Willie Smith Cocktail

First, just a reminder that Sunday, Jan 30, 2010, is our monthly exercise in folly, Savoy Cocktail Book Night at Alembic Bar. If any of the cocktails on this blog have captured your fancy, stop by after 6 and allow the skilled bartenders (and me) to make them for you. It is always a fun time.

Willie Smith Cocktail
1 Dash Lemon Juice. (Very Generous Dash Lemon Juice)
1/3 Maraschino. (1/2 oz Maraschino)
2/3 Brandy. (1 1/2 oz Osocalis Brandy)
Shake well and strain into cocktail glass.

Sort of a Brandy heavy Sidecar, sweetened with (too much) Maraschino Liqueur, the Willie Smith Cocktail might have been named after Willie the Lion Smith…

From an Answers.com Article:

Willie the Lion Smith was a pianist who stood at the center of the New York City jazz world in the roaring 1920s. He performed at the most fashionable nightclubs in New York City’s predominantly African-American Harlem neighborhood, accompanied other musicians on recordings, and inspired and mentored a host of younger musicians. Smith is regarded as a pioneer of stride piano, the first important solo piano style in the jazz tradition. He is less well known than other pianists of the 1920s such as James P. Johnson and Thomas P. “Fats” Waller, primarily because he made few recordings under his own name until later in his career.

You can listen and learn more here on this NPR piece:

Jazz Profiles from NPR: Willie “The Lion” Smith

William Henry Joseph Bonaparte Bertholoff Smith, aka Willie The Lion Smith, was a piano player who greatly influenced many future Jazz greats during the early part of the 20th Century.  A contemporary of Fats Waller he bridged the “Stride” piano style with the Chamber and Swing Jazz styles that were to come. He made his true fame playing Harlem house parties during prohibition, influencing other more famous players like Duke Ellington.

Interestingly, he felt the legalization of liquor did more harm to Harlem, than Prohibition ever did, as White people with money no longer had a reason to frequent the clubs and house parties where many in that neighborhood made their money.

“It was legal liquor that did to Harlem what scarcer tips and shuttered warehouses had failed to do.”

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.

The Bitter Truth about Bittermens

A few people have wondered about the formulation of Bittermens Bitters, now that they are again making them here in America, instead of contracting production to The Bitter Truth.

Nicely, Avery Glasser noticed that I had used his product in my re-modeled version of the Whizz-Doodle and commented with details.

In case you weren’t following that post, here are his comments:

So, here’s the reason there were differences between our initial Xocolatl Mole, what TBT was producing under license from us and the “real” Bittermens Xocolatl Mole that we relaunched with when we rebooted Bittermens in July 2010.

The initial Xocolatl Mole and what we are producing ourselves now after the reboot is exactly the same formula: it’s what we submitted to the TTB before we partnered with TBT. Only three things changed. First, we went from making 2 liter batches to 20 gallon batches, which is helping ensure consistency from batch to batch. Second, we went from filtering using a gold coffee filter to using a real filtration system (and every batch the filtration gets better – we’re now using a 5 micron filter for the first time – before, we were filtering at 10 microns), which brightens the flavor a little and improves shelf stability. Finally, we’ve really taken a great amount of care to find the right cacao nibs. Initially we were using Scharffen-Berger nibs, now we’re using smaller-batch nibs from artisanal roasters and finding that it’s improving the chocolate profile without making the chocolate too overpowering.

When we partnered with TBT, we had to make compromises so that our formulas would fit their processes. That meant changes in the maturation time and final alcohol content (and yes, we do think that the final ABV radically changes how the flavors disperse across the tongue). We also had to change a number of ingredients – we purchase 95% of our ingredients now from organic producers and really take the time to select the vendors to ensure that we’re getting the flavors we want. With TBT, they selected the vendors based on what they had access to. Some items changed (from peels to essential oils) based on what they could find and what they were willing to make (for example, certain ingredients were too much of a strain on their filtration equipment). At the end of the day, we did approve the final formulations before they went into production – and we accepted the compromises because at that time, it was the only way to get our products to market.

Now that we’ve ended our partnership with TBT and are self producing, we’re staying true to the products and formulas that we want to make.

Hope this is helpful

Oh – and you won’t have two expressions to play with regarding our Xocolatl Mole and the TBT produced version for much longer. TBT lost their right to produce any of our formulas in July 2010, so once their stock is sold out, there’s no more TBT produced Xocolatl Mole or Grapefruit bitters. They may come out with new chocolate or grapefruit flavors, but they won’t have anything to do with our recipes.

Purchased Goods, Jan 28 2011

As you may have gathered over the years, Impulse Control isn’t exactly one of my strong points.

Worked from home this morning, then headed in around 10:30. Well, I transfer downtown…

A few weeks ago our friends Cameron and Anita, who write the lovely Married…With Dinner website, had us over. After dinner, they asked if we would like some sort of digestiv. Not being one to demur such pleasantries, we agreed post-haste. Interestingly, they had an Amaro I hadn’t tried before called Amaro Meletti. It was mildly bitter and tasted of Saffron, Anise, and some floral elements. We were immediately taken with it, whereupon we discovered they had imported it, suitcase wise, from out of state. Unclear if it was available here, I sent a note to a few friends in the liquor trade, who weren’t entirely sure if it was still available. Fortunately, one Michael Lazar, of Left Coast Libations fame, took it upon himself to comment on the blog that it was available and sitting on the shelf at Cask Store in downtown San Francisco.

Clearly a lunch time field trip was in order, as there is nothing I like to do more on my lunch hour than hang out in a bar or liquor store and geek out about spirits, cocktails, and cocktail books. No, really.

Anyway, today provided a happy coincidence, but, as I mentioned, Impulse Control: Not my strong suit. Chatting with Amy Murray about her current faves in the Scotch category, this 15 year old Mortlach from Murray McDavid came up. I’m a fan of many of Murray McDavid’s offererings, this sounded intriguing. 15 years old, finished in Rum Barrels. Plus, getting to know Speyside and Lowlands is my current assignment to myself! Win!

Lately, I’ve also been drinking a lot of vermouth and soda. No, really. Kind of sitting January out on the hard liquor front, Vermouth (or Madeira) and soda (or tonic) is a nice change of pace. I’ve been missing having Punt e Mes around the house, but I didn’t feel like I could justify it until I finished my bottle of Carpano Antica. Well, Carpano Antica, you are history, and Punt e Mes, you are back in the Flannestad household.

I am a coffee nerd, or geek, or something. About a million years ago, I briefly worked for a coffee roaster as an espresso jerk and coffee delivery slave. The only real upside to that back breaking job was that we got free coffee. And I always smelled like freshly roasted coffee beans. Apparently that smell is appealing to a certain segment of the female population aka Mrs. Flannestad. Anyway, Four Barrel is my current favorite roaster in town, one of the few that resists the Peet’s and Starbuck’s culture of “deep roasting”.

Lagunitas Beer. Mrs. Flannestad’s lately been on a bit of a Bridgeport Hop Czar binge. I like that beer, but we’ve had six packs for the last few weeks. Lagunitas is a great brewery in Petaluma, CA and we shall see if Lagunitas Maximus meets with her approval. It appears to be some sort of Double IPA.

Finally, I was out of cocktail cherries. The Luxardo Cherries in syrup are the bomb.

Widow’s Kiss Cocktail

First, just a reminder that Sunday, Jan 30, 2010, is our monthly exercise in folly, Savoy Cocktail Book Night at Alembic Bar. If any of the cocktails on this blog have captured your fancy, stop by after 6 and allow the skilled bartenders (and me) to make them for you. It is always a fun time.

Widow’s Kiss Cocktail
1 Dash Angostura Bitters. (1 dash Angostura)
1/2 Liqueur glass Chartreuse. (1/2 oz Yellow Chartreuse)
1/2 Liqueur Glass Benedictine. (1/2 oz Benedictine)
1 Liqueur Glass Calvados or Apple Brandy. (1 oz Calvados Montreuil)
Shake well (I stirred) and strain into cocktail glass.

“And if you close the door, the night could last forever.”

For some reason, the Widow’s Kiss Cocktail reminds me of the song, “After Hours” by the Velvet Underground.

As written, half Calvados and half liqueurs, it is rather sickly sweet. I have re-jiggered the ratios somewhat, a common tactic, and still find it too sweet for me. You could take them down to a quarter oz each, and I would be much happier.

Another tactic, sometimes taken, is to add some citrus to the drink, to balance out the intense sweetness of the Benedictine and Chartreuse liqueurs. That gets a bit far from the origins of the drink for me, but it also works and is tasty.

By the way, this is a drink, in my opinion, which should be made with Calvados. American Apple Brandies just don’t have the weight or interest to carry the drink. (Well, unless you choose to add some citrus, in which case American Apple Brandy will probably be fine. But then you’re just making an Herbal Jack Rose.)

I’m ambivalent about the Widow’s Kiss. It is a really good drink, and one of the best cocktail names of all times, but it is also far too sweet.

I suppose, properly, it is an after dinner, (Or After Hours?) digestive type cocktail, and enjoying it with coffee might be one way of coping with its extreme sweetness.

Otherwise, drying out the proportions works, though then it heads towards boozy-landia, basically being just a cold glass of Calvados.

Another treatment might be to take a Stinger type strategy, and serve it over crushed ice.

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.

Widow’s Dream Cocktail

Widow’s Dream Cocktail
1 Egg
1 Liqueur Glass Benedictine.
Shake well. Strain into medium size glass, and fill glass with cream.

Interestingly, Hugo Ensslin’s version of the Widow’s Dream, from “Recipes for Mixed Drinks”, is as follows:

Widow’s Dream Cocktail
1 Drink Benedictine
1 cold fresh Egg
Fill up with Cream

Use a Cocktail Glass.

No mention of shaking at all, putting this in a category of drinks, rather like the Golden Slipper, that seems largely to have gone out of fashion by the Twentieth Century, the pousse cafe with a whole unbroken egg or egg yolk floating in it.

Like the Golden Slipper, I thought I would give it a try in the Old School manner, though I won’t use a whole egg in it.

Widow’s Dream Cocktail
1 1/2 oz Benedictine
1 Egg Yolk
1 oz Sweet Cream, softly whipped
Grated Nutmeg

Add Benedictine to glass, float in egg yolk. Layer cream on top and grate nutmeg over.

Well, it is kind of appealing looking, Sun and Clounds kind of thing. Not even entirely unpleasant to drink, though definitely go for a small-ish Chicken, or even quail, egg.

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.

Received Goods, Jan 26, 2011

As I wind down this Savoy Enterprise, I hope to find time on the blog to feature things created, or at least new to me, since 1930.

Sometimes companies promoting booze or related products send me free stuff.

For the most part, I have not really had the time on the blog to feature anything that didn’t fit in with the Savoy Project.

Moving forward, I hope to do a better job thanking my nameless overlords in the booze business.

For example, I recently received an email with several recipes for cocktails featuring a new product from the Maker’s Mark distillery.

I responded to the person promoting these cocktails, that I would love to try these new cocktails, but didn’t have the product.

Nicely, she agreed to send a sample, but also mentioned she was promoting another product, a new Pisco Mosto Verde. Score! I am currently very interested in Pisco, maybe even more interested than I am in a new Bourbon.

So here are the first two samples to arrive under the new regime, I hope to get a chance to feature detailed write ups in the near future.

As I mentioned, Maker’s 46 is the first new product from the Maker’s Mark distillery in a number of years. It is a Bourbon Whiskey finished with additional aging period in contact with “seared” Oak Staves.

Pisco Porton‘s Mosto Verde is a new product from a very old distillery. Distilled from grape must, or grape juice that hasn’t completely fermented, it is alleged that the product is more representative of the grapes it is distilled from.

I hope to put both these products through their paces and will endeavor to get the results up on the blog as soon as possible.

PS. I am shamelessly stealing the idea of “Received Goods” from author Warren Ellis (who does NOT play in the Dirty Three, The Bad Seeds, or Grinderman). Whenever people send him stuff, he puts a picture up and a post called “Received Goods”. So shall it be.

Whizz-Bang Cocktail

First, just a reminder that Sunday, Jan 30, 2010, is our monthly exercise in folly, Savoy Cocktail Book Night at Alembic Bar. If any of the cocktails on this blog have captured your fancy, stop by after 6 and allow the skilled bartenders (and me) to make them for you. It is always a fun time.

Whizz-Bang Cocktail
2 Dashes Absinthe. (2 Dash Absinthe Duplais Verte)
2 Dashes Grenadine. (1 tsp. Small Hand Foods Grenadine)
2 Dashes Orange Bitters. (2 Dash Angostura Orange)
1/3 French Vermouth. (3/4 oz Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth)
2/3 Scotch Whisky. (1 1/2 oz Highland Park 8 Year Old, MacPhail’s Collection)
Shake (I stirred) well and strain into cocktail glass.
I suspect the source of this cocktail is Robert Vermiere’s 1922 recipe book, “Cocktails: How to Mix Them”. He notes, “Recipe by Tommy Burton, Sports’ Club, London, 1920. This cocktail is named after the high-velocity shells, so called by the “Tommies” during the war, because all you heard was a whiz and the explosion of the shell immediately afterwards.”

From the wikipedia article:

Tommy Atkins – or Thomas Atkins – has been used as a generic name for a common British soldier for many years. The precise origin is a subject of debate, but it is known to have been used as early as 1743. A letter sent from Jamaica about a mutiny amongst the troops says “except for those from N. America (mostly Irish Papists) ye Marines and Tommy Atkins behaved splendidly”. The surname Atkins means “little son of red earth”, a reference to the soldiers in their red tunics. Tommy (a diminutive of Thomas), meaning twin, has been a very popular English male name since Saint Thomas Becket was martyred in the 12th century.

For all the not so subtle menace implied by the name and the quote, this is a fairly easy going and drinkable cocktail. A sort of Rob Roy variation, the dry vermouth allows the Scotch to come more to the fore, even with the few embellishments. I got this Absinthe in a small tasting bottle a while ago, and am finding it pleasant, though a tad less assertive compared to other Absinthes I sometimes use. I suppose that isn’t entirely a bad thing for mixed drinks.

You sometimes get requests for Scotch Cocktails and there are not really all that many options. The Whizz-Bang would be a nice change up from the usual Bobby Burns, Rob Roy, Affinity, Blood and Sand, Laphroig Project, and Penicillin Cocktails.

Breaking News Update!

Between my making this cocktail and the post hitting the schedule, I heard from Craig Lane, of Bar Agricole. He wanted to put the cocktail on the menu there and was looking for source corroboration for the story related to its origin.

I provided the quote from Robert Vermeire and he asked if I was interested in the specifics of the version at their restaurant. Well, of course!

We decided to use the Sutton Cellars Brown Label vermouth, which synced up rather nicely with the palate of Famous Grouse. It was one of those recipes that didn’t require much tweaking after that. 1.5 oz Scotch, .75 oz Sutton Vermouth, 1 barspoon Grenadine, 2 dash Orange Bitters (ours), 2 dash Absinthe (Leopold’s).

Clearly a field trip to check out the Bar Agricole version is in order!

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.

Atholl Brose

When I was telling some public transport acquaintances, (riding the same bus, at the same time for several years, eventually even a taciturn curmudgeon like myself meets some people,) about my recent adventures in Milk Punch, they mentioned that it sounded similar to a traditional drink they sometimes make called Atholl Brose.

Given my long term interest in Grain Based Beverages and Food Stuffs, Atholl Brose had always tweaked my interest, but never really enough to research and undertake production. I mean, Honey, Scotch, Oats and Cream, how could it be bad?

But to back track a bit…

Almost every civilized human culture on the planet has some form of grain based beverage. After all, soaking grain in water is the easiest way to derive some small portion of nutrition from it.

The New World has its corn based beverages, which vary in substance and sweetness all the way from liquidy beverages to puddings and eventually forming the basis for tortillas.

Likewise, in Asia, rice and soybeans get this treatment, creating a spectrum of nutrient rich foodstuffs from beverages and porridges to noodles and cakes.

Europe was no different, basing many of its grain beverages on Barley. To this day, you can buy Barley Water beverages at UK import stores and someone might think to make a batch for their senile old uncle who lives somewhere in the attic. Easier to digest than bread.

(At this point, I shall skip a long digression regarding the evolution of Barley Water to the Almond based Syrup which eventually came to be known as Orgeat. I instead refer you to the writeup of the talk I gave at Tales of the Cocktail in 2008: Homemade Ingredients. Most of that information is covered there.)

In Scotland, Oats and Barley were grains of choice, but much of the culinary energy was spent making the Oat palatable. Oats and Oatmeal are used nearly across the board as porridge, cake, and in a few cases beverages.

One of the most famous of these beverages is Atholl Brose, a drink composed of Oats, Honey, Cream, and, nicely, Scotch Whisky.

The name is a two part word. The Brose part of the name refers to the Oatmeal Water leftover from soaking oats. A nominally nutritious beverage, which only becomes palatable if you roast the oats and sweeten it with honey or sugar. Atholl refers to one of the original Pictish kingdoms of Scotland. It was a mountainous region, and calling the beverage “Atholl Brose” was sort of like calling it “Back Country Brose” or “Mountain Brose”, in other words, where the Whisky Stills were.

In any case, a little liquor and honey will put that annoying dyspeptic Uncle to sleep a bit faster than plain old Oat Water!

Scanning the Internet, I didn’t find much commonality among the various recipes for Atholl Brose.

Some were trifle-like puddings, others beverages, some just spiked porridge.

I figured I might as well try my own hand at a variation, using ingredients I like.

1 Cup Goat’s Milk
2 TBSP SF Beekeeper’s Honey
2 TBSP Toasted Steel Cut Oats*

Scald Milk. Stir in Honey and Oats. Allow to stand over night. Strain oats out of liquid and discard. Warm and combine 2-1 with not too expensive Scotch.

*To toast steel cut oats, either put them in a dry pan over low heat and toss frequently until they smell toasty or pre-heat an oven to 325F, spread the oats on a sheet pan, and put in the oven, tossing occasionally, until they smell toasted.

Huh, that’s actually tasty! I started adding it to my coffee in the morning and to whatever other Alcoholic Spirits were handy at night. For the record: Scotch=Awesome. Bourbon=Awesome. Rum=OK. Irish Whiskey=Meh. Rye=Meh. It is even good warm or hot with no booze at all.

But I was soon out of that small batch of Brose and felt a twang of guilt about discarding the Oats. It nagged at my conscience as it just seemed out of the spirit of the Scots people and their famous thriftiness to discard the partially used oats.

So I made a larger batch.

Atholl Brose

1 quart Goat Milk
1 Cup Toasted Steel Cut Oats
1 Cup Decent Local Honey (It should be sweet on par with a liqueur.)

Scald Milk. Stir in Honey and Oats. Allow to stand over night. Strain oats out of liquid and reserve.

Use Brose to sweeten your coffee, drink, whatever.

The Oats can then be cooked for porridge:

Preheat oven to 300 F. Combine Drained Oats with 3 Cups Water. Bring to a simmer in oven proof pan. Cover and place in oven. Cook for an hour or so. Spoon into bowls. Cover and refrigerate any leftovers and microwave for quick oatmeal during the week.

I might add, this is definitely the most successful preparation of Steel Cut Oats I have yet made. Good texture and body with very little crunchiness. Definitely a way forward with an ingredient I have found stubborn in the past.

And to finish, I will quote Father Jack Crilly, a dyspeptic, alcoholic invalid if there ever was one. “DRINK! FECK! ARSE! GIRLS! CAKE!”

Whizz-Doodle Cocktail

First, just a reminder that Sunday, Jan 30, 2010, is our monthly exercise in folly, Savoy Cocktail Book Night at Alembic Bar. If any of the cocktails on this blog have captured your fancy, stop by after 6 and allow the skilled bartenders (and me) to make them for you. It is always a fun time.

Whizz-Doodle Cocktail
1/4 Scotch Whisky.
1/4 Sweet Cream.
1/4 Crème de Cacao.
1/4 Dry Gin
Shake well and strain into cocktail glass.

Uh, yeah, right. I’m not making that.

Especially since I’ve already made it once, under another name: Barbary Coast Cocktail

Casting about for a Re-make/Re-model for this cocktail, I recalled the strategy I used for the Parisian Blonde, using a sort of divide and conquer method I learned from Erik Adkins at Heaven’s Dog.

I was chatting the other day in the Mixo Bar, grousing about having to make this horror. Between the insults to my Mom’s honor and comments about my own extreme age, I managed to sneak in a question, asking my compatriots which Scotch would go best with chocolate. Paul Clarke suggested Speyside, with its flavors of honey and heather. Unfortunately, (or fortunately,) the only Speyside Single Malt in the house at the moment is The MacAllan Cask Strength.

Hm, honey and Scotch is always a winning combo. But, do I have to use Creme de Cacao at all to get the chocolate flavor in this cocktail? Maybe another strategy for the Chocolate. And speaking of other strategies, does the Dry Gin have any function at all here, beyond a lengthener? Why not just use Vodka, and a single grain vodka at that, for the other spirit in this drink?

Whizz-Doodle Re-Make/Re-Model

1 oz Macallan Cask Strength Scotch;
1 oz Vodka Which Shall Not Be Named;
1 Barspoon JC Snyder Wild Buckwheat Honey*;
dash Bittermens Mole Bitters;
1/2 oz Cream;
Bittersweet Chocolate.

Dissolve Honey in Scotch and Vodka, add a Dash (or two) Mole Bitters, and stir with ice to chill. Strain into a cocktail glass. Whip cream to soft foam and float on top. Garnish with grated bitter chocolate.

Holy Crap! That is pretty decent, a dessert cocktail for Scotch and chocolate loving friends. It is certainly an improvement over the Barbary Coast.

*As a certified honey enthusiast and student of Botany, I will note that this is NOT the type of honey most often sold in the rest of the US as “Buckwheat Honey”. Most Buckwheat Honey comes from the same Buckwheat used to make Buckwheat Flour (aka Fagopyrum esculentum). The honey which Bees make from this type of Buckwheat is extremely dark and pungent. Some say unpleasantly so. However, in California there are several native plants also called Buckwheats: California Buckwheat. The honey Bees make from these plants is fairly lightly flavored and quite pleasant. If you don’t have access to California Buckwhat honey, choose another light, not too fruity honey. Clover would probably be a good choice.


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.

White Wings Cocktail

White Wings Cocktail
1/3 White Crème de Menthe. (3/4 oz Brizard Creme de Menthe)
2/3 Dry Gin. (1 1/2 oz Anchor Genevieve)
Shake well and strain into cocktail glass.

Are you in need of a breath mint?

Why this cocktail is just the ticket!

Whether or not the wind lifts your White Wings will solely be determined by how much you enjoy the flavor of mint.

The Stinger Cocktail does survive somehow as a refreshing post dinner libation, this really isn’t that far from a Gin version of same.

Is it bad?

No, not really.

Is it something I will likely make again?

No, probably not.

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.