Measure & Stir

A Craft Cocktail Blog for the Home Bartender that Focuses on Original Creations Drawn from Culinary Inspiration.


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Canon

The other day I popped into Canon for a night cap, and I asked the bartender for a drink with Fernet as the base. The drink he made was well-executed, and contained Fernet Branca, Cynar, and Campari, stirred and poured over ice, and garnished with an orange peel. It was a sipper, and a good one. For those who care, Canon is a collaboration between Jamie Boudreau and Murray Stenson, and the link on Mr. Stenson’s name there is a way more in-depth article about the Canon than I want to write, and probably also way more in depth than anyone cares to read.

The bar itself is beautiful, with one of the finest liquor collections I have ever beheld. Some may find it a bit pretentious — certainly the place is high concept. In the bathroom, an old-timey radio recording plays, consisting of far-away sounding snippets of conversation. The menu is also a bit on the snooty side, but they also made the extremely un-snooty to post it online. It contains several very intriguing flight, though I would steer clear of the rum flight. Neither Flor de Cana nor Appleton Estate is great sipper, at least in my opinion. Obviously they beg to differ?

If you could not guess, I like my bars a bit on the snooty side, so I feel right at home, sipping on bitters and watching experts make expert drinks. If you are from out of town, and visit only one bar in Seattle, I highly suggest that you make it the Canon. The biggest drawback is that on a Friday or Saturday, the place is so packed that you cannot enjoy your drink comfortably. If you are from Seattle and you have the luxury, you will have a far better experience on a Sunday or a Tuesday.

The drinks are executed to technical perfection, and are quite creative. The Smoking Monkey is a combination of banana-infused Jameson, sherry, and Ardbeg Scotch whiskey. They have an aged sparkling cocktail with rum, yvette, and lemon. I once made a rum, lavender, lemon drink and although I did not nail the preparation, I thought the flavor combination was excellent, and I am pleased to see a similar one in a world class bar. They have a punch that I have not tried, but it sounds brilliant, consisting of rums, cognac, citrus, champagne, and muscovado sugar. Muscovado sugar seems to be a bit of a food trend lately, and it’s one that I whole-heartedly endorse.

Here is a picture of my drink from that night, albeit a bad one. Bars are terrible places to take photos, though many young women seem to disagree.

Canon Bartender’s Choice with Fernet as base
1.5 oz Fernet Branca
.75 oz Cynar
1 Tsp of Campari
Stir slightly longer and then strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice. Garnish with a fat orange peel, oils fully expressed.

It’s possible that I’m over on the Cynar by a quarter of an ounce, but I made the drink a bit differently from the recipe here, and these are my thoughts as to a closer approximation. I tried to reproduce this drink in my home after carefully watching the bartender make it, but I did not prepare it as well as they did. Campari and Cynar are both on the syrupy side, and even Fernet is relatively viscous, as a spirit. When making a drink like this, it is necessary to dilute it a little bit beyond the level of a gin or whiskey drink. Otherwise, the texture will be too thick, and the drink will be unpleasant upon the palate. It’s a clever drink, though it is not for everyone, and

Yesterday it occurred to me that I have never actually explained how to express the oils in a citrus peel. After cutting it, gently squeeze it over the surface of the drink, making a fold with a slightly acute angle. Do this at several locations across the orange before twisting or folding it, and then run the peel around the inside of the glass before dropping it into the drink. But you probably already knew that, I think most people do.


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Fernet Alexander

It’s been a while since we had a Fernet drink around here, and for that I apologize. I’ve had this one sitting in the queue for a while, but it’s been very warm lately, and I wasn’t in the mood for a drink with heavy cream. No matter — the time has finally come. We’ve all heard of the Brandy Alexander, one of the few classic cocktails that endured even through the dark days of flavored vodkas and canned sour mixes. It was unchallenging enough that people still ordered it, even when their tastes were at rock bottom, drinking drinks like Sex on the Beach and the Key Lime Pie Martini.

Fortunately for all of us, craft cocktails have come back into the spotlight. The Brandy Alexander is quite a good drink in its own right, but clearly, the Fernet Alexander, a simple variation on a theme, has much to offer us. The bitter, herbal qualities of Fernet, the lingering flavor of mint, married to chocolate and softened by cream. I used my own chocolate liqueur, of course. It is a pleasant variation, but I found myself craving something sweeter, for once. I think the idea of the Brandy Alexander had set my expectations to dessert, and after mixing one of these, I immediately tried it again with Branca Menta. The end result was much closer to a Grasshopper, but with additional complexity from Branca Menta over Creme de Menthe. At least this one isn’t bright green.

Brancahopper

1 oz Branca Menta
1 oz Chocolate Liqueur
1 oz Heavy Cream

Shake over ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with grated nutmeg.

The original idea for a Fernet Alexander came from CVS. It is appropriate to shake drinks with dairy ingredients in them very hard, in order to froth the milk or cream. In this case, I probably should have shaken more, or perhaps even given it a dry shake; I love it when dairy-based drinks are a bit foamy. The logical progression from this is the Ramos Fernet Fizz, I think. Coming soon.


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Guide to Amaro

 

 

I have been working on making my own bitters, but that project is far from ready. In the mean time, I decided to write a post discussing various amari (singular: amaro. Incidentally, the title of this post ought to be “Guide to Amari”, but we all know no one is going to search for that. It’s all about dat traffic), their characteristics, and their uses. When I first became interested in craft mixology, I noticed that a lot of the recipes I found on the internet called for liqueurs with Italian names, and I had never heard of any of them, and I didn’t know anything about their flavors. Lately, as I browse around various cocktail blogs, the big shots know how to handle them, but most people mixing drinks at home are really uninformed, so I broke out all the amari in my home bar, and tasted them all again, just for you.

Most of these spirits fit a similar flavor profile. The flavors words that I am using to describe them capture a degree of variation roughly on the same level as wine. First and foremost, all of these taste like amaro, except for Campari and Fernet, which are more distinctive. and I’m not even sure if Campari counts. All Amari are liqueurs, meaning that they have a substantial quantity of sugar, but they also have a strong bitter note on the finish. Bitter flavors provide the bass line for your drink, and a slug of amaro is often a great way to achieve that. Especially when making aromatic cocktails, they are great for layering complexity on top of a base spirit, or for lending a touch of the exotic. Once in a while, you can even find one in a tiki drink.

On the whole, they have strong herbal flavors, and are generally drunk in Italy as a digestivo, though Campari and Cynar are more popular as an aperitivo. And indeed, after eating a steak or a burger, there is nothing better to calm the stomach and aid the digestion than a glass of Ramazotti or Fernet Branca, on the rocks. In fact, I’m going to have one right now. Just a moment…

Ah, nothing makes a finer night cap. I find that most of these spirits are great on their own. You do not have to mix them into cocktails to enjoy them, but at the same time they are another dimension to play with when making your drinks, and quite an enjoyable one.

First up is Campari, which is a scintillant red color, and that selfsame color is perfectly artificial, I assure you. In the past, someone told me that it is flavored with rhubarb, but I am unable to detect any Since I’ve been making my own bitters, I have had occasion to smell and taste the flavors of a number of common bittering agents, and I can now observe that almost all of the flavor in this liqueur come from Cinchona bark, though it does have a hint of orange flavor. I don’t think it technically counts as an amaro, but it’s still a bitter Italian liqueur, and if you don’t like it on this list, you can write your own blog post about it. I consider Campari to be an essential element of any home bar, as it is a critical ingredient in the Negroni, one of the pillars of classic cocktailia.

Bitterness – 7/10. Proof: 34 Pictured: Rojo Bianco See also: The Italian 50

Next up is Averna, which is dark brown, almost black. According to the internet, it has a citrus flavor, but when I drink it, I primarily taste the flavor of burned caramel. Honestly, I’m not a huge fan of Averna — it’s not quite as bitter as I would like, and it lacks the complexity that I really look for in an Amaro. It’s quite drinkable, and CVS has some fun ideas for what to do with it, but it’s definitely on my B list. I don’t suggest it unless you already have a decent collection, and you’re trying to round it out.

Bitterness: 5/10. Proof: 58.  Pictured: Caramel Apple Charged Punch (Probably the worst photo on my blog)

Amaro Ciociaro is perfectly black. I’m sorry to say, I don’t have any drinks with this one yet, but I will soon. In contrast to Averna, I think this one is great, and one of the first that I would purchase when stocking a bar, right after Campari, Fernet, and Ramazotti. It has an excellent bitterness and a spicy complexity reminiscent of raisins, plums, and winter spices. That said, you could probably substitute Ramazotti for it in most drinks, so it might be a little bit redundant.

Bitterness: 6/10. Proof: 60.  Since I don’t have a drink for this one, it’s probably a good time to mention my generic recipe for an Amaro Sour, based on Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s Amaretto Sour. The great part is, it will look pretty much exactly like the Amaretto sour, so here’s that picture, to jog your memory.

Amaro Sour
1.5 oz Amaro
.75 oz Cask-strength Bourbon
1 oz lemon juice
(optional) 1 tsp. 2:1 simple syrup
.5 oz egg white, beaten

It’s important to note that some amari are much sweeter than others, and some are much bitterer, so it’s important to taste the drink before you add any simple syrup, and then adjust it accordingly. Fernet, for example, will probably call for a quarter ounce, perhaps even a half ounce of syrup, whereas Amaro Nonino is so sweet that you probably won’t want any.

Moving right along, Amaro Montenegro, much like Ciociaro, is midnight black. It’s probably the sweetest of the bunch, with a citrus flavor that’s almost bubblegummy. I’m pretty sure it’s bittered with wormwood, primarily, and it has a nice sprucey, piney sort of flavor, similar to an IPA. If you are in the mood for an IPA-based cocktail, I think this would probably be the one to try first. When I last visited the Zig Zag Cafe, they served me a Pimm’s cup with Montenegro, and the combination elevated both spirits significantly. My Italian friend Gualtiero said that in Italy, they play advertisements for this spirit on primetime television, and he said he viewed it in much the same way that I probably view a spirit like Jack Daniel’s. Fortunately, as an American, I can enjoy it free of this perception.

Bitterness: 4/10. Proof: 46.

And speaking my friend Gualtiero, he was kind enough to bring me a bottle of Amaro al Tartufo, which is made in Umbria, where he is from. It is thoroughly black, and tastes very different from the other amari in my collection. It has a clean citrus taste on the sip, and then a lingering, earthy truffle finish. I’ve never had anything like it, but then, I’ve never taken an amaro tour of Italy. I think I feel a vacation plan coming on. Generally speaking, I have no desire to mix this into a cocktail, as the truffle flavor is delicate and easily squashed. Then again, it was wonderful when I mixed it with fresh, sweet tomato juice.

Bitterness: 4/10. Proof: 60. Pictured: Mary, Truffle Hunter

Amaro Nonino is malty brown, for a change, and very light and sweet. When I tasted it for this post, I was surprised to find that it was bitterer than I remembered, but still nothing to write home about. Friedrich Nietzche wrote, “When one has properly trained ones conscience, it kisses you as it bites you.” In an amaro, I prefer and inversion of this; I want it to bite me as it kisses. Unfortunately, Nonino lacks bite, making it much better as a mixer than on its own. It has a hint of vanilla in it, and it’s it’s as close to rum as an amaro gets, which isn’t terribly close, but hopefully it gives you some idea of the flavor. As I discovered when I made the above drink, it pairs swimmingly with Mezcal. My only complaint is that it contains a noticeable amount of caramel coloring, and I feel that it leaves a film in your mouth, much like Coca Cola. On that note, it would probably be great with Coke.

Bitterness: 4/10. Bittering agent: Wormwood. Pictured: Des Esseintes

Ramazotti is black, and probably my favorite amaro that isn’t Fernet. It has a blood orange flavor, and tastes almost like a not-sweet version of Gran Marnier. I am pretty sure it’s bittered with gentian root, the same agent used to make Angostura bitters. When I first tried it, I thought, “this is sweet and tastes like oranges. I wonder how it would be in a margarita?” The answer, my friends, is: terrible. Ramazotti is not nearly as sweet as triple sec, and the herbal flavors in the the liqueur really muddied the flavor of the fresh lime juice. Don’t do it. Do try adding a quarter ounce of it to your Manhattan; it’s simply divine. This is a must-have for your home bar.

Bitterness: 5/10.  Proof: 60.  Pictured: Chocolate Cochon. Not a great cocktail to showcase Ramazotti, but it will have to do.

Cynar is black, and substantially different from most of the Amari described herein. Of all the spirits I have described in this post, I would compare it most to Campari, though it is perhaps a bit milder, and has a definite vegetal funk. The aroma is not distinctly artichokey, but on the sip it comes through loud and clear. As with Campari, the bittering agent is definitely Cinchona bark. I highly suggest substituting Cynar for Campari in a Negroni or a Spritz. This is not a must-have, but it is a highly recommended.

Bitterness: 6/10. Proof: 34. Pictured: Arts District. See also: Dirt ‘n’ DieselLibretto

Cardamaro is light brown, and technically a fortified wine, whereas all of the other spirits here are aged infusions and/or distillates. It’s less bitter even than Carpano Antica, which is a sweet vermouth, to give you some idea. It is assertively herbal, however, and can be used just like vermouth or sherry in a mixed drink. It’s a great way to add some variety to your fortified wine game, and I love it, but it certainly doesn’t bring much bitterness to the table.  Before I tried it, I was hoping it was flavored with cardamom, but it turns out it is flavored with cardoon, which is similar to an artichoke. Since this is a wine, you’ll want to store it in the fridge after you open it.

Bitterness: 1/10. Proof: 34. Pictured: Memories of Fall

Rhabarbaro Zucca is black. I think it is bittered with both Wormwood and Cinchona bark, but it’s hard to tell with this one. Ostensibly it is a rhubarb-flavored amaro, and I don’t doubt that there is rhubarb in it, but the flavor of it is minimal. There is some sweetness on the sip that reminds me of rhubarb jam, but it’s faint enough that it could just be the power of suggestion. Sadly, this one goes on the B list along with Averna. You could substitute Ciociaro, Ramazotti, or even Cynar for it, and you would probably like the resulting drink more, in most cases. I will not buy it again.

Bitterness: 6/10. Proof: 32.

Rounding off the list is Fernet Branca, and if you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you already know how much I like this. Buy it twice. It is minty, bitter, and not sweet at all. I can tell you that it is almost certainly bittered with Angelica root, but I do not know if that is the only bittering agent. I suggest putting it in everything. Mix it with whiskey. Mix it with gin. Mix it with pineapple juice. On the weekend, mix it with the milk in your breakfast cereal. Mmmm, the breakfast of champions.

Bitterness: 7/10. Proof: 80. Pictured: Bartender on Acid

 


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Kingston Club

Via Jeffrey Morgenthaler, the Kingston Club is one of the best drinks I have tried in a long time. Seattle finally decided to get warm, so I’ve been drinking lots of highballs in an attempt to beat the heat. I’ve also been ordering highballs around the city, and I’m disappointed to tell you that even many craft bars will manage to screw up this format. The most common mistake I see is the failure to use enough ice. When you make a rocks drink, it is essential that you fill the glass completely with ice. If you don’t, it will melt too quickly, and you will be left with a watery highball, its flavor a mere specter of your intention.

For this reason, I don’t recommend ordering a highball when you are eating at a restaurant; even if the bartender was diligent, it may take your server a while to bring you the drink, and the ice will melt. I can’t remember where I heard this line, but I like to tell my guests to “drink it before the ice gets scared”.

I’d never owned a bottle of Drambuie before last week, and this was the drink that convinced me to make the purchase. I love its peppery, scotchy flavor, and I was intrigued by Morgenthaler’s use of this spirit as the base of a Tiki drink.

Kingston Club

1.5 oz Drambuie
1.5 oz Pineapple Juice
.75 oz Lime juice
1 tsp Fernet Branca
3 dashes Angostura bitters

Fill a Collins glass with ice and one ounce of soda water. Shake over ice and strain. Garnish with an orange peel.

If you followed the link above, you saw that his was a lot prettier than mine, but that’s OK, because mine was just as delicious. You would think that equal parts of liqueur and fresh pineapple juice would be too sweet, but the level of citrus in this drink was perfect, making it much dryer than I had anticipated. When I was planning to make this drink, I remembered it as having rather more Fernet than it actually does, but when I went to make it, I discovered it had only a teaspoon, which is exactly equivalent to 1/8 of one ounce.

Those who have been reading for a while will recall my love of Fernet and Pineapple, which was one of the main reasons I wanted to make this. As such, I apologize for the low amount of Fernet in this drink, and I will try to find one for you that has substantially more in the near future.


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Montana

Montana is a dive bar in Capitol Hill. I would not order a craft cocktail here, but fortunately, you don’t have to, because they have something nearly as good. What they have is Fernet Branca on tap. Is there any reason for it to be on tap? No. It’s not carbonated. It’s not even particularly cold. But who cares? Look at all that Fernet:

They also have a Negroni on draft, and it is carbonated, or mixed with seltzer water, it’s hard to tell. It was watery and disappointing. I’d rather have a glass of gummy bears. The reason you patronize this bar is the divey atmosphere, and the (relatively) cheap shots of Fernet. Ask for a slice of lime and squeeze it into the glass, to add a little complexity.

When I most recently visited this bar with my friends (yes, I have friends), a question came up as to the exact pronunciation of the word “Fernet”. In the back of my head I knew it was an Italian product, but it really looks like it wants to be said “Fer-nay”, as if it were French, and that is how I have always pronounced it. The bartendress who poured it for me referred to it as “Fer-NET”, and this forced me to reconsider my prior conviction. I looked it up on Wikipedia and sure enough, the ‘t’ is not silent.

As I look at the photo above, I notice they also have some Bulleit. Usually when I’m in a bar that has no chance of producing a proper drink, I like to order rye and tonic with a dash of bitters. If they give you an equal proportions pour, it’s a rewarding libation. You might even find yourself making it at home, once in a while. I guess  this place is trying to appeal to the cocktail hipster crowd, but in order to be a proper dive bar, the drinks can’t be too good.


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Correcting Coffee

Boozy Saturday was winding down, and for our final round we decided to correct some coffee. James had some Stumptown Gajah Aceh beans that were pushing the end of their useful lifetime, and we really wanted to try correcting some coffee with Fernet Branca. I don’t have any advice about brewing coffee, but James’ steampunk grinder looks really cool, so here is a picture of it.

We tried a few different concepts, but none of them were surprisingly excellent. Fernet and coffee on its own is just missing something. The bitterness from fernet is very different from the bitterness in coffee, but the interplay is not intriguing; both flavors are merely present. Rye and fernet is delicious, and rye and coffee is very reasonable also, but rye and fernet and coffee somehow blended to create the flavor of a rotting vegetable.

I apologize for the unappealing description, but it was truly awful, and I want to make sure that you don’t try to make a drink like this. A quarter ounce of simple syrup took away the worst of it, but it was still not a drink I would serve to anyone whose friendship I valued.

Still chasing the tropical flavor from earlier in the day, I added rum and maraschino, and came away with something much more drinkable, but I still wouldn’t endorse it highly.

Sloppy Hemingway Coffee

4 oz of Chemex-brewed coffee (Stumptown Gajah Aceh beans)
1 oz Dark Rum (Pusser’s)
.5 oz Maraschino (Luxardo)

Add spirits to hot coffee and stir.

It’s probable that there is some perfect marriage of coffee and rum out there, but it probably has Benedictine or allspice dram, not maraschino. Maybe it doesn’t contain a liqueur at all, but a bit of simple syrup. A tragic truth: the world is full of coffees and and rums, and you’ll never be able to try all of them with all of them.

And of course, our old pal, orgeat, was still hanging around, so we tried once more, and this was the best of the three, but still not quite where I wanted.

Mai Tai Coffee

4 oz of Chemex-brewed coffee (Stumptown Gajah Aceh beans)
.5 oz Dark Rum (Pusser’s)
.5 oz Orgeat Syrup

Add spirits to hot coffee and stir.

The almond latte is a very common drink, so adding rum to coffee was a very natural extension. I think the concept with this variation is sound, but the specific rum and coffee that we used were ill-suited to each other. A grate of lime zest might be a welcome addition, also. Fortunately, we can brew more coffee.


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Appetizer

I was looking for a drink to make with heavy cream when I happened upon this little beauty from CVS. The appetizer is perhaps oddly named, because with heavy cream and two very potent bitters, I think it walks the line between dessert and digestif. A proper aperitif should be dry and stimulating to the appetite, whereas this drink feels more like something to sip after a long meal.

The original drink called for Dubonnet, which I did not have, but on CVS he substituted Bonal, which I also did not have. I chose to use Cardamaro, because I find it to be similar to Bonal, though probably Dubbonet is more like sweet vermouth than Cardamaro. I wouldn’t stress about it, as long as you use a decently sweet and bitter and high-quality fortified wine, because Fernet and Angostura are the real heroes of this drink.

Appetizer

.5 oz Fernet Branca
.5 oz Angostura Bitters
.5 oz Heavy Cream
.5 oz Dubbonet (Cardamaro… I know)

Shake over ice and double-strain into a fluted glass.

The original recipe called for a cocktail glass, but I chose to use a fluted one, because the purpose of a cocktail glass’ wide mouth is to diffuse the fumes from the alcohol. The greater surface area of the cocktail glass also allows more heat to bleed into the drink, so it will warm quicker. I wanted to capture the aromas from the bitters when sipping this drink, rather than release them into the air with a cocktail glass. I also wanted to split the drink between three people, and these were convenient. But the logic is sound.

The sweetness of the dairy perfectly modulated the bitterness of the Fernet and Angostura. This was the most unusual drink I have tried all year, and I greatly enjoyed it. Somehow, the combination of spices and the cream made me feel like I was sipping on some kind of Tikka Masala. There was nothing savory in the drink, but still, the overall impression was one of curry.

I made this drink at the end of the night, and to be honest I was looking for something with a bit more of a dessert quality to it, so I mixed up a second round, swapping Fernet Branca with Branca Menta, which is Fernet Branca’s much sweeter cousin. The extra sugar greatly diminished the sensation of eating curry, and made this drink feel like a grown-up Grasshopper.

In the future, I will tend to make the Branca Menta variation, but I encourage you to try it both ways.


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Pineapple and Fernet

Last Saturday was a great day. James had just purchased his first bottle of Fernet Branca, and the occasion merited a thorough exploration of the ingredient. Pineapple juice and Fernet is one of those few truly extraordinary flavor pairings, like chocolate and peanut butter, or foie gras and sauternes, and I wish it were better-known.

Moreover, fresh pineapples have a limited window of availability, and I like to get while the gettin’s good, so I juiced a whole pineapple, and separately, a few ginger roots, and took them to the party. For our first drink of the day, I mixed up a Bartender On Acid. I first learned of this drink through CVS, and I fell in love with it because it was a classed up version of a prole drink, like Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady.

Bartender On Acid

1 oz Fernet Branca
1 oz Fresh Pineapple Juice
1 oz Traditional Rum (Wray and Nephew)

Shake over ice and double strain. Serve “Up”.

The Bartender on Acid is a highly improved version of that old college classic, the Surfer On Acid, a trainwreck of a shooter containing equal measures of canned pineapple juice, Jagermeister, and Malibu. Fernet Branca has the same dark, herbal, bitter personality that Jager does, but it has much more subtlety, and much more bitterness. It also has the alluring quality that frat boys don’t really drink it.

A traditional rum such as Wray and Nephew or Smith and Cross replaces the Malibu’s artificial coconut flavor with a hefty slug of “hogo“, the sulfurous, grassy, funky quality of rum which is distilled from molasses in a pot still, as in the traditional style. It’s rare to see an equal portions drink achieve such an excellent balance. A+, would drink again.

For round two, I was feeling inspired by this post at the Tiki Speakeasy, so I decided to put that pineapple juice to good use with a couple of original creations. Ginger and pineapple is another great pairing, and so is ginger and fernet, so I had it in my mind to combine the three of them into a highball.

Piña Branca

1.5 oz Pineapple Juice
1.5 oz Pusser’s Rum
.5 oz Lime Juice
.5 oz Fernet Branca
3 barspoons Fresh Ginger Juice
1 oz Ginger Beer

Combine all except ginger beer in a shaker, shake over ice and double strain over fresh ice. Top with ginger beer and garnish with a pineapple slice and a lime wheel.

Double-down on your garnishes when you’re making a tiki drink. It has to look exotic, and we accomplish that with more cut fruit. I added a few spoonfuls of fresh ginger juice to this drink to add a ginger spice, and relied on the ginger beer to contribute the necessary sugar.

It was very refreshing, but without any simple syrup, the whole drink was very dry, perhaps too dry for some palates. Such a drink is to my taste., but we also had some orgeat hanging around from the Trinidad Sour, and James wanted to see how the orgeat would fit into this drink.

Marzipiña

1.5 oz Pineapple Juice
1.5 oz Pusser’s Rum
.5 oz Lime Juice
.5 oz Fernet Branca
3 barspoons Fresh Ginger Juice
.75 oz Orgeat Syrup
1 oz Ginger Beer

Combine all except ginger beer in a shaker, shake over ice and double strain over fresh ice. Top with ginger beer and garnish with a pineapple slice and a lime wheel. Cut the pineapple so that it’s eating the lime wedge, like Pac Man.

I tasted this drink with only .5 oz of the orgeat, and it didn’t really have the almond sweetness that I was looking for. The addition of orgeat covered up the fernet, and I didn’t want to add any more lest I upset the balance between the other flavors. The addition of sugar to the drink made it much more approachable, and I think that a mint leaf might help bring the fernet back into focus.

This variation will probably suit most peoples’ tastes more than the Piña Branca, and I’m fine with that, as long as it keeps them off of the Malibu.


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Orgeat Syrup and Trinidad Sour

Unfortunately, we now return to your regularly scheduled amateur photography by me.

After an excursion to Smith’s on Capitol Hill, James was inspired to make orgeat syrup using this Serious Eats recipe. It is often the case for me, too, that I will be moved to recreate a drink after ordering it at a bar or a restaurant. The drink on the menu at Smith’s was called a Trinidad Sour, and when I heard the name I thought perhaps James had stumbled onto this Trinidad Sour that made a splash a few years ago by using Angostura as a base spirit.

And indeed, the drink at Smith’s seems is very similar to the one that I remembered, except it uses Fernet instead of Angostura for its bitter component. Mint and orgeat go very well together, as we know from the Mai Tai, so it is a reasonable and interesting substitution, though it required very different proportions.

Smith’s Trinidad Sour

1.5 oz Rye Whiskey (Old Overholt)
.5 oz Fernet Branca
.5 oz Lemon Juice
.5 oz Orgeat Syrup

Shake over ice and double-strain into a cocktail glass. Gently float a lemon wheel on top.

The home-made orgeat was very milky, and had a much nuttier flavor than the Monin Orgeat that I have been using lately. The Monin has the marzipan/almond extract flavor that you expect in an orgeat syrup, but it does not actually taste all that much like an almond. The home-made syrup, on the other hand, was more reminiscent of sweet almond milk, and the orange flower water was very discernible, and pleasant. As you can see from the photo, it gave this drink a creamy color and texture. If you’re on the fence about fernet, this is probably a great drink to aid you on your journey.

Drinking this put me in the mood for the original, and I wanted to see how the fernet version compared to the Angostura version, so I made one of those, too:

Trinidad Sour

1.5 oz Angostura Bitters
1.5 oz Orgeat Syrup (Homemade)
1 oz Lemon Juice
.5 oz Rye (Old Overholt)

Shake and double-strain into a coupe glass.

I had thought this drink would be less accessible than the Fernet version, but I was wrong. The Angostura Trinidad Sour is sweet and spicy, and it tastes like cinnamon, clove, and cherry wood. Equal parts of syrup and bitters cuts all of the challenge away from the Angostura, and gives the drink a cotton candy quality that I don’t mind, but that I don’t crave. I suspect I would prefer it with only an ounce of syrup, and I will be trying that variation soon.

I adore the color of the Angostura bitters version, however; Angostura has an oily, staining red color to it, and with the cloudiness from the orgeat, it has a distinctive and striking appearance. Even so, if you only make one of these, I suggest the Fernet version, but both are excellent.


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Dirt and Diesel

Today I would like to present one of my all-time favorite cocktails, the Dirt and Diesel. This drink is reminiscent of the much more traditional Corn N’ Oil, a potion of blackstrap rum and falernum, a tiki ingredient that I promise I will make one of these days. The Dirt and Diesel was invented by a bartender at one of my favorite Seattle bars, Tavern Law, and it truly does have an industrial sort of flavor from Cynar and Fernet Branca.

Dirt and Diesel
(by Cale Green, Tavern Law and Needle & Thread, Seattle)

2 oz Cruzan Black Strap Rum (Kraken)
.5 oz Fernet-Branca
.5 oz Demerara sugar syrup
.25 oz Cynar
.25 oz lime juice

Shake over ice and double-strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime wheel.

To be honest, the Cynar is not very prominent in this drink, hiding as it is behind double its volume of Fernet Branca, but it is there if you look for it. When I first tasted this drink at the bar, I went home that same night and tried to replicate it out of my own head. I came pretty close, but I mixed up the proportions of the half ounce and quarter ounce ingredients. It looked like this:

Poorly-Recreated Dirt and Diesel

1.5 oz Black Strap Rum (Kraken)
.5 oz lime juice
.5 oz Cynar
.25 oz Fernet Branca
.25 oz Demerara sugar syrup

My version was too juicy, and not as balanced, so don’t make it, except switching the Fernet and Cynar is a fun variation. As for the real version of the drink, it is one of my all-time favorite mixed drinks, and an excellent way to enjoy that queen of spirits, Fernet Branca. If you do not have Fernet Branca in your home bar, what are you doing, son?

Also, a word on Demerara sugar syrup; Demerara sugar, or turbinado sugar, or “sugar in the raw”, for those of us who are ready, is not as sweet by volume as more refined sugars, and must be made in a ratio of 2:1 sugar:water in order to be adequately sweet. If you don’t have any Demerara sugar, or you are very lazy, I won’t be offended if you make brown sugar syrup instead, and probably no one will really know, but you’ll know, and that should be enough to move your conscience.

As with the Whiskey Fix, photo credit goes to my friends Michael Schmid, John Sim, and Matt Barraro.