Monday, November 19, 2012


I find I'm not terribly inspired to write about the Martinez.  It wasn't all that pleasant, though I tried to rationalize it as an aperitif.  But neither The Partner nor I felt like finishing it.  It tasted very familiar and was not unlike the Leap Year or the Sensation.  

Below is the recipe.  But don't dwell here.  Instead, click to read a Cocktail Chat entry on bitters.  I needed to do a little research into Boker's bitters to see if I had what I needed to make substitutions.  As it turns out, reading about Boker's was much more interesting!

1.5 oz. gin
1.5 oz. sweet vermouth
1/4 oz. Maraschino liqueur
2 dashes Boker's bitters*

Sir with ice and strain into a chilled coupe.  Garnish with an orange twist.

*: Read the Cocktail Chat entry linked above.  I approximated the Boker's with a dash each of orange bitters and Jamaican #1 (allspice, ginger, & black pepper).

Cocktail Chat-Bitters

Bitters today
So if you've landed here from the link in the Martinez entry, you know that this Cocktail Chat is a result of the research I had to do to find out exactly what Boker's bitters are.  In doing so, I thought I'd also post some interesting cocktail trivia about bitters in general given they're such the rage these days.  

If you've spent any time in a trendy drinking establishment lately, you know that bitters are the hipster fetish du jour.  You can see evidence of the fad in even the most bare bones liquor stores.  Not long ago, Angostura bitters would be all you found, with Peychaud or orange bitters -- if you were lucky -- in the more "withit" shops.  Now you can walk into almost any liquor store and find shelves of bitters ranging from Aztec chocolate to "Tiki" -- whatever the hell that would be.  From the sublime to the ridiculous.  Gotta love a trend.

In general, bitters are infusions of herbs, spices, roots, and fruits with alcohol. They started out in the 19th century as tinctures and marketed for their purported health benefits.  Eventually, their use migrated to the mixological arts where they became exceedingly popular in drinking culture.  The lighter ones would be mixed with soda alone and served with ice.  Stronger ones were used in accents in more complex cocktails.  Their use in a beverage was the mark of elevated cocktailing and a bartender who knew what he was doing.  But, between the FDA lowering the boom on unproven medicinal claims and Prohibition, bitters were largely wiped out until only a few years ago.  Until the recent trend, Angosturas were the only kind available.

Sidebar: I for one, can testify to the curative powers of Angostura bitters.  Once, while out with friends in a crowded happy hour bar, I got a most debilitating and frustrating case of the hiccups.  I was the stereotypical drunk, sitting on my bar stool, wracked with intermittent convulsions accompanied by that telltale chirp that could be heard over the din of the bar.  My drink would slosh out of the glass if one hit while I was holding it, they were that bad.  I wasn't even drunk, for Pete's sake!  Embarrassed and uncomfortable, I was about to leave when the bartender approached me.  He saw me getting ready to take off when he motioned for me to sit.  He leaned over the bar:  "Hiccups?"
He put his palm up to me in a sign to wait a moment.  His hands disappeared below the bar, working something in the well.  A moment later he slid a cocktail napkin across the bar to me.  On it was a lemon wheel with some amber liquid soaking into the top of it.
"Eat the whole thing.  Rind and all."
I did.  And as sure as I'm sitting here, the instant that thing hit my stomach I felt my diaphragm relax.  "What was that?"  I shouted.
"Lemon & bitters.  Works every time."  Cured, I didn't have another spasm the rest of the night.  To this day it's my go-to remedy for singultus!
Bitters bottles from back in the day

Back to my research on Boker's.  As it turns out, they were produced by a company in New York.  With Prohibition, the company went belly up nearly a century ago.  Just recently a bottle was found still holding a small portion of the stuff which was characterized by notes of cardamom, cassia, and bitter orange peel.  Sounds pretty good, in fact.  With renewed interest in classic cocktails and the bitters craze, a company has reconstructed Boker's.  They are available from Dr. Adam Elmegirab's Boker's Bitters.

With all the different flavors out there, the wrong variety can significantly alter the taste of a drink.  However, the difference between a cocktail with and without them is noticeable.  As an accent, only a few drops add all kinds of dimension.  A simple comparison:  Make two Manhattans, one with and one without.  Do a side-by-side taste test.  You will see the difference and will never want a bitters-less Manhattan again!  

Friday, November 16, 2012


Friday night's brief happy hour started (and ended) with the Leapfrog before heading out to our fave neighborhood Mexican joint for dinner.  What made this drink so interesting, given its ingredients, is how much it tasted like grapefruit juice-- with the slightest finish of mint.  

It's quite possible there could have been a second round of these.  The Partner did have something witty to say and commented how he looked forward to seeing his humor immortalized on the blog.  However, it was the evening before the week's grocery shopping and I used the last fresh lemon we had in the house to make the one round.  And then there were the gigundo margaritas at dinner.  So I don't remember what he said that so hilariously summarized the bev and whether or not other rounds were even desired had the necessary ingredients been on the bar .  Gotta love Date Nite :-P

2 oz. gin
3/4 oz. lemon juice
1/2 oz. apricot liqueur
1/4 oz. simple syrup
2 dashes orange bitters
6 mint leaves

Muddle the mint with the syrup.  Add the rest of the ingredients and shake with ice.  Strain* into a chilled coup.  No garnish.

*:  You may want to use a fine strainer.  Small bits of mint, as you can see in the pic, will get through the standard bar strainer.  But since this has no garnish, I thought the few vivid green flecks bobbing around gave it some visual interest.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Dr. Feelgood

Tonight's cocktail results from a couple  influences.  Friday was our first Date Nite since returning from BFF, J's., quiquagenary cruise.  It was a gay cruise, so perhaps that's one reason why the boisson de choix is white.  But the real influence had to do with the fact that I made mulligatawny this week and couldn't let the rest of the coconut milk go to waste.

There's a dearth of good cocktail recipes online that make use of coconut milk.  That's where I had to go to source this drink.  So we can't lay blame a the feet of my usual sources.  No, the Dr. Feelgood was lifted from the internet (Alex's Cocktail Recipes).  That said, this looked the most palatable on paper, which isn't saying much.  There are a lot of nasty sounding cocktails online with coconut milk as an ingredient.  That is, unless your tastes are in line with current cocktail vogue and prefer thick sweetness in an up glass.

Is this unappetizing-looking?  Perhaps it's the context from which we recently debarked, but I found it challenging just to look at. On tasting, The Partner and I agreed:  it's essentially a thin pina colada.  But only a single shot of vodka up against nearly 6 oz. of fruit juice will do that. One was all we could stand.  No need to rush to try this one.  Unless you're looking for a "dietetic" bev, have some light coconut milk on hand, and can't stand the thought of putting money in Bethenny Frankel's pockets by purchasing Skinnygirl anything, then this could be a lighter choice than a real pina.

Dr. Feelgood*
3 oz. coconut milk
3 oz. pineapple juice
1 oz. vodka
1/4 oz. lime juice

Shake and serve with a lime wheel as garnish.

*: Measurements were originally in ml's.  So I converted and actually used about 2-2.5 oz. of juices.