Drink of the Week: The Delmonico

Image ALT text goes here.The Internet tells us that there are over 611,000 full service restaurants located in the United States. We’ve all grown-up with the idea that, pretty much wherever we are, there will always be a meal, and perhaps a bit of relaxation, to be had at a sit-down establishment of some sort. That wasn’t always so.

Cooking for other people has to be one of the world’s oldest professions, but the restaurant somewhat as we know it is a relatively modern invention going back only as far as 18th century France. The identity of the first true restaurant to open here in the New World nation of the United States is probably a mystery, though the old Delmonico’s in New York claims the mantle of the first restaurant allowing customers to order items a la carte, as opposed to getting an entire meal for a fixed price. While countless establishments in New York and nationwide still bear the Delmonico’s name and serve alleged representations of the famed Delmonico steak (whatever that is), there is a lot of confusion about what the name “Delmonico” actually signifies. There is slightly less confusion about exactly what is or was the restaurant’s presumed house cocktail. Still, I can’t tell you who invented the Delmonico, but I can tell you that I’m stealing my recipe from the same place as last week.

This is a fairly serious drink for fairly serious drinkers. Not a lot of sweetness, but — as Robert Hess points out — quite a few botanical flavors courtesy of gin and both sweet and dry vermouth, plus a bit of grounding from brandy. It’s a nice change of pace for martini lovers and others who don’t need their cocktails to envelop them in a haze of familiar flavors. In other words, it’s a drink for grown-ups.

The Delmonico

1 ounce gin
1/2 ounce brandy
1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
1/2 ounce dry vermouth
1 dash orange bitters
1 lemon or orange twist (highly desirable garnish)

Combine all of the liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker or a mixing glass. Shake or stir according to your preference — I did it both ways — and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Add the citrus peel and prepare yourself for an adult cocktail experience.


Because I didn’t feel the desire to go out and spend a bunch of cash on delicious high-end vermouths I sensed might not work anyways, I stuck to good old $4.99-for-a-small-bottle Martini for both my sweet and dry vermouths on the Delmonico. My brandies were Martell and Raynal — not very different. I nevertheless did try the Delmonico several times with a few different gins, both stirred and shaken. Shaking made for a more easygoing, but less interesting drink. Bombay Dry worked well — producing a very complex and adult but nevertheless tasty brew, and I suspect that Beefeater, Robert Hess’s very similar choice, would work about the same. Plymouth Gin added a slightly sweeter note and was just fine.

Still, the surprising best result turned out to be the cheapest gin I used, James Bond’s favorite, Gordon’s. It’s a nicely smooth gin that can work very well in a martini since it’s floral element isn’t overly pronounced. Here, it allows the sweeter flavors to coexist more peacefully with the remaining floral notes of the gin and dry vermouth.

Finally, David Wondrich circa 2007 has an interesting alternative take on Delmonico with slightly less gin and Angostura instead of orange bitters. It’s not bad, either.


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Drink of the Week: The Captain’s Blood

the Captain's Blood.You’ve never heard of the Captain’s Blood and, until about 24 hours prior to when I began writing this, it didn’t register with me, either. I stumbled over this variation..I’m tempted to say “improvement”…on the classic daiquiri in Robert Hess’s trusty 2008 “The Essential Bartender’s Guide,” though this precise recipe is actually from Hess’s vlog.

It’s apparently a fairly old drink, and it’s name — quite probably drawn from the 1922 Rafael Sabatini pirate novel and/or its swashbuckling 1924 and 1935 film adaptations — suggests a prohibition or post-prohibition provenance. Yet, even among lost beverages, the Captain’s Blood is a bit of a dark horse. Among the better known cocktail tomes, it only appears to have shown up in David A. Embury’s 1948 “The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks.” The Embury recipe is severe indeed — the sweetest ingredient is dark rum. Fortunately, the Robert Hess version has just the right amount of sweetness.

The Captain’s Blood

1 1/2 ounces dark rum
1/4 ounce fresh lime juice
1/4 ounce simple syrup
1-2 dashes aromatic bitters
1 lemon twist (optional, but desirable, garnish)

Combine the rum, juice, syrup, and bitters in a cocktail shaker, add ice, and shake. (If you’re having a hard time measuring a mere quarter ounce, note that 1 and 1/2 teaspoons, i.e., half a tablespoon, is the same  as 1/4 ounce.) Strain into a chilled, smallish cocktail glass and add your lemon twist if you’ve got it. Try not to drink this one too quickly, as it has a lovely aroma, but it tastes good enough that you might find it gone in about 45 seconds anyway.


My first night out, I tried this drink with several different premium brands — Bacardi 8 (Robert Hess’s choice), Gosling’s Black Seal, and my old pal Brugal 1888, and the results were consistently very, very good. Later selections were a bit less stellar. Papa Pilar’s absolutely delicious dark rum seemed to overpower the thing while, conversely, Flor de Cana dark rum seemed a wee bit dry.

And there’s no getting around the seafaring connotations of this drink which has made it an occasional offering at tiki themed bars, though mostly in highly adulterated versions, I suspect. You can find recipes online that call for super-sweet Rose’s Lime Juice or maraschino. Who knows, they might not be bad. On the whole, however, I’m not in any mood to mess with the Captain’s Blood.


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.


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.


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