Both Tom and I absolutely loved it.  A new favorite cocktail, I believe.  

On December 13 I started a new chapter (The Found Art of Drinking 1940s – 1960s) and made The Bronx.  This is basically the Orange Blossom with some vermouths.  I somehow managed to not have any sweet vermouth so substituted a sweet white wine I had purchased for cooking with.  It was OK, nothing great.  I little too gin-y for me.  

On December 17 I made a Moscow Mule.  I have certainly had this drink before, but it is a great one.  I am not sure if this recipe is any different from previous ones I have made.  But it is still yummy.  He did suggest muddling basil leaves or lemongrass in the mug.  I have neither now so that did not happen.  It does sound intriguing though.  

On December 23 I had a Bloody Mary.  It seemed Christmasy with the red color.  Plus I am getting tired of sweet drinks.  This was a nice change.  It was vodka, Worcestershire, Tabasco, pepper, lemon juice and tomato juice.  He did suggested using fresh tomato juice, but that it not available in December.  Maybe next summer I will try that.  It is mixed by rolling which is pouring it from one shaker to another without any ice.  I did it with glass jars though.  I was lazy and used bottled lemon juice rather than fresh pressed.  Plus I skipped the lemon and lime wedges.  But it was perfectly wonderful despite these transgressions.  

I am not making very good progress on having a cocktail a day in December though.  

On December 26 I made Vodka Martini.  I was thinking this wasn’t a very Christmasy drink, but as I made it I realized that the olives are green and red.  This was nice as the alcohol did not overpower the drink.  The olive juice helped.  And I chilled the vodka and vermouth first.  So a win I would say.  

On December 31 I made The Philly Sling.  This is a sour-style drink invented by the author.  For this I had to purchase applejack and Fee Brother’s Whiskey Barrel bitters.  Reading the label of the applejack was interesting.  

Here is the drink.  Neither Tom nor I were terribly impressed by this one.  I do want to try the applejack alone sometime to see what it is like.  

On January 5 I started a new chapter called Tiki’s Exotic Drinks 1930s – 1970s.  Hopefully this will create some tropical flavors to a dreary month.  I started with a Mai Tai.  It did succeed as feeling tropical.  I have made this before and always enjoy it.  I decided to use my grandfather’s penguin shaker making this one.  

The next Tiki drink was Suffering Bastard on January 8.  It didn’t feel very Tiki to me (and I have made this before) and maybe that is because it was invented in Egypt as a hangover cure for British troops there.  But I do like any drink with ginger beer in it.  

On January 10 I made Fogcutter.  I purchased the Amontillado sherry specially for this drink which is floated on top.  Otherwise it is white rum, gin, brandy, orange juice, lemon juice and orgeat syrup.  It is said to cut through the fog and reduce it.  I liked it, but it wasn’t amazing.    

On January 18 I made us Queen’s Park Swizzles.  This is another Trader Vic cocktail who dubbed it the “most delightful form of anesthesia”.  It was from Trinidad and was the signature drink of the Queen’s Park Hotel there in the 1920’s.  It had rum from Guyana (I used Bermudan), falernum from the Caribbean ( I used Velvet Falernum from Barbados) and Angostura bitters from Trinidad.  It also has lime juice with the shell, mint sprigs (I found some just starting to grow here), simple syrup (I used honey and water) and white rum (I used Bacardi).  This felt very tropical.  And it was enhanced by me pulling out my Trader Vic’s stir paddle and Menehume pick.  

I really liked it this one.  It was fun to be able to taste the Angostura bitters quite well as there are 13 dashes in it.  Tom thought it was too bitter, but I loved it.  

The last of this chapter was The Getaway, one created by the author.  He described it as his most popular and instantly successful drink. It is basically a Daiquiri made with Cynar, an Italian artichoke liqueur.  It also has blackstrap rum, simple syrup and lemon juice.  I loved the idea of trying an artichoke liqueur.  But the drink itself was not that exciting to me. 

On to the next chapter, Drinking in the Dark (Ages), 1970s>1980s.  It started with a Harvey Wallbanger.  The author described Galliano is indispensable in a bar.  It helps with the measurement of the back-bar shelving, it makes a handy weapon against would be assailants, and it makes a Harvey Wallbanger.  And with this drink you can make “one person’s life better in a  small, generous way.”  It is just vodka and orange juice with Galliano floated on top. I really loved this drink.  I am not a fan of Screwdrivers (bad experience), but the Galliano really made this drink with it unique flavor.  This is a new favorite!  Plus now I have a handy weapon too.  

Next was the Tequila Sunrise.  The Rolling Stones apparently popularized this drink.  Bobby Lozoff claims to have created this version and served it to the Stones instead of Margaritas in 1972, and they subsequently named their Exile on Main Street Tour the “Tequila Sunrise Tour”.  Keith Richards apparently called it the “Cocaine and Tequila Sunrise Tour” instead.  It is just silver tequila, orange juice and grenadine.  I always love to use red grenadine as an ode to Jerry Garcia.  But this drink was just boring to me.  

On February 4 I made the Slow Screw.  The author did warn not to make this drink unless you truly want to channel the era.  My goal is to do every drink in this book so I did.  It is vodka, sloe gin and orange juice.  It tasted like sweet orange juice.  Quite boring.  I understand his advice now and the dark ages of cocktails.  I have learned to love the mysterious flavors of exotic bitters and liqueurs, and this does not have any of that.  

On February 8, I made a White Russian.  I have certainly made these before, often wearing my Big Lebowski sweater.  This time I sipped it while reading in the bathtub.  I think The Dude would approve.  It was a fine drink, as always.  

On February 13, I made Stay Off The Grass.  This is a drink created by the author to commemorate the history of Studio 54 and the creation of the song “Le Freak”.  It is basically a grasshopper with some fancy brandy and a little coffee.  I had found the called for Brandy de Jerez at my favorite wine store, Compass Wines in Anacortes.  But it was $140 so I decided to skip it.  And I made the right choice not spending that much money for this drink.  I used some Cognac as a substitute.  The drink was just OK.  I actually would have preferred a grasshopper.  But this was Butcher Day and the day before Valentines Day when I depressingly had to work.  And this unfortunately did not lift my spirits.  

On February 17 I moved into the next chapter (Rebirth of the Cocktail, 1980s-1990s) and made a Cosmopolitan.  This is interesting because I just made one for the folks rooting for Kansas City in the Super Bowl with us.  I used a different recipe though and added extra cranberry juice to try to replicate the Chiefs colors.  

For Tom and myself, I made Fly Like an Eagle-Tini as we were rooting for the Eagles (me half-heartedly).  It is hard to find a midnight green cocktail, by the way.  

So anyway, this Cosmo was pinker than the Super Bowl ones and didn’t have the complexity of the bitters.  But this one is probably more traditional for the era it came from.  And the author celebrates it as an improvement on the cocktails of the previous era, coming out of the dark ages so to speak.  This drink was fine and appropriate for post Valentine’s Day wallowing.  But nothing amazing.  

Next was the Cable Car.  This is a variation of the Side Car and Crusta cocktails. It has a cinnamon sugar rim and spiced rum. Both Tom and I really liked it.  I am slowly learning how to buy ingredients for these drinks so purchased very small bottles of spiced rum so I do not have a large bottle to store after the fact.  I ended up mixing Captain Morgan and Kraken spiced rums, but I wasn’t offended.  This drink was definitely a winner.

On February 28 was Tommy’s Margarita.  This recipe is from a tequila bar in San Francisco run by Julio Bermejo.  I actually already use this recipe as my favorite margarita recipe.  It is still really good.  I skipped the salt rim, but later wished I hadn’t.  It is simple but oh so good!

On March 5, I made a Vodka Espresso.  This is just vodka, espresso and coffee liqueur.  I skipped the simple syrup and espresso beans for garnish. I wasn’t expecting it to be good, but it was.  I usually like my coffee with cream of some kind, but this was great without it . 

Plus I thought it paired well with my finishing the Stuart Anderson autobiography.  The colors matched, and I am guessing this drink or something quite similar was served in his restaurants in their heyday.  

The next recipe in the book is for Chocolate Mojito, but I am having a hard time finding papaya juice so have moved on for now.  

The next (and last chapter) is The Platinum Age 2000s – Now. The first recipe was for a Oaxacan Old Fashioned.  Now I was really skeptical of this recipe, being a huge fan of a good bourbon drink.  But this was actually incredibly good.  It calls for reposado tequila, mezcal, agave nectar and aromatic bitters.  There is an orange peel expressed over it and then added.  The smokiness of the mezcal really did it for me.  Highly recommended!

On March 16 I made Darkside.  It is made with Chinato which I had to purchase for the first time.  It is an aromatized wine with herbs, spices and quinine bark.  It is supposed to pair well with dark chocolate.   I need to try that, but first I used it in this cocktail with gin and Peychaud’s bitters, garnished with a cherry.  This was a really tasty drink.  Kind of like a gin and tonic but more complex.  

You may have been wondering what I am doing with these purchased bottles.  I have created a small bar for myself in the pantry next to the kitchen  I have a hutch in there with the bottles and a space on top for mixing.  It has been working out well.  

On March 24 I finally made the Chocolate Mojito from the previous chapter.  I could never find papaya juice so I bought a papaya and waited for it to ripen.  Once it was ripe, I had to figure out how to get juice from it. So I cut it into pieces, put some in a sieve and smashed them with a spoon.  That worked, but now we have lots of papaya to eat.  

This drink also contains mint leaves, aged rum, Creme de Cacao, lime juice and soda water.  It is an invention of the author.  It sounded good on paper, but I thought it was boring and somewhat tasteless.

On March 31 I made Penicillin.  I had started this a few days prior by making the honey-ginger syrup.  I made only a small quantity of this as I do not need 2 cups worth!  It turns out I did not have blended Scotch whiskey so I substituted the Islay single malt for the whole drink.  This was a mistake.  You couldn’t taste the ginger or honey over the peat.  I made it again with Irish whiskey which is probably sacrilege.  But it tasted much better.  But still not amazing.  The crystallized ginger as a garnish was fun though.  I should probably make it correctly though.  

Yesterday I made Gin Gin Mule.  I did not make the homemade ginger beer though.  And I had run out of this from the store.  So I substitute ginger ale which is likely a mistake.  Plus our mint is barely growing so the sprigs were small.  Also the drink was tiny in my glass.  So I added ice and more ginger ale further diluting the drink.  For me this was boring but probably because of the above reasons.  

And today I made the last recipe in the book!  It is Salad Days Sour, created by the author.  It uses Pisco which is a liquor I have been curious about.  It is infused with celery which is interesting.  Then there’s lemon juice, egg white and simple syrup.  Carrot peel is the garnish.  This was good.  You could actually taste the celery.  It wasn’t great but fun.  I had skipped  the Pisco Sour recipe in the McMenamins Cocktail Book (because I didn’t want to purchased the Pisco) so now I can go back and make it.  

So this was a six month journey into the history of cocktails and was fun.  And I have some new favorites (Lost Boys Cocktail page 64, December 5th Cocktail page 100, Queen’s Park Swizzle page 135, Harvey Wallbanger page 146, Cable Car page 163, Vodka Espresso page 164, and Oaxacan Old Fashioned page 186).

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