Brandy Fix


In making fixes be careful to put the lemon skin in the glass.

Brandy Fix
Pour into a small tumbler 1 teaspoonful of sugar, 1 teaspoonful of water to dissolve the sugar, Juice of 1/2 Lemon, 1/2 Liqueur Glass of Cherry Brandy, 1 Liqueur Glass of Brandy. Fill the glass with fine ice and stir slowly, then add a slice of lemon, and serve with a straw.

Oft times, people looking at the two pages of the Savoy Cocktail Book with the Daisies on one side and the Fixes on the other, will have the question, “What is the difference between a Fix and a Daisy?”

If we say a “Daisy” is Spirits, Citrus, Sweetener, Ice and Soda Water, then the only real difference between the Daisy and the Fix is the presence of Soda Water in the recipe for the Daisy.

Looking at some old recipe books:

While the 1862 edition of Jerry Thomas’ Bartender’s Guide did not include Daisies, he did include a section of “Fixes and Sours”.

Brandy Fix.
(Use Small Bar Glass)

1 table-spoonful of sugar;
1/4 of a lemon;
1/2 wineglass water;
1 wineglass brandy.

Fill a tumbler two-thirds full of shaved ice. Stir with a spoon and dress the top with fruit in season*

*The Santa Cruz fix is made by substituting Santa Cruz rum instead of brandy.

Gin Sour
(Use Small Bar Glass)

The gin Sour is made with the same ingredients as the gin fix, omitting all fruits except a small piece of lemon, which must be pressed in the glass.**

**The Santa Cruz sour is made by substituting Santa Cruz rum instead of gin. In making fixes and sours be careful and put the lemon skin in the glass.

For Jerry Thomas, then, a Sour is a Fix without a fruit garnish.

From Harry Johnson’s 1888 “Bartender’s Manual”:

Gin Fix
(Use a large bar glass)
1/2 tablespoonful of sugar;
3 or 4 dashes of lime or lemon juice;
1/2 pony glass of pineapple syrup; dissolve well with a little water, or squirt of selters;
Fill up the glass with shaved ice;
1 wine glass of Holland Gin.

Stir up well with a spoon, ornament the top with fruit in season, and serve with a straw.

As usual, Mr Johnson is slightly more ornamental than Mr Thomas with his sweetener choices, but the two recipes are more or less the same. Sugar, Citrus, and Spirits served on fine ice and ornamented with “fruit in season”.

While we are at it, we might as well check Cocktail Bill Boothby, from 1908:


Fill a punch glass with fine ice and set it on the bar. Then take a medium size mixing-glass and put in it one dessertspoonful of sugar, the juice of one lemon, a jigger of whiskey and enough water to make a drink large enough to fill the punch glass containing the ice. Stir well, pour over the ice in the punch glass, decorate and serve with straws.

With Boothby, I think the words, “punch glass” are particularly telling. A Fix is a single serving punch, mixed a la minute, and served over fine ice.

OK, back to the Savoy. The most troubling part of the Savoy Brandy Fix recipe is the “Cherry Brandy”. What do the authors mean, Cherry Liqueur or Cherry Eau-de-Vie?

Well, let’s try it both ways and see what we get.

Brandy Fix (Kirsch)

1 1/2 oz Artez Folle Blanche Armagnac VSOP
3/4 oz Clear Creek Kirsch
Juice 1/2 Lemon
1 teaspoon Rich Simple Syrup
Peel 1 Lemon
Lemon Slice

Shake on cracked ice and pour into a wine glass decorated with whole lemon peel. Garnish with fruit in season and lemon slice.

Huh, that’s actually not awful, in fact kind of tasty. The Cherry Eau-de-Vie diversifies the flavor and increases the intensity of the Brandy’s taste in the drink.

Brandy Fix (Heering)

1 1/2 oz Artez Folle Blanche Armagnac VSOP
3/4 oz Cherry Heering
Juice 1/2 Lemon
1 teaspoon Rich Simple Syrup
Peel 1 Lemon
Lemon Slice

Shake on cracked ice and pour into a wine glass decorated with whole lemon peel. Garnish with fruit in season and a lemon slice.

On the other hand, this IS kind of awful. Maybe my Heering is past its prime, but this tastes rather too much like cough syrup for me to be comfortable with. I can only imagine this would be even more medicinal with Gin or Genever. I might be wrong, but I’m going to side with Eau-de-Vie for the Brandy Fix.

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

Savoy Cocktail Book Night

This Sunday, November 27th, marks the third year of our monthly event at Alembic Bar, Savoy Cocktail Book Night.

I have a vague memory of being at Alembic Bar with my wife, mentioning to Daniel Hyatt that they should reinstate the discontinued Savoy Cocktail Book Nights. Having him tell me, if they did hold the Savoy Cocktail Book Nights again, I should be involved.

I remember thinking, maybe I shouldn’t sound too enthusiastic, maintain a bit of distance, so as not to scare him with my enthusiasm. One of my favorite bars, Savoy Cocktails… Is this the “Make a Wish Foundation”?

“Yeah, that might be OK, let me check my schedule.”

Here we are, three years later, I suppose I should have learned some lessons.

Man, it’s still hard. Of all the bartending things I do, the mental effort of looking up all those cocktails in a night is one of the hardest exercises I do. I always find myself way more tired on Monday morning than I really should be for being as busy (or not) as we were and only staying up until midnight or 1 the night before.

People pick weird cocktails, for the sake of being weird. That’s the only thing I can figure, as to why the Green Dragon or Snowball continue to be ordered month after month.

There are some really good cocktails in the book and I enjoy pointing people in their direction. The Dandy, The Elk’s Own, The Rattlesnake, the Imperial, Jabberwock etc. There are quite a few fairly obscure and unjustly ignored cocktails in the book, and it is just fun to turn people on to them.

Anyway, I am grateful every month for the time I get to spend with the fantastic staff at Alembic, and especially, for the chance Daniel Hyatt has given me to spread the gospel of these cocktails using his bar as a podium.

Stop by after 6 PM on Nov 27. Cool drinks, great bar, fantastic staff. And, yes, if you really want a Southern Exposure or Pisco Sour, we can make those too…


Overheard on the 22-Fillmore, just after passing the California Culinary Academy.

“Dude, I totally mastered Spätzle today.”

“Wow, cool! What’s in Spätzle?”

“It’s pretty much just noodles: flour, water, eggs, salt.”

“You know, you don’t pronounce it that way. Any time a letter has an umlaut over it, you pronounce it like the letter.”


“Yeah, so Spätzle is pronounced spate-zell. You know the band Motörhead? They have like 3 umlauts in their name, so it’s really hard to say right. I think it’s like, “Mootoorheed”.”

Ex-Lion Tamer

For several years my wife and I have shared a single car.

Unfortunately, a recent job change has increased the time of her commute, leaving me stranded on the outskirts of San Francisco most weeknights.

I’ve been thinking it might be nice to have independent transportation.

But what?

Motorcycle? Scooter? Mod? Rocker?

After some consideration and consultation, I decided I was a Mod, not a rocker. (Also, in case you were wondering, a reluctant Vampire, not a Zombie.)

But scooters turned out to be kind of expensive, plus I’d have to get a permit and pass a test.

Most recently, I saw this ad for a car:

Veggie Mercedes Vegetable oil converted 1977 240D . (bernal heights)

I have put 80k on vegetable oil with this vehicle. It has been reliable and inexpensive to repair. I have put in a windshield, transmission, muffler, hood release cable,motor mounts, CV boot, door lock knob, seats and many other parts. Has a Plantdrive conversion which I did myself as I’m an installer. I converted the glow plugs to manual 10 second system. Original system was 30 second. Runs synthetic oil in the engine & transmission. I’ve taken it from Seattle to San Diego & it never left me anywhere except the transmission did fail in San Francisco where I live. New transmission shifts smoothly. I will sell with or with out the vegoil system (about 500 dollars more)which is single tank & will supply 15-30 gallons a week of veg oil indefinitely. Radio is a loaner and not for sale. We found a wagon after looking for years. Keeping our other 240 which got totaled. We can not afford insurance on three vehicles.

About the same price as a scooter and I wouldn’t need a new license, plus I could drive it in the rain.

I’d seen it around the neighborhood, and it is a really nice looking tank of a car. I was also just a bit taken with the idea of being able to run it on used kitchen oil.

So I called the guy and arranged for a test drive.

I sort of thought it was someone up the street from us, but when he mentioned his address, another house immediately came to mind.

It’s a house I’ve seen and wondered about. There were always big 5 Gallon Cooking oil containers stacked up in the entryway and the whole house smelled like Chinese food. Our dog certainly liked the smell of it every time we walked by. I guess I always thought maybe there was some sort of illicit catering operation going on, that they would use that much cooking oil.

So I met the guy at his house, as I suspected it was the one with the drums of cooking oil, and took the car for a drive.

I was a nice looking tank of a car, but the whole interior felt like it was coated with a dirty film. As if it was a Wisconsin Supper Club, serving a fish fry every Friday for the last 50 years.

Having worked in exactly that Supper Club, one summer in my Twenties, I just couldn’t hang with having my car and myself permanently reeking of used cooking oil.

I guess biodiesel isn’t for me.

Maybe a Scooter isn’t such a bad idea, after all. Monty would look really smart in a little dog size helmet and goggles.

Italian Bar Menus

It is worth noting that at the time of our trip 1 Euro was worth about $1.50. Thus, a 5 Euro drink is about $7.50 and that “Old Fashion (doppio)” at Harry’s Bar would set you back about $31.

From Spain Oct 2011

Universal Cocktails.

From Spain Oct 2011

Long Island Iced Tea and Sex on the Beach, always winners.

From Spain Oct 2011

Sangria and what looks like Mojito Punch. These girls were smart alecks, telling me it was 3 euros for a picture and 4 for a drink.

From Spain Oct 2011

No comment.

From Spain Oct 2011

Check out that receipt management system.

From Spain Oct 2011

The Singapore Sling seems a little out of place on this menu.

From Spain Oct 2011

A nice old Espresso machine.

From Spain Oct 2011

The menu at Harry’s Bar. Ouch.

From Spain Oct 2011

Afternoon snacks, unfortunately the white balance was off. Cream of Salt Cod, Shrimp in Saor, pickled artichoke, Mortadella, and Cream of Pistachio.

From Spain Oct 2011

Was surprised to see the Mary Pickford on this one.

From Spain Oct 2011

Oh yes, yes that does say “Campari Mojito”.

What I Learned in Italy (Part 4)

I feel like there should be some sort of summing up, in the style of Anthony Bourdain. Some pithy summary of the lessons “learned” on our trip.

But, I’m not coming up with much.

It’s great to travel, get outside of your comfort zone. Find out what other people eat and drink and see where they live.

Venice IS a beautiful city and we had more fun than I expected from such a well known tourist destination.

It was very nice to get away from the hordes of Asian, American, and European tourists for a few days and travel to Bologna, much more of an actual working city than Venice.

Our last trip, we over planned and spent too much time travelling. This trip was nice, basically 8 days in Venice and 2 days in Bologna. It was nice not to have to pack up every couple days, rush to see the sights, and pack up again.

Venice, in particular, I think is a city that rewards wandering, even getting lost. There’s always something interesting around the next corner, whether its a museum, a musician, a shop, a restaurant, or the street salesmen stuffing their purses before taking them out to sell in St. Mark’s.

Another Canal View.

Wine retailing in Venice, Italy.

Arty shot.

This is NOT the Anselm Kiefer exhibit.

Another arty shot.

Graffiti in Venice.

Cool bookstore, carrying a lot of beat authors.

Gondola ride, you gotta do it.

A Good Time was had by all!

What I Learned in Italy (Part 3)


1 1/2 oz Campari

Add Campari to medium size glass with 2 lumps ice. Fill with Prosecco and garnish with Orange Slice. (Sometimes, this also gets an additional splash of soda water.)

Anyway, in Venice the most commonly drunk beverage is the Campari or Aperol Spritz.

We stayed one night on a nearby island called Burano. Much of the fish in Venice comes from boats which operate out of Burano, so there are fishermen. And as our friend correctly intuited, if there are fishermen, there is drinking.

But where, in England or America, tough old fishermen would drink whiskey or beer, in Venice they drink Spritz.

We were out before dinner and stopped at a bar, as we are wont, to get our Spritz quotient for the day. As we sat at a table and attempted to be somewhat inconspicuous, groups of 6 or 8 old men would drift into the bar, quickly drink Spritzes, and then drift out again. Eventually, we started to notice that some of the same men would drift back in. Finally when we got up to head to our dinner reservation, we went out to square to find it filled with loudly talking and gesticulating old fishermen, who were drifting from bar to bar, then heading back out to the square to talk with their friends about whatever retired Italian fishermen talk about.


1 1/2 oz Gran Classico
1 1/2 oz Italian Vermouth

Add Campari (or Gran Classico) and Italian Vermouth to medium size glass with 2 lumps ice. Fill with Soda Water and garnish with orange slice.

Another drink which you can almost always get, though some of the younger barmen may not know it, is the Americano. You may, on occasion, have to remind some of those less experienced waiters that you want the Aperitivo and not the coffee drink.

Multiply this by about 3 per diem.

Scenic Gondolas!

Beware the weeping angels. The little, creepy, orange headed ones are OK, I think.

Silhouette in Italy.

Yay! We get to take the Eurostar express train!

Bologna, the land of meat. The charcuterie at one of our favorite restaurants of the trip, Vicolo Colombina

Did I mention meat and cheese? At Tamburini, per many recommendations.

Lonely Corridor.

Sorrento Lemon Sorbetto at Sorbetteria Castiglione in Bologna.

Michele’s favorites, Nocciola and Pistachio gelati.

Background music in the video from the Mekons new recording “Ancient & Modern“.

What I Learned in Italy (Part 2)

As I mentioned, in Italy there is an Aperitivo time which stretches from approximately 6PM until Dinner around 8 or 9PM.

In Venice, what this means is going out to a bar, noshing on small plates of food, talking with friends, and drinking Wine, Campari Spritz or Aperol Spritz.

One thing I noticed, Venetians don’t really approve of drinking without eating at the same time, especially sitting down and drinking cocktails without eating.

Canal as the sun gets low on the horizon.

Moonlight on a canal in Venice.

Saint in a cage.

For all your incense needs, a shop in Treviso specializing in Church supplies.

Best porchetta sandwich evar, Porchetta Trevisana, at Snack Bar all’Antico Pallone in Treviso.

The Rialto Bridge, in Venice, at night.

Note the Slushy machines at Bar Americano.

A Bellini at Harry’s Bar, in Venice. Well, you kind of have to. Harry’s Negroni in the background.

Harry’s Aperitivo, best bang for the buck on the menu, which our waiter described as, “A Martini with Campari”.

Apricot “Brandy”

Received the following question from BWonder on the Sea Breeze Cooler:

First off, let me say I love your blog and I use your improvements/substitutions to mix Savoy drinks at home quite often. One thing I don’t get is why you tend to use Apry and Orchard Apricot in place of apricot brandy. I have a bottle of Finger Lakes Distilling’s peach brandy (as well as Apry and Orchard Apricot), which I think is more similar to apricot brandy than an apricot liqueur. It makes a completely different drink. I’m in Rochester, NY – perhaps out on the west coast you can’t get a real peach/apricot brandy?

First, thanks for the kind comments! Always glad to hear the blog is read and appreciated.

Fruit Eau-de-Vie are used rarely in cocktails.

High quality Eau-de-Vie are too expensive, scarce, and hard to produce to be used in any quantity for cocktails.

You will not find a bottle of Apricot Eau-de-Vie in 99% of bars today, and that has not changed in the last 200+ years of cocktail history.

When a cocktail recipe calls for “Apricot Brandy”, 99.9% of the time, what the recipe is actually calling for is “Apricot Flavored Brandy” or “Apricot Liqueur”.

For the remaining 1% of cocktails, it is a problem.

At least, with “Cherry Brandy”, you can be fairly certain that when “Cherry Brandy” is written, the author means Cherry Liqueur, as there is a common name, “Kirsch” or “Kirschwasser”, which is usually used in cocktail recipes calling for Cherry Eau-de-vie.

In the case of Apricot Eau-de-Vie, this is not the case. We’ve only got “Apricot Brandy” for either substance.

About the only advice I can give you is to familiarize yourself with the “families” of drinks.

In this case, make a few “Coolers”.

What is in most of the drinks called “Coolers”?

The “Shady Grove Cooler”, for example: 2 oz Gin; Juice 1/2 Lemon; 1/2 Tablespoon of Sugar; Shake and strain into a tall glass. Fill with Ginger Beer.

With the sweetener from the Ginger beer and the 1/2 Tablespoon of Sugar, this is a fairly rich drink.

Would a very dry drink made of half gin and half Eau-de-Vie with only the sweetener from “2 Dashes Grenadine” make sense in the same class of drinks as the Shady Grove Cooler? Would it be any good?

Remember, you’re building this drink into a 14 oz Collins glass with “1 lump of ice” and filling it with only chilled soda.

As a practical exercise, invest in some of Destillerie Purkhart’s “Blume Marillen” and make the drink this way:

Sea Breeze Cooler?
3/4 oz Lemon Juice
1 teaspoon Grenadine
1 oz Apricot Eau-de-Vie
1 oz Dry Gin
1 Lump of ice.
Use long tumbler and fill with soda Water. 2 sprigs fresh mint on top.

Try it and have a few friends try it. What reaction do you get?

Invest in a bottle of Rothman & Winter Orchard Apricot and make the drink this way:

Sea Breeze Cooler?
3/4 oz Lemon Juice
1 teaspoon Grenadine
1 oz Apricot Liqueur
1 oz Dry Gin
1 Lump of ice.
Use long tumbler and fill with soda Water. 2 sprigs fresh mint on top.

What reaction do you get?

Given your new knowledge of the “Cooler” category, which drink makes more sense?

What I learned in Italy (part 1)

One of the first things we noticed in Italy was that people eat on a slightly different schedule than we do in America.

Breakfast, I’m not sure about. We ate the free breakfast in the hotels for the most part and tried to sleep in a tad. I think almost every time, we annoyed the staff by showing up a half an hour before they ended breakfast. Cold Cuts, pastries, cheese, fruit, and espresso for the win. We were especially lucky, by my eyes, to be in Venice during Persimmon season!

Lunch, early to mid afternoon, is usually a couple small open face sandwiches and maybe a small glass of wine at a Snack Bar or Taverna.

Then, dinner. Well, we were kind of lucky with dinner. Most of the restaurants in Venice are very small, and if they are popular, they are booked. However, most do not open until 7PM, no one except tourists eats before 8PM. If you call ahead and don’t mind vacating your table before 9PM, you can eat almost anywhere you want.

Look it’s an actual Berliner!

Arriving at Venice Airport, as the sun sets.

Blurry, happy.

The wake behind our water taxi as we arrive in Venice.

One of the many churches.

This one is for Audrey Saunders. The elusive vermouth mini, right in our honor bar at Ca’Pisani Hotel!

The Grand Canal from the top of the Rialto bridge.

St. Mark’s Square Crush.

Feedin’ ’em.

Italian Utility Repair.