Vanderbilt Cocktail

First, just a reminder that Sunday, October 31st, 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.

Vanderbilt Cocktail
3 Dashes Syrup. (1 scant teaspoon Small Hand Food Gum Syrup)
2 Dashes Angostura Bitters. (2 dash Angostura Bitters)
1/4 Cherry Brandy. (1/2 oz Cherry Heering)
3/4 Brandy. (1 1/2 oz Congnac Grande Champagne Dudognon Reserve)
Shake (I stirred) well and strain into cocktail glass.

The source for this Savoy Cocktail was likely Robert Vermiere’s 1922 “Cocktails: How to Mix Them”. He notes, “This drink was first made at the Kursaal in Ostend during a visit of Colonel Cornelius Vanderbilt, the American Millionaire, who was drowned on the Lusitania during the war.”

I have to admit I was Very tempted to use Kirsch, this cocktail includes both syrup and “Cherry Brandy”. I resisted and instead used this rather nice Cognac, in recognition that it is, after all, a cocktail named after one of the most well known and wealthy families of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.

However, it wasn’t one of the Cornelius Vanderbilts which perished on the Lusitania, but Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt.

From the Wikipedia article about his life:

“Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt I (October 20, 1877–May 7, 1915) was a wealthy sportsman and a member of the famous Vanderbilt family of philanthropists. He died on the RMS Lusitania.”

“Kursaal in Ostend” (or Oostend) probably refers to the rather well known Belgian Casino in that city.

Kursaal Casino

Before World War II, Ostend was a highly frequented gambling resort for the upper-class British citizens, especially since Queen Victoria prohibited gambling in the ´20s. The gambling law was applied throughout the entire Kingdom, making it impossible for the British people to enjoy gambling in England or in any colonial territory serving under Union Jack. However, the Queen’s law never applied to Belgium, something that made the Kursaal Casino a very popular destination for the U.K. gamblers during the roaring twenties.

Sounds like just the sort of place you would find a wealthy sportsman like Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt!

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.

Up-To-Date Cocktail

Up-To-Date Cocktail
2 Dashes Grand Marnier. (5ml or 1 tsp. Grand Marnier)
2 Dashes Angostura Bitters. (2 dashes Angostura Bitters)
1/2 Sherry. (1 oz Solear Manzanilla Sherry)
1/2 Canadian Club Whisky. (1 oz 40 Creek 3 Grain Canadian Whisky)
Shake (I stirred) well and strain into cocktail glass.

Hey, this cocktail from Hugo Ensslin’s 1917 cocktail book “Recipes for Mixed Drinks” is pretty darn tasty.

I was afraid it would be a little plain, or that the sherry would get overwhelmed, but it is quite nice, with both the whisky and sherry showing nicely.

With computers, it is always important to keep up-to-date, so it goes with cocktails.

Gotta keep up with what the kids are up to. Heck, sherry is even a trendy ingredient again, you could make this fairly mild whisky cocktail and still seem up to date.

Plus, one of the very few cocktails, outside of the Cadillac Margarita, which gives you a justified reason to use Grand Marnier. If you can’t find decent Canadian Whisky, use Rye. You’ll thank me later.

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.

Tropical Cocktail

Tropical Cocktail
1 Dash Angostura Bitters. (1 dash Angostura Bitters)
1 Dash Orange Bitters. (1 dash Angostura Orange)
1/3 Crème de Cacao. (1 barspoon Bols Creme de Cacao)
1/3 Maraschino. (1 barspoon Luxardo Maraschino)
1/3 French Vermouth. (2 oz Noilly Prat Vermouth)

Stir well, strain into a cocktail glass, with cherry.

Well, if there is anything that might put me off of drinking, it’s probably this concoction. Jeez, equal parts of French Vermouth, Maraschino, and Creme de Cacao? It doesn’t even have any booze!

I had some idle hope that this could be saved, a la Chrysanthemum, to make a pleasant light aperitif Coctkail. Nope, this just doesn’t appeal, at all, even slightly dried out. I can’t imagine what this would taste like as the dessert cocktail it sounds like in the recipe.

After a few months of over doing it, what with the trips to Spain, Chicago, and Wisconsin, it was about time to cut back significantly on the drinking. There was just a little too much grease in the wheels, things were getting a little blurry.

I have a couple friends who manage to balance abstention with bartending, so I thought I would give that a try for a while.

Got through a couple weeks of drying out, started feeling pretty good. Michele was proud of me. I was only straw tasting at the bar, and only tasting Savoy Cocktails. It was quite pleasant not to have quite the adjustment on Mondays that I had been having, from the drinking to the sober life.

Feeling good, it seemed like it was about time to get some things out of the way: Visit the Dentist, Get a check-up from my Doctor.

Dentist visit went well, they even praised me for the job I had been doing flossing. Gum health good. Woo!

Visited the Doctor. Blood pressure good, cholesterol not bad, Doctor said I was seeming pretty healthy.

Then later in the week, I got a call. My Doctor would like to schedule a visit to a specialist, to follow up on some of the numbers in one of the tests. They were a little high for someone my age.

Yeah, that’s just great. Just like life. Mostly give up drinking, feeling healthy, good attitude. Then the Doctor tells you, “Oh, by the way, you might have cancer.”

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.

Thistle Cocktail

Thistle Cocktail
2 Dashes Angostura Bitters. (2 dashes Angostura Bitters)
1/2 Italian Vermouth. (1 oz Carpano Antica Vermouth)
1/2 Scotch Whisky. (1 oz MacAllan Cask Strength)
Stir well and strain into cocktail glass. (Squeeze Lemon Peel over glass and drop in.)

Robert Vermeire changes the ratio slightly and also makes a note regarding the name:

2 Dashes of Angostura Bitters; 1/6 gill of Italian Vermouth; 2/6 gill of Scotch Whisky. Stir up well, strain into a cocktail glass and squeeze lemon-peel on top. This cocktail is also called “York Cocktail”.

The big question being, what’s the difference between the Rob Roy, Thistle, and York.

As far  as I can tell, nothing.  I guess, if you prefer one of the names, go for it.  I am sort of partial to Thistle, but then I’m an obscurist.  Obviously, the way to go about ordering it in a bar, would be to stick with the common denominator Rob Roy.

As with most Fifty-Fifty type cocktails, I think it is best to go with strongly flavored and high proof spirits for the “base”.  In this case, the Macallan Cask Strength is quite delicious and isn’t going to roll over for the Carpano.  A really enjoyable cocktail, among my current top 10.

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 Violet Hour

Well, you might have noticed that there were a few “S” cocktails missing from the Savoy Stomp…

Chicago’s a funny city. One of the largest cities in the country, it is also one of the hardest drinking party towns in the Midwest. Gangsters and Speakeasies played a big part during prohibition, but after prohibition, like elsewhere, there was a bit of a lull in cocktail culture.

Even after new classic cocktail bars started opening in New York, San Francisco, and Seattle, the Midwest has lagged behind, caught in the culture of bigger is better.

Chicago, though, seemed like it could do better. A fabulous culinary destination, arguably one of the best in the whole of the United States.  How long until a bar in Chicago took cocktails as seriously as restaurants like Alinea, avec, or blackbird?

With thoughts along those lines, Toby Maloney and his partners opened The Violet Hour in late June of 2007.


I’ll be in Chicago for a dinner at Alinea on Thurs.  We’re staying
through the weekend to relax.

Hoping to stop by The Violet Hour (finally!)

Do you still have anything to do with that venue?

I do need to photograph at least this week’s 5 Savoy Cocktails (Star
through Stinger) somewhere in Chicago.

Seemed like The Violet Hour might be a fun place to do it.

Think anyone there would be interested?


Erik E.

Hey Erik,

I am happy to say I am an owner of The Violet Hour so I will always have my fingers in it. It would be my pleasure to get you a rezo at TVH anytime you want. Many people find a cocktail after Alinea is the perfect thing to decompress and settle the stomach. YAY Cynar.

I am checking with one of my people to see when they can make time for your photo shoot. Do you want the place to be open?

As soon as I hear back I will shoot you an other email.


Hey Toby,

Alinea is on Pernod-Ricard’s dime and there are quite a few bartenders
in tow, so perhaps we’ll make it over afterwards. I’ll suggest it,
unless they have already been in contact. Those Amaro based cocktails
were looking pretty darn appealing to me, and it is only 11:00AM here.

Usually before open or during a bit of a slow time is best for
photography. If such a thing exists at TVH. Is Saturday jammed from
open? I hate to get in the way of opening chores. Sunday at 5 or 6?
Whatever works.

Would be nice to do a bit of an interview and such, if they don’t
mind, and get some pictures of the atmosphere. Always curious about
the cocktail scene in other locales.

Erik E.


Simon Ford appears somewhat taken with the idea of visiting TVH for a
post-prandial nightcap.

Our Alinea reservation is on Thurs at 7, I guess that means some time
around 11 or 12?

I will text closer to the time, if the idea gains traction.

Erik E.

I might need a little more notice than hours. Lynette is in I know, You, your wife and Simon make enough for me to make you a rezo in the back room. Any new info should be txted to me to insure prompt action to this fluid situation.


Well, nothing like rolling in with a bunch of high profile bartenders who have already been drinking, to put a place on edge. I know I always get nervous. Will they break anything? What will my hangover be like tomorrow morning?

Fortunately, we did not break anything, and all went well. Delicious post-prandial libations, perfect to sate our stuffed stomachs.

The next night Mrs. Flannestad and I traveled back to The Violet Hour in Wicker Park, this time to try a few Savoy Cocktails. Unfortunately, among the next 12, or so, cocktails, there wasn’t a lot of greatness. Michael Rubel did his best to maintain his cool and make the cocktails work. But some were just not that great.

Star Cocktail (No. 1)
1 Teaspoonful Grape Fruit Juice.
1 Dash Italian Vermouth.
1 Dash French Vermouth.
1/2 Calvados or Apple Brandy.
1/2 Dry Gin.
Shake well and strain into cocktail glass.
Harry McElhone notes this was, “A very popular cocktail at the Plaza, New York.”

Tastes, I guess, change. We first tried it with Carpano Antica, Noilly Prat Dry, Busnel V.S.O.P. Calvados, and Anchor Junipero Gin. Pretty close to undrinkable. Michael, not being one to admit defeat, had to mix it again, this time massaging the amounts a bit and using Bombay Gin instead of the Junipero. As he said, “it isn’t going to rock your world,” but it was at least drinkable.

Messing around later, I found a version made with 1 teaspoon M&R Bianco, 1 teaspoon Carpano Antica, 1 teaspoon Grapefruit, 1 oz Laird’s Apple Brandy, and 1 oz Krogstad Aquavit to be actually enjoyable. Your mileage may vary, but, made literally, this classic cocktail is definitely one of questionable merit.

Star Cocktail (No. 2)
1/2 Italian Vermouth.
1/2 Applejack or Calvados.
(dash House “Aromatic Elixir”)
Shake well and strain into cocktail glass.

Michael went with 1/2 Carpano Antica, 1/2 Laird’s Bottled in Bond, and, after a brief query, “I’d put bitters in this, wouldn’t you?” he suggested we add Violet Hour House Aromatic Elixir to the cocktail. Maybe it was the previous Star Cocktails, but what a relief to be drinking an Apple Brandy Manhattan! Whew!

Stomach Reviver Cocktail
5 Dashes Angostura Bitters.
1/6 Fernet Branca.
2/3 Brandy.
2/3 Kummel.
Shake well and strain into cocktail glass.

This cocktail just seemed so appropriate for a bar which has a section of its cocktail menu based on Amaros! Plus, it’s just odd to find a bar with Kummel on the back bar! We used Maison Surrene Petit Champagne Cognac, Kaiser Kummel, Fernet and around an eighth of an ounce of Angostura!

And nice it was, a fine example of extreme Fernet Mixology. About our only criticism would be, it was almost nicer before it was chilled and diluted. Maybe I’m just used to drinking Fernet at room temp, but the flavors seemed a bit muted after the cocktail was cold.

Stinger Cocktail
1/4 White Crème de Menthe.
3/4 Brandy.
Shake well and strain into cocktail glass.

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to drink a Stinger, but as we were talking, Michael had a funny story. He mentioned that it was one of Dale DeGroff’s favorite cocktails, and when he was working in New York, he got an order from the great man. For some reason, which I fail to exactly recall, he decided to make it, instead of with Cognac, but with a (very nice) Spanish Brandy.

The next Saturday night Michael was working, in the height of the evening’s rush, Mr. DeGroff came back to talk to him, and explain in no uncertain terms, without concern for how busy Mr. Rubel was, precisely why it was wrong to use Spanish Brandy and exactly the way he preferred his Stingers, thank you very much.

Well, after that story, how could I not finish the evening with a Stinger prepared by Mr. Rubel?

This evening we made the stinger with Brizard White Creme de Menthe and Maison Surenne Petit Champagne Cognac.  You can’t say Michael did not learn his lesson. We did serve it up, per the Savoy Cocktail Book, and I believe Mr. DeGroff prefers his over cracked ice. FYI, just in case you get an order for one from him one busy Saturday night.

I can’t say I entirely see the appeal of the Stinger, I did think it could use a bit less Creme de Menthe. I also believe I agree with Mr. DeGroff and prefer it over cracked ice.

This is the violet hour, the hour of hush and wonder, when the affections glow again and valor is reborn, when the shadows deepen magically along the edge of the forest and we believe that, if we watch carefully, at any moment we may see the unicorn.
– Bernard DeVoto “The Hour”

I have to thank Toby and especially Michael and Maura of The Violet Hour staff for making me welcome and putting up with a couple pretty awful Savoy Cocktails. The most inspiring thing, as a bartender and customer, that I took away from our evenings at The Violet Hour, was that the staff were great hosts. I loved watching the truly professional way they interacted with each other, the customers, and kept their bar top in order. Amazing. Although I didn’t see the unicorn this time, I certainly hope it won’t be another 3 years before I get a chance to return and look for it again!

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.

Sunshine Cocktail (No. 1)

Sunshine Cocktail (No. 1)
1 Dash Angostura Bitters.
1/3 Italian Vermouth. (3/4 oz Carpano Antica)
2/3 Dry Gin. (1 1/2 oz Ransom Old Tom)
1 Lump of Ice.
Shake (I stirred) well and strain into medium size glass. Squeeze orange peel on top.

Generally the inclusion of “1 Lump Ice” is an indication of a 19th Century Cocktail source, Jerry Thomas or similar, but I couldn’t turn this up in any likely books.

Anyway, I’ve lately been telling everyone I need to mix more with the Ransom Old Tom gin to get a better handle on its properties. This seemed like a fine excuse, being nothing other than a simplified Martinez.

And, yeah, it is quite tasty. I suppose I kind of missed the Maraschino (or Curacao) included in more elaborate recipes for the Martinez, but still, quite nice. And it wouldn’t have been anywhere near as interesting with Dry Gin.

Was having some meter/battery related problems with the camera, thus the rather Noir appearance of the photo. Suggest wearing a trench coat, packing a heater, and serving this one to a dame, naughty or nice, your 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.

Stone Fence Cocktail

Stone Fence
1 Lump of Ice.
2 Dashes Angostura Bitters.
1 Glass Scotch Whisky. (2 oz Suntory Hibiki 12)
Use long tumbler and fill with soda water (Oliver’s Herefordshire Dry Perry).

Soda? Who makes a Stone Fence with Soda? Well, I’ll be damned if I am going to make a Stone Fence with Soda! Unfortunately, I had no traditional Cider in the house, either, so texted Daniel at Alembic to see if he had any. Turned out he only had this rather fancy still Pear Cider, but why not?

The day I was making this cocktail, Alembic was hosting an event with Suntory’s Whiskies. Well, when in Rome…

Great article over at Cask Strength regarding Suntory’s Whiskies:

Japanese Odyssey-Part One

Suntory’s whiskies are made in a very similar manner to Scotch, in fact, all the malt used in the whisky is imported from Scotland!

However the different casks used, Japanese Oak, and different weather conditions for aging give Suntory’s whiskies a very different character from Scotch Whisky.

Of the several Suntory Whiskies we had available, Daniel picked the Hibiki 12 for the cocktail. It is their youngest blended Whisky.

I really enjoyed this version of the Stone Fence, a drink I could drink. Very dry, mostly flavor coming from the cider, but with the Japanese Whisky poking through. Some who tried it thought it could use a little sweetener, but I’ve never seen a Stone Fence recipe call for sweetener, just Cider and Booze. I did miss the bubbles a tad.

I will have to re-try it with some of my favorite French Ciders, like those from Eric Bordelet or Etienne Dupont. Or for an extra funky beverage, Basque or Asturian Sidra…

And yes, this is a very old recipe. It was probably already a very old recipe when Jerry Thomas included it in his “Bartender’s Guide”.

Though the Thomas recipe is as follows:

Stone Fence.
(Use large bar-glass.)
Take 1 wine-glass of Bourbon or rye whiskey.
2 or 3 small lumps of ice.
Fill up the glass with sweet cider.

Grumble, I suppose “sweet cider” really means apple juice. But what fun is that?

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.

Spencer Cocktail

Spencer Cocktail
1 Dash Angostura Bitters.
1 Dash Orange Juice.
1/3 Apricot Brandy. (3/4 oz Brizard Apry)
2/3 Dry Gin. (1 1/2 oz Plymouth Gin)
Shake well and strain into cocktail glass Add a cherry (Toschi Amarena Cherry) and squeeze orange peel on top.

Very mellifluous: has a fine and rapid action: for morning work.

With such a positive description, I had high hopes for this one. I went with a relatively soft, fruit friendly gin with the Plymouth and hoped for the best.

I dunno, not sure if it is the gin choice, or the sad deserted 5 year old bottle of Brizard Apry, but I really wasn’t feeling this. Funny, I think Brizard Apry was one of my first great ingredient quests, predating the Savoy Project. Just as I started looking for a bottle, it disappeared from the shelves. I must have bothered the liquor store manager for 6 months before it finally became available again.

The Spencer is just kind of bland and sweet. Maybe a more generous hand with the bitters? Or perhaps the Rothman & Winter Orchard Apricot would be an improvement. I have had very good luck with it in the past. Unfortunately, I need a new bottle.

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.

Soda Cocktail


Soda Cocktail
1 Lump of Sugar. (Oh oops, forgot the sugar cube!)
4 Dashes Angostura Bitters. (4 dashes of Ango Bitters)
1 Lump of ice.
Use long tumbler and fill with a bottle of lemon soda, or lemonade (Fever Tree Bitter Lemon).

As a very bitter man, I felt the combination of bitter lemon and angostura bitters to be quite a delightful, complex, multifaceted taste delight. I suppose, if you are a “super taster” you may not agree with me. Well, unless you are a super taster who really, really likes bitter flavors.

A nice stomach settling delight, this would be perfect if you weren’t feeling 100%.

To me, however, it always makes me think of the question, “Are small amounts of alcoholic bitters allowed in non-alcoholic cocktails?”

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.

Smiler Cocktail


Smiler Cocktail
1 Dash Angostura Bitters.
1 Dash Orange Juice. (1 Dash Tangerine Juice)
1/4 Italian Vermouth. (1/2 oz Carpano Antica)
1/4 French Vermouth. (1/2 oz Martini & Rossi Dry Vermouth)
1/2 Dry Gin. (1 oz Beefeater Gin)
(Strip Tangerine Peel)
Shake (I stirred) well and strain into cocktail glass.

The oranges were getting a tad dry, so subbed in tangerine juice, as it is in season. To punch up the orange, I also squeezed a bit of tangerine peel over the drink and dropped it in before adding ice.

This is more or less a rather easy drinking, slightly orangey, bittered, perfect Martini.

If that’s not something to smile about, I don’t know what is.

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.