Adventures in Catsitting: The Aviatrix

As some of you know, I spent much of the last week traveling to Southern Indiana to visit my family. My mother was recently hospitalized with an illness, and after her release I made plans to see her. Jen was unable to get away from work, so she was home alone with the cats. Without me around to fix our daily quaffs, she was on her own. So one evening, she got creative. She started with the basic Wondrich formula that I’ve described here, of 2 oz. spirit, 1 oz. fortified wine, 1 tsp. liqueur, and 2 dashes of bitters.

In thinking this through, she decided to play with one of our favorite drinks, the Aviation. This pre-Prohibition classic calls for gin, lemon juice, maraschino liqueur, and crème de violette. Jen decided to keep the gin and crème de violette. She provided the lemon notes with Fee’s Lemon Bitters and skipped the maraschino. For the fortified wine, she chose Lillet Blanc, which always pairs up nicely with gin.

Her initial attempt was unsuccessful. Why? She misread the recipe and used a tablespoon of crème de violette. Hey, we’ve all done it. But she tried again and met with success. For her first iteration, she used Right Gin, a relatively new product from Sweden. Right is a little sweeter than a traditional London Dry variety and less juniper-forward, and it includes black pepper among its blend of botanicals. The pepper, though noticeable, is subtle, and the gin is smooth and citrusy. Although I never tried the Aviatrix iteration she made with Right, I’m sure it was a good choice.

Her next version, however, was better, she later told me. For in iteration 2, she used the gin-of-the-moment, Beefeater 24. (Admit it, you knew where this was going.) Right and B24 are similar in that they both downplay juniper in favor of other botanicals, but their flavor profiles are actually pretty far apart. Right is softer and highlights the citrus and pepper, with little else shining through, whereas B24 is more complex and brings its entire botanical range to the fore. Nothing really dominates the flavor of the B24; the flavors are very well balanced, making B24 a more versatile gin, in my opinion.

As for the cocktail… well, think about it. Gin, Lillet, a splash of crème de violette, and lemon bitters. If you’re saying to yourself, “Sounds delicate,” well, you’d be right. It’s a subtle drink, especially with a restrained gin such as the B24. I actually suspect it might be a little better with the original Beefeater, and that’s certainly worth trying. Regardless, if you mix it with a modern gin like B24, Right, or Aviation, you’ll find a nice, delicate drink in which the flavors complement each other.


photo by Jennifer (Mrs. Bitters) Hess

The Aviatrix

  • 2 oz. gin
  • 1 oz. Lillet Blanc
  • 1 tsp. crème de violette
  • 2 dashes lemon bitters
  • Lemon twist, for garnish

Stir over ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Add garnish.

Jen did submit this recipe into the Mixoloseum chat room on Thursday, during the Beefeater-sponsored Thursday Drink Night. It doesn’t appear to have made much of a splash, and I’m not sure why. I was, of course, live at TDN this time, at Quarter Bar in Brooklyn, but I was having trouble keeping a constant WiFi connection, so I missed much of the early part of the chat. I didn’t get to see much of the discussion of Jen’s drink, if there was any. Also, her drink never made its way to me that night for a taste. There was something that might have been her drink, but I couldn’t taste any violette in it, so I wasn’t sure. So I’m really not sure how anyone reacted to it. I, however, love it, so nyeah.

Beefeater 24: I’m going to need a hacksaw

lda-beefeater-24Beefeater has launched its new style of gin in the United States, Beefeater 24. A production of Beefeater’s master distiller, Desmond Payne, 24 takes its name from the amount of time Payne allows its botanical blend to steep, prior to distillation. B24 features the same blend of citrus peels, juniper, coriander, and other botanicals as its father, Beefeater, but in a different balance of flavor. B24’s not so heavy on juniper, for instance, as daddy is. With B24, though, Payne adds a subtle blend of teas to the mix.

I received not one, but two sample bottles this week, and I’ve been slowly putting the new product through its paces. Our favorite gin cocktail is a simple martini; we’ve reached a point where we sip one together every Monday, to take the edge off the start of the week, and also every Friday, to celebrate the coming of the weekend. After trying many variations on the gin:vermouth ratio, I’ve eventually settled on a 3:1 mix, sometimes adding a hit of orange or lemon bitters to liven things up.

So upon receiving my samples, I immediately hit the B24 site to see what cocktails it had to offer. The second drink listed was the 24 Martini, a blend of B24, Lillet Blanc, and, what-do-you-know?, orange bitters. And lo and behold, the recipe offers the golden ratio: 60ml Beefeater 24, 20ml Lillet Blanc, and 3 dashes orange bitters. (Don’t worry, you don’t need to measure in milliliters; I’ll have my proportions at the end of the post.)

Now, a note about this Lillet Blanc: it’s a French aperitif wine, made by blending a number of wines with citrus peels and citrus liqueurs and then aging it in oak. Tasty simply on its own, it also deliciously complements the Beefeater 24. I would love to try a martini made with Lillet next to one made with vermouth, but I’m already pretty certain that the Lillet is the best choice.

The other notable thing about B24 is the beautiful bottle. One thing you can see if you look closely at the photo is the way the glass in the bottle reflects and channels the red of the punt throughout the bottle. The punt is the only area of the glass that’s actually red; everything else is reflection, and it shifts as you move the bottle around in your hand. It’s a lovely effect.

Photograph by Jennifer Hess.

Now, since Beefeater 24 is in the midst of launching in the U.S., it doesn’t appear to be available for retail just yet. At least, I haven’t found it yet on the websites of online retailers such as BevMo or Astor Wines and Spirits. I have no firm word on how much it will cost when it’s available; however, a press release at Business Wire says, “The suggested retail price for Beefeater 24 is $28.99/750 milliliter bottle, and $32.99/one liter bottle.” That should put it in a pricing tier with Bombay Sapphire and Tanq Ten, which seems reasonable enough to me, given that it appears aimed at that market.

24 Martini (makes two cocktails)

  • 4-1/2 oz. Beefeater 24 gin
  • 1-1/2 oz. Lillet blanc
  • Six dashes Regan’s orange bitters
  • Lemon slices, for garnish

Stir over cracked ice and strain into an up glass. Add garnish.

For another take on the B24, head over to Jay Hepburn’s site. A Londoner, Jay reviewed the gin just after its UK launch last autumn and liked it as well. He has detailed tasting notes, which is an area of spirits writing that I’m still working on, as I develop my palate.

Note: It’s going to be a Beefeater 24 kind of week around here. Later this week, I’ll be in New York to participate live in something we call Thursday Drink Night (TDN). Every week, some reprobate picks a theme for TDN. A bunch of other reprobates gather in a chat room like the geeks we are to create and discuss original cocktails on that theme. For Thursday, April 30, the theme is Beefeater 24. I hope to review another B24 drink between now and Thursday, so just bear with me a few days if it doesn’t interest you.

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.)

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.

Recipes for Jen’s Dish

For those who heard me on Jen’s Dish, and for those who did not, here are the recipes I talked about on her program.

Whiskey Rebellion

Drink #1 comes from Portland (OR) bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler.  Jeff volunteered this recipe when I asked for bourbon-based drinks involving maple syrup. I tried it at home and loved it. The best thing is, it perfectly bookends the Savoy drink that follows. Jeff demonstrates that you needn’t bury your ass in the past and you needn’t follow the modern trend of infused vodkas to make an excellent drink.

Whiskey Rebellion

  • 2 oz. pecan-infused bourbon (I used Wild Turkey 101)
  • 1/2 oz. maple syrup
  • 3/4 oz. fig jam
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 dashes of bitters

Shake over ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Apple Jack Rabbit

The second cocktail is adapted from the Savoy Cocktail Book, by Harry Craddock. Craddock was an American disgusted by Prohibition; he grabbed the first boat out for England, and settled in to the American Bar at the Savoy Hotel in London.

These proportions are based on Erik Ellestad’s, at Underhill Lounge. Erik’s working his way through the Savoy book, and he’s having a great time with it. Erik found Harry’s proportions to be a little sweet, and I agree, so I’m going with Erik’s recipe.

The one thing to note is that Erik used the Laird’s Bonded Apple Brandy, which I can’t find in Rhode Island. I used Laird’s Applejack, which is a blend of apple brandy and neutral grain spirits. The Bonded Apple Brandy has nothing in it but the brandy. The blended, since it also has grain spirits, is less appley than the bonded. I’d rather have the bonded, but I’ll take the blended when I have to.

Apple Jack Rabbit

  • 1-1/2 oz. Laird’s Applejack
  • 1 oz. fresh-squeezed orange juice
  • 3/4 oz. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz. maple syrup
  • Lemon twist, for garnish

Shake over ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Add garnish.

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.