I received an announcement today informing me that Knob Creek is returning corks to their entire line of whiskies. You probably don't care about this — I never even knew the corks were gone — but I liked the picture, so I wanted to share it.
Whiskey always photographs so beautifully. Well, it does when other people take the picture. Me, not so much.
Do you care if your bottle has a cork in it? If so, why? Please share in the comments.
If you have a tablet (iPad, Android, Windows) or smartphone (iPhone, Android, iPod Touch, Windows, Blackberry), you can download the Kindle app via the app store and read the book that way. (I don’t have a Kindle, so I read ebooks on my iPad. And Zombie Horde looks great on the iPad.)
You can also read Professor Cocktail’s Zombie Horde on your computer using the Kindle app for PC or Mac. (Just click on the appropriate link to go to the page with more info.) If you don’t want to install anything on your computer, you can also read the book using the Kindle Cloud Reader. I’ve tried it out on the PC and this also works very well.
As you can see, there’s no reason not to buy the book today! Unless you think it would suck. I guess that’s a pretty good reason.
In addition to the various rums, the recipe for Don the Beachcomber's Zombie Punch calls for Don's Mix, falernum and grenadine. (Okay, grenadine isn't hard to find. But good grenadine can be.)
In order to make your Zombie mixing a little easier, Professor Cocktail has teamed up with B.G. Reynolds to give one lucky winner a set of these three syrups.
I've mentioned B.G. Reynolds' syrups before — their orgeat was the co-winner of our Orgeat Taste Test — and they're also recommended in Professor Cocktail’s Zombie Horde. For my money, they're as good as anything you can find on the market. All the syrups are hand-crafted in Portland by bartender Blair Reynolds and his team, and contain real sugar and real ingredients.
If you've already bought the book — thanks again! — you're set. Just forward me your purchase confirmation and you'll be entered. If you haven't purchased yet, you have until October 28, 2013 to enter.
That's it! One lucky winner will receive a set of three syrups from B.G. Reynolds — and be quickly on his/her way to mixing Zombies. (Sorry, but U.S. residents only. Rum not included.)
Purchase is required for entry. Winner must reside (or have a shipping address) in the United States. One prize pack will be given away. Contents of prize pack are subject to change without notice. Must be at least 21 years of age to enter. One entry per person. Borrowing the book doesn't count. All decisions are final. Contest organizers aren't responsible for anything. Contest ends at 11:59pm Eastern time on October 28, 2013. Thank you for buying my book. It makes you extra handsome/pretty just for owning it.
If you order a drink in a good bar, chances are it will taste better than what you can make at home. But it doesn't have to be like that. By following some simple strategies, you can greatly improve the quality of your cocktails. You may not reach A+ level, but with just a little work, you'll soon be the bartending star of the block.
1. Buy a couple pieces of decent equipment. At the very least you need a cocktail shaker and a jigger. The two together will only cost you $20 and you'll be set to make most drinks. (You can also buy a low-cost set from a store like BarProducts.com. I have this particular set and it's hard to beat for the price.)
2. Measure! Once you've got your jigger, you can start measuring all your liquids that go into the drink. This is crucial.
3. Use good ice. I wrote about ice a couple years ago, so I won't go into too much detail. If you can't make good, fresh ice at home (you need a clean, odorless freezer to do so), then buy a bag at the store. Some people are down on bought ice, but I think it's fine for most purposes.
4. Buy good quality booze. The better the booze, the better your drinks will taste. But this doesn't necessarily require you to spend a lot of money. Cruzan Rum, for example, is perfectly fine and costs less than Bacardi. Sobieski makes good quality vodka that is very cheap. You can find Tanqueray Gin on sale for under $20.
5. Know when to splurge. Bite the bullet and spend the extra money to get Cointreau and Grand Marnier (for example). They're more expensive than the other brands, but they're better. The difference between Cointreau and generic triple sec in a drink is night-and-day. The good news is, most cocktails only require an ounce or less of a liqueur. So you'll get at least 25 drinks from that one bottle. It's worth it.
6. Use fresh juices. Everyone says this, and there's a reason for that. I do sometimes use canned/bottled juices (Bad Professor!), but most varieties just don't taste very good. If you use fresh lime and lemon juice, your drinks will taste better. You can get away with buying orange juice and grapefruit juice from the store, but try to get fresh, not-from-concentrate.
7. Avoid any mixers with high fructose corn syrup. In addition to being bad for you, HFCS doesn't mix well in cocktails. You can almost always find substitutes that contain real sugar. They probably won't even cost any more. You just need to read labels.
8. Buy some decent glasses. A few highball, cocktail, rocks, and collins glasses won't set you back very much, but they'll make your drink experience so much nicer. The right glass can also make your drink taste better, by ensuring you don't flood it with too much mixer. You can buy Libbey brand glasses at Amazon or Target and they don't cost very much. Or you can find unique glasses at your local thrift store for very cheap.
9. Don't substitute ingredients until you know what you're doing. If a recipe calls for a particular kind of juice or liqueur or mixer, use it. You need to have a good understanding of the flavors before you can start changing things up. Sometimes substitutions work — but they often end up in a wasted glass of booze.
10. Taste your drinks before you serve them. If you watch videos on YouTube of bartenders in high-end cocktail bars, you'll often notice them tasting their cocktails before pouring them into the glass. (The usual method of doing this is to take a straw, plug one end, and dip it in the drink. This draws out a small amount that you can taste.) This is your last chance to fix anything in your cocktail that might be off. Too sweet? Add more citrus. Too tart? Add more sweetener. Etc.
If you have any tips that you'd like to share, please post them in the comments below, or email them along.
But you might be wondering: What's in a Zombie, anyway? Good question! Most of us have heard of the drink, but a lot of people have never tried one. And even fewer have had a Zombie made in the classic style.
Here is the recipe for the original Don the Beachcomber Zombie, as printed in Professor Cocktail’s Zombie Horde. (This gives you an idea of what you'll see if you buy it.)
Don the Beachcomber's Zombie Punch (1934)
Jeff Berry Beachbum Berry's Sippin' Safari Club Tiki Press/SLG Publishing, 2007
The original version, the one that started it all, as served at Don the Beachcomber's famed Hollywood restaurant. This was the drink that made Don's reputation and secured his place in cocktail history.
3/4 oz. Fresh Lime Juice 1/2 oz. Don's Mix* 1/2 oz. Falernum 1 1/2 oz. Gold Puerto Rican Rum 1 1/2 oz. Aged Jamaican Rum 1 oz. 151-proof Lemon Hart Demerara Rum Dash Angostura Bitters 6 drops (1/8 tsp.) Pernod or Herbsaint 1 tsp. Grenadine 6 oz (3/4 cup) Crushed Ice
Put everything in a blender. Blend at high speed for no more than 5 seconds. Pour into a chimney glass. Add ice cubes to fill. Garnish with a mint sprig.
*Don's Mix was one of the Beachcomber's secret ingredients. It's made by combining 2 parts grapefruit juice with 1 part cinnamon syrup. It is also available for purchase from B.G. Reynolds' syrups.
This recipe, still perhaps the best one in existence, contains several of Don the Beachcomber's signature touches, including the blend of multiple rums, the use of exotic spices, and the one-two punch of Angostura bitters and pastis. It's no wonder this is one of the most imitated drinks in the world.
Obviously Don's original version of the drink contains some obscure ingredients, like Don's Mix, falernum and Lemon Hart Rum. (The book explains what all of those things are, and more.)
But Professor Cocktail’s Zombie Horde also contains a lot of recipes that are easier for the home bartender, including a simplified Zombie recipe that includes only ingredients you can find no matter where you live.
Even if you're not looking to master mixology at home, the book contains plenty of interesting history and fun facts that I think you'll enjoy learning.
One of the world’s most sublime drinking pleasures, the Zombie is the cocktail that launched a thousand Tiki bars. A sweet and sour mélange of citrus, spice, and lots of rum, the Zombie stands as one of the most significant cocktails of the past century. Created by Don the Beachcomber in 1934, the Zombie took the world by storm, and soon became the quintessential Tiki drink. Eventually, it would appear on the menus of thousands of bars and restaurants around the world.
In Zombie Horde, David J. Montgomery (aka Professor Cocktail) leads you on a journey through the history of the Zombie, starting with its humble beginnings in Hollywood, and following it as it evolved and spread over the decades. Zombie Horde includes recipes from notable bartenders like Trader Vic, David Embury, Salvatore Calabrese, and Dale DeGroff, as well as the formulas for the Zombies served at famous Tiki joints like the Tonga Room in San Francisco, Frankie’s Tiki Room in Las Vegas, and the Luau Room in San Diego.
It also includes recent cocktails that were inspired by the Zombie, with offerings from Martin Cate (Smuggler’s Cove), Brian Miller (Death & Company), Allan Katz (Caña Rum Bar), Brian Dressel (Midnight Cowboy), and Audrey Saunders (Pegu Club).
As a special bonus, Zombie Horde showcases seven new drinks – from Jim Meehan (PDT), Tom Brown (Hogo), Jeff Kinder (Distil), Joseph Swifka (La Descarga), Craig Lane (Bar Agricole), Jack Fetterman (PKNY), and Frank Cisneros (Bourgeois Pig Brooklyn) — that are appearing in print for the first time. Also making their print debut are the recipes for the Zombies served at Mahiki in London, Otto’s Shrunken Head in New York City, and Founding Farmers in Washington, D.C.
“Zombie Horde is a marvelous compendium of fabulous and fascinating recipes. Tiki bars are near and dear to my heart, and I’m grateful for David J. Montgomery’s work.”
–Michael Ruhlman, best-selling author of The Soul of a Chef, The French Laundry Cookbook, and Ruhlman’s Twenty
“Good (Tiki) god! I had no idea there are so many new versions of this potion out there — and most by reputable bartenders. A good thing that someone collected them all, or else there would have to be a mid-21st century Jeff Berry (a “Son of the Beachbum”?) to dig all THOSE up! Zombie Horde will give the drink a whole new level of recognition. The Zombie is ALIVE!”
–Sven Kirsten, author of The Book of Tiki and father of the modern Tiki revival
“The Zombie’s family tree is immense, gnarly, and (in parts) wholly fabricated from unnatural elements. Also, it has many dead limbs. Professor Cocktail has done us all a favor by taking on the pruning, grafting, and fertilizing, and by eschewing all topiary embellishment. A great addition to your cocktail library.”
–Wayne Curtis, author of And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in 10 Cocktails
“As I’ve said before, Tiki drinks occupy a space somewhere in the Venn diagram of the American psyche where escapism, irony, and kitsch overlap. No Tiki cocktail is more famous — or infamous — than the Zombie. It is proof that mixology treads a thin line between insanity and genius. Attempting to chart the history and evolution of the Zombie feels like a new level of madness. But David J. Montgomery has survived to admirably tell the tale in this entertaining, insightful ode to a drink that will knock you on your ass.”
–Jason Wilson, author of Boozehound: On The Trail of the Rare, the Obscure, and the Overrated in Spirits and the wine series Planet of the Grapes
“A thoroughly researched, dare I say exhaustive, compendium of this immortal (pun intended) and classic cocktail. It’s a drink like the Zombie that makes it impossible for me to reconcile my vocation (trademark attorney) with my avocation (cocktail geek). Indeed, in no other field do you find such rampant disregard for the sanctity of a name. But there is great chaos under the cocktail heavens and, as Zombie Horde so ably shows, the situation is excellent. Highly entertaining! Hats off to Professor Cocktail, Corpse Compiler No. 1!”
–Philip Greene, author of To Have and Have Another: A Hemingway Cocktail Companion and co-founder of The Museum of the American Cocktail
About the Author
David J. Montgomery mixes his love of history and alcohol into one potent concoction through his work at ProfessorCocktail.com. He is also a nationally renowned book critic and commentator on writing and the publishing industry. Mr. Montgomery is an emeritus columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and The Daily Beast, and has written for USA Today, The Washington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer, and other fine publications. His short fiction has appeared both online and in print. A former Professor of History, he lives in the Washington, D.C. suburbs with his wife and two daughters.
Until he was in his twenties, crime writer Vince Keenan knew
as much about cocktails as your maiden aunt Betty. You know, the one who also
happens to be a nun. But one day Keenan’s wife — clearly the brains of the
outfit — convinced him to try a real drink. That was the beginning of what was
to become a minor, but magnificent, obsession.
Keenan became a regular at the Zig Zag Cafe in Seattle,
Washington, where star bartenders like Erik Hakkinen and Murray Stenson plied
their trade. Keenan was an eager learner and a quick study, and he watched
everything the bartenders did, and then went home and tried it out on his own.
Down the Hatch
tells the stories of the cocktails Keenan learned, both the histories and facts
of the drinks themselves, along with his own encounters with them. Naturally,
he also includes the recipes for the drinks so that you can make them at home.
He features the best-known classic cocktails, ranging from the Margarita and
Manhattan, to the Tom Collins and Jack Rose. Unlike the recipes one finds
through Google searches, these are legitimate, tried-and-true recipes that you
can safely follow to create delicious drinks.
Keenan isn’t a bartender or professional spirits taster.
He’s a writer, and not surprisingly, Down
the Hatch is a well written book. Kennan is a guy like you or me who spent
the time learning how to make cocktails, and now he’s sharing that knowledge
with us. He’s an amateur in the original sense of the word: someone who does
something out of love.
Part recipe book, part history lesson, and part memoir, Down the Hatch makes for a fun,
informative, and very useful read. Be warned, however: just flipping through it
is liable to make you thirsty. If you’re settling in for the long haul — and
you definitely should — you might make sure you have a drink close at hand.
Publishing on October 8, 2013 via Amazon.com is my new ebook, Professor Cocktail’s Zombie Horde: Recipes for the World’s Most Lethal
Here is what Tiki legend Sven Kirsten had to say about it:
“Good (Tiki) god! I had no idea there are so many new
versions of this potion out there — and most by reputable bartenders. A good
thing that someone collected them all, or else there would have to be a
mid-21st century Jeff Berry (a “Son of the Beachbum”?) to dig all
THOSE up! Zombie Horde will give the
drink a whole new level of recognition. The Zombie is ALIVE!”
–Sven Kirsten, author of The Book of Tiki and father of the modern Tiki revival
And here is the complete description:
One of the world’s most sublime drinking pleasures, the
Zombie is the cocktail that launched a thousand Tiki bars. A sweet and sour mélange
of citrus, spice, and lots of rum, the Zombie stands as one of the most
significant cocktail creations of the past century. Invented by Don the
Beachcomber in 1934, it took the world by storm, and soon became the
quintessential Tiki drink. Often imitated but never duplicated, the Zombie
appeared on the menu of thousands of bars and restaurants around the world.
In this debut book by David J. Montgomery, Professor
Cocktail leads you on a journey through the history of the Zombie, starting with
its humble beginnings in Hollywood, and following it as it evolved and spread over
includes recipes from notable bartenders like Trader Vic, David Embury, Salvatore
Calabrese, and Dale DeGroff, as well as the formulas for the Zombies served at
famous Tiki joints like the Tonga Room in San Francisco, Mahiki in London, and
the Luau Room in San Diego. It also includes recent cocktails that were
inspired by the Zombie, with offerings from Martin Cate (Smuggler’s Cove), Brian
Miller (Death & Company), Allan Katz (Caña Rum Bar), Brian Dressel (Midnight Cowboy), Frank Cisneros (Bourgeois
Pig Brooklyn), Joseph Swifka (La Descarga), and
Audrey Saunders (Pegu Club).
To top it all off, Zombie Horde showcases three brand-new
drinks — from Jim Meehan (PDT), Tom Brown (Hogo), and Jeff Kinder (Distil) — that are appearing in print for the very first time.
About the Author
David J. Montgomery mixes his love of
history and alcohol into one potent concoction through his work at
ProfessorCocktail.com. He is also a nationally renowned book
critic and commentator on writing and the publishing industry. Mr. Montgomery
is an emeritus columnist for the Chicago
Sun-Times and The Daily Beast,
and has written for USA Today, The Washington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer, and other fine
publications. His short fiction has appeared both online and in print. A former
Professor of History, he lives in the Washington, D.C. suburbs with his wife
and two daughters.
Everybody knows Scotland makes great whiskey. The distillers of Caledonia have been crafting exquisite spirits for generations, becoming the envy of the distilling world. But now my ancestral homeland is starting to earn a reputation for quality gin as well.
It makes sense. Making a good gin requires distilling knowhow, quality botanicals, and pure water — and Scotland certainly has all three of those.
The best known Scottish gin is Hendrick's. Infused with cucumber and rose petals, the unique flavor of Hendrick's Gin has made it one of the most popular of the new wave of gins that have hit the market in recent years.
Now a new Scottish import is starting to get attention. Caorunn (pronounced "ka-roon") Gin is made by Inver House Distillers at their Balmenach whisky distillery in the Speyside region of Scotland. It's infused with five Celtic botanicals — including rowan berry, which is called "caorunn" in Gaelic — and six traditional botanicals.
Caorunn has a definite aroma of juniper, just as you'd expect from a gin made in the London Dry style, which this is. But there's also an undercurrent of sweet fruit, along with a little brine. A very pleasant scent overall.
The taste is a bit of a surprise. There's not much juniper there at all. Instead the sweet fruit from the nose is redoubled on the palate. In addition to the rowan berry, the botanical mix includes heather and apple, and that's what I think is jumping out here. It also has a touch of brine and some citrus notes to balance out the sweetness.
Caorunn is a tasty and satisfying gin, with lots of crisp flavor. It meets the classification of a London Dry Gin, but it quite different from the standard Tanqueray and Beefeater. Because of its sweetness, I can see using it in cocktails that originally called for Old Tom Gin (like a Tom Collins) and also drinks that have an herbal character (like a Martini).
And yes, it makes a delicious Gin and Tonic (which the distiller recommends garnishing with a slice of apple).
September 16 is Mexican Independence Day. I know what you're thinking: Isn't that Cinco de Mayo? Good question! But no.
September 16, 1810 was the day that the war of independence broke out between Mexico and Spain. (Mexico, of course, was part of the Spanish Empire back then, and under the rule of a Spanish Viceroy.) Various factions of Mexican life formed an uneasy alliance to rebel against Spanish rule.
The war continued for the next 11 years, after which Mexico finally defeated the Spanish. Peace was declared with the Treaty of Córdoba and Mexico was free…to appoint themselves an emperor. But don't worry, he was gone within the year.
So where does Cinco de Mayo (the Fifth of May) come into play? That was 40 years later. Mexico once again came under the thumb of a foreign power, this time the French. In 1861, French forces invaded Mexico, trying to capitalize on the political instability and general chaos that were the order of the day. But on May 5, 1862, the Mexican Army won a decisive battle near the town of Puebla.
Sadly, the Mexicans were to go on and eventually lose the war. This lead to the installation of Emperor Maximilian I as El Jefe. He's the guy who was buddies with Napoleon III, in case you remember him from your history classes. But Maximilian I only ruled for three years before Benito Juárez and his rebels got ahold of him and introduced him to a firing squad.
Cinco de Mayo as a holiday is largely an invention of Mexican-Americans, popularized in particular by the Chicano student movements of the 1960s. It has little meaning in Mexico itself, and here in the United States it has become little more than a marketing-driven holiday, used to promote partying and beer sales. (Not so different from the Fourth of July, really, which we use to sell mattresses.)
So if you want to celebrate the real deal Mexican independence, today is the day. History lesson aside, we can always use a good reason to celebrate, and September 16 is an important day in Mexico. Let's join with our neighbors to the south and do a little celebrating of our own.
For suggestions of some different brands of agave spirit to try, check out Professor Cocktail's Tequila Taste Test. Or see this review of Z Tequila (Blanco, Reposado and Añejo).
2 oz. Tequila 1/2 oz. Lime Juice 2-3 oz. Grapefruit Soda Pinch of Salt (if desired)
In a highball or collins glass, add tequila, lime juice and salt. Add ice and stir. Top with grapefruit soda and garnish with a lime wedge.
Professor's Note: For grapefruit soda, I like Jarritos (if you can find it) and San Pelegrino Pompelmo. For the record, I prefer mine without salt.
Adapted from a recipe by Trader Vic.
2 oz. Reposado Tequila 1/2 oz. Crème de Cassis 1/2 oz. Fresh Lime Juice 2 oz. Ginger Beer
Shake the first 3 ingredients with ice, then strain over fresh ice in a highball glass. Top with ginger beer. Garnish with a lime wedge.
1 1/2 oz. Tequila Don Julio Blanco 1 1/2 oz. Guava Nectar 1/2 oz. Fresh Lime Juice 1/3 oz. Agave Nectar 1 Slice Jalapeño
Shake ingredients vigorously with ice, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. (If desired, you can salt the rim of the glass.)
Professor's Note: Kern's makes a good guava nectar. There are also Mexican brands like Jumex and Goya that you can find in the Latino aisle at the grocery store. To make this cocktail really "top shelf," try using Tequila Don Julio 70, a clear añenjo tequila.
2 oz. Tequila ArteNOM Seleccion 1580 1 oz. Apricot Brandy 1 oz. Fresh Lime Juice
Shake with ice, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Recipe by Jacques Bezuidenhout
1 1/2 oz. Partida Reposado Tequila 1 1/2 oz. Manzanilla Sherry 3/4 oz. Mathilde Pear Liqueur
Stir ingredients with ice, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.
Want to know how Professor Cocktail makes a Margarita? You'll find out here: Margarita recipe. (Scroll to the bottom.)