The Dave Initiative

For a couple of years now, I’ve had a subscription to Esquire magazine. I don’t have much use for a lot of the stuff in there. The celebrity profiles are often silly (April’s is by a writer who “prepared” for his Ben Affleck interview by going on a four-day bender in Vegas, trying, I suppose, to out-man’s-man the man’s man he was interviewing). I don’t share Barry Sonnenfeld’s gadget fetish. And who can afford a $9,700 watch, anyway? Probably no one I want to know.

But the one can’t-miss feature every month is Dave Wondrich’s booze column. I usually read that as soon as my issue arrives each month. And the April column’s a beaut. Dave shares with us a formula for creating new cocktails. (It doesn’t seem to be on the Esquire site yet; when I see it, I’ll edit this post and link out to it.) I’ve now mixed up three different drinks with it, and I have to say, it’s a keeper. Here’s the idea: you start with your base spirit: gin, whiskey, rum, tequila, whatever you want. Add fortified wine (port, sherry, vermouth, you name it) and a splash of liqueur. Top with two dashes of the bitters of your choice. Here’s the basic recipe.

The Basic Cocktail

  • 2 oz. spirit
  • 1 oz. fortified wine
  • 1 tsp. liqueur
  • 2 dashes bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

DSC08492As I said, I’ve done three drinks with this already. The first drink I’m not sharing here, not yet anyway. It’s a gin drink, and I want to enter it into competition at the Mixoloseum‘s Beefeater edition of Thursday Drink Night, on March 26. I’ll post the recipe after that evening. The second attempt featured Kilo Kai rum as the base, and I used Wondrich’s exact proportions.

Bitter Regret

Stir and strain. Photo, at right, by Jennifer Hess.

This was a delicious drink. Enough body from the port to match the spice in the rum, and the cherry flavor was really subtle. Tasty, tasty stuff. The next drink, however. Enh.

Not Quite Right

  • 2 oz. Inocente tequila
  • 1 oz. Martini & Rossi bianco vermouth
  • 1 tsp. St.-Germain elderflower liqueur
  • 2 dashes Angostura orange bitters

This drink was too sweet as formulated. I think the bianco’s just too much for the tequila in these proportions. Worse, though, is that the St.-Germain just disappeared in it. I added a touch more tequila, and it balanced out well with the vermouth, but I think I need a drier vermouth for this and perhaps a little more St.-Germain. Still, though, this has potential. I’ll have to work on it further.

Overall, this was a fun experiment with a versatile basic recipe. I’m eager to try more combinations out and report back to you. I already have some ideas in mind for bourbon or rye, and I’d love to play with a smoky scotch in this.


7 thoughts on “The Dave Initiative

  1. Michael, I also have a subscription to Esquire, and like you, I pretty much maintain it just for Wondrich’s column (although there *is* the occasional gem elsewhere amongst the luxury goods and celebrity worship).

    Also, what is it about Kilo Kai and Heering that makes them pair up so well? A while back I discovered those two really were made for each other.


  2. I read this around 2 in the afternoon, sadly too early to start drinking on a Monday (though lord knows I was tempted), so I mulled it over and concocted a drink built on this outline that proved to be interesting (that’s “good-interesting,” not “interesting-but-I-don’t-care-to-repeat-this-experiment” interesting). I’m sure there’s room for polishing, but here’s what I went with:

    2 oz Jim Beam bourbon
    1 oz sweet vermouth
    1 tsp homemade vanilla liqueur (I just used vodka and soaked a few split and scraped vanilla beans in it for a few months, strained, and bottled)
    a dash each of Angostura and Angostura Orange.

    The nose is heavy on the vanilla, but it doesn’t overrun the flavor. The hint of the orange bitters plays well with both the vanilla in a vague Dreamsicle way and with the bourbon, and the Angostura bitters temper the sweetness of the vermouth. I may try it again later with dry vermouth and rye whiskey, just because I like the way those flavors pair.


  3. I have been reading your articles, and I use in my drinks when it calls for any bitters, Bitters (Amargo) Chuncho from Peru and it really gives a very nice impulse to my cocktails, has anyone tried them, for a long time I was only receiving one soemone traveled to Peru, but now it is available in the web at;
    Can someone tell me if there is an orange amargo chuncho in USA?
    Thanks, Ivette


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