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Friday Musings… How to put your own spin on a classic cocktail.

Friday Musings… How to put your own spin on a classic cocktail.



When most of us think of a thesaurus we picture that book that they handed us at some point in middle or high school that was going to make us all into better writers. Instead of saying “Johnny is a happy boy,” we could now say “Johnny is an exuberant boy!” A thesaurus taught us how to enhance our writing by using words that were related to one another. What Roget’s Thesaurus did for our writing, The Flavor Thesaurus by Niki Segnit will do for our cooking and cocktail making. We need only to look up an ingredient in Segnit’s book and we will learn what it pairs best with. You can also trust your own intuition here and use flavor combinations that you know work well for you in your kitchen. I love the Army and Navy, a classic cocktail that first became popular in the 1940s, but I wanted to make it my own for a cocktail party we had coming up with friends. I had some ideas that I needed to feel sure about, and so I consulted The Flavor Thesaurus. In addition to gin and lemon juice, the Army and Navy uses orgeat, an almond flavored syrup, which pairs nicely with apricot, ginger, and cardamom (just the direction I was going in). So I introduced those three new elements into the drink and came up with something that was new and different, yet still remained true to the original. I like to call it the Army and Navy Special Forces. It might take a little bit of hunting to get all the ingredients for this one, but I find that part to be half the fun!

1.5 oz Bluecoat Gin*
3/4 oz fresh lemon juice
3/4 oz orgeat (almond syrup)**
1/4 oz Rothman & Winter apricot liqueur
1/4 oz Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur
1 dash Scrappy’s cardamom bitters***
1 piece of candied ginger
hibiscus salt****

Combine all the ingredients except the candied ginger and the hibiscus salt into a cocktail shaker and fill 3/4 of the way with ice. Shake vigorously for 15-20 seconds. Strain into a cocktail glass that you’ve chilled in the freezer. Thread a piece of candied ginger onto a cocktail pick. Garnish the drink with some hibiscus salt and the candied ginger skewer. Enjoy!

*I used Bluecoat in this recipe because I wanted a gin that was a bit less aromatic and herbal.

**Torani makes an Orgeat that’s widely available. I prefer one made by a small company in Berkeley Ca. called Small Hand Foods. You can also make your own! Lots of recipes available online.

***Aromatic bitters would also work here in place of the cardamom or you could try a dash of each.

****A tiny bit of salt added to cocktails with citrus makes the flavors really pop. I chose the hibiscus here because it’s coloring is dark and it looks pretty as a garnish. You can definitely substitute!


The Old-Fashioned: Finding the perfect balance…

The Old-Fashioned: Finding the perfect balance…


Knowing how to make a good Old-Fashioned for someone who truly loves them is a very satisfying thing. At first glance it seems like it’s a relatively simple drink that should be easy to prepare. After all, it consists of only four things: bourbon, bitters, water, and sugar. Yet when done right, the flavors blend together and compliment one another so well that it’s almost like some kind of magic has happened. I start by being very careful with my ingredients, choosing a really good bourbon, well crafted bitters, real demerara sugar cubes, and an Italian maraschino cherry (as a garnish). I like to try different bourbons and bitters together to see how everyone reacts to the new combinations, and I would encourage you to do the same. That’s where this becomes really fun! As important as the ingredients are, the way in which you make the drink is just as essential. I try to think of it as a kind of ritual, making every effort to do it the same way every time. It’s a built drink (as we talked about yesterday) so it’s going to be made in the same glass in which it’ll be served.

2 oz Bourbon*
2 dashes of Aromatic bitters**
1 demerara sugar cube
1 splash of water
1 or 2 Italian maraschino cherries***
2 orange peel strips

Place the sugar cube in the bottom of an Old-Fashioned glass. Add two dashes of bitters and a splash of water. Muddle together until the sugar cube is almost completely dissolved. Swirl the glass a bit. Add ice (preferably one large cube) and then the bourbon. Stir the drink gently, just enough to get it chilled. Take one of the orange strips, hold it over the drink horizontally (white side toward you, orange side toward the glass) and squeeze the strip in half. You’ll see the oils hit the top of the drink. I like to add the cherries and the other orange strip right to the glass, but you can also put them on a cocktail pick if you prefer. As you’re making the drink notice how the different aromas hit your nose. First it’s the spice of the bitters, then the warmth of the Bourbon, the sweetness of the cherries, and finally the tang of the orange. Finding the right balance between all of these is where the magic takes place!

*Choose your favorite bourbon. Mine is Buffalo Trace!
**Try Fee Brothers, Scrappy’s, Bittermilk, Hella Bitters or any other hand-crafted bitters.
***I love Amarena cherries, available at Whole Foods in the cheese department.

Vintage glassware from Jinxed in Philadelphia.

If you’re already an Old-Fashioned fan, tell me what some of your favorite ingredients are!