Drink Recipes Liqueurs Vodka

Recipe: The Death Rattle – a cocktail memorializing the Blackberry smartphone

My brother sent me a link last night to a story on about the troubles that RIM is having in North America with their Blackberry service. His comment wondered if this would be the end of the Blackberry, something that has been looming on the horizon for a while now.

Naturally, this inspired me to think about cocktails and how I could commemorate the end of this once-great brand in liquid form. This is what I came up with:


Death Rattle

Shake with ice:

1 1/2 oz. Death's Door Vodka
1/2 oz. Blackberry Brandy
1/2 oz. St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur

Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.


I tried to think of ingredients that would go together in a pleasing fashion, yet also be symbolic of the Blackberry and its impending doom. The result is both tasty and tongue-in-cheek.

Although I don't often make vodka cocktails, the base spirit in this one was a no-brainer, as was the Blackberry Brandy (I used Bols), which adds some sweetness. The Elderflower Liqueur doesn't have any symbolism with regards to the theme of the drink, but it gives it a pleasing floral quality that pairs very nicely with the blackberry flavor.



Drink Recipes Gin Tiki Whiskey

Recipe: Oh, Mai – a delicious variation on the Mai Tai

You know that the Mai Tai is my favorite drink, so I won't go into that again. Instead, I want to tell you about a variation of the Mai Tai I just discovered — that doesn't have any rum in it.

"But Professor," I hear you crying. "Rum is the cornerstone of the Mai Tai! How can you make it without rum?"

That's a good question. In this case, the answer is: you make it with Bols Genever Gin and rye whiskey. Sounds crazy, I know. But it works! Here's the recipe:


Oh, Mai
Recipe by Elizabeth McElligott and Jacob Grier

Shake with ice:

1 oz Bols Genever
1 oz rye whiskey
1/2 oz Combier
3/4 oz orgeat
1 oz lime juice

Strain and serve on the rocks or straight up. (I recommend on the rocks.)


At first sip, the flavor is reminiscent of a less sweet Mai Tai. But then the other flavors start to poke their heads up. There's a malty flavor, sort of like cereal grain. And there's also the spice of the rye, but it's subtle. It's definitely not rum, but it's not completely different from rum either.

Genever is the original gin, made in Holland centuries ago and only recently resurrected. It has a milder, slightly sweeter flavor than London Dry gin. It reminds me a little of fresh bread, while still maintaining the juniper and botanical flavors we typically associate with gin. A very interesting spirit.

It turns out that the Genever marries very well with the rye. (I used Rittenhouse 100-proof.) This kinda makes sense, as one of the grains Genever is made from is rye, along with corn and wheat. It's not a combination I'd ever have thought of — especially not as a substitute for rum — but it works.

Combier is a high-end triple sec. If you don't have it you can substitute Cointreau or a good, basic triple sec (like Bols). There's really no substitute for orgeat in this recipe, so get some.

A very tasty drink. I'll be making this one again.

Drink Recipes Gin Vodka

Worlds Collide: James Bond and the Vesper Martini

Perhaps no one in thriller literature, or literature in general, is as associated with the Martini as James Bond. With just three short words he launched countless thousands of Martini drinkers off into the arms of Bacchus: "shaken, not stirred."

I won't go into why this is the wrong way to prepare a Martini — actually, I will: briefly, it spoils the crystalline purity that is one the drink's sublime pleasures — nor will I offer a diatribe on how Bond convinced so many drinkers that a Martini should be made with vodka instead of gin. (Something akin to making cookies with peanut butter and calling them chocolate chip.)

No, the purpose of today's post is to discuss something that Bond — actually his creator, Ian Fleming — did right: he created a new drink.*

Here is the relevant passage, from Casino Royale (1953), the novel that introduced 007. Bond walks up to a bar, accompanied by his CIA contact, Felix Leiter, and orders a drink:

"A dry martini," [Bond] said. "One. In a deep champagne goblet."

 "Oui, monsieur."

 "Just a moment. Three measures of Gordon's, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it's ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon-peel. Got it?"

Bond called the drink the Vesper, after the book's love interest, the beautiful double agent, Vesper Lynd.

It's basically a Dry Martini with vodka substituted for some of the gin in order to mellow out the flavor a little. Kina Lillet, used instead of vermouth, was a French aperitif flavored with cinchona bark (quinine), giving it a slightly bitter taste, but leaving it still a little sweeter than the typical dry vermouth.

All in all, a tasty way to make a Martini. Sadly, Bond never drank it again. The book does not end well for Vesper Lynd — it never does for Bond's ladies, does it? — and he discarded the drink along with her memory.

Here is the recipe:

The Vesper Martini

Shake with ice:

3 oz gin
1 oz vodka
1/2 oz Lillet Blanc

Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Add a lemon twist for the garnish.

Bond liked his cocktails on the large size (see below), so this will make a hefty drink. You can adjust the quantities if you'd like. Just keep the ratios the same.

For the gin, I recommend a strong-flavored London Dry, like Tanqueray. This will approximate the flavor of the British Gordon's gin of Bond's time. (A different animal from the Gordon's sold in the U.S. today.)

For the vodka, Bond preferred Russian or Polish, but distillied from grain, not potatoes. So you might use Stolichnaya or Sobieski. (In the movies Bond usually drank Smirnoff, but that's because Heublein paid the studio a lot of money for product placement.)

For the Lillet, it gets more complicated. The Kina Lillet that Bond requested is no longer available. The company now makes an aperitif called Lillet Blanc, which is similar, but doesn't have the quinine (and thus the bitterness) of the original. The drink will still have the same basic flavor profile, but it will be slightly different.

One possible substitute, first proposed by Jason Wilson, is to use Cocchi Americano instead. Cocchi Americano is a French aperitif wine akin to Lillet Blanc, but flavored with gentian root, giving it a similar bitter flavor to the original Kina Littlet. I have not tried this combination, but it sounds promising.

Regardless of how you choose to prepare your Martini, I will leave you with one final piece of advice, also related by Monsieur Bond in Casino Royale:

"I never have more than one drink before dinner. But I do like that one to be large and very strong and very cold and very well-made. I hate small portions of anything, particularly when they taste bad."

Sound advice from a man who knows.

*According to Dale Degroff, the recipe was actually created for Fleming by Gilberto Preti, who tended bar at Dukes Hotel in London. Ted Haigh, however, says this is doubtful.

Amaro Drink Recipes

Recipe: The Caprican Cooler

When I mentioned to a friend recently that I had made a batch of Picon Punches, he joked that he preferred the Caprican Cooler. I didn't know what he was talking about, but apparently fans of Battlestar Galactica will recognize that both Picon and Caprica are colonies (planets?) in the show. The discussion ended with me pledging to create a drink to fit the name.

I wanted to make something that was akin to a Picon Punch, and also wanted it to have a vibrant color. (I imagined that Caprica was one of those brightly-colored planets like Mars.) So this is what I came up with:


The Caprican Cooler

 Build in a highball glass over ice:

2 oz Campari
1/2 oz Cointreau
1/2 oz lemon juice
2 oz club soda

Give it a quick stir.

Float 1 oz of aged rum. (I used Flor de Caña Grand Reserve 7 years.)

Garnish with a lemon twist.



It came out pretty tasty. I tried to take the edge off the Campari, but still keep the bitter flavors that dominate the Picon Punch. Like that drink, this one packs quite a punch.

(Thanks to Dan Chadwick of Kindred Cocktails for his feedback on the early recipe.)

Book Reviews Drink Recipes Mixology

Book Review: “Cocktails, Cocktails & More Cocktails” by Kester Thompson

I love reading books filled with cocktail recipes. Some of them are fun because they're so bad — every other drink calls for sweet and sour or pina colada mix or some other vile bottled substance. But the good ones are good because they contain real recipes for delicious drinks that a person with a little knowledge and enthusiasm can make at home.

Cocktails, Cocktails & More Cocktails, I'm happy to say, falls into the latter category. Kester Thompson is a brand ambassador for an Israeli winery and a consultant to bars and restaurants. It's clear from the recipes and commentary in this book that he's a man who knows his stuff.

As the title would suggest, Cocktails, Cocktails & More Cocktails is composed mostly of recipes. There's a little bit about bar tools and technique, but not much. The book also isn't heavy on photographs, so if you want to see pictures of all the drinks, this isn't the book for you. (Note: the book does have some photos. But not of each drink.)

There are recipes for a hundred or so cocktails, including all the classics (Martini, Manhattan, Daiquiri), along with some nice Tiki drinks (Zombie, Planter's Punch), and even a handful of drinks using cachaça, which was nice to see. (I still haven't mixed up any cachaça drinks, but I'll get around to it one of these days.) He also has a solid recipe for the Mai Tai, a drink that most people butcher.

I didn't find anything that was new or exciting in this. But to be fair, I've read a lot of cocktail books. For those with less experience, there are plenty of good recipes contained in Cocktails, Cocktails & More Cocktails that you will enjoy making.

Here's one I whipped up last night:


Shake with ice:

2 oz Dark or Navy Rum
2 oz Pineapple Juice
1 oz Orange Juice
1 oz Coconut Cream

Strain into a collins glass filled with crushed ice. Sprinkle grated nutmeg on top. 

A solid recipe for a delicious drink. I did change it a little, upping the rum a touch and using two different types of rum in order to get a more complex flavor. I also added a little cinnamon on top along with the nutmeg. But as written, this is an excellent cocktail.

The main drawback to this book is its size and format. This isn't a book that you want sitting on your counter so you can flip through it and mix up a cocktail. It's too big and too nice for that. This is a book that sits on your shelf. So if you want to make one of the recipes, you're probably going to have to copy it down first.

Other than that, this is a useful, well made volume that deserves a place in your collection.

Drink Recipes Tequila

Recipe: Frozen Watermelon Margarita

My wife brought a giant watermelon home from the store. Naturally, my first thought was, "Make a drink out of it!" The challenge was that, to my mind, the flavor of watermelon doesn't naturally lend itself to a lot of different combinations. So I decided to stick with something simple and make a Margarita out of it. Plus, I was hot and wanted to make something that would help me cool down.




Frozen Watermelon Margarita

Mix in a blender:

1 cup Watermelon, cut in cubes
4 oz Tequila
2 oz Triple Sec
2 oz Fresh Lime Juice
1 oz Simple Syrup (optional)
1 cup Ice

Makes 2 drinks.

Ordinarily I don't think you'd need to add the simple syrup. Even with the dilution caused by the ice and the watermelon, the Triple Sec and the melon itself should provide enough sweetness. However, with this being an end-of-season watermelon, it didn't have as much flavor as you'd get from a better piece of produce, so I needed to balance out the sourness of the lime.

Still, a refreshing drink for a hot day. Now bring on some football! (This drink has left me feeling just a bit less than masculine.)

Drink Recipes Rum Tiki

Recipe: The Mai Tai

Declaring a particular cocktail my favorite is a little like declaring one of the kids my favorite — I could do it, but I wouldn't want them to hear. Cocktails can be such sensitive creatures.

It used to be that I drank mostly vodka. I'd mix it with a little lemonade or fruit juice and call it done. So the only "real" drink I favored was the gin and tonic. And the G&T is still one of the best around, a perfect balance of crisp, refreshing flavors. Plus, it helps ward off malaria. (You can never be too careful)

But ever since I've started my exploration of the constellation of rums, I've discovered a whole new world of drinks. And at the epicenter of that world is the king of all rum drinks: the Mai Tai.

The origins of the Mai Tai are as shrouded in mist as the lead singer of an 80s New Wave band in a music video. According to popular lore, the Mai Tai was invented in 1944 by Victor "Trader Vic" Bergeron at his faux-Polynesian restaurant in Oakland, California. Allegedly, Vic set out to create the best drink possible, and when he served it to a pair of friends visiting from Tahiti, they pronounced it "mai tai" ("the best").

Although there are credible stories that date the true provenance of the Mai Tai to 1933, attributing its creation to Trader Vic's longtime rival Don the Beachcomber (aka Donn Beach, aka Ernest Raymond Beaumont Gantt), at a certain point it becomes more academic than anything else. All we barflies really want to know is: how does it taste?

In a word: delicious.

(If you do want to investigate further the origins of the Mai Tai, and all other tropical drinks of significance, I strongly recommend you peruse the works of Jeff "Beachbum" Berry, the world's foremost authority on Tiki drinks. His book Beachbum Berry Remixed is particularly invaluable.)

The Mai Tai is not the syrupy, sticky sweet, red, blue, or purple, pinneapple-infused, grenadine-tinged monstrosity that is usually served by the hapless bartenders of too many bars across the world.

The Mai Tai is actually a fairly simple drink, composed of only five ingedients. When Trader Vic first mixed it, he was really trying to showcase the rum, a rather old and impressive bottle from Jamaica. And a well-made Mai Tai should still focus on rum, with the other flavors serving as compliments.


Trader Vic's Original Mai Tai Recipe

2 ounces 17-year-old J. Wray & Nephew Jamaican rum
1/2 ounce French Garnier Orgeat
1/2 ounce Holland DeKuyper Orange Curacao
1/4 ounce Rock Candy Syrup (a rich simple syrup with a hint of vanilla)
juice from one fresh lime


Although that particular rum is no longer available (allegedly there are only four bottles extant in the world today and the last time one sold, it was for $50k), Trader Vic eventually modified his Mai Tai to take advantage of a blend of two different aged rums that gave his signature drink the robust flavor he was looking for. With a few slight variations, that's the same recipe I use.


Mai Tai

Shake with lots of crushed ice:

1 ounce aged gold rum1
1 ounce gold/dark Jamaican rum2
1/2 ounce Orange Curacao3
1/2 ounce orgeat syrup
1/2 ounce simple syrup (1:1 sugar dissolved in water)
3/4 ounce fresh lime juice

Pour unstrained into a double old fashioned glass and top with more crushed ice, if necessary. Garnish with one of the squeezed lime halves and a sprig of fresh mint. (The garnish is supposed to look like an island floating in the sea with a palm tree.)

1Trader Vic preferred to use a rhum agricole from Martinique, but I usually substitute a demerara rum, such as El Dorado. You can use any gold rum, but try to get a decent aged rum. Rhum Barbancourt is another favorite of mine.

2The go-to rum here is Appleton. I recommend either the V/X or Extra (12 Year). You can also use the cheaper Appleton Special Gold. In a pinch, Coruba or Myer's will work. (Do not use spiced/flavored rum!)

3I use Senior Curacao of Curacao or Marie Brizard. Bols works, too. You can substitute Triple Sec, but it's going to change the flavor of the drink. If you do, cut back on the sugar.


Most recipes call for a little less simple syrup than I use — although it should be noted that Trader Vic's Rock Candy Syrup was made with 2:1 sugar/water, so it was approximately half again as sweet as the 1:1 stuff I use. I find that I like that little extra sweetness. I don't care for drinks that are overly tart, so I decided to up the sugar a little rather than decrease the lime. (I'm still trying to stick as closely as possible to Vic's original recipe.)

Orgeat, a sweet, almond syrup with just a hint of orange flower water, is a key ingredient of this recipe, as it was in so much of the repertoire of Trader Vic and Don the Beachcomber. It adds an undercurrent of flavor to the drink that makes it taste both richer and more exotic. (If you can't find orgeat, you can substitute regular almond syrup — the kind that is used by coffeehouses, for example — but it will taste a little different.)

If you find that the Mai Tai is to your liking, I recommend that you play around with the combination of rums to find a pairing that best suits your palate. (Or, do like I do and pick a different pair of rums to suit your mood, or even at random.) As long as you don't use a flavored or spiced rum, anything should work in this drink. 

The selection of rums will, of course, be limited to what you have on hand. And if you're like most people, that won't be much. (But please invest in something other than that bottle of Bacardi you've been nipping at for the past five years.) The rum(s) you choose will change how good the final product tastes. But no matter what, it's likely to turn out "mai tai."