Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | November 18, 2011

A cocktail that makes me say “WTF?”

There are times when you see something and, as a cocktail nerd, you think to yourself, “There is some serious WTFery going on here.” Such was the case when I saw on Twitter this morning from Frederic of Cocktail Virgin:

Hmm, a beautiful Pousse Cafe-style drink based around a Negroni with egg white foam and a raw egg yolk. There’s so much to both like and not like about this!

I wasn’t familiar with a Knickebein cocktail, but fortunately Frederic has a great post on the Knickebein from a past MxMo. Dating back to the late 1870s, the Knickebein is

His concoction was equal parts Curaçoa, Noyeau, and Maraschino (mixed) filling a port-wine glass two thirds of the way up. On top of that, he layered an unbroken egg yolk, and topped it with whipped egg whites sprinkled with drops of Angostura bitters.

Frederic also pulled out the detailed instructions for how it should be consumed:

1. Pass the glass under the Nostrils and Inhale the Flavour –- Pause.
2. Hold the glass perpendicularly, close under your mouth, open it wide, and suck the froth by drawing a Deep Breath. — Pause again.
3. Point the lips and take one-third of the liquid contents remaining in the glass without touching the yolk. — Pause once more.
4. Straighten the body, throw the head backward, swallow the contents remaining in the glass all at once, at the same time breaking the yolk in your mouth.

Well it certainly sounds like a pretty crazy drink.

When I encounter a cocktail like this, I immediately both want to try it and am completely and utterly repulsed by it. A raw egg yolk is no thing to underestimate, especially when you’re instructed to break the yolk in your mouth before swallowing. That said, I love the Negroni and am usually open to trying any Negroni variation. So while I haven’t tried this yet, I may in the future, but make no promises…

Frederic popped by the comments and pointed out the recipe for the Knickroni:


.5oz Campari
.5oz Sweet Vermouth
.5 oz gin
Egg yolk
1 dash Regan’s Orange Bitters

Mix Campari and Sweet Vermouth in a 2oz sherry glass. Layer egg yolk. Layer .5oz gin. Top with meringue and 1 dash of Regan’s orange bitters.

Thanks Frederic!

Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | November 10, 2011

Bittermens Commonwealth Tonic Cordial

The rise of craft cocktails has been accompanied by micro-distilled spirits, handmade bitters, and flavorful tonic water bottlings, and craft syrups. The goal of these higher-end products is to make better cocktails. Undoubtedly Fever Tree or Fentimen’s tonic waters are superior than Canada Dry-style sugar water. But is tonic all that it can be?

Bittermens founder, Avery Glasser, pretty clearly thinks the answer to that is a resounding no. At a recent visit to Amor y Amargo, Avery and I spoke about tonic. Avery’s theory is that because both bottled tonic water and tonic syrups don’t have alcohol in them, they are limited in bitter (or how “tonic-y”) they can be. Bittermens’ solution is the Commonwealth Tonic Cordial. By having a cordial with 21% alcohol, they can use more bitter and less sweet in the tonic. Boy did they succeed. This carries with it a hearty dose of quinine, making it bitingly bitter. That’s only a problem if you want to drink it on its own (and I’m sure there are some members of the Cocktail and Spirits Writers Online Group who will anyway).

The recommended recipe for a Gin and Tonic with the Commonwealth Tonic Cordial is:

1.5 oz London Dry Gin
0.75 oz Bittermens Commonwealth Tonic Cordial
5 oz soda water

This is a remarkably light and refreshing Gin and Tonic. Because there is more bitterness, there is less sugar needed and thus less sugar present. That makes the drink light, but bitter. I think it’s a great improvement, especially over anything involving a conventional tonic water.

But what I really like to use the Commonwealth Tonic Cordial for is a recipe from Bittermens’ site that plays on a Vesper.

Eva Green – Mayur Subbarao’s interpretation of a Vesper

2 1/4 oz Plymouth Gin
3/4 oz Cocchi Americano
1/2 oz Bittermens Commonwealth Tonic Cordial

Stir and serve up in a coupe glass with a lemon twist

The Eva Green has already put a significant dent in my stock of Commonwealth Tonic Cordial and just about cost me all of my Cocchi Americano. Seriously, this is a cocktail that is for you if you like gin, bitter, spirits-only drinks.

As for the Commonwealth Tonic Cordial, I definitely recommend it. There are lots of good choices for tonic water or tonic syrups these days. But if you want a crisp, light tonic without the extra sweetness, the Bittermens bottling is for you.

Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | October 24, 2011

Spirits in Black: Halloween Edition

Well, this is pretty awesome and much higher production value than we usually see from events connected to cocktails. This is all to promote Spirits in Black, the October 30th Halloween party at American Ice Company, featuring cocktails by Patrick Owens, Gina Cherservani, and Owen Thomson. More details here, but as you see in the video, it’s a costume party.

Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | October 21, 2011 A Guide to Bitters

My latest post at, “A Guide to Bitters”

Bitters are fundamental to cocktails and bartending. In fact, they were integral to the first definition of a cocktail–any combination of spirit, water, sugar and bitters. But during Prohibition, production stopped on most bitters brands and as a result, their variety plummeted. As America moved from drinking complex cocktails to beer and vodka on the rocks, the craft of bartending suffered and bitters fell even further out of use, to the point where a common bartenders joke went, “What lasts longer, a bottle of Angostura bitters or your marriage?”

But what are bitters? Essentially they are a high-proof spirit that is macerated with a variety of herbs and spices. Usually bitters run around 35-40% alcohol, though they are so concentrated and powerful, you will rarely see more than 2-3 dashes in a cocktail. They add complexity and basically make a cocktail more interesting than it would be otherwise.

The most common types of bitters are aromatic bitters, such as Angostura Bitters. You’ve probably seen this brown bottle and oversized white paper label collecting dust on the back bar of your favorite dive. Aromatic bitters add a bitter depth to any drink they’re used in and are a critical ingredient to many cocktails.

The next most common and important type of bitters is orange bitters. Used in a host of old school cocktails, orange bitters are great in a Dry Gin Martini or even a Manhattan. There are a number of brands making orange bitters these days, but I prefer Regan’s No. 6 Orange Bitters.

The last famous type of bitters is Peychaud’s bitters. A required ingredient in the Sazerac, Peychaud’s is a New Orleans staple that has a distinctive bright red color and lighter, sweet, anise flavor.

Angostura bitters are widely available and most good liquor stores will now carry an orange bitters and Peychaud’s. But there are also an ever-growing number of bitters brands making more unusual flavors, from grapefruit and lemon to rhubarb and chocolate. A number of makers are even rediscovering recipes for bitters that were common in the 19th century and bringing them back to life. If you’re interested in a wider selection of bitters, look at the products from Bittermens, The Bitter Truth and Fee Brothers, though there seem to be more bitters makers coming out with interesting products every month.

Here’s a great, classic New Orleans cocktail that includes both Angostura and Peychaud’s bitters:

Vieux Carré

1 ounce rye whiskey
1 ounce Cognac
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1 teaspoon Bénédictine
2 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
2 dashes Angostura Bitters

Mix all ingredients in a double Old Fashioned glass over ice; stir.

Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | October 19, 2011

Chilean Carmenere Tasting

Last week I got to participate in another blogger wine tasting with Wines of Chile. The tasting included eight Chilean Carmeneres, with a live video chat with winemakers from each of the vineyards. Half the wines came from the Colchagua Valley, one of my favorite regions for Carmeneres. Carmenere almost entirely unique to Chile, as the grapes went extinct in Europe due to the phylloxera plague. Chile’s natural barriers of mountains and ocean kept phylloxera out and preserved these grapes, though through the course of time, Carmenere was believed to be lost. The story I’ve heard is that in the early 1990s, a group of French oenologists were visiting Chile and asked some winemakers what a particular grape was. The Chileans said they were Merlot, to which the French responded, “Um, no, that is not Merlot.” A more fact-based account of the rediscovery of Carmenere is on <a href=””>”>Wikipedia.

Carmenere is actually one of my favorite varietals. It has ranges of red fruit, berries, and spice, with some good vegetal notes. It should have a decent amount of tannins, but at its best remains very drinkable. It’s great with flavorful food, but is also mild enough to drink on a warm summer night. Seriously, if you haven’t tried Carmenere, seek it out, it’s a great grape to bring into your wine rotation.

The tasting by Wines of Chile included a good range of Caremenere. What I love about horizontal tastings like this is you really get to see how much terroir and the choices of the wine makers influence taste. Eight bottles from of the same grape, many from the same part of Chile, tasted unique. We tasted the following wines:

  • Emiliana Natura Carmenere 2010
  • Casa Silva Los Lingues Gran Reserva Carmenere 2008
  • Santa Rita Medalla Real Gran Reserva Carmenere 2008
  • Montes Alpha Carmenere 2008
  • Carmen Gran Reserva Carmenere, 2009
  • Santa Carolina Reserva de Familia Carmenere 2009
  • Concha y Toro Marques de Casa Concha Carmenere 2009
  • Haras de Pirque Cabernet Sauvignon/Carmenere 2007

I was familiar with half of these wineries going in, both from my trip to Chile earlier this year and from the wide availability of some of these wines on the US market. All of the wines tasted were under $25 and most represented a good buy.

My two favorites of the night were the Santa Carolina Reserve de Familia and Concha y Toro’s Marques de Casa Concha. The offering from Santa Carolina had a strong vegetal nose, layered with blueberry and alcohol. The first impression on the tongue is strong dark plum and red pepper. The finish was spicy blackberry and strong alcohol. It was the strongest wine we tasted, but it had a really big fruit flavor to balance it out.

The Marques de Casa Concha Carmenere was also very fruit forward, with purple fruit and blueberries on the nose. There was a strong plum flavor up front, followed by rich, oaky tannins and a thick mouthfeel. While not as multidimensional as the Santa Carolina, it was still really enjoyable.

We had a large group over to taste the wines and opinions variety widely as to which were the favorites. One thing was clear, though, even with a room full of people who had largely never had Carmenere before, the wines were a hit.

Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | October 4, 2011

Vote Rum Dood, Again!

Matt Robold, aka Rum Dood, has made it the final 5 candidates in Tommy Bahama’s Rumologist contest. You can vote for him once per day on Facebook and I highly encourage you to do so.

As a reward for making it this far, Matt has created a delicious Daiquiri variation. Enjoy!

TBD Sour

2 oz Rhum Agricole Vieux
1 oz Lime Juice
.75 oz Chai Tea Syrup (2:1)
.5 tsp Maraschino

Shake with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Dust with fresh allspice and garnish with a mint leaf.

Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | September 16, 2011

The Distiller

Awesome video about Brad Estabrooke’s process of starting the Breuckelen Distilling Company.

Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | September 1, 2011

Amor y Amargo

Earlier this week I continued my bad habit of going to a cocktail bar that I’ve never been to and not taking any notes on the experience. As a result, I’m sad to say that Amor y Amargo won’t get the detailed review that it deserves.

Amor y Amargo is a bar by Avery and Janet Glasser, the founders of Bittermens Bitters. It’s located on in New York’s East Village, just a few doors down from Death & Company on 6th Street. It consists of a General Store, with the full line of Bittermens Bitters, as well as other bitters, cocktail tools, and books. It’s a nice selection, especially since finding good bitters can be hard. But things get really impressive when you turn towards the bar.

Amor y Amargo is a cocktail bar focused on vermouth, aperitifs, potable bitters, and, given who runs the place, non-potable bitters. While there are scores of these various spirits, the bar keeps a small stock in other base spirits. The focus is on the bitters.

One of the coolest things about Amor y Amargo is that they have their homemade sweet vermouth and an Americano cocktail available on draft at the bar. The Americano is one of my favorites and as a matter of principle I had to have it first. It comes out deep red, with less carbonated water in it than I usually drink. The emphasis is really on the vermouth and the Campari and it’s frankly fantastic.

From there, Avery made me a Gin Rickey variation using a lime citrate. Amor y Amargo doesn’t have fresh fruit juices, so this was an interesting substitute and a pretty tasty cocktail as well. I got to try a number of Avery’s original creations made special for the friends I was there with (who, wisely, have become regulars). The range and depth of the selection of amari and other potable bitters and aperitifs from France, Italy, Germany and other parts of the world was staggering. I’m at a point now where I’d say that the only two categories of spirits I’m really continuing to collect broadly is rum and amari; the differences of styles, brands, regions, and flavor profiles is incredibly interesting to me and every bottling seems to offer something fairly different.

I was at Amor y Amargo on a Monday night, which is when owner Avery Glasser works behind the stick, with his wife and partner Janet helping keep the house in order while he works. It was great to finally meet him and Janet in person. It’s hard to fully capture the importance of Bittermens Bitters in both my becoming interested in craft cocktails and the growth of craft bartending more broadly. From my perspective, some of the first cocktails I fell in love with were drinks with Bittermens Xocolatl Mole Bitters made by bartenders at Death & Company. The Conference by Brian Miller was the drink that got me hooked, but St. Columb’s Rill and the Oaxaca Old Fashioned by Philip Ward are also outstanding drinks that feature the Xocolatl Mole Bitters by Bittermens. The problem was that in early 2008 when I got to know these drinks, Bittermens was not commercially available for sale. It wasn’t until they took a circuitous path through Germany and a partnership with The Bitter Truth that American consumers could find these special bitters available for home use.

Bittermens is now producing their bitters entirely on their own in Brooklyn, NY. The line includes some really interesting bitters, though the Burlesque Bitters are my favorite, as they’re a great addition in summery gin and rum drinks. In the near future, they’ll be doing some other cool stuff that geeks like me will be very excited about, but I won’t discuss now. Just stay tuned…in the mean time, if you’re in NYC, check out Amor y Amargo. You won’t be disappointed.

Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | August 31, 2011

Vote RumDood!

Via Doug at The Pegu Blog, I see that Matt Robold aka RumDood is one of 20 finalists in Tommy Bahama’s First Rumologist contest. You can vote for Matt after liking Tommy Bahama’s Facebook page. Oh and you can vote once per day, so vote early and often!

Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | August 29, 2011

The Rum Diary

The Rum Diary is one of Hunter S. Thompson’s best books – a novel based in part on his own time as a journalist in Puerto Rico. It’s a great story and this movie should be pretty good too. Also, there will be lots of rum.

Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | August 24, 2011

Wine Tasting & Curry Contest

I normally don’t run these sorts of reader contests, because, well, I guess I’m a bit selfish and like to keep the good contests to myself. But the fine folks at Wines of Chile have been very good to me over the last year and their blogger events are really a lot of fun.

Here’s the deal. Wines of Chile is hosting a blogger tasting of 8 Chilean Carmeneres. They’re pairing the wine tasting with curry recipes. The contest is this: blog readers can submit their best curry recipe. From there, “Culinary Expert Nissa Pierson will choose the best recipe and that recipe will be featured in the tasting kit and in the live tasting. The winner of this contest will receive a kit and an invite to participate alongside the bloggers and winemakers in the live event on Thursday, October 13.”

To submit a curry recipe and enter this contest, email the recipe to by Thursday, September 15. Note the name of this blog when you send in your recipe so Wines of Chile can notify me if one of my readers wins win and give this blog credit for finding the winning recipe.

Pretty straightforward, no?

Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | August 21, 2011

Adams Mill Cocktail

Hey, look! A new cocktail recipe original (I think) to me! It’s like 2009 up in here!

Adams Mill Cocktail

2 oz Old Overholt Rye
0.5 oz Dolin Sweet Vermouth
0.5 oz The Bitter Truth EXR Krauter Liqueur
2 dashes Boker’s Bitters

Combine all ingredients in an ice-filled mixing glass and stir until well-chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

I made this Manhattan-type variation for my friend Dave, a native of Covington, KY. I was going to call this a Covington Cocktail, but found out with a quick Google search that this is a term which has an entry in the Urban Dictionary and really doesn’t lend itself to use for a fine drink. Instead I went with a neighborhood name – one for a street near where I live.

I tried this with both 100-proof Rittenhouse Rye and 80-proof Old Overholt. I liked it a bit softer and that’s what I printed above, but Dave liked the hotter version with the 100 proof rye. If you want to try it that way, by all means go for it.

Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | August 19, 2011

On the $13 Cocktail

This video is in a post by on Huffington Post. The video shows the time, energy, craft, and care that cocktail bars like San Francisco’s Bourbon & Branch put into making their drinks and providing their service. It is this time and energy which causes some craft cocktail bars, in some cities, to have drinks that cost $13 or more.

My experience with craft cocktails started in New York City. While I was mostly a dive bar guy, I would occasionally go out with friends to trendier bars and clubs. At these loud, packed meat markets I would regularly pay $10-15 for simple Ketel & Sodas (as I said, this was prior to getting into craft cocktails). To be in New York and to be social involves a certain amount of dramatically overpaying for drinks.

When I discovered craft cocktails through a visit to Death & Company, I wasn’t struck by paying $15 for a cocktail. I was instead struck by the fact that I’d paid $15 for a cocktail and it was worth every penny. There was value and care in the drink. I was willing to pay it again and, ideally, as soon as possible.

The reality is that while a $13 cocktail is expensive for most people, a bad $6 cocktail is also expensive for most people. Wasting a dollar costs the same amount everywhere. While I’ve certainly had some overpriced craft cocktails (I’m looking at you, hotel bars with good cocktail programs!), for the most part the prices for drinks at high-end craft cocktail bars are reasonable for what you get in return.

Of course what that means is that most of us don’t get to have a bar like Bourbon & Branch or The Columbia Room as our nightly, neighborhood bar due to the cost associated with it. But as a matter of fact, that’s what made me build a bar at home. If you like those $13 cocktails, but don’t want to pay that much every time you want a killer Manhattan variation, find out the recipes, buy the ingredients and make them for yourself at home! It’s cheaper in the long run to learn how to mix these high-end cocktails yourself. The sole caveat I’d add is that home bartending doesn’t lend itself to having lots of different tinctures, custom bitters, and bizarre infusions. You can still do these things, but the time incentive is less on your side than, say, going to the store and picking up some Rittenhouse 100, Carpano Antica and Angostura bitters.

The moral of the story is this: embrace the $13 cocktail until the point where it hurts to regularly spend that $13 on a single drink, then start building your home bar and try to emulate the practices and methods which made that drink at the craft cocktail bar taste so great.

Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | August 5, 2011

Michael Neff on Vodka Sodas

Bartender Michael Neff of Ward III and The Rum House in NYC has a post at Serious Eats, titled “On Vodka Sodas and First Dates.” While the relevance to working at bars and witnessing first dates is somewhat minimal to people who aren’t professionals behind the stick, his description of the Vodka Soda and why people drink it is pretty spot-on.

That said, vodka-soda drinkers are like jilted lovers; they’ve often had brief relationships with other spirits in the past, and walked away feeling scarred and skittish. Reluctant to open old wounds, they have trained their palates to crave neutrality. The phrase I hear most often is, “I don’t want to taste the alcohol.” In effect, they want the punch but not the flavor.

I don’t especially blame them. Many of us learn about alcohol in college, at bars where quantity trumps quality, and the goal is to drink as much as possible on limited resources. When people say, “I don’t like gin,” they usually mean, “I don’t like cheap gin.” Blended scotch is a beautiful thing, but 100 Pipers blended scotch tastes like cough medicine.

The rest is worth reading, as is the context that Neff uses to comment on the Vodka Soda: a blind date at a cocktail lounge.

Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | August 5, 2011

Champagne for your real friends…

Originally posted at

A Champagne Cocktail for National Champagne Day

I don’t know who decides these things, but August 4th is National Champagne Day. Champagne is one of the most overlooked cocktail ingredients in modern American drinking. While it has a deserving place as a beverage to be drank while celebrating World Series wins, promotions and engagements, it’s also good to drink at any and all other times! Cocktails like the Mimosa (orange juice and Champagne) or the Bellini (peach puree & Champagne’s Italian cousin, Prosecco) are great for brunch year-round.

f you really want to step up your Champagne cocktail game, though, I suggest trying one of these classic cocktails featuring Champagne.

Created by author and famed drinker Ernest Hemingway and named after his famous book about bullfighting in Spain, Death in the Afternoon is a Champagne cocktail with absinthe.

Death in the Afternoon

1 oz absinthe or substitute (eg Pernod)

Pour absinthe into a Champagne flute. Top with chilled Champagne. In the words of Hemingway, “Drink three to five of these slowly”

A World War I era cocktail that’s said to have been created by British soldiers who combined their gin ration with Champagne while serving in France, the French 75 is named after France’s 75mm howitzer artillery gun used during the Great War. As a rule, cocktails named after artillery are worth drinking.

French 75

1 oz gin
1 oz simple syrup
0.75 oz fresh lemon juice
3 oz Champagne

Combine gin, syrup and lemon juice in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled Champagne glass. Top with Champagne and garnish with a lemon twist.

“Cocktail” Bill Boothby was one of America’s most famous bartenders at the turn of the 20th century. Originally from San Francisco, but working at top bars around the country, Boothby created a variation on the Manhattan which elevates the drink to magnificent heights.

The Boothby Manhattan

2 oz rye
1 oz sweet vermouth
2 dashes orange bitters
2 dash Angostura bitters
1 oz Champagne

Stir rye, vermouth and bitters in a mixing glass filled with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, add Maraschino cherry, and float one ounce of Champagne on top.

Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | August 2, 2011

Campo Viejo Riojas

Spain’s Rioja region has long been one of my favorite wine producing regions. Even before I knew much of anything about wine, I enjoyed Rioja tintos – red Riojas – particularly Tempranillo. In fact I’d say that Tempranillo’s from Rioja were the first grape and geographic combination that I knew to look for on wine lists.

I was recently invited to an online tasting of Campo Viejo’s line of red wines. I ended up having a work conflict and couldn’t make the live chat with assistant winemaker Roberto Vicente, but recently went through and did the vertical tasting with some friends. Founded in La Rioja in 1959, Campo Viejo has three different bottlings, each with the same ratio of grapes, but with varied fermentation, maceration, and aging methodology. The result are three distinct, enjoyable, well-priced entries that show the talents of their winemakers and the quality of their fruit.

The Campo Viejo 2007 Crianza is their entry-level wine, priced at $10 a bottle. Like all three of their wines, it is 85% Tempranillo, 10% Garnacha, and 5% Mazuelo. It was fermented at 77 degrees, mascerated for 12 days, and aged for 12 months in American and French oak, then finished in bottles for five to six months before release. It has a dark red-purple hue which was common across the three bottlings. On the nose is dark stone fruit, berries, oak and a mild hint of alcohol. The taste is lead by cherry, then followed by vanilla. The fruit flavor is slightly sour. The wine has fairly light tannins and the finish is long, with a hint of leather. For $10, this is a great deal, as the Crianza is enjoyable and extremely drinkable.

The Campo Viejo 2008 Reserva has the same grape ratio as the Crianza, though how the fruit is used is different. The Reserva is fermented at 82 degress, then aged for 18 months in French and American oak, followed by 18 months in bottles before being released. It has a similar deep ruby red color, but the nose shows a marked different. While there’s still cherry, there’s also orange and baking spices like clove and allspice. The taste begins with sweet cherries and there’s a noticable smokiness from the oak. The Reserva has a great textured mouthfeel, with a medium amount of tannins and some spice. It’s well balanced and has lovely body, though the tannins fade a bit fast for my preference on the finish. It retails for $14 and is another very good value.

The Campo Viejo 2003 Gran Reserva is the high-end offering from the winery. Though it is made from 85% Tempranillo, 10% Garnacha, and 5% Mazuelo, it’s fermented at 82 degrees like the Reserva, but is aged for two years. During that time, it is 80% in French oak and the remaining 20% in American oak. It is then aged in bottles for another three years prior to release. The color is slightly more deep purple than the other bottlings. The nose is incredibly complex and layered, with a thin cherry scent giving way to vanilla, spice and oak. The taste is balanced, with a lot of the oak character coming through and a mid-level amount of smooth tannins. The finish is bright, with some more spice coming through. While I’d say this was the best bottling on the merits, it seemed to lack the body I was hoping for. At $21, it’s still a good deal, though.

Tasting these three wines together was really special. The commonality of the grapes that go into each bottle allows for the difference between different fermentation and aging methods to show themselves. The result is that the craft of the winemakers shows through, all at once. It was a fun way to do a tasting and all of my guests had a good time with it. Opinions varied about which was their favorite, but I think all three wines acquitted themselves well.

Disclosure: This post was made possible because I received free bottles of Campo Viejo Crianza, Reserva & Gran Reserva for the purposes of sample and review.

Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | August 1, 2011

Sipping Sangria

I have a new post up at on sangria. Included in it is a recipe for a white sangria that I originally posted here in 2009. The article is at the first link, but here’s a rehashing of the recipe, which is truly delicious:

Sangria Blanco

375 mL cachaça
375 mL pisco
375 mL St. Germain Elderflower liqueur
125 mL fresh lime juice
750 mL semi-sweet white wine (Riesling works well)
750 mL white cranberry juice
75 mL soda water

Add ingredients to an ice filled pitcher and stir. Garnish with sliced kiwi, grapes, apple, cucumber, lime wheels, and fresh sage leaves.

Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | July 26, 2011

PRZman: Cool Summer Cocktails

My latest piece up at

p>It’s hot out. And when it’s hot out, there’s nothing better than staying cool with a refreshing cocktail. While there’s no doubt that frozen tiki cocktails like the Piña Colada or Missionary’s Downfall are as cooling as it gets, most of us don’t bring a blender to the beach. Below are four of my favorite cocktails that will keep you cool without requiring an electrical outlet.

Originally made at Shoomaker’s in Washington, DC by Democratic lobbyist Col. Joe Rickey in 1883, the Gin Rickey is the official, native cocktail of our nation’s capital. It’s my favorite summer cooler, as the crisp line and gin combination has the effect of air conditioning in a glass.

Gin Rickey
2 oz gin
Juice of half a lime
Soda water
Juice half a lime into a wine glass and drop the lime shell into it. Add gin and ice, top with soda water.

The Ridgely is a creation of a family friend, but is one of the first rum cocktails that I ever fell in love with. Tart and crisp, it’ll cool your core when you’re lying poolside.

The Ridgely
2 oz dark rum (Mount Gay works best)
Juice of half a lime
Tonic water
Ginger Ale
Add rum and lime juice to an ice-filled highball glass. Top with equal parts tonic water and ginger ale. Garnish with a lime wedge.

The Dark ‘n’ Stormy is a quintessential rum highball. Made with rich, dark Bermudan rum and spicy ginger beer, it is both refreshing and flavorful. Goslings Black Seal Rum is required to make it a real Dark ‘n’ Stormy. My favorite ginger beer brands are Regatta and Goslings ginger beer.

Dark ‘n’ Stormy
2 oz Goslings Black Seal Rum
Ginger Beer
In an ice-filled highball glass, fill with ginger beer and top with 2 ounces of Goslings. Squeeze in a lime wedge and enjoy.

Finally, to change things up, I recommend trying a whiskey-based highball, a Horse’s Neck with a Kick:

Horse’s Neck with a Kick
2 oz bourbon or scotch
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Ginger ale
Spiral lemon peel
Peel a lemon in one-piece spiral and extend this into a Collins glass. Add ice, bourbon and bitters and top with ginger ale.

All of these drinks are refreshing quaffs that are perfect for outdoor summer drinking. You don’t need a blender to stay cool, but as you can see plenty of ginger ale, ginger beer, club soda, and tonic water will help your cause.

Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | July 19, 2011

Saving the Irish Coffee with Glassware

Legendary political reporter Warren Hinckle recently had a piece in the San Francisco Chronicle about the demise and rebirth of one of San Francisco’s classic cocktails: the Irish Coffee. Apparently due to a supplier ceasing to make the traditional glassware, there had been a decline in the ability of local establishments to serve it. The main purveyor, Buena Vista Cafe, had switched their supplier from a company in Ohio to China, with the plans to resell the Chinese glasses of lower quality to other Bay Area restaurants. Unfortunately the Chinese glassware was no substitute and in San Francisco, the glassware makes this cocktail. Fortunately the original purveyor of 6 ounce Georgian Irish Coffee glasses, Libbey Glass Company, was convinced to re-start production (at a great cost) so the city could continue to serve proper Irish Coffees in their proper glasses.

The whole article is an interesting read and I recommend you check it out yourself. In the mean time, here’s a recipe for a San Francisco-style Irish Coffee:

Irish Coffee
6 ounces brewed coffee
2 sugar cubes
1 1/2 ounces Irish whiskey
heavy cream, lightly whipped

Fill glass with very hot water to pre-heat, then empty. Pour hot coffee into hot glass until it is about three-quarters full. Drop in two cocktail sugar cubes. Stir until the sugar is thoroughly dissolved. Add full jigger of Irish Whiskey for proper taste and body. Top with a collar of whipped cream by pouring gently over a spoon. Enjoy it while piping hot.

Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | July 14, 2011

DC Officially Recognizes the Rickey

Last summer I was part of selection committee for the DC Craft Bartenders Guild’s annual Rickey Contest. I spent a whole lot of time trekking around DC and Northern Virginia with Derek Brown of The Columbia Room (and others) drinking modern Rickey variations. One thing I remember most from this experience was talking with Derek about the historic place of the Rickey as the quintessential DC cocktail. The Rickey was created by Colonel Joe Rickey and bartender George Williamson at Shoomaker’s Bar in 1883. Originally made with whiskey, it quickly became popular with gin as its base. As Derek is fond of saying, a Gin Rickey is perfect for DC’s swampy summer weather as it is effectively like “air conditioning in a glass.” Derek had the idea that the city of DC should commemorate and honor the Rickey as Washington’s native cocktail and get a plaque put on the J.W. Marriot hotel, which sits on the site of Shoomaker’s, to honor the history of the cocktail’s creation there.

Today DC Council Member Jack Evans officially honored the Rickey:

Local liquor aficionados will join D.C. Councilmember Jack Evans on Thursday in reading an official proclamation declaring the Rickey as Washington’s native cocktail, according to the AP. July will be officially known as “Rickey month” in the District.

Additionally, this weekend a plaque commemorating the birthplace of the Rickey will be put up at the J.W. Marriott.

This is a great day for DC and the evolution of the nation’s capitol as a place that knows and honors the history of craft cocktails and the importance of cocktails in our national culture. Congrats to Derek and every other member of the DC Craft Bartenders Guild who helped make this happen by promoting, reinventing, and remembering the Rickey as DC’s native cocktail and one of the finest instances of creativity in the history of American cocktail culture.

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