Cocktail Hour: A Gaggle of Gins

Ilana Kohn snapped this photo at my Gin in June event last month, showing our steady progession through the history of gin.

We started with Genever, the Dutch alcohol that gave birth to modern gin, in one of the most primitive cocktails: the gin sling.  Next we moved through time to a gin popular in the late 19th century, Old Tom.  It’s slightly sweet and less herbal than a Genever, but more so that a London Dry–the evolutionary link between the two.  We sampled it in a Martinez cocktail (the predecessor of the modern Martini), which is also where the Boker’s bitters went. Then, we moved to a locally produced dry gin, Breucklen, in a cocktail from another burough, the Bronx.

Last, we sampled an old style gin that’s only recently come on the market in America, thanks to the crafty distillers of DH Krahn:  Averell Damson Gin, a herbaceous gin infused with tart plum juice.  The cocktail was served was of my own creation, inspired by an 1832 recipe for a Sloe Gin Fizz.  To get the recipe for the Damson Fizz Punch, go here.  I did a guest post on it for Cocktail Virgin Slut because the drink is so perfect for summer.

Boston 19th Century Pub Crawl Wrap Up!

A carefully crafted rye cocktail from Stoddard's Fine Food and Ale. Notice the breathtakingly beautiful, hand-carved lump of ice in the center. That is some pretty ice.


Since I’ve been on a month- long hiatus from the blog, I figured I should let you know what I’ve been up while I’ve been gone!  First, I’d like to share some images from last weekend’s Boston 19th Century Pub Crawl.

We began the night at Eastern Standard Kitchen & Drinks. I sipped on a Root of All Evil cocktail, a blend of coconut and an amazingly subtle and complex root beer liquor.  It was delicious-one of my favorite cocktails of the night!

The crowd mixes and mingles at Eastern Standard.

Stoddard’s Fine Food and Ale had us enter via the “speakeasy” entrance. The building was built in the 1860s and the entire block is historic. The result was a twisting, turning, increasing shady back alley that suddenly opened up into Stoddard’s. Completely awesome and fun.

A snapshot of the bar at Stoddard’s. The have an amazing list of historic cocktails available every day. To add another degree of authenticity, the bartenders carve off chunks of this giant ice block to make the cocktails. In addition to the rye drink pictured at the top of the post, I had a slammin drink called the Temple Smash: rye, ginger ale, mint, and seltzer. Fav.

Rich poses as our logo.

Waiting to get into the final stop of the evening, Drink.

Cocktail Virgin Slut joined us on the crawl; here, he takes notes on an adorable little cocktail at Drink.


The night ends with a bang: the skilled bartenders at Drink mixed me a Blue Blazer. I had never in my wildest dreams imagined there was a bar with two silver tankards ready to go at a moments notice. To be honest, to have one made for me made me feel like a god. Drink also mixed up an amazing classic punch, in a giantic bowl.  The night ended well.


Cocktail Hour: Drinking Cherry Bounce

Cherry Bounce!

Remember waaaaay back in August when I told you my friend Mike was making Cherry Bounce? Refresh you memory here. When I returned to my hometown of Cleveland for the holidays, the bounce was done and ready to be taste tested.

Mike strained and bottled it before serving.  Everyone was skeptical as it was poured out: the nose was more than a little like cough syrup.  It was downed with the anticipation of fake cherry flavoring…and then, as it flowed over your tongue, you realized it was nothing but the real thing.  Delicious whiskey infused with honest-to-goodness cherries.  It was sweet, but not too sweet, and the cherry flavor was pronounced.  But don’t let its rosy color and candy sweetness fool you: it was STRONG.  It’ll put some hair on your chest, that’s for sure.

I feel like it has tremendous mixing potential, but haven’t figured out with what yet.  Perhaps just over ice in the summer, with a splash of seltzer.

Clevelanders that were there and sampled it, what did you think? Does your opinion differ?

Menus: A Cratchit Christmas

The holidays have come and gone, but file this away for next year: a Christmas dinner based off of Dickens’s classic, a Christmas Carol.  The following menu has been pulled from the description of Bob Crachit’s feast on Christmas Eve — not a sad, meager meal, as it is often portrayed in film interpretations of the story.  But rather a proud day, when the family pooled their modest resources to create a filling feast and a happy occasion.  Read the excerpt from the original story here.

The menu items are linked to the historic or contemporary recipes.

Roast Goose with Sage and Onions
Mashed Potatoes
Apple Sauce
Christmas Plum Pudding in Blazing Brandy

Cock-tail; Gin Sling; Hot Spiced Rum; Charles Dickens Punch

This was the first time I had ever roasted a goose and I was a little disappointed.  Water birds have immense chest cavities, so what appears to be a large bird actually does not has a lot of meat.  A ten pound goose produced a tiny pile of meat; although what few bites I had tasted good.  Knowing that, it’s not a surprise that Scrooge buys the family a big, meaty turkey at the end of the book.

I wasn’t sure how the plum pudding was going to light on fire, but after some discussion, we doused the hot dessert in warm brandy and held a lighter to it, and it was soon engulfed in flame.  It was a very impressive end to the meal.

We also played a rousing game of Snapdragon, which involves plucking raisins out of a pan of burning brandy.  It’s a lot less dangerous that it sounds.

Events: Out of the Bathtub, a Repeal Day Cocktail Party

On December 5th, from 6-8pm, celebrate your right to imbibe at a Repeal Day Cocktail Party! Hosted in the elegant Peacock Alley at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel, the night will include four different cocktails crafted by Frank Caiafa, cocktail expert and head of Peacock Alley’s beverage program. The drink list will be exclusive to this event and include recreations of classic cocktails downed in backdoor speakeasys, as well as modern concoctions inspired by their Prohibition predecessors. Light appetizers will be provided by the Waldorf-Astoria kitchens.

Caiafa will also be on hand to speak about Peacock Alley’s unique history, and the Waldorf-Astoria’s link to the Prohibition era. Scotch Whisky expert Kristina Sutter will discuss the history of Prohibition and how it came to a close.

So come tip your glass to the end of Prohibition and join us for historic cocktails in an incomparable location. Appropriate cocktail attire is required.

Tickets are $45 at the door. Space is limited, RSVP to [email protected]

Cocktail Hour: Drink What Dickens Drank

Oh, Dickens! Always boozing. Illustration by Peter Van Hyning.

When Charles Dickens made his first trip to America in 1842 (recorded in American Notes for General Circulation), he made certain to partake of one of the greatest American inventions: the cocktail.  While visiting Boston, he said “the bar is a large room with a stone floor, and there people stand and smoke, and lounge about, all the evening dropping in and out as the humor takes them.  There too the stranger is initiated into the mysteries of Gin-sling, Cocktail, Sangaree, Mint Julep, Sherry-cobbler, Timber Doodle, and other rare drinks.”

Dickens didn’t write down any recipes for these “rare drinks”, but fortunately some of his contemporaries did.  Captain Alexander, who toured America in 1833, recorded the directions for making The Cock Tail, along with four other drinks he had at the City Hotel in New York, prepared by a celebrity bartender named Willard.  Another English tourist, Captain Marryat, recorded his experiences with Mint Juleps after he made a trip to America in 1837.   He said: “I once overheard two ladies talking in the next room to me, and one of them said, ‘Well if I have a weakness for any one thing, it is for a mint julep!’–a very amiable weakness, and proving her good sense and good taste. They are, in fact, like the American ladies, irresistible.”  I think that quote is like the best thing ever.

Much of what we know about Victorian cocktails comes from How to Mix Drinks; or, the Bon-Vivants Companion by Prof. Jerry Thomas, published in 1862. Which, thanks to Google, is now online.

Couldn’t make it out to What Dickens Drank at apex art last week?  No worries; below, all the recipes you need to mix an 1840s cocktail at home.  Photos from the event, and more, can be found here.

Cocktail Hour: Bowled Over

The Pineapple Julep.

“This is a tricky time of year for cocktails. We’ve turned the corner into fall, and yet it’s still hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk. How can we ease the transition from frosty summer concoctions to warm winter imbibements? Make a bowl of punch!”

This week, I’ve got an article up on The Spirit ( ) on fall punches.  For a brief history of punch and delicious recipes, read the full article here.

Ruby Punch.

Cocktail Hour: The Whiskey Sour

Illustration by Angela Oster.

Whiskey is my drink of choice, so I admit I love the unintentional whiskey theme of this week.

The Whiskey Sour was invented sometime in the middle of the 19th century; Jerry Thomas describes a brandy and a gin variation in his 1862 book.  Other variations: a dash of egg white makes it into the Boston Sour, and Boston also gave birth to the Ward 8 in 1898, which adds orange juice and grenadine.

The Whiskey Sour

From The Cocktail Book: A Sideboard Manual for Gentlemen, 1926

2 teaspoons simple syrup (or super fine sugar)
2-3 dashes lemon juice
1 tablespoon seltzer
2 ounces whiskey

1. In a rocks glass, add simple syrup, lemon juice and seltzer. Stir to combine (or until sugar is dissolved).
2. Fill glass with ice, and add whiskey.  Stir until the outside of the glass is cold.  Garnish with a cherry and orange wedge, or seasonal fruits.


And if you like a Whiskey Sour, try the Ward III at the 19th C. Pub Crawl’s last stop, Ward III: “Made with bourbon, strawberries, egg whites and nutmeg, it’s actually ‘a derivation of the classic Sour,’ explains (owner) Neff. A historical classic, viewed through rose-colored glasses—and given a healthy dose of red berries, too.” (Metromix New York)

For a full list of Ward III’s “exquisite libations”, go here.

Cocktail Hour: The Manhattan

Illustration by Angela Oster.

David Wondrich, cocktail historian and Jerry Thomas expert, says the Manhattan “…Probably dates to the Manhattan Club, which was a social club for rich Democrats at Fifth Avenue and 15th Street in the 1870s.”  Accustomed to the maraschino cherry standards of a modern-day Manhattan, I was pleasantly surprised when I was recently served a variation from Wondrich’s book Imbibe! Remarkably smooth and even a touch sweet, this has been my favorite drink I’ve quaffed in a long time.

The Manhattan
From Imbibe! By David Wondrich, 2007.
Based on a recipe by Jerry Thomas.

2 ounces rye whiskey
1 ounce Italian sweet vermouth
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 dash Absinthe
1 barspoon (or one teaspoon) Maraschino liquor

1.  Fill a tumbler with ice; add all ingredients and stir until the outside of the glass is cold.

2. Strain into a martini (cocktail) glass, and garnish with a cherry or a twist of lemon peel.


Ready for another variation of this classic drink?  Try Madame X‘s Dirty Cherry Manhattan.  The second stop on the 19th C. Pub Crawl, Madam X serves up a Manhattan made with Basil Hayden’s 8-year-old bourbon, sour cherry syrup and sweet vermouth.  For a full list of Madame X’s cocktails, go here.

Cocktail Hour: The Sazerac

Illustration by Angela Oster.

When Absinthe became legal in the states, the first drink cocktail enthusiasts began mixing up was the Sazerac.  Invented in New Orleans circa 1870, it’s based on an even older Cognas drink invented by Antoine Amédée Peychaud; his bitters are indispensable in creating this cocktail.

The Sazerac

From The Cocktail Book 1926 Reprint: A Sideboard Manual For Gentlemen, 1926

four dashes absinthe
2 ounces rye whiskey
3 dashed Peychaud bitters
1 teaspoon simple syrup

1. Pour absinthe into a rocks glass, and swirl it around until the bottom and the sides of the glass are coated.  Pour out absinthe.

2. Add ice, then whiskey, bitters, and simple syrup.  Still until the outside of the glass is cold.  Garnish with a sprig of mint and enjoy.


For an updated version of this recipe, order the 17th Street Sazerac at Rye House, the first stop on the 19th Century Pub Crawl on Saturday.  Metromix New York, who inspired this post, had this to say about the modernized cocktail:  “Made from Rittenhouse Rye, Hine Cognac, demerara syrup, Peychaud and Angostura bitters and Marteau Absinthe, the drink has all the anise zip of the original, but a deeper tone as well. Not a traditional 1835 pour by any means.”

Sounds ok to me, but I may be more tempted by the Rye House Punch, a combination of chai infused Rittenhouse rye, Batavia Arrack, lemon, grapefruit, Angostura bitters, and soda.  Not only do I love a good chai tea, but I am fascinated with Batavia Arrack, a popular 19th century spirit only recently re-introduced to the market.  I’m going to pick up a bottle to experiment with some 19th-century recipes, but I can’t wait to try it in a Victorian-inspired cocktail on Saturday.

For a full list of Ryehouse’s cocktails, go here.