Cuban Anole

Sometimes you just need to get away from all the wrenches life throws at you.  However, unless you are a trustafarian or founded your own tech company, flying off to the South Pacific in the middle of the week just isn’t an option.  As a second best (or maybe twelfth best), there is always a tiki drink.  Tiki has come a long way from the dark recesses of cheap rum, canned pineapple and reheated rumaki.  Beyond just restoring the classics to their original state with high quality rum and fresh squeezed juices, folks are using these standards for some very interesting riffs and variations.

This one is a twist on the mai tai, by swapping out the orange curacao with cinnamon syrup.  It also layers in the vegetal funk of a rhum agricole along with the aged rums.  The freshly grated cinnamon provides a really nice nose to the whole affair.  Kick back, relax and forget the work week for a few hours.

1/2 oz rhum agricole blanc
1/2 oz aged Jamaican rum
1/2 oz aged Barbados rum
3/4 oz lime juice
1/2 oz cinnamon cyrup
1/2 oz orgeat

Shake with ice and strain into a rocks glass with crushed ice.  Garnish with fresh grated cinnamon.

Courtesy of cocktail virgin slut

Don’s Navy Grog

Ernest Raymond Beaumont Gantt is a great name for a boy from Texas turned Prohibition-era bootlegger in the Big Easy.  However, not so much for a guy running a Polynesian-themed restaurant in 1930’s Hollywood.  Thus was Don the Beachcomber born.  Having legally changed his name, Donn Beach took his colorful past running rum in Caribbean, working in Chinatown restaurants and traveling the world to single-handedly create the world’s first “tiki” bar, combining tropical inspired rum drinks with flared up Cantonese food.  Celebrities flocked to his bar, which offered an escape from reality vibe.  Ever had a mai tai with a pu-pu platter?  If so, its because of this one guy.

After spending the war years opening officer “rest camps” (read: bars) in places like Capri, Nice, Cannes, & Venice for his buddy US Army Air Force General Jimmy Doolittle – for which he earned a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star – Donn returned home to a flourishing tiki-empire that his wife had grown to a chain of 16 restaurants.  The tiki fad continued to explode in the 1940s and 1950s, even spawning a Nor-Cal / So-Cal tiki rivalry between Donn and the Bay Area’s Victor “Trader Vic” Bergeron. (You really can’t make this stuff up.)  Eventually, Donn would divorce his wife (along with his restaurant chain), moved to Hawaii to open a bar with an office atop a giant banyan tree and eventually retire on a houseboat in the South Pacific.  Which would be destroyed by hurricanes. (the storm, not the drink)

One of the classic tiki recipes that Donn created that is now enjoying a resurgence, this one combined a heady mix of three different rums tempered with  some citrus, a little honey and a splash of fizz.  Its a tiki twist on the historical grog of British Navy tradition, which was little more than high proof rum mixed with some water or beer to take the edge off.  Donn’s version is refreshing and easily drinkable, but packs a real whallop underneath, just like the grogs of old.  Story is Donn limited his customers to only two of these.  Enjoy.

3/4 oz lime juice
3/4 oz grapefruit juice
1 oz honey syrup*
1 oz light Puerto Rican rum
1 oz dark Jamican rum
1 oz demerara rum
3/4 oz soda water

Shake ice and strain into double old-fashioned glass filled with crushed ice.

* Honey syrup is simply a 1:1 or 2:1 mix of honey and water, depending on your sweetness preference.  Heat the honey and water until the honey completely dissolves.  Let cool, then bottle.

Recipe courtesy of Don the Beachcomber via Jeff “Beachbum” Berry

New Orleans Buck

Bucks are a type of highball that make a great summertime cocktail – refreshing and easy to make – the basic recipe is just a shot of booze, lemon juice, and top with ginger ale.  When the days are long and the weather pleasant, last thing you want is to be fiddling in the kitchen with a 10 ingredient cocktail. And since the recipe is simple, it makes variations a snap.

In this case, its a classic drink that I first came across at  Boot and Shoe Service, my favorite local wood-fired pizzeria that is run by a Chez Panisse alum and features a great cocktail program.  The standard recipe calls for light rum for which they used a rhum agricole blanc, which provided a more complex, funkier profile.  They also substituted a house-made ginger syrup and soda water in place of the ginger ale.  I’ve found a good spicy ginger beer is an excellent substitute.    A word of caution – these go down very easy.

1 1/2 oz. light rum (rhum agricole blanc)
1/2 oz. orange juice
1/2 oz. lime juice
2 dashes peychaud’s bitters

Shake with ice and strain into ice filled highball glass.  Top with ginger beer.

The Art of Choke

Artichoke really isn’t one of those flavors you expect to find at the bottom of a bottle. Offer a glass of “artichoke liqueur” to a friend, and you’re more likely to get a “WTF?!?!” than anything else. Yet, there is indeed an artichoke liqueur – Cynar – and leave it to the Italians to make it taste good. Its extremely bitter and vegetal, so when used as an ingredient in cocktails, it is generally used in modest quantities. However, this extremely awesome nightcap brings it front and center, layering on added elements with mint, demerara, chartreuse and a hint of lime.

1 ounce white rum
1 ounce Cynar
1/8 ounce fresh lime juice
1/8 ounce rich Demerara sugar syrup (2:1)
1/4 ounce green Chartreuse
Sprig of mint.

Bruise mint sprig with the other ingredients in a mixing glass. Stir with ice for 30 seconds, then strain over ice-filled Old Fashioned glass. Garnish with mint sprig.

Courtesy of The Violet Hour.


It took forever, but my homemade Amer Picon has finally finished.  Amer Picon, for the uninitiated or even merely “not geeky”, is an Italian amaro that is a mix of orange, gentian and other herbal ingredients.  It was an ingredient in various pre-Prohibition cocktails, the most classic of which is the Picon Punch, a simple cocktail of Amer Picon, grenadine and soda water.  The problem is that Amer Picon has long since ceased being imported into the States.  Even worse, twenty years ago the formula was changed which included cutting the proof in half.  Sacre bleu!

The result is an amaro which even if you can get your hands on a bottle, tastes nothing like the original around which these cocktails were based.  Enter the Americans.   Or more precisely, the San Francisco Italian-Americans.  A domestic substitute is availabe from Torani, the folks that brought you your flavored coffee syrups.  While I won’t hold that against them, their version, Torani Amer, is a bit more vegetal than the original – not bad, but not the same.  (Reports are that Torani has recently re-formulated their version to mimic more closely the original, but since I have not finished even my first bottle, I see no reason to waste the money on a second.)

So what shall a booze nerd do? Why make your own, of course! The “love him or hate him” Jamie Boudreau has concocted a recipe of his own a few years ago which comes close to the original recipe, based on reviews by tasters who have had access to those rare bottles of “original formula” Amer Picon for comparison.  It does, however, require some patience.  Precisely two months of patience, as a bottle of orange peels sits in a jar of high proof vodka in the back of your closet turning into tincture, with Ms. ChinaNob snickering in the corner thinking you’ve gone mad.   However, once complete, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the finished product was quite tasty.


1 3/4 oz. gold rum (Cruzan 5-Year or Single Barrel )
3/4 oz. green chartreuse
1/2 oz. Amer Picon
1/2 oz. falernum

Stir with ice and strain into cocktail glass.  Garnish with cherry.

Recipe courtesy of Oh Gosh!


Back in my much younger and much poorer days, I went on a solo road trip across the Appalachian South and into the Mississippi Delta. I was living in Boston and working as a community organizer for a small housing nonprofit, which meant my personal transportation was a subway pass. Lacking the funds to rent a car, I got one via a company that matched drivers with people looking to ship their cars affordably. Your only expense was paying for gas while your choice of destinations was limited to whatever they had available.

I took off for a week and a half in late August in a Nissan that needed shipping from Nashua, NH to Houston -and more specifically, from Daddy’s leafy suburban McMansion to Princess’ off-campus condo near Rice University in Houston. Side trips to the Smokey Mountains, Graceland, B.B. King’s in Memphis, and Hope, Arkansas later, I wound up dropping off a car to Daddy’s Little Girl and realized Houston sucked. So courtesy of Greyhound, I hoofed it to New Orleans.

New Orleans, of course, has far too many awesome things for a brief booze-post to fit: the Preservation Hall jazz band, the wrought-iron Garden District, chicory-scented cafe au lait with fresh beignets, ancient mausoleums, jambalaya…  However, being as I was in my twenties, most of the reason I was there was to party until I couldn’t see straight – which, as anyone who has hit Bourbon Street discovers, is easier than ordering a pizza, courtesy of vendors selling giant mugs of boozy, red slushy concoctions called Hurricanes.  From what I can dimly recall, Pat O’Brien’s, the bar that invented the drink, served endless supplies of the brain killing juice in an outdoor courtyard featuring a flaming water fountain of all things.

In spite of the nasty sugary slurpee it was turned into, the original was actually a fairly tasty drink.  Pat O’Brien, the original tavern owner in the 1940’s, was looking for a way to unload a lot of rum.   During the war years, whiskey and scotch were in low supply, so distributors required bars to purchase quantities of the far more readily available rum before they could buy their quota of whiskey.  Bred of necessity, Pat sold the drink in hurricane lamp-shaped novelty glasses to the ever present soldiers and sailors passing through town.  And thus was a drink borne which would eventually become synonymous with Mardi Gras debauchery.  This simplified recipe is surprisingly well-balanced and quite delish.


2 oz. dark rum
1 oz. fresh lemon juice
1 oz. passion fruit syrup

Shake violently with ice and pour into goblet or large glass with ice shards. Garnish with cherry, pineaple or both.


They say it’s a curse to live in interesting times.  I have to agree.   As we lurch into year three of the Great Recession and my personal approaching fun-employment, I can’t help but hope that some good comes out of all this – like a future where Paris Hilton doesn’t get a TV show, where we all get affordable health care, where investment bankers live in daily fear of roving, torch-wielding mobs… A guy can dream, right?

This drink is definitely a balm for the times.  Think an upside down pina colada that kicks you in the head like a mule with anger control issues.   It’s a take two and I’ll call you in the morning.


2 oz. Pusser’s Navy rum
2 oz. pineapple juice
1 oz. Coco Lopez coconut cream
1 oz. orange juice
4 oz. crushed ice

Combine ingredients in blender and flash blend for 3 seconds.  Pour into tiki mug and garnish with grate nutmeg or cinnamon.