Drink of the Week: The Anti-Americano

The Anti-Americano.People who know me in real life know that, if there’s a way to worry about something, I’ll find it. However, one thing I never worry about is running out of cocktails to write about for these blog posts. It’s not just that people have been making up new drinks since well before the Industrial Revolution, it’s the fact that making up a new cocktail is absurdly easy. Find a great cocktail, switch out one or two ingredients that work about as well, and voilà, you too can be the creator of a mixological milestone (that no one will probably notice).

This week’s drink is a definite case in point and I really shouldn’t claim any kind of ownership because lots of people must have made this drink before…I just can’t find any evidence of it. It’s a very simple spin on the previously featured the Americano and the Aperol Americano; it’s also a sequel of sorts to my earlier putative creation, the Ugly Americano.

Of course, just as the Ugly Americano wasn’t particularly ugly, the Anti-Americano isn’t anti anything. It’s just that this child of the Cold War can’t resist having fun with the political expressions I’ve grown up with. The drink itself though, is as far from controversy as anything alcoholic is likely to get. Whether you like your drinks sweet or sour, hard or light, own a moth-eaten Che Guevara t-shirt and quote Noam Chomsky on an hourly basis or adorn your home with pictures of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, you’ll likely dig this one.

The Anti-Americano

1 or 1 1/2 ounces Aperol
1 or 1 1/2 ounces dry vermouth
Soda water (to top off)
Cocktail cherry (somewhat desirable garnish)

Combine the vermouth and Aperol in a highball or Collins-type glass filled with plenty of ice if your using 1 1/2 ounces of booze, if it’s just one ounce of Aperol and vermouth your using, then you’ll do it in a rocks glass. Top with soda water and toss in a cocktail cherry. Try not to sip it all down too darn fast but, if you’re like me, you probably will.


I started down the Anti-Americano road because I wanted to use up a tasty open bottle of Vya Extra Dry Vermouth in my fridge before it went the way of all vermouth and stopped tasting as good. It seemed like it needed a garnish and I initially didn’t have an orange on hand, so I opted for a cocktail cherry over the traditional Americano orange slice.

Combining fizzy water with the dryness  of the Vya and the fruity, complex sweetness of Aperol, a favorite product of mine that’s been described as “Campari with training wheels,” made for a predictably refreshing, fruity, and balanced beverage. It still worked when I ran out of Vya and replaced it with inexpensive but always acceptable Martini Extra Dry.

The only thing that seemed to harsh the low-key cocktail mellow ever so slightly was losing the cherry and adding the orange slice. Don’t ask me why, but I guess the Anti-Americano just doesn’t want to be too much like the Americano.


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Drink of the Week: Tiger Juice

Tiger Juice.First of all, let’s get one thing straight: no tigers were juiced in the making of this DOTW post. Moreover, I’m pretty sure, the makers of Tiger’s Milk bars don’t actually have the courage to milk actual members of the feline genus panthera to make their product.

Now that we’ve got that straightened out, it’s my sad duty to report that I have no actual information about the provenance of this week’s drink or its rather silly name. It doesn’t appear to have been in any of the more famous classic cocktail books, though it’s certainly simple and straightforward enough that somebody must have made this drink back in the day. Who created it or where it came from before it lived in various places on the Internet is a mystery to me.

The real mystery, though, is why it’s not better known. I think Tiger Juice is another example of a cocktail alchemy at it’s best. Three simple ingredients that definitely add up to something greater than the sum of their parts. It’s juicy, refreshing, a bit alcoholic, and 100% tiger-cruelty free.

Tiger Juice

1 1/2 ounce Canadian whiskey
1 ounce fresh orange juice
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice

Combine the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with lots of ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Sip and appreciate the fact that you are both adjusting your attitude and getting a good chunk of your daily requirement of vitamin C, without any added sugar.

The benefits of red wine notwithstanding, I’m willing to bet that Tiger Juice just might the be the healthiest alcoholic beverage yet developed. The relatively high amount of sugars present in the otherwise very healthy OJ are balanced out by lemon juice, which I’m guessing has at least many goodies for your body with less than half the sugar calories.

Of course, the downside of all that would be an overly tart flavor profile. Regular readers might remember that I’m a bit of a baby about that. To my utter surprise, however, I found that simply wasn’t the case. Combining the juices with Canadian Club — still my choice for the best bargain in booze at about $15-$18.00 for 1.75 ml bottle — yielded a drink that was neither particularly sweet nor noticeably tart. Instead, it was tasty, refreshing and just boozy enough to be interesting. For low calorie tipples, I’d place this next to something like a vodka martini among sophisticated drinks that go down very easy.

That did change, though, when I tried other types of whiskey. Noticing that some online recipes called for bourbon, I found the sweetness of Maker’s Mark acted like salt on a melon in reverse, emphasizing the tart flavors in a way I didn’t particularly love.

While most recipes wisely called strictly for Canadian booze, I figured that rye, Canadian whiskey’s close cousin, might be a worthy substitution. The usually outstanding Alberta Dark Rye, which is actually from Canada, was actually too flavorful and overpowered the drink. Old Overholt, on the other hand, proved its versatility as the craft bar’s default rye and worked reasonably well…but I still preferred the gentle simplicity of the Canadian Club.

And that’s the thing. Ordinary Canadian whiskey gets a bad rap among the cocktail cognoscenti because it admittedly doesn’t boast the complex flavor profile of a really good bourbon or rye. The thing is, sometimes you want a little flavor, not a lot. And, yeah, I don’t drink them as often as I used to, but there are times when a vodka martini is just the thing. Now, maybe there are going to be times when Tiger Juice is  just the thing.


Drink of the Week: The Boulevardier avec Punt e Mes

The Boulevardier avec Punt e Mes. The Boulevardier, which hails from Paris (where else?), has been featured here before, but it is less well known than its very close Italian relative, the Negroni. You won’t find it in as many of the classic cocktail books — it doesn’t appear in Dale DeGroff’s “The Craft of the Cocktail,” nor Robert Hess’s “The Essential Bartender’s Guide,” nor even Harry Craddock’s epochal 1930 tome, “The Savoy Cocktail Book,” but it certainly has its fans. Indeed a frequent drinking companion has long been championing the Boulevardier over the Negroni, I myself was inclined to give it a slightly lesser standing. That changed, however, with my current interest, as described in last week’s Negroni post, in substituting standard sweet vermouth with it’s Amaro-esque cousin, Punt e Mes in classic cocktails.

What I found was that switching out the very bittersweet, borderline chocolatey flavor of Punt e Mes with the more straight up, sweet-winey flavor of regular red vermouth, produces a drink that — at least some of the time — can be almost celestial in its deliciousness and which, at worst, remains a reliably pleasing concoction. Let’s give it a whirl.

The Boulevardier avec Punt e Mes

1 1/2 ounces rye or bourbon whiskey
1 ounce Punt e Mes
1 ounce Campari
1 cocktail cherry or orange peel (desirable garnish)

Combine the liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker or, if you’re so inclined, a mixing glass. Add plenty of ice, shake or, if you’re so inclined, stir. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and add your garnish. As with the Negroni, you can strain this in a rocks glass with fresh ice, if you really want to, but I’m not particularly recommending it.


Most versions of the Boulevardier call for bourbon, but I’d steer clear of the sweeter expressions — my least favorite version of this included Maker’s Mark, which I’m ordinarily pretty fond of. Instead, using Bulleit Rye yielded a full-bodied blend of very sweet, very bitter, and just plain very good flavors. On the other hand, using a slightly less sweet bourbon like Michtner’s yielded a very nice result, so I’m not issuing any clear dogmas on the bourbon vs. rye question here. You can always split the difference and try this with a Canadian whiskey. Both Alberta Dark Rye and good ol’ Canadian Club were just dandy.

There are, of course, other variations. You can definitely play with your proportions if you like. The original Boulevardier called for equal proportions of all three ingredients and a lot of more recent versions are more whiskey-heavy. Try them all, I say. This drink can definitely withstand some experimentation.

Indeed, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the cocktailing trenches, it’s that there’s no perfect drink, and something that might send your tastebuds into the ecstatic stratosphere one night, might merit a far less enthusiastic response the next — even when you’re using the same ingredients and following the same procedure. Still, combining Punt e Mes, Campari, and whiskey seems about as repeatable a formula for boozey success as you’re likely to find.


Drink of the Week: The Negroni con Punt e Mes

The Negroni con Punt e Mes.One of the trickiest aspects of being a home cocktailer is simply having all the right ingredients on hand for the particular drink you want to be making at any given time. It gets slightly trickier with drinks that call for vermouths, since, even when refrigerated after opening, they have a pretty limited shelf-life. Most experts advise us to use a bottle within a month or two at the latest. Sweet, dry, or blanco, they all get progressively less tasty over time.

So, when I found myself impulsively opening a bottle of Punt e Mes, a bittersweet Italian vermouth and a longtime personal favorite, I realized I’d have to do something with it soon. Mind you, while I get some things for free — including scoring myself a bottle of Punt e Mes some years back — this was a bottle I purchased with my own cash and, at $25-$30.00 a bottle, it’s not particularly cheap. So, it was time to make me some delicious Punt e Mes cocktails…except there really aren’t all that many that specifically call for it in more than very small amounts.

If you’ve never tasted Punt e Mes, know that it has a rich, strong chocolate-like undertaste that makes it a notably different animal from standard sweet vermouth. If, on the other hand, you’re familiar with the increasingly de rigeur Carpano Antica it won’t be totally foreign; I think Punt e Mes is it’s bolder, more engaging younger brother. The story goes that it was created when some quina liqueur — a strong concoction of cherry and quinine, we are told — was added to vermouth. The name means “point and a half,” presumably referring to the proportion of sweet and bitter flavorings. In any case, while it’s very much it’s own thing, Punt e Mes can be substituted in most recipes that call for regular sweet vermouth

That’s exactly what I’ll be doing over the next couple of weeks, recreating a couple of cocktail classics and seeing what difference one little ingredient can make. For this week, we find ourselves with what is arguably Italy’s most famed contribution to cocktails, the Negroni. I’ve dealt with this drink back in 2011 and handled an interesting variation on the classic much more recently. Still, I think this version my be my favorite iteration yet.

The Negroni (con Punt e Mes)

1 ounce gin
1 ounce Punt e Mes
1 ounce Campari
1 orange slice (highly desirable garnish)

Combine the liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker, shake molto vigorously, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass, adding your garnish. Prepare your mouth for a multilevel taste treat.


I should add right away that it’s also permissible, and arguably more traditional, to strain a Negroni into a rocks glass over fresh ice — I just don’t like it as much that way, maybe because it tends to dilute the very sweet and very bitter delights of this particular mix. I tried this with both Bombay Dry Gin and Plymouth Gin and the results were equally good. I suspect even a value priced Gordon’s variation would have been just fine as well. Some Negroni recipes pump up the gin but, for me, that only lessened the pleasure.

In any case, if you’re used to Negronis made with standard Martini or Noilly Pratt type vermouths, you’ll notice a definite difference. That chocolate undertaste I mentioned before remains strong, bolstered by the very sweet but very bitter Campari and in no way compromised by the herbaceous lightness of the gin. Indeed, I think it’s a big improvement over a standard Negroni..but next week’s variation on a Punt e Mes theme might be an even bigger upgrade over the standard version of a different (though definitely related) drink. Stay tuned.


Drink of the Week: Workin’ Hard

Workin' Hard.Monday is Labor Day, a holiday with its roots in the American labor movement. I could go on about that, unreconstructed Bernie Sanders supportin’ liberal that I am, but you’re here for a drink, not to peruse my pontificatin’.

Anyhow, all this droppin’ of the letter G is brought to you by the good people at Hornitos. They’re the ones who persuaded me to use the final portions in my stash of Hornitos Plata to make something they call Workin’ Hard. It’s a very nice drink that includes an ingredient I’m learning to love which is not only new to me in a cocktail, it’s new to me completely. If, on the other hand, you’re more hip to the electrolytes than myself, this might just be the drink you’ve already been waiting for.

Workin’ Hard

2 ounces Hornitos Plata Tequila
2 ounces coconut water
1 ounce fresh lime juice
1/2 ounce agave nectar
3 dashes Angostura bitters
Lime peel (garnish)

Combine the ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously and strain into a Tom Collins/Highball or a double rocks glass over fresh ice. Add the lime peel. Appreciate the fact that, yes, you have to squeeze a couple of limes for this one but, as workin’ hard goes, it’s not really that much work.


The first time I made a Workin’ Hard, I forgot to add the bitters. It actually wasn’t bad without it, just a bit simple and mildly disappointing. With bitters on later attempts, it was a nicely balanced and very complete beverage. Not perfect, perhaps. Depending on the brand of coconut water you use and your mood, I suppose, it might be a bit on the tart side, but lots of people like that.

For me, however, the really important revelation was coconut water, a product I’d never before sampled. Lightly sweet and thirst quenching in a way that’s a little bit like Gatorade but a lot less gross, there’s got to be more cocktail mileage in this stuff.

And if you’re thinking that this is post is slightly shorter than usual and finding it ironic considering the name of the drink is Workin’ Hard, then all I can say is you don’t know how hard I’ve actually been workin’ in real life lately. I’ve got my reasons. Also, there is a companion drink from Hornitos I haven’t tried called, of course, Hardly Workin’. Will that be my penance?

And now for a ingredient-appropriate musical interlude featuring the stylings of Harry Nilsson, literally aping Ernie Kovacs.


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