And so I find myself, writing on a half-dead business laptop at SFO. There are now 2 days of some of the best and worst things to ever happen standing behind me now. You don’t care to hear the bad parts though, and I don’t care to focus on them. So let’s get onto the best parts of all, the booze!
A trip to California just isn’t complete without checking out John Walker spirits on Sutter in San Francisco. Within moments of entering, the mind boggles at the selection of just about everything obscure you can think of. Not one flavored Absolut on the shelf, but plenty of unheard of (and often under-appreciated) liquors from around the world. I couldn’t resist a bottle of St. George Absinthe Verte, a few rums, a dutch Genever, and the Rothman & Winter Creme de Violette. I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that they make it unharmed on the way home.
Being in the bay area, I was finally (after three tries) got a chance to meet up with Erik of Under-hill Lounge, eGullet, now renowned for his quest of “Stomping through the Savoy“, as seen in the Wall Street Journal. We met at Alembic, which I would have to say is definitely in the top five of my favorite bars now. The bartenders, Josey and Thomas, were knowledgeable, inquisitive, and just all around fun. The atmosphere was comfortable enough to pop in after work without feeling the need to dress up, and yet the drinks practically felt like they required a tux. I had to start the evening with a “Vow of Silence“, seeing as there’s also one on the Teardrop menu. The drink was light and sweet, as only a combo of Rye and Benedictine can do. It really focused on the crisper edges of the Rye. At that point, in walked HumuHumu of… well, of just about everything Tiki on the internet. My Sister-in-law, her husband, his brother all rolled in, it was quite a night for friends and family. Feeling the need for some familiarity, I ordered a Last Word with the Chartreuse VEP. On ordering this, Erik noted that Flora used the VEP as their well chartreuse, and that the pour cost wasn’t that much of a difference. I’m still fuzzy about the math on that, but seeing as it comes in a liter bottle, it’s totally possible.
Alembic sports a menu with both their own creations, and plenty of classics, particularly a hearty selection of New Orleans cocktails. The Vieux Carre was delicious and spicy, and the Sazerac was ruby red, and quite fantastic. When Thomas asked if I would prefer the peel in or out, I knew I was in the right place.
One of the original cocktails that was sampled was the Southern Exposure, a mixture containing celery juice, gin, gomme, and mint. The celery juice was a really rich flavor, and gave it a delightful green color. I may have to make a bottle or two at home to play with.
Alembic also sports a robust selection of Belgian and Trappist ales, of which I was eager to try a nice Trippel. The ale was fantastic, but I’m not sure that I’ll do that again… tiny bubbles and plenty of Rye don’t tend to mix well in the bloodstream, and I got a pretty righteous headache a few hours into the night. Other than that, it was a great place and though I won’t be able to visit often, it’ll certainly be a regular stop when I’m in the Bay Area.
I’m back home now, but had plenty of time to write while stuck at SFO for 6 hours. Stay tuned for part the second, where I once again visit my favorite island.
I’m back home from my trip to California. That was far, far too little time to spend with so many places I didn’t get to visit. But don’t worry, I tried to bring back as much booze in my bloodstream and baggage as I possibly could.
Tuesday night was spent at Bourbon and Branch with some family who live in town. The decor is gorgeous, the drinks are fantastic, and really any place that starts off with an appetizer drink gets a thumbs up from me. We kicked off the evening with the starter, which was something with Sparkling Wine, Benedictine, and a touch of Kirschwasser. But I already knew the first two things I would be ordering. First up was the Black Manhattan, with Vya Vermouth and house-made coffee bitters. It was smooth and calmly sweet, like a good Manhattan should be. I’m going to have to start off a batch of Coffee Bitters myself, as they were quite nice. Alongside that concoction, I had a bit of the Rittenhouse 21 yr Rye, which was absolutely astonishing. I can honestly say my palate just isn’t experienced enough yet to fully appreciate it, but the aging was just right, and the characteristics of the Rye really stood out.
I was soon convinced, after some excited discussion about their own barrel of Buffalo Trace, to try their Harvest Manhattan, which used their own Bourbon infused with Apples and spices, and a raisin and spice infused Vya Sweet Vermouth. This drink was, as I had to drunkenly describe, eminently quaffable. So smooth and delicious, with the apple, bourbon and raisin all coming out so nicely, I could’ve filled a Collins glass and downed it, it was just so satisfying. The night ended, as we were redirected to the Library, with a Last Word. Can’t go wrong with that one, and they made mine just right. The place was class to the nines, and I can’t wait to go back and sit at the bar.
Another exciting stop while in CA, and outside of the confines of a liquor controlled state, was at John Walker and Co. I was recommended the place by Martin, and I was not disappointed… well, there was no Creme de Violette, but I can forgive. Great thanks to Lance for letting my know that the TSA has a limit on alcohol you can bring back (5 Liters, nothing over 140 proof… so about 6 bottles). So, knowing I could only bring back so much I had to choose wisely. I think I did well, but I can’t stop thinking about what I had to leave behind.
That’s BlueCoat Gin, Genevieve, Laird’s Bonded Straight Apple Brandy, Vya Sweet Vermouth, and two bottles of Batavia Arrack. I will be one poor but happy mixing fool this holiday!
I still haven’t told of my adventures to the Island of Alameda, but I think that deserves its own time and place.
Last Wednesday was another fantastic time at Teardrop Lounge in Downtown Portland. Daniel had put together a list of prohibition-era drinks, of which I’m pretty sure I sampled a good percentage of. Yes, soused to the nines before the old 23 skidoo is the way to roll on Repeal Day.
The Monkey Gland, as pictured above, was light and sweet with the anise pushing the citrus. The Pernod was nice, as Pernod usually is, but I’ll still argue to try Absinthe in its place.
Other cocktails on the list were…
- Income Tax
- Dolly o’ Dare
- Pegu Club
- Pink Lady
- 20th Century
- Blood and Sand
- Clover Club
- Corpse Reviver #2
All of which were created with the skill and professionalism I’ve come to enjoy there. The Japanese even came with a few chocolate shavings on top, which went unbelievably well with the Orgeat within. Speaking of Chocolate, if you haven’t tried the 20th century (recipe available in Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails), then you must. It’s use of chocolate as an entry and exit for the flavor, without being an overwhelming component deserves a standing ovation. The Jupiter, one of the few uses between itself and a Joan Bennett for Parfait Amour, is also a very fascinating cocktail that really makes you think about the flavors within, as they’re a bit hidden, but very complex and nuanced, like the Parfait Amour itself.
Of course, their original cocktails were still available that night, such as the DeeCee’s Fuego, which bartender David is igniting, as pictured above. It’s amazing how flammable orange oil can be, and the smell of the flamed citrus oil really fills the room. The DeeCee’s Fuego, as you can see at their online cocktail menu, is a combination of scotch, carpano antica, formula one vermouth, pomegranate molasses, and the flamed orange. I got turned onto Carpano Antica from Chuck Taggart’s various ramblings about the stuff, and boy oh boy was he right. Try your regular Martini and Rossi vermouth side by side with Carpano Antica and Punt e Mes, and your life might just change forever. Punt e Mes also makes a good replacement for Campari in a Negroni, if you’re not too into the bitter, and it makes a Manhattan with really good rye just sing.
Hope your Repeal Day was good as well.
The end of another October, and with a tongue singed by candy, my palate awaits something other than Tootsie Rolls. In co-ordination and collaboration with my dear friend Craig, we have put together a number of drinks representing a selection of the Universal Movie Monsters to celebrate these horrifying haunts of the silver screen, and to appreciate the more adult side of All Hallow’s Eve.
These classics of cinema were enjoyed during the most frightening period of all, Prohibition, and lasted through the late 1950s. They were genre defining movies, which entranced and entertained audiences. I’d love to elaborate further, but it’s another friend, Noel, who inspired the idea. I may have to have him elaborate on the subject. I just know booze.
The Mummy, released 1932 and staring Boris Karloff as the titular character. To celebrate this film, a presentation of honey and aromatic perfumes from exotic regions used in preparing the body. Around the body, the sands of time dry and wither the senses, while preserving as well. In the end, there is a dreadful curse, as punishment for disturbing the slumber of the dead.
- 2 oz Rye (Wild Turkey 101 proof)
- 1/2 oz Honey Mix
- 1/4 lemon juice
- dash St. Germain
- dash Blood Orange Bitters
- dash Fees Whiskey Barrel Aged Bitters
Shake with ice and strain into cocktail glass. Rim with lemon juice and cinnamon.
This came out fantastic, with a nice alcoholic sweetness, with lots of aromatics. The juice was added last as it needed a bit of sharpness to really round it out. The cinnamon rim dries the mouth and adds a bit of spice. The bitters can be exchanged with another, or left out to taste.
The Invisible Man, starring Claude Raines, was released in 1933, as Prohibition in the United States was finally being kicked to the curb. In the film, the professor is driven mad after experimentation with a drug that made him invisible. Scarcely seen but for the glass containing it, this drink celebrates the madness that lies beneath the unseen.
The Invisible Man
- 1.5 oz Gin
- 2 oz Aquavit
- 2 dashes Maraschino Liqueur
Stir with ice and strain into cocktail glass.
Completely clear, the drinker may see this as a glass of vodka, or water. The flavors contained within, however (not to mention the booze) prove that vision can’t always be trusted.
In The Creature from the Black Lagoon, release 1954, a bewitching maiden captivated the creature, driving him mad with fury at those who would take her away from him. This drink is a visual treat, and quite a pretty tasty one to boot. From this Black Lagoon, your own more beastly instincts may arise.
The Creature from the Black Lagoon, aka ‘The Black Lagoon’
- 1.5 oz Hypnotiq
- .5 oz Green Chartreuse
- Juice of Half-lime
- dash Pernod
- float of Blavod (Black Vodka)
Shake all but Blavod with ice. Strain into cocktail glass, and float Blavod on top.
This came out far better than the concept was originally anticipated. The Black Lagoon, on the top, is a bit difficult and rank, using straight vodka as a float. But, once the surface is penetrated, the true beauty of the ingredients shine. I feel a bit strange using Hypnotiq as a main liqueur, but I must say, it’s some tasty stuff. Mixed with the lime and Chartreuse, this drink sings.
Don’t forget to catch Craig’s Hallowe’en movie monster drinks as well, featuring Dracula, The Wolfman, and The Phantom of the Opera. All 6 of these in a night, and you’ll be seeing some monsters too.
Hope everyone out there in the cocktail world has a safe, sane, and slightly inebriated Halloween. I know I will. Martin Cate of Forbidden Island will be in town, and yes, much rum will be imbibed.