Arsenic and Old Lace

I missed out on this months Mixology Monday. Rather, I let it pass by, mostly because I didn't know any cream-based cocktails that I loved and felt the need to pass on. I did figure I could throw in a créme-based cocktail, but the only one I'm in love with now is the Arsenic and Old Lace, featuring the regrettably impossible to find créme de violette, which I thought might be unfair (as in, here is this great cocktail, you can't make it, neener-neener-neener.. ptttttttttt)

Paul over at Cocktail Chronicles did just that, however, and now I feel the need to share this drink, because it is truly extradordinary.

Like most cocktails I've had recently, this one was introduced to Christine and I by Ben and Murray at the Zig Zag. It's almost impossible to describe. The flavors are delicate, that is the first thing you notice, and long after you've finished it, the delicacy is the element you remember. All the flavors are there, but the violet is haunting and seductive, as if you're sipping on the essence of the flower alone.

The recipe I have comes from Cocktail DB. Not sure if this is exactly how Murray and Ben make it, as they tend to re-interpret and improve upon recipes.

Arsenic and Old Lace
1 1/2 oz gin
1/2 oz pastis
1/2 oz créme de violette
1/4 oz dry vermouth
Stir, strain into cocktail glass, garnish with a lemon twist.

This is now the initial cocktail Christine orders when she sits down at the Zig Zag. Also, it is so unique and fascinating it's inspired me to try and craft some homemade violet liquer.

Too late for Mixology Monday, but if you can track down a bottle of créme de violette, or if you can find someone to bring you a bottle from Japan or France, stir one up and see for yourself.

Jones Complete Bar Guide

I've been trolling the internet for this book for what seems like forever. Not long ago, it popped up on eBay and became my first purchase on that site.

Lucky me....

The Jones Complete Bar Guide is the product of a lifetime of experience and research by Stan Jones. Jones had been a lifer in the restaurant management business and involved in nearly every aspect of the beverage industry. The back-jacket pictures show a man in touch with the hilarious fashion sense of the early 70's, huge black-rimmed glasses, an intimidating afro and a chin second only to Dick Tracy's.

Clocking in at nearly 500 pages, this book has nearly everything you could want in a cocktail book: in-depth history of the spirtis industry, backgrounds on major brands, origins of famous cocktails, and approximately 1 bazillion cocktail recipes. Seriously. There are enough forgotten cocktails in this monster to scratch your research itch for years.

Come to think of it, it seems this is close to becoming a forgotten cocktail book, which would be a shame. It deserves a space on every serious cocktail-geek's bookshelf.

Aside from the merits I've just outlined, there is one other aspect I love about this book; the layout. It is large. One thing I dislike about pocket-sized guides is that it's difficult to make a cocktail while reading the recipe at the same time. The Jones Complete Bar Guide is large enough where it can lay on the table next to you while you're building the cocktail that made your mouth water.

In short, were I to write a cocktail guide (something I've been spending a fair amount of time plotting), this is the book I'll use as my model.

Hunt it down, if you can, my fellow cocktail dorks. It is a classic.

When a Fizz is a Collins and a Smash is a Julep

Fizzes and fixes and flips.... well, I was gonna finish that with the Wizard of Oz ditty, but I'll take whatever shred of dignity and taste I have remaining and spare everyone.

This post is a selfish one, wherein I try to get these categories settled. There's some convolution here, in that some of the categories blur into one another depending on the cocktail book you're reading, exactly the same as how cocktail recipes vary from book to book. I would love some feedback if someone's definition is different than posted here.

Let's dig in.

Buck: spirit, lemon or lime juice, ginger ale (or ginger beer?) I'm unsure if ginger beer excludes a cocktail from the buck category. Does this mean a Moscow Mule and a Gin-Gin Mule is actually a buck???

Cobbler: wine or sherry, simple syrup, crushed ice, gobs of fresh fruit as garnish.

: spirit, sugar (simple syrup), lemon juice built in a highball, topped with soda water with a lemon or orange twist and a cherry as garnish. A different spirit changes the name of the collins...
Tom Collins: London dry gin.
John Collins: in London, Holland gin. In America, bourbon or whiskey.
Pedro Collins: white rum
Rum Collins: dark rum
Captain Collins: Canadian whisky
Sandy Collins: Scotch whisky
Colonel Collins: bourbon
Mike Collins: Irish whiskey
Pierre Collins: Cognac
Joe Collins: Vodka (why it's not something like a Boris Collins is beyond me)
Rueben (or Pepito) Collins: tequilla
Pisco Collins: Pisco (natch)

Cooler: this one's a snap. Spirit, carbonated beverage over ice, citrus twist.

Daisy: spirit, fruit syrup or grenadine, crushed ice, topped with soda water.

Fizz: spirit, citrus juice, simple syrup, soda water. Sound familiar? Yup, the ingredients are exactly the same as a Collins. The differences lie in the garnish, preparation and glass. A Collins is built in the glass it is served in, a highball. A Fizz is shaken (prior to adding the soda water), strained into a rocks-filled old-fashioned glass, then topped with the soda water. Fizzes also frequently contain an egg. Here's a list of the different Fizzes, according to egg component:
Silver Fizz: egg white
Golden Fizz: egg yolk
Royal Fizz: whole egg

Flip: wine, spirit, liqueur, or even beer, whole egg, sugar and sometimes cream, straight up in a wine goblet, either hot or cold, fruit garnish.

Gimlet: spirit, simple syrup, Rose's lime juice. Not fresh squeezed lime juice, but Rose's specifically.

Julep: spirit, mint, simple syrup, crushed ice. The word julep comes from the Arabic (julap) which means 'rose water'. The irony of course is that there is no rose water in a julep.

Rickey: order a gimlet in my bar, and this is what you'll get...spirit, fresh lime juice, simple syrup.

Sling: spirit, juice, bitters, fruit brandy, soda water, fruit garnishes.

Smash: spirit, mint, simple syrup. Now this sounds just like a bleeping julep, to me. I've read that lemon juice is added to differentiate it from a julep, and also that crushed ice is actually the difference-maker. Sigh. Any help out there???

Sour: spirit, lemon juice, simple syrup. Not so hard. Quite a few recipes include egg white. Obviously, there are a lot of people who take issue with the egg. What I do is top it off with soda water in the shaker, then shake the crap out of it as if it contained egg white. Then you get foam without the textural and trace flavor of the egg. Personally, I like the egg... in some sours.

I skipped over a few (highball, crusta, swizzle, toddy), but I think I hit the majors. And maybe, just maybe, I cleared up these terms for myself.

The Zig Zag Cafe

Where do I start?

Is it enough that I refer to this bar as my University? I haven't been to class in a while, but I never fail to learn something whenever I visit... a new drink, a cocktail book, an obscure flavoring of some sort, a methodology...

Or, even, my Temple Step down the Pike Place stair-walk and that yellow awning greets you, candlelights backlighting the bar, the crowd of regulars and fellow bartenders and cocktail/spirit enthusiasts hunched on the bar... When I walk in an awe-inspired hush moves through me, all those bottles winking and grinning. Setting my hands on that bar with my back slightly hunched even becomes a sort of half-bow...

...It is my perfect bar. There! I said it. I'm not the only who feels that way, of course. Anyone who owns a cocktail blog and has visited has gushed over it: Robert at Drinkboy, Paul at Cocktail Chronicles, Cameron and Anita at Married with Dinner...several others, and now that collective of unabashed enthusiasts include me.

It starts, of course, with the bartenders. Murray Stenson, has been written about extensively, here, here, and here, to name a few without even including the aforementioned blogs. He is one of the most efficient bartenders I've seen, his technique exact and fluid. His memory is jaw-dropping, his encyclopedic knowledge of cocktails and spirits legendary. All of that comes with an inspiring level of service and an eagerness to share his craft. If anything, the accolades fall far short of the experience.

Most other bartenders (including yours truly) would be lessened in comparison, but Kacy Fitch and Ben Daugherty are most definitely not just 'other bartenders'. They don't get as much press, which is a shame; they are equally skilled, equally knowledgeable, equally a joy to talk to and laugh with.

They are collectively the three best bartenders in the city. How many places can boast that!

Then there's the ambience. Those three could sling drinks out of the back of an ice-cream truck and I'd still go, but the Zig Zag has a unique feel and a pitch-perfect setting. There is a patio ringed with potted plants, intimate tables, circular booths, a standing bar plus a dozen highly-prized bar stools... in short, every conceivable seating request. Behind the bar is the largest well I've ever seen, a staggering collection of booze lovingly lit by candles, and a library of old cocktail books quietly awaiting discovery.

Finally, it is located off the beaten path, lending a type of in-the-know speakeasy element, just shy of a city-wide secret. Borrowing some of that historic, turn-of-the-century vibe doesn't hurt feels like it's been a treasured part of the city forever.

If you're coming to Seattle, it simply has to be on your itinerary. Kacy, Ben and Murray deserve to be among the wealthiest and most universally acclaimed bartenders in America, and you deserve to experience their legendary cocktails and standard-bearing service.

I raise my glass to you gentlemen.

Thank you for making me a better bartender. And thank you for the Zig Zag Cafe.

Quit F*&$%in' With My Manhattans!!!!

Honestly, I'm not the anal retentive type. I have few rules when it comes to my bar, which is the way I think it should be. I may grumble about making Long Island Iced Teas or Bloody Mary's or Duck Fart shots, but they don't make me mad. A careless Manhattan, though? Don't get me started...

Actually, it's too late... the pump has been primed and I'm already on a roll. Put on your seat belt and grab a helmet....


Just got done reading an article in the latest Food and Wine about Philadelphia. In the article, Editor Dana Cowin mentions having a great cocktail scene is part of what makes a great food city, then goes on to mention the best cocktail in the city is a Manhattan.... wait for it...shaken by Kip Waide at Southwark.


Now, Dana Cowin should know better. Each year, Cowin and friends travel the country and release a wonderful collection of original and classic cocktails prepared by the best bartenders in the best bars. Sooooooo, Dana, how can I say this nicely....

If the best cocktail in the city is a SHAKEN Manhattan, you've got to get the hell out of that town!!!!!

The only good Manhattan is a stirred one. Made with good rye or superior bourbon. Furthermore, it should have a rich vermouth (not the cheap crap. Vya is the choice here). A healthy dash of bitters too. Then stirred. No Manhattan should come with a head on it. One more time.... Manhattan should come with a head on it!!!

And if the bartender insists on shaking the crap out of one, step away from the fact, turn your back and walk out. If you must stay, order a beer.

As I like to say, life is too short for crappy drinks.

The Royal Bermuda Yacht Club Cocktail

One of the few benefits of a slow night in the bar is the ability to test out cocktails. At Union, I'm lucky enough to have a kitchen crew who is as equally curious about trying out drinks as I am in making them. Sundays are usually the day I get to experiment, though this usually happens during service and they can only have a few sips. A recent Saturday night, however, gave me a rare opportunity to help the kitchen crew get their buzz on (ok, that part is not so rare) with some new drinks, at a time when they're ready to party (again, not so rare for Saturday night).

I'd been making Jason Stoneburner, our extraordinarily talented chef de cuisine, Ganesvoort Fizzes during their cleanup. By the time he was done, I'd run out of Drambuie, and a new cocktail needed to be whipped up. He'd had his first Ganesvoort Fizz the previous night and had been so excited he did some research to a) find out how to pronounce it and b) find another drink I could make him. Somehow, he landed on the Bermuda Rum Swizzle, a drink I'd never made but had the general idea. I mistakenly thought it contained Cointreau. I threw one together and Jason loved it, as did the rest of the table, so I made four more. Then I began to have second thoughts about the Cointreau. Sure enough, a gander at the recipe revealed no Cointreau.

I got home around 4 a.m. and dived into my new Jones Complete Bar Guide (review on this beautiful monster forthcoming) and sure enough, discovered The Royal Bermuda Yacht Club, a Bermuda Rum Swizzle with Cointreau.

1 3/4 oz Barbados Rum
1/2 oz lime juice
1/4 oz Cointreau
1/4 oz Falernum (I always jump at the chance to show my Falernum off)
Shake, strain into cocktail glass

I made this with both Barbados rum and Bermuda rum with equal success. If you enjoy richer flavor, go with the Goslings Black Seal Bermuda. Personally, I thought it was funny not using Bermuda rum given the name of the drink, then again Barbados rum allows the other ingredients more of the spotlight.

Three days later, I snapped the above picture of Christine enjoying one in the sun on our back porch. No yacht, no Bermuda, but she's got the drink so she's at least one step closer...