San Francisco Cocktail Week

The second annual San Francisco Cocktail Week is fast approaching. Held from May 13th to 19th, just about every bar and bartender in San Francisco seems to be planning something cool.

So far the things I am really excited about are this seminar at the Hotel Rex…

“Literature, Booze and History”
Time: 5:00pm-7:00pm
Location: The Salon at Hotel Rex
Cost: $30.00 per person
In a benefit for the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society, San Francisco
magazine’s Scott Hocker will moderate a literary discussion of all things spirit
related, featuring great cocktail historian David Wondrich and local writer and
bartender Jordan Mackay, among additional panelists. Guests will be treated to
Cantina’s infamous preparation of the San Francisco classic Pisco Punch.
Following the discussion, guests are invited to a book signing with attending
authors and an after-party at Cantina.

Chuckle, I wonder if there is still limoncello in that there “infamous” Pisco Punch.

…And the “Bourbon and Bacon Dinner” at Orson I recently read about in this week’s edition of Tablehopper. 6 courses of pork variations and matched cocktails? I am so totally down with that!

For more information, keep an eye on the SF Cocktail Week website, or drop a note to Duggan, Jeff, and H. at the email addresses listed on the Cocktail Week website.

Blue Train Special Cocktail

Blue Train Special Cocktail
(6 People)

Fill the shaker with cracked ice and pour into it 1 glass of Brandy (1 oz Korbel VSOP) and 1 glass Pineapple Syrup (3/4 oz pineapple juice, 3 tsp superfine sugar, stir to dissolve). Shake carefully, and then add 3 glasses of Champagne (3 oz Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava). Give one or two more shakes and serve without further delay.

As usual, I am halving the recipe by assuming two ounces per “glass” and then making half. This one seemed a bit small.

I’ll give decoding this my best.

Blue Train likely candidates.

1) South African luxury train.
2) Train from Paris to Calais, “Le Train Bleu”.
3) “Splendid Belle Epoque restaurant in the heart of the Gare de Lyon railway station.” Also, “Le Train Bleu”.

You may remember a certain Barney Barnato from the Barney Barnato Cocktail. When Barney Barnato died, he left his two year old son an heir to his millions. When this son, (Joel) Woolf Barnato, grew up, he became quite the bon vivant. His enthusiasms included car racing, Bentleys, drinking, and parties. He and his friends were called “The Bentley Boys”. They competed in various European motor races. In fact, Woolf Barnato won the Le Mans race three times out of three starts, a record that has not been beaten to this day.

In March of 1930, Woolf Barnato was at a party in Cannes. Some speculation arose about the speed of the cars among the attendees. Many wondered if it was possible for someone to race the famous express rail, “Le Train Bleu,” and beat it from Paris to Calais. Woolf pooh poohed this idea, and said his custom Bentley could get to London before the train got to Calais. Bets were laid and Woolf wagered 200 pounds he could get to his favorite club in London before The Blue Train arrived in Calais.

The next day, when “Le Train Bleu” left the Paris station, with the assistance of a second driver, Barnato departed simultaneously. Barnato reached Calais the next morning at 10:30 AM, and took his car on the ferry across the channel. He arrived at the Conservative Club on St. James Street 4 minutes before the Blue Train arrived in Calais.

I would guess a champagne cocktail or two might be in order.

From then on he called his custom Bentley “The Blue Train Special”. He even had a bar built into the dashboard.

The cocktail is rather tastier than I expected. Sweet, fizzy, and slightly exotic. Just the ticket for a Bright Young Thing during London’s exuberant 30s.

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the cocktails in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, Zed.

Blue Train Cocktail

Blue Train Cocktail

1/4 Lemon Juice. (1/2 oz Lemon Juice)
1/4 Cointreau. (1/2 oz Cointreau)
1/2 Dry Gin. (1 oz Plymouth Gin)
1 Dash of Blue Vegetable Extract. (1 drop Blue Coloring)

Shake well and strain into cocktail glass. (Lemon Twist.)

Aside from being blue, this cocktail has several close relatives. Among them are the Sidecar, the Margarita, and the Aviation.

For whatever reason, this one doesn’t quite rise to the heights of those cocktails. It is a perfectly fine and refreshing Gin cocktail. Just not, for whatever reason, a real classic for me.

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the cocktails in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, Zed.

Blue Monday Cocktail

I thought the Blue Monday a fine opportunity to gather a few of the examples of Orange Liqueur I seem to have accumulated and do a little comparison.

From Left to Right, we have Luxardo Triplum, Brizard Orange Curacao, Senior Curacao of Curacao, and Cointreau.

Blue Monday Cocktail

1/4 Cointreau (1/2 oz Orange Liqueur)
3/4 Vodka (1 1/2 oz Rain Vodka)
1 Dash Blue Vegetable Extract (1 drop Blue Food Coloring)

Shake (stir – eje) well and strain into cocktail glass.

What was immediately apparent, (and perhaps responsible for my reaction to the Blue Devil,) is that the Blue Food Coloring I used is not flavorless. Definitely adds a subtle unpleasant odor and flavor to the proceedings. In the future, a replacement will be needed. Just glad I didn’t try making these for guests.

In order from sweetest to least sweet, the liqueurs seem to go, Brizard, Luxardo, Senior, Cointreau.

The Brandy base of the Brizard, especially, makes it stand out. It’s more like an orange flavored brandy than a Triple Sec. This tasting made me re-think using it as an ingredient.

Of the others, I found the Luxardo to have the harshest base character. It definitely has that “after shave” kind of smell and is pretty hot on the tongue. Also slightly odd, the Luxardo cocktail seemed to haze slightly when chilled, like some of the orange oils were dropping out of solution. The Cointreau was next, still having a bit of alcohol heat and smell; but, more subtle and pleasant.

I was actually surprised how much I enjoyed the Senior Curacao of Curacao. It’s not a piercing or bitter orange flavor; but, a very nice, fresh, orange flavor. The base spirit, as well, is the smoothest, making it the most pleasant to enjoy in this cocktail.

As for the Blue Monday Cocktail itself, unless you are fond of slightly sweet and orangey, super-dry vodka martinis, I can’t really recommend it. I think it might be significantly improved with a dash of lemon juice, orange bitters, or a squeeze of orange peel. Just be sure your blue coloring is truly neutral in flavor before embarking.

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the cocktails in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, Zed.

Proposed California Beer Tax

New Drys on the move again?

Higher state tax on beer?, By Mike Zapler, Mercury News Sacramento Bureau, 04/11/2008 01:34:17 AM PDT

SACRAMENTO – Joe Six-pack will have to pay a lot more to get his buzz on if Assemblyman Jim Beall has his way.
The San Jose Democrat on Thursday proposed raising the beer tax by $1.80 per six-pack, or 30 cents per can or bottle. The current tax is 2 cents per can. That’s an increase of about 1,500 percent.

Beall said the tax would generate $2 billion a year to fund health care services, crime prevention and programs to prevent underage drinking and addiction.

Ack! Most of the beer I buy is already in the $7-10 range. At those new rates, I think I would be seriously investigating home brewing!

My favorite quote from Assemblyman Beall, “The people who use alcohol should pay for part of the cost to society, just like we’ve accepted that concept with tobacco.”

Fortunately, many of his peers in the Assembly see Beall’s bill as a non-starter noting, “‘I predict the shelf life will be very short,’ said Assemblyman Roger Niello, R-Sacramento, vice chairman of the budget committee. ‘It’s a piecemeal approach to the budget that completely avoids any discussion of spending discipline, which is fundamentally why we have the problem that we have.'”

The proposed bill is a California constitutional amendment which would require 2/3 approval of both the Assembly and Senate along with voter approval.

Interestingly, this is the same Assemblyman who got so called “Alco-Pops” reclassified last year as hard liquor. This previous effort will raise the price of those sweet malt liquor based beverages by approximately $2 a six pack starting June 2008.

BOTW–Mirror Pond

What can I say, sometimes on a hot day it’s nice to sit on the back porch and have a good, relatively simple beer. Especially, if you’re maybe a bit hung over from the night before.

Mirror Pond is fairly generously hopped for a Pale Ale, with lots of malty goodness. I suppose perhaps most similar to Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Well, excepting the fact that I like Mirror Pond and I don’t like Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

To explain, this is just personal preference. I don’t think Sierra Nevada Pale is a bad beer.

It’s just when we first moved to California I drank an awful lot of it. After a year or two of Sierra Nevada Beer, I found that all their beers had some similar flavor somewhere in them. It just started to bug me. Nowadays I’ll drink Sierra if there’s nothing else, but much prefer something from Deschutes or Anchor Brewing.

Blue Devil Cocktail

Blue Devil Cocktail

/2 Dry Gin (1 1/2 oz Boodles Gin)
1/4 Lemon Juice or Lime Juice (3/4 oz lemon Juice)
1/4 Maraschino (3/4 oz Luxardo Maraschino)
1 Dash Blue Vegetable Extract (1 Drop Blue Food Coloring)

Shake well and strain into cocktail glass.

First, the Blue Devil does have a great name.

However, I can’t quite figure it out. It falls somewhere between the quite tart Savoy Aviation Cocktail and the pretty sweet Allen (Special) Cocktail. Well, and it is blue. For whatever reason, I preferred both the Allen and the Aviation. Variety of Gin? Color? Ratio? Can’t quite place why.

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the cocktails in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, Zed.

Blue Blazer


Use two large silver-plated mugs, with handles.
1 Wineglass Scotch Whisky. (2 oz Whiskey)
1 Wineglass Boiling Water. (About 1 oz Boiling Water)

Put the Whisky into one mug, and the boiling water into the other, ignite the Whisky with fire, and while blazing mix both ingredients by pouring them four or five times from one mug to the other. If well done, this will have the appearance of a continued stream of liquid fire. Sweeten with one teaspoonful of powdered white sugar (superfine or caster sugar), and serve in a small (tempered!) bar tumbler (Or coffee mug), with a piece of lemon peel.

The Blue Blazer dies not have a very euphonious or classic name, but. it tastes better to the palate than it sounds to the ear A beholder gazing for the first time upon an experienced artist compounding this beverage, would naturally come to the conclusion that it was a nectar for Pluto rather than Bacchus. The novice in mixing this beverage should be careful not to scald himself. To become proficient in throwing the liquid from one mug to the other, it will be necessary to practise for some time with cold water.


1) Have a fire extinguisher handy and remove all flammable objects from the area.

2) You will note I had to put the whiskey in a pan and warm it a bit to get it to light. In a change from the above instructions, I suggest you add the boiling water to the whisk(e)y before trying to light it. The combination of hot water and whiskey will raise the temperature enough to create alcohol vapor and allow you to easily ignite it with a match. Using cask strength spirits also helps to get the fire going.

3) While preparing this, one guest remarked, “Oh, that is a Blue Flame, it’s not as hot as regular fire.” I am afraid that the temperature of an alcohol flame is just as damn hot as that of pretty much any other flame. Those mixing tins get very, very hot. Do not touch them directly until they have had a chance to cool down.

4) Burning alcohol makes a fine finish remover for tile floors. Other wise men have suggested, in the future, that I place damp towels underneath the area where I am mixing Blue Blazers.

I don’t have any barrel proof Scotch, so I decided to use the Buffalo Trace Antique collection barrel proof George T. Stagg Whiskey instead. It’s 140.6 Proof, so I figured I wouldn’t have much trouble lighting it.

Unfortunately, this cocktail is very difficult to capture this with the lights on. Also, you really need smell-o-vision to properly appreciate how the hot whiskey aroma fills the room. Aromatherapy be damned, just make a Blue Blazer.

It’s hard to beat a flaming whisk(e)y toddy!

Comments from the evening’s guests were, “Oooo, that’s really good!” and, “It warms you all the way down to your toes!”

So, yeah, I’d say the Blue Blazer was quite a hit.

Some of the guests suggested I could make good money preparing Blue Blazers at parties.

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the cocktails in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, Zed.

Blue Bird Cocktail

Blue Bird Cocktail

4 Dashes Angostura Bitters
3/4 Wineglassful of Gin (2 oz Tanqueray)
5 Dashes Orange Curacao (Teaspoon Brizard Orange Curacao)

Shake, (stir, please,) well and strain into cocktail glass. (Squeeze Orange Peel over drink.)

A 19th Century style Gin Cock-tail (Link to Jerry Thomas’ recipe on Art of the Drink) by any other name…

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the cocktails in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, Zed.

Blood and Sand Cocktail

Blood and Sand Cocktail

1/4 Orange Juice (3/4 oz fresh Blood Orange Juice)
1/4 Scotch Whisky (3/4 oz Compass Box Asyla)
1/4 Cherry Brandy (3/4 oz Massenez Creme de Griotte)
1/4 Italian Vermouth (3/4 oz Cinzano Rosso Vermouth)

Shake well and strain into cocktail glass.

This one is supposed to be named after the 1922 movie of the same name featuring Rudolph Valentino. The movie is the story of a bullfighter rising from a poor background only to be defeated by his own ambition.

As far as the cocktail goes, I think the Asyla is a bit too civilized for this company. The cocktail probably could have used a more assertive a Scotch. Also, while not syrupy, the Blood and Sand, especially made with the Massenez Creme de Griotte, is pretty sweet. If you make it yourself, I’d recommend picking up some Cherry Heering, as it is drier and definitely superior in this cocktail.

My use of blood orange wasn’t really planned. We have a couple kinds of oranges in the fridge, and I picked a small one thinking it was a valencia. When I split it, I realized it was a blood orange. Well, “apropos,” I thought. Also, these are very early season blood oranges, so still quite tart. The berry/musk doesn’t really start to overwhelm the fruit until later in the year.

Blood and Sand is another of those cocktails that had been on my list to try for quite a while. I usually have all the stuff for it in the house. It had just has never made it to the top of the list. First there’s the short list of regular cocktails then there’s the cool ones I read about in Gary Regan’s column or on the Internet… Any of those always seem more appealing than the BandS.

It certainly is an odd cocktail. Fairly mild on the alcohol front, not as sweet as a dessert cocktail, and neither dry nor aromatic enough to qualify as an aperitif or digestif. In a lot of ways, I’ve come to think of it as the blueprint for a lot of the modern, middle of the road cocktails.

Oh, and oddly, Patrick Gavin Duffy instructs this cocktail should be stirred, not shaken.

Here are a couple more links to much better writers than I tackling the mystery that is the Blood and Sand.

Professor gets some Education, Gary Regan, in a SF Chronicle Cocktailian column from 2003

Naming Names, Paul Clarke, from his Cocktail Chronicles blog in 2005

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the cocktails in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, Zed.