Carla Bruni

carlabruniEvery Thursday night, the cats at the Mixoloseum host a chat-room event in which folks get together to share original drink recipes. Cunningly named Thursday Drink Night, this event draws a good crowd each week. This past week’s Thursday Drink Night was sponsored by Martin Miller’s Gin. Now, I’ve written about Miller’s before. It’s a delicate, pot-distilled gin with notes of citrus and cucumber. It’s a favorite at Chez Dietschyblossom, and I love mixing with it.

I don’t often participate in TDN. Usually, Jen and I are catching up on our day right when it tips off, but because of the Miller’s theme, I wanted to participate last week. We had bought some beautiful flowering thyme from the farmer’s market, and I chose to infuse some of it into a small bit of the Miller’s. If you don’t want to take the time for thyme, you can get a similar effect by either muddling a couple sprigs of thyme into the mixing glass, or rubbing it against the inside of a chilled cocktail glass, to release its oils, before pouring the drink into the glass.

I hate naming drinks; coming up with something original is usually difficult. However, I’ve mentioned before that I think naming drinks for famous people is a “great and longstanding tradition” and it’s one I chose to uphold. Who better than the singer, songwriter, former model, and current French first lady, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy? (By the way, if you’ve never heard her sing, and I’ll bet you the first round you haven’t, you should. She’s got a smoky, torch-singer voice.)

(drink photograph by Jennifer Hess)

Carla Bruni

2 oz. thyme-infused gin
¾ oz. Lillet
2 dashes maraschino
2-3 dashes absinthe (be very careful with this, lest you overwhelm the drink)
Thyme sprig, for garnish
Lemon peel, for twist

Stir over cracked ice, strain into chilled cocktail glass, twist lemon peel over surface of drink and discard, and garnish with a thyme sprig. Sip while enjoying this video of Carla Bruni singing her own song, “L’Amoureuse,” from her third album, Comme si de rien n’était.


Vintage Spirits is re-go-go!

Exciting news! The seminal cocktail guide, Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, enters into a new edition on July 1. Or, just because it’s fun, let me provide the full title:

Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails: From the Alamagoozlum to the Zombie and Beyond. 100 Rediscovered Recipes and the Stories Behind Them

That alone gives you some idea what to expect. Drinks you’ve never heard of. Drinks you have, without knowing what’s in them, or what the classic recipe is.

Preorder your copy today!

Author is Ted Haigh. By day, he’s a graphic designer for the talking picture show.  He’s worked for Superman and John Adams; for samarais and snickets; for gangsters, vampires, and spies. By night, he’s Dr. Cocktail, historian, raconteur, and bon vivant.


Vintage Spirits is a legendary book among cocktail geeks. It has been out of print for a couple of years now, and I’m among the fools who don’t own the first edition, so it’s legendary in part for being so elusive. More than that, though, it’s legendary for introducing readers to defunct spirits. Or, should I say, no longer defunct spirits. To name only one example, the book discusses a liqueur called crème de violette, a delicate liqueur made from violet petals and a staple ingredient in such drinks as the Aviation and the Blue Moon. Crème de violette, however, has reentered the market since Doc’s book premiered, in no small part because of Doc’s attention and the laments of serious bartenders everywhere.

But, if I may, there’s another reason I’m excited about the book.

I’m a small part of it.

Ted contacted a few folks who’ve helped spread cocktail love across the Internet and asked whether we’d consent to an interview. I, no fool, said yes. I’m flummoxed and flattered that Ted asked for my participation, and was very happy to help. I can’t wait to see my copy of the book, and I’m sad that I won’t get to see Ted next month to thank him personally and get his autograph.

MxMo Ginger Is In Progress

mxmologoOnce again, it’s time for Mixology Monday. This month, Matt “Rumdood” Robold is hosting, and although the man doesn’t know dilly-oh about an Old Fashioned, he’s a helluva guy with a helluva theme: ginger. Great theme, but a bit of a problem for me.

I love ginger, but I’m a little too comfortable with it. I use Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur a lot, and I use ginger beer/ale quite often, too. I’ve even made my own ginger beer. I wanted to do something new this time, but I was stymied. Knowing my dilemma, Jen got to brainstorming — thinking about not just ginger but also what’s in season right now. “Strawberries! Why not ginger and strawberries!”

I liked it, so I Googled. I found a Persian syrup called sekanjabin (also, sekanjubin or sekanjamin). Apparently, it was originally just a sugared vinegar, but then took on mint. In its basic form, it’s a sweet-and-sour syrup with mint. Interesting that such a simple search introduced me to something new. (Given that no search on this term turns up a cocktail blog or recipe anywhere, I seem to have stumbled on to something, in my own shambling fashion.)

It’s a versatile thing: you can serve the syrup as a salad dressing. Add bread to your salad for a light meal. Or make what’s apparently a typical Persian soft drink by taking the syrup, mixing in still or sparkling water, and stirring.

Hm. Sugar, water, vinegar. Cocktail geeks have been working with shrubs and gastriques for some time, which entail fruit, sugar, water, and vinegar. Let me introduce a new member of the family, the sekanjabin. If you will, a shrub with mint.

Sort of. The sekanjabin doesn’t require fruit.  Writing in The Complete Middle East Cookbook, Tess Mallos lays out a simple recipe for sekanjabin: sugar, water, white vinegar, lemon juice, and mint.

Ginger! Where’s the ginger?!

Sekanjabin ingredients

I found an interesting variant on the basic sekanjabin, with strawberry, ginger, and mint. Inspired by that, but limited by the ingredients on hand, I made my own variation. But unfortunately, it won’t be ready until tomorrow, hence the “…Is In Progress” in the title.

I started with the All Recipes base recipe, but brought in some of Tess Mallos’s ideas and also went my own way in some spots. Again, this is versatile. I want to serve it diluted with soda from the syphon as a non-alcohol drink. I want to serve it with champagne. I want to mix it into cocktails as I would a shrub. I want to pour it on your… wait, I’m getting carried away.

Note, I’m not convinced the overnight maceration is necessary, because it tastes damn fine already. Also, although the final prep calls for straining off the fruit, Jen thinks that if you leave it in, and mix the syrup with wine, you’d have a damn good sangria. See? Versatile!

Strawberry-Ginger Sekanjabin

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup turbinado sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 6 ounces chopped strawberries
  • 1/4 cup chopped mint
  • 3 ounces sliced ginger
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sherry vinegar

In a pan, boil sugars and water over high heat until sugars are dissolved. Stir in strawberries, mint, ginger, and lemon zest and juice. Return to a boil, and then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

Remove from heat, stir in vinegars, and let cool. Store overnight at room temperature.

Strain solids from syrup using a fine strainer. Bottle it and store in the refrigerator.

Cocktail fundraiser

Wanted to let Boston-area readers know about an upcoming fundraiser to benefit the West End House Boys and Girls Club. On Your Feet Project, a local non-profit organization working to get young professionals volunteering, is holding this event at Mantra this Thursday, June 18th, from 6 to 9pm.

Cocktails 101

Join us at Mantra in Downtown Crossing for an evening of old-style cocktail making, drinking, and eating.

Complimentary appetizers and drink samplings are included in ticket price. Lessons will be given by the Boston Shaker’s Adam Lantheaume.  The evening will benefit the children at The West End House Boys and Girls Club.

The West End House is Boston’s most diverse after-school program in Boston, offering life-shaping opportunities to more than 1,000 youth representing 40 countries. Through caring relationships with trusted adults, as well as experiences and instruction in education, fitness, leadership and the arts, Boston youth receive the guidance and support needed to grow into strong, healthy, self-sufficient adults.

Other sponsors include Berkshire Mountain DistillersPreiss Imports and Vin Divino.


Let me tell you something, kids. If Adam’s involved, this will be a good event.

Boston Shaker

On Friday of last week, I had the joy of visiting the Boston Shaker in Somerville, Mass., a semi-new store-within-a-store that specializes in bar- and glassware, cocktail makings (everything but the booze, that is), and other fun stuff. I had a fun visit with proprietor Adam Lantheaume, and enjoyed a cameo appearance by Fred Yarm, of Cocktail Virgin Slut. Here’s a bit of a photo tour, for those who’ve never see the place. Forgive the blurriness of some of these photos. Also, if you’re a regular viewer of my Flickr stream, forgive the fact that you’ve already seen all these damn pics.

Adam, proprietor of The Boston Shaker

Proud, happy proprietor Adam. Say, “Hi Adam!”

The Boston Shaker @ Grand

Lovely pewter julep cups, made by a company in Connecticut. Support almost-local business! I’m hoping to add a couple of these to my home bar fairly soon.

The Boston Shaker @ Grand

Sterling-silver cocktail picks. At nearly a Benjy a pair, these ain’t coming home with me anytime soon.

The Boston Shaker @ Grand

Books ‘n’ more.

The Boston Shaker @ Grand

Bitters, and a lot of them.

The Boston Shaker @ Grand

Paraphernalia, muddlers, syrups, etc.

Cleanse me with hyssop

You might remember from my recent Amaro post that Jen and I picked up a couple of herbs at the farmer’s market–lemon balm and anise hyssop. I wanted to use both herbs in cocktails; I muddled the lemon balm, but with the anise hyssop, I chose to go a different direction.

You probably won’t be surprised to learn that anise hyssop bears distinctive notes of anise in its aroma and taste. You probably also won’t be shocked to find that I chose to pair it with rye whiskey. After all, absinthe carries certain anise notes in its flavors, and absinthe pairs well with rye in such cocktails as the Sazerac. I didn’t, however, want to simply replicate the Sazerac using an infused rye.

Instead, I decided to poke around with another New Orleans classic, the Vieux Carré. This venerable cocktail calls for equal parts rye, cognac, and sweet vermouth, with a splash of Benedictine and dashes of Peychaud’s and Angostura bitters. I retained the basic flavors, but played around with the composition.

photograph by Jennifer Hess; oh, and I’m not really interested in taking the time to make my ice cubes crystal clear, so if cloudy ice offends your aesthetic sense, that’s your thing, not mine.

Neuf Carré

2 oz anise hyssop rye (recipe follows)
1 oz B&B
1 oz Carpano Antica vermouth
2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters

Build in a double Old Fashioned glass over ice.

Anise Hyssop Rye

Wash and dry one bunch of anise hyssop. Place in a jar and add 4 oz. rye whiskey (I used Rittenhouse 100-proof). Steep for 24 hours, or until the anise-rye flavor pleases you. Strain, and discard the anise hyssop.