Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | July 6, 2011

The Original Rickey Recipe

Col. Rickey's Recipe for a "Rickey"

Via Derek Brown, David Wondrich has a handwritten recipe by Colonel Joe Rickey for the original Rickey. Here’s what I think it says:

Col. Rickey’s Recipe for a “Rickey.”
Long glass – Ice
Whiskey [illegible] –
Lime Juice
Carbonated Water
Don’t Drink too Many
JK Rickey

Anyone want to take a guess at what the word(s) after “Whiskey” say?

Update: Consensus is clear, the first line is “Whiskey or Gin”. Thanks for the help everyone!

On Twitter, Dave Wondrich addresses my confusion that Rickey’s original recipe called for whiskey, not a choice between the two:

Rickey wrote that in 1895, at which point he was resigned to the ubiquity of the gin version

So while this is not the original recipe for the Rickey, as created at Shoemaker’s in Washington DC by Col. Joe Rickey, it is the first written version tied to the fine Colonel.

Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | June 29, 2011

Leather Hammock

Leather Hammock

Leather Hammock, Image from Gaz Regan

Another good cocktail today from Gaz Regan’s email list. This comes from Chad Larson of Barrio Lowertown in St. Paul, MN. Larson says it’s similar to a Blood & Sand, but I see greater similarities to the Bronx cocktail family and specifically the Peto Cocktail. I suppose the flavor profile of this is closer to Blood and Sand (smokey, citrus, rich), but the ingredients don’t match up that well.

Leather Hammock

1 oz Illegal mezcal reposado
.75 oz Cocchi Vermouth di Torino
.33 oz Luxardo maraschino liqueur
.75 oz fresh orange juice
Brandied cherries, as garnish
Orange peel ribbon, as garnish
Orange twist, as garnish

Shake vigorously over ice and double-strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Add the garnishes.

However the inspiration came, this looks like a delicious cocktail that I plan on trying at my earliest possible convenience.

Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | June 27, 2011

Magical Apples: Spanish Cider

Spain is known for its hard apple cider. Unlike most other hard ciders, it isn’t bottled with carbonation. Instead, an essentially flat cider must be aerated before serving. Traditionally that is done by holding the bottle and glass as far apart as possible and pouring the cider into the glass. The fall and the impact add air to the stream of cider, giving it a bit of fizz. That process traditionally looks something like this:

Photo by Bostonian on Flickr

While I was in Madrid last week, I got to partake in some traditional Spanish cider and really enjoyed it. However, instead of the acrobatic pour by a server, the restaurant I was at had this delightful contraption:

Magic Apple

A Magic Aeration Apple

And this is what it looked like when it was in use:

The Magic Apple in Use

The Magic Apple in Use

The apple doesn’t add C02 to the cider – it just propels it out of the bottle and into the glass at a very high speed, with the impact adding the desired aeration and bubbly mouthfeel. Unlike Irish or English or American hard ciders, this was incredibly dry with almost no sweetness at all. While the Magic Apple was a cool contraption, I still think I would have liked to see someone make the long pour into a small glass.

Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | June 24, 2011

Know Your Gin

Originally published at

There are two kinds of men—those who drink gin and those who are scared of gin. If you fall into the first category, you’re going to enjoy this post, but if you’re someone who isn’t a gin fan, this should give you the information you need to get past your phobias and start enjoying the base spirit that is king in the world of cocktails.

Gin was invented by the Dutch, but perfected by the English. Jenever is the Dutch style of gin, which, though made with juniper, is malty and pretty unrecognizable from the modern style of gin. Only recently has jenever made a comeback through the craft cocktail movement.

English gin is a more approachable affair, made of neutral spirits flavored with juniper and other botanicals. What we usually think of when we think of gin is London Dry Gin, the most common style of English gin. It’s a staple in every bar in the United States, with brands like Beefeater, Bombay, Boodles and Tanqueray leading the market. It’s great in Martinis, with tonic water, and with any range of classic cocktails.

A popular style of gin amongst bartenders and cocktail enthusiasts is Plymouth gin. Both a unique brand and a unique style of gin, it’s not as dry as London Dry Gin and has softer juniper notes that lend incredibly well to mixing in cocktails.

Old Tom Gin is stronger and sweeter than London Dry Gin. It was common in Pre-Prohibition era cocktails, but is making a strong comeback. Hayman’s Old Tom Gin is now widely available and some markets have a micro-distilled version from Oregon called Ransom Old Tom Gin that is truly outstanding. Old Tom is found in the Martinez, an 18th century classic that is believed to be a predecessor to the Martini.

The last major type of gin is New Western Dry Gin. Made all over the United States and Western Europe, these new styles of gin focus less on the juniper and more on other botanicals and citrus elements. Hendrick’s from Scotland brings forward cucumbers, while Tanqueray No. 10 has a strong lemon presence. Aviation and Bluecoat are two great examples of American micro-distilled New Western Dry Gins, but my personal favorite is Anchor Distilling’s Junipero, which is made by the same folks who do Anchor Steam Beer. It’s a powerful, dynamic, captivating gin that goes great in just about any gin cocktail I can think of.

The first step to loving gin is knowing how many choices you have out there. Armed with a basic understanding of different gin styles, you can now approach any bar or cocktail menu with an understanding of the role different gins can play in a drink.

Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | June 22, 2011

PS7s Gin in Food Creations

Via Camper English, Chef Peter Smith of DC’s PS7s restaurant and bar is apparently doing some really cool things cooking with used gin botanicals.

One bright brainwave, two remarkable results: Washington’s Peter Smith is making culinary use of the botanical byproduct of gin production known as ‘mash,’ and in doing so, is providing the gin industry for the first time ever with a sustainable market for its waste. He is the first chef in the country to cook with gin mash.

Distilleries typically throw away 30-40 pounds of spent botanicals for every batch of gin produced, a wet compound that looks like old brewed tea and tastes like super concentrated gin: an intense combination of juniper, orris root, lemon, coriander, and other flavors that is so highly alcoholic Smith says “it’s nearly a biohazard.” Working with the mash from two different gin distilleries, Blue Coat of Philadelphia, whose product is 95% organic, and Catoctin Creek of West Virginia, the first distillery in the area since Prohibition, Smith gives new life to the erstwhile waste product by converting it to aromatic oils and powders at his hip downtown restaurant, PS 7’s.

The used gin mash is going to use in his own experiments with charcuterie – a breseola modification with dry aged beef and a pancetta variation. I haven’t had these yet, but will plan on trying them the next time I’m hanging out at the bar, enjoying Gina Chersevani’s cocktails. Gina is also the brand ambassador for Blue Coat gin and I’m guessing she helped get this project rolling too.

Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | June 14, 2011

Tiki Tuesdays @ The Passenger

Awesome video by Sarah Cannon as an announcement for The Passenger’s Tiki Tuesday series. A stop-motion video of a Scorpion Bowl! Here’s the recipe:

Scorpion Bowl

1 oz brandy
6 oz light rum
6 oz orange juice
4 oz lemon juice
2 oz orgeat

Put it in a bowl, add ice and lots of comically big yet socially convenient straws.

Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | June 12, 2011

My Bitters Collection

Via DJ Hawaiianshirt, I’m reminded of an old thread at Kaiser Penguin about who has the most bitters in their home bar. Inspired by it, I did a quick inventory this morning of my current stock of bitters:

  1. Peychaud’s
  2. Angostura
  3. Angostura Orange
  4. Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas Decanter
  5. Bitter Truth Repeal Bitters
  6. Bitter Truth Orange Bitters
  7. Bitter Truth Orange Flower Water*
  8. Urban Moonshine Original
  9. Urban Moonshine Maple
  10. Urban Moonshine Citrus
  11. Bittermens Xocolatl Mole
  12. Bittermens Burlesque
  13. Adam Elmegirab’s Boker’s Bitters
  14. Fee’s Aztec Chocolate
  15. Fee’s Whiskey Barrel Aged
  16. Fee’s Grapefruit
  17. Fee’s Cherry
  18. Fee’s Orange
  19. Chartreuse Elixir Vegetal**
  20. Trader Tiki’s Barrel Aged Falernum Bitters
  21. Marshall’s Mountain Moonshine Bitters
  22. DJ’s Floral Tinc Bitters
  23. Homemade Cola Bitters
  24. Homemade Cherry-Vanilla Bitters

Now a tough question is which can I not live without. At the end of the day, if forced, I could probably get by with just Angostura, Peychaud’s and Regan’s Orange bitters. I’d collected a lot of bitters out of a desire to have new and interesting things. But as I’ve gotten to the place where I do far, far less original cocktail creation in my home bar, I use the random bitters with less frequency. The basics — aromatic, orange and Peychaud’s — are far and away the flavors I used the most. Sure, I’d miss some of the more interesting ones and some of the citrus variations, but I’d probably be able to do most of what I usually do in my home bar.

* I’m including The Bitter Truth Orange Flower Water because, well, they’re a flavoring agent used in a similar way, just not bitter. And they come in the same bottles as other Bitter Truth bitters.

** Chartreuse Elixir Vegetal is another one that is used just like bitters, though I don’t know if many people consider it as such. Asterisks protect me from being wrong…

Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | June 10, 2011

Jack Rose Review

The Jack Rose Dining Saloon, a long-awaited single malt and cocktail haven in Adams Morgan, is open, at least partially. The bar is a project of Bill Thomas, Stephen King, and Michael Hartzer, who you may recognize from Bourbon. I’ve been to their roof deck bar the last two nights for food and drink. The main floor dining room and bar is slated to be open within a week or so. With a project this large, it’s not shocking that they’re rolling out in portions.

Before I get into what my experience on the rooftop patio has been, let me give a quick overview of the Jack Rose. Housed in a building that used to be a boxing gym, there are three floors of bar and restaurant space. The main floor will have a formal restaurant, a very, very long bar, and more bottles of single malt whiskey than you can find in the world. The seating space will be just seating – no standing – and it is separated from the bar by a metal rail. The bar is huge, with easily enough space for four or five bartenders to work. Around the walls of the first floor are floor-to-ceiling shelves that will hold literally of thousands of bottle of single malts, bourbons, rums and other spirits. But the emphasis will be primarily on single malt, with a collection that within a year should be the largest of any bar in the world. I’ve talked extensively with the folks behind the Jack Rose about this and their vision for it is truly inspiring.

Downstairs will be a smaller bar, the Prohibition Bar. I only saw it while it was under construction, but it looked like it would be a fun, intimate space.

The real excitement now is the upstairs space. Split into three portions, the Jack Rose’s top floor is open now. The main patio has a covered bar, but open air seating. At the front of the building is a glass-enclosed tasting room that will be available for private events. One nice touch that will surely be a hit with cigar smokers is including a small balcony off of the tasting room, overlooking 18th Street. At the back of the building is an even smaller open air private bar station that can also be used for private events. I don’t know what the actual limits for capacity are, but I would guess around 20-30 in the front space and 15 in the back space.

The main roof patio has a wood burning grill and its own menu. Currently the menu is on the small side, but everything I’ve had, especially their sandwiches, are delicious. The cocktail menu, built by one of DC’s star bartenders, Rachel Sergi, is very summer oriented, with lots of rum, tequila, citrus to keep you cool on in our swampy heat.  I’m a huge fan of the Stormy Monday #3, a Dark & Stormy variation featuring Beefeater 24, Goslings, Apricot liqueur, and ginger beer. The Caretaker is a pretty inspired tiki drink, made with rum, curacao, cream of coconut, pineapple juice, and a float of Lemonhart 151. It’s served in a Hurricane glass and is easily the biggest drink on the menu, again key in the DC heat. Once things get rolling more downstairs, the roof will maintain something of a tiki bent to their menu, though it will be possible to order some of their fine single malts as well.

Washingtonian recently had a piece on the Jack Rose and the vision of Bill Thomas and Harvey Fry, the man behind the scotch. I highly recommend reading it. Harvey is a scotch collector who is helping curate, obtain, train, and taste the single malts that will go into the Jack Rose. He’s also providing a substantial amount of his own collection to the bar – hundreds? thousands? He wouldn’t tell Washingtonian… But the simple reality from my conversations with him and Bill is that Harvey is one of the world’s foremost single malt collectors and is working hard to make sure that the Jack Rose becomes the world’s best bar for single malts. And I’ll say this, in the handful of times I’ve hung out and drank scotch with Harvey, I’ve always had a good time and always learned a lot. If you see him (he looks a bit like Santa Claus and always is seen in suspenders), talk to him, learn from him, let him teach you about scotch.

In the Washingtonian piece, Bill gives a great quote which Harvey has also expressed to me as the vision for this bar:

“The way I see it,” Thomas said, “this place, if it succeeds, is going to be here a hundred years from now. That’s the way we’re thinking. This isn’t about right now.”

This sentiment is what it’s all about and it’s why I hope the Jack Rose is a smashing success. This isn’t much of a review. I don’t have any notes on the cocktails I’ve had there. I’m pretty certain I have the ingredients of The Caretaker wrong. And the whole space is not yet open. This is just a preview of what I think will be one of the landmark bars of the DC cocktails scene for a long time to come. I highly encourage you check it out. Fight the weather, the food and drinks on the roof are worth it and soon enough the downstairs spaces will be open as well.


Doug at The Pegu Blog has a great write-up on the Jack Rose too. Go give it a read.

Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | June 9, 2011

48 Ounces of Stupid

Via DCist I see that a DC bar just a couple blocks from me is now serving 48 ounce cocktails (three pounds a quart and a half of cocktail). The bar’s name, Dirty Martini, gives some indication about the sort of poor decision making their management makes. They describe this behemoth:

It’s said that everything is bigger in Texas. Not necessarily. In DC, we work hard, we play hard. We need big leisure time. For those intrepid cocktail lovers, Dirty Martini debuts the ‘Big Dirty,’ the largest cocktail in DC. This 48 ounces of any cocktail on the menu from the signature classic dirty Martini to concoctions like the refreshing A+A=T – Absolut Wild Tea, fresh lemon juice, honey, homemade pomegranate gomme, egg whites and lemon bitters or the ITIS – a smoky blending of Bulleit, homemade smoked peach puree, sweet vermouth, tabasco vanilla syrup and old fashioned smokehouse bitters.

I haven’t been to Dirty Martini, though it’s only a block away from my work. And this does not make me want to go for a first time. One of the biggest problems with ordering cocktails at most bars is the tendency to take drinks that should ideally served in 2 to 4 ounce servings and make 8-12 ounce versions of them. The Martini is a perfect example. It’s meant to be drunk icy cold and be a crisp drink. It’s not possible (or at least not healthy) to drink a 10 or 12 ounce Martini in the time before the cocktail becomes undesirably warm. Now think about trying to power through a 48 ounce Martini. Unless it’s served with straws and is envisioned like a Scorpion bowl-style drink for sharing, it’s just not possible. Odds are even the most aggressive drinkers will end up with at least 24 ounces of lukewarm Martini French vodka. To which I say: yuck.

Now I’d say if Dirty Martini was serving these three pound quart and a half cocktails in a punch bowl, with a solid block of ice to keep them cool, and lots of straws for sharing, there might be some merit to it. Kooky, but not absurd. But I don’t get the impression that this is the direction they’re going in. Instead it looks like they just want to serve some stupid big cocktails.

Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | June 6, 2011

Brancott Estate #whatif

After a period of relative slumber, this blog is awoken to find another wine travel-related contest for me to play in. New Zealand’s Brancott Estate winery is having a brief Twitter contest where all you have to do to enter is post tasting notes of their wine on Twitter with the hashtag #whatif. You’re limited to one entry per day and the contest runs until June 13th.

Brancott Estate is the best selling New Zealand winery in the world. I recently had a bottle of their Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2010 and will be using tasting notes from it, at least to start, as my entries into the contest. I’m breaking up my first three tweets to handle the nose, the palate, and my overall impressions – which were actually very positive. Here’s my first Tweet:

@brancottestate Marlborough SB 2010: Smell deeply the scent of lemon & dry minerality w/pineapple, passion fruit & faint cilantro #whatif

I did enjoy this wine a great deal. It’s fairly affordable too, with my local Whole Paycheck Foods having it for around $12 (though this bottle was provided to me as a sample from Brancott Estate’s PR folks). I’m hoping to pick up some other bottlings of Brancott Estate in the near future.

A word about why I’m posting on this. I will only post on a product/promotional contest if it’s something that I am interested in myself and if I think the product being promoted is actually a decent one. I can’t speak to other Brancott Estate wines (though I hope to in the future), but I did like this Sauvignon Blanc a lot. For the price, it’s a good deal (though I have a winemaker friend in Sonoma who will want to string me up for bestowing praise on affordable wines from half way around the world). Plus this is a contest anyone can enter, so posting on it actually decreases my chances of winning. But for what it’s worth, I’ve never been to New Zealand and it’s Number One on my list of countries that I’d like to visit…so I hope I do win at the expense of my readers.

Disclosure: This post was made possible because I received a free bottle of Brancott Estate Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2010 for the purposes of sample and review.

Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | May 11, 2011

Teenage Riot

Teenage Riot

File this under “Things I’m Making As Soon As I Get Home.” Gaz Regan has added Teenage Riot, by Tonia Guffey of DRAM, Flatiron Lounge, and Lani Kai in New York as one of his 101 Best New Cocktails.

Teenage Riot
Adapted from a recipe by Tonia Guffey,  DRAM, Flatiron Lounge, Lani Kai, New York.

1.5 oz Rittenhouse rye whiskey
1.5 oz Cynar
.5 oz Dolin dry vermouth
.5 oz Lustau dry amontillado sherry
2 dashes orange bitters
1 lemon twist, as garnish

Stir over ice and strain into a chilled coupe. Squeeze the twist over the drink, then add as garnish.

This looks like a very well evolved Old Pal, the classic with equal parts Campari, dry vermouth and rye or Canadian whiskey. Substituting one bitter Italian liqueur for another is always a good bet in my book. The recipe doesn’t specify whether Rittenhouse 80 or Rittenhouse 100 should be used, but I’d guess that the 80 proof version will produce a much softer and smoother cocktail.

I haven’t tried this yet, but aim to very soon. If anyone’s had it, let us know what you think in the comments.


OK I got to make the Teenage Riot a day after publishing this. It’s a really awesome drink, probably one of the best cocktails I’ve ever had with Cynar and something that is immediately on my list of contemporary cocktails that are worth remembering. Definitely give it a try.

Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | May 6, 2011

Mint Julep Time!

It’s a busy week at, where this post on the Mint Julep is now running. So many celebrations, so many related cocktails!

Spring brings two things for men with a taste for excitement: the Kentucky Derby and the Derby’s official cocktail, the Mint Julep. While the Fastest Two Minutes in Sports is certainly a cause for celebration, the Mint Julep should be enjoyed beyond a single day at the track for its approachable simplicity and refreshing taste.

Though records of the Mint Julep go back as far as the turn of the 19th century, the cocktail was first popularized in Washington, DC, thanks to Sen. Henry Clay of Kentucky, who brought the recipe to the Willard Hotel’s Round Robin Bar. Given the heat and humidity in DC, it’s no surprise that the Mint Julep remains almost as popular here today as it is at Churchill Downs on Derby Day. The bartenders at the Kentucky Derby will regularly serve more than 100,000 juleps.

Unfortunately, the Mint Julep isn’t the sort of cocktail that lends itself to being mass-produced and served without care. An overly sweet or overly strong Mint Julep loses its refreshing appeal. Here’s my preferred recipe, modified from a version by Derek Brown of the Columbia Room in DC, to be served with care and class to discerning fans of horse racing and otherwise sophisticated drinkers.

Mint Julep

  • 2.5 oz bourbon
  • 0.5 to 0.75 oz simple syrup*
  • 6 sprigs of fresh mint
  • Crushed ice

Serve in a Collins glass or silver cup.

Add mint and simple syrup to bottom of glass. Gently muddle the mint into the syrup, taking care to not tear the mint. Remove the mint from the syrup, and then fill half the glass with crushed ice. Add the bourbon and gently agitate the mix. Top the rest of the glass with crushed ice, packing the ice into a mound over the top of the glass. Add an additional 0.75 ounce of simple syrup if you desire. Garnish with a large sprig of mint and dust the mint & ice with fine powdered sugar.

* Simple syrup: Boil one cup of water. Add one cup of sugar, remove from heat, and stir until sugar has dissolved. Let cool before using.

A couple notes about the Mint Julep. Traditionally it is served in a silver or pewter cup, along with a metal straw. This allows the glass to collect an icy frost, but makes holding it hard. Julep straws solve the problem and can be found at most bar supply stores or even some kitchen supply stores.

There’s a lot of debate about whether a Mint Julep should have the mint actually in the glass, or if the mint should primarily be as a garnish, whose smell is imparted with each sip. What I like about this recipe is that it splits the difference by making mild mint simple syrup, accompanied by a hefty dose of mint on the nose. Regardless of your preferred recipe, the key here is plenty of finely crushed ice and plenty of fresh mint.

Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | May 5, 2011

Cinco De Mayo – Drink a Paloma!

My latest post at provides a suggestion for an alternative cocktail to the Margarita while celebrating Cinco de Mayo.

Cinco de Mayo is celebrated every year to commemorate the Mexican army’s victory in the Battle of Puebla. Mostly, though, it’s just a celebration of Mexican heritage here in the US. There’s nothing wrong with celebrating Cinco de Mayo like everyone else: with house Margaritas and Mexican lagers. After all, the Margarita is the single most popular cocktail in America and most bars have at least some refreshing Mexican beer, like Tecate, Dos Equis, Sol and even Corona. But I recommend elevating your Mexican cocktail game, with the spirit Mexico is best known for. Tequila pairs incredibly well with some flavors that you’d expect (lime, orange) and others that you might not (cassis, chocolate). My personal favorite, though, is grapefruit. The combination of vegetal agave spice with the crisp tartness of grapefruit sets my taste buds on fire and lets me break out of the mold when enjoying a tequila-based cocktail.

While there are plenty of great tequila cocktails, I’m always happy when I order a Paloma. It’ll cool you down on a hot day and do it while bringing a fine balance between sweet and sour, with bitter and salty notes adding to its complexity. Legendary cocktail historian Dave Wondrich has a great recipe for La Paloma:

Paloma (Wondrich version)

  • 2 oz reposado tequila
  • 0.5 oz fresh lime juice
  • Pinch of salt
  • Grapefruit soda

Combine tequila, lime juice and salt in a tall glass. Add ice, top with grapefruit soda, and stir.

My favorite grapefruit soda is made by the Jarritos and is available in some supermarkets and Mexican specialty stores. But if you can’t find grapefruit soda, I recommend this alternative version by Phil Ward, head bartender at Mayahuel, New York’s best tequila and mezcal cocktail bar.

Paloma (Ward version)

  • 2 oz blanco tequila
  • 1 oz fresh grapefruit juice
  • 0.75 oz fresh lime juice
  • 0.5 oz simple syrup
  • Salt
  • Soda water

Rim a highball glass with salt. Combine tequila, grapefruit, lime and simple syrup in an ice filled shaker tin. Shake and strain into the ice-filled highball glass. Top with soda water and garnish with a lime wedge.

Ward’s version is slightly more complicated, but is a great way to still enjoy a Paloma if you can’t find grapefruit soda.

If you’re looking for a good reposado tequila for the Wondrich Paloma, my personal favorite is Partida Reposado, though it’s a bit pricey. El Espolon Reposado is a great bottling for under $30. As far as blancos go, El Jimador Blanco and Pueblo Viejo Blanco are both affordable and delicious.

Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | April 25, 2011

On the Town with Dale DeGroff

The Museum of the American Cocktail is continuing their series of fun and educational seminars on cocktail history next month with a visit by bartending legend Dale DeGroff to The Passenger. Here are the details:

On the Town: Life in Saloons, Speaks, and the Big City Bar! An Evening with Dale DeGroff
Presented By: Dale DeGroff

$40.00 per person pre-register
The ‘at-the-door’ fee will be $45.00.
Monday, May 9 2011, 6:30 – 8:00
The Passenger (Warehouse Theater, entry via Passenger)
1021 7th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001

Join master mixologist and author Dale DeGroff (master storyteller as well!) for an evening of history, drinks, and fun as he shares anecdotes from neighborhood bars, notorious saloons, and the legendary drink palaces of lore. From the Gilded Age to Prohibition to Modern Times- the colorful evolution of the cocktail is unveiled with the antics, stories, and music that accompanied this cultural phenomenon.

Throughout the presentation, guests will be treated to sample cocktails representative of the various eras. And since DeGroff himself is something of a crooner, a couple of tunes might just top off the evening… so grab your coat and get your hat, and Join us for an Evening On The Town!

Click here to register.

I’ve had the privilege to have DeGroff’s drinks at the last two Repeal Day balls and he’s really one of finest barmen out there. His book, The Craft of the Cocktail, was one of the first ones I read about bartending and classic cocktails. Many of my preferred formulations of classic drinks come from DeGroff’s recipes. Add in that his work at the Rainbow Room in the 1980s is likely influential to the survival of the art of bartending and well-craft drinks and this is a seminar that you shouldn’t miss.

Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | April 18, 2011

Undurraga T.H. Syrah Leyda 2009

Undurraga TH Syrah

Undurraga TH Syrah

Last week the Wines of Chile held a blogger tasting featuring eight Chilean Pinot Noirs and Syrahs. All of the wines come from cooler climates within Chile and the tasting was split between four Pinots and four Syrahs. The four Pinots were from Casablanca Valley: Valdivieso Reserve Pinot Noir 2009, Vina Casablanca Nimbus Estate Pinot Noir 2009, Veramonte Ritual Pinot Noir 2009, and Cono Sur Ocio Pinot Noir 2008. The Syrahs were from for different valleys. Tamaya Syrah Reserva 2009 was from Limari; Loma Larga Syrah 2006 is from Casablanca; Undurraga T.H. Syrah 2009 is from Leyda Valley; and Hacienda Araucano Reserva Syrah 2009 is from Lolol Valley.

I was joined by a number of friends for the tasting and while in full we really enjoyed the range of wines, I want to focus on my favorite from the night: Undurraga’s T.H. Syrah Leyda. T.H. stands for Terroir Hunter. A team of Undurraga specialists in agriculture, weather, and oenology travel around Chile to find the best places to make the best grapes. They grow the same grapes across different micro climates. The Syrah we tasted was from Leyda Valley, but Undurraga also makes a Syrah in Maipo (I’m unclear if there are other T.H. syrahs or if there are just these two. By comparison, Undurraga has three different T.H. Sauvignon Blancs).  Undurraga’s T.H. Syrah is made by oenologist Rafael Urrejola, who in 2010 was recognized by the Chilean Association of Culinary and Wine Writers as their Winemaker of the Year.

The Undurraga Syrah Leyda 2009 has a thick purple color. The nose has powerful purple fruit, tobacco, and smoked meat scents, along with a thin wisp of alcohol. When sipped it meets the tongue with blueberry, plum, leather, slight peat and wet soil. The finish is slightly sweet, with noticeable minerality, mild umami,  strong tannins and a chewy mouthfeel. There’s a good, balanced astringency and on whole the wine is an excellent mix of terroir and fruit.

It’s an incredibly drinkable wine and a very good value at a price point of around $25. I haven’t seen this wine around DC, but I do believe it’s available in the US, though it has limited production.

Disclosure: This post was made possible because I received free bottles of Valdivieso Reserve Pinot Noir 2009, Vina Casablanca Nimbus Estate Pinot Noir 2009, Veramonte Ritual Pinot Noir 2009, Cono Sur Ocio Pinot Noir 2008, Tamaya Syrah Reserva 2009, Loma Larga Syrah 2006, Undurrage T.H. Syrah 2009, and Hacienda Araucano Reserva Syrah 2009 for the purposes of participating in this Wines of Chile blogger tasting. 

Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | April 14, 2011

PAMA: Persephone’s Elixir

Two things (out of many) that I’ve learned to be true since I started blogging about cocktails are (1) liqueurs and amari provide the broadest route towards new recipes and (2) everything tastes better with ginger beer. I was reminded of these lessons as I was reading through the fairly large and detailed recipe booklet from their master mixologist Eben Freeman. It’s one of the best presentations of recipes with a classic bend I’ve seen since Novo Fogo cachaca released theirs. Freeman provides recipes for every major base spirit, including variations on classic recipes like the Ramos Gin Fizz, Cobbler, Caipirinha, Batida, Sidecar and Mint Julep.

PAMA is a versatile liqueur made by Heaven Hill Distillery in Kentucky – the same Heaven Hill that’s responsible for Elijah Craig and Evan Williams bourbons and Rittenhouse Rye. The vodka and tequila based pomegranate liqueur has the taste of fresh pomengrante juice, with its natural tart sweetness. While there are lots of cocktails which would benefit from substituting PAMA for classic grenadine (if you don’t know, true grenadine is a pomegranate syrup, not neon red sugar water we see in most bars), Freeman goes far afield from grenadine with his recipes. I really respect this. Last year I had a private cocktail session with Phil Ward of Mayahuel, who explained to us his philosophy of making new cocktails based on common recipe templates. By thinking about liqueur as an element for easy substitution, you can swap out many different ingredients to find new cocktails that work well. New liqueurs means new cocktails are possible and Freeman’s work shows the fruits of this maxim.

Persephone's Elixir

Persephone's Elixir

I don’t know for sure what the base cocktail for Persephone’s Elixir was, but it certainly looks like a tequila Tom Collins that subs PAMA for simple syrup and ginger beer for club soda. Regardless, it stood out to me because it’s just starting to get warm, I wanted to try a new tequila cocktail, and, most of all, everything is good with ginger beer.

Persephone’s Elixir

0.75 oz PAMA Pomegranate Liqueur
1 oz blanco tequila
0.75 oz fresh lemon juice
Ginger beer

Combine all ingredients except ginger beer in a shaker. Add ice and shake vigorously. Strain over fresh ice into Collins glass and top with ginger beer.

This is a nice, light, refreshing high ball. It tastes like summer and it looks like summer, with a gorgeous rosy-pink hue. The ginger beer, liqueur, and tequila have a nicely balanced spice, while the lemon gives it a sour slant that works with the mild sweetness of PAMA. This will undoubtedly be a popular drink on my back patio this summer.

PAMA has Eben Freeman’s recipes online. I’d recommend checking them out to see if there’s something you’d like to try. PAMA is available nationwide and I’ve been seeing it in almost every bar I go into of late, so if you have something you think is worth trying, see if your local bartender can serve it up for you. I’ll be curious to hear which bars are using PAMA cocktails on their menus around DC. It seems like this is an ingredient with promise, as Freeman’s recipes and this example show. I have to imagine there being a lot of good Tiki applications out there to be discovered with it. I’ll keep you posted if I find any that measure up…

Disclosure: This post was made possible because I received a free bottle PAMA Liqueur for the purposes of sample and review.

Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | April 13, 2011

Adding Another $50+ to Stocking Your Home Bar

Yesterday I posted a piece for PRZman about how you can stock your home bar for only $100. It’s not a complete representation of a bar and so I wondered, what could you do if you had another $50 to spend (bringing your total now to $150 or so).

Well, at this point you have a lot of options for expanding your offerings, but it really depends on your tastes. Do you like rye whiskey? If so a bottle of Old Overholt will only run you $11. If you are an Irish or Scotch whisky drinker, you have to spend a bit more, but Famous Grouse is the most popular whisky in Scotland and it’s generally available for about $19. Jameson, the Irish whiskey standard, runs about the same price.

You can go in literally any direction and find a good dark rum to add to your mix, but Appleton Estate VX, which costs about $15, is a great, versatile Jamaican rum that any good home bar should stock. Goslings Black Seal or Cruzan Black Strap, both $18, are much darker, richer rums that mix incredibly well with ginger beer.

Once you have a London Dry Gin, I think it’s critical that you get a bottle of Plymouth Gin. This softer, lighter, more citrus style of gin is common in classic cocktail recipes. A 750 mL bottle should cost around $24.

The next type of bitters that I would add would be Orange Bitters. These used to be pretty rare, but now are relatively easy to find.  Gary Regan’s Orange Bitters No. 6 are phenomenal and only about $6 for a 5 oz bottle.

If you were going to take another $50, you can’t get all of the items I just mentioned. But based on your tastes you could presumably end up with a bottle of rye, scotch, Jamaican rum, and orange bitters. Or rye, Plymouth gin, orange bitters, and a bottle of dark rum. Don’t look now, but you just scored yourself a serious home bar.

Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | April 12, 2011

Stocking a Bar for $100

My latest piece at PRZman, “A Man’s Basic Bar,” shows you how to stock a home bar for only $100.


If someone came over to your place right now and you were inclined to offer them a drink (which you should), what exactly could you offer? Light beer and the remnants of a leftover handle of Cuervo? You’re not in college anymore. Well, maybe you are, but in any case, the response to the question “What have you got?” should be “Whatever you want.”

The best thing about stocking a home bar is that it doesn’t have to be expensive and, if done deliberately, can mean you have the ability to provide a huge range of cocktails for guests. So how do you go about stocking up affordably while preserving a wide range of options? Easy—cover the key base spirits and the most common mixers. Gin, rum, bourbon, vodka, and tequila will be your most common bases (if you prefer other whiskeys, rye, Irish, Scotch or Canadian may be substituted for bourbon). You’ll also need sweet and dry vermouth, an orange liqueur and aromatic bitters. These four ingredients are common throughout classic cocktails and will let you move beyond making highballs for your guests. Add some soft drinks and fresh fruit and you’ll be ready to go.

For the sake of making this affordable, I’m going to set a budget of $100 to stock your bar.

Here’s how you can do it:

Gin: Beefeater, $14

Rum: Flor De Caña Extra Dry 4 Year, $14

Bourbon: Evan Williams, $11

Vodka: Smirnoff, $11

Tequila: El Jimador Blanco, $19

Vermouth: Martini & Rossi Sweet Vermouth, $5 (375mL)

Vermouth: Martini & Rossi Dry Vermouth, $5 (375mL)

Orange Liqueur: Hiram Walker Triple Sec, $7 (375mL)

Bitters: Angostura Bitters, $6

All of these are quality ingredients and at this point you’ve only spent $92 stocking your home bar. The last $8 should go towards keeping a small cache of tonic water, club soda, cola, ginger ale, fruit juices and fresh lemons and limes handy. For the soft drinks, having cans or small bottles is ideal, so you won’t waste 2 liters of tonic water serving one person a drink.

Don’t look now, but you just scored yourself a serious home bar for under $100. So what drinks can you now make in your home bar?

  • Old Fashioned
  • Manhattan
  • Dry Martini
  • Vodka Martini
  • Perfect Martini
  • Perfect Manhattan
  • Pegu Club Cocktail
  • Margarita
  • Daiquiri
  • Cosmopolitan
  • Tom Collins
  • John Collins
  • Suffering Bastard
  • Caipiroska
  • Leap Year Cocktail
  • Gin Rickey
  • Moscow Mule
  • Bloody Mary
  • Cuba Libre
  • Vodka/Gin/Rum & Tonic
  • Bourbon/Vodka & Soda
  • Bourbon & Coke
  • Bourbon & Ginger

And this is just the start.  Check out these recipe databases CocktailDB and The Webtender for drinks you can make with these ingredients.

You’ll also want to also have a few key tools: a Boston shaker, which is a mixing glass and a metal tin, a bar spoon, a jigger or small measuring cup, a julep strainer, a Hawthorne strainer, and a small hand juicer. You can order these tools on the cheap at various online bar supply stores.

Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | April 7, 2011

Beer Cocktail: Chelada

My latest piece for PRZman focuses on one of my favorite beer cocktails (especially in warm weather).

Beer Cocktail: Chelada

Beer Day is upon us, so I thought I’d share a favorite cocktail made from beer. While you may not immediately realize it, there are lots of great beer cocktails. The Redeye, made with beer and tomato juice is a good hangover cure. You can enjoy a Shandy in Britain or a Radler in Germany, but in either case you’ll drinking beer mixed with lemonade. And, of course, the Black and Tan (Guinness and lager) is the quintessential Irish beer cocktail. The recipes for these will vary slightly by taste, but most are equal parts of each ingredient.

My favorite beer cocktail as days start to get longer and warmer is the Chelada, a drink popular in Mexico. Recipes vary, but it’s a fairly simple affair that melds typically light Mexican lager with lime and savory ingredients. In the last few years, major American beer companies have sold limed-up versions of their light beers, but these are pretty unrecognizable next to a real Chelada. Show your friends you have some taste and whip up a few Cheladas on Beer Day and scoff at any friends who think Miller Chill or Bud Light Lime is an appropriate drink for any self-respecting man (or woman for that matter).


12 oz Mexican beer (Sol, Modelo Especial, & Tecate work well)
3/4 oz fresh lime juice (about 1 lime)
2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
2 dashes Tabasco
2 dashes soy sauce
Pinch of ground black pepper

Cut the lime in half and rub the rim of a pint glass with it. Fill a small dish with course salt and turn the outside of the pint glass through it, so you get a salted rim. Add ice to the pint glass, then add the soy, Worcestershire, Tabasco, pepper and lime juice. Top it with the beer and enjoy.

Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | April 6, 2011

Banks 5 Island Rum

More than any other category of spirits, rums are something that I enjoy collecting. When I got into cocktails, I was a bourbon guy. As I evolved my love of classic cocktails, I became a gin nut. But over the last year, I’ve realized that for cocktails there are a few bourbons I really like using and don’t feel the need to accumulate sippers. For gin, there are some great bottlings that I love to use across the few key categories (London Dry, Plymouth, Old Tom, New American) and  beyond that, I don’t have many needs. But rum…rum is a different story. The variance between different islands, different styles, different ages, and how they interplay with each other has made me seek out more and more different, new types. With over 70 countries producing rum around the world, the odds of me running out of new places to explore is pretty slim.

Nonetheless, I was really excited to get a sample of Banks 5 Island Rum recently. I’d read about it at over at Tiare’s blog, A Mountain of Crushed Ice, last fall. She wrote, “I don`t think i`ve come across a white rum that has so much of the dark rum flavor before..but on the other hand there´s many white rums i`ve never yet tasted.” That’s a pretty intriguing description and one that I really found true myself.

Banks 5 Island Rum is a white rum, blended from rums from Trinidad, Jamaica, Guayana, Barbados and Java. I found the nose to be incredibly interesting, with a mix of lemon, floral scents, cane sugar, pineapple, white grape and a thin strand of alcohol vapor. The taste was equally complex, with papaya, banana, burnt sugar leading the way and a light, peppery finish with a slight burn. The mouthfeel is very thick and creamy. In short, this is a really unique, dynamic white rum with tremendous potential.

I’d also received a bottle of PAMA Liqueur to sample and my first inclination was to do a variation of a Brunswick Sour combining the two. A Brunswick Sour, which I first experienced when Derek Brown was the head bartender at The Gibson, is simply a classic Daiquiri topped with a float of merlot. Unfortunately, PAMA is much more dense than merlot, so when I tried to float it on top, it ended up settling on the bottom of the glass. The drink was still tasty, but ended up imbalanced, with the last third of the glass dominated by PAMA.

As a better cocktail to feature Banks 5 Island Rum, I went with a variation on the classic Between the Sheets cocktail. Jay Hepburn at Oh, Gosh! had a post on this drink a few years ago, though I found a recipe which made a bit more sense for my tastes.

Between the Sheets

1 oz Banks 5 Island Rum
1 oz cognac (Courvoisier VSOP)
1 oz Cointreau
1 oz fresh lemon juice
0.25 oz simple syrup

Combine in an ice filled shaker and make the ice sing. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish with an orange peel.

Between the Sheets is a really nice cocktail. Driven by the Banks rum, it is rich and velvety, with a strong vanilla/orange flavor. The rum isn’t the sole player in this drink and I’m sure that there will be many other cocktails that I find great uses for the Banks 5 Island Rum, so stay tuned for more.

Disclosure: This post was made possible because I received free bottles of Banks 5 Island Rum and PAMA Liqueur for the purposes of sample and review.

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »