Cocktail Hour: The Manhattan

I’m thrilled that Michael, our favorite mixologist, is back with a classic cocktail to warm us on these frigid winter days.  Read on to master the art of the Manhattan, then relax, grab a book, and light a fire.  Five o’clock is calling… As we all come off our holiday hiatus, it is traditional to use the New Year’s spirit to invigorate within ourselves a sense of renewal by enacting some manner of change intended to better ourselves as people.  For many this means more exercise, becoming more organized, or swearing off some pesky vice that has overstayed its welcome in our daily routine.  Simply put, this is NOT the time to stop drinking!  During my time matriculating at Annapolis, this time of year had a special name – “The Dark Ages”.  By definition, the “Dark Ages” began the day the Brigade of Midshipmen returned from Holiday leave and ended on the first day of Spring Break.  I vividly remember the lack of daylight, the frigid wind-whipped runs on the Chesapeake seawall, and the grinding academic work.  Even now living in Florida (as I write this it is 67 degrees and sunny), the “Dark Ages” still hold a special place in my heart.  I only regret not having ready access to a well stocked bar during my years as a Midshipmen – GPA be damned!

So I’m submitting to A&D few cocktail recipes to help us all make it through this lamented time of year.   I personally am a creature of the seasons and my cocktail consumption tends to mirror what is happening outside.  I dedicate this post to the readers in the frigid north and present another classic that is sure to stick to your ribs and make an evening sitting by the fire all the more perfect – the Manhattan.  I know its been awhile, so lets recap the First Commandment of mixing cocktails.  “Thou shalt use the finest ingredients in thy cocktails.”  I am not implying that one must use the exact bottles I present, only that your cocktail will only be as good as the cheapest ingredient used.The Manhattan, like the Martini, ranks among the most classic of cocktails.  Done correctly it is simple, tastes great, and provides the perfect dose of medicine to help shake off the Dark Ages grind.  With Manhattan recipes, the biggest points of contention are a.) the type of whiskey and b.) the proportions of base and modifier.  The great thing about the Manhattan Cocktail is type of whiskey and proportion are completely up to the person mixing provided the ingredients are of the finest quality.  The recipe I am presenting is my preferred (and the traditional) recipe, but one should feel free to experiment with slightly different proportions to satisfy their palate.  I will however talk about a few different types of whiskey that can change the character of your Manhattan to fit your mood – and the weather.

Basic Recipe:
2.0 Oz Whiskey
1.0 Oz Sweet Vermouth
2 Dashes Angostura Bitters


The base of any Manhattan is Whiskey…..and there are so many types.  A Rye Whiskey is the traditional type used in Manhattans because it typically is more balanced in terms of sweet, spice, and smoke (peat) than other whiskies.  Right now, my “go to” rye is Bulleit Rye because it is of good quality but not so good that it demands drinking it neat or on the rocks, and its not difficult to acquire (available in most liqueur stores).Two other variations I’d like to present are using a Bourbon or a Scotch as the base of this cocktail.  For the Bourbon option I’ve been using a High-Rye Bourbon by Redemption.  This is a great bottle because it brings out the sweetness inherent to Bourbon but still retains a bit of spice found in Rye.  For the Rob Roy option (this is the name of a Manhattan made with Scotch instead of American Whiskey), I currently use Monkey Shoulder.  This is a blended Scotch that has all the qualities of a Single Malt (made using 3 different single malts from The Balvenie, Glenfiddich and Kininvie) – a tip of the hat to the Master Distillers that put it together.  It is not overly peaty like some of the Islay regions and has the smooth malt and citrus notes that make it a great option for this recipe.Vermouth:

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link – so do not skimp on the Sweet Vermouth.  This means that Martini and Rossi will not do.  I personally enjoy Dolin Sweet Vermouth but any high-end vermouth such as Carpano Antica or Cocchi Vermouth di Torino will do.


A few dashes of Angostura Bitters bring out all the subtleties in both ingredients and really round out the drink.  Do not use Peyschaud’s bitters unless you want to turn your expensive whiskey into something that tastes like Nyquil.  Peyschaud’s bitters has its place in other cocktails – the Manhattan is not one of them. The Process:

Add all ingredients into a cocktail shaker – or if you really want to class it up, get a beautiful mixing beaker as shown below.Add ice.STIR!  STIR! STIR! This Cocktail! Shaking Manhattans or other whiskey cocktails is one of my drinking pet peeves.  Please, for the love of all things right and just in this world, DO NOT SHAKE these drinks.  Shaking these cocktails adds too much water to the mix and greatly diminishes the flavor.  Also, help me on my crusade to make sure these drinks are made properly by demanding bartenders stir these cocktails when you order them out.  Strain into a Coupe or Cocktail Glass.  Garnish with a Cherry.A quick note about the cherry garnish.  Luxardo makes great cherries for cocktails.  I HIGHLY recommend, if you intend on making this cocktail regularly, to buy a jar.  They are readily available on Amazon and they last forever.  Don’t settle for the cheap Maraschino Cherries found in most grocery stores.  I’d skip those and garnish with a citrus peel before I allowed one to see the inside of my Manhattan glass.  Keep it classy folks.The Manhattan is alcoholic comfort food for me – I hope this helps everyone make it through the Dark Ages!

Cheers, MC.

all photos in this post by Michael

Cocktail Hour: The Daiquiri

DSC_0856Our resident mixologist is back with the fascinating history of Hemingway’s favorite cocktail – the daiquiri.  We mixed up a batch  following Michael’s recipe and I promise you, this is not the boat drink you think it is.DSC_0860

The Daiquiri

This cocktail resides in same family as the most classic of cocktails: the Martini, the Manhattan, the Sazarac, and the Old Fashioned.  It’s history is over 100 years old, originating in pre-prohibition and prohibition era Cuba, when the country was open for tourism and its nightlife thrived.  The Tropicana club with its “Las Diosas de Carne” (translation Goddesses of the Flesh) burlesque dancers, the Buena Vista Social Club (from the popular Artisan Entertainment documentary), and the New Year’s scene from the Godfather II all reflect the environment in which the Daiquiri was conceived.

From historic sources: “The drink was created by Jennings Cox, an American engineer who managed the Cuban properties for two American companies (credit as co-creator is also often given to a Cuban engineer named Pagliuchi). With important guests on the way, and finding himself without a source of gin – the genteel spirit at the time – Cox worried that they would not find the local tipple palatable if served neat. He added lime juice and sugar to the island’s pure cane rum, and a classic was born.”

It is believed to have been the favorite cocktail of Ernest Hemingway and Jack Kennedy (ironic considering he is responsible for severing diplomatic ties with Cuba in 61….perhaps Bay of Pigs was really intended to oust Castro in an effort to save his beloved cocktail? – but I digress).  Ultimately, it was the United States Navy – specifically Admiral Lucius Johnson – that brought the cocktail to the mainland via the lounge at the Army and Navy Club on Connecticut Ave NW in Washington DC (of which I’m a proud member) where active and retired officers can still host happy hours (the lounge is now named for the cocktail).

Now that we’ve covered the historical commentary and, hopefully, established the Daiquiri’s historical bona fides – let us move on to some more technical aspects of mixing this cocktail.

Let’s start by stating what the Daiquiri is NOT:

1.  The Daiquiri is NOT a frozen drink.  Never should any respectable Daiquiri , like the Margarita, see the inside of the blender.
2.  The Daiquiri is NOT a frozen drink.
3.  The Daiquiri is NOT a frozen drink.  Hopefully you get the point.

Now lets talk about the principles set forth in my last post apply to the Daiquiri.

1.  The Daiquiri, like any great cocktail, consists of a base and a modifier.  In this case the base is light rum and the modifier is citrus (lime juice) and sweetner (simple syrup or substitute). The purpose of the modifier is not to mask the base liquor but, rather, to enhance its flavors on the palate.  The base liquor is ALWAYS the main event.  Never use premixed sweet and sour mix unless you are looking to have a substandard cocktail with 5 times the calories.
2.  The use of high quality ingredients will result in a high quality cocktail.

And so I give you my preferred Daiquiri recipe:

2 Oz Cruzan Light Rum:  Anyone who has spent time at a college kegger knows there exist many different types of rum (Captain Morgan Spiced, Malibu coconut, ect..).  I will say, IMHO, most are revolting.  There are two kinds of rum worth drinking – period.  Dark rum and light rum.  All distilled liquor is clear when it comes out of a still and only takes on its color after being aged in some type of wood barrel.  Light rum is, therefore, NOT aged.  There are a few good mixed drink recipes for a dark rum out there, but the Daiquiri is not one of them.  A high quality (read expensive and imported….sometimes illegally) aged dark rum is not for Daiquiris, but should be enjoyed simply over a large piece of clean ice with a squeeze of lime and sipped.  I am not as picky with my brands of light rum as I am with my Gin as Rum is distilled from sugar cane and lots more forgiving than Gin.  Cruzan makes a light rum I enjoy, and I recommend using something comparable provided it doesn’t give you a huge hangover.

1 Oz Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice:  As far as I know, Mother Nature has only one brand.  Don’t skimp on the fresh fruit, there are natural sugars resident even in tart citrus fruit that are lost in the stuff you’d buy off a shelf.  Remember fresh is always better.  I prefer my Daiquiris (like my margaritias) on the tart side.  This is personal preference so feel free to adjust your proportions between 1/2 – 1 oz to satisfy your taste.

1/2 Oz Luxardo Marashino Liquor:  This is a bit of substitution.  The classic Daiquiri calls for 1/2 – 3/4 oz simple syrup (super saturated sugar water – google it) to balance the tart from the lime juice.  The Marashino liquor does this job, plus adds a little more depth and complexity to the cocktail.

2 Drops Fee Brothers Grapefruit Bitters:  I am a bitters fanatic.  I think they bring so much more to a cocktail without burdening the ingredients with extra heavy modifiers.  They allow you to keep the cocktail simple in ingredients while enhancing the flavor palate simultaneously.  I came up with the grapefruit bitters while reading a recipe for the “Hemingway Daiquiri” which calls for the addition of grapefruit juice to the mix.  Instead of adding all the juice (and sugar), just put a few drops of the bitters in to get the same effect.

Preparation:  Measure and mix all ingredients in a graduated shot glass (for accuracy and consistency) and pour over ice in a cocktail shaker.  Shake vigorously.  Double strain (to remove pulp from the lime and ice shards) into a cocktail glass or coupe.

Garnish:  Take a wheel from the fresh lime you squeezed, slice and place on the rim.

Drink:  Close your eyes and imagine yourself dancing at the Tropicana on a caliente Havana night!



Cocktail Hour: The Martini

I’m thrilled to introduce a new weekend feature just in time for summer, Cocktail HourMichael, my almost brother-in-law and the most talented mixologist I’ve ever known (this is not hyperbole), has graciously agreed to share his knowledge and his recipes during the month of June here at a & d.  And in true Michael fashion, he’s kicking off Cocktail Hour with a classic.Image 2

The Martini.

A few basic principles.  First, using only liquors of the highest quality will result in a good Martini.  This applies for all ingredients.  Just as a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, a high quality Gin with cheap Vermouth will not taste good.  Most people don’t like Martinis because they use bad liquor.

Second, the basic principle of mixing cocktails is to find the blend of ingredients (modifiers) that compliment the Base.  Without the modifier, a base will never be more than chilled liquor – not a cocktail.

According to Embury’s “The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks” (put down the Mr. Bostons….this is the best book on cocktails out there), “most of the present generation learned to drink and most of the present-day bartenders learned their profession during the past 37 years.  The first 14 years of this period were devoted to the famous ‘experiment, noble in purpose,’ and the remaining years have not yet been sufficient to erase wholly the ignoble effects of that era.”

Paying mind to the above principles, the Martini is the most elegant of drinks.  In its purest form, the martini has one base (Gin or Vodka) and one modifier (Vermouth).  It is, in essence, the Hydrogen of the Cocktail Periodic Table.  Many people prefer Vodka to Gin, and I will not judge them.  I will, however, offer the reasons why I prefer Gin.  First, it is the liquor originally intended for the Martini – which was also known as the Martinez.  Second, a good Gin has a depth and viscosity that Vodka does not – Gin really is Vodka infused with juniper and other botanicals.  Last, Vodka is a soul-less liquor (by definition, has no color, smell, or taste) which makes it the ideal liquor for people who like being drunk but don’t like the taste of liquor.

That being said, the proportions of Gin to Vermouth is largely left to the taste of the imbiber.  I do discourage, however, the notion of just “washing the glass” or “adding a few drops” of Vermouth.  This practice negates its role as a modifier and, as stated above, leave one with only a chilled glass of liquor.  People largely don’t like vermouth in their gin because they are adding substandard (read Martini and Rossi) Vermouth.  A good Vermouth will negate all the bad things in straight Gin.  It will reduce the volatility (reduces vapor temp) which eliminates the burn so often associated with a bad Gin and leaves the delightful, smooth flavor of the distillers botanicals behind.

And so:  I give you my favorite recipe for a martini.

2 oz Smooth Ambler Gin.  We stumbled upon the Smooth Ambler at one of the better liquor stores in the area and bought a bottle because it was made in West Virginia.  Who would’ve guessed it was to be the best Gin we’ve ever tasted.  The viscosity and botanicals are perfect.  It is made in small batch pot stills (as opposed to larger column/continuous stills used by large companies) using organic ingredients and it was rated at 94 points by Wine Enthusiast magazine.  If you don’t trust Wine magazines to judge your liquor, the Gin won bronze this past May at the San Fransisco World Spirits competition.  Folks, this is good stuff…..don’t knock it before you’ve tried it.

1 oz Dolin Blanc Vermouth.  This is the Vermouth being poured by most high-end craft cocktail bars in the country and for good reason.  I’d also recommend Lillet as a suitable alternative.

2 drops Bittermens Boston Bittahs.  I didn’t discuss bitters at all before, but the original Martini recipe called for a dash of Orange Bitters.  These amazing ingredients are the spice rack of any serious barstock.  Would one try cooking or baking with no salt, pepper, cumin, cinnamon ect??  Of course not.  Start experimenting with different bitters and they will take your drinking habit to the next level.  The Bittermens here will round out the cocktail and add the slightest hint of citrus to your “just about perfect cocktail”.

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A note about mixing.

I prefer mixing all ingredients in a small graduated shot glass.  I then add to the shaker with ice.  Shake vigorously.  And the secret is to double strain by pouring it through a small fine sieve or strainer (see my equipment below).  This frees the cocktail from extraneous ice shards (they will collect like slush in the strainer) and gives the drink that clean mouthfeel.

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Garnish.  For this summer martini, garnish with a lemon twist.  Be sure to twist your lemon peel to express the oils before wiping the glass rim with it and dropping it in the drink.  Cheers!

Thank you, Michael!  We can’t wait to hear what’s in your cocktail shaker next week.  Now, if I could just talk the two of you into moving in next door…

In Praise of the Five O’Clock Cocktail

Morning brings the ritual of coffee.  When bedtime draws near, I often fantasize about having it in the morning, waking up to the amazing taste, smell, and enveloping warmth.  I have been known to audibly moan upon taking my first sip.

Midday I am walking or running my gorgeous mutt.  Okay, most days.  When it’s not brutally cold.  It‘s very difficult to say no to that face.

And at day’s end, you will find me in the kitchen making dinner for my family.  This is also when I have my evening glass of wine.  Sometimes I believe it is the act I enjoy as much as the wine itself.  I take great pleasure in the ritual of uncorking, pouring, and relaxing.  On the nights when basketball games, swim lessons or a scheduled sunrise workout preclude this, I will pour Pellegrino with lemon or lime into a beautiful glass to take the place of my 5 o’clock cocktail.  Tonight was one of those nights, and while I did enjoy the bubbles, a great Malbec would have been heaven.

image 1 via, image 2 via

Anatomy of a Dinner Party

I am sitting at the dining room table with my favorite cookbooks strewn about and Martha’s Entertaining open wide, taunting with gorgeous tablescape imagery.  As I plan the menu for a dinner we are hosting next weekend, I am thinking not only of the ingredients for my dishes, but also of the ones that comprise a truly great dinner party.  Serving a wonderful meal (either made or ordered) is of course integral to the night’s success, but it is only part of the equation. You’ve also got to have:

Music.  It MUST be on when guests enter the home.  We’ve all been to a party where the host forgot the music and it felt more like a meeting than a social gathering.  I like to have several playlists ready – spirited mixes of 80’s, 90’s and contemporary songs for the cocktail and post dinner hours, and great jazz recordings during dinner (Chet Baker, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, Cannonball Adderley, Mingus, and Miles are favorites).  If there is no time to assemble playlists, Pandora is your friend!

Drinks.  Offering a simple bar with a crisp white and a full-bodied red, Pellegrino for those abstaining or alternating (my usual MO), and the traditional spirits and mixers always seems to work best.  I love the idea of crafting a specialty cocktail to offer guests as they arrive, but I’ve found (after trying this several times) that most people prefer a good old-fashioned martini or vodka tonic over something fancy and complicated.

Small bites.  Taking a cue from Bernard’s, one of the chicest bars in Chicago, I often serve simple nuts and crisp kettle cooked potato chips in beautiful bowls.  And a well-rounded cheese platter (one soft, one hard, one blue) served with dried and fresh fruits is a must.

Lighting.  Nothing kills the mood quite like bright lights.  Setting out loads of candles and dimming the lights softens and relaxes both the surroundings and the guests.  Everyone looks and feels better in the warm glow of candlelight.

Dessert.  Who doesn’t love dessert?  Serving a seasonal, warm fruit crisp with generous amounts of vanilla ice cream makes everyone happy.  I also like to assemble a tray of locally made chocolates and fresh, perfect berries to serve with coffee or nightcaps.

And finally,

Laughter and lightness.  The two most important ingredients.  Planning ahead, keeping it simple, and enjoying a glass of wine before guests arrive help to create a happy and relaxed host.  And if the host is having a fantastic time, guests will surely follow suit.

click each image to view and link to sources

Freemans Love

New York did not disappoint.  A full recap of the weekend’s adventures will come, but I could not wait to share our favorite night at my favorite spot in the city: Freemans.  Rustic, chic, dark, cozy and intimate, Freemans serves the most amazing cocktails alongside perfectly portioned, mostly-American comfort food.  Let’s start with the drinks (shouldn’t we always?):

The Winter Blanket was exactly that – cozy and enveloping.  Made with Jamaican rum, allspice, ginger, orgeat and lime, it had the perfect amount of spice, sweetness and warmth.  Next came the plate of Devils on Horseback.  Divine little dates stuffed with blue cheese and wrapped in bacon.  Thank goodness the smart folks in the kitchen only give you five, because we could have eaten many, many more.  And room had to be saved for dinner!

I chose the Hunters Stew.  A game lover’s dream, it was rich but not overly so, with perfectly done medallions of venison, boar and elk in a dense broth.  Enjoyed with a side of creamed kale and a great, full-bodied glass of Cab.  Amusing aside: a man approached and tapped me on my fox gilet-covered shoulder and asked what I was having.  When I explained the above dish, he exclaimed, “you are eating that AND wearing fur?  PETA would have a field day with you!”  But I digress.  Back to the food, which brings us to dessert.  Bananas Foster with Rum Butterscotch served over vanilla ice cream.  Our only complaint of the night was that the bananas-to-ice-cream-ratio was off, but it was still insanely good.  And though we were stuffed, we ordered an after dinner drink as we did not want to leave the warm atmosphere and spirited bar conversation.  I asked the bartender to surprise me with something involving coffee, and this is what he brought:

I don’t know if it was truly the best coffee drink I have ever had or if it just tasted that way because I was blissful, but I found it fitting that the thick sweet cream melted down the inside of my glass into dreamy heart-shaped dollops.


At the bar with friend Amy Stigler of Monograham.  I said it was dark and cozy!

Freemans. 8 Rivington Street. 212-420-0012