I suppose the title of this one conveys the bulk of the purpose here. I'm a fan of vinegar. There's a lot of information out there about the healthful benefits vinegar can have on the body. Which is great, especially since it tastes good and there's a ton of things you can do with it. 

I also think there are nights when a shot of vinegar mixed with some water can do wonders for the following morning. If you had too much to drink and there's a hangover on the horizon this isn't going to change that. But if it's getting late and you feel like a minor version of such a thing could be in store...reach for the vinegar (again, provided you like the taste of it). 

I use Bragg's Cider Vinegar. It's awesome and usually there's no substitute. I say usually only because it's apple season now and local orchards that sell cider will often sell homemade unpasteurized vinegar too. 

I realize the drink below has alcohol in it which kind of contradicts the whole point of this post. Both of the ingredients however are pretty low in alcohol content. I see this one more as a last-drink-of-the-evening which also manages to sneak in something a little bit healthy.




Tomorrow's Little Helper
1 1/2 oz Amaro Montenegro
3/4 oz Cynar
3/4 oz Bragg's Cider Vinegar

Build over ice


For what it's worth I'm a bit behind regarding the bulk of the tech world. I'd give examples but they're likely to come across as tedious and self-indulgent. Which is a combination I'd like to avoid (though I freely admit that posting stuff on a blog situates those adjectives within arm's reach).

Anyway, for whatever reason, when going back and trying to clean up some previous posts I noticed two were missing from last summer. It's probably my fault and I'd kick myself if I knew how I did it. But I don't, they're just gone, that's all.

They concerned two drinks and this intro is an effort to dodge (re)writing a proper post on them. I found the pictures though, they're below along with the recipes. One is for the Ramos which is a pain-in-the-ass but still worth knowing and making occasionally because it's a classic that's enjoyable as all get out.

And, without making too much of an aside, I think sometimes there are factors beyond flavor that can influence the appreciation of a drink. Fleeting, intangible things like mood, weather, company, the music that happens to be playing, etc. Or, they may be more specific like ice, glassware, or a new/unknown ingredient. The Ramos, however, has other factors at play - time and effort. It's part of the deal with this one. Whether you order it or make it for yourself, knowledge of the labor involved is a consideration. Once it's in front of you though...well, then it's all pleasure. 

The second drink is one I made called Smoke and Bitters. Previously, it was posted as Amari e Fumar but I've gotten used to the translated title. I have a lot of favorite things when it comes to drink ingredients, this one has four of them. The drink lives up to its name. If those qualities appeal to you, give it a spin.

Also, on a totally unrelated note...let's say you get in from a busy night at work sometime in the wee hours of the morning and decide to collect your thoughts with a nightcap before retiring to bed. Two sips in you rethink that decision and go to bed anyway. If all of that happens and the following day you spy the remainder of the drink while enjoying an extra cup of coffee and, for no real reason other than curiosity, you add one to the other...it's possible that, depending on the nightcap, you'll find yourself with a warm and tasty beverage. That drink follows as well.


Ramos Gin Fizzes

Ramos Gin Fizzes

Smoke and Bitters

Smoke and Bitters

The Wind Up

The Wind Up


Ramos Gin Fizz - Henry C. Ramos, New Orleans, late 1800s
2 oz Gin
1 oz Heavy Cream
1/2 oz Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Lime Juice
1/2 oz Simple Syrup 
1/2 Egg White
4-6 drops Orange Blossom Water
Soda Water

Dry shake all but soda, then add ice and shake as long as you can/feel like it. Pour a couple ounces of soda into a Collins glass and double strain the drink on top of it. Add some more soda to the mixing tin that doesn't have all of the spent ice in it and use that to top off the drink.

Purists will say 12 minutes for the shake. I've tried all sorts of times and haven't noticed a big difference between 8-12. That can still be a bear though. Usually, I land somewhere between 2 and 4 minutes. Adding the soda to the serving glass before straining is a trick I picked up from Fred Yarm's book Drink & Tell. Some recipes include (controversially) a couple of drops of vanilla claiming that it gives the drink a mysterious quality. Give it a shot sometime. It's a nice, subtle twist.


Smoke and Bitters
1 oz Tequila, silver
1 oz Cynar
1/2 oz Mezcal (I usually use Del Maguey Vida)
1/2 oz Fernet
Garnish - Grapefruit Twist

Stir, strain, up


The Wind Up
1 oz Cynar
1/4 oz Green Chartreuse
1/4 oz Barrel Proof Bourbon

Heat the first three and add to hot coffee. 

I saw this technique for heating ingredients to be used in toddies a few years ago and have used it ever since. You put hot water in the small portion of a shaker and the ingredients to be warmed in the larger one. Rest the large one on top of the water in the small one for a couple of minutes while you prep the rest of the drink/work on something else, stirring it occasionally.  

This is basically The Wind Down scaled back and supplemented with coffee. When I make it I usually take the Wind Down's ratio, add zeroes and use those numbers in milliliters. 4:1:1 becomes 40, 10, 10. The result, prior to coffee is 60 ml, which is about 2 oz. That's only a 1/2 oz more than the total listed above...but it's good, so I like that extra 1/2 oz. I know, I probably should have just written it in milliliters above.


also - I watched the Wha Happened? clip while putting this together. Still cracks me up.

Amanda keeps her own journal of drink recipes. I add to it every now and then. Before I started bartending I had, over the years, set up a decent enough home bar and enjoyed making drinks from various books, conversations, blogs, forums, etc... Amanda enjoyed the end results but was happy to not be involved in the actual drink-making. That's at least partially on me for co-opting a corner of the kitchen and cramming it with more barware than an average person would feel comfortable around. Once this sort of thing became a job however, there were nights when I wasn't around to make our evening beverages. On those nights, if she wanted a drink, she was on her own. 

The journal she has is comprised of three ingredient cocktails. Three was the goal at least. Bitters, while important, don't count toward the total. They are always on the counter and a quick dash or two takes almost no time. Garnishes don't count either and I suspect may often be overlooked entirely. And sometimes, in a drink like a Tom Collins, soda doesn't get counted since topping a drink off isn't too labor intensive. So I don't know, calling these 'three ingredient drinks' now seems misleading, maybe it should be four ingredients, occasionally maybe five. Never more than...you know what, let's just say a 'flexible three' and call it good.

It's not rocket science, making drinks, though sometimes recipes can make it seem like a bit of a hassle. The intent of the journal was to gather recipes that a) Amanda liked and b) could be made with a minimal amount of fuss. As far as I can tell, now having surveyed our kitchen in the middle of the night many times, the barware she requires usually involves some sort of glass and one of those small measuring cups that holds four ounces and has lines for teaspoons and tablespoons. Sometimes there's a jar which, I assume, had been used for stirring. I've never seen a strainer in the dish rack so I don't know what happens there. 

Recently, we'd been talking about her journal and I asked her for more specifics on her drink-making routine. I can't believe we haven't had this conversation before. Turns out, more often than not, she mixes in the drinking glass (teacup, rocks, jar, etc), stirs with a knife and employs what I'm going to call a 'reverse strain' by removing the ice from the drink with a slotted spoon. Which, in a shortest-distance-between-two-points (that doesn't involve just tipping a bottle over a glass) way, I kind of love. Effective, practical and very little clean up involved. For shaken drinks it's the jar that's called upon. The lid goes on for shaking, off for drinking. No ice removal involved for those drinks. 

Anyway, first up is the Berlioni from the PDT book. A delicious riff on the Negroni.



Gin, Cynar and dry vermouth...all good things. Gin runs the show, up front with plenty of juniper, eventually making room for additional herbs and a pleasant bitterness from the Cynar and dry vermouth. 

A - "...awesome. Quintessentially what I'm looking for in a drink. No secret ingredients." And as I suspected, "I usually skip the garnish, but it is nice."


Berlioni - Goncalo de Souza, Berlin
1 1/2 oz Tanqueray
3/4 oz Cynar
1/2 oz Noilly Pratt Dry Vermouth
Garnish - Orange Twist

Stir, strain over fresh ice 


I live outside of town. It's about a half hour drive to Portland. Which means I'm in the car a lot. Not as much as some people, I know. Recently, I had been thinking about the Bloody Mary on the drive into town. While I've ordered the drink plenty of times in my life I don't think I would consider it a favorite. It's a breakfast drink I associate with...not feeling so great. And to that end it functions perfectly.

This eventually led me to thinking about Alka-Seltzer and how those tablets look when they dissolve in a short glass of water. In both cases, liquid endeavors to mend. I wanted to replace the contents of that Alka-Seltzer package with a Bloody Mary. To be able to tear it open, shake its contents into a glass and watch it fizz up. Then drink it like a traditional fizz. Which is to say quickly.

This all reminded me of a drink by Tony Conigliaro called 'The Morning After the Night Before'. It's in his book The Cocktail Lab and involves adding tablets of sodium bicarbonate to a drink to make it fizz with the similar goal of mitigating the effects of the previous evening. 

Instead of adding sodium bicarbonate to a drink though I wanted to get the key flavors of a drink, in this case the Bloody Mary, in powder form - then make tablets out of that, maybe incorporating some baking soda to get it to fizz. I had no idea if the drink would actually taste good. It seemed like it might. Or it might be a messy disaster. Figuring it out though had its own appeal so I carried on with it.

Tomato powder seemed to be the best place to start. We have a food dehydrator and an old coffee grinder that we use for spices so making the actual powder wouldn't be too difficult. But to what extent would it dissolve in the drink? Would it be gross? The body and texture of the drink would obviously be completely different, would it still work? How best to dry horseradish? And what about the Wocestershire?

First things first. Tomatoes.



Thank you Goodwill. My wife purchased this dehydrator a year or so ago because I had been wanting one for something. I can't even remember what. Jerky probably. But it sat in the basement until a couple of weeks ago when it became an instrumental piece of this whole puzzle. 

I've never used a dehydrator before. That's why those tomato slices are so thick. The first round of dried tomatoes were sliced much thinner. But they became paper thin and were difficult to remove from the trays. The ones pictured above are too thick and took almost two days to dry. Next time I will split the difference. 



Four trays of thickly sliced tomatoes equals the amount of dried tomatoes pictured above. I have no idea what the percentage is of water in a tomato but it's got to be pretty high. If I had really been thinking ahead I would have put them on a scale before and after. But I didn't. Maybe next time. 



Aside from the tomato powder I knew there would need to be some mustard powder, cayenne, horseradish and Worcestershire involved. The last two were tricky. Until I spied Wocestershire pepper with the spices in the grocery store. I was going to mess around with msg and bouillon powder but not anymore! I don't know why wasabi didn't occur to me sooner as a horseradish substitute. It's called Japanese horseradish for crying out loud. Are they the same? No. Are they close enough for the purpose at hand? Heck yeah!

After a few test batches I settled on some amounts for the dry stuff, mixed it up and then ran it all through the spice grinder to get it as fine as possible. At this point I figured I would add enough sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) to make it fizz when the powder was added to water and vodka. I thought I'd be able to go back and adjust some of the other ingredients to offset any negative flavors associated with the baking soda. That turned out to be too tall an order. To get water and vodka to fizz required the addition of more baking soda than minor adjustments to the other ingredients could accommodate. 

Eventually, surrounded by all of these powder experiments, I realized that if you dump a spoonful of it, without baking soda, into some carbonated water...bammo! You got yourself a fizz going! Instead of trying to fizz up water and vodka with the powder I could drop the baking soda, carbonate the liquids and add the powder to get the fizzing effect while the powder dissolves. 

Now, on to the tablets. After several failed attempts at adding things to get the powder formed into discs I decided to leave it alone for a few days and pursue beverages I already knew I was fond of. I don't know why I didn't pick up on this earlier but when I came back to the powder I noticed how well it held the shape of the jar it was stored in if I turned the jar over or shook it lightly. I'm guessing this was due to residual moisture in the tomato powder. Maybe it didn't need anything added to it to hold its shape.

I began pressing the powder into things like bottle caps and jiggers and whatnot and, once removed, it managed to maintain the shape of the various containers it had been pressed into. I found a small plastic measuring cup that turned out to be ideal. This measuring cup had the added bonus of being just bigger than a muddler which made pressing it into large-ish tablets a cinch.



I ended up cutting the measuring cup off at 3 tsp so that I didn't have to keep picking it up to see how much powder was in there. Getting the tablets out requires a clumsy type of finesse. You've got to rap the thing upside down on a flat surface so that the outer edge makes contact at the same time while also tapping the middle of it. It needs to release all at once or it will fall apart. Its not complicated but it felt that way the first 6-8 times. The tablets are fragile, but not so much so that you can't lift them up and move them around. I think cutting the cup down also helped minimize the casualty rate since the tablets had less distance to fall once they released. 

Time to get on with it then.


Stacking wood can wait. It's breakfast time.

Stacking wood can wait. It's breakfast time.


It worked. It tastes like a Bloody Mary that's also a fizz. It's on the spicy side but the flavors are all there. This isn't one you're going to want to linger over. The fun is in the fizz and you'll want to drink it while it's still somewhat effervescent. 

Thinks I'd do differently:
- Cut the wasabi powder back just a bit next time.
- Cut measuring cup down to 2 tsp instead of 3. The drink doesn't need quite as much powder.
- Cut tomato slices thinner. 
- I tried some citric acid in test batches to give it a little zip and acidity but never could make that ingredient fit in with the rest. I have some lemon confit in the works and I may, at some point, dehydrate some of the wedges and mix them in with the other ingredients. 


Bloody Mary Fizz
5 oz Carbonated Water/Vodka (mixed 2:1 - I made enough for a few using a sodastream)
3 tsp Bloody Mary Powder* pressed into a disc (or not, the result will be the same)

Add tablet to the water/vodka. Poke with a spoon to break up and stir briefly.

*Bloody Mary Powder
5 tsp Tomato Powder
1 1/2 tsp Mustard Powder
1 tsp Wasabi Powder
1/2 tsp Wocestershire Pepper Powder
1/8 tsp Cayenne
1/16 tsp Celery Salt


Here's one from Robert Simonson's The Old Fashioned, which, if you like Old Fashioneds, is a book worth picking up. It's divided into two sections. The first one covers the history of the drink and includes background on a variety of things pertaining to the Old Fashioned. The role of the Whiskey Cocktail is discussed here, how it evolved and how the drinking public helped shape a new name (Old Fashioned) for it when the confusion and novelty of various 'improvements' got in the way of what was initially a simple but beguiling affair - whiskey, bitters, sugar and a splash of water.

There's a chapter on 'The Fruit Wars' which addresses the controversial relationship fruit has had with the drink. The drink has had other adornments too - prior to prohibition the drink was usually served with a small spoon (possibly to get at any undissolved sugar). And once a chunk of ice became involved some saloons went further, cutting the ice into diamonds or having spheres of ice sized just right for the serving glass. Sound familiar?

The second section is all recipes. The book is especially good at accommodating those who, like me, are inclined to tackle both sections at once. Reading about the history of a drink, with that drink in hand, is an enjoyable experience. Though I'm sure it will come as no surprise that too much time spent in the second section may come at the expense of the first. No matter. Reading and mixing from this book is a worthwhile endeavor regardless of how you approach it. 

One more note on the book's layout. The portion that's devoted to recipes is divided into three sections: Old School, Standard Variations, and Modern Classics. There are so many good recipes in each of those sections. The Haunted House is one but really, if you're looking for a boozy, contemplative, peace-restoring beverage, the book has you covered.



The Haunted House has rye, rum, Swedish punsch, ginger and Angostura. On paper it looks pretty far removed from your standard whiskey, sugar and bitters style of Old Fashioned. And it is, but such is the appeal of the 'Modern Variations' section. Purists can find plenty of refuge in the 'Old School' recipes. In the subsequent sections however, the spirit-driven structure of the drink is played with a bit more freely.

Here, the base is split between two spirits - rye and rum. You get some Jamaican rum flavor from Appleton V/X and additional proof from the rye. Then things get interesting. Swedish punsch brings more rum, spice and hints of lemon along with its signature, singular funk courtesy of Batavia Arrack, the Indonesian sugarcane and red rice spirit central to the production of Swedish punsch. Add a spicy kick from the ginger and things are moving right along. Rich and exotic with plenty of flavor, some spice and a decent amount of heat.  


The Haunted House - Jeremy Oertel, Donna, Brooklyn
1 oz Appleton V/X
1 oz Rittenhouse Rye
1/2 oz Kronan Swedish Punsch
1/4 oz Ginger Syrup*
2 dashes Angostura
Garnish - Orange Peel

Stir, strain over fresh ice in an Old Fashioned glass.

*Ginger Syrup
1 cup Sugar
1 cup Water
1 knob (2 inch) Fresh Ginger, sliced into coins

Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Once it boils remove from heat, let cool and strain. 

I tend to have the ginger syrup discussed here on hand. It's basically blending, then straining equal parts sugar, boiling water and ginger. When making The Haunted House with that syrup I usually cut the amount specified in half.


side note - the drink is named after a band that the owner of Donna was in.


This post could just as easily have been titled 'Maybe I've been making this drink wrong for years'.

I recently picked up Mark Spivak's Iconic Spirits. I haven't had the chance to read it yet, unless you count looking through the recipes as reading (which would greatly increase the amount of books I've read). In this book, each chapter deals with a spirit and concludes with a handful of drinks which feature that spirit. The Seelbach follows the section on bourbon.

I've long been a fan of the Seelbach. There aren't a ton of Champagne and bourbon cocktails out there and that one really hits the mark. I first came across the Seelbach in Ted Haigh's excellent Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails. Ingredients-wise the drink is pretty simple: bourbon, Cointreau, bitters and Champagne. The bitters in that recipe however, are not deployed subtly. Seven dashes each of Angostura and Peychaud's. This allows them to do more than just tie things together and play off of existing flavors. At seven dashes a piece they become a legitimate and significant flavor*.

And that's not a bad thing. However, this bit from Spivak's introduction to the drink piqued my curiosity:

"There are many different recipes for the famous Seelbach cocktail. The following version was described to me by Julie DeFriend, maitre d' and sommelier at the Oakroom at the Seelbach. It is her understanding of the way the cocktail was originally served."

A recipe follows which includes the usual suspects but for the bitters seven drops, not dashes, of Angostura and Peychaud's are called for. That is a significant difference. Also worth noting is the amount of bourbon in this recipe. Here we get a full 2 oz. Most recipes out there call for 3/4 oz or 1 oz. 

Haigh's recipe also came from an employee at the Seelbach, so the provenance of both versions is similar.

Experiments were definitely in order.



Dashes on the left, drops on the right.

Dashes on the left, drops on the right.


Tasting notes - The warm spices of Angostura jump to the front of the version using dashes and inform the bulk of the drink's flavor from beginning to end. I used Old Grand-Dad bonded for the bourbon and that peaks through adding its own spice and just a little bit of heat. Peychaud's brightens and adds some zippy, fruity notes while tying things in with the sparkling wine.

The one made with bitters by the drop was a decidedly more bourbon-heavy affair. Not surprising since it has double the bourbon and less than a seventh of the bitters of the other version. The bitters are certainly present in this one though, they inform the flavor and function as accents. The Cointreau comes through a bit more in this one as well.

I like them both and the contrast between the two is interesting. There's a temptation to say the dashes version is heavier. It does have a weight to it and is heavily influenced by the Angostura. The amount of bourbon in the drops version though contributes its own weight and heat and spice and while it's lighter on the tongue it has, as David Embury would say, 'a shorter reaction time.'

I don't know which version is the most authentic. Cases could probably be made for both. They're quite similar and these things have a tendency to change over time. I'm used to the one with the dashes and it's difficult to deny the comforting familiarity that version affords. However, I do like the more prominent role bourbon plays using the recipe with drops and that will probably be the version I turn to for a while. Until the weather gets colder at least. Which I'm not ready to think about yet. 


The Seelbach Cocktail - Seelbach Hotel, Louisville, KY

from Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails, Ted Haigh
1 oz Bourbon
1/2 oz Cointreau
7 dashes Angostura
7 dashes Peychaud's
5 oz Champagne
Garnish - Orange Twist


from Iconic Spirits, Mark Spivak
2 oz Bourbon
1/2 oz Cointreau
7 drops Angostura
7 drops Peychaud's
4 oz Champagne
Garnish - none (I added the orange peel out of habit)


Both versions are built in a Champagne flute.


*I was curious what seven dashes actually measured out to since that was a point where the recipes diverged. Seven Angostura dashes came out to just over 1/2 teaspoon, Peychaud's was almost a full teaspoon. Bottle volume can affect the dash amount but the actual dasher tops on these two are different and Peychaud's just dashes heavier. In the picture on the left you basically have a quarter ounce of bitters (2:1 favoring Peychaud's). The bitters in the one on the right, though less, are distributed equally. Since I was already getting nerdy I measured the drops too - seven drops was just about 1/2 ml, or 1/10 tsp.



Another one from Food & Wine's Cocktails 2014. I'm still enjoying this book, bouncing around from drink to drink. On paper The Tax Lawyer reminded me of The Journalist which shares a core of gin, sweet and dry vermouth, and a little bit of citrus. They also include an additional modifier (triple sec in The Journalist, fernet in The Tax Lawyer) and in the case of The Journalist some Angostura. What I like about these drinks is that the citrus and triple sec/fernet are added in such small amounts that they manage to keep plenty clear of a sour style drink or fernet bomb (which are fine in their own right) and serve mainly as an accent to the always agreeable combination of gin and vermouth. 

The Tax Lawyer uses genever as the base. There's still sweet and dry vermouth and citrus but here they're joined by a skosh of fernet. The result is smooth and rich, malty and sweet, but not too sweet. Genever's aroma starts things off along with a bit of orange from the twist. The sip brings more of that signature genever flavor along with its herbs which tie in nicely to those contributed by the vermouth. Fernet peaks through (a departure from its usual, more bombastic style of entrance) near the finish. I'm not usually one for orange juice in cocktails but here, at 1/2 tsp its impact is subtle and it adds a touch of sweet citrus.



The Tax Lawyer - Derek Brown, DC
1 1/2 oz Bols Genever
3/4 oz Sweet Vermouth
3/4 oz Dry Vermouth
1/2 tsp Fernet Branca
1/2 tsp Orange Juice
Garnish - Orange Twist

Stir, Strain, Up

Usually, standing in line at the grocery store is a drag. I mean sure, it's fun to catch up on celebrity headlines but I tend to save that for the stack of magazines at Kim's Sandwich Shop when I'm waiting for an avocado smoothie (yes, an avocado smoothie. I thought it sounded weird too when I first heard about it. But it's not weird, it's delicious).

Once a year, however, the grocery store checkout line holds a surprise...Food & Wine's annual cocktail book. These books are great. I first started buying them a few years ago and older issues are something I still keep an eye out for when looking through used books. They cover a fair amount of drink-making basics and highlight certain bars and trends but really, it's the recipes that make this book something I look forward to. These guides routinely feature a variety of classics but also drinks from well-known bars and bartenders around the country. Also, there's a lot of amazing glassware.

2014 marks the 10th anniversary of F&W's cocktail books and they've chosen to use it as an opportunity to highlight drinks from previous editions*. There's a ton of stuff I'm looking forward to trying. Heck, I may even have a go at making Aviary's Bloody Mary. First up though was Chris Hannah's Accoutrement.





The scent of apples starts the whole thing off. This runs into a sweet/tart flavor that has a candy-like quality. A delicious and complex candy, at once zippy and bright but also rich with oranges, apples and intriguing spices. The drink has a smooth texture that contrasts nicely with the citrus and bitters. As it warms, Strega's complex herbs begin to peak through more prominently. Creole Shrubb and Strega get along quite well and this pairing is something I look forward to experimenting with in the future. 


Accoutrement - Chris Hannah, Arnaud's French 75 Bar, New Orleans
2 oz Calvados
3/4 Strega
3/4 Lemon
1/2 Creole Shrubb (can sub Grand Marnier)
2 dashes Peychaud's
Garnish - 3 cherries

Shake, Strain, Up


*The format for these books changes every now and then. Often, drinks are grouped by base spirit. Of the handful that I have though, 2012 is the one I keep returning to. In that book each bartender gets a classic. There's a recipe for how they make that classic, then a recipe for a twist on it. This is followed by a drink further removed from the original, though still keeping true to that drink's feel. Many of them also feature non-alcoholic variations.  


I have a soft spot for Cynar and Campari. I may run out of things like Benedictine, curacao, Chartreuse, even vermouth sometimes, but those two bitter ingredients are staples. Running out of them is something I try to avoid. Which usually means having emergency backup bottles on hand.

There are cocktails that feature a combination of these two ingredients (Eeyor's Requiem, The Last Mechanical Art - both from Beta Cocktails) or some other pairing of bitter ingredients (Paper Plane, Ponte Vecchio). If you tend to favor bitter drinks, all of those are worth a spin. The Paper Plane in particular has been a longstanding favorite and its easy-to-remember spirit, bitter, bitter, citrus ratio (1:1:1:1) has been responsible for many variations around the house.

At some point (maybe I was bored and out of Fernet) I wondered how Cynar and Campari would get along unadorned. The answer? Just fine. The result was rich and vibrant, capable of standing on its own but also easy to mix with. The bitter/bitter combination has plenty of flavor but not a huge wallop of alcohol (Cynar 16.5%, Campari 24%) which adds to its versatility.

I usually combine them in bulk 3:2, Cynar to Campari, and pour it in a bottle. This enables me to avoid weird fractions when I do want to work the combination into a drink. Well, I reach for it often enough that I've now taken that laziness one step further and engraved the bottle so I really don't have to measure anything when mixing the base. Cynar up to the first line. Campari to the second. I also tried to label which section was which in an effort to minimize future confusion. It turns out writing on a bottle with an engraver is tricky. And loud.




Often, I just pour this stuff in a glass, maybe add some ice and a twist, and call it good. However, it makes for a decent spin on drinks calling for vermouth, Campari or most amari. Which makes Negroni riffs a pretty solid bet. Add equal measures of this stuff and bourbon for a nice twist on the Boulevardier. Or swap Smith & Cross for the bourbon and get a tasty variation on the Kingston Negroni. 

The picture below is a riff on the Negroni Sbagliato. Or technically, the Sbagliato Due ('second mistake') since that one has gin in it. Gin plus the Cynar/Campari mix plus Prosecco, over ice. Not a bad way to ease into the late afternoon.



3:2 Negroni Riff
1 1/2 oz Cynar/Campari (mixed 3:2)
1 oz Gin
Garnish - Orange Peel

Build over ice in double old fashioned glass.


The Maple Leaf is a simple and tasty spin on the Whiskey Sour. Maple syrup is used as the sweetener and that flavor mixes agreeably with the bourbon while the lemon offsets its sweetness. The result is a sour with a bit more depth and complexity. One that refreshes while complementing these lazy warm evenings. Though, really, once a chill begins to creep in I imagine it'll fit in fine there as well. Also, this one is ridiculously easy. Three ingredients, that's it.

I came across the Maple Leaf while trying to work my way through the Anvil 100 a few years ago. The list changes* and I had two versions at the time but fortunately there was a lot of overlap. It was a pretty fun endeavor (there are still a few left to try), full of pleasant surprises like the Monte Carlo, the Tailspin and the Fedora. The list is thorough and full of classics, with more than a few off-the-beaten-path drinks. I'm not sure that anyone would be a fan of all 100 of them but as Anvil co-owner Bobby Heugel says, the list wasn't intended to be viewed as the 100 best cocktails ever. Rather, an introduction to a bunch of great, historic drinks. Or, as one of the lists says "libations we feel you should try at least once in your life...for better or worse." The Maple Leaf is definitely for the better.



Maple Leaf - unknown origin
2 oz Bourbon
3/4 oz Lemon Juice
3/4 oz Maple Syrup (I usually use something dark)

"Shake and strain into a cocktail glass filled with crushed ice. Drink on a porch with an old dog."


*There have been a couple of updates to the list over the years. I didn't realize until I looked for the link that they're now on version 2.3. Drinks are still grouped under categories like 'sour and short', 'boozy and alluring', 'bitter and bold' etc., but there's some new ones on there. Now I have to figure out how to mix up a Billy Wilkerson Topper. And a Moss Rose. Though I think I'll start with a Fernet Daiquiri.