The Italian Mistress

The Italian Mistress.I’m guessing that, even if you weren’t getting hammered specifically on Conhattans or Shamrock Sours last weekend, at least a few of you were overindulging. For your sake, I’m hoping you weren’t overdoing it on bad green beer (is there ever good green beer?) and, if you were doing shots, I’m hoping it was on the good Irish stuff. (I’m personally partial to Bushmills.)

All of that is now in the past, and it’s time to recuperate with a drink that — unusually for DOTW — features not a single drop of hard liquor. Just some of my personal favorite mildly alcoholic grape derivatives. One of them happens to be this week’s sponsor, an old favorite of mine previously featured here several times, most memorably (to me) in the Ugly Americano. I speak of Punt e Mes, which basically tastes like regular sweet vermouth imbued with the spirit of the best dark chocolate you ever had.

Also, as readers of an online men’s magazine, you guys have got to love the name of this week’s tasty but tempestuous beverage.

The Italian Mistress

1/2 ounce Punt e Mes
1/4 ounce simple syrup
3-4 dashes Angostura Bitters
Sparkling white wine
1 orange twist (garnish)

Combine the Punt e Mes, bitters and syrup in the bottom of champagne flute or, if you haven’t got one, a regular champagne glass — in which case you might want to reduce the proportions of syrup and vermouth as flutes tend to be larger. (If you don’t have any simple syrup on hand, by the way, a dissolved teaspoon or less of superfine sugar will also work.) Top off with the sparkling white wine…very carefully. Excess foam can be a factor.

Once your drink is fully poured, add your orange twist. Now, sip and salute the Italian mistresses of the world, not that we have anything but good thoughts for Italian wives and girlfriends.


This is a pretty simple and straightforward drink, which is one reason why I like it. However, the recipe that came to me simply said it was to be built in a champagne glass, so I originally made this in a smaller regular champagne glass which I also happen to use as a cocktail glass, since it’s essentially the same thing. (The Y-shaped martini glass is a relatively modern invention. Nick and Nora Charles drank their martinis and Manhattans from champagne glasses/coupes and so do I, most of the time.)

It was only when I received the picture above that I realized I was using a slightly wrong glass. I have to admit it was a better balanced drink in the flute, but the version in the champagne glass did put the Punt e Mes a bit more forward, and that’s realy never a bad thing.The one thing I will say is never stint on the bitters on this one. Though Punt e Mes has more than its share of bitter notes, the Angostura is definitely needed to sort of counter-intuitively smooth things over.

The one place where I may have gone wrong was on my choice of bubbly. I stumbled over a very cheap genuine Champagne which had a slightly unpleasant bitterness to it and which I therefore can’t quite recommend.  Still, the drink was sturdy enough to absorb that small blow. After all, any Italian mistress should be able to deal with a bit of French unpleasantness.

Now, we mambo.


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Drink of the Week: The Vieux Carre

The Vieux Carre.Like most Americans, I’m not exactly a polyglot. Four years of junior high and high school Spanish have been of great assistance in helping me to order  items at taco trucks; three quarters of college French allow me to chuckle knowingly to myself when “merde!” is translated as “damn!” in subtitles. So, I can’t properly pronounce the name of the Vieux Carre, but I can tell you it means “old square.” That square, as it turns out, is off of Bourbon Street in New Orleans, and this is another fine cocktail associated with America’s most intriguing cocktail capital.

Quite obviously, however, this is not in the same category as a Hurricane and it’s not the one of the scary, gigantic green drinks featured on this year’s season premiere of “Bar Rescue.” While, for me, the Vieux Carre doesn’t quite achieve the classic cocktail nirvana of a Sazerac, this is one beverage that actually gets tastier the longer you let it sit. It’s perfect for a long conversation and, by the end of it, even ever-so-justifiably-furious bar rescuer John Taffer might get mellow enough to maybe stop shouting for just a second.

The Vieux Carre

3/4 ounce rye whiskey
3/4 ounce cognac or brandy
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth
1 teaspoon Benedictine
2 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
2 dashes aromatic  bitters (Angostura or similar)
1 lemon twist (garnish)

Making this drink is about as easy to make as it is to get a buzz going in the French Quarter. Build over some ice cubes in a rock glass, stir, and add the lemon twist. Toast whatever or whomever you like, but do so slowly.


I’m very sorry to say that this week’s post completes my trilogy of drinks of cocktails featuring Camus’s Ile de Ré Fine Island Cognac. Sadly, that’s the case because I polished off the bottle last night. No disrespect to my value-priced go-to brandy, Reynal, but there’s a reason the Camus people get to charge the big bucks for this stuff. It’s great in a cocktail and remarkably easy and pleasurable to drink neat. Good thing I still have a few airplane bottles of various Ile de Ré expressions in my alcohol laden larder.

My rye for this double-base spirit cocktail was another new freebie favorite we’ve featured here before, the lovely Templeton Rye, previously featured in the Capone.  I usually lean towards higher proof ryes like my old pal, 100 proof Rittenhouse, but that might have been a bit much in this context; Templeton’s more mellow flavor makes it a pretty perfect match for a Vieux Carre.

I experimented quite a bit with the other ingredients. Many recipes call for more booze and somewhat less of the Benedictine — a very sweet herbal liqueur which famously mixes well with brandy. I also tried three different sweet vermouths, all favorites. The lightest was Noilly Pratt, which was very nice, but an even better result was achieved with the greatness that is Carpano Antica. (Yet another freebie previously featured here).

I also tried it with another great product I’ll be featuring later, Punt e Mes. In that instance, it sort of dominated the cocktail but, since I love, love, love me some Punt e Mes, I didn’t really mind.

One final note, apparently to really do the Vieux Carre right, some people suggest you should make it with just one very large ice cube. Sounds cool, but I guess I need to find an ice cube tray that make 3″x 3″ ice cubes.



Drink of the Week: The Honolulu

the Honolulu

Last month, I was faced with the challenge of coming up with a cocktail to justify those free bottles of Booker’s and Baker’s bourbon that the Jim Beam Small Batch folks so kindly sent my way. This week, I have another — and I think even better — cocktail usage for these justifiably widely praised high-proof and moderately pricey bourbons.

The Beam folks might insist that the best way to enjoy these bourbons is with just a splash of water or an ice cube, but I think they really work well in this week’s drink. It’s a bitters-free variation on the Manhattan (originally featured on BE here) that really comes into its own with a bourbon packed with flavor, and alcohol, than on an ordinary 80-90 proofer. It’s also about as simple as a cocktail gets.

The Honolulu

1 ounce bourbon
1 ounce dry vermouth
1 ounce sweet vermouth
Lemon twist (garnish)

Combine in the bourbon and vermouth in a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice. Depending on your preference, stir or shake (I shake) vigorously. Strain into a highly chilled cocktail glass, add the lemon twist, and drink. You may also ponder what the connection could possibly between this drink and the famed Hawaiian metropolis. I haven’t a clue.


At least using Booker’s or Baker’s, this is a very refined drink for people who enjoy a lot of intriguing flavors dancing across the tongue. While using the very high-proof Booker’s resulted in a gentle-yet-tongue tickling beverage with a subtly spicy flavor, I actually leaned towards the version I made with Baker’s. At 107 proof, Baker’s is practically children’s fare compared to the massive 128.5 power of Booker’s, but at least using the Martini vermouths I had on hand, the result was actually more complex and intriguing.

I did try to experiment with this drink by substituting Punt e Mes for the sweet vermouth and adding a Badabing cherry. You know how they say that most experiments fail? Stick with the traditional Honolulu. This is a cocktail that’s interesting enough to entertain the brain while powerful enough to (oh so pleasantly) dull it. No reason to mess with something this good.

Say goodnight, Gracie and Eleanor.

[Writer’s note: I’d like to dedicate this post to my mother, Charlotte Bows Westal, who went on to the great Coconut Grove in the sky at age 84, shortly after this post was put together earlier this week. Mom was never a really a writer, a big drinker, or a connoisseur, but she knew the value of good grammar and a well-stocked bar — even if she wasn’t above pouring the cheap stuff into bottles of the good stuff or reading questionable bestsellers. She would have liked today’s clip, too, I think. Maybe she even saw it on the big screen back in ’39.]


Drink of the Week: The Ugly Americano

The Ugly Americano

I admit it, I’ve gone mad and, like last week, this one’s mine. Yes, I’ve gone mad with the power to create my own drinks — even if no one but me actually tries them — and a bit insane over how tasty this Aperol stuff I picked up a few weeks ago is. I can’t claim credit for the sweetly piquant liqueur’s first DOTW appearance two weeks back, the Aperol Americano, as it’s a common enough substitution. This week, however, I’ve changed things up enough that I think it’s possible that I can claim to have created a variation on a classic original.

This drink is, of course, based on the Americano, a real favorite of mine. I have, however, switched out the two main ingredients. Once again, I’ve replaced Campari with it’s milder but more complex cousin, Aperol. This time, however, I’ve also replaced ordinary sweet vermouth with Punt e Mes, a much bolder sort of vermouth with more than a hint of Aperol/Campari-esque bitter sweetness. It’s also often used as a substitute for vermouth in drinks like the Americano.

Even so, the particular drink below hasn’t been featured anywhere that I know of…though, come to think of it, it probably has been tried and written up someplace. I just hope I never hear about it, because I love this drink so much I want to hog as much credit for it as possible. That’s also why I’ve upped the proportions a bit from the typical Americano. For one thing, Aperol has less alcohol than Campari. More important, however, an Ugly Americano should be slightly excessive.

The Ugly Americano

1 1/2 ounces Aperol
1 1/2 ounces Punt e Mes
Soda water
Orange slice (highly recommended garnish)

Pour the Aperol and Punt e Mes over ice in a chilled Tom Collins/highball or similarly sized glass. Add the orange slice and top off with soda water. (Following the snobby practice of Ian Fleming, I used Perrier this time around, as it was on sale.) Stir for a moment and sip. Ummh, good.

Yes, with this drink I throw all objectivity to the four winds. I pat myself on the back and follow it with a hearty, though weird, self-embrace.

That might be going a bit far in the eyes of others, but I really do think this drink has real potential. It’s sweeter than an Americano but I think it maintains its respectability by adding even more complexity than the original. Seriously, folks, this drink is so tasty I can’t possibly be the first person to have tried it. Right?


Drink of the Week: The Red Hook

the Red Hook So, Drink of the Week Central has about completed its cross So-Cal move northward from far-away Anaheim and through the Orange Curtain to Van Nuys, gateway to Reseda and Studio City. I’ve also recently completed my boozeriffic Comic-Con special assignment.

At last, it is time to resume business as usual here at DOTW. We return with a drink that feels classic but is actually a rank newcomer from this still very young century.

First, however, let me say that this week’s column is brought to you by whoever was kind enough to send me a bottle of Knob Creek‘s brand spanking new rye. I know Knob Creek’s bourbon, which I like but also fear for its fire. If anything, I have to say I like their rye a lot better. Much as I love my standby 100 proof Rittenhouse Rye, the similarly potent Knob Creek does bring an extra touch of class and drinkability to the game. On its own, it’s about as sippable as I can imagine a 100 proof rye being, though records were made to be broken and all that.

Of course, give me a bottle of booze and I’ll start looking for cocktails to make with it. And so we come to a beverage that was named one of the best cocktails of this century’s first decade and is credited to bartender Enzo Errico. When a Manhattan just won’t quite do the job, it’s time to head for Brooklyn and today’s drink.

The Red Hook

2 ounces rye whiskey
1/2 ounce Punt e Mes
1/4 ounce maraschino liqueur
1 maraschino cherry (optional garnish)

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker with lots of ice. Stir for a good long time — most say about thirty seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail class. Add maraschino cherry if you’ve got one. (I didn’t.) Sip and toast new beginnings. (It might actually be a small improvement, if heretical in some quarters, to shake this drink, but I was feeling traditional this week.)


While my attempts certainly turned out well using the new Knob Creek Rye, I imagine this could also work very nicely with the aformentioned Rittenhouse or, for those seeking mellower refreshment, 80 proof Old Overholt or Pikesville might well be terrific and perhaps have a less bitter edge.

Speaking of a bitter edge, I should add that this is also DOTW’s first use of Punt e Mes. It’s a more high-endish vermouth with a nice bite. It comes across as almost a more restrained, less syrupy variant of Campari and it’s delicious on its own. It’s also the reason today’s beverage doesn’t require any bitters, though some recipes call for them. I tried the Red Hook with a dash of Angostura and Regan’s Orange Bitters. Too much bitter, I thought.

I also started out with a recipe calling for equal parts Punt e Mes and maraschino. Too maraschiny. Mr. Errico’s version is better.

I should also emphasize, once again, that maraschino liqueur should in no way be confused with the syrup in which those inexpensive preserved cherries in your supermarket are packaged. Confusing the issue slightly is the fact that maraschino brand Luxardo markets its own brand of maraschino cherries. They’re anything but cheap but also quite tasty and I’m sure would be marvelous in a Red Hook, though I actually have nothing against the bright red supermarket sweetness bombs most of us grew up with.

In fact, the more I write about this, the more I wish I’d actually had a bottle of those lovely cheap cherries to complete my Red Hook on hand. Next time.


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