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.


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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.


Lodi’s Markus Wine Co. home of unique and delicious wines

I recently spent several days in the Lodi wine-growing region of California as the guest of the Lodi Winegrowers. Over four days, the group I was with took a deep dive into all things Lodi. We visited wineries, vineyard sites and had lunch at the home of a couple who own a terrific winery. The overall variety of wines we tasted was stunning in its diversity, both in terms of grapes utilized as well as styles they were made in. One wine brand in particular that stuck out for me is Markus Wine Co.


This project is part of Borra Vineyards. There are a few distinct differences between them, the biggest being that while the Borra wines are produced from fruit grown on the family’s own vineyards, the wines from Markus Wine Co. are made from sourced fruit. Winemaker Markus Niggli looks for great vineyards in the region and crafts wines in a fresh, modern style. We tasted Markus’ wines at the Mokelumne Glen Vineyard, one of his sources for fruit. The family that owns this vineyard and grows the fruit is dedicated entirely to German varietals. They carefully tend a broad array of grapes and sell them to artists like Markus who use them to craft lovely wines loaded with character. Markus also works with a nearby artist to create labels that merge imagery that brings to mind a place from his past, with the spot the grapes are sourced. Three of his wines really stood out for me. The fruit for all of these is from Mokelumne Glen Vineyards.

Markus Wine Co. 2014 Nativo ($19)

This wine is a blend of Kerner (75 percent), Riesling (19 percent) and Bacchus (6 percent). Fermentation took place over 10 days in stainless steel utilizing native yeast. It was aged in-tank for five months prior to bottling. Granny Smith apple aromas dominate the nose. The refreshing palate is studded with appealing flavors such as honeysuckle and white peach. Bits of sweetness emerge on the finish, which shows lemon zest and wet limestone characteristics. Firm, racy acid keeps everything in check. If you want to blow away your wine-loving friends, bring a few bottles of this gem with you, and they’ll be in awe of your wine-selecting abilities.

Markus Wine Co. Nuvola ($19)

This selection is entirely Gewürztraminer. All of the fruit was hand-harvested. Fermentation took place in stainless steel over 10 days using native yeast. It was aged in stainless for five months prior to bottling. Apricot and lychee fruit aromas dominate the welcoming nose. Hints of savory herb lead the palate. They’re joined by copious amounts of stone fruit, lemon zest, minerals and a touch of orchard fruit. The long finish is layered with continued fruit, spice, minerals and crisp acid. This is a lovely and singular expression of Gewürztraminer loaded with charm.


Markus Wine Co. 2013 Nimmo ($22)

This offering is a blend of Kerner (69 percent), Gewürztraminer (11 percent), Riesling (10 percent) and Bacchus (10 percent). Fermentation took place in a combination of stainless steel and barrel over seven days. Barrel aging occurred over nine months in a combination of French and American oak; 60 percent of them were new. Hints of smoke lead the nose here. The body has some nice weight and heft to it. Lychee, pineapple and lemon curd are all in play. There is a viscosity and mineral-driven nature to the mouthfeel which dances alongside a core of tart green apple notes and spice. The finish is crisp, long and refreshing. All of these elements come together to make this a remarkably appealing wine. This is one of those wines I had trouble putting down.

Lodi California has some truly exciting things going on for wine lovers. Projects like Markus Wine Co. are really setting a new standard. These are remarkably well-priced wines, produced from grapes one might not expect to find in Lodi. Of huge importance, of course, is the fact that they are exceptionally delicious, well-made wines that stand apart from the pack. The wines of Markus Niggli, along with those of quite a few other artisanal family producers in Lodi, are worth a special effort to seek out. Spend your money on these; they will make your tongue do a happy dance.

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