Odds and ends

I’ve been quiet, but I haven’t been a complete slug. The holidays were mainly a fall-back period, in which we enjoyed our favorite cocktails and didn’t try a lot of new drinks. I sampled a few new whisk(e)ys–bourbons, scotches, and ryes–during the holidays, and I’ve come up with a fun way to evaluate a new whiskey: in addition to drinking it straight, I mix it up into an Old Fashioned.

(As an aside, Drinkboy Robert Hess, to whom I’ve just linked, is no relation to my wife, Jennifer Hess, despite the fact that Jen’s dad and Drinkboy are both named Robert Hess. I tease her sometimes about this. Whenever Drinkboy has a new article or blog post, I say to Jen, “Hey, guess what ‘your dad’ just said!” I am a frivolous man.)

Back to the Old Fashioned, I’ve fallen in complete love with the technique demonstrated on the video blog Brilliant Cocktails. All that stirring with the ice really blends the flavors and chills the drink. I’m sure this is the way I should have been mixing my Old Fashioneds all along, but I’m dumb and never knew it. The extra work and time really pay off.

On our last trip to LeNell’s, I picked up a bottle of Fee’s Lemon Bitters. I’ve used this in a lot of drinks since picking it up. I’d recommend it anywhere you’d use orange bitters, or anywhere you’d like a bit of lemon flavor. The brothers Fee use lemongrass and lemon oils to make a piquant and spicy bitters. I think I’m especially surprised by the depth of flavor here because Fee’s Orange, compared to the Regan’s, is a little flat.

Finally, I’m sure everyone who reads this blog also reads Darcy’s The Art of Drink and Paul’s Cocktail Chronicles. If you don’t, you should. I mean no false modesty to say they’re better bloggers than I am. They have more experience and knowledge than I do, and they post more often.

But anyway, go check out Darcy’s recent series about the science of spirits tastings. It’s fascinating stuff, and with Darcy’s chemistry background, he’s the perfect person to parse the science literature so we don’t have to. Darcy’s the Harold McGee of drink!

And Paul’s in the middle of an excellent series on rye tastings (I’d link to all of his posts, but I don’t think he’s done yet), in conjunction with his article in the latest Imbibe magazine. I guess if Paul had slept with Sinatra and Presley, he could be the Gael Greene of drink. Or something. Anyway, his rye series is great. Go read, goddammit.

P.S. MxMo is pending this Monday. Have you sorted out your winter warmers yet? I know what I’m doing, and although it’s hardly unique or original, I think I’ll have fun with it.

P.P.S. Oh, I bought a bottle of Fernet Branca. Still puzzling this stuff over. Not sure yet what to make of it–or with it, for that matter. I’m open to suggestion.


6 thoughts on “Odds and ends

  1. I watched the BC video last week, and I’m a little skeptical of the long stir time. It seems that the everything would be mixed after only a few stirs. It seems that in that small amount of liquid, it would only take 2 minutes for the “flavors to blend” if there was a chemical reaction. In that case, it would occur faster without chill, so you should mix and stir, and then chill. It also seems that 3-4oz of fluid in 10 oz of ice would chill much faster than 2 minutes with agitation. I don’t think you were dumb about this, I think that the very long stir time is just a psychological effect. Maybe more than a cursory swizzle is best, but my guess is that more than 30 seconds doesn’t really add anything more, at least than just letting the drink set for that amount of time.

    Tell me why I’m wrong, seriously.


  2. Hmm, I don’t know that you’re wrong, now that I think about it. I do know that extra stirring (beyond my earlier method) produces a better tasting drink. But it might be true that I don’t need to quite so far with the stirring as I have been.


  3. Hi Michael…

    I Murray Stenson’s Porteno is the first drink I discovered to make good use Fernet Branca.



    Adapted from a recipe by Murray Stenson of Zig Zag Cafe in Seattle.


    3/4 ounce bourbon

    1/2 ounce Fernet Branca

    1/2 ounce cherry brandy

    1/2 ounce fresh lime juice

    1/2 ounce Falernum or simple syrup


    Fill a cocktail shaker two-thirds full of ice and add the all of the ingredients. Shake for approximately 15 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

    Though, I’ve always thought that 3/4 ounce of bourbon had to be a typo and end up making it a much drier cocktail than Gary Regan recommends.



  4. Being the dork that I am, I timed his stirring. 149 seconds total. After this amount of time, he says “I think that’s cold enough”, which is funny in light of the following.

    I did a small experiment to see how fast chilling takes. I took a pint glass, 3 oz of water, and enough ice so that the ice emerged from the water. The ice was standard freezer tray sized. I then stirred it using a standard bar spoon at a normal speed. I stuck in a Polder probe thermometer. It took 30 seconds for the liquid to reach 35F, which was it’s lowest temperature.

    One other thing it could be is the orange peel. Since the orange oils are in the zest, it should take a bit of time for them to diffuse into the drink. Hitting it with the spoon while stirring might help speed this up. The next experiment should be (1) an OF mixed, no ice, and allowed to set for 2 minutes, ice added, and stirred for 30s, and (2) Chris’s way with 2 1/2 min of stirring.

    I think one thing that matters here is that the traditional way is with a sugar cube, which would take a long time to dissolve in that small amount of liquid. Maybe the stirring is vestigial then, and not necessary with syrup, but still done as a bit of theatre.

    On another note, I received some cherry syrup from friends for Christmas, and made up this with it.


  5. The only reason for stirring for that period of time would be to dilute the drink, while keeping it ice cold. Like Phil said the temperature drops fairly quickly so it’s not to chill the drink. Many people expect their Old Fashioned to fill the glass and some bartenders hit it with club soda, so the Brilliant Cocktails method may just be trying to reproduce this without the addition of extra water.

    Personally, I’d find this drink a little bit to dilute for my liking. Plus, if it took me over two minutes to make an Old Fashioned behind the bar I wouldn’t survive the night!



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s