Sunday, June 26

Golden Age Martini

I generally don't post too many recipes here, but I have one I must share. This is a recipe for a Martini.

The Martini has almost become a drink of just cold Gin with an olive in it. Everyone orders what is now known as a dry Martini. The Dry Martinis are ordered because this is what some celebrities in Hollywood told us to do.

A Dry Martini, strange as it may sound actually means that you don't want very much Dry Vermouth at all. In fact if you just ordered a regular Martini you would probably get a cocktail with 1 part Dry Vermouth to 6 parts Gin or Vodka. This is a far cry from what the original Martini recipe consisted of.

Back in the day, not only did the Martini consist of much larger ratio of Dry Vermouth, but it used a type of Gin called Old Tom Gin. Old Tom Gin is a sweeter variety of Gin that is no longer produced. ...pity So, in my recipe I sweeten up the Gin a bit.

So, the Martini that you will get served in my home is something that I've started calling the Golden Age Martini. So without further ado here it is:

Golden Age Martini
2 parts Gin
.5 part Simple Syrup
1 part Dry Vermouth
3 dashes of Orange Bitters
1 twist of orange or lemon (depending on the mood)

Stir ingredients with ice for 20 seconds and then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Add the twist and enjoy!

The name has two different applications. One the Golden Age meaning the pre-prohibition period of cocktails. Second, the golden color of the cocktail due to the Orange Bitters.


Image courtesy of Cocktaildb

Thursday, June 23

The Garnish

Garnish is sometimes overlooked in cocktails but I feel it is very important to the overall cocktail experience.

The five senses are: sight, smell, taste, feel, and sound.

Cocktails extenuate the senses. The taste is obvious. Two of the five senses are influenced by the garnish.

The garnish has a lot to do with the wonderfully presented cocktail in front of the guest. A spiral, a horse head, etc... really make for a special presentation.

Not only that, but the garnish provides a very large part of the smell of the cocktail. As the guest takes a sip of the cocktail their nose is pushed in and is consumed by the smell of the garnish itself. Because smell and taste are so closely related the garnish of the drink is extremely important.

Many people take their garnish, squeeze it and drop it into the drink right away. This is a fine practice, but taste the drink before doing so. Take your sip near the garnish so you can get the full aroma. You might be surprised how much better the drink tastes than if you would have put it in the drink.

In some cocktails you could actually consider the garnish an ingredient in the drink. Some drinks require the flavorful scent of the garnish to get the full effect of the cocktail. The mint on top of the Mojito is a good example of this.

So, if it takes you a little longer to garnish that drink... remember that the garnish is actually two of the three senses that you are effecting.


Image courtesy of my wife...

Saturday, June 18

Manhattan Joke

A man walks into a bar and orders a Manhattan. The bartender quickly and expertly pours a shot of rye, half a shot of vermouth and a cuple dashes of bitters into his shaker, slides in a hefty scoop of ice and gives it a rapid but thorough stir. He quickly strains it into a thoroughly-chilled glass and then, with a flourish, drops a sprig of parsley right in the middle of the drink and slides it over to his customer. The man, dumbfounded, points at the parsley and says "you were going great right until the end, but what the hell is that?"

"Central Park."

...courtesy of David Wondrich

Sunday, June 12


The Sour cocktail is the great grandfather of many modern cocktails. The Cosmopolitan comes to mind as one of these modern grand-children. The Sour has begot many, many variations along the way. So this means that once a bartender has mastered it they have the basic knowledge needed for hundreds of other drinks.

The Sour cocktail is a balanced mix of sweet and tart components that have a complex nature to it. Add something like whiskey and then you really have something. Finding the sweet spot, pun intended, with the right ratio of liquor, sweet, and tart, takes trial and error. The other complexity is that this ratio will vary based on the liquor used.

The base liquor used in a Sour can be any of the 8 staples: bourbon, brandy, gin, rum, scotch, tequila, vodka, or whiskey. So the drink is called... Bourbon Sour, Brandy Sour, Gin Sour, …, and Whiskey Sour.

Sours should be served in a goblet shaped glass called a sour glass, but an old-fashioned glass will do in a pinch.

The Sour is one of those cocktails that work best in the home bar. The reason for this is at home you can adjust your sweet and sour levels to fit your personal tastes. In a bar environment the sour has to be generalized and it doesn't quite meet everyone's pleasure. That is unless you have a very inquisitive bar chef serving it up.

This is a generalized mix that you can start your experimentation with:
2 parts Base Liquor
1 part Simple Syrup
.75 part Lemon Juice

The Sour is not only the name of a cocktail it is also a whole category of cocktails. The cocktail family called Sours contains a mixture of base liquor, lemon or lime juice, and a non-alcoholic sweetening agent. Some examples of the sweetening agents include simple syrup, grenadine, or pineapple juice. If the base liquor is a liqueur then the sweetening agent may not be needed. (1)

The Sour family was first described by "The Professor" Jerry Thomas in his 1862 book, How to Mix Drinks. Since that time the Sour's basic recipe has been built on to develop many of today's most popular cocktails.

There is a sub-classification, as defined by Gary Regan, of the Sour called the New Orleans Sours which are those Sours that are sweetened by orange liqueur (Triple Sec, Cointreau, Curacao, etc...). I mention this sub-category as it has some very important standard cocktails in it, to name a few: Cosmopolitan, Margarita, Metropolitan, and Sidecar. (1)

Because there are now so many cocktails based on this sweet and sour mixture there are a few problems with this very important category in bar rooms today...

If you go into many bars right now you will get a sad resemblance of what a true Sour cocktail is supposed to be. There are many commercially available sweet and sour mixes that is now being used as a shortcut to this large category of cocktails. This cocktail is much, much better with fresh ingredients.

The mix also does not allow the bartender to vary the sweet and sour ratio. This can be an issue because the same mix that is used in a Frozen Margarita is also used in a Whiskey Sour. The Frozen Margarita should be a lot sweeter and the Whiskey Sour should be more on the sour side. Commercial mixes aside from not tasting as good actually cause more of a headache when you want the right proportions.

Another perversion of the Sour comes with the addition of egg white to the cocktail. This is done in order to get a frothy head on the drink. This exact same frothy head on the Sour, which is supposed to be there, can be achieved with the proper amount of vigorous shaking. The Sour should be shook very hard for a slow ten count. When it is poured back into its glass, there will be foam... without egg white.

To read more about this very important old stand-by I highly recommend Gary Ragan’s The Joy of Mixology.

Friday, June 10

How to get a Sidecar

An interesting notion that I just came to as I was reading some information over at and surfing the Bols site.

The similarity between a Margarita and Sidecar is very interesting. Both include orange liqueur and a sour ingredient the only difference is:
  • Margarita has tequila, lime juice, salt rim
  • Sidecar has brandy, lemon juice, sugar rim
Most bartenders know how to make a Margarita. So what this means is that with a little conversation it should be easy to order one of my favorite drinks anywhere, the Sidecar.

All you have to say when the bartender doesn't know a Sidecar is, "It's a Margarita with brandy and lemon juice instead of tequila and lime juice. Oh, and you sugar the rim instead of salt it."

Bingo!!! You should get a good Sidecar.

Tuesday, June 7

Exceeding Expectations

This one gets a little preachy, sorry...

From my experience of visiting a variety of bars I developed the concept of the standard cocktail spectrum. This is what is expected when one goes into a typical bar and sits down for a drink. This does not need to be your bar.

Do you want more customers?

Do you want to charge more for your cocktails?

Do you want to make BIGGER tips?!?

Here is how you do it... exceeding customer expectations, every time, all the time.

The industry is all about customer service and the BAR has been raised. Customer service is being done everywhere, its the new buzzword in retail business. When you go to Wal-Mart they great you at the door, when you go to blockbuster they say hello to every guest, this is fake and everyone knows it. But, because of this flood of customer service actual customers have become savvy to the tricks of the trade. Now you have to go above and beyond to impress a customer.

It's all about exceeding expectations. The expectations expressed in my Standard Cocktail Spectrum article are typical. If you want to stand out and be more than the bartender next to you... you have to exceed those expectations.

To do that, know the whole list of standard cocktails. Serve them all the time no matter how busy you are. Treat every customer as though they are the president or owner of your bar.

Exceptional service entails treating a customer's problems as if they were your own, even if it costs you money. Occasionally you might even have the opportunity to fix a problem caused by a visit to the competitor's bar. Take it as an opportunity to switch their allegiance.

Ask a customer if they have a drink they have always wanted to try but was afraid to ask.

Make the cocktail in front of the guest... explain to them what you are doing.

Learn the cocktails history and tell it to the patron as they sip their wonderfully prepared drink.
These are just a few small things you can do to impress a patron. Sometimes these things won't work. A customer may be coming in to escape or to socialize with a group of friends. Find other ways to impress these people.

Have business cards made with contact information, the hours of your shift, and recommended cocktails. The patron will take the card, remember the great service they received, go to someone else's bar, be disappointed, and come right back to you to get more of your great service.

I know, some of you by now are saying, "I'm way to busy to do that kind-of stuff." Well, patrons do realize when you are busy. There are much lower expectations when you are visibly busy. This means two things. One, to lower expectations act busy. Two, doing the smallest of something extra for a patron during this time will be appreciated. For example, something as simple as getting your barback to help the guest back to their table with their drinks will go a long ways.

To be a great bartender you have to be able to read and persuade your patrons. The best way to persuade that customer to always come to your bar, during your shift, is to gain power over them. Behavioral studies of power have shown that there are 6 different types:

  • Referent power - power based on how much someone is liked.
  • Expert power - power based on the fact that a person is perceived to be very knowledgeable in the topic.
  • Legitimate power - power based on the person's position in an organization.
  • Reward power - power based on the fact that the person will reward you for doing something.
  • Coercive power - power based on the capacity to administer punishment.
The best forms of power are referent and expert power. Gain power by becoming the patron’s friend and showing your expertise in the mixology field. These two are well within your means to become very good at. Excel beyond your fellow bartender, rise to the head of the class, using these two forms of power.

Legitimate and coercive power really doesn't apply (I don't think you will be making your patron sit in a corner because they went to someone else's bar). But, reward power can be utilized by giving the occasional complimentary drinks.

There is a fine line between persuading and manipulating. Be careful not to cross that line.

So there is your peep talk. Gee, it sounds like I am a soapbox so I will step down now. But, I will leave you with one final thing...

Customers know the difference between mediocre service, good service and exceptional service. Do you want to be that mediocre server or do you want to excel at what you do?

Saturday, June 4

MOAC - June 2005 Seminars

The Museum of the American Cocktail (MOAC) put on three seminars this past week that were absolutely amazing. My wife and I attended all three events and we loved every minute of it.

The museum is a nonprofit organization that celebrates one of America's most influential beverages, the American Cocktail. The cocktail has influenced everything from music, theater, art, film, and politics around the world during its two-century-old history. (2)

The history of the American Cocktail is rich with great stories and events that significantly impacted our culture and way of life. Most of this history is not even mentioned in history books and has a chance of becoming lost without the existence of the MOAC.

The museum's current home, New Orleans, was also the location for the seminars this week. The first seminar on June 1st titled, Margaritas, Melons, and Barbecue was given by the King of Cocktails himself, Dale DeGroff.

In this session, Dale did a brief cocktail history lesson telling the story of how it wasn't tea or coffee that started the American Revolution, but it was actually rum. Great stuff!

Then the discussion moved on to tequila and the different types thereof. We did a tequila tasting of three types: Plata (bottled within 60 days), Resposado (aged two to eleven months in oak), and Anejo (aged for one year or more). All three were 100% blue agava and they tasted fantastic.

The cocktails served included: Naked Margarita, Frozen Margarita, Watermelon Punch, Sweet Charity, and Port Whiskey Punch. The last three are Dale DeGroff originals and were very good. The Watermelon Punch was actually served out of a hollowed out watermelon and consisted of Tequila, lemon juice, Cointreau, fresh watermelon juice, and Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur. The maraschino liqueur is actually kind of hard to come by but Luxardo still makes it.

The second seminar was given by Tony Abou-Ganim, The Modern Mixologist. Tony put the Bellagio in Las Vegas on the map as a must stop location for all cocktail enthusiast. He designed the cocktail and sprits program at the resort, which has 22 bars and thousands of guests daily. All 22 bars use fresh juice and do not skimp on presentation.

Tony's seminar was very interactive. He had several audience members join him to participate in the building of several cocktails. The subject was making great cocktails at home. The seminar covered many of the basics and had us sampling and building the following cocktails: Sunsplash, Cosmopolitan, Martini, Mojito, and Manhattan. All in all, very fun, informative, and wonderful cocktails!

The third and final seminar was presented by David Wondrich. The title, Secrets of the Saloon. This was a wonderful taste down memory lane as we explored: Punch, Whiskey Smash, Brandy Cock-Tail, Martinez Cocktail, Sherry Cobbler, Mint Julep, and the New Orleans' original Ramos Gin Fizz. The seminar was steeped with history and David told some wonderful stories about cocktails pre-prohibition.

The information about punch was especially interesting. As told by David, men use to gather around and make a lively punch in a large bowl and pass it around until they were stumbling and falling all over the place. As individuality became more prevalent in America the punch bowls became smaller and smaller until finally the tenders of the bar were making individual servings of punch and various other libations.

Overall all three events where very fun and I enjoyed them quite immensely. I can't wait for the next round.

If you have not already, please, join the Museum of American Cocktails. They really need the support of all those who love the cocktail and want to keep the rich heritage of it alive and well. The museum is currently looking for a permanent home in New Orleans, but they need more support from everyone to keep the project going.

Happy cocktailing!