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(L-R) Sharon Bronstein, Shelby Allison and Caitlin Liman

“We created the cocktail conference we wanted to go to,” Shelby Allison, co-founder of the upcoming Chicago Style and co-owner of Lost Lake cocktail bar, is fond of saying. Along with business partners Caitlin Laman, who is the beverage director of the Ace Hotel Chicago and Sharon Bronstein, director of marketing for the 86. Co., its intent, as the website states, is to mix “equal parts think and drink.” While the convention, which runs from May 7 – 10, is open to everyone, these three women specifically set out to create an event geared toward the betterment of the hospitality industry. Seminar topics, at least for the first year, are geared toward themes of racial and gender equality, bar service improvements, solving management challenges and wellness. Of course there will also be drink education. And the brand-sponsored parties.

Inclusion is the main focus. Not only is it the theme of many of the seminars, but it is also interpreted in the literal sense. One of the most frustrating elements of drinks conferences is that too many events overlap or run into each other, with pressure to choose wisely and rush off in between, often without necessary eating breaks to fuel up. At Chicago Style, all programming – seminars, events, activities – are scheduled without overlap so no one has to choose one activity over the other, and there is ample time between them to discuss, network and make way to the next one. A day of programming costs an affordable $60 all inclusive – no expensive wrist bands for tasting rooms. No limited access. The manageable price points are all thanks to sponsorships from brands who also recognize the value asset of the programming.

Another way CS distinguishes itself – each morning begins with fitness or wellness activities. Allison explains why this is a necessary component to a conference that focuses on people who serve alcohol into the wee hours of the night: “We’ve teamed up with Alex Negranza (Imbibe bartender of the year) to provide fitness programming. This is to show that as bar managers or owners we can really take care of our teams and build healthy work environments but also take care of our most important bar tools, which are our bodies, our minds and spirits. Ultimately that makes us better hospitality providers.” Although these activities in the context of the conference might not be timed ideally for a real life bartender’s schedule, participants can apply them to fit a normal schedule at whatever hour works for them. “It’s a way to learn to wind down that’s healthier and provide longevity in this field,” says Allison.

The timing of the convention couldn’t be better – given the controversies surrounding Tales of the Cocktail as well as the #metoo movement – however, planning for such an event takes more than just a few months. Chicago Style was in its incubation stage long before these industry and cultural shifts took place. “We always wanted to create a real opportunity for meaningful conversation to push the industry forward.” says Allison. The other motivation was to finally give the city of Chicago its own destination conference. She adds, “Chicago is well recognized for its culinary scene and other aspects, but the bar community there is important too.”

The schedule is a bit spare in its infancy stage, but Liman assures, “We have a long list of ideas for the next year already. We are already inspired about what comes next.”

Ultimately, the discussions and activities are designed to push the “hospitable” part of hospitality. Allison explains: “Cocktail bars are part of the hospitality industry too, and there’s no way we can call ourselves ‘hospitable’ without being really inclusive in our work environments and creating spaces that offer lots of opportunities and nurturing work environments for everyone in addition to welcoming guests.” Liman chimes in: “It really does all stem from the word ‘welcome’. In a lot of spaces, some people feel more welcome than others and ideally we would like to feel welcome everywhere.”

The industry is still nursing many of its injuries, but Chicago Style is determined to put a positive focus on the future. “The only way the bartending community is going to change as a whole is from a sense of accountability amongst each other and to hold each other accountable – look at hiring practices, look at the way in which they welcome guests, how programs are presented, how agencies promote them,” attests Allison. The conversations will undoubtedly become heated, but airing out those grievances ultimately provides a necessary educational balance. “We need to have the willingness to call each other out in a respectful way when there are opportunities to do better.”

(L-R) Ivy Mix and Lynnette Marrero Speed Rack

Now that it’s safe to say Manhattan Cocktail Classic is dead and buried, the finals of Speed Rack have relocated to the Windy City to partner with Chicago Style. The female bartending competition was founded in 2011 by Ivy Mix (now co-owner of Leyenda in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn) and Lynnette Marrero (now beverage director of the Llama Inn in Williamsburg, Brooklyn) to raise money for breast cancer awareness charities, as of press time, over $700,000 globally. The speed bartending competition began in New York and now takes place in other US regions, as well as European cities, with Miss Speed Rack crowned after each region meets separately and then against each other. The competition consists of several rounds of bartending heats between two female bartenders that are evaluated not only for time but for accuracy and drink presentation (the contestants in each round are required to make the same cocktail). The drinks are judged by a rotating panel of star industry veterans as well as chefs and drink writers. It’s as much a spectator sport as it is a bartending contest, and spirits brands sponsor the events with the ingredients used on stage as well as booths set up for ticketed attendees, who also have the option to purchase merchandise and raffle tickets, with all proceeds going to the chosen charities. It gets wild in there! If you’ll be in Chicago on May 8 for this year’s grand finale to crown Miss Speed Rack 2018, you can purchase tickets here for the event at Revel Fulton Market.

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I love curling up with a good book in springtime. Chillier days call for snuggling on the couch with my spirit animal Jasper to read, and I love taking a book to the park when I can feel the sun on my face once again. What’s even better than reading in a comfortable place is doing so with a good drink to sip between pages, and this season’s crop of boozy books has quite a number of inspirations, all from unique angles of storytelling.

The One Bottle Cocktail: More Than 80 Recipes With Fresh Ingredients From a Single Spirit

Not everyone with a home bar has access to esoteric bottled ingredients, or if they do, it isn’t cost effective to purchase an entire bottle for one drink. For instance, what to do with all that Crème de Violette to mix up a single batch of Aviations? (At least with a good vermouth one can still enjoy it on the rocks or in other recipes before it goes off.) Here, writer Maggie Hoffman explores flavor possibilities from the natural world in single-booze recipes divided by spirit – vodka, gin, agave, rum, brandy and whiskey – as well as occasions. All recipes are sans modifiers such as vermouth, amaro or liqueur. Admittedly, these recipes, contributed by bartenders around the country, require extra steps like making syrups and squeezing fresh juices, and then there’s the same problem as the Violette – what to do with them once the coupes are empty if not serving a crowd (for instance, I can never see myself making El Gallito on p. 28 from loads of cilantro, green onion, cherry tomatoes, lime juice, agave nectar, adobo sauce from a can of peppers, salt and vodka for a casual “Oh, I just threw this on” kind of affair).

However, I would absolutely make the blueberry syrup for The Gincident by Kristina Magro of Chicago’s Pub Royale and Estereo on p. 45. The ingredients for Castor’s Gold on p. 97 by Adam James Sarkis of Phoenix Cocktail Club in Milwaukee – light rum, honey syrup, lime juice and horseradish – are revolving staples in my house as well. I loved the idea of Welcome Home, Dorothy by Caitlin Liman of Trick Dog and co-founder of the Chicago Style cocktail conference on p. 142. Based on Armagnac or Cognac, it features lemon juice, simple syrup, strawberries (which I often eat for breakfast anyway) and rooibos tea (which I drink in the afternoon).

I like that Hoffman includes a Bonus Drinks section at the end of each chapter to suggest subbing other spirits into the same recipes like pisco or rye or mezcal. I do think a few of the recipes sound a bit ongepotchket (Yiddish for “overly complicated”), but enough of the 4 or 5 ingredient recipes intrigued me to want to give it a go. What spirits to use for your drinks? Pick out a few winners from the NY International Spirits Competition! (Out now, 10 Speed Press, $22)

Bars, Taverns and Dives New Yorkers Love (Where to Go, What to Drink)

To say this book by artist/writer/bartender/pro-level bon vivant John Tebeau was a labor of love is the understatement of the year. This work is a pure passion project, born from a few of Tebeau’s impressively detailed illustrations of bars he has true affection for. It became a mission to illustrate favorite neighborhood haunts spanning all five boroughs and discuss what makes them so unique and beloved, why some regulars aren’t even local to those locals. Great bars can be found all over the city, but they are easy to miss from afar. Tebeau even ventures out to Staten Island and the Bronx to complete the story, because, after all, it isn’t a true civilization in these outer boroughs if there isn’t a friendly bar to come home to (Adobe Blues, Joyce’s Tavern or Bronx Alehouse) after a long commute. Even for the consummate New Yorker, there might be a few surprises. For instance, how have I lived in New York for the better part of three plus decades and missed places like The Keep (p. 108) in Ridgewood, Queens? Tebeau describes it as “…a fantastic antique shop with a full bar run by an Edward Gorey character. Or maybe a long-forgotten alternate set for the old Addams Family TV show…” Okay, granted this bar only opened in 2014, but there are many in this book that are much older I’ve somehow yet to explore. I’m so righting that wrong.

It’s been a devastating era for the Big Apple’s beloved watering holes, as so many neighborhood standbys are closing at an alarming rate. But it’s heartening to know there are still so many wonderful bars all around town (and Tebeau seems to not have missed very many) still open to belly up to. All the important details about them are mentioned in each warmly-worded and inviting description, with sections about best times to visit, how to get there, what to order, and best seats as well as other fun facts and house recipes. With the detailed illustrations, the book also happens to make nice-nice on the eyes. (releases April 10, Rizzoli, $30)

Booze and Vinyl

Drinking would be a very solemn ritual if music didn’t exist to accompany it. How many times have you ordered another round at a bar because a favorite song just came on? For this book, sibling co-authors Andre and Tenaya Darlington present some of their favorite records across many genres of music – pop, classic rock, metal, punk, alternative, hip hop, jazz, folk, etc. – and suggest drink pairings for them, with suggestions for Side A and Side B. In some instances, the choices are obvious, like an Old Cuban for Buena Vista Social Club, Planter’s Punch for Legend by Bob Marley and the Wailers, a Zombie to go with Michael Jackson’s Thriller. However, some of these are truly inspired, like a Milk Punch (with cookies) for The Velvet Underground and Nico, because Max’s Kansas City, the NYC bar where the band famously hung out, served that drink by the pitcher or a Between the Sheets to go with Madonna’s Like a Virgin (as well as Beauty Spot, one of the drinks created for the book by various bartenders, this one by Jen Marshall). I also give major points for thinking of a Suffering Bastard to pair with Johnny Cash Live at Folsom Prison.

Each album is presented with the authors’ own “liner notes” to introduce the record and pairings, provides instructions for setting the scene with Before You Drop the Needle and suggests best occasions for the listening parties. In some instances there are even snack recipes (Munchies!) provided to complete the mood and provide nourishment for an intense listening session. There’s some helpful advice at the end to close out the tracks and make the most of mixing drinks at home. (releases April 17, Running Press, $25)

Drinking Like Ladies: 75 Modern Cocktails From the World’s Leading Bartenders

The authors of this book, bartenders Misty Kalkofen and Kirsten Amann, met through a Boston chapter of LUPEC (Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails) and after founding their own drinks column and blog, were able to hold events and raise funds for women’s charities such as Jane Doe, Inc. Boston LUPEC became Toast Club, a reboot of a real, historic 19th century women’s networking club. The book examines what it is to be a “girly drink” via profiles of extraordinary women throughout the ages and drinks to match them, created by female bartenders from around the globe.

As historians, Amann and Kalkofen have gone really out of the way to celebrate a broad (pardon the pun) spectrum of women from world leaders, scientists, activists, educators, sports heroes and every other type of so-called “badass” historical figure, most of whom are impressively obscure selections deserving of more time in the spotlight. For instance, Dubai bartender (by way of the U.K.) Rebecca Sturt created Catch Me If You Can to celebrate runner Wilma Rudolph, who willfully beat a string of debilitating childhood illnesses that affected her lower body to eventually become a star athlete in her teens and go on to win track and field gold in the 1960 Rome Olympics. Ezra Star of Drink Boston contributed Elements of the Stars to honor astronomer Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin, whose groundbreaking thesis in the 1940s identified stars as predominantly composed of hydrogen and helium. The drinks (arranged through chapters according to base spirit, with a separate chapter on punches and low ABV concoctions) show true creativity, if sometimes running a bit on the complicated side. But it’s worth it to pick up this book for the historical profiles alone, and raise a glass to these extraordinary women and their accomplishments no matter what. (releases June 19 but available for pre-order, Quarry Books, $20)

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Summer Manhattan

All photos by Danielle Macdonald. 

Some of us are done with winter and are dying to pack away the heavy coat and reach for the swimsuit.  Just hold that thought, and before reaching for the sun lotion, consider the beauty of spring.  Flowers begin to bloom and frowns on cold weary faces are replaced with a glimmer of a smile. Bar terraces open, minus the heat lamps, and people start ordering  lighter drinks, willing the sun to shine and life to be peachy once more. Okay, that’s a little extreme but there is something about spring, that gets the streets buzzing and the cocktail bars humming.

The following cocktails are often associated with the cold winter months, but they’re getting a spring makeover. Armed with the right ingredients, you will be skipping down the street to the tune of “Let’s Do It” (the Ella Fitzgerald version), throwing off that coat and indulging in these refreshing cocktails before you even have the time to say “farewell, winter”.

Summer Manhattan 

Try Mike Vacheresse’s delightful, citrusy version of a Manhattan, from Brooklyn’s Travel Bar (via New York Cocktails by Amanda Schuster)

Stir all ingredients with crushed ice, strain and pour into a coup glass. Express the twist over the drink, rub it peel side down around the rim and discard.

Negroni Sunlight Negroni Sunlight

The traditional vermouth ingredient has been replaced with a lighter, dryer white wine and a rosey gin.

Place all ingredients in a rocks/Old Fashioned glass and add ice. Stir until well-chilled. Garnish with orange peel.

Toddy’s Spring Break Toddy’s Spring Break

This cocktail has the heat of a traditional toddy but the taste of spring and summer.

  • 3 ounces/90 mL dark rum
  • 1/2 ounce/15 mL Spiced Demerara Syrup (prepare traditional 1:1 syrup with demerara sugar and spices such as cinnamon, clove, cardamom and star anise. Cool and strain before using.)
  • 2 ounces/60 mL hot mint tea
  • garnish: mint sprig

Make a cup of hot mint tea and pour into a thick mug or glass.  Add spiced demerara syrup and rum. Stir to combine. Garnish with mint.

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photo via Camper English

Ice, a common ingredient in many cocktails, was at one point a rare treat for only the wealthy. For the bulk of human history, its creation was through purely natural means. Indian and Egyptian cultures used rapid evaporation to cool water quickly, sometimes quickly enough to make ice. Iran developed a yakh-chal (Persian for “ice pit”), which were onion-shaped buildings up to two stories tall, with an equal amount of space underground. The underground area kept ice, as well as any other food, cool through the use of air flow. Centuries later, wealthy Romans and Greeks filled ice houses with snow and ice that came from the Alps. These well-crafted buildings used tightly-packed straw and wood to keep their frozen treasures insulated. These ice houses, which permeated Europe at the height of the Roman Empire, fell into disuse when the mighty empire crumbled.

In the 16h century, it was the Italians who brought back the use of ice. France, borrowing the tradition from Italy, was the first country to bring ice back, but as an extravagance. Henry III displayed heaps of ice and snow on tables when he had guests, sometimes borrowing a page from Roman emperors and chilling his wine with a heap of snow. The rest of Europe scoffed at this use of ice to cool drinks, seeing it as “a mark of excessive and effeminate luxury.” (Ice and Refrigeration Illustrated, July 1901, p.6) They went from scoffing to partaking, adding ice to every drink they could.

rural ice delivery trucks in the 1930s, photo via Mississippi Department of Archives and History

This trend continued even into the early days of the new United States. Thomas Jefferson was exposed to ice houses in his European travels and built one in Monticello. He encouraged George Washington to do the same. Washington perfected his version on the second attempt in his Virginia home. Note that ice was still limited to those with means; most people who were able to enjoy a cold drink, or ice cream made with ice and not snow, were impressed by the lavishness of the experience.

The First Ice Age

Ice did not become more affordable until the mid-19th century, when some significant breakthroughs in refrigeration occurred. Frederic Tudor built an ice shipping business from the ground up after enjoying some fantastic ice cream (the good stuff, not that snowy junk) at a picnic. He had to. No one else in the country was doing it. His idea was given a… frosty reception… from anyone else hearing the proposition. When he started his business in the early 1800s, he could barely sell eighty pounds of ice in a tropical port. By the middle of the century he was shipping over 50,000 tons of ice all over the country. His company developed a method to harvest the ice with horse-drawn saws, lowering the price of ice even further. As the cost of ice fell, ice houses started to pop up all over the country, especially in the South. Insulated carriages and refrigerated box cars for trains emerged, allowing the ice to be transported further with less loss. Ice had come down to the masses, eventually winding its way behind the bar.

Nearing the halfway point of the 19th century, frozen lakes were no longer the only means to produce blocks of ice. In Mississippi, Dr. John Gorrie invented the first ice-making machine in 1845. Much like Frederick Tudor a few decades before, no one took the idea seriously. John even made a successful prototype to show off what his invention could achieve, but to no avail. He was not able to fund the idea, and so the ice maker concept sat on the shelf for several decades. Andrew Mulh, to help the beef industry in Texas, picked up the idea and developed the first commercial ice machine in 1867. As the end of the century approached, keeping things cold became all the rage in the food and beverage industry.

ice cutting in Sand Lake, photo via National Archives

The way that Americans used ice in cocktails drastically changed them – not only the way we consumed them, but the way we made them. Ice became a garnish. Part of the flair of the cocktail was how cold you could serve it. There was a mountain of shaved ice on top of juleps, cobblers, and other delights of the day. Metal cups would frost over, showing the drinker just how cold their beverage was. The top of this frosty mountain would have any seasonal fruit they could lay upon it. Foreign travelers in the United States marveled at the wasteful way we flaunted our supply of clean ice.

Compared to what Europeans expected, American water was downright clean. To cut the harshness of the liquor, and integrate any sugar, water was added to cocktails. Ice put a significant damper on that. Room temperature water was a much friendlier environment for sugar than an ice cold beverage. To integrate the sweet element back into the drink, bartenders started to create more simple syrups for cocktails, as well as reaching for their favorite fruit syrups. Melting ice became the water component to cocktails. Through modern experimentation, we have discovered that ice contributes about 25% of the volume of the cocktail in water. When shaken, then strained, it took the edge off rough liquor and chilled it. The syrups did all the sweetening, and customers had a great cocktail to enjoy.

Bringing Ice to the People

The First Ice Age in Cocktails came to a hard close in the early 20th century. When Congress passed the 18th Amendment and shut down liquor sales on January 17th, 1920, the ice you had in your cocktail was far less important than just having a cocktail. But while the country dried out, citizens were finding it easier to get ice. Ice boxes and refrigerators were getting better at making ice, smaller, and less expensive. The bulk of the country was still having huge chunks of it delivered to their homes in its crystal clear beauty, but a small, growing percentage was able to get it in their home. Especially with the switch to freon as a coolant in the 1920s. Freon was much safer and easier to manage than other gases, making in-home refrigerators an option.

Servel Refrigerator, 1940

When Prohibition ended, just over 1% of the country had a refrigerator in their home. By the mid-1950s, that number spiked to 80%. The end of WW II, and the beginning of the 1950s, marked the return of cocktails to the American scene. We could go back to taking our time with them, savoring them, and preparing them with care and plenty of ice. But ice had changed. Servel had brought the icemaker right into your refrigerator in 1953! No need for deliveries of huge blocks you still had to carve; you could press a glass to a lever, and you had all the ice you wanted. Consider this era the Frosted Age, since consumers were not as interested in the ice itself, but the cooling effect the ice had on the drink. Like the Gilded Age, but for cooling.

Faster, but not Better, Ice at Home

It was not the beautiful ice of the 1860s. It was not clear and crisp. It was cloudy and unstable. It melted quickly. They were smaller shapes, not big and beautiful cubes. Crystal clear ice joined fresh-squeezed juices and house-made syrups as casualties to the industrialization of American food. Why work so hard to cut blocks of ice or crush it into little chunks when you can have pounds of it made as fast as you use it? No one had time for that. Thus, ice from the machine became the go-to solution at home and in the hospitality industry. For over five decades, “shitty hotel ice,” as ice expert Camper English once concisely put it, became the norm when it came to the ice that went into a drink.

And no one was wiser for it. David Embury has a brief mention of it in The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks, one of the top cocktail books to come out of that era. He promotes the use of transparent cubes of ice in cocktails, not for looks but for flavor. Most of his critique about ice that comes out of the refrigerator is the unintentional flavors it can add to your cocktail. There are the chemicals that the city adds to the water to make it clean and the possibility of improperly stored food adding unwanted notes of “Camembert cheese or leftover broccoli” to your cocktail. Ice was an afterthought, not a component of a cocktail. It would be over five decades before ice started to reclaim its place as a critical component in a bar.

clear ice with burnishing stamp, via Camper English The Second Ice Age

According to Camper English, the first bar to bring an ice program back to craft cocktails is Weather Up in 2010. This has set up the beginning of the Second Ice Age, where ice returned to its original place as an essential element when presenting a cocktail, not just a way to chill it and add water. Bartenders and drinks enthusiasts, led by English, became obsessed with finding ways to create clear ice that was not a 300-pound block and did not take a week to form. Ice making companies, which all but disappeared in the middle of the 20th century, returned to serve this growing demand. Ice chisels, chainsaws, picks, and tappers have all returned to the bar. Round balls of ice and frozen spears for  have become part and parcel of the ice repertoire in many bar programs around the country.

The importance of ice grew as the cocktail became an experience. The presentation of an artisanal spirit, mixed with house-made bitters and syrups, accented by a clever garnish, was not going to be ruined any longer by plopping industrial ice into the glass. That does not fit into the craft story or aesthetic! A clear, carved piece of ice is the only thing that will do.

Ice in the modern era has one more added function: delivering surprises. Cocktails on ice have been around for over two hundred years, but cocktails IN ice are a much newer invention. Spherical ice molds allowed daring mixologists to figure out a way to partially freeze the ice, drill a hole to release the extra water, then inject any cocktail they choose into the mold. All you have to do is break it open in the appropriate glass and enjoy. Other bartenders use ice cubes to deliver flavor by freezing fruit, coffee, or other liquids into cubed form and adding them to cocktails. Still others use the ice as a frozen frame, delivering an aesthetic pop to their creation. Their visions range from turning the ice different colors to adding edible flowers to the mix.

Large cubes of ice have even made their way into the shaker, offering bartenders a better way to control the amount of water that ends up in the cocktail. They also agitate better, providing a measurably different amount of foam for cocktails (based on many experiments by David Arnold of Liquid Intelligence fame). The more we explore and experiment with ice, the better we understand its impact on the drinks that leave the bar, from the amount of dilution to the temperature of the cocktail. The Second Ice Age is still in its infancy, and it is only going to get bigger.

photo via Camper English

When the bartender places your cocktail in front of you, take a moment to appreciate the effort that has been invested in the ice used to create it. Even though restaurants no longer have to wait for horses to bring blocks of ice down from the lake, obtaining good looking ice is still not an easy task. There is tremendous energy put into adding the right ice to enhance the customer’s engagement with their cocktail. Admire all of that hard work. Then enjoy the luxury of an ice cold cocktail.

Editor’s note: Clearly Frozen is a new company that has created a way to make clearer ice cubes at home with a tray that works via directional freezing. While results aren’t absolutely perfect, it works rather well with a little experimentation! Find out more here

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Sous-Vide Cappuccino Cocktail, photo courtesy Cuisine Solutions

When it comes to cuisine, one person’s innovation is another person’s foam and sauce smear art project on a plate. Modern cookery entered the 21st century with chefs implementing flashy techniques to achieve fanciful preparations that don’t always resemble actual food (or food that looks like other food in disguise), often while surrounded by cartoonish-looking vapors as though in a mad scientist lab instead of a kitchen. However, these days, even home cooks are able to experiment with molecular gastronomy with the right tools and gadgets, and so too can bartenders. One of the most approachable culinary innovation of the past couple of decades is the sous-vide method, which is French for “under-vacuum”. In a sous-vide machine, food or liquids are vacuum-sealed and slow cooked in water at constant low temperatures until fully infused and/or evenly cooked through. The method achieves consistent flavor infusions and textures beyond the ability of other traditional cooking techniques. 

Last autumn, I attended a sous-vide themed event and luncheon held at Restaurant Daniel in New York City hosted by executive chef Daniel Boulud and Cuisine Solutions, innovators of sous-vide systems and techniques. We were greeted by head bartender Marcie Anderson, who was preparing bourbon Old Fashioneds for the guests in a sous-vide machine. At 10 AM. Until then, I was questioning why the editor-in-chief of a drinks publication had been invited to this event. Then I began to feel right at home.

In an adjacent room, various stations were set up to further demonstrate the scope of sous-vide-ability, including one serving sous-vide cocktails. Here, AJ Schaller, culinary specialist for Cuisine Solutions was putting finishing touches on a coffee cocktail that turned out to be mighty delicious (and much needed after late morning, pre-lunch Old Fashioneds). I was still thinking about it months later, so I asked her some questions about preparing sous-vide cocktails for our readers. Do try these at home!

Marcie Anderson’s Sous-Vide Old Fashioned in process at Restaurant Daniel, photo via Cuisine Solutions

Alcohol Professor: What inspired you to make cocktails using sous-vide?

AJ Schaller: The sous-vide technique and cocktails seem to be a natural pairing. Especially in scenarios where you would like to make precise, consistent infusions.

AP: Please briefly explain the science/reason behind using sous-vide with spirits. How does it affect the flavor of the distillate? Does it remove any of the alcoholic properties?

AJS: The sous-vide process prevents any vapor or volatile aromas from escaping because preparations are made in an air-tight pouch. With any sous-vide product, the true flavors are amplified and you achieve maximum yields.

Another benefit of preparing a cocktail sous-vide is that you can add a lesser quantity of flavoring and infuse for a shorter amount of time at a warm temperature as compared to bottled, room temperature methods of infusion. Once you achieve the balance you are looking for, just strain and store the cocktail.

Sous-Vide Old Fashioned, photo courtesy Cuisine Solutions

In our experience, the ABV will not change unless you dilute it with another liquid, or if the water content is released from a solid ingredient. [Although take note]: If you are adding aromatic elements like smoked wood, fruit, vegetables or zest you will alter the brix and pH.

AP: Are there cocktails that are better suited to using a sous-vide method? Are there some that would just be completely wrong for it and why?

AJS: If you are interested in infusing base liquors such as moonshine, everclear or vodka to create a specific-flavored liquor such as fruit or vegetable, sous-vide works very well. You can also make cocktail mixers such as tonic syrups to combine à la minute. You can even combine all cocktail ingredients together in batches, infuse at low temperatures, and then store until you need it, which is a great time-saver for busy bartenders.

Using a sous-vide infusion to mimic spirits that are prepared with a step of oxidation like an amaro might not be achieved sous-vide start to finish since there is no oxygen. However, it’s still worth exploring with sous-vide as the first step. We also would recommend that if your cocktail calls for fresh fruit juice and you want to batch cook, you can save the juice as a finishing step since it will naturally separate over time. However, using fruit zest in a sous-vide cocktail is wonderful, [keeping in mind the note about brix and pH levels above].

AP: Is there room for experimentation or do measurements have to be exact?

AJS: Absolutely! We experiment often and then once we land on something we love, we save the recipe and repeat. That’s the beauty of sous-vide, because you can repeat with ultimate precision. Just keep in mind that you should use around a tenth of the aromatics than if you were making a traditional recipe where other methods of heat are applied. Also, avoid preparations at a temperature of 85°C or above. At this temperature pectin hydrolysis begins, your cocktail can thicken (if you have ingredients with pectin), and it might begin to taste cooked or processed.

AP: The Spiked Frosty Cappuccino cocktail I tasted at the event at Daniel was delicious. Would you be willing to share the recipe?

AJ Schaller serves up Sous-Vide Spiked Frosty Cappuccinos at Daniel, photo courtesy Cuisine Solutions

Spiked Frosty Cappuccino (Note: This could also be interpreted as a fancy Irish Coffee variation this weekend for St. Patrick’s Day, or any other occasion – just swap out the rum for Irish whiskey.)

Serves 4

  • 4 Tbs (13g) dark roast espresso, fine ground (Illy was served at the event)
  • 1.5 cups water
  • 4 Tbs sugar
  • 1 cup dark rum or whiskey
  • Pinch  of fine salt
  • 2 cups fresh milk, cryoconcentrated* (or substitute whipped cream)

Combine espresso, water, sugar, rum and salt in a sous-vide pouch. Chill to at least 6°C or below before sealing. Submerge pouch in a water bath set at 83°C for 3 hours. Remove from the bath and strain through a coffee filter while still warm. Chill and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Transfer cryoconcentrated milk to a cream siphon and charge twice. Serve cocktail frosty cold with the milk foam on top.

* Says AJ: “In addition to the sous-vide infusion, an element of that cocktail showcased at the event was cryoconcentration of fresh milk. Bruno Goussault, our Chief Scientist and the pioneer of the sous-vide technique, has been training Michelin-starred chefs (including Yannick Alleno, Thomas Keller and Daniel Boulud) on extraction and cryoconcentration. The process is incredibly innovative, utilizes sous-vide, and we anticipate it will be a way to help reduce food waste in restaurants around the world.  

Here we cryoconcentrated fresh unhomogenized milk, by removing water through freezing. The process increases the percentage of caseins while decreasing the fat and you end up with a super flavorful foam comparable to whipped cream.”

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photo by Keith I via flickr.com

It’s funny to be publishing this article two days after another major Nor’easter and a week after one of Europe’s most sweeping snowstorms, but this time of year, Mother Nature has a sense of humor. One day it’s yeti weather in thunder snow and the next it’s downright tropical. We store different layers of clothing for such unpredictable conditions, but we should do the same for what we drink. Here are some libations that can easily match the elements and mood.

Don Ciccio & Figli Cerasum: It’s cherry blossom season anytime with this new cherry-accented amaro from Washington, DC by way of the Amalfi coast. Using a family recipe that dates back to 1906, the folks at this ever-creative Italian-American outfit use an infusion of three different types of cherries from Michigan and local Sakura cherry blossoms, as well as various roots and herbs. The result is a delightful sweet-tart liqueur with just a hint of bitterness to round it out that’s delicious sipped neat in cooler weather. Serve it on the rocks, with a splash of tonic or soda when milder temps come out of hiding. It would also be a fabulous ingredient to lighten up Manhattan or Negroni variations for the season, or in a brunch cocktail added to good Prosecco. 23% ABV, $36

Dillon’s Cherry Gin: Or, for another twist on the cherry branch, try this juicy gin that won gold in the 2017 NY International Spirits Competition. Ontario rye-based and infused with Niagara cherries and botanicals, the company describes it as the “Farrah Fawcett of the bar cart” and they’re not far off. Maybe you don’t need a poster of it striking a pose in an orange swimsuit on your wall, but it’s fun, breezy, pretty too look at and surprisingly talented for a leading role in spring Martinis, G&Ts, Negronis, sours and rickeys. 35% ABV, $27

Akashi Ume Plum Whisky, Eigashima Shuzo: Amanda, we’ve known you for years now and you have never, EVER recommended a flavored whisky. What gives? If you know me, you know I am a lady of strong heart and open mind, and when I ordered this whisky at a bar out of curiosity because I trust the work of the producer, I was blown away. Hailing from the closest whisky distillery (“White Oak”) to the coast in Japan, this is a nod to ume-shu, a traditional plum liqueur. Late summer/fall-harvested tart plums and rock sugar are rested in the whisky for six months, which is just enough time to allow the best flavors and aromas of the fruit to mist delicately over the whisky without smothering it. Pour this over a large, clear ice cube into a rocks glass and you’ll be happy. 30.5% ABV, $35

Croft Pink Port: Ease into rosé season with this yummy Port! The meticulous vinification method involves extracting the juice from the grapes with minimal skin contact, much like traditional rosé, with fermentation occurring at cooler temperatures. This magenta-hued lovely is delicious served chilled with a lemon twist up or on the rocks, splashed into soda, or try it in an iced tea cocktail with some Owl’s Brew! It pairs splendidly with mixed nuts, olives and bacon-wrapped dates. 20% ABV, $20 

Fruit Cider: Hard cider is a diverse option that goes beyond the autumnal apple and pear varieties. With citrus season coming to a close, Austin Eastciders Blood Orange and Ruby Red Grapefruit flavors keep things tangy. I added some mezcal (the deliciously balanced Creyente Joven) to the Ruby Red on the rocks as a makeshift Brooklyn Paloma to brighten my spirits during the Nor’easter and happily toasted the ice pelting against my window panes. I’m also a big fan of 1911 Spirits Raspberry Cider, which gets me in the mood for summer berry season ahead of schedule. It recently won gold in the 2018 NY International Beer Competition.

2015 Macrostie Chardonnay, Dutton Ranch: The Dutton family are legendary grapegrowers in the Russian River Valley. The grapes for this wine were harvested at Braughton, Hansen Hill and Mill Station – all zones where the Chardonnay grape has the ability to ripen fully without getting baked. The wine ages 10 months in barrel, with occasional stirring on the lees, and is aged in French oak, 26% of it new. The sweet smell of the season wafts out of the glass, with sophisticated nuances of stone fruits, and spring blossoms. Only a slight hint of salty butteryness comes through in the finish. Perfect pairing: Grilled shrimp Pad Thai or avocado toast. 14% ABV, $46

A Paloma variation sips from winter to spring and beyond, photo by Amanda Schuster

2015 Château La Croix St. Pierre: Most people associate Bordeaux blend wine with weighty layers, but the Côtes de Bordeaux region alongside the more famous vineyards is home to so many microclimates that it’s possible to create a blend, such as this one from the Blaye subregion, made up of Merlot, Cabernet and Malbec in a lighter feeling style. This juicy wine with fresh berry flavors would be the perfect accompaniment to both pizza takeout or a charcuterie and cheese plate. 13.5% ABV, $20

2015 Jacob’s Creek Reserve Adelaid Hills Pinot Noir: Great pinot noir need not hail from Burgundy or even Oregon wine country. Try this Aussie pinot that is vinified by talented winemakers from one of the best vintages in the Adelaide Hills region in recent years. The wine won gold in the 2017 NY International Wine Competition, and it’s easy to understand why. Sip and experience complex layers of black truffle, ripe strawberries and raspberries and a hint of spicy root beer. It’s perfect for that first night firing up the grill with some salmon, chicken or ribs. 14.3% ABV, $15.

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Since the late ’90s, nerd culture has been slowly picking up steam. The comics boom created new universes to explore, Magic: the Gathering was starting to pick up steam, and fantasy sports were just getting onto the radar. This was a time when craft cocktails and beers were just starting to emerge on the national scene. Nerds come in all stripes – some are going to get into heated discussions on how to make an Old Fashioned, some will draw their Bat’Leth or light sabre and engage in age old debate about which is better, Star Trek or Star Wars, or if Hulk could take Superman in a fight. These debates can get heated, and it does not hurt to have one with a Butterbeer in front of you. Andy Heidel saw the need for a place to discuss such important topics over a drink, and in 2011 opened The Way Station so thirsty travelers had a place to refresh themselves and discuss these critical topics.

If anyone is going to write a cocktail book for geeks, it is going to be Andy. After a career that included working with luminaries like Neil Gaiman, Ray Bradbury, Terry Pratchett, and Adam West, he threw all of his resources into a bar. It started leaning towards steampunk, but its defining feature altered its final destination. THE WAY STATION HAD THE TARDIS! When the thirsty, nerdy masses started to fill his bar every night, he knew he had a Buffy-level hit. The Cocktail Guide to the Galaxy ($22.99, 2017, St. Martin’s Griffin) is Heidel’s third book. The first two books he wrote are collections of his short stories; this is a collection of cocktails made famous at his Brooklyn bar.

Andy Heidel, photo by Giles Clement

The writer in him shows through in the book. So does the geek. This could be one of the most fun cocktails books I have ever read because of that combination. It is a book that does not take itself seriously at all. There are not only dashes of humor for flavor; humor permeates the entire book. For example, there is a cocktail in the Game of Thrones section called a “George R. R. Martini.” The recipe?

George R. R. Martini

  • 2 parts gin
  • .25 part dry vermouth

Let sit on the shelf for a year. Add ice, stir, then contemplate. Come back to it later. Strain into a fancy glass. Garnish with one olive stabbed through the heart with a lemon wedge.

It is this irreverent, dorky humor that sets this book far apart from the rest of the cocktail books on the shelf. While the cocktails in the book can be serious, the way they are presented is not. There are no equipment lists and few requirements for how to make the cocktails. There is enough simple instruction in each recipe that anyone can make these drinks. The lovely illustrations, the personal anecdotes about his own drinking, and helpful tips about spending an evening out are all just icing on the fairy cake.

10th Doctor cocktail, photo by Brian Petro

Sometimes the effort to be simple does not serve the reader well. For the majority of his recipes, the ingredients he uses are measured in parts. A part is defined as “1.5 oz. (50 mL) and is equivalent to 3 tablespoons.” This is not a bad way to keep the measurements simple, but it can make some of the recipes tricky. One quarter of a part would be .375 oz. (11 mL), or just over 2 tsp. It is a little extra math, but nothing that cannot be overcome. The recipes vary from the basics with the names switched up to match the theme to incredible new cocktails (which may be disappointing if you buy this book looking for the secrets of River Song’s diary). It is far more basic than that.

The purpose of all nerdery is to escape for a little bit into a different world. The Cocktail Guide to the Universe, much like the book it borrows its name from, is a fun jaunt through the world of cocktails. Much like The Way Station itself, it is a welcome oasis of irreverence in a sea of very serious treatises on building a drink. Gather your ingredients and start pouring cocktails that will impress all of your geeky friends. But before you do, you better know where your bar towel is.

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The Cassanova cocktail, from Les Diners de Gala by Salvador Dalí

Pop culture: apparently it’s what’s for dinner! Chances are, if something or someone becomes famous for more than 15 minutes, there’s a cookbook tie-in for it. Besides the countless cuisine fad, celebrity chef, movie star, TV personality, pop musician, cooking blog compilation and wellness trend cookbooks that eventually simmer into the bargain bin pile, there are all those phenomenon-based titles. There’s a Doctor Who cookbook, a Star Wars cookbook, Breaking Bad cookbook (actual title – Baking Bad by Walter Wheat – oy!), a Harry Potter cookbook, a Game of Thrones cookbook and even a Fifty Shades of Chicken book (that’s right, fan fiction cookbooks based on book series based on movie or TV series). However, long before the age of the wookie cookie or mustard-spanked poultry, before there was little more than Julia Child and Joy of Cooking in a standard home kitchen next to the hand cranked meat grinder, a celebrity cookbook was still an anomaly. Two of the most unlikely early celebrity cookbooks were published several years apart by icons of horror and fantasy – Salvador Dalí and Vincent Price. While Price’s book takes a far more traditional and less whimsical approach, they are both challenging to use as a recipe resource for a modern kitchen for a variety of reasons, puzzling measurements and tendency toward gelatinous ingredients notwithstanding. When I read them over again recently, I was determined to find a few recipes I could cook from each of them. Then I discovered recipes I could drink.

Salvador Dalí – Les Diners de Gala

This guide to home entertaining, originally published in 1973 with a recent reprint, is as fanciful and bizarre as one would expect from the master of surrealist art. It has recipes ranging from Tripe of Yesteryear to Snail Saltimbocca to Peacock à L’Imperiale to Stuffed Cabbages With Pigeons and all manner of aspics and things that jiggle (Bush of Crayfish in Viking Herbs, anyone?), and all elaborately garnished. (Quick! Fetch my sterling silver raven prop!) The illustrations, presentations and actual photographs (never mind the serving ware) do not disappoint in their outrageousness.

This cocktail can be found in the “les je mange Gala” section, which naturally comes right after “l’atavisme désoxyribonucléique” (a.k.a. “vegetables”).

Peacock à l’Imperiale (note: not an actual peacock except the feathers)

Cassanova Cocktail

“This is quite appropriate when circumstances such as exhaustion, overwork or simply excess of sobriety are calling for a pick-me-up,” says Dalí. I’ve seen many bastardizations versions of this drink online, some of which are so far removed from this recipe (vodka based, coffee liqueur-based with Madeira, as a royale with Champagnes, etc.), but this one seems to be the inspiration. The measurements below are according to the artist. The drink calls for “ginger”, which is likely powdered as that was the default in those days. However, a good ginger syrup would make a nice substitute, as the drink could probably use a touch of sweetness for balance. As for the two brandies, he’s actually only calling for one – “old brandy,” or “Vielle Cure” is a mostly extinct, fruit-based French herbal liqueur, however Bénédictine would work well here. Incidentally, he serves this with Aphrodite’s Purée, a fish mouse with fried prawns on top that calls for crushed cod heads strained “Chinese style,” whatever that means.

Aphrodite’s Purée

Dalí’s directions: “At the bottom of a glass [use a rocks/Old Fashioned for this], combine pepper and ginger. Pour the bitters on top, then brandy and Vielle Cure. Refrigerate or put in the freezer [which is it, Sal?]. Thirty minutes later, remove from the freezer and stir the juice of the orange into the chilled glass. Drink… and wait for the effect. It is rather speedy.”

Or

You could shake all the ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled rocks glass, which is probably better anyway. Glad Mr. Dalí didn’t quit his day job. 

Mary and Vincent Price – A Treasury of Great Recipes: Famous Specialties of the World’s Foremost Restaurants Adopted for the American Kitchen Vincent Price in A Treasury of Great Recipes

Considering actor Vincent Price is best known for his scenery-chewing performances in classic macabre cinema, when it comes to sitting down for a real meal, he could not seem more genuinely warm and appreciative of his surroundings, friends and life in general. This book, originally published in 1965 with some reprints, is a gastronomic snapshot of fine dining in that era. Actual menus from some of the world’s most respected restaurants at the time are printed within, as well as some adaptations of their signature recipes. Before the age of food TV or social media, before the average good eater even paid attention to sources like the Michelin Guide, unless one had the resources of a world famous celebrity, books like these were the only way to know where to go and what to eat, or at least live vicariously. It also serves as a culinary time capsule, considering so many of the establishments, such as Gage and Tollner in Brooklyn, or the Santa Fe Super Chief dining train, long ago served their last Shrimp à la Newburg.

While most of the book centers around travel and fine dining (Price is shocked that Tour D’Argent charges $12 for lunch and $20 for dinner in 1965!), amongst the soufflés, “forcemeats”, canapés, stews and broils, it becomes obvious the Prices liked a good drink (the many photos of wine and various cocktails are the least of the giveaways). In their other cookbook, Come Into the Kitchen, the Prices even share a recipe for homemade wine. Here, we are lucky to find the instructions for the most famous drink from Restaurant Antoine in New Orleans.

Café Brûlot Diabolique

Says Price: “New Orleans is famous for two drinks, the Sazerac, a lethal bourbon and Pernod cocktail [a reminder this is 1965, don’t give Vinny a hard time, you purists!], and Café Brûlot, a flaming after-dinner coffee with Cognac. The Café Brûlot is traditionally served in special cups, tall and slim with handles in the shape of red devils. It is most dramatic served in the dining room with the lights turned down while the Cognac flames hellishly [you can almost hear him devilishly chuckling at this]. Actually, all that happens is that most of the alcohol burns out of the Cognac and by the time the coffee is added all you get is the marvelous flavor.”

  • 8 sugar cubes
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • peel of ½ lemon
  • coffee
  • Cognac

Make 4 cups strong coffee.

Antoine’s menu, from a Treasury of Great Recipes

In a fire-resistant bowl put the spices and lemon peel. Heat 6 oz Cognac (he specifies that it’s French, which is so cute) and pour it over the ingredients in the bowl. Ignite Cognac and stir it around with other ingredients until sugar is melted and all flavors are blended. Don’t let Cognac burn away completely.

Pour the coffee into the flaming bowl. Stir around till the fire goes out.

Price’s words on presentation: “There is a special ladle that has a strainer to strain out the spices [gutted we no longer have the one my maternal Grandma Nina kept]. If you do not have one, use an ordinary ladle, being careful to fill it only with the liquid. Have brûlot cups, or demitasse cups, standing near the bowl. Ladle the coffee into them and serve black.”

I like to think these two are indulging in fantastical ways together in the great beyond. Cheers to Salvador and Vincent!

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Silver Fleet Fiz

Photos by Danielle Macdonald.

Do we really need an excuse to drink bubbly? Although on Valentine’s Day, how can one (or, in the spirit of the holiday, two) truly resist? Call it commercial, cliché, but there is no denying that Hearts Day can put the fizz in one’s bottle and the pop in one’s cork. Champagne may not be to everyone’s budget or taste, so why not try an Italian Prosecco , Spanish Cava, Crémant de Bourgogne, or even a California sparkler? These dazzling drinks made with alternative bubblies showcase ingredients that add a tantalizing twist for a romantic evening in.

Silver Fleet Fizz
  • 2 ounces dry gin, such or Larios Rosé gin from Spain, if available
  • 1 ounce wild strawberry liqueur, such as Fragola
  • 4 ounces dry Cava or other sparkling wine
  • 1 strawberry

Pour gin into a tall glass. Add strawberry liqueur. Top up glass with chilled Cava. Add half a strawberry into the glass.

Lavender Darling
  • 1 ½ ounces Citron Pressé (French for “lemonade”: just mix lemon, water and sugar and adjust sweetness according to taste)
  • 1 ounce lavender or violette liqueur, such as Tempus Fugit Liqueur de Violettes
  • 4 ounces dry, sparkling wine of choice
  • Lemon peel

Pour Citron Pressé in a tall glass. Add lavender or violet liqueur. Fill the rest of the glass with chilled bubbly.  Garnish with either lemon peel or edible lavender flower.

Naranja Bubbles

Pour Chinotto into a flute or tall glass. Add Terra Di Limoni. Top off with chilled Prosecco. Garnish with orange peel.

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Timberlake in Suit & Tie (screengrab)

This Sunday, February 4th is another Super Bowl, which will be played between the Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots. The football game itself could either be a nail-biter or a complete snooze – the passionate fan rivalry is really what has the potential to cause the majority of the acrimony between the opposing teams. Good luck to the team that runs the most bases or whatever. Besides the commercials, the only reason I plan to tune in is the halftime show starring Justin Timberlake.

Besides, being, well, Justin Timberlake, it’s an intriguing choice considering the cheeky shenanigans he notoriously engaged in while performing with Janet Jackson in 2004. But this talented individual has a new album, Man of the Woods, to promote. He also obviously some very persuasive representation if the Super Bowl committee is giving him another chance to perform live for one of the biggest TV audiences of the year.

Alcohol Professor has done the bit where we represent the rival teams in alcoholic form in our past game event coverage, and even tell you which beer to put in your chili. The reality is most of the at home or bar-going audience will be perfectly content, and rightfully so, drinking Sam Adams or Victory beer. However, I think a Justin Timberlake show is worth a little extra cocktail-mixing effort to enjoy the halftime spectacle – have fun and get grooving with these drinks inspired by some of this greatest hits!

Suit and Tie

Love is swinging in the air tonight! Let me show you a few things about love, friends. Here’s an agave variation of the classic Tuxedo cocktail. (He’s even pouring some out in the video.)

  • 2 oz tequila blanco (Justin’s own Sauza 901, natch!)
  • 1 oz dry Oloroso sherry
  • Dash or two of orange or grapefruit bitters

Stir all ingredients with ice until well chilled. Strain into a chilled coupe glass. Wanna see how to do this, hun? Here’s how to make the Tuxedo No. 2.

Rock Your Body
Rock Your Body-Inspired Cocktail - YouTube

This tiki-inspired concoction by Joshua Campbell of Leyenda is like a full body workout for your palate – hitting all the sweet/spicy/tangy/herbal notes. Dance with me!

Shake all ingredients with ice. Strain into a rocks/Old Fashioned glass over fresh ice. Garnish with LED ice cubes (optional). Pass to the left, then sail to the right.

SexyBack cocktail photo by Amanda Schuster SexyBack
  • .75 oz bourbon
  • .75 oz lightly smoky mezcal joven, such as Pelotón de la Muerte
  • .5 oz sweet vermouth
  • 1 bar spoon Cherry Heering liqueur
  • 1 dash each Peychaud’s and Angostura bitters
  • Garnish: cocktail cherry

Stir all ingredients with ice until well chilled. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with cocktail cherry. Go ‘head, be gone with it!

Cry Me a River
  • 1.5 oz dry gin or unflavored vodka
  • .25 oz Crème de Cassis (I used LeJay, silver medal winner 2017 NYISC)
  • .25 oz fresh grapefruit juice
  • Bar spoon simple syrup
  • Garnish: 2 or 3 granules of coarse sea salt or fleur de sel

Baby, go on and just… shake all ingredients except salt with ice. This can be served up or on the rocks, so if up, strain into a chilled coupe glass. If on the rocks, into a rocks/Old Fashioned glass with fresh ice. Add the salt on top.

The damage is done, so I guess I’ll be leaving.

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