MxMo XLII: You Make Me Dizzy, Miss Lizzie

mxmologoHey! It’s another edition of Mixology Monday, and having sat out August’s entry on vodka cocktails, I decided to get back in the game this month with September’s theme, Dizzy Dairy. Led by group manager Chris Amirault (who this very evening is leading a cocktail class at Providence’s La Laiterie–go Chris!), the eGullet team chose a dairy theme, interpreted broadly as anything you’d find in the dairy section of your local supermarket–milk, cream, eggs, soy milk, cheese, whey, curds, whatever.

Now, I’ve had a bottle of Kahlua Coffee Cream sitting around for a few weeks now–a sample bottle that I received for review purposes. Kahlua Coffee Cream is a limited-edition product that will soon be released for the holidays.  The bottle describes it as Kahlua’s coffee liqueur blended with cream. I could have simply built a cocktail on that cream component, but I decided that would be cheating and planned to add my own dairy-case ingredient. More on that in a bit.

So starting with the Kahlua Coffee Cream, I figured I’d be going for a dessert drink. I’m sure that wasn’t necessary, but one thing I’ve never done around here is blog about dessert cocktails. The BarSmarts guys are pretty strong in advocating that bartenders have well-made dessert beverages to serve to restaurant patrons, and who’m I to argue with those gentlemen?

Micky Ficky Flip

My final inspiration here was Papa Clarke’s article in this weekend’s Chronicle about chocolate in cocktails. The very point of his piece runs contrary to what I’m doing, I’m afraid. His object was to show that chocolate need not be ghettoized as a sweet ingredient, and of course that’s just where I’ve relegated it. Chocolate in cocktails is more new territory for me, and so I’d rather blend for sweet than savory on my first go-around.

So it goes.

A couple of ingredient notes. I decided to make this drink a flip, in part to sort of approximate the flavors of ice cream, and in part because I don’t make many flips. So of course my other dairy-case component is a whole egg. Also, I pulled this together very much at the last minute today. I wasn’t even sure what I was building until I started building it. So while the Bittermens Xocolatl Mole Bitters might have been a logical choice for this drink, I still haven’t picked up a bottle.

Micky Ficky Flip

  • 2 oz. amber rum (I used Mount Gay Eclipse)
  • 1 oz. Kahlua Coffee Cream
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon syrup
  • 2 dashes whiskey barrel bitters
  • 1 tsp. cocoa powder
  • 1 whole egg
  • ground red chipotle, for rimming the glass

Add rum, Kahlua Coffee Cream, cinnamon syrup, bitters, cocoa powder, and egg to shaker. Dry-shake without ice to blend all ingredients. Add ice to shaker and shake again. Coat half the rim of a cocktail glass with chipotle. Strain cocktail into glass.

Cinnamon Syrup

  • 1 stick canela Mexican cinnamon
  • 2/3 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup water

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.

MxMo: Amaro

mxmologoIt’s that time of the month again, dear readers–Mixology Monday! Our host this month is Charming Chuck Taggart, and he’s chosen the theme amaro. Now, as you might recall, I’ve covered the topic of amari before. To sum up, though, amari are bitter, herbal liqueurs, consumed primarily over ice, either before or after dinner. Jen and I first encounted this class of spirit with Campari, probably, when we first tried the classic drink, the Negroni. We’ve since branched out and tried many other amari–Cynar, Aperol, Fernet Branca, Ramazzotti, I could go on. You can say we enjoy these drinks, both alone and mixed into cocktails.

Since we like amari so well, we try to seek out new ones when we can afford them. (Some weeks, we can barely afford wine or gin, let alone esoteric liqueurs.) We happened to be in the Italian section of Providence, Federal Hill, on Saturday, and stopped in at Gasbarro’s Wines and Spirits. The boys at Gasbarro’s had several amari we haven’t yet tried, including Fernet Branca’s minty sibling, Fernet Branca Menta.

I selected a slender and elegant bottle of Inga Amaro Mio. I haven’t found a lot of information about this product, so I’ll just share with you my impression. I’d say this is a pretty good gateway amaro. First, the price is right–Gasbarro’s wanted $12.99 for a 375-ml bottle. Trust me, a little of this stuff lasts a long time, so a smaller bottle is a great place to start. Second, it’s tasty. It’s not as bitter as many amari, so it’s not as challenging at first sip. It’s still not freaking Mtn. Dew, but it’s no Campari, either. Third, the bottle is gently curvy; it would make a sexy addition to your bar, and let’s face it–we all want our home bars to look sophisticated.

One more thing before I get to the recipe. Now that we’re entering into peak produce season, I’m challenging myself to really use our farmers’ markets as a resource for making cocktails. And I want to go beyond the basics of berries, stone fruit, and tomatoes that you might automatically think of when you consider fresh produce in drinks. So this weekend, we stopped by the table of Farmacy Herbs. Mary, the herbalist, always has a collection of dried herbs and tinctures (which I want to eventually tinker with for bitters), but on this particular morning, she also had two fresh herbs–lemon balm and anise hyssop. For this drink, I wanted the delicate flavors of the lemon balm.

Bitter Wood Cocktail

This cocktail is adapted from one version of the Blackthorn cocktail–in this case, gin, sloe gin, and vermouth. (There are at least two other drinks with this name, both of which are somewhat different formulations, but that’s a topic for another post.) I kept the gin and the sloe, but ditched the vermouth. I dub this drink the Bitter Wood, to play off the Blackthorn name and to celebrate the pungency of the amaro.

Bitter Wood Cocktail

  • 1 oz. Bluecoat gin
  • 1 oz. Plymouth sloe gin
  • 1/2 oz. Amaro Mio
  • 1 sprig lemon balm, for muddling
  • 1 leaf lemon balm, for garnish if desired

Technique: Measure liquid ingredients into mixing glass. Add lemon balm sprig. Muddle gently. (Lemon balm is in the mint family, and as with mint, if you over-muddle it, you’ll release unpleasant compounds into your cocktail.) Add ice and stir. Strain into a cocktail glass and add garnish, if using.

Mixology Monday: A Simple Twist of Great

mxmologoOkay, kiddos, it’s that time of the month again! Mixology Monday! This month’s theme is a pip, Superior Twists. Our host this month is Tristan Stephenson of the Wild Drink Blog. The remit is simple:

This month’s Mixology Monday is all about twists on classic cocktails, that for one reason or another do an even better job than the drinks upon which they are based.

This could be as simple as a classic Margarita with a dash with a special touch that completes it, or maybe as complicated as a deconstructed Hemingway Daiquiri with a homemade rum foam/caviar/jus/trifle. It might be taking a classic like a Manhattan and using Tequila instead of Bourbon?

In that spirit (ho ho!), I’m offering up the Ruirita, a rhubarby twist on the Margarita. First, lemme give you fools the recipe, and then I’ll tell you how I came up with it and which unsuspecting dolts I thieved my ideas from. So!


  • 2 oz. tequila, blanco (make sure it’s 100% agave; I used Inocente–why? because I had a free sample and the bottle’s sexy, but also because it’s a good tequila)
  • ½ oz. Cynar
  • ½ oz. lime juice
  • ¼ oz. simple syrup
  • 3 dashes Fee’s Rhubarb bitters
  • 2 drops orange flower water, to rinse glass

Shake over ice. Rinse chilled glass with orange flower water. Pour the flower water into the sink, and fill glass with love.


Now, I had been thinking about this drink over the weekend, trying to decide what I wanted to do. I remembered the rhubarb bitters Jen bought me a few months ago, and how I hadn’t really used them much. I then started thinking how I’d like to try them with tequila. Off to Google!

I didn’t find many rhubarb/tequila pairings, but the first thing I found was from Jacob Grier, who put up a drink with tequila, port, rhubarb bitters, and Benedictine. That sounded fabulous, JG, but wasn’t the way I was headed. (Jake revisited the tequila/rhubarb bitters idea in his post for this very MxMo, so be sure to check it out on Jacob’s site. Again, we’re headed in different directions, but he’s done a man’s job with his drink.)

However, Jacob did point me in another direction that I wanted to explore–Cynar artichoke bitter liqueur. Yes, artichoke and rhubarb. Jacob’s post mentions a drink that Robert Simonson discussed last year. Robert’s quaff inspired me to try Cynar and rhubarb, but it was my own warped psyche that led to the tequila, rhubarb, and artichoke delight. Jen and I love Cynar, and I don’t think I make enough opportunities to play with it.

The final element that I cribbed from another blogger was the orange flower water. A post on Kaiser Penguin has a drink with a glass rinse of the rhubarb bitters and the flower water. I wanted the orange to hint of the orange liqueur you normally find in a margarita, but orange flower water can quickly overpower a drink, so I chose the rinse. Rinses tend to engage the nose more so than the taste buds, so that seemed the way to go. However, I wanted the rhubarb bitters incorporated into the flavor of the drink, so I didn’t use them in the rinse.

So, I built the Ruirita in a mixing glass, stirring and tasting. I added the tequila, Cynar, lime, and bitters first, not wanting to deviate far from a traditional margarita. But Cynar’s more bitter than a Cointreau or another triple sec, so I needed a bit of sweetness. I didn’t want to add another liqueur–frankly, with tequila, Cynar, rhubarb, lime, and orange, there’s already enough going on with the drink’s flavor. So I added a touch of simple syrup, to provide neutral sweetening.

What resulted was a pretty damn good drink, I thought. Well balanced and complex, but not confused. The flavors melded very well. Jen was surprised, in fact, and wondered what demon had infested my soul to suggest this particular combo of ingredients. (That’s exactly the way she put it, by the way: “Man! What demon haunteth thou so that you blendeth these ingredients in yon tail of the cock! I shalt call upon the church for an exorci— Hey, this is pretty good. Wow.”)

So, try it please, and let me know what the hell you think.

(Photograph by Jennifer Hess.)

MxMo: Cocktail Virgin

Hey! The awesome ladies of LUPEC Boston are hosting this month’s edition of Mixology Monday, and it’s a subject that I feel kinda warm-and-fuzzy about. Pink Lady posts about a random encounter she had with a Christian-rock musician who had never had a cocktail but wanted to try one, and she wasn’t sure what to recommend. Funny. I used to be a born-again Christian. I don’t remember any of my Christian friends drinking anything stronger than beer or Communion wine. If today’s Christians are looser, I’m cool.

I remember the day I decided to start trying mixed drinks. It was my last day on the job at Pearson Education in Indianapolis, where I copy-edited computer books. I was leaving for Bloomington, 50 miles south, for a master’s program in library and information science. To celebrate my last day, I met up with a bunch of friends for dinner and lots of drinks.

Up to this point, I drank mostly beer and some bourbon, on the rocks or neat. In a weird little emo stage after “breaking up” with a girl I had hardly dated, I chose to drink as much vodka as I could before passing out. I think I had a third of a bottle. Ironically, I had, by this point, turned my back to a moonlighting stint at a liquor store and had never really tucked into the offerings on hand. I was intimidated by all the choices. The big plastic bottles scared me, but the other options frightened me even more. I didn’t know where to begin.

So, my final day of work arrived. I pulled into Buffalo Wild Wings (classy, that’s me) early and awaited my friends. I decided to get brave, to venture into a new frontier of drinking–the mixed drink. The <gasp> cocktail. I wracked my brain trying to decide what to order. Beer with the wings, of course, but what to start with? I’ll ease the suspense. My answer? Gin and tonic.

That, my friends, was my gateway drug into this delightful hobby. (How I got from gin and tonic to Tales of the Cocktail is another post.) That’s the mixed drink that popped my cocktail cherry. What popped yours? (Comment below. Don’t be ashamed.)

In that spirit, I wanted to propose a gin-based fizzy drink. You might recall, from such classic episodes as Guilty Pleasures, that my first drunk drink drunk was at a cousin’s wedding, when I was 14 and drinking a gin-and-Sprite Tom Collins. So I have no qualms about holding gin up as a cherry popper. If I can do it, anyone can.

Shut up and give us a drink, you holler? Okay, dammit. Serve this to your cocktail virgins.

Hail Mary Fizz

  • 2 oz. gin
  • 1 oz. Grand Marnier (Cointreau, triple sec, whatever)
  • 1/2 oz. Meyer lemon juice

Shake over ice. Strain into a highball glass. Top with fizzy water–tonic, soda, whatever. I sprayed in some soda from my phancy phountain. Garnish with your best wishes and love.

MxMo XXXVI Hits You Where It Hurts

Happy Mixology Monday, fellow tipplers! The theme this month is Hard Drinks for Hard Times, and the host is the hard man himself, Matthew Rowley. What Matt wants to know is, has the recession affected your drinking, and if so, how? Matt, himself, has already chimed in on this problem, with a story that begins with his own recent job loss.

I understand where he’s coming from.

Y’see, in the last few months, my own working life as a freelance copy editor has dried up to nothing. When Jen and I moved to Providence in April of last year, I was very busy. So busy, in fact, that I was turning projects away and supporting both of us, while Jen searched for work in her field. I was so busy, too, that I didn’t see any reason to seek out other work, or make contingency plans in case things fell apart.

Which, of course, is just what happened. Things fell apart, and at the moment, I’m not working at all.

Fortunately, Jen’s salary is enough to cover our living expenses, so that any money I might bring in goes toward savings, travel, spendier bottles of liquor and wine, and so on.

As my workload has dwindled, our drive to the bottom of the liquor industry’s pricing structure has quickened. We’ve been rocking the Evan Williams since before Dave Wondrich sung its praises in Esquire. (At about $22 for a 1.75-liter bottle, it’s almost stupid not to buy it.) I’m feeling especially lucky in that my personal favorite martini is based on Beefeater, which we can get in 1.75L form for about $30 around here.

We’ve even lately–it is like confessing a murder–brought in boxed wines for our everyday drinking, saving our bottled-wine budget for weekends and holidays.

But enough about this–two more comments, and I’ll move forward with a drink recipe.

What Does This Mean for A Dash of Bitters?

I’m happy to announce that this month marks the third anniversary of this blog, A Dash of Bitters. Despite our recent change of fortunes, I have every desire to push on to year four, and I have plans for the next year that will stun and amaze you! I’ll even ask you to help me out with ideas for my Big Project of 2009! More on that in a week or two.

Is Dietsch Going to Tales of the Cocktail?

Less happily, my current unemployment is forcing me to reconsider my commitment to attending�Tales of the Cocktail this year. This is not an easy decision, but unless my workload rises to at least part-time levels soon, there’s no way we can save the money in the short time between now and July. Further, Jen has a newborn niece and an 88-year-old grandmother; she’s never met her niece and hasn’t seen her grandmother in three years. I have a teenaged nephew I haven’t seen since he was a pre-teen nephew. Our travel priorities for 2009 are for family, I hope you’ll understand.

If things change, I’ll be happy to let everyone know that I or we will be in New Orleans this July, but at this moment, I can’t possibly see it happening.


We’ve been living pretty high off the product samples lately, and they’ve really helped us eke our way through some otherwise-dry patches. I thought, for this MxMo, I’d put together a drink based almost entirely on product samples.

Main ingredient, Bulleit bourbon. I love this stuff. The mashbill is such that it apparently has the highest rye content of any bourbon on the market. I love rye, so perhaps that explains why I love Bulleit so much.

Next up, Cherry Heering, followed by B&B. A little Grand Marnier, some fruit juice, and a hit of bitters. Squirt on some charged water, and that’s your thing.

The bourbon, Cherry Heering, and B&B were all product samples. I had the Grand Marnier on hand, alongside bitters and citrus.

What we’ve got here is a Singapore Sling variant, of course. I call it the Recession Special Sling, after the hot dog specials at Gray’s Papaya in New York. We both loved it. Now, finally, the recipe:

Recession Special Sling, using whatever the fuck I had on hand already

2 oz. bourbon
1/2 oz. Cherry Heering
1/4 oz. B&B
1 oz. Grand Marnier
3 oz. lemon juice
1 oz. lime juice
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Shake, strain into a Collins glass, and top with club soda or charged water.�

photograph by Jennifer Hess.

MxMo: New Horizons

Onward, young rangers, to a new horizon! Let us strike out across this great land to explore strange new territories, seek out new life and new ci…

Uh. Oops. Heh.

The theme of the January MxMo is Change. How appropriate, right? New horizons, new ideas, change. Our challenge, from the anonymous Scribe of A Mixed Dram, is appropriate–to simply “Try something new!


My choice for this challenge features the bitter liqueur Ramazzotti, an Italian tonic that you can sip as an aperitif or a digestif, or even just mix into a cocktail. Now, I’ve had the Ramazzotti on hand for a long time. I bought it in Brooklyn, back before we moved to Rhode Island. My plan was to make a small batch of Jamie Boudreau’s Amer Picon replica. Well, I’ve had the bottle for nearly a year, haven’t made the Amer Picon, and have seen Ramazzotti in local liquor stores. So what’s the point of letting this bottle languish in a box for another year?

I grabbed a copy of Robert Hess’s new book, The Essential Bartenders Guide, at Borders last week. (This is a book that’s screaming, loudly, for an editor. A full review of the book is pending.) Among the recipes in Hess’s book is the Chaplin, a mix of bourbon, sherry, Ramazzotti, Cointreau, and orange bitters. That’s what I chose to mix up tonight. The Chaplin is a good drink, well balanced but on the tart side. It’s not bitter, by any means, but it’s nothing to serve to anyone with a sweet tooth. The nuttiness of the sherry really shines. (I’m starting to really love sherry in cocktails.)

Photograph by Jennifer Hess


  • 3/4 oz. bourbon whiskey
  • 3/4 oz. dry sherry
  • 3/4 oz. Ramazzotti
  • 1/8 oz. Cointreau
  • 2 dashes orange bitters
  • lemon twist, for garnish

Technique: Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Add garnish.