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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Mixing up a cocktail of social media in Utah

Social media (the media, not the movie) are big in Salt Lake City, and just about everywhere else.  Today on Twitter, the Utah Mixologist noticed that Drink Me! magazine was having a holiday haiku contest on Facebook.  Now, when the Mixologist thinks “winter” and “cocktail” he usually thinks of Whiskey drinks (except perhaps when he thinks of the Hot Rum Toddy that he often makes for Mrs. Mixologist (medicinal use only)).   Great Whiskey drinks are not hard to think of (Manhattan, Sazerac, and Old Fashioned (a great looking drink for the winter holidays) come to mind), but the Manhattan had come first (of course) so he penned (well, typed) the following.  If this gets your creative juices flowing, write your own haiku and post it on Drink Me!’s wall. Comments are welcome.

“Drink me” said the note
on the frosty Manhattan.
Could it be a trap?

Last time I had one,
visions of Santa flooded…
overwhelmed my mind

What little red elf
had stirred, embittered, this drink?
Sweet, Dry, or Perfect?

And was it Bourbon
beckoning to me, or Rye?
Seductive(!) cherry.

Finally I thought
“the true meaning of Christmas,
Juicy red, lies there.”

Seizing the moment,
and the Manhattan, I drank…
“Hello,” said Santa.

Wishing for a sparkling holiday season? Sparkling wines under $20

December in Utah, and it’s time to get ready for the holidays and the champagne occasion of the year: New Year’s Eve.  Regular readers are aware that real (capital “C”) Champagne comes only from France.  The French discourage others from using the appellation “champagne” on their sparkling wines, and most of the quality wineries  comply, so many sparkling wines (bubbly for short) do not say “champagne” on the bottle, although a few do.  Unfortunately there aren’t any legitimate Champagnes available in the under $20 (for 750ml.) price range.  If you would like to learn more about Champagne, including the names of the big Champagne houses, check out the New York Times Champagne navigator page.  (Note: while the prices in this article are for Utah, readers in other locales should be able to find similar prices.)

For those Utahans who want to celebrate with some sparkling wine, the Utah Sate Liquor Store system has obliged us with a great selection of American sparkling wines for under $20 with some pretty good ones for under $10.   (Those of you who live in bigger markets should be able to buy all of the wines mentioned here.)  The Utah Mixologist loves champagne cocktails like the French 75 and the Kir Royale.  When cocktail recipes call for champagne, though, it’s usually more economical to use a good sparkling wine.  Drink your high quality Champagne (and high quality domestic bubblies) straight so you can appreciate them.  For champagne cocktails, there are some very good sparklers under $20 (or even $10, but not much) that are great for mixing.  Readers should always have a bottle or two of better quality champagne around for celebrations and several less expensive bottles for mixing.  If you have a spare fridge in the basement, keep it stocked.

This post will only recommend wines from makers that have had some of their sparkling wines score at least 85 or 90 points by some well known rating service like Wine Spectator or Wine Enthusiast.  Although quality will vary year to year with the vintage, etc., it’s safe to assume that these winemakers know what they are doing and will turn out a good product.  So while individual wines mentioned here may not have been rated (or not rated high enough to brag about), you will be buying a reliable product and not junk wine.

Under $20
Before we get into the real bargains, lets look at the bubblies that price out closer to $20. Domaine Chandon is a producer of highly rated bubbly in this price range.  Their Brut is on sale this month for $16, and their Blanc de Noirs and Chandon Riche Extra Dry, while not on sale, are very drinkable $19.  Rated only a couple of points lower is Mumm Napa’s Brut, on sale this month for $18.  In addition, Gloria Ferrer makes some excellent sparkling wines that are among my favorites.  Although not on sale this month (that’s a shame) their Blanc de Noirs ($18) and Brut ($17) have both been highly rated by multiple rating services. 

Around $10 and less
Korbel used to be the best of the budget bubblies, their Extra Dry has been rated respectably in the mid-eighties, but is not on sale this month (regular price $14.5); their Brut, however, is on sale ($10.5).  Domaine Ste Michelle has been giving Korbel some competition in their price range with a tasty Blanc de Blancs that also scored in the mid-eighties and is on sale for $11 this month.  An interesting contribution from France (but not a Champagne, it’s from the Savoie) is Trocadero Brut ($9).  Mrs. Mixologist is a Trocadero convert.  The real bargains in this price range, however, are some of the sparklers from Barefoot Bubbly.  Three Bubblies (Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay Brut, and Chardonnay Extra Dry) are all on sale for $8.  Wine Enthusiast gave one of their bubblies an 87 rating and a Top 100 Best Values award several years ago.  Barefoot Bubblies are a great value; the first time I tasted one I couldn’t believe the quality for the price.  Barefoot’s sparklers are very drinkable on their own, and are great in any champagne cocktail you might care to try.

Don’t forget to check out the sparkling slideshow.  If you have an affinity for some other bubbly (domestic or imported) that is available for under $20 (or close to it), please share the information with others by adding a comment to this post. Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Take a stroll with the Boulevardier cocktail

While reading a paper magazine (yes, there are still some around), the Utah Mixologist saw mention of the Boulevardier cocktail, a Negroni made with Whiskey.  Now that sounded interesting, or at least it does if you like Campari® Bitter liqueur (150 years old this year).  As the name implies, Campari is bitter and takes some getting used to, but once you do, it is well worth the effort.  The next step, as always, was to do some research on the web, where several sources mentioned the Boulevardier’s first appearance in print in 1927’s Barflies and Cocktails by Harry McElhone (of Harry’s New York Bar in Paris).

The classic Negroni is mixed at a 1:1:1 ratio, but what about a Boulevardier?  The ratio was definitely variable.  On Cocktail Concoctions, the well respected Paul Clarke used the 1:1:1 ratio with Bourbon or Rye whiskey.  In the meantime, Ted “Dr. Cocktail” Haigh, writing for Imbibe! Magazine, advocated the 1.5:1:1 ratio using Bourbon, while the Cocktail Enthusiast cited a 1:1:1 ratio, but then admitted to preferring a 1.5:1:1 ratio, both with Bourbon.  Finally, Jay Hepburn on Oh Gosh!, an admitted Campari hater (well, that may be overstating it a bit), used Bourbon and was the outlier with a 2:1:1 ratio.

This mixologist experimented a bit and found that the 1:1:1 ratio played well with Ryes and spicier Bourbons like Buffalo Trace®, while the 1.5:1:1 ratio seemed to work a little better with less dominant Bourbons.  If your cocktail seems too bitter at first, be patient and don’t give up; your patience will be rewarded.  This is one recipe where you will want to experiment and see which ratio works best with your ingredients.  Please post your thoughts and results as a response to this article.

In case you are fresh out of Campari (CS# 064636), it is in general distribution in Utah.  If, however, your local Utah State Liquor Store is a small one, you might want to call ahead.  If you’re looking to upgrade your cocktail experience, you should try the Quady® Vya Sweet Vermouth (CS# 910764), but it’s in limited distribution so be sure to call ahead on the Vya.

Boulevardier Cocktail

1 oz. Campari® Bitter liqueur
1 oz. Quady® Vya Sweet Vermouth
1 oz. (or 1 ½ oz.) Bourbon or Rye Whiskey

Combine ingredients in a mixing glass half full of ice and stir briskly for 20-40 seconds.  Strain into an Old Fashioned glass half full of ice (or a pre-chilled cocktail glass if you prefer it up).  Twist a slice of orange peel (or lemon if you prefer) over the glass to release the oils, rub it around the rim, and then drop it in.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

What do Utah and Prohibition have in common? Repeal Day, December 5

The critically acclaimed HBO series, “Boardwalk Empire” follows the tribulations of gangsters active at the beginning of Prohibition (circa 1920).  Most Americans, including Utahans, “know” that it’s hard to get a drink in Utah, but are unaware of this state’s major contribution to cocktail culture in America: Repeal Day, December 5, 1933.  Prohibition is a good topic for the study of unintended consequences.  While the intent was to achieve worthy goals like less alcohol abuse and less abuse of women and children, and Prohibition did make some progress on these goals, it also contributed to the growth of organized crime and decreased respect for the law and the government.  Legend has it that one of Prohibitions positive contributions (perhaps the only lasting one) was an increased interest in cocktails and in cocktail recipes, mostly due to the poor quality of the booze that was available.  Ultimately, though, people came to believe that the bad outweighed the good and a movement to repeal prohibition gathered steam.  Repeal was a plank in the Democratic Party platform in 1932, and FDR promised to support repeal in his campaign.

Because Prohibition was implemented via constitutional amendment (the 18th), it could only be repealed via constitutional amendment (the 21st).  The 21st amendment was proposed by congress in February, 1933, and sent to the states for ratification.  Three quarters of the states had to ratify within seven years for the amendment to pass, but the deed was done in less than one.  Most constitutional amendments are ratified by state legislatures, but the 21st was to be ratified by state constitutional conventions.  This anomaly may be the reason why, over the objections of the LDS Church, which pointed out some of the good things prohibition had accomplished, on December 5, 1933, Utah became the 36th state (and the third state that day, thanks to being located in the Mountain time zone) to ratify the 21st Amendment, thus repealing prohibition.  So when you celebrate Repeal Day (you will, won’t you?), be sure to raise your cocktail glass in the direction of Utah (if you’re not already there) and drink a toast to the state that brought the Repeal of Prohibition to all America.

Noted cocktailian Jeffrey Morgenthaler has begun a movement to make Repeal Day a holiday, and why not? It is a happy day in American history, and it’s always nice to have a reason to celebrate.  Note: links have been provided to all sources used for this article.

Cocktail ingredients Utah update –December 2010

Things are looking up in the Utah DABC State Liquor Stores this month as far as Special Price Adjustments (SPA) go; there is a lot on sale for the December holidays.  These deals are great for gifts (given or received), or for stocking your bar.  (Note: there will soon be a separate post on pre-New Year’s price adjustments (actually available all December) on sparkling wines.) 

This month there is a variety of nice Gins marked down.  One of the best deals is Plymouth Gin (CS# 028795) marked down $5 from $25 to $20.  Other Gins with price adjustments include Hendrick’s, Bombay Sapphire, Tanqueray, Beefeater, and even the surprisingly good, bargain Gin: New Amsterdam 1750ml for $23 (CS# 031473).  You can discover more for yourself by clicking through to the “SPA Product List” to open a price book in PDF format that shows all of the markdowns for the current month; then search on “gin”. 

There are plenty of Scotch Whiskies, including one of my favorite blends, Dewars Special Reserve 12 Year, marked down $3 to $29, and plenty of single malts for you Scotch lovers.  Loads of Bourbons are marked down, including bottles like Buffalo Trace and Evan Williams Single Barrel.  If you like sipping Rums, Appleton Estates XV is marked down (CS# 042006) is marked down from $20 to $17, and there are plenty of less notable Rums available.  If your taste runs to Cognacs, Brandies, or Liqueurs, they are well represented; be sure to check the price book.

Utah reader R. Schiffman (Brownbag) recently posted a comment reminding me about the Christmas items that may be found on the top shelf of the Utah State Stores. These gift packages usually contain a bottle of liquor and items like glasses or a shaker (Courvoisier even has a decanter for Cognac) for the same price as the bottle without the gift. Some of them are pretty nice, others might be a little tacky.  Shop early in the month for a better selection and buy one for a lazy relative to give you for Christmas.

Once again this month there does not appear to be much of interest along the lines of cocktail ingredients on clearance.  There are some Barbarossa Rums and White Horse Scotch, but nothing to excite a cocktailian.  If you see anything good at your local state store, post a response to this article.  

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Bobby Burns: a cocktail fling from the Italian Highlands

Not quite enjoying a prematurely cold November evening in Salt Lake City, the Utah Mixologist was thumbing through the Savoy Cocktail Book (1930) looking for something interesting to mix up when he stumbled across the Bobby Burns cocktail.  As always, when you’re looking for a classic cocktail to experiment with, the Savoy is a good source of cocktail inspiration.  At first glance, the Bobby Burns sounded a bit like the Rob Roy, another Scotch Whisky classic cocktail, but where warlike Rob Roy has a dash of bitters, the more poetic Bobby Burns has three dashes of Benedictine.  Connoisseurs of good Scotch will want to save their single malt for sipping, so any decent blended Scotch (e.g. Dewar’s®) is recommended for this cocktail.  Instead of Italian Vermouth, I ended up using my favorite sweet Vermouth (Quady Vya™, available in Utah (CS# 910764), keep it in the fridge once it’s open).  This interesting blend of herbals from the Vermouth and Benedictine combined with the Scotch is to be savored.  As it says in the Savoy, “One of the very best Whisky Cocktails. A very fast mover on Saint Andrews Day.” So put on your Scotland football jersey, stir up a Bobby Burns, and enjoy.  And don’t forget to have one on St. Andrew’s Day (November 30).

Bobby Burns Cocktail

1 ½  oz Italian Vermouth (Sweet Vermouth, like Quady Vya)
1 ½  oz Scotch Whisky (use blended, like Dewar’s)
3 dashes (1/3 teaspoon) Benedictine

Pour ingredients into a mixing glass half full of cracked ice.  Stir briskly until well chilled, and strain into a pre-chilled cocktail glass.  Twist a piece of lemon peel over the glass, rub it lightly around the rim, and drop it in.  Enjoy while it’s icy cold.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Cocktail ingredients Utah update –November 2010

If you’re looking for cocktail ingredients on clearance, there does not appear to be much of interest in the Utah DABC State Liquor Stores this month.  If you see anything good at your local state store, post a response to this article.  As far as Special Price Adjustments (SPA) go, this month does not offer a whole lot of excitement (see next paragraph), but November is usually a lean month in anticipation of many specials in December, including pre-New Year’s price adjustments on sparkling wines.  Watch this space in early December for a sparkling wine update.  See the list “Suggested by the author” below for information on how to use the Utah DABC website.

This month is not a total desert in the cocktail arena, however.  If you’re into Bourbons, Bulleit Bourbon Frontier Whiskey® (CS# 017086) is available for $22 ($5 off) and if you like something a little pricier, Knob Creek® (CS# 019226) is available for $29 ($4 off).  There is the usual assortment of flavored Vodkas and flavored and spiced Rums.  Hidden among the Rums is one of my favorites, Gosling’s Black Seal Rum® (CS# 042566) is available for $14 ($2 off).  Tequila lovers have a little more to be happy about.  There is a variety of high-end Tequilas marked down this month that you can discover for yourself by clicking through to the “SPA Product List” to open a price book in PDF format that shows all of the markdowns for the current month; then search on “tequila”. 

Friday, October 29, 2010

Cocktails for Halloween and beyond the graveyard

Snow in the valley gave evidence to Salt Lake City residents that winter is on the way.  While it may warm up a little, you may be sure that colder nights are in store for us.  What better way to fortify yourself for a cold autumn (or winter) night than a Hot Rum Toddy?   Not really Halloween related, this hot cocktail is easy to make (the essential ingredient is some good dark rum), and a reliable standby to have in your cocktail repertoire, especially if Halloween is cold and rainy (or snowy).  Be sure to check out my Examiner slideshow for photos and recipe cards for these cocktails, or click through the links below for the full-length articles.  Now for the serious business of Halloween.

Vampires are all the rage these days, and everyone knows that the best way to put down a vampire is with a stake through the heart.  What, you are probably asking, is the best way to put down a Halloween cocktail?  
What should you do if you see a Halloween cocktail lurching toward you down a lonely road on a cold, dark, moonless night?  When, after you’ve run yourself to exhaustion and are leaning against a stone wall to catch your breath, you realize it’s the wall around the graveyard and scream…  and the cocktail continues to draw inexorably nearer and nearer…  What do you do?  Experience shows that the most effective action is to grasp it firmly by its scrawny neck and toss it down before it can attack.  And that, children (only if over 21), is the best way to handle an aggressive cocktail.

The first Halloween cocktail is a little tame, but may bring back childhood memories: the Bob for Apples.  What’s not to like about Rum, cinnamon, and apples?  Think of Mom’s homemade apple pie with a kick (and with a spider garnish).

Although it sounds horrid, the Spider’s Venom cocktail actually verges on the sweet.  The Spider Venom (a distant relative of the Piña Colada) should be drunk from a specially prepared cocktail glass as a charm to protect you from the venom. 

It pays to keep an eye out for the Bloodshot cocktail when walking past the graveyard at night.  Watch out, having been evicted from its own socket, this roguish cocktail’s roving eyeball may want to settle in one of yours.

If you should manage to escape the graveyard intact and alive (though just barely) and make it home, the best way to get your blood flowing again (but not too much, you don’t want to attract attention from the wrong sort of undead) is with a Corpse Reviver.  This beauty doesn’t look like a Halloween cocktail, but it’s sure to cure what ails you.  The medley of flavors in this cocktail is most enjoyable, so give it a try at your Halloween soirée. 

Last, and far from the least, is the Zombie, a cocktail that will knock you on your ass if you’re not careful or don’t show it the proper respect, a cocktail whose namesake must have had a Corpse Reviver poured into it, for there’s no other plausible explanation for its existence.  Don’t be seduced into having several, or think you’ll have “just one more,” or you may end up a zombie yourself.

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 22, 2010

A bitter lesson from Peychaud's

Last month Salt Lake City readers got an update about how Harmon’s groceries had begun selling Peychaud’s® Bitters ($5.99 in the beverage aisle) in place of Angostura® Bitters during the great Angostura shortage of 2010.  Last weekend the Utah Mixologist was discussing mixing cocktails with his friend Fred from the wilds of New Mexico when Fred mentioned that his local grocery store had stopped selling Angostura and started selling some other, terrible tasting bitters that didn’t go well in cocktails.  At first the mixologist was aghast that such a transgression had been perpetrated, then he though a minute and said “you don’t mean Peychaud’s, do you?”  Yes, sad to say it turned out that Peychaud’s was exactly what Fred meant, and the root cause of his problem was that he didn’t have any good recipes to use them.  A speedy email delivered links to the much needed recipes and solved Fred’s problem, and this article will help any Salt Lake City readers who find themselves in the same situation.  There are many really good cocktails that contain Peychaud's, and you should give some of them a try.

Peychaud’s is a key ingredient in one of the most famous New Orleans cocktails: the Sazerac (along with Rye whiskey and a hint of Absinthe), and those Utah cocktailians who have never had a Sazerac owe it to themselves to give one a try.  Let the good times roll!

The Vieux Carré is another classic cocktail that utilizes Peychaud’s.  It was invented in the French Quarter of New Orleans at the Hotel Monteleone.  The Vieux Carré is a cocktail with six ingredients, so it might seem like a lot of work, but two of the ingredients are bitters, so there’s not that much measurement.  The Vieux Carré calls for equal amounts of Rye, Cognac, and sweet Vermouth, with some Benedictine and a dash each of Peychaud’s® and Angostura® bitters added.  Try one and you will agree it’s well worth the extra effort.

The Rimshot, while not a classic (it’s only about a year old and was developed by the Utah Mixologist), is a close relative of a true classic: the Manhattan.  The Rimshot has everything a good comedy routine needs: wry humor, bitterness, pratfalls, a little sweet and a little sour, and some of those contribute to a good cocktail.  So if you like Rye whiskey or the Manhattan cocktail, give the Rimshot a try.

The venerable Bourbon Old Fashioned is usually made with Angostura® Bitters, but as my article on the Old Fashioned tells you, you can make an Old Fashioned with just about any good liquor you have.  Rye whiskey and Brandy present great opportunities to use Peychaud’s in an Old Fashioned.  Some eschew the cherry and orange wheel, but this mixologist likes to chew them at the end for dessert (caution: don’t over muddle, you want just a hint of orange peel oils).

So if you’ve been a little disappointed in that bottle of Peychaud’s you bought, you probably haven’t been using it right.  Try one or two of these suggestions and I'm sure you will soon be putting that bottle of Peychaud's to excellent use.  For a better look at these cocktails, check out my Examiner slide show.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Cocktail ingredients Utah update – October 2010

There are a couple of interesting items on clearance this month in the Utah DABC State Liquor Stores.  The first is 1 liter bottles of Cointreau Liqueur (CS# 064779) for $23.22 (it’s normally $38).  This bargain is hard to find, some stores are already out of stock, so be sure to call ahead to check for availability on this item and the other items mentioned in this article.  Another clearance item is Mount Gay Silver Rum (CS# 042790) for $9.72.  This rum looks like it wasn’t marked down much for a clearance item (the shelf says the regular price was $13), but it was $18 a couple of months ago, and Google shows a list price of around $17 around the country.  It looks like the UDABC reduced the price for a couple of months before discontinuing it.  There are also some wines on clearance, so check your store’s end cap displays.

For you fans of Don Draper on AMC TV’s Mad Men, Canadian Club (CS# 010626) is on special price adjustment this month at $9, marked down from $13.  Speaking of Whiskey, another SPA item this month is Dewars Special Reserve 12 Year Scotch (CS# 004876) at $30 (regularly $33).  I wouldn’t use it in cocktails, but if you like a nice, blended Scotch to sip on every now and then, this is a good one.  There are several other good Scotches on SPA this month, including a selection of Glenlivets, so if you’re a Scotch lover, check out the Scotch section while you’re in the store.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Hanky Panky Cocktail could get you into trouble

A couple of weeks ago, the Utah Mixolgist picked up a bottle of Fernet Branca ™ (CS# 905790) at the Utah State Liquor Store, and decided to see if anyone on Twitter had some good ideas on how to use it.  He soon had a Tweet from The Intoxicologist: try the Hanky Panky.  The Hanky Panky is another classic cocktail from the Savoy Cocktail Book (1930).  The Savoy has always been a good source of cocktail inspiration.  Recently, the Mixologist wrote about Erik Ellestad’s blog and his project to recreate every cocktail recipe in the Savoy.  Well, Erik is going through the Savoy in alphabetical order, and is now up to the T’s, so finding the post on the Hanky Panky that he wrote almost two years ago was easy.  I was pleased to see that he recommended using my favorite sweet Vermouth (Quady Vya™, available in Utah (CS# 910764), keep it in the fridge once it’s open) and (this is key) using a “gin with some spine” to stand up to the fifty-fifty blend with Vermouth.  Enjoy the interaction of the Fernet with the Gin.

Hanky Panky Cocktail

2 dashes Fernet Branca.
1 ½  oz Quady Vya Sweet Vermouth
1 ½  oz (London) Dry Gin. (Tanqueray works well)

Pour ingredients into a mixing glass half full of cracked ice.  Stir briskly until your wife yells at you to stop, and strain into a pre-chilled cocktail glass.  Twist a piece of orange peel over the glass, rub it lightly around the rim, and drop it in (or throw it away if you are a purist).  Enjoy while it’s icy cold.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Orange Robert: A fun Bourbon cocktail

Several years ago, when the Utah Mixologist was just getting interested in cocktails rather than “mixed drinks”, a visit to in search of a Bourbon cocktail that would be a nice way to use some of the bottle of Jack Daniels® that was in the pantry (this was before there was a real bar in the house) turned up something called the Orange Robert that had been contributed by Bob Powers.  The Orange Robert seems a little more like a Tiki drink made with Bourbon than a cocktail, but don’t let that stop you from enjoying one; it’s easy to make and well worth the little effort it takes.  A word of warning: the DrinkStreet recipe is most certainly a double.  The recipe given below is toned down a notch in the direction of moderation.  You can make this cocktail in a highball glass, but it looks classier in a wine glass.

Remember, September is National Bourbon Month.  There are some very nice “special price adjustments” on several good Bourbons at the Utah State Store this month.  The Orange Robert is not a good use for your good sipping Bourbon (save that for up, or on the rocks, or perhaps in a Manhattan).  There is one budget Bourbon marked down this month: Ezra Brooks (CS# ) is only $10.99.  The mixologist has never tried it, if you have, please post your experiences as a response to this article.  As mentioned previously, three of my favorites are marked down this month: Woodford Reserve® (CS# 022216) is available for $30 ($4 off), Bulleit Bourbon Frontier Whiskey (CS# 017086) is available for $22 ($5 off), and Makers Mark (CS# 019476) is available for $22 ($4 off).  Other Bourbons marked down include Blanton, Eagle, Elijah Craig, and Evan Williams. Bourbon Month looks like a good time to visit your local state store.  As always, be sure to call ahead to check for availability.

Orange Robert

2 dashes Angostura Bitters
1  ounce Amaretto
2 ounces Bourbon (Jack Daniels works well)
2-4 ounces Orange Juice

Pour Bourbon, Amaretto, and Bitters into a mixing glass half full of cracked ice and stir well to chill.  Fill a pre-chilled highball glass or wine glass ¾ full of ice (crushed is good).  Strain the mix into the serving glass and top with orange juice.  Garnish with a maraschino cherry.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Labor Day week-end: last chance for summer coolers?

There’s a big storm back east, but it looks like Utah will enjoy a beautiful Labor Day week-end this year.  The forecast is for hardly a cloud in the sky until Monday, when it will start to cool off.  Saturday and Sunday, though, will be in the high 80s or low 90s: just right for a nice trip to the pool and then a cook-out when you get home, complete with an array of summer coolers to help you and your guests relax and enjoy the barbecue.  When selecting cocktails for a Labor Day barbecue, keep it simple.  Have the ingredients for a small selection of summer coolers ready to mix and enjoy.  Your guests will be grateful.  Even if you’re not having a cook-out, these coolers are great to enjoy watching the sun go down from your deck or back yard.

Here are ten great summer cooler cocktails in time for the Labor Day.  Summer coolers may not taste strong, but they have as much alcohol as any other cocktail, so pay attention to how much you’re drinking.  Links to the recipes follow, but first view the slide show.  Find some coolers you like the looks of, and then return here to click through to the full articles for some of my favorites that are listed below.  Personally, there’s a nice, bushy mint plant on the south side of the house that’s been telling me it’s time for a Mojito.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Cocktail ingredients Utah update – September 2010

Utah reader R. Schiffman (Brownbag) recently posted a comment saying that Harmon’s groceries has recently been selling Peychaud’s® Bitters in place of Angostura® Bitters ($5.99 in the beverage aisle).  It seems like they made the switch during the great Angostura shortage.  I had to order my bottle of Peychaud’s online from Kegworks and pay shipping, so this is a great convenience.  Peychaud’s is a key ingredient in the Sazerac (along with Rye whiskey and Absinthe), and those Utah cocktailians who have never had a Sazerac owe it to themselves to give one a try. 

Speaking of Rye whiskey, more change is afoot in the Utah State Liquor Store system this month.  Jim Beam® 4-year Old Rye (CS# 027056) has moved from special order back into general distribution in the UDABC system, but the supply seems to be stuck in the warehouse and is not in the stores yet.  I was told that the Foothill store has some in stock already, but the Fort Union store does not.  The sometimes maligned Wild Turkey® 101 Proof Rye (CS# 027116) has been discontinued and is available on clearance this month for only $12.42, which is probably a good deal even if it’s not your favorite.  Be sure to call ahead to check for availability on both of these.

In past years, September has been National Bourbon Month, and this year does not appear to be an exception.  There are some very nice special price adjustments on several good Bourbons this month.  Three of my favorites: Woodford Reserve® (CS# 022216) is available for $30 ($4 off), Bulleit Bourbon Frontier Whiskey (CS# 017086) is available for $22 ($5 off), and Makers Mark (CS# 019476) is available for $22 ($4 off).  That Woodford is really good, and neither of the others is at all shabby.  If I didn’t mention one of your favorite Bourbons that’s marked down this month (and there is a good variety), please tell us about it by posting a comment to this post.  All in all, Bourbon Month looks like a good month to visit your local state store.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

ATTY Cocktail: Named after Attorneys or Teletypewriters?

Sometime in late June, the Utah Mixologist saw a mention of the ATTY cocktail (either on Twitter or in a news article) as a cocktail that contained Crème de Violette, a fresh bottle of which had recently been added to the bar.  Utahns should be aware that Crème de Violette is available in the Utah State Liquor system, unlike the still unavailable (well, you can special order a case) Maraschino Liqueur.  The name Atty was and is intriguing: is the cocktail named after the legal profession or an old-style teletypewriter?  And why is it usually, but not always, given in all caps like “ATTY?”  Some time spent with Google only revealed that no one seems to know the origin of the drink or its name, only that it can be found in the classic Savoy Cocktail Book (1930).  The Savoy has been a good source for cocktail inspiration, and readers may remember prior mention of Erik Ellestad’s blog and his project to recreate every cocktail recipe in the Savoy.  Well, Google also turned up Erik’s post on the ATTY, and it was very educational.  (Note: Erik has access to some high quality ingredients that are, sadly, unavailable in Utah, so I have not reproduced his ingredient list here.)

Not only had Erik experimented with the ATTY, but his experiments had resulted in a variation on the recipe that is a marked improvement by simply changing the Gin/Vermouth ratio from 3:1 to 2:1 (the proportions below are from Ellestad’s recipe).  An added bonus is that it’s quite easy for you to duplicate the experiment and taste the difference between the recipes.  Make the recipe below, but only use ½ ounce of Vermouth.  Strain into your cocktail glass and then pour an additional ¼ ounce of Vermouth into the mixing glass and let it set with the ice while you taste and savor the contents of your cocktail glass (the Savoy recipe).  Pretty good?  Now strain the extra ¼ ounce from the mixing glass into your cocktail glass and stir lightly with a stirrer straw to combine well.  (Note: if you’re alone, you can always pour from the cocktail glass into the mixing glass and re-strain the whole drink, but doing this while anyone else is present will not impress your guests.)  Now taste the difference: are the Absinthe and Crème de Violette making love or war? First one dominating and then the other?  Finally, bow toward San Francisco, toward where master mixologist Erik Ellestad lives.

ATTY Cocktail

1 ½ oz Dry Gin (Ellestad prefers mild and dry)
¾ oz Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth (see notes)
3 Dashes (½ tsp) Absinthe
3 Dashes (½ tsp) Crème de Violette

Combine ingredients in a mixing glass half full of cracked ice.  Stir until well chilled, and strain into a pre-chilled cocktail glass.  Twist a piece of lemon peel over the glass, rub it lightly around the rim, and either drop it in the glass or drape it artfully over the rim.  Sip slowly and taste how the different flavor elements interact.  Heavenly.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Piña Colada: a frozen recipe for a tropical cocktail

An interesting sounding item in the twitter-stream led the Utah Mixologist to an interesting post by Simon Ford on titled “In Defense of Blender Cocktails”.  Blended drinks have been out of style for many years, Ford reports, but may now be undergoing a resurgence as “a few new brave bars” are beginning to serve blended drinks again.  While the observant will point out that any good Mexican restaurant serves frozen Margaritas, there is a lot of truth in Simon’s post when it comes to plain, vanilla cocktail bars.  Blended drinks have never been out of style for this mixologist, but they can be hard to find once you’re out of Margarita territory.  It would be great if anyone in Salt Lake City, or anywhere else as far as that goes, who has a favorite cocktail bar or restaurant that serves blended cocktails besides Margaritas could share that info with other readers in a response to this post.

Shawn Vergara of Blackbird in San Francisco wrote that a blended cocktail is “like a vacation in a glass,” and that thought really resonates.  Whenever I’m in Hawaii I like to kick back on the lanai and enjoy a Piña Colada (follow the link for my rocks recipe).  Job one upon arrival (and about the only job that should be done in Hawaii) is to get to the grocery store and/or the ABC Store to get some Rum and the necessaries for Piña Coladas and Mai Tais.  Piña Colada is a delicious cocktail, especially if you enjoy sweeter cocktails, Rum-based cocktails, or tiki cocktails (or all three).  Even in a vacation condo you should avoid commercial Piña Colada mixers.  They’re high in sugar and often have a chalky texture, and they don’t really taste as good as natural juices.  I usually use Coco Reál® Cream of Coconut for my cocoanut drinks, but it’s so thick it’s hard to measure, so I usually “guestimate” the amount and just squirt some directly from the squeeze bottle into the blender. 

Piña Colada

1 ½ oz light (or gold) Rum
½ oz Lime juice, freshly squeezed (1/2 Lime)
½ - 1 oz Coco Reál® Cream of Coconut (one healthy squirt)
1 ½ oz Pineapple or Orange juice
¼ oz Falernum
½ oz Orgeat
1 thick slice of fresh, ripe Pineapple

Combine the ingredients with ice in a blender (about 6 to 8 ice cubes, enough to make it thick).  Blend until smooth.  For garnish, use a cocktail pick to pin a maraschino cherry to a pineapple wedge or orange wheel, and serve with a straw.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Utah liquor store privatization? Probably not

Utah cocktailians probably read with interest Robert Gehrke’s excellent article in Saturday’s Salt Lake Tribune “Could grip on liquor loosen?”  It’s an interesting idea, but the Utah Mixologist must answer “probably not.”  The article does a good job of laying out the issues around privatization of the Utah liquor system, along with one surprising fact: the state’s Privatization Policy Board believes the state could “save” $21.6 million annually by privatizing the system.  One suspects that state pols think that this $21.6M would be on top of the $86M in revenue that the state made on wine and liquor in 2009.  $107M?  Cool.  The article reports that Washington state’s auditor thinks it could save $350M over five years through privatization of their liquor system.  It seems to the mixologist that when you sell a business, which is what the state liquor store system is, you do save the overhead of running that business, but you also lose the profits.

But would (or could) this really be the case?  Utah currently receives all of the proceeds from the sale of liquor because it runs the entire system.  In states where liquor is a business, the state taxes wine and liquor (a “sin tax”) and the businesses selling liquor pay this tax as part of their overhead before realizing a profit.  The state only gets the tax.  Today Utah gets the equivalent of the tax and the profits from the stores combined because the state runs the entire system.  They could get a bump from selling the stores (a business normally sells for about five times revenues), but that would soon be gone, and then what?

Locals like to complain about liquor prices in Utah, but when I travel I see that Utah prices do not appear to be out of line with what I see in other states.  Privatization would mean that a big chunk of that $86M in revenue that the state realizes from the liquor store system would go to the businesses that take over the stores, and the state would only get some portion of it as a tax.  In the Tribune article, Dennis Kellen, executive director of the DABC, mentions that Maine and Montana have privatized, and are now trying to make up the revenue.  If the state tried to set the taxes high enough to cover its current total revenue from wine and liquor, businesses would not buy the stores because they would know that they couldn’t charge prices high enough to make a profit without sales dropping through the floor.  If the taxes are reasonable, the state will lose the profit portion of the current revenue, and that will be hard to make up.

The real sticking point, however, will be advertising.  Do you remember when restaurants couldn’t print on their menus that they sold drinks?  Businesses will not take over the liquor stores if they are not allowed to advertise what they’re selling.  And if the state wants to set the tax high (this is Utah after all), businesses will have to sell a lot more liquor to make enough money to cover their overhead and make a profit.  Can you imagine seeing a full-page liquor store ad full of week-end specials on the back page of Section A of The Salt Lake Tribune, and then driving to a liquor store sporting a big neon sign reading “Sazerac Jack’s Liquor Emporium” to pick up bargain booze?  I didn’t think so.

Photo ©

Monday, August 9, 2010

Tequila Sunrise: A classic cocktail from… Arizona?

The other evening the Utah Mixologist asked Mrs. Mixologist if she would like a cocktail.  (Mrs. Mixologist has the advantage of living with the Utah Mixologist, which means that she usually gets served some pretty good cocktails, except maybe some of the experimental ones.)   She thought a minute and then asked for a Tequila Sunrise (a drink she had never before requested). “Tequila Sunrise?” said the Mixologist, “Have you been hanging out in a 70s bar?”  Well of course she hadn’t, or at least not for the past 30 years, but a seed was sown. 

This piece of Americana was actually invented near Utah (well, relatively) at the Arizona Biltmore, due south of Salt Lake City in Phoenix.  There are two recipes for this IBA Cocktail, a traditional one dating from around 1940 made with Crème de Cassis and one designed for production bars (or at least bars lacking in Crème de Cassis).  Both, of course, would have to be tested.

Both recipes are built in a highball glass, but the Quickie Tequila Sunrise is a slam-bam-thank-you-ma’am type of drink.  Ice, Tequila (any old kind), OJ, and a splash of Grenadine.  The Original Tequila Sunrise is a thinking (wo)man’s drink: ice, Crème de Cassis, Tequila 100% de Agave, lime juice, and club soda.  It reminds one of an El Diablo, but without the Ginger Beer.  The Mixologist, an American Original, prefers the Original.  If you decide to try both in the same evening, please make sure you’re not driving.

Original Tequila Sunrise

1 ½ oz Tequila 100% de Agave
¾ oz Crème de Cassis
Squeeze of lime juice (about ¼ oz, or juice of ¼ lime)
Soda water

Fill a highball glass with ice.  Add the Crème de Cassis, then the Tequila.  Fill the glass with Soda water and top it with the squeeze of lime juice.  Garnish with a lime wheel, serve with a stirrer straw, and sip it slowly.  The Cassis should slowly diffuse upward, giving the cocktail the appearance of a sunrise over a Mexican Beach.

Quickie Tequila Sunrise

1 ½ oz Tequila
2-3 oz Orange Juice
Splash of Grenadine

Fill a highball glass with ice.  Add the Tequila and fill the glass with OJ, but not too full.  Tilt the glass to one side and shoot the splash of Grenadine down the side.  Garnish with an orange wheel or a lime wheel and serve with a straw.  The Grenadine should slowly diffuse upward, giving the cocktail the appearance of a sunrise.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Utah DABC debuts new, tricked out website

The Utah Mixologist got a little surprise this morning as he made his monthly virtual trek to the Utah DABC site to download the current price list spreadsheet.  A new website with:
  • a professionally photographed, animated slideshow
  • animated icons lined up across the page
  • a large “Find a Store” icon shaped like Utah
  • a convenient menu bar above the slide show

The bad news about all of this is that it means that all of the links in the posts that the Mixologist did last February to help you find whatever information you were looking for are now broken.  Never fear, my next project will be to fix the links and get the posts back up.

In the meantime, please be aware that the Product Listing is not accessed by clicking the wine bottle + glass icon, but from the “Product” link in the menu bar above the slide show.  Once there you can find out what’s on sale this month by clicking on “SPA Product List” in the left-hand menu bar.

For those of you who enjoy Rye in your Manhattan or Sazerac, this month the Utah Mixologist recommends the Wild Turkey Rye that is marked down to around 20 bucks (CS# 027116) and is in general distribution.

Photo ©

Friday, July 30, 2010

Sparkling Negroni: A fun variation on a classic cocktail

Campari® Bitter liqueur is 150 years old this year.  While it’s unlikely that there will be a Campari festival in Salt Lake City, you can host your own celebration at home.  The Utah Mixologist has been doing his part, recently giving you recipes for two Campari favorites: the Americano aperitivo and the Negroni cocktail.  Loyal readers should (by now) have a bottle of Campari in their bar, so whipping up a Sparkling Negroni should be no problem.

In case you haven’t stocked that bottle of Campari yet (CS# 064636), it is in general distribution in Utah.  If, however, your local Utah State Liquor Store is a small one, you should make sure they have it in stock before burning your gas: think Green!  If you like Champagne cocktails, you’ll discover that the Sparkling Negroni is a treat.  Barefoot® sparkling wines are great for Champagne cocktails, and are priced to sell.  If you’re looking to upgrade your cocktail experience, you should try the Quady Vya Sweet Vermouth (CS# 910764), but it’s in limited distribution so be sure to call ahead on the Vya, too.

Sparkling Negroni

1 oz Campari
1 oz Sweet Vermouth
1 oz Gin
1-2 oz Champagne or sparkling white wine

Combine Campari, Vermouth, and Gin in a mixing glass half full of cracked ice.  Stir briskly until nice and cold.  Strain into a pre-chilled cocktail glass.  Top with well-chilled Champagne.  Garnish with twist of orange peel. 

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Cocktail Cherries: A gift you can give yourself

It’s summertime, and the cherries are ripe, so act now!  Take yourself to your favorite grocery store, or maybe to the Salt Lake City Farmers’ Market, to buy some fresh, sweet cherries.  Sure, you can eat them, or bake them into tarts and pies, but why not use them to make the gift that keeps on giving all year long: cocktail cherries.  Yes, you can spend a load of dough (money, not pie dough) on some Luxardo Marasche® gourmet cherries, but why not make your own?  It doesn’t take long, and the results just might be lip smacking good.  These are great in Manhattans!  If you want to look at some other recipes, there are several in the World Cocktail Brain.

Wash the cherries thoroughly, then cull them, keeping the ripest ones that are unbruised and still have their stems.  Pitting the cherries is optional, but be sure to warn your friends if you don’t.  If you do, use a cherry pitter, you want your cherries reasonably intact and not cut up.  You can follow the recipe below, but if you have several jars, you might want to try some variations in spices or liqueurs.  If you do, be sure to mark the jars so you know which recipe you like the most.  Note: The finished cherries will occupy less volume than the raw cherries, so if you only want to make a large jar full, one way to measure the cherries is to use about 1 ½ times the capacity of your destination jar(s) in raw cherries.  I used a three cup (24 oz) jar for this recipe.  If you exceed your jar capacity, keep the leftovers in a covered glass bowl in the fridge until you get a jar (or can gobble them down).

Cocktail Cherries

1-1 ½ pounds dark, sweet cherries
¾  cup sugar
½ cup water
1 oz fresh lime juice (or lemon)
1 cinnamon stick
¼ tsp ground nutmeg (fresh is best)
¼ - ½ cup Brandy
¼ - ½ cup Amaretto

Combine the sugar, water, lemon juice, nutmeg and cinnamon stick in a small saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar, and reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the cherries, bring to a simmer, and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, allow to cool, and remove the cinnamon stick.  Transfer to the jar, making sure to leave room for the Brandy and Amaretto.  Take turns adding Brandy and Amaretto in equal quantities until the jar is full.  Put the lid on tightly and roll the jar until well mixed.  Keep refrigerated.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Negroni: a delicious twist on the Americano

The Negroni was named after Count Camillo Negroni of Firenze, who ordered the same cocktail every day.  Legend has it that one day Negroni was looking for something a little stronger than the ubiquitous Americano, his favorite aperitivo, and that bartender Fosco Scarselli at Caffè Casoni replaced the standard soda water in the Americano with Gin…  a man after my own heart.  The new drink became so popular that Negroni’s family began bottling and selling it.

The sweet Vermouth offsets some of the bitterness of the Campari®, and the gin cuts the flavor some more, resulting in a very desirable cocktail.  Campari (CS# 064636) is in general distribution in Utah, but if your local State Liquor Store is small, you might want to make sure they have it in stock before you make a special trip.  If you are interested in trying a sweet Vermouth a little better than the ubiquitous Martini & Rossi® Rosso, you should try the Quady Vya (CS# 910764), but it is in limited distribution so be sure to call ahead.


1 oz Gin
1 oz Campari
1 oz Sweet Vermouth

Combine ingredients in a mixing glass half full of cracked ice.  Stir briskly until nice and cold.  Strain into a pre-chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with twist of orange peel, burnt if you want to be really authentic. 

Friday, July 23, 2010

Is bitter better? Give the Americano a spin

The Americano is more of an aperitivo than a cocktail.  Invented 150 years ago in Milano by Gaspare Campari, developer of the liqueur that bears his name, this refreshing aperitivo was so popular with American tourists back in the day that its name was soon changed to the Americano.  One wonders if Mark Twain enjoyed one (or more) on the voyage that later became Innocents Abroad.  Campari® is a bitter liqueur and has been described as an acquired taste, but if you enjoy dry cocktails you will discover that the taste is not at all that hard to acquire.  The Americano is the father of the Negroni, a cocktail that we’ll cover in a future post. 

Campari (CS# 064636) is in general distribution in Utah, but if your local State Liquor Store is small, you might want to make sure they have it in stock before you make a special trip.  Americanos are usually served on the rocks because of the strong, bitter taste of the Campari.  The sweet Vermouth balances the bitterness resulting in a very agreeable before dinner apéritif.  If you are interested in trying a sweet Vermouth a little better than the ubiquitous Martini & Rossi® Rosso, you should try the Quady Vya (CS# 910764), but it is in limited distribution so be sure to call ahead.


1 oz Campari
1 oz Sweet Vermouth
2-4 oz Club Soda (optional)

Fill an old-fashioned glass with ice cubes, add the Campari and Vermouth, and stir lightly. Add (the optional) club soda to taste.  Garnish with a twist of lemon (standard) or an orange slice.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Interesting Find: Canadian Club Classic 12 Year Old, July 2010

When the Utah State Liquor Store system discontinues an item, it usually means steep mark-downs.  Canadian Club Classic 12 Year Old Canadian Blended Whisky (CS Code 10846), which is marked down 38% this month to $16, is no exception.  A product of the company founded by Hiram Walker, this interesting whisky is good for sipping and makes a great cocktail.  As of yesterday, the Fort Union store still had four cases left, but be sure to call ahead, or try your local store.  These tasting notes should give you a good idea of what Classic is like, but prudence dictates that you don’t buy too many bottles if you haven’t tried it before.  The Manhattan that the Utah Mixologist stirred up last night, however, was really tasty. 

There is the usual selection of items on “special price adjustment” this month.  One you might like if you’re into Gin and Martinis is Hendrick’s® Gin.  Scotland’s Hendrick’s is unexpectedly flavored with cucumber and rose petals, as well as the “usual” botanicals used in Gin.  Hendrick’s makes a great Classic Martini.  It’s still expensive($26, CS Code 028625), but many cocktailians say it’s well worth the price.  Bombay Sapphire® Gin is marked down this month, too, if that’s one of your favorites.