Amaro Bomb #3

One of the classic combinations in certain regions of France is Picon Biere, that is a Pilsener or Wheat beer with a splash of Amer Picon poured in.

Unfortunately, we don’t get Amer Picon here in these United States.

However, even if Diageo refuses to send us Amer Picon, we do get a lot of other Amaros…

With this series of posts we shall explore the possibilities we do have available.

Amaro Beer 3

Hangar 24 Chocolate Porter and Fernet Branca

A while ago the folks from Hangar 24 were nice enough to send me a few of their beers in the mail. Not quite sure what I did to start receiving beer in the mail, but OK. One of the beers they sent was their chocolate porter. Fairly light, on the scale of extreme American Stouts and Porters, it’s pretty nice drinking.

Rich and decadent. This strong porter is perfect for sipping at the end of the day or to accompany full-flavored foods. The intense, roasty flavor comes from two types of chocolate malt and raw cocoa nibs. Whole vanilla beans introduced post fermentation add complexity and enhance the dessert-like qualities of this full bodied beer. Indulge yourself!

Ahem, I knew I wanted to use Fernet in one of these beer and amaro beverages, but how would the extreme menthol notes of that amaro work with a beer?

Mint Chocolate Cookies, that’s how!

METHOD: Pour a beer into the mason jar or glass of your choosing. Pour in a half shot (2cl) of Fernet Branca.

All Fernet menthol up front, the middle flavors are the chocolate and dark malt from the beer, and then lingering bitter notes.

Another keeper, I think.

Eeyore’s Requiem

When we visited The Violet Hour a couple years ago, one of the favorite drinks we tried there was called “Eeyore’s Requiem”.

It’s a little bit of an odd drink, most drinks are made with the bulk of their ingredients being Spirits.

With Eeyore’s Requiem, it is kind of the reverse. Most of the drink is various bitter Italian liqueurs, or Amaros, and vermouth with the minor part of the drink being Gin.

I later learned that the cocktail was created by Toby Maloney, aka Alchemist on, for The Violet Hour. The recipe was published in a few places, including Serious Eats and

Eeyore's Requiem

Eeyore’s Requiem

Eeyore’s Requiem

1 1/2 oz Campari
1 oz Dolin Blanc Vermouth
1/2 oz Dry Gin
1/4 oz Cynar
1/4 oz Fernet Branca
15 drops Miracle Mile Orange Bitters

Stir on ice until well chilled and strain into a cocktail glass. Express a peel of an orange over the glass, and garnish with a ‘pig tail’ orange peel.

To make the ‘pig tail’ orange garnish, start with a whole orange. Using a channel knife cut, make continuous spiral cut of peel, as you can see in the picture above.

For all the rough and tumble of the bitter ingredients of this drink, it is surprisingly smooth.

For what is is worth, it’s a bit rich, maybe a better after dinner, than before, dinner drink.

Or if you’re serving it before, lighten it with a bit of sparkling water or wine.

In either case, it is delicious!

Jersey Daisy (for Deragon)

One evening while working at Heaven’s Dog, I was graced with the presence of another man who lives a double life in Tech and Booze. John Deragon was, at the time, working for PDT and at the same time maintaining a second life as a highly placed Information Technology worker in some aspect of the Hearst organization.

I had made him my version of the Aviation and he was next interested in a cocktail of a more aromatic bent. Thinking something Brooklyn-ish, I wondered about what I could make that he hadn’t already experienced. He suggested a cocktail which I believe was of his own devising, The Jersey.

Composed as follows, it turns out to be quite delicious, amazingly taming two rather extreme liqueurs by pitting them against one another:

Jersey Cocktail
2 oz Laird’s Bonded Applejack
3/4 oz Carpano Antica Vermouth
1/4 oz Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
1/4 oz Fernet Branca

Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with an Orange Twist.

Looking through the Daisy recipes I’d made so far, I felt they were strangely amiss without one based on Apple Brandy. Thinking back on Mr. Deragon’s Jersey, I came up with the following.

Jersey Daisy (for Deragon)

1 oz Rittenhouse Bonded Rye*
1 oz Laird’s Bonded Apple Brandy*
Juice 1/2 Lemon
1/4 oz Rich Simple Syrup
1/4 oz Fernet Branca (for float)

Peel lemon as for Crusta and line wine glass with peel. Half fill with Cracked ice. Shake all ingredients other than Fernet Branca with ice and strain into glass. Fill with Soda and float on Fernet. Garnish with strawberry and mint and serve with a straw.

*In the event of actual New York Bartenders, please bump the Laird’s and Rye up to at least 1 1/2 ounces each.

Yodel Cocktail

First, just a reminder that Sunday, Feb 27, 2011, 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.

The countdown to the last “Cocktail” continues.

Say it with me, “NINE!”

Yodel Cocktail
1/2 Orange Juice. (Juice 1/2 orange.)
1/2 Fernet Branca. (Same amount of Fernet Branca.)
Use medium size glass, and fill with soda water.

I like Fernet so I had some idle hope that this would be appealing.

It is not.

As my friend Blair remarked, “kind of like drinking orange juice after brushing your teeth.”

Yeah, that’s about right. Yodel all you want, but I just say, “Ugh.”

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.

Napoleon Cocktail

Napoleon Cocktail

Napoleon Cocktail

1 Dash Fernet Branca. (1/3 tsp. Fernet Branca)
1 Dash Curacao. (1/3 tsp. Bols Dry Orange Curacao)
1 Dash Dubonnet. (1/3 tsp. Vergano Lulli Americano)
1 Glass Dry Gin. (2 oz Beefeater Gin)

Shake (I stirred) well and strain into cocktail glass. Squeeze lemon peel on top.

As we’ve noted, while there were a number of civilized fifty-fifty martini type drinks on the menu before and after prohibition, there was also no shortage of, “Hey! That’s just booze in that glass!” drinks either.

If I were you, I’d go a bit long on those dashes. As measured above, this tasted pretty much like a big, cold glass of gin.

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.

King Cole Cocktail

King Cole Garnish

King Cole Cocktail

1 Glass Rye or Canadian Club Whisky. (2 oz Bonded Rittenhouse Rye Whiskey)
2 Dashes Syrup. (1/2 teaspoon Depaz Cane Syrup)
1 Dash Fernet Branca.
1 Lump of Ice.

Stir well and decorate with slices of orange and pineapple.

Oh happy day, I get to make an Old-Fashioned!

And not only that, but one with fruit and Fernet. Oh how very California! Or is that how very New York?

I took the opportunity to, “decorate with berries, in season,” as Harry Johnson or Jerry Thomas would say.

King Cole Cocktail

Mmmm… Booze soaked fruit! I dare you to call that “garbage”.

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.

I.B.F. Pick-Me-Up Cocktail

Note: I’m gonna run this one before the Hurricane, as it is a just about perfect New Year’s Day Cocktail.

I.B.F. Pick-Me-Up Cocktail

I.B.F. Pick-Me-Up Cocktail

In a wineglass place one lump of Ice, 3 dashes of Fernet Branca (1 tsp. Fernet), 3 dashes of Curacao (1 tsp. Luxardo Triplum), one liqueur glass of Brandy (1 1/2 oz Cerbois VSOP Armangac), fill remainder with Champagne (Louis Bouillot Cremant de Bourgogne Brut). Stir and squeeze lemon peel on cocktail glass.

According to their Blog (!) the…

International Bar Fly (IBF) was founded in 1924 by O. O. McIntyre at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris, France. Our members, known as International Bar Flies, have included Ernest Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald, George Gershwin, Sinclair Lewis, Franklin Roosevelt, Gene Kelly, Noel Coward, Burt Lancaster, Thornton Wilder, Marlene Dietrich, Michele Morgan, Elsa Maxwell, and many more. The organization is devoted to the uplift and downfall of serious drinkers. New members are welcome.

This is a fine, fine cocktail and, apropos of New Year’s Day, a proper restorative for the drinker who may have imbibed a bit too seriously the night before. Depending on your feelings about Fernet, the I.B.F. may or may not benefit from a slightly generous hand with the teaspoon of that substance. I kind of thought it needed a little more…

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.

Hanky Panky Cocktail

Hanky Panky Cocktail

2 Dashes Fernet Branca.
1/2 Italian Vermouth. (1 1/2 oz Vya Sweet Vermouth)
1/2 Dry Gin. (1 1/2 oz Tanqueray Gin)

Shake (stir, please) well and strain into cocktail glass. Squeeze orange peel on top.

This is from a document I got from the Savoy Hotel:

…the American Bar at The Savoy was in situ by 1898 while the newly rebuilt Claridge’s which opened in the same year, had a separate bar, distinct from its other public rooms. Even The Berkeley had an American Bar by the early years of the next century.

The first of a string of famous barmen in The Savoy’s American Bar was actually a barmaid, who had begun her employment at Claridge’s in 1899 . Ada Coleman’s father had known Richard D’Oyly Carte, and when he died, D’Oyly Carte suggested that she might care to earn her living by working in the bar at Claridge’s, which had been newly opened in 1898. “Coley” came over to the American Bar at The Savoy in July 1903, and retired in December 1924. Her most famous creation was the Hanky Panky, which she invented for Sir Charles Hawtrey, and which was so named by him.

Much has been written about Ms. Coleman by such luminaries as the ladies of Lupec, (By Jove! Now That’s The Real Hanky-Panky) and Dr. Cocktail (In his column in Imbibe! Magazine), so I won’t cover that much. Besides, the above quote is all I’ve got to go on.

Though, in my usual stickler manner, I will note that the American Bar at the Savoy Hotel opened in 1898, and Ms. Coleman did not join as head barman until 1903. She wasn’t the first head barman, just, “the first in a string of famous barmen,” as the quote above notes.

As usual, I think it is worthwhile to pick a gin with some spine, if you’re going to go Fifty-Fifty in a cocktail.

I’ve made the Hanky Panky before and enjoyed it. I can’t say I thought, previously, that it was a great drink, just a very good drink. Something about this combination of ingredients, or my mood, really worked on the evening when I made it as above.

Maybe all the Gin and Sweet vermouth cocktails I’ve been making over the last couple weeks have given me better perspective, but this classic of Ms. Coleman’s is definitely worth risking the consequences of a dalliance.

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.

Fernet Branca Cocktail

Fernet Branca Cocktail

1/4 Fernet Branca. (Generous 1/2 oz Fernet)
1/4 Italian Vermouth. (Generous 1/2 oz Martini & Rossi)
1/2 Dry Gin. (Generous 1 oz Death’s Door Gin)

Shake well and strain into cocktail glass.

One of the best “morning-after” cocktails ever invented. Fernet-Branca, an Italian vegetable extract, is a marvelous headache cure. (No advt.)

The next time I have such a bad hangover that I feel like I’m standing on Death’s Door, I’ll have to give this a try. Unfortunately, tonight, I didn’t start with a head or stomach ache, so can’t vouch for any particular therapeutic effect. I guess I hope the Fernet Branca Cocktaill is good for me in some manner, as it isn’t all that attractive looking.  And, well, it pretty much just tastes like Fernet.

When checking for versions of this cocktail, I did see that other authors frequently call for Brandy instead of Gin. Might be an improvement?

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.