A Dash of Bitters has been nominated for a Foodbuzz Award in the category Best Cocktail/Spirits Blog! If you’re inclined to vote, go here and vote! You have until October 29th.


Vote for me on Foodbuzz!

A Dash of Bitters has been nominated for a Foodbuzz Award in the category Best Cocktail/Spirits Blog! And the competition is stiffer than the drinks around here: I’m up against Jay Hepburn from Oh Gosh!, Marleigh and Dan Miller of Sloshed, and Jeffrey Morgenthaler of the wittily named Jeffrey Morgenthaler blog. I know it’s cliché to say these things, but I am honestly honored to be in this company. I know and like all of these people, and I read their blogs avidly. I’ll be happy no matter who wins, but I’ll be even happier if I win!

If you’re inclined to vote, go here and vote! You have until October 29th. They do want you to register, but all you need provide is name and email. You do not need to vote in every category. Cheers!

Fall 2009 column is now online

Hey, folks. My fall 2009 column for Edible Rhody magazine is now online. As a reminder …

The focus of the column is on using seasonal, local ingredients in cocktails. Each column will have two recipes–one that I mix and one from a local bartender. Trust me, my focus will always be on classical techniques and interesting spirits.

So, now you can see whether I made good on that promise. First, though, the stunning cover:

Edible Rhody Fall 09 Cover

Who knew there were cranberry bogs in Rhode Island? I didn’t! Now, the column (if you want to read the text without squinting, click here):

Mix Master, Edible Rhody Fall 09

Photo for the article is by local photographer Chip Riegel, and boy did I have fun mixing drinks for a photoshoot at 9am.

Apple Sage Old-Fashioned

For this drink, I was inspired by traditional Thanksgiving flavors, particularly apple and sage stuffing.

  • 2 ounces Calvados apple brandy
  • 1/2 ounce sage simple syrup (recipe follows)
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters (when I made this at home, I used Fee’s Whiskey Barrel Bitters, which were superb in this, but aren’t for sale in Rhody as far as I know)
  • Apple slice, for garnish

Build in an old-fashioned glass over ice. Add garnish.

Sage Simple Syrup

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup fresh sage leaves

Add sugar and water to a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. When sugar dissolves, remove from heat. Add sage leaves and stir. Cover and let steep for 15 minutes. Strain into a jar (discard sage leaves) and refrigerate. Will keep for one month.

Apple Sage Old-Fashioned

photograph by the ever-loyal Jennifer Hess

Pippin’s Pear of Aces

This drink is by Providence bartender Bonnie Siharath. At the time of writing, she was at Chinese Laundry, but that restaurant closed just a week before this issue was released. I have not yet followed up to see where she’s landed. The food at Chinese Laundry was inspired by the tastes of East Asia, and this drink follows that theme.

  • 1/2 fresh pear
  • 1/2 stick of cinnamon
  • 1 ounce Wokka Sake vodka
  • 1 ounce Gray Goose pear vodka
  • 1 ounce Asian pear nectar
  • 1/4 ounce fresh squeezed lime juice
  • pear slice, for garnish

Gently muddle pear and cinnamon in a cocktail shaker. Add ice, vodkas, nectar, and lime juice. Shake well and strain through a tea strainer into a chilled cocktail glass. Add garnish.

Square One Botanical

Tonight at Thursday Drink Night, in the Mixo chat room, we’re hosting Allison Evanow, founder of Square One, and bartender H. Joseph Ehrmann, to discuss Botanical, the latest offering from Square One.

Back Again with Square One Botanical

Here’s a great recipe that uses this spirit.

Back Again

  • 3/4 oz. Square One Botanical
  • 3/4 oz. Cointreau
  • 3/4 oz. Lillet Blanc
  • 3/4 oz. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 dashes absinthe or Herbsaint
  • stemless cherry, for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with cracked ice. Shake well and strain into a cocktail glass. Add garnish.

(Disclaimer: Square One sent me a sample bottle of Botanical.)

Vintage liquor ads

For months now, I’ve been combing through the digital archives of various magazines, building a “collection” of liquor ads. Starting today, I’m going to post ads here, once a week. If I have anything to say about the ad or the brand, I will, but often I’ll just post the ad itself without commentary.

I now have hundreds of ads, and so far from only three magazines–Vanity Fair, Life, and Playboy–so I know I’ll have plenty of fodder to keep this going indefinitely. In small doses, it’s really absorbing, watching the tastes and mores of the United States change over time. It’s also a fun way to learn about drinking habits, and how they’ve changed over the decades.

Brands come and go; I’ve seen brands I had never heard of prior to finding the ad. In one amusing coincidence, I saw an ad for a blended scotch whisky called Vat 69. I did a little research into the brand, and then a few hours later came across a reference to it while reading a Leslie Charteris short story about Simon Templar, a.k.a. The Saint. I was so amused by the coincidence that I laughed aloud and had to explain myself to Jen.

In the earliest of these magazines, there are no ads for vodka or tequila brands. These spirits arrived rather late to the American palate. Instead, there are many ads for gin, whisk(e)y, brandy, wine, and beer. And yes, although wine and beer are normally outside the remit of this blog, I’ll be including them here as well. If there’s alcohol in it, it’ll be here.

Some of the ads are funny (intentionally or not), some are lushly illustrated, and some are banal. I’m going to post them all, at least for as long as I keep the blog alive and retain interest in posting these ads.

I know I’m not the first to tread this ground. Cask Strength did a post recently on booze ads in Seventies-era Playboy. And James Lileks just turned his wit on the topic, with Forgotten Hooch. But I think my approach to it is different enough to be somewhat new. At any rate, I had no intention of stealing anyone’s idea. I’ve been planning this for months and wanted to be sure I had enough material to keep it going for a while without running out.

Now I’m ready, so once a week, every Friday morning, expect a new booze ad.

First up, an ad for Old Schenley Rye, from the January 1935 issue of Vanity Fair (click through for full size):


Don’t Be Bitter! Beefeater 24 Bitters Giveaway

beefeater24_bittersDon’t be bitter! We’ve got a very rare bottle of bitters in our hands—and we’re looking to give them away. “We” in this case are me and Samantha Harrigan from Nova Marketing and the Cocktail Culture blog. The bitters are specially made for Beefeater 24 by the fine folks at The Bitter Truth. There are currently only 100 bottles in the United States, none of which are actually for sale. Not much is known about the bitters, but check out what Beefeater 24 Brand Ambassador Dan Warner had to say about them:

In order to produce the bitters we send Stephan [Berg, of The Bitter Truth] high proof, straight off the still Beefeater Gin and he uses this as a base. The recipe is Stephan’s secret but he did tell me that lemongrass, kaffir lime leaf, and ‘a few different types of citrus’ are featured. They work amazing in martinis and I’ve also been dashing them in my G&Ts.

Interested in giving them a try? Well, to win this bitter collection gem, you’ll have to participate in Beefeater 24’s “Don’t Be Bitter” contest. All participants will be given an equal shot at winning the bitters—as the winner will be randomly selected from the group. Here’s what you have to do to participate:

Post a submission on your blog or website and include the photo of the Beefeater 24 bitters (please download it here and host it yourself) and the title “Don’t Be Bitter” to make it official. Then, use the post as a “shout out” to another cocktail blogger—discuss a time when you were jealous of (or “bitter” about) another blogger’s booze collection, prized bottle of liquor, a cocktail-related trip they took, or an experience they had. Put any bitterness aside and share the link-love with your fellow cocktail bloggers. Make sure you link back to this post so your name gets thrown in the hat. You’ve got the whole month of October to get your post up [final deadline: 11:59pm Eastern time, 10/31/09] and the winner will be announced here the first week of November. Get on board, bitters-lovers!

I think Sam’s handling the actual mechanics of this, in terms of making the random pick, having the bitters shipped out, and so on. Any questions, please get them in to us by the end of the day Friday. Sam’s getting hitched on Saturday and will be on her honeymoon for the week following her wedding.

Oh, and you want to know what I’m bitter about? That I can’t win my own freakin’ contest!