Ward, weren’t you a little hard on the Beaver last night?

MxMo logoIt’s time again for Mixology Monday. If you’re new to this, Mixology Monday is a thing we cocktail nerds do. Every month, a different blogger volunteers to host, picks a theme, and posts a round-up after everyone has weighed in. (My previous MxMo posts live here.)

Anyway, for installment 34, Craig, from Tiki Drinks & Indigo Firmaments has chosen the theme Spice. I’ll let Craig describe what he’s going for:

Spice should give you plenty of room to play – from the winter warmers of egg nog, wassail and mulled products to the strange and interesting infusions of pepper, ceubub, grains of paradise, nutmeg — what have you! I would like to stretch the traditional meanings of spice (as the bark, seed, nut or flowering part of a plant used for seasoning) to basically anything used for flavoring that isn’t an herb. Salt? Go for it. Paprika? I’d love to see you try. I hear that cardamom is hot right now.

So, there ya go.

I thought about this one a lot. Mrs. Bitters and I do a lot of home cooking–well, she does most of it, but I get a few things in from time to time. And we use a lot of spices in our cooking. Last night, we were talking about this challenge. Jen suggested that I should flip through some of her cookbooks to find spice combos that might work with booze. She also reminded me that we had a pomegranate in our fridge. This led us to one of her Middle Eastern books, since pom is a staple in some Middle Eastern cuisines.

I found a recipe for cooking duck with walnuts, pomegranate, cinnamon, and a few other spices. The recipe reminded me of a drink I had at Hearth, in New York’s East Village earlier this year. The drink was called the Jim Hogg, and it featured a pecan-infused rye. I’ve wanted to infuse nuts into whiskey since tasting that drink, and this recipe got my wheels turning.

I grabbed a bag of walnuts from the fridge, tossed a handful in a Mason jar, and threw in a couple of sticks of cinnamon. I added some whole rainbow and white peppercorns, not too many. Obviously, you need to finesse the pepper. I used whole corns; if you crush or grind them, you’ll have an entirely too peppery drink. Finally, I added a strip of lemon peel. Zest would have been better, but I was winging all of this. Call it the mania of inspiration.

I poured five ounces of Old Overholt rye whiskey over this mess, sealed the jar, and shook it well. I stored it in the coldest, darkest place in the apartment and agitated it several times over the course of the 24 hours.

After infusing this stuff for 24 hours (probably too little time), I strained it. I decided to mix it with grenadine and lemon juice, and then realized this was a Ward Eight variation. Why not just go with that? A lot of drinks are nothing more than subtle variations of other drinks.

The results were fine, although probably underinfused. The drink carried hints of walnuts, cinnamon, and pepper, but only very vague hints. I think 48 – 72 hours of infusion would have been better.

Nevertheless, I present the Ward Cleaver, with the caveat that it needs tweaking. I’m working on a longer infusion with the same spices but in 101 proof Wild Turkey bourbon. The higher proof will draw out more of the flavor, and I’m going to let it go a little longer. Anyway, enough gab. Recipe follows.

Ward Cleaver

  • 2 oz. rye, infused with walnuts, cinnamon, peppercorns, and lemon zest.
  • 3/4 oz. lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz. grenadine
  • Dash Fee Brother’s Barrel Aged Bitters

Shake ingredients over cracked ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish? You could go decorative with a cinnamon stick or a bit of walnut, or you could go for flavor by twisting on lemon peel. You could also get crazy! Pulverize a couple of walnuts, mix them with sugar, moisten the rim of your glass, and dip the rim in the walnut-sugar mixture. I would never do that, but maybe you’ll want to.

MxMo 32: Guilty Pleasures

MxMo logoMan, 32 already, huh. It seems just yesterday that MxMo was finally old enough to drink–soon, MxMo will be old enough to run for president of the U.S. Ain’t that crazy?

Now, the topic of this month’s installment is …


Oh, that’s right, guilty pleasures. Sorry if I zoned out on you there for a moment. I had to run to the kitchen to make sure my Jell-O didn’t burn. I’m prepping a test batch of a Halloween-themed, brain-shaped Melon Fusion Jell-O mold, spiked with Sour Apple Pucker and Absolut Sheboygan.

All right, everything’s gelling up just fine, so it’s time to talk dirrrrrrrrty pleasures.

Except. I don’t really have many anymore. Not to be snahby or anything, we just don’t drink that way for the most part these days. The only thing I feel guilty about is that when we have a second drink before dinner, it’s almost always an Old Fashioned. I get creative for round one and lazy for round two.

That’s not to say I don’t have a history of embarrassing drinks. The first drunk that I can recall was at my eldest cousin’s wedding, in Southern Illinois, in–oh– 1982 or so. I was 14 and obviously underage, but the bartender served me at the reception anyway. My first drunk, I shit you not, was on Tom Collinses. Now, I guess that’s not terribly embarrassing, but they weren’t really Collinses as much as they were gin and Sprite.

Actually, I think that’s exactly what they were: gin and Sprite. And at 14, I wasn’t much of a drinker, so three of those in about an hour kinda messed me up. I went back to the hotel room, read Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, laughed my ass off, and fell asleep, at which point a million-gallon vat of custard upended itself over me without warning.

I proved myself such a man that weekend that my grandparents started plying me with drinks when we’d go visit them. Ah yes, such a gentleman of leisure I was in my high-school days that I developed a taste for the Fuzzy Navel.


I can’t believe this guy gets workAt least he didn’t pick his nose this time

But just because I’m no longer prone to quaffing gin and Sprite while chortling at Marvin’s antics, or sipping a Fuzzy Navel in front of the Rose Bowl parade, doesn’t mean I’m always high-brow when I’m out drinking. When Jen and I were in New York, we went out often with friends, and that normally meant a good dive bar or neighborhood pub. Unless we were in a specialty beer bar, such as D.B.A., I was always happy to go with a humble brew of regional renown.

Yes, East Coasters, behold my favorite party-time beer in New York:

Yuengling Lager

Thanks to Stevi for hosting, and for choosing such a fun topic.

MxMo: 19th Century Drinks, or, An Ode to Those Libations and Tipples that Once Graced America’s Finest Drinking Emporia

Greetings, friend. From the fresh wax on your mustache, I gather you’ve just left the barber’s. Well, have a seat and let The Only Dietsch mix you up a cup or two. I have a couple of sips you might like.

Now, I think you might have had this first one before. Yes, I think you just might. The bar was a bit busy that night, and so I’m not sure you got to watch the master in action. This is a drink, my friend, that calls for a touch of finesse. What? That’s an unkind thing to say, sir, mighty unkind. I don’t have to remind you where the door is, now, do I sir?

No, no, I am merely jesting with you, sir, merely jesting. I would never turn away your custom, sir. Now, as I was saying. This drink requires a light touch to achieve the layering effect that marks this drink as one of refinement. No, no, I know what you’re thinking. This isn’t a sweet drink like a Pousse Cafe! Not at all. Leave those to that dilettante Ellestad! You’ll have none of those in my bar!

All right, all right. To the drink, then, to the drink.

Text not available

Modern American Drinks How to Mix and Serve All Kinds of Cups and Drinks By George J. Kappeler

(Stepping out of character, I followed the instructions David Wondrich gives in the book Imbibe, and used 2 oz. Plymouth gin with a teaspoon of rich simple syrup–hence the darker coloring in the gin portion. The bitters are Bitter Truth orange, and I used 3/4 oz. port.)

Yes, sir, I agree that it’s a fine drink. When you sip it slowly, the port gently seeps up through the gin and gently enriches the genever. Why, sir, if this drink is not still served in the bars and taverns of the twenty-first century, I should be mightily sad.

But now, remember, young lad. When you’re adding the port, be careful. Take it slow. If you don’t, the port will co-mingle with the gin, and although the drink will still taste just fine, it will not be as elegant. We are gentlemen, sir, always remember. We do not simply guzzle the way the hoopleheads do.

If you’ve done it right, it should look just like this:

Now, as to the next, this upstart William Schmidt, I do swear he stole this drink from me. I was mixing this back when he was still tramping around Paducah, Kentucky, waiting to stow away on an Ohio River steamer to Memphis. The man is a scalawag, and not at all a gentleman like you and me, sir. But let us not consider his sort.

I believe you will like this one, sir. I think you will find that the sherry and vermouth balance quite toothsomely. The other ingredients round out the flavor without bringing themselves to the fore.

Text not available

The Flowing Bowl When and what to Drink : Full Instructions how to Prepare, Mix, and Serve Beverages By William Schmidt

Now, sir, would you kindly tel … <cough cough>

I’m throwing off this pretense entirely right now, so I can talk about this drink.

I used, for two drinks, a generous squirt of simple syrup for the gum. Yah, a squirt. Don’t tell me you always precisely measure your simple syrup, dangit.

Angostura might be the closest thing to a nineteenth-century bitters that I have, although I don’t know how to categorize Fee’s Old Fashioned or Bitter Truth’s Old Time Aromatic Bitters. Regardless, I used Angostura, about two to three dashes worth for two drinks.

Also, two or three dashes worth of Lucid absinthe. I’ve transferred my remaining Lucid to a old Fee’s bottle for dashing purposes.

For two drinks, I used 4 oz. Italian vermouth and 2 oz. oloroso sherry–to retain the 2:1 ratio. I don’t really know what vino vermouth is, but Paul Clarke suggests that it’s Italian vermouth, and that’s good enough for me. He uses Carpano Antica for this type of drink, but I’ve yet to find a source for that in Rhode Island. I’ll probably have to special-order it from our friends at Eno.

Finally, this is a damn good drink. Light in alcohol but rich in flavor. I think the Antica would bring a bit more complexity than the Cinzano I’m currently using, but even so, we loved the balance of flavors.

Oh, and back to the Princeton? I’d love to see that on a drinks menu somewhere. It’s a beautifully balanced drink, and it looks just lovely in the glass. Yeah, it takes a bit of work to get it just so, but no more than a properly prepared Sazerac or Pisco Sour.

Many thanks to Dinah for hosting.

Photography by Jennifer Hess; all rights reserved.

MxMo: Local Flavor

The challenge this month, thanks to Kevin at Save the Drinkers, is local challenge. Let’s see how Kevin defines that:

Option 1: Gather ingredients that are representative of the culture/geography/tackiness of your respective cities and make a drink with a truly place-based style. For example, huckleberries are native to the geographical area where I live, as are elderflowers, potatoes, and extremely conservative, closet-case politicians. (I’m just saying!)

Option 2: Dig up an old drink that came from your city and revive it! If you can find the original bar, that would be even more interesting.

I don’t know about you, but when I think “local flavor” and “New England,” the first thing I think of is seafood. The official vegetable of Rhode Island, after all, is the squid.*

But alas, there are few cocktail recipes that require seafood, unless you count the oyster shooter, which I don’t, frankly. And I haven’t settled in to Providence long enough just yet to know what’s representative of my city. Forbes tells me that Providence is fourth among the nation’s hardest drinking cities, but that doesn’t really tell me what Providence drinks. The 18th Amendment, which prohibited the sale, manufacture, and distribution of beverage alcohol, was ratified by all but two states–Rhode Island and Connecticut. But that still doesn’t tell me what Rhode Island drinks.

I don’t know what edible flora are native to Rhode Island. I don’t know what Roger Williams ate for dinner the day he founded Providence. So, aside from seafood, I don’t know much about the food culture of Rhode Island or Providence.

What I do know is what’s available to us from local farmers at the city’s farmers markets. I know what spirits are distilled in Rhode Island and its neighboring states. And I know how much Jen and I enjoy shopping our local farmers markets, especially in August, at the height of the season.

I’ve talked before about the benefits of making your own tomato juice for a Bloody Mary, but today, we’re going a little farther. Today, I can tell you that everything we could source locally, we sourced locally. Jen was tentatively calling our weekend’s concoction the Bloody Rhody, but that’s not quite accurate, as you’ll see. I’m dubbing it the Bloody Nor’easter.

For the Bloody Nor’easter, I started with local heirloom tomatoes, grown in RI and prepared as discussed in the previous link. I took two ounces of Triple Eight Vodka, distilled on Nantucket Island in Massachusetts, and muddled two small hot peppers and a small handful of basil (both from the farmers market) into the vodka. I strained the solids out and returned the vodka to the mixing glass.This worked well because I got the flavors of the peppers and basil in the vodka without the solids mucking up the works. I could have achieved the same effect by steeping the peppers and basil in the vodka for some time, but I didn’t plan ahead.

I added four ounces of tomato juice (for two drinks), lime juice (not local, since citrus doesn’t grow in the Northeastern United States), Worcestershire (also not local), salt (also not local), some local Rhode Island Red hot sauce, and a secret ingredient.

What? Okay, I’ll tell you the secret. Remember how I said that few cocktails require seafood? Well, as any reputable Canadian might tell you, a tomato-based drink does well with a bit of seafood. The night before I assembled the Bloody Nor’easter, Jen had simmered up some Rhody clams with a bit of Trinity IPA (from a Providence brewpub) and some shallot. She reserved a bit of the clam-beer liquid for me before doctoring it up with spices and butter for our dinner, so I added a bit of that to the mix.

We served ’em up with a beer chaser. Jen chose the Trinity IPA from Providence, and because I don’t really dig on the IPA style, I selected the Hurricane Amber Ale from Coastal Extreme in Newport, RI.

I actually have another drink with local flavor, but I’m whizzing close enough to deadline and bedtime as it is. The second one will have to wait until later in the week.

*I kid, of course. I’m a squid kidder. RI has no state veg, and its state fruit is the Greening Apple, which won’t ripen for at least another month.

MxMo in the Crescent City

Mixology Monday logoFor this month’s Mixology Monday, which has a New Orleans theme, I’m going with a couple of drinks, both inspired by panels that I attended at Tales of the Cocktail.

The first drink is the Sloppy Joe’s Mojito, inspired obliquely by the To Have and Have Another panel, on the drinking life of Ernest Hemingway. Whether Hemingway actually drank Mojitos appears to be in some dispute. The eminent Eric Felten argues persuasively that he probably did not, but it is clear that old Papa frequented the Havana bar that originated this version of the classic rum drink. He even apparently persuaded the proprietor of a Key West saloon to rip off the Havana original’s name. So, who knows?

Charles Baker, writing in The Gentleman’s Companion, describes the drink thus:

Put several lumps of ice into a 16 oz collins glass, toss in 1 tsp sugar or gomme, insinuate a spiral green lime peel about the ice, turn in 1-1/2 jiggers of Bacardi; white, or Gold Seal, and the strained juice of 1 small green lime–not a lemon. Stir once, fill with really good club soda and garnish with a bunch of fresh mint.

What I love about this variant is that a) it’s not too sweet, and b) it’s not too minty. I don’t feel like I’m chewing rum-spiked Doublemint gum.

The second drink comes straight from the Beefeater reception at Palace Cafe and also the Juniperlooza session. I had heard of this drink prior to Tales, but I had never tried it. It’s the Jasmine cocktail, devised by architect and booze writer Paul Harrington. It tastes remarkably like grapefruit juice even though it contains no grapefruit whatsoever. Honestly, this is one of those drinks that I often post where I’m sure the majority of my single-digit readership is thinking, “What! New to the Jasmine? He needs to crawl out from under Plymouth Rock or wherever the hell he lives and actually drink from time to time!”

No argument here, Skippy. I will say this, though. I’ve mixed a lot of cocktails at home, and I’ve had many others out. It’s a rare treat when something passes my lips and earns a spot in my regular drinks rotation. The Jasmine is right there. Jen and I both adore it. It tastes like an old-school cocktail, even though it’s not old enough to drive, let alone drink, and the ingredients are perfectly balanced. A new favorite.


  • 1-1/2 oz gin
  • 3/4 oz lemon juice
  • 1/4 oz Cointreau
  • 1/4 oz Campari
  • lemon twist for garnish

Technique: Shake, strain, add garnish, sip, and smile.

Many thanks to Paulernum Clarke for hosting.

Photos by Jennifer Hess.

MxMo: Bourbon

Mixology Monday logoMany thanks to the guys at Scofflaw’s Den for hosting this month. This was a challenging MxMo. Aside from making Old Fashioneds, I don’t mix with bourbon much anymore; I just prefer the spicier qualities of rye.

But aside from blogging an Old Fashioned, I didn’t feel really inspired. Perhaps this is my own limited imagination speaking, but it’s hard for me to think of a bourbon cocktail that wouldn’t be better as a rye cocktail. Even my Old Fashioneds, these days, are sometimes rye, when I want that spicier backbone.

All of my pre-Prohibition cocktail books called for rye as the main ingredient in whiskey cocktails, which makes me wonder what pre-Prohibition mixologists thought of bourbon. A skim through Charles Baker, too, shows few whiskey cocktails, and what he does offer is mostly in the Julep family.

At this point, I started wondering what an anthropologist might make of all of this, but I had to stop caring because Mrs. Bitters was riding the 5:40 outta Boston, and I was running out of time to find a drink for cocktail hour.

I decided to go modern, so I grabbed Art of the Bar. Hollinger and Schwartz had a drink called The Battle of New Orleans, which they attributed to Crosby Gaige’s Cocktail Guide and Ladies’ Companion. Perfect! I thought. Tales is coming up, so I can talk about that. I can talk about New Orleans. I can reference the song of the same name, and since I have both Hollinger/Schwartz and Gaige, I can talk about both recipes.

But then I remembered that Paul Freakin’ Clarke had made this… exact… bloody… post 11 months ago. (Hey, at least I linked to YouTube. I don’t know whether Paul’s even heard of YouTube.)

Baaaack to Square One (not the vodka), and back to the first cocktail book I bought, Gary Regan’s The Joy of Mixology. When you see the name of the drink I chose, you’ll know that my timing was off, but I owed it to Mrs. B. to have something handy soon. I gave her the Preakness Cocktail, about a month late (sorry, Big Brown):

Preakness Cocktail

  • 2 oz. bourbon
  • 1 oz. sweet vermouth
  • Benedictine to taste
  • Angostura bitters to taste
  • 1 lemon twist, for garnish

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

Whiskey, vermouth, and bitters. Hmm. Sounds like a Manhattan to me. The Benedictine is a nice extra touch. I used Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon and Carpano Antica for the chief ingredients, and about 1/4 ounce Benedictine per drink. Delicious. From the moment I touched Benedictine to whiskey, I knew I loved the combo. I always enjoy a chance to work with it.

MxMo: Rum

Mixology Monday logoOne recent afternoon, Mrs. Bitters and I were in our new favorite wine and spirits shop, Eno Fine Wine and Spirits on Westminster Street. While Jen shopped for that evening’s vino, I studied the spirits shelves. One thing that caught my eye was Thomas Tew Rum, distilled very near by, in Newport, RI. The distillers are also, in fact, the makers of the microbrewed Newport Storm beer.

The Mrs. and I are semi-committed locavores. When we can buy local, we do, but when we can’t, we don’t sweat it. But having just moved here, we’re sampling as much of the local produce as we can, from shellfish to meats to veggies to, yes, rum. We’re not just blindly supporting local producers, we’re just avidly curious about what’s available here.

From what I’ve read, there aren’t many U.S. distilleries producing rum right now. When you find one in your back yard, at the same time the next MxMo post is all about rum… why the hell not?

So of course we bought the Thomas Tew, fool!

Tiki, Flickr

photo by Jennifer Hess

Thomas Tew has a good story. Newport was once a major rum distiller, and the Thomas Tew cats are trying to hew closely to the traditions of the past–distilling in a pot still, naming their product for a famous pirate, that kind of thing.

So, how’s the taste? Wellllll, it needs improvement. According to the markings on my bottle, I’ve got a sample of the third barrel that Thomas Tew has produced. When I bought the rum, I asked at guy at Eno, “Have you had this? What did you think?” He said he thought the flavors were good, but the rum was a bit thin. I think that’s a valid assessment. Sipping it neat, I found a simple, tasty dark rum. I didn’t find anything “unpleasant,” as some tasters have, but I didn’t find much complexity in the rum, either. I don’t know if it’s worth going out of your way to procure a bottle, but if the distillers tweak and improve their recipes, I think they can produce a damn fine rum.

For mixing, I wound up adapting the Kona cocktail from Trader Vic’s Book of Food and Drink. The copy I have entreats me to refrain from posting his recipe without his permission. I don’t have his permission, or that of his estate, but it doesn’t matter much because I didn’t hew to his formula that closely anyway. His recipe calls for Puerto Rican rum, lemon and lime juices, and maraschino.

I started with the Thomas Tew and the other ingredients, shook ’em up, and tasted the results. Not quite what I wanted. I wound up adding a touch of Gosling’s Black Seal, and that was just the right thing to do.

I kinda putzed around with this recipe, so I’m not sure of my final proportions, but let’s say this:

  • 1-1/2 oz. Thomas Tew rum
  • 1/2 oz. lime juice
  • 1/2 oz. lemon juice
  • 3/4 oz. maraschino (Luxardo, in my case)
  • 1/4 oz. Gosling’s Black Seal

Technique: Shake, strain, enjoy.