The future is now

•July 24, 2011 • 15 Comments

Please accept my apologies for the silence on this blog, but it is for good reason. Later this summer I will be opening my own bar here in Seattle, and it has been occupying most of my time. Once the bar is up and running, I plan to start blogging more regularly once again.

In the meantime, please “like” us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter, to keep up on the progress and to be the first to know when we open. Our website will be up and running shortly:

Thanks and we hope to see you at Canon!


Cannon logo-final by jamiebdr


St-Germain Cocktails

•January 3, 2011 • 16 Comments

While I’m aware that most people that read my blog won’t require this help, I’ve created a small database of St-Germain cocktail recipes that is organized by spirit for those of you who are having difficulties trying to figure out what to do with your bottle of St-Germain. I’ve imaginatively named the site St-Germain Cocktails and it can be found here.

Update: The website can now be found by the shorter link:

Happy mixing!

small st germain

Old Fashioned, Cubed and Syruped

•October 23, 2010 • 45 Comments

As a bartender I find that I’m constantly being asked what my favorite cocktail is, to which I have always replied that I don’t have a favorite cocktail, but that what I truly enjoy is change and when I frequent my local watering hole it is a rare occasion indeed that I would order the same drink twice.

Another question that I’m often asked is what the “best” cocktail is, to which I have to reply that there is no such thing as a “best” cocktail. I usually then bring out the analogy of shoes (I used to mention cars, but that was lost on much of the fairer sex). I ask what they would consider to be the “best” pair of shoes. There is usually a pause to which I answer the question for them: “Best for what? Dancing? Hiking? Boating? Work? Winter? Summer? The shoes that one chooses depend upon the time, your needs and your attitude. It is the same with a cocktail”.

Having said that, it has come to my conclusion that while I may not have a “go to” cocktail, I definitely have a favorite style of libation: that of the venerable Old Fashioned.

While it may be true that I can’t recall the last (or first) time that I have actually ordered an Old Fashioned in a bar, panning over some of my older posts I became aware that I’ve mentioned the Old Fashioned or a variation of it several times, which got me to thinking: whenever I’m at home, nine times out of ten, when I’m wanting of a cocktail, I’m going to make myself an Old Fashioned or similar concoction. And while I may not be able to remember the last time I ordered an Old Fashioned in a bar, it wasn’t that long ago that I ordered one of its more famous variants: the Sazerac. But I digress.

The Old Fashioned refers to, of course, the Old Fashioned Cocktail. It was as early as the 1870’s when the discerning drinker began to tire of all the new cocktail variations and just wanted an old fashioned (or original) cocktail, which as I’m sure we all know by now, consisted simply of a spirit, water, bitters and sugar. There was no ice in the finished drink (one must realize that ice during this time was a luxury, and would never have been just given away to a customer’s unless absolutely necessary!) and heaven help the barkeep that threw in a fruit salad of orange and cherry: such an action was liable to get the man shot! The Cocktail was a simple drink, made in simpler times, but oh the chorus of angels that made their presence known when this amazingly deep and complex concoction was first put to the imbiber’s lips and past his gullet.


2 oz rye whiskey (or quality dry bourbon)
3 goodly dashes of Angostura aromatic bitters
1 sugar cube (or ¼ oz rich simple syrup)
dash of club soda (if not using simple syrup)
place the sugar cube into a chilled mixing glass
wet the cube with Angostura and soda
crush the cube with a muddler
add rye and stir
add ice and stir until well chilled
strain into a chilled rocks glass
garnish and add ice at your own peril

As great as the Old Fashioned is, as with most things in life, there is always room for improvement. Those that are familiar with my recipes know that I am always looking for ways to add or compact as much flavor and complexity as possible when creating cocktails, and to this end, I’ve come up with the Cubed Old Fashioned. In this variation, I’ve tripled the number of spirits, I’ve tripled the types of bitters and even complicated the sugar by making a syrup with three ingredients, not one of which is water (more on this later). In the creation of the Cubed Old Fashioned, I’ve added just as much flavor as is humanly possible, and the only way to go further would be to add a scotch or absinthe rinse. Sometimes one has to just let things be (as hard as that may be for the likes of this bartender).

My “eureka!” moment for this cocktail came when I decided to create an Old Fashioned within the Old Fashioned by making a syrup to replace the normally used sugar out of the ingredients that one would find in a traditional Old Fashioned.  In other words, I replaced the water with rye and bitters when making the syrup, and for added complexity I employed turbinado sugar instead of refined white sugar (demerara or raw sugar will work wonders as well). I’ve now made other syrups using this technique and am in absolute love with how they enrich cocktails. Good examples have been a Caipirinha syrup using lime peel, cachaca and white sugar, as well as Margarita syrup with tequila, orange bitters, sugar and honey. As you can see, the possibilities are endless and the syrups don’t have to be used solely with the cocktails after which they are named.

Enough talk, let’s mix up a:


¾ oz Remy VSOP (or any good cognac)
¾ oz Appleton V/X (or any good rum)
¾ oz Rittenhouse 100 (or any good rye/bourbon)
½ oz Old Fashioned syrup
1 dash Bitter Truth Xocolatl Mole bitters
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 dash Angostura orange bitters
stir all ingredients with ice
strain into a chilled rocks glass filled with one giant ice chunk
garnish with orange zest and brandied cherry resting on the top of the glass

Old Fashioned Syrup

200 mL Bourbon or rye
100 mL Angostura bitters
550 mL Turbinado sugar
5 cloves
7 allspice
3 star anise
stir ingredients in a pot over low heat until all sugar is incorporated
let cool
strain and funnel into a sanitized bottle
add 1 oz of bourbon/rye to help preserve your syrup

While I don’t ordinarily add ice to my Old Fashioneds, the Cubed Old Fashioned is so complex that I feel it requires a large chunk of ice. If you don’t have a large chunk of pristine ice on hand (and the sad reality is that few of us do), the least you can do is order one of these trays. If both options fail you, try the drink without ice, as small ice cubes will just muck up the dynamics of this powerful, yet elegant libation.

Try other iterations of the Old Fashioned by subbing out the sugar/syrup with a variety of liqueurs (St Germain, Crème Yvette, St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram, Fernet, or Canton ad infinitum) or swapping out the spirits and bitters and you’ll find that this is a cocktail that has no bounds. Leave comments below to tell me of some of your newfound Old Fashioned variations, or experiments with new types of flavor-packed syrups.

Happy mixing!

Cubed Old Fashioned

Cubed Old Fashioned

Picture by:
Jamie Boudreau
Cocktail Whisperer


Balvenie 17yr Madeira Cask & Drinking at Home

•March 11, 2010 • 18 Comments

I’ve decided to take this moment to opine on something that is dear to me: drinking well. Now while this will mean different things to different people at different times, today I want to talk about the selection of our spirits when we imbibe. While we are in a economic downturn right now, it is common knowledge that people are drinking just as much as they were when they were flush, they’ve just opted for less expensive options, and this pains me down to my soul.

A little time ago I posted some Scotch options for Xmas presents and one of the comments that were posted asked why all of the options were so pricy, and why I hadn’t decided to give people many options that were under $75. Now while many of you may whole heartedly agree and loudly proclaim that spending $75, $100 or even $150 is way too much to spend on a bottle of booze, I invite you to do a little math with me.

Figuring that a bottle of hooch has approximately 17 servings, one can deduce that a $120 bottle of quality spirits will cost you approximately seven dollars per serving. Seven dollars.  As a barkeep for many years, I can tell you of the numerous masses that don’t flinch at dropping $15 for a Grey Goose martini, but would seriously balk at paying $120 for a bottle for the home bar. The same goes to the classic cocktail connoisseur that pays $12-$15 for that well designed cocktail. Yet if one thinks of that pricey bottle of booze as an investment into better drinking for the future, a plethora of fabulous bottlings awaits!

Am I saying that one can’t find great spirits for $50, $30 of even $15? Absolutely not (I’m looking at you Rittenhouse bonded). Am I saying that one always has to mix with three digit bottles? Of course not. All I am saying is that if one goes out of their comfort levels to buy a bottle outside of what one would normally pay, not only will you end up drinking better, but on those occasions when you do have a drink at home, you will be able to crack open something “special” and at a fraction of the cost of the drinks that you would imbibe so readily on a Friday night at your favorite watering hole.

I bring this to your attention, because a little while ago I was presented with a wonderful bottling of the elegant and graceful Balvenie 17-year Madeira Cask. As I have been immensely enjoying it over the last two months, I felt that if I just suggested it as a potential future purchase, many of you would look at the price tag and immediately strike it from further thought, but as a bottle that runs around $120, you would be dismissing a wonderful scotch that will only set you back around seven dollars a serving.  And that would be a great shame.

The Balvenie 17-year Madeira Cask is Grace Kelly to a Laphroig’s Mae West. While this isn’t a dram that will wow the lover of Islay’s peat bombs, it will amaze those who dig Speyside’s contributions and it might even convert a bourbon drinker or two. This Balvenie expression has tons of spicy Xmas cake (dried fruits like apple, apricot and fig with nutmeg and cinnamon) followed by a nice long spicy vanillin finish. I find the Madeira finish even more integrated then their well-vaunted Rum finish, and at 17 years the barrel doesn’t overtake the dram, which I feel is beginning to happen with their 21 year Portwood finish. (Having said that, I still wouldn’t throw the Portwood finish out of bed for leaving crumbs, or wood chips as the case may be.)

I’m going to suggest something that may seem like sacrilege to many of you: let’s make a cocktail with this fine spirit! Again, let’s keep in mind that the final cost of this cocktail will come in around $8, a bargain for having a cocktail that you would probably never consider at you local bar. So crack open the seal and let’s prepare a:


1 ¾ oz Scotch
¾ oz Carpano Antica
1/8 oz absinthe
2 dashes Bitter Truth orange bitters
stir with ice
strain into a chilled cocktail glass
(circa 1935)

I had first discovered this twist on a Rob Roy (or perhaps a Bobby Burns) many moons ago in David Wondrich’s wonderful tome, Esquire Drinks. The Borden Chase is named after the American writer born as Frank Fowler who changed his moniker, it is said, after enjoying some Borden Milk while looking across the street at the Chase Manhattan bank. His choice could’ve been a lot worse if he’d had Leigh Valley whilst gazing upon Wachovia, methinks.

While preparing this drink, be careful with the absinthe, as it could quickly overtake the other flavours if poured with a heavy hand and if you can’t find Bitter Truth’s wonderful bitters (and they are available in the US now) Angostura orange will do in a pinch.

I hope that I’ve convinced you that there is value to drinking better, if not at your favorite bar, then at least at your home, and remember, when making cocktails, your end result will only be as good as your weakest link, so let’s not chince out on any of the ingredients!


Picture by:
Jamie Boudreau
Cocktail Whisperer


Combier, Haiti and the Blood and Sand

•January 22, 2010 • 5 Comments

I have had in my possession for some time a bottling of Royal Combier Grande Liqueur, and while I had wanted to mention it, I wasn’t sure how to present it, as I’ve already discussed Combier’s other bottling and had compared it favorably to Cointreau in its use in cocktails. My first thought was to compare it to Grand Marnier’s premium bottling, the Cuvée du Cent Cinquantenaire but quickly realized that this wouldn’t be fair as a) they are two very different beasts and b) the price point of the two bottles was far too dissimilar ($37 as compared to Grand Marnier’s $250). So there went my idea for a post.

But then a little bit of information crossed my desk that I felt that I absolutely needed to share.  Combier USA announced that the company will donate 20% of all earnings from January 20 until March 1, 2010 to Doctors Without Border – Emergency Relief Fund in response to last week’s devastating earthquake in Haiti. Combier is especially close to this disaster as the orange peels used in Combier Liqueur d’Orange and Royal Combier are sourced from plantations throughout the island of Haiti.

So if you were looking for a reason to finally try a different triple sec, or were looking for a different cherry liqueur for your Blood and Sands (Combier makes a cherry liqueur as well: the Roi René Rouge), now is the time!

Speaking of Blood and Sands, this little cocktail named after a 1922 Rudolph Valentino movie has been making the rounds here in Seattle, and if you haven’t tried one recently, why don’t you start with this traditional recipe:

Blood and Sand

1 part scotch
1 part sweet vermouth
1 part Roi René Rouge (or other cherry liqueur)
1 part fresh orange juice
shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass

I’ve found that I’ve needed to up the quantity of scotch in my Blood and Sands, especially if using a blended scotch. It doesn’t hurt to tame the orange juice and liqueur either. Play around with the proportions until you find a ratio that is perfect for you.

For those of you who are wondering about the Royal Combier, it is a blend of their triple sec, cognac and Elixir de Combier (which includes ingredients such as aloe, nutmeg, myrrh, cardamom, cinnamon and saffron). While I would say that Cointreau is full of raw bright orange zest, I would say that Royal Combier is a darker, muted orange zest with prominent spice notes, notably nutmeg and saffron.

There you have it, a chance to help a hurting country whilst you hurt your helping liver!

Picture by:
Jamie Boudreau


Bitter Truth to hit U.S. shores

•December 30, 2009 • 13 Comments

Big news for all you cocktail nuts out there: Bitter Truth bitters will become more readily available in the U.S. While one can always order them online from Cocktail Kingdom, it appears that one will soon be able to walk into their nearest speciality store and get Bitter Truth bitters at a reasonable price (as oppossed to the $25 we have to pay for them in Seattle).

Straight from the PR firm’s keyboard:

The Bitter Truth, a brand of cocktail bitters and flavorings, has partnered with Domaine Select Wine Estates’  (DSWE) Classic and Vintage Artisanal Spirits Portfolio to bring their award-winning products to the United States.  The first shipment will arrive stateside in mid-January 2010.

Founded in 2006, by mixologists Stephan Berg and Alexander Hauck, The Bitter Truth offers bartenders a broad range of cocktail seasonings and flavors.  The products that will be available in the U.S. include the award winning Celery Bitters, Old Time Aromatic Bitters, Orange Bitters, Lemon Bitters, as well as the Bittermens Xocolatl Mole and Grapefruit Bitters. All bitters are priced at $15.95 for a 200 ml bottle. A coveted item by bartenders around the world, The Bitter Truth Bitters can now be purchased nationwide.

“It will be nice to have easy access to these products after searching far and wide with limited availability in the US” commented mixologist H. Joseph Ehrmann, Proprietor of San Francisco’s Elixir. “The quality of their bitters is superior to many products on the market today and more consistent than homemade.”

“Improving the world one cocktail at a time has a new ally in the arrival of the Bitter Truth Bitters in the US. This expansion of commercial, artisanal bitters is long overdue. Thank you!”  Brian Miller, Death & Company, New York City

Originally used as a pharmaceutical elixir, bitters were one of the main ingredients in the earliest cocktail recipes. With the resurgence of classic cocktail culture and growth of contemporary mixology, The Bitter Truth’s products have found great favor amongst the best bartenders in the world.  The Bitter Truth line of products helps bring complexity to cocktails and are intended to be another tool for bartenders and mixologists to create unique, creative and innovative cocktails.

“Bringing the bitters to America has been our dream,” says Stephan Berg, co-founder of The Bitter Truth, “but finding the right importing and distribution partner has been our greatest challenge. The Classic and Vintage Artisanal Spirits Portfolio has the background in specialty spirits and nation-wide reach that we need in order to make this a success.”

About The Bitter Truth Bitters:

Celery Bitters: The first celery bitters to be commercially produced in decades. This 19th century cocktail ingredient enriches cocktails with unusual flavors.

Lemon Bitters: Gives the liveliness of fresh lemons to every cocktail. Bitter to the taste, this formulation also has notes of coriander seeds and cardamom in the background.

Aromatic Bitters: Classically bitter and tangy. Combining the aromatics of cinnamon, cardamom, anise and cloves, it reminds one of gingerbread.

Orange Bitters: The aroma of bitter orange peel is in the foreground, complimented by the spicy flavors of cardamom, caraway and nutmeg.

Bittermens Grapefruit Bitters: Grapefruit meets with hops to create a fresh, bright citrus note. Best friends with gin and tequila, this bitter plays nicely with fizzy and fruity drinks as well.

Bittermens Xocolatl Mole Bitters: Deep chocolate notes are supported by classic bitter flavors and accented with a hint of spice. Plays perfectly with most dark spirits, rums and tequilas.

The initial U.S. launch will be in 16 states including: California, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Florida, Nevada, Illinois, North Carolina, Texas, Tennessee, Washington, Oregon, Maryland, Washington DC, Louisiana and Colorado.

Picture by:
Jamie Boudreau

Public Service Announcement

•December 16, 2009 • 1 Comment

The folks at have embarked on a quest to invent a new cocktail called the Magnificent Bastard and are asking mixologists and drink enthusiasts for worthy recipes. In exchange, the winning entrant will receive all the glory for inventing a new cocktail plus a $500 shopping spree at

All the info and entry form is here:

Xmas Shopping Continued…

•December 9, 2009 • 4 Comments

To continue with the holiday shopping theme of late, here are a couple of suggestions for the cocktailian in your life that has everything.

First off, why not get them a bottle of tequila that they’re sure not to open: one of 1800’s beautiful artist designed bottles? I wrote about this last year, and it remains at the top of my list for cheap booze art (and you can drink it if times get rough!) as this year it’s running for around $25.

While I’ve mentioned this next spot for cocktail tools many times before, it bears repeating (I still get emails asking where to go for quality equipment), as it is ever evolving and expanding: Cocktail Kingdom. This is the go to site for quality tools and supplies. Almost all of the bar tools that I currently use come from this site, and while some of the tools may be pricy, they should last you a lifetime. Whether you are looking for a lipped mixing glass, gold (workable!) cobbler shakers, beautiful Japanese spoons, hard to get bitters, exquisite reproductions of out of print cocktail books, ice picks, jiggers, strainers or bitter bottles this should always be your first stop. Make sure to check out the site often, as new equipment is always arriving. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: thank God for Greg Boehm!

Stay tuned for more spirit reviews and recipes!

Pictures by:
Jamie Boudreau
Cocktail Whisperer


Le Carre and Xante

•December 3, 2009 • 6 Comments

Recently I’d received a bottle of Xanté from a PR firm, and while it wasn’t in quite the seductive packaging that my fellow writer Jeffrey received his in, I found it worthy of mentioning, which brings me to the keyboard this evening.

A luscious copper hue, I opened the bottle expecting to find a sample of the usual run-of-the-mill liqueurs that habitually grace my door unannounced. While the bottle was beautiful, and the literature described the product as an exhilarating liqueur combining the sweetness of virgin pears and soft scent of vanilla with a touch of the finest French Cognac, it has been my experience that most liqueurs that surprise me at my doorstep are there because no one else will have them and as such I have long ago stopped bringing in those strays (thank you Pumpkin Spice liqueur for eating my books, defiling my floor and then breaking out through the screen door before I even knew what hit me).

Despite my better judgment, and perhaps because of the fine packaging, I decided to go beyond the usual cursory glance and sniff and decided to give this product a taste. Starting with aroma, Xanté’s nose is one that screams ripe pear just plucked off the tree. Behind this, one gets slight vanilla and caramel spice. The palate echoes that, with the Xmas spice being a touch more pronounced. While this is a liqueur, it’s not overly sweet and possesses good body, backed by the cognac at a healthy 38% alcohol. It immediately made me think of fall, and of course cocktails.

My first experiment went as such, and it was a keeper:

Le Carre

1 ½ oz Ron Zacapa 23yr rum
½ oz Xanté Pear
½ oz Dubonnet
¼ oz Angostura bitters
lemon twist

place all but lemon in a mixing glass
stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass
garnish with a lemon twist

The Xanté shows through brilliantly, tempered by the spice and bitterness of the Angostura. The lemon twist, while just garnish, is necessary in brightening up the whole concoction with its essential oils. This one is a keeper, and has me excited about experimenting more with this product, and at a $40 SRP (it can be found for much cheaper), it wouldn’t make a bad Xmas gift for that cocktailian on your list either.


Le Carre

Pictures and drink by:
Jamie Boudreau
Cocktail Whisperer


Xmas Scotch

•December 2, 2009 • 5 Comments

It’s getting to be that time of year again, so I thought that I’d give you some ideas for Xmas presents for that Scotch drinker in your life. Without further ado:

Talisker 25-Year-Old (SRP $199.99)
This highly praised, award-winning single malt is matured in American and European Oak refill casks and is an extremely limited release.

Brora 30-Year-Old (SRP $399.99)
This single malt whisky is vatted from a mixture of American Oak and European Oak refill casks. This 30-Year-Old malt is indisputably from the makers of Brora whisky, yet in an attractive, softer guise.

Caol Ila Unpeated 10-Year-Old (SRP $59.99)
This rare edition natural cask strength single malt is the fourth limited release of unpeated Caol Ila whisky but the first that’s been aged for ten years. Caol Ila Unpeated 10-Year-Old whisky is made from a batch produced only once a year from unpeated single malt.

Lagavulin 12-Year-Old (SRP $74.99)
This limited edition is the eighth of a series of special 12-year-old releases from the original distiller’s stocks. Lagavulin 12-Year-Old is a natural cask strength single malt whisky vatted from refill American Oak casks.

Port Ellen 30-Year Old (SRP $369.99)
This whisky is a limited edition natural cask strength single malt, the ninth of a very rare series. Annual allocation of Port Ellen ensures availability of this irreplaceable malt for just a little longer.

Royal Lochnagar Selected Reserve (SRP $209.99)
This single malt is one of the last remaining traditional distilleries where the whisky is entirely handcrafted. Not typically sold in the US, Royal Lochnagar Selected Reserve is an extraordinary find.

Talisker The Distillers Edition (SRP $79.99)
Talisker The Distillers Edition is the first of its kind to be released in the US since 1994 and is double-matured in Amoroso Sherry casks.

Oban The Distillers Edition (SRP $99.99)
Oban whisky is made using only the finest barley, malted to the distillery’s own particular specification. This single malt was double-matured in Montilla Fino wood, giving it a fruit-tinged elegance.

Lagavulin The Distillers Edition (SRP $109.99)
Lagavulin The Distillers Edition was double-matured in Pedro Ximenez Sherry wood casks. This whisky is a distinctive and distinguished dram, delicately balanced by the grape flavors from the Sherry wood.

Caol Ila The Distillers Edition (SRP $79.99)
This single malt is an extraordinarily stylish and complex double-matured expression of Caol Ila whisky. The Moscatel cask wood is not over-evident but richly flavored yet also finely balanced.

Dalwhinnie The Distillers Edition (SRP $74.99)
Dalwhinnie The Distillers Edition was double-matured in Oloroso Sherry casks, giving it a rich and spicy nose with a dry and oaky finish.

The Tasty Awards

•November 30, 2009 • 5 Comments

While I normally don’t blog about my media attention or accolades, this one is just too cool not to mention.

As some of you may know, I’ve filmed a number of episodes regarding cocktail technique for a show we dubbed Raising the Bar for the Small Screen Network. Most of you are familiar with this webcast production company’s work via Robert Hess’ The Cocktail Spirit. It appears that both of our shows have been recognized by The Tasty Awards, which is described on their website as such:

What are the Tastys?

“There are the Emmys, the Grammys, the Oscars, and finally, the Tastys.”

Food, Fashion, Drink and Style, these themes have been the focus of entire cable networks, online hubs, mobile channels, and blockbuster films. They’ve launched chefs, restaurants, designers, celebrities, vacation spots, hotels, wineries, events and products … sometimes all at the same time. They’ve entertained us at home and on the job, and helped us aspire to make our lives more enjoyable and fulfilling.

The Tasty Awards were originally conceived and announced in 2008 as part of the first New Media Tastemakers Summit in San Francisco. The goal was to recognize and acknowledge outstanding excellence in video content focused on food, drink, fashion and design.

These beloved categories dominate a large portion of video / television viewership – as well as advertising spending and sponsorships — and yet they do not have their own awards for achievement . Until now.

Hosted by food and travel television star Zane Lamprey of “Three Sheets” fame (FLN), the show features a star-studded lineup of food and fashion TV celebrities, including Tyler Florence (Food Network), Joanne Weir (PBS), G. Garvin (TV One), Tanya Holland (Food Network), Leslie Sbrocco (PBS), Gary Vaynerchuk (Wine Library TV), Marcy Smothers (Radio), Novella Carpenter (Author), Anita Chu (Author), Dominique Crenn (Food Network – Next Iron Chef)), Brian Solis (New Media Guru), Marissa Churchill (Bravo, Top Chef), and more.

After years of planning, we present to you the Tasty Awards for outstanding food & fashion programs on television, in film, and online.

It appears that Raising the Bar is a finalist in the categories for Best Drink or Beverage Program-Web and Best Single Topic Series. Mr. Hess and Natalie Bovis-Nelson (Inspired Sips) are also up for awards, making every cocktail oriented program on the Small Screen Network a finalist for this event!

Here’s hoping that they seat me in between Anthony Bourdain and Meryl Streep!

Bacardi ad

•November 5, 2009 • 4 Comments

I’ve always said that Salvatore Calabrese couldn’t mix a drink to save his life!

Seriously though, this is pretty fun to watch:  it should be  a ride for bartenders at Disneyland, or used as a learning tool for how long and hard to shake Ramos gin fizzes.

Art of the Cocktail

•October 31, 2009 • 1 Comment

Art of the Cocktail is rapidly approaching. Don’t know what it is? Click here and/or read below:

A two day festival celebrating
the art, craft, and tradition of the cocktail.

November 7 & 8, Victoria Arts Connection – 2750 Quadra Street

The Art of the Cocktail opens the door to a world of elegant spirits: great classics, the fresh trend, the established players, niche bitters and the artisan, small, regional distillers.

Seasonal. Gourmet. Micro. These are all words that apply to making sophisticated culinary cocktails. True mixologists worry about the shape and size of ice, the quality of their bitters and finding the perfect balance of flavours. They tinker with dehydrators to crisp garnishes, smokers to lend complexity, flavour syrups, and these masters of the bar whip up fresh fruit purees, house made grenadine and raid the kitchen for exotic ingredients. The Slow Food movement has invaded cocktail hour.

Modern, elegant, expertly crafted and above all thoughtful are the styles that have come to define the best cocktails. Learn the alchemy of how to make and appreciate a proper cocktails. And then one day, with a little luck, you’ll be able to order or create a perfectly crafted Manhattan, Sazerac or Sidecar.

Cherry Old-Fashioned

•September 30, 2009 • 8 Comments

Once again, I wrote the following for a great Slovak bar magazine, entitled appropriately enough, Bar Magazine. Occasionally Stanislav will contact me and ask me to create a recipe for him in the “molecular mixology style” that will fit in with the magazine’s theme of the month. (Note: Unfortunately Stan has now moved on to bigger and better things and is no longer with the company)

This month our theme is the Old Fashioned, an august cocktail consisting of spirit, sugar, water and bitters, a very simple concoction which can pose a problem when trying to deconstruct into a “drink” made into molecular mixology’s style.

As cherries are often added to the old fashioned as a garnish I thought that it would be a fun idea to turn the cherry itself into the drink. This was accomplished by first pitting the cherries and then carving out the hole to make a goodly portion of the cherry hollow. When one is doing this, you want to leave the top of the cherry and the stem intact, as will be discussed later.

Next, one wants to take an Old Fashioned and mix it with the ingredients that you bought for last month’s recipe, the Caipiroli. This will allow some of the mixture to form a “skin” while most of it remains liquid.

As you fill your hollowed cherries with the alginate mixture you want to insert them upside down into the chloride bath so that all of the mixture stays inside the cherry, but a skin will form along the bottom of the cherry, sealing the liquid inside. Filling the cherries in this manner will make them appear untouched when you place them stem-side up, thus completing the illusion that the guest is just eating a normal cherry.

The complete recipe goes as such:


400 mL rye
50 mL simple syrup
4 dashes Hermes Aromatic bitters
4 dashes Angostura orange bitters
2 ¼ tsp sodium alginate
several pitted and hollowed cherries
place all but cherries in a glass container
blend with an immersion blender
fill pitted cherry with the mixture
lower into a calcium chloride bath
leave for ~ 2 minutes or until a skin forms around the hole
rinse off with cold water and refrigerate until ready to serve


2 tsp calcium chloride
250 mL water

When serving this drink, place several Cherry Old Fashioneds into a small dish and serve alongside a real Old Fashioned. This way you guest can alternate between eating the Old Fashioned and drinking it all the while noting how the texture plays a role in the flavour profile and how well the cherry works with the rye and bitters.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this fun twist on this venerable cocktail. Until next time!

Cherry Old Fashioned

Cherry Old Fashioned

Photography by:
Jamie Boudreau


Portland Watering Holes etc

•September 28, 2009 • 10 Comments

Portland is a mere two and a half hour drive from Seattle, and on occasion I’m able to escape to Washington’s Mexico. While there I stop at the bars listed below, and can occasionally set up a tasting or tour at one of the distilleries mentioned below. Oh, and I like  to harass the editors of my favorite magazine when I get the chance as well. Follow my footsteps with the map provided below.

Feel free to move around, zoom in and even click on the bar’s websites to find out more info.

As I’m sure that I’ve neglected more than one bar from the list, please note my omissions in the Comments.

Happy drinking!

Historic New Orleans Watering Holes

•September 27, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I’ve had the great fortune to go to Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans the past three odd years and in that time have had a chance to explore some of the great old bars that NOLA has to offer. I’ve even seen some great bars that aren’t that old. You can check them all out in the map below.

Feel free to move around, zoom in and even click on the bar’s websites to find out more info.

As I’m sure that I’ve neglected more than one bar from the list, please note my omissions in the Comments.

Happy drinking!

San Francisco Watering Holes

•September 27, 2009 • 7 Comments

Living in Seattle means that I’m less than 2 hours away from beautiful San Francisco, and I try to make it there twice a year. For those of you who are making the trip for the first time, I’ve decided to offer up a map of some of my favorite watering holes.
Feel free to move around, zoom in and even click on the bar’s websites to find out more info.

As I’m sure that I’ve neglected more than one bar from the list, please note my omissions in the Comments.

Happy drinking!

New York Watering Holes

•September 27, 2009 • 4 Comments

As I love traveling to New York for the bar scene, and try to get there at least twice a year, I’m often asked where to drink while in the Big Apple. I now have a Google map, so stop asking me!
Feel free to move around, zoom in and even click on the bar’s websites to find out more info.

As I’m sure that I’ve neglected more than one bar from the list, please note my omissions in the Comments.

Happy drinking!

Vancouver Watering Holes

•September 27, 2009 • 2 Comments

Having recently moved from Vancouver, I’m constantly asked by Seattleites (and others) where to drink while in Vancouver.  I now have a Google map, so stop asking me!
Feel free to move around, zoom in and even click on the bar’s websites to find out more info.

As I’m sure that I’ve neglected more than one bar from the list, please note my omissions in the Comments.

Happy drinking!

Seattle Watering Holes

•September 27, 2009 • 7 Comments

As I’m constantly asked by visitors (and some locals) where to drink while in Seattle, I’ve decided to offer up a map. Feel free to move around, zoom in and even click on the bar’s websites to find out more info.

As I’m sure that I’ve neglected more than one bar from the list, please note my omissions in the Comments.

Happy drinking!

David Shenaut

•August 1, 2009 • Leave a Comment

This is number two in our many part series detailing the cocktail luminaries of Tales and the drinks that they mixed this year.

This year at Tales there was a bit of grumbling about the fact that the West (Left) Coast was largely ignored by the judges at the Spirit Awards. As one can imagine, this grumbling was mainly done by people living on the west coast of the US, who having largely forgotten the Great West Coast Sweep-up of 2007, felt that the West with its many great bars, should’ve had greater representation at Tales. While I agree with the fact that I’d like to see better left coast representation at Tales, I disagree with the sentiment that we were left out. Looking at the bars/people that were nominated I’d be hard pressed to name a bar/person from this side of the country that should’ve been mentioned instead. Now having said that, if I were to name a bar that needs to be recognized one day, I think that I wouldn’t have to look any further than Portland, Oregon and to my good friends at Teardrop Cocktail Lounge.

AMSCo Collection

Teardrop just celebrated their second anniversary last month, offering an excellent range of cocktails (as per usual) designed for the occasion at insanely cheap prices while at the same time offering up a bottle of whiskey that was distilled before prohibition to those whose pockets were a little deeper. (Full disclosure: the bottles came from a case that I had purchased and had spread out to some of the better bars in the Pacific Northwest: see picture to drool.) Teardrop is known for its outrageously large array of tinctures and bitters, as well as other fun homemade ingredients, including their infamous smoked ice. As I said earlier, they are doing wonderful things here.

While I was there for their fantastic shin-dig, I marveled at how the bar team managed to keep up with the insane volume (and my pestering), while all the while exuding fun. This attitude is a sign of a great bar and in large part the responsibility of the two men behind the wood; the genius behind the program, Daniel Shoemaker and his trusty number one, David Shenaut. Daniel is such a giving manager that this year he allowed Dave to go to Tales in his stead, opting to man the bar while the rest of the world joined in on the greatest party of the year. If that’s not leadership, then I defy you to give me a better example!

Which brings us to David and Tales (that is what this post is supposed to be about after all). This year Mr. Shenaut volunteered his services as one of the Tales’ Apprentices (a woeful title, as most of these individuals are great ‘tenders in their own right), which meant that he got to batch and shake approximately a thousand drinks over the course of the event, and essentially made the event a fun and “wet” one for the likes of lucky bastards like myself. From the Tales website we learn this about David:

David Shenaut got his start creating seasonal menus filled with infusions and syrups at Roots Restaurant and Bar. After several years of neglecting vermouth and bitters, “Neon” Dave was introduced to his first Pegu Club by Christian Krogstad at House Spirits Distillery. This inspired Dave to put down the plastic flair bottles and placed him on a mission to learn the techniques required in creating a more complex and balanced cocktail.

For the past 2 years, Dave has worked at the Teardrop Lounge, specializing in classic cocktails and a seasonal menu featuring house made bitters, gastriques and liquors. He is a founding board member of the Oregon Bartenders Guild. Dave considers himself fortunate to be in a community that shares his passion for cocktails: the customers, the critics, and others in the industry. He supports the growth of local distilleries, and appreciates the finely crafted spirits that are being produced in the Northwest.

Dave also owns and works at Tommy O’s Pacific Rim Bistro, where he is gradually introducing the town of Vancouver, Washington to tiki and classic cocktails–one Chauncey, Pink Lady, Suffering Bastard at a time.

Dave currently enjoys all aspects of bartending and has been seen off duty juggling bottles barefoot in the park with his children. He looks forward to expanding his spirits knowledge and focusing on a sustainable farm-to-cocktail approach to bartending.

So let’s mix up the drink that David served at this year’s Cocktail Hour and raise our glass to Mr. Shenaut in hopes that that he and Teardrop (or some other worthy west coast bar) get recognized at next year’s Spirit Awards.


2 oz Don Julio Reposado Tequila
½ oz Martini and Rossi Sweet Vermouth
½ oz Loft Raspberrycello
1 tsp Cynar
½ tsp Fernet Branca
½ tsp Aceto Balsalmic
Orange Zest
Combine all ingredients
stir with cracked ice

strain into chilled cocktail glass
Garnish with orange zest

David Shenaut

David Shenaut

Drink courtesy of David Shenaut
Photo by:
Jamie Boudreau


Jim Meehan

•July 26, 2009 • 10 Comments

Over the course of the next series of posts I’m going to share the recipes of some of the luminaries that attend, and mix drinks at, Tales of the Cocktail.

One of my favorite events at Tales every year is the Cocktail Hour, an event that gathers the who’s who of the cocktail world into one room, and then forces them to make alcoholic beverages for lucky chumps like me. Now normally I would walk around the room taking pictures of each bar star, note their recipe and post here. Unfortunately this year the lighting in the rooms was quite poor, and I’m a horrible photographer of people, so the combination of both ensured that many of my pictures did not turn out. To add to my incompetence, this year Tales didn’t offer cards detailing the recipes at each table, in an effort to boost sales of this year’s Tales Cocktail Book I suspect. This would have been fine and dandy, but unfortunately all the recipes didn’t make it into the book so some drinks were omitted due to this lack of recipe. Anywho, enough compunctions, let’s get to our first bartender deity of the series and his recipes.

From his Tales biography we get this about Jim Meehan:

Jim Meehan’s career in the restaurant business began in 1995 while studying English Literature and African American Studies at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He worked his way from doorman to manager at both State Street Brats and Paul’s Club between bartending stints at The Great Dane and Café Montmartre.

One year after receiving his diploma in 2001, he moved to New York City and landed his first job at Five Points Restaurant on Great Jones Street. Two years later, he opened Pace, an ambitious Italian restaurant where he managed the bar and worked on the floor as a sommelier. When Pace closed, he spent over two years rebuilding the cocktail program at Gramercy Tavern while shaking drinks for renowned mixologist and mentor, Audrey Saunders at The Pegu Club. He currently runs PDT, a hidden cocktail lounge in the East Village where his work has been recognized by rising star awards from Star Chefs in 2007 and Cheers Magazine in 2009.

In addition to his work behind the bar, Jim is a contributing editor of Food & Wine Magazine’s annual cocktail book, Mr. Boston’s Bartender Guide and Sommelier Journal, a monthly trade magazine that features his bartender column. He has developed cocktails for numerous spirits companies, lectured at local and international trade shows and works as a wine and spirits educator.

Jim and his cocktails have been featured in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine, New York Magazine, Time Out New York, Food & Wine, Bon Appetit, Imbibe, Details, The Malt Advocate and Wine Enthusiast.

Unfortunately, what the Tales website does not say is how great and down to earth of a guy Jim is. He always has a smile on his face and always has an ear to lend; not easy feats when you consider how many people want a piece of his time. It is thanks to Jim that I was able to work on this year’s Food & Wine 2009 Cocktail Guide and have drinks in two editions of Mr. Boston Bartender’s Guide. He was even kind enough to name a drink after me and put it on his menu at PDT. If that wasn’t enough for you, he had to go and win this year’s American Bartender of the Year at Tales. It’s almost enough to make you want to hate the guy, but to do so would be an act of foolishness and unnecessary jealousy, so instead you should just mix up one of his concoctions and toast Jim, who, for one day at least, was King of New York.


1 ½ oz Plymouth gin
¾ oz grapefruit juice
½ oz Pernod absinthe
½ oz simple syrup
¼ oz anisette
3 slices cucumber (+1 for garnish)
6 mint leaves
add cucumber, mint and simple to a mixing glass and muddle
add everything else with ice
shake and strain into a rocks glass filled with pebble ice
garnish with a cucumber wheel


2 oz Jose Cuervo Platino
1 oz lime juice
½ oz Dry sack
¼ oz Benedictine
1 teaspoon St Dalfour Royal Fig
slice of fig
add all into iced mixing glass
shake and fine strain into a chilled coupe
garnish with a slice of fig


2 oz rye
¾ oz Dubonnet
¼ oz Fernet Branca
¼ oz St. Germain
stir with ice
strain into a chilled cocktail glass
garnish with a lemon twist
**a perfect example of why he’s a better man than I. He took one of my recipes, added Dubonnet and bettered the drink.

(Seriously though Jim, congrats and thanks for your support throughout the years.)


Jim Meehan

Jim Meehan

Drinks by Jim Meehan
Unworthy picture by:
Jamie Boudreau


Tales Winners

•July 18, 2009 • 4 Comments

So I’ve been asked to list the winners at Tales of the Cocktail this year, and to the best of my Sazerac-drowned memory the winners are in yellow, below. Congrats to all who won, and to all who were nominated.

World’s Best Drinks Selection

Criteria: A venue stocking an outstanding range of spirits and liqueurs. The judges will favor discernment as well as sheer numbers of bottles stocked.

The Merchant Hotel, Belfast
Le Lion Bar de Paris, Hamburg
ZigZag Café, Seattle

Best American Cocktail Bar

Criteria: This award recognizes the influence on cocktail trends within the United States and seeks to award the country’s best cocktail bar.

Death & Co, NYC
Pegu Club, NYC

World’s Best Cocktail Bar

Criteria: Only truly world-class bars will be considered for this illustrious title. Some bars attain worldwide recognition and this award recognizes the very best of the best.

Door 74, Amsterdam
High Five Bar, Tokyo
Pegu Club, NYC

World’s Best New Cocktail Bar

Criteria: Only bars which opened after 1st March 2008 may be nominated. This award aims to reward new creativity and ideas as well as well executed drinks.

Clover Club, Brooklyn
Drink, Boston
Quo Vadis, London

World’s Best Hotel Bar

Criteria: The classic ‘American Bar’ played an important role in the history and development of cocktail culture. The judges are looking for hotel bars, which uphold this tradition (but are not necessarily old) and offer five-star service and consistently well-made drinks.

Dukes, London
The Connaught, London
The Merchant Hotel, Belfast

American Bartender of the Year

Criteria: From Jerry Thomas onwards, American bartenders have been amongst the most influential on drinks styles and cocktail culture in general. This award seeks to recognize the most influential American bartender today. The winner should be proficient at making all recognized classic drinks and also have created contemporary cocktails, which have been copied by his/her peers.

Audrey Saunders
James Meehan
Phil Ward

International Bartender of the Year

Criteria: The absolute best drinks mixer in the world. The winner must have received international recognition of their work with their own recipes crossing borders to appear on cocktail menus in numerous countries. (US citizens are not excluded.)

Agostino Perrone
Charles Vexenat
Tony Conigliaro

Best New Cocktail/Bartending Book

Criteria: The best book published in 2008 regarding cocktails, liquor, and bars, bar design or bartending in general. New editions of existing works may also be nominated.

Cocktails Made Easy – Simon Difford
Mud Puddle Books – Greg Boehm
The Essential Cocktail – Dale DeGroff

Best Cocktail Writing

Criteria: Great journalism is one of the best ways to communicate to the general public the value and significance of great cocktails and related products. This award is for any non-book journalism (Magazine, Newspaper, Website, etc) that promotes bars, bartender, or cocktails in general.

Camper English
Dave Wondrich
Gary Regan
Jared Brown & Anistatia Miller

Best New Product

Criteria: This is awarded to what the judges consider to be the best new cocktail ingredient (spirit, liqueur, syrup or juice) or piece of cocktail equipment (muddler, shaker etc.). To qualify products must be on general retail sale in at least three US states.

Angostura Orange Bitters
Bols Genever

World’s Best Cocktail Menu

Criteria: The judges seek to reward innovative and thirst inducing cocktail menus. Both the design and content will be considered.

Hawksmoor, London
Le Lion Bar de Paris, Hamburg
Merchant Hotel, Belfast

Best American Brand Ambassador

Criteria: An award, which recognizes the importance of personality in the promotion of drinks brands across America.

Jacques Bezuidenhout, Partida
Julio Bermejo, Tequila
Simon Ford, Plymouth

If I Could Sum Up Tales With One Picture…

•July 13, 2009 • 3 Comments
Jacob Briars & Naren Young

Jacob Briars & Naren Young

Eagle Cocktail

•July 4, 2009 • 3 Comments

Victoria Gin

Victoria Gin

When most people think of Tales of the Cocktail, they usually think of the seminars, but that is merely one of the many reasons that one goes there for. Another reason, (and a more exciting one perhaps) to partake in the week-long party that is Tales is to experience the unknown: in this case, spirits. Every year, spirit companies and importers choose Tales to launch new and exciting products, or perhaps give one an opportunity to taste spirits that aren’t available in many States. Today we will discuss two such spirits: one that probably won’t be shown at Tales, and one that definitely will.

Victoria gin, the pièce de résistance of Winchester Cellars, bills itself as the first (and only) premium gin of Canada. You’d think that with Canada’s long standing ties to Britain that they’d be awash with the stuff, but alas, due to prohibitive government, this is not the case. Encased in a gorgeous, thick-glassed, hydrant-plug bottle, Victoria gin is small batch, pot-distilled and reminiscent of better Pacific Northwest gins.  Nosing of this impeccably clear spirit gives one juniper quickly followed by citrus. I found that the longer that this gin was allowed to breathe, the more the citrus overcame the juniper, until finally it nosed almost like a lemon vodka (this was over the course of hours). The palate entry is nicely textured, silky and sweet and one would not guess that this gin is 45% ABV. First tastings gave me an earthy woodsy note that made me believe that American juniper was used, but as the opened bottle took in some air, the earthiness dissipated to leave a much better balanced product than when first opened. The gin finishes with good acid and bitter lemon. Overall this is a gin that I would recommend to those that can get their hands on it.

The second spirit that we’re going to discuss today, is a creation by wunderkind spirit producer Robert Cooper (ok maybe he’s not a child, but he’s younger than me and doing a whole lot more with his life!), of St. Germain fame. Rob has gone back in time to recreate the wonderful, but until now defunct spirit known as Crème Yvette. A hybrid of violette and dark fruit (think cassis and Chambord) crème Yvette was famously known as the “blue” in the Blue Moon and the “sky” in the original Aviation. For the lucky ones out there that are going to Tales of the Cocktail this year, have it be known that it will be there for all to taste and cocktails such as the Aviation, Blue Moon and The Stratosphere will be mixed by yours truly.

UPDATE: due to my inability to read, I had mistakenly thought that Yvette was in the first recipe for the Aviation. It was not, as pointed out to me by Erik Ellestad. A quick check in Hugo Enslin’s 1917 Mixed Drinks confirmed that violette was used, but the Yvette makes a fine sub.

Since we’ve discussed a base spirit and a liqueur, I feel that it is only fitting that we mix a cocktail containing both, don’t you? Today I went to the Stork Club Bar Book, a tome that I’ve always enjoyed, but haven’t pulled from my shelves in well over a year. The beautiful thing about the Stork Club Bar Book, is that not only is it a snap shot in time, but that it also has a section in the book devoted entirely to morning cocktails. Ah, to live in an era where beginning your day with a cocktail was not only socially acceptable, it was damn well civilized! So let’s begin our day with the:


1 ½ oz gin
¾ oz crème Yvette
juice of half a lemon (I used ¾ oz)
1 tsp sugar (I omitted)
white of an egg
shake and serve in a 4 oz wine glass
(as with any egg drink shake hard. see here for more on eggs)

This is a very tasty drink that just wouldn’t have the same effect if one used violette. The teaspoon of sugar is more for texture than sweetness, but may be omitted if one has a drier palate. I’d tell you more about how delicious this is, but instead I think I’ll just keep it to myself and make you go out and buy a bottle of Yvette to find out for yourself. Until then!

Eagle Cocktail

Eagle Cocktail

Photography by:
Jamie Boudreau
Cocktail Whisperer