Tippler’s Delight

If you were going to pick a random spirit to build a cocktail around, I’ll bet “slivovitz” isn’t the first thing to spring to mind.  Me neither – but here it works to fantastic results.  Slivovitz is a fruit brandy or eau-de-vie made from the fruit and pits of Damson plums, which have a fairly acidic skin and thus are most commonly used in making jams.  It’s often referred to as “plum brandy” or rakia in the Balkans.  Most slivovitz comes from the Slavic areas of Central and Eastern Europe – Serbia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary and Bulgaria.  The majority of which is also consumed in those countries, or abroad by Eastern European emigrant communities.  Also known as: “my peeps”.

For some, it is the taste of an ancestral home, where boiled vegetables are considered a delicacy and vowels are an endangered species.  For others, it is the taste of diesel fuel infused with old wool socks aged in a damp basement.  In either case, it is not for the faint of heart.  Traditionally, it’s consumed in small shots while toasting, similar to Russians and their vodka, where the burn is likely part of the testosterone experience.  However, I have come across some craft distilleries putting out a domestic artisanal product.  The bottle I have from Clear Creek uses Pacific Northwest Italian blue plums and hews closer to the cleaner profile of the rest of their eau-de-vie lineup – with the exception of their Douglas fir experiment which has a taste only one of Santa’s elves could love.

Here, the often unruly slivovitz provides the backbone while its subtle plum and almond kernel features are brought forward.  It calls for an 8-year aged plum brandy by Navip fromSerbia.  I haven’t had the 8-year brandy before, but I assume the aging in wood mellows out the eau-de-vie and sweetens it.  Not wanting to invest in a second bottle of slivovitz, I used the Clear Creek I already had.  The result was so surprising that I think I’ll pick up a bottle of the cheaper-by-the-ounce Navip before I wind up draining the Clear Creek.  Brian MacGregor of Jardiniere who came up with the “tipple” says he could drink one of these every day – and I really can’t argue with him on that.

1 1/2 oz. Navip 8-year old slivovitz*
3/4 oz. elderflower liqueur
3/4 oz. lemon juice
2 dashes absinthe

Shake with ice and double strain.

Recipe courtesy of Brain MacGregor of Jardiniere (via Cocktail Town)


MxMo LVII: Sandalwood Sour

When I first proposed “Floral” as the theme for Mixology Monday, I had figured I would make some type of gin punch using a chamomile or jasmine infused gin.  But that was way back in the Fall.  By the time it actually rolled around, I had attended a book opening party for Left Coast Libations at Heaven’s Dog where a number of the recipes from the book were being featured for the event.  Although all the drinks we tried that night were fantastic, this particular one really stood out from the pack.  I wasn’t the only one who thought so – the bartenders were slammed making these all night.

The recipe requires two unusual ingredients.  First, you’ll need sandalwood (and not the kind in incense!)  I recommend hunting around in Indian grocery stores.  The other involves making a sharbat.  Sharbat is a type of flavored, non-alcoholic drink from the Middle East and India, served over ice.  Sharbat comes from the Arabic word ‘Sharbah’, meaning ‘a drink’.  It’s a syrup made from fruits and extracts of flowers and herbs.  Common flavorings include rose, sandalwood, saffron, hibiscus, pineapple and citrus.  The syrup gets diluted with water or evaporated milk and served with ice. It can also be used to pour over desserts.  The sharbat here uses rose and saffron as its flavors, providing a rich floral perfume to the drink, which is built off a gin sour.  A healthy amount of bitters adds an earthy tang, with a finish of sandalwood rounding out the exotic spices.  I could drink these all night long.

1 1/2 oz. Plymouth gin
1/2 z.  lemon juice
1/2 oz.  lime juice
1/2 oz. saffron sharbat (see below)
1 barspoon Angostura bitters
1 egg white

Dry shake without ice for 20-30 seconds.  Add ice and shake until frosty.  Strain into cocktail glass and garnish with grated sandalwood.

Saffron Sharbat

1 1/4 cups water
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup rosewater
1/4 rounded tsp. saffron
1 Tbs. boiling water

Place 1 Tbs. boiling water into a small bowl and add crushed saffron threads.  Steep for 15 minutes.  Add rosewater.

Mix water and sugar in a saucepan over low heat and dissolve.  Add rosewater saffron mixture.  Simmer for 5 minutes.  Remove from heat, let cool and store in bottle.  Store in refridgerator.  You can leave in saffron threads or strain.  Makes enough for 16 cocktails.  Can also be used as a flavored syrup with soda water.

Recipe courtesy of Anu Apte of Rob Roy. (via Left Coast Libations)

Boukman Daiquiri

I think we can finally kiss the rain goodbye at least until next November here in the Bay Area. This week has been filled with clear blue skies, sunny days approaching as close to shorts weather as we get, and nice warm nights where the fog never rolls in.  All of which  says “I’m springtime bizzatches! Suck on the sunshine till July.”  The next six plus weeks will be glorious, at least until the Fog-th of July.  Perfect weather to indulge in drinks with a more tropical bent.  Preferably with rum.

1 1/2 oz. white rum
1/2 oz. Cognac
3/4 oz. fresh lime juice
3/4 oz. cinnamon syrup

Shake with ice and strain. Garnish with lime.

Recipe courtesy of The Franklin Mortgage & Investment Company via Imbibe.

The Capheda

I recently picked up a bottle of Firelit coffee liqueur, a collaboration between Jeff Kessinger, a former Bock Spirits sales rep, and St. George Spirits of Alameda.  Its an elegant take on coffee liqueur that eschews the syrupy sweetness of Kahlua in favor of a drier, higher proof spirit with the fruitier, more acidic coffee style of Third Wave coffee roasters.  It combines cold pressed coffee, unaged Chardonnay brandy, brandy made from coffee grounds, and whole vanilla bean.  Initially featuring Blue Bottle Yemen single origin beans, the current batch is made from Aged Mocha Java by Weaver’s in San Raphael. 

 It’s an intensely local, artisanal product through and through.  However, it’s also an intensely particular product as well.  The alcohol content is 30% (60 proof), so when using it in recipes calling for coffee liqueur, the recipe may need adjustment to avoid resulting in a boozy, out of balance cocktail.  Likewise, the sugar content is about half that of Kahlua, so its use as a sweetening agent is also more limited.  I think its great on its own or with a little ice.  For mixing in a cocktail, it requires some thought in order to balance it well – but that’s the fun with ingredients like this.  Limitations in one direction open up (tiki) possibilities in another.

 I’ve previously used it in a variation on a Coffee Flip for Mixology Monday.  (Ironically, the traditional coffee flip recipe does not include any coffee.)  Here, I took the base recipe for a Brandy Alexander and steered it in the direction of a dessert cocktail inspired by Vietnamese iced coffee – which for anyone who has ever had cà phê đá previously knows, it is caffeinated crack dipped in sugar served over ice.   My idea was to add booze to the equation.  Call it Four Loko meets the Pacific Rim.  I promise it tastes better than that sounds! 

1 1/2 oz. cognac
1 oz. Firelit coffee liqueur
1 oz. sweetened condensed milk

Shake with ice and strain.  Garnish with grated coffee bean.

MxMo LVII: Flores de Mayo

Mixology Monday Logo

[ UPDATE: The round-up post is up – here. ]

I’m quite grateful to Paul Clarke at Cocktail Chronicles  for being able to host this month’s Mixology Monday.   Lately, the monthly incentive of MxMo has been the one thing helping me keep the site updated.  Probably like many folks who decided to “start a blog”, after the rush of initial postings, it gets quite difficult to maintain a consistent pace of writing.  Its almost like…shudder…work.  How Erik at Underhill Lounge  or Frederic at Cocktail Virgin Slut manage daily postings is completely beyond me and my liver.  Maybe they are cyborgs.  Or half-alien.  (And yes, I clearly read too many comic books as a kid.)

This month’s round robin will occur on Monday, May 16th with the theme of  Flores de Mayo – Floral Cocktails.  For most of us, turning the page on the calendar from April to May means finally getting to say goodbye to the weeks on end of cold, gray drizzle that followed a winter of endless snow, or in the case of us on on the Pacific Rim, winter of endless rains. (Unless you are living up the glam life in LA or beach bumming in the O.C., in which case I hope you are enjoying that endless SUNSHINE. Grrr.)  As the sun starts becoming more frequent and the temptation to play hooky mid-week gets stronger,  nothing brightens the day better this time of year than the fresh blossoms hanging from the trees on the street and popping up in your neighborhood gardens.   Goodbye cabin fever, hello springtime!

The challenge is to feature a cocktail that highlights a floral flavor profile or includes a floral derived ingredient, whether home-made or off the shelf.  With the ever expanding catalogue of spirits (and the kitchen labs of home enthusiasts), there’s a whole host of directions for you to choose from – elderflower liqueur, creme de violette, chamomile infused gin, hibiscus grenadine, rosewater, lavender syrup – or to create.   With some luck, one of the garnish gurus will figure out a way to turn an orchid into a swizzle stick.

So if you want to join the virtual bar crawl, shoot me an email that includes a link to your blog entry for your drink to barmancometh (at) hotmail dot com, or post a comment to this entry by midnight on May 16th that includes the same.  Also, please link back to the Mixology Monday website and include the MxMo logo.  If you don’t have your own blog, I can feature you here with a guest blog post, but I will need to receive your submission by May 14th.  I will post a round-up of everyone’s cocktails within a few days after, post haste.


The Suburban

I’ve been completely and utterly lazy about blog posts over the last several months.  As often happens, life caught up to me and adding new posts kept dropping to bottom of the “to do” list.   Or, at least, that’s the story I’m telling myself.  Likely closer to the truth is that new, additional hobbies have been distracting me – like curing my own bacon (for a future blog post), confiting duck (another blog post), or sausage making (and yet another blog post).   Home charcuterie – she is a wicked temptress.  On top of that, our local independent bookstore has rekindled a reading habit that the dry casebooks of law school had formerly burned out.  Scandinavian crime novels being my current fix.

As a result, I made this particular cocktail months ago when the whether was colder and damper.  The combination of rye, dark rum and port were the perfect cozy drink with a kick to ward off the winter rains.  David Wondrich is right when he describes it as calling up the feeling of a musty, old school men’s club, with the scents of leather, oak and tobacco coming to mind.  Regardless of the current weather here in the Bay Area, someplace must still need shaking off the last of the chilly winter grays – Seattle, I’m looking right at you.  Cheers!

1 1/2 oz rye
1/2 oz dark rum
1/2 oz ruby port
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 dash orange bitters

Stir with ice and strain into cocktail coupe.

Recipe courtesy of David Wondrich.

Richmond Gimlet

This past autumn for my birthday, thanks to my better half, I had the good fortune to experience a triple dose of cocktail fun.  First, dinner at Heaven’s Dog, the Modern Chinese meets mixology venue from Charles Phan of Slanted Door fame.  Followed by a book premiere party for Left Coast Libations which featured a cocktail list from the book, including a crazy-good Saffron Sandalwood Sour.  Then concluding at Thad Vogler’s Vulcan mind meld of locavore dinning meets locavore drinking at Bar Agricole.  A fun time was had by all – from what I can remember!

Since the Left Coast Libations book party, I’ve been slowly making my way through the recipes.   The drinks have been rather good on average, but far too many require preparing rather exotic tinctures, syrups and foams.  For example, Erik Adkin’s Carter Beats the Devil is a phenomenal drink, but when a drink calls for a Thai chili tincture that takes two weeks to macerate, it can take some of the spontaneous usefulness out of a cocktail recipe book.  (Needless to say, of course I wound up making the tincture, for a future blog post.  But still – just saying.)

Thankfully, it includes a few recipes that can be made on the relative spur of the moment – presuming you have access to a farmer’s market, neighborhood greengrocer or – in our case – Chinatown produce stand.  This one is an easy “modern” classic that is perfect for when the weather starts to take a turn for the springtime.  Light, refreshing and festive.  It’s also a completely awesome green in color.  What more could you want?

2 oz. gin
1 oz. lime juice
1 oz. simple syrup
large sprig of mint

Shake with ice and strain through fine mesh seive.

Recipe courtesy of Jeffrey Morganthaler.


I don’t know if you’ve heard, but it snowed in San Francisco for the first time in 30 plus years — it passed without much media coverage, so its understandable if the rest of the country hadn’t heard.  Regardless of the reality that a fleeting dusting of snow doesn’t hold a candle to the Snowmageddon that’s hit the Northeast and MidWest since shortly after the cranberry sauce ran out, there has been a touch of very un-California chill in the air lately.

All of which makes this month’s Mixology Monday really timely.   Host Nancy at Backyard Bartender has chosen Some Like It Hot – as her theme:

“Make anything you want to, as long as it’s served hot. I’m sure this is tremendously seasonally appropriate in parts of the country that are not Houston, where it is currently 79 degrees. Don’t pretend you’re not jealous.”

While not sub-zero outside, it’s also far from a Houstonian seventy-nine either.  A warm drink is just the right thing to take the chill out of the fingertips and toes tonight.  The great thing about Scandinavian mulled wine is that you can make a large batch of the stuff, store it in a glass jug in the back of a dark cupboard, and weeks later it tastes even better.  The sharpness of the fresh cardamom and cloves mellows out allowing the orange and cinnamon to poke through.  This recipe also calls for carmelizing sugar in brandy.   I’ve seen some that use vodka but I find the flambeed brandy tastes far superior.  So much that these go down like pure crackulated candy – before you know it, you are positively knackered.  And wondering if you just saw a talking Snowman sneaking nips out of your liquor cabinet with a couple of Keebler elves.

1 bottle red wine
1 bottle ruby port
1/2 bottle brandy
8 – 10 cinnamon sticks
2 dozen whole cloves
orange peel (one whole orange)
1/2 cup raisins
1 Tbs cardamom seeds (from whole green cardamom pods – about 18 pods)
1 cup almonds, whole, blanched
2 cups sugar

1. In large pot, heat wine, port wine, spices, peel, and raisins. DO NOT BOIL.
2. In saucepan, combine sugar and brandy.  Heat slowly and stir until golden brown syrup. Light and flambe.
3. Add carmelized syrup to wine pot.  Cover and mull for 1.5 to 2 hours.
4.  Serve hot in handled glass mugs.

MxMo: Coffee Flip

Whether its Snow-mageddon in New York City, or chilly monsoons out West, or even cold so cold it turns boiling water into instant fog,  this time of year often calls for heavier, rich cocktails that touch deep in the same place of our lizard brainstems as does meatloaf with mashed potatoes and gravy.  Sensibly then, this month’s theme for Mixology Monday is See You On The Flipside.   As host Josh Cole of Cocktail Assembly describes it:

“The flip is one of those cocktails that so successfully defies the seasons. When it’s cold and the icy chill is tearing its way through to our bones, the heated flip opens it’s arms and embraces us like a warm blanket. When it’s hot, the cool flip lowers the heat and can bring back that spring day memory of a creamy shake enjoyed on a front porch. There’s never a bad time or temperature to enjoy the frothy glory that is the flip.”

Flips are fun for taking old recipes for spins with a twist as the base recipe of a flip – base spirit, a little sugar and whole egg – is simple and forgiving.  I’d recently purchased a bottle of St. George Spirits Firelit Coffee Liqueur, their artisanal take on the classic coffee liqueur which in their talented hands combines cold pressed single origin coffee, unaged Chardonnay brandy and cane sugar.  Kahlua this is not.  I wanted to make a coffee flavored flip with it, so decided to see if there were any existing recipes for coffee flips that I could use as a starting.

What I found was a classic flip recipe for a cocktail that didn’t involve any coffee or coffee liqueur, but instead involved port and brandy, which when adding the egg, gave it the appearance of creamed coffee with the faintest suggestion of a coffee-like flavor. Using this as the base, I figured I could swap the Firelit for the brandy and an aged demerara rum for the port.  Swap the nutmeg for cinnamon and a dash of mole bitters, and the end result was a coffee flip with a Californios spin.  In both cases I left out the cream as I was worried they would veer to far in the dessert cocktail direction.  Based on the final product, the cream might be a nice addition, especially as the Firelit has such a strong flavor profile.

Classic Version

1 oz. brandy
1 oz. port
1 tsp. sugar
1 egg
1/2 oz. cream (optional)

Combine and shake once dry, once with ice.  Strain into coupe.  Garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.

Californios Version

1 oz. aged demerara rum (El Dorado 15)
1 oz. coffee liquer (Firelit Coffee Liqueur)
1 barspoon simple syrup
1 egg
1 dash mole bitters

Combine and shake once dry, once with ice.  Strain into coupe.  Garnish with freshly grated cinnamon.