Hittin’ the Bottle

Affording consideration to matters potational.

Ice is Civilization

Ice is civilization.

How do you get big, perfect ice “cubes” like craft bars? The answer is:

  1. Start with a 300 lb hunk of ice from a company that supplies ice to ice sculptors.
  2. Cut it into 3-inch slabs.
  3. Score the 3-inch slabs with an ice saw.
  4. Use a chef’s knife to split the slabs into 3-inch cubes along the scores.
  5. Using a chef’s knife, hand shape the cubes into rough-cut balls of ice.
  6. Make sure each ice ball fits into an old fashioned (toss it around in there a few times to smooth off the edges, too).


  1. Go to Williams & Graham.
  2. Ask them to sell you a four pack of their handmade ice balls.

(Photos taken at Williams & Graham, July 25, 2013)



1-1/2 oz gin (I used Plymouth)
1/2 oz sweet vermouth (I used Dolin)
1/2 oz Green Chartreuse
1 dash orange bitters (I used Regan’s)

Stir all ingredients well with ice and strain in to a cocktail glass.
Garnish with a cherry.

Verdict: Delish.

Terrifically aromatic, similar to a widow’s kiss, but dryer.

The Widow’s Kiss

Widow's Kiss

1-1/2 oz Calvados
3/4 oz Benedictine
3/4 oz Green Chartreuse
2 dashes Angostura Aromatic bitters

Stir all ingredients well with ice and strain in to a cocktail glass.
Garnish with a cherry—I like Amarena Fabbri for this.

Verdict: Delish.

A wonderfully rich, complex, and boozy drink. Quite sweet, but the herbal and spice notes of the Chartreuse, Benedictine, and bitters stand up.

Twelve Mile Limit

Twelve Mile Limit

1 oz white rum (I used Flor de Caña)
1/2 oz rye (I used Overholt)
1/2 oz brandy (I used E&J VS)
1/2 oz grenadine (house made)
1/2 oz lemon juice (I used Meyer lemons)

Shake with ice.
Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon twist.

Verdict: Delish.

With the exception of the lemon juice, the Twelve Mile Limit has nothing in common with the Corpse Reviver #2, yet they’re close cousins flavor-wise. The TML is a bit more tropical owing to the rum, and goes down as micely as a good mai tai.

Achievement Unlocked: Suffering Bastard!

Anvil in Houston has published a list of 100 cocktail everyone should try (PDF). But to those of us who take these things seriously, the PDF format won’t do. We need a checklist. Here, then, is the list of all 100 cocktails in text format, ready to be imported into your favorite checklist app. Get going!

  1. Airmail
  2. Americano
  3. Angostura Phosphate
  4. Astoria
  5. Aviation
  6. Badminton Cup
  7. Baltimore Egg Nog
  8. Battle of New Orleans
  9. Bees Knees
  10. Black & Tan
  11. Blue Hawaiian
  12. Bobby Burns
  13. Boilermaker
  14. Boulevardier
  15. Bourbon & Brandy Milk Punch
  16. Bourbon Sour
  17. Bramble
  18. Brandkiller
  19. Brandy Alexander
  20. Byrrh Cocktail
  21. Caipirinha
  22. Calvados Toddy
  23. Campari Spritz
  24. Champagne Cocktail
  25. Champagne Flip
  26. Charlie Chaplin
  27. Classic Punch
  28. Cock N’ Bull Special
  29. Corn N’ Oil
  30. Coronation Cocktail
  31. Cotton Cocktail
  32. Crème De Menthe Frappe
  33. Creole Contentment
  34. Crescent City
  35. Daiquiri
  36. Daisy De Santiago
  37. Davis Cocktail
  38. Delicious Sour
  39. Don’t Give Up The Ship
  40. Dr. Cocktail
  41. Fedora
  42. Fourth Regiment
  43. French 75
  44. Georgia Mint Julep
  45. Gin & Tonic
  46. Gin Daisy
  47. Havana
  48. Hemingway Daiquiri
  49. Holland Razor Blade
  50. Hoots Mon
  51. Hot Buttered Rum
  52. Hurricane
  53. Improved Holland Gin Cocktail
  54. Japanese
  55. Jet Pilot
  56. Jungle Bird
  57. Knickerbocker
  58. Last Word
  59. Long Island Tea
  60. Mai Tai
  61. Manhattan
  62. Maple Leaf
  63. Margarita
  64. Martinez
  65. Martini
  66. Mexican Firing Squad Special
  67. Negroni
  68. Old Pal
  69. Old-Fashioned
  70. Opera
  71. Pendennis Club
  72. Pimm’s Cup
  73. Pina Colada
  74. Pink Gin
  75. Prairie Oyster
  76. Queens Park Swizzle
  77. Ramos Gin Fizz
  78. Royal Bermuda Yacht Club Cocktail
  79. Rye Buck
  80. Rye Julep
  81. Saratoga Brace Up
  82. Sazerac
  83. Seelbach
  84. Shamrock
  85. A Shot of Fernet Branca
  86. Sidecar
  87. Singapore Sling
  88. Southside
  89. Stinger
  90. Suffering Bastard
  91. Tequila Sunrise
  92. Ti Punch
  93. Tipperary
  94. Tom Collins
  95. Trinidad Sour
  96. Tuxedo
  97. Vieux Carre
  98. Waltzing Matilda
  99. Widow’s Kiss
  100. Zombie



1-1/2 oz bourbon
1 oz sweet vermouth (I used Perucchi)
1 oz Campari

Stir with ice.
Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a cocktail cherry or lemon twist.

Verdict: Knocked out.
Another great cocktail.

Have I mentioned that the better your ingredients, the better your cocktails? It seems stupidly obvious, but I think I only understood it five years ago when someone served me a vodka martini (my then drink of choice) with Vya dry vermouth. I knew I liked a vodka martini made with Tito’s (still do), but the use of Vya made it sing. I tried some top-shelf ingredients in other cocktails and, wow, they were so much better. A light bulb went off.

The same is true here. If you use a second-rate bourbon and whatever sweet vermouth you can easily find, the Boulevardier becomes just-another-cocktail. Make it with a good bourbon—Bulleit, Buffalo Trace, Elijah Craig 12yr—and then go and hunt down a really good sweet vermouth. Carpano Antica, Punt e Mes, Dolin, and Vya are all great choices. But I’m really loving Perucchi in this cocktail and in Negronis. Unlike the other sweet vermouths mentioned, Perucchi is a little bit dryer, less bitter, has more wine character and less caramel, and a brighter flavor overall. That brightness harmonizes exquisitely with the Campari and changes the Boulevardier from something to drink in a dark booth (which I love in its own right), to something to enjoy on a patio. It’s amazing what a little change can do.

Picon Punch

Picon Punch

2-1/2 oz Amer Picon (I make my own)
2 tsp grenadine (also house-made)
Club soda
1/2 oz brandy

Coat the inside of a highball with grenadine and fill with crushed ice.
Add the Amer Picon and top with soda.
Float brandy on top and garnish with an orange or lemon wheel.

Verdict: Knocked out.
The national cocktail of the Basque Nation, Picon Punch is based on the all-but-impossible-to-find bitter apéritif Amer Picon. As such, it is a rare treat unless, like many intrepid cocktail nerds, you bottle your own.

If you’ve heard the hype, believe it. Although it has many Italian cousins, none of them match the richness, intensity, and unique flavor profile of Amer Picon. Amaro Ciociaro is frequently suggested as a Picon substitute—and it will certainly do in a pinch—but in a side-by-side comparison, it bears only a passing resemblance with Amer Picon’s depth and resounding intensity. Beneath Amer Picon’s pungent leading flavor of orange are layers of cocoa, coffee, caramel, and something else unidentifiable (by me at least) almost chalky in flavor—perhaps it’s the quinine.

Picon Punch in turn is one of the great highballs, unlike any other due do its main ingredient. If you can’t find the ingredients and don’t want to make them yourself, check out Noriega’s in Bakersfield (or any of the many other Basque establishments there) next time you’re passing through. Topa!


Brooklyn Cocktail

2 oz Rye or Bourbon (I went with Rittenhouse)
3/4 oz dry vermouth (I used Dolin)
2 tsp Amer Picon (I made my own)
2 tsp maraschino (Luxardo is great, but a local producer, Leopold Brothers, also makes a great one)

Stir with ice.
Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a cocktail cherry or orange slice.

Verdict: Knocked out.
I love a Brooklyn. I’m sure the fact that Amer Picon is impossible to find makes it especially delicious. It’s worth it to make your own Amer Picon—that’s what I do—just to get the intense flavor and the high-proof punch. Plus, then you can drink Picon Punch which is the greatest of the highballs.

Brooklyns are great because they’re a blend of contradictions. Wood, spice, grapes, herbs, earth, and citrus. Against all odds it works, kind of like Brooklyn itself.

"Maraschino" Cherries: Test Batch #1

"Maraschino" Cherries: Test Batches

A while back I complained that Collins brand “maraschino” cherries (my favorite) had changed their recipe and now suck. Since then I’ve been hunting fruitlessly for a replacement. I love Luxardo and Amarena Fabbri cherries, but they are both dark and intense and I also really enjoy the light, bright flavor and crisp texture of American-style maraschinos.

I’ve tried a number of the “natural” brands of maraschino cherries (e.g., Tillen Farms) and though they are made with sugar, I haven’t found any with the crispness and complexity of flavor that the Collins’ had. Tillen Farms, for instance, have no recognizable citrus or almond flavor—only the taste of red sugar water, which works if you’re a hummingbird, but doesn’t do well if you’re a grown-up. So it is that I’ve spent the past few months researching how to make maraschino cherries at home. My goal is to create something that is bright, sweet, crispy, and has a great flavor. These would show up primarily in lighter, fizzy drinks where I prefer the American Maraschino like highballs, fizzes, and some punches.

A few years ago, homemade maraschino cherries were all-the rage. But, I’ve tried those methods, and they don’t do it. You end up with mushy cherries that taste like Maraschino liqueur—that’s not a bad thing, but it’s not what I’m looking for.

So this week, I researched some of the more-serious methods of making maraschino cherries and settled on trying this recipe from Seattle Can Can:

Homemade Maraschino Cherries

  • 5 pounds cherries, pitted
  • 10 cups water
  • 1 tbls salt
  • 1 tsp alum
  • 10 cups white sugar
  • 3 cups water
  • juice of one lemon
  • 2 tbls red food coloring
  • 2 tbls almond extract

Bring water, alum and salt to a boil. Add cherries and soak overnight .

The next morning, drain the cherries and rinse in cold water.

Combine cherries, water, sugar, lemon juice, and red coloring. Heat to boiling point. Let stand for 24 hours.

Remove the cherries and again boil the juices. Pour over the cherries and let stand for another 24 hours. Bring to boil again.

Remove the cherries again and boil the juices. Add almond extract. Pack cherries into sterilized jars and fill the jars with juice, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Apply lids and process in a Boiling Water Bath for 10 minutes.

Since we don’t really have fresh sour cherries readily available here in Colorado, I tried this with plain-old Bings and made two small batches—one following the recipe above, and one substituting Luxardo Maraschino for the almond extract. I’m pretty sure they won’t be awesome as they’re already shrivelled and the texture isn’t great, but I’ll bust them out in a week-or-so and see how the flavor came out.

But I’ve found a ton of other maraschino cherry recipes—including some original 1930s recipes from E.H. Wiegand himself—and will be trying them out, looking for the perfect cherry.

Stay tuned.

Jack Rose

Jack Rose

1-1/2 oz Applejack (I used Carriage House)
Juice of 1/2 lime
Two or more dashes grenadine

Shake with ice.
Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a lime wheel.

Verdict: Delish.
Made with lemon juice, this tasty little gem is a whiskey sour, more or less, but with lime juice, it’s a refreshing and surprising alternative to a margarita. Try it with real pomegranate grenadine and adjust to suit your taste.