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Month: November 2016

Suze: One more French bitter apertif to try.

Suze: One more French bitter apertif to try.


Yesterday we talked about Bonal Gentiane Quina. Today we move on to Suze Saveur d’Autrefois. Makes you begin to appreciate what a nice name Gin is, right?? Thankfully we’ll be shortening today’s French apertif to just Suze, pronounced exactly as it appears. Created in the late 19th century by Fernand Moureaux, Suze is said to either have been named after Moureaux’s sister-in-law Suzanne, or after a river in Switzerland. (If I was Suzanne I would be fairly annoyed about this controversy.) Suze is made from the gentian plant, also one of the main ingredients in Bonal. Unlike Bonal, however, Suze is not a fortified wine, but rather a distilled spirit, and that makes the gentian flavor quite a bit stronger. It’s fairly vegetal, like some type of greens you’d pick in the garden. That’s where the bitterness comes in, and yet there’s a citrusy sweetness here too. It has a startling bright yellow color, and it’s amazing on it’s own, over ice, or in cocktails. Just a teaspoon of it will completely transform a martini’s flavor, or you can try it in a Suze and tonic with 2 to 1 proportions, garnished with a twist of lemon or grapefruit.

Today’s cocktail is my spin on the Moulin Rouge #2, created by François Vera from Pour Vous in Los Angeles. shared his recipe on their website. I chose this drink because of its beautiful color, and because I couldn’t wait to see how the strawberry and vanilla flavors worked with 3 different types of bitters! I used Stateside vodka distilled right here in Kensington, Madagascar vanilla bean paste instead of the extract, and Scrappy’s Orleans bitters. The end result really wowed me. The bitters and the lemon juice prevent the strawberry and vanilla from being too sweet, so you have a refreshingly, crisp drink rather than one that is overly cloying. The champagne float gives the cocktail effervescence and elegance, making it another great choice for a before dinner drink during the holiday season!


Moulin Rouge #2

1 ounce Stateside vodka
¾ ounce Amaro Nonino
½ ounce Suze*
1 barspoon Madagascar vanilla bean paste or extract
¾ ounce fresh lemon juice
¾ ounce fresh strawberry juice from about 5 muddled strawberries
3 dashes Scrappy’s Orleans bitters
Sparkling rosé champagne to top

Add all the ingredients (except the sparkling rosé) to the bottom half of a shaker tin. Add your one large cube and 2 small (if you have them on hand) and shake for 15-20 seconds until very cold. Double strain using Hawthorne and mesh strainers into a champagne flute. Top with the rosé champagne and garnish with a strawberry. Enjoy!

*Suze can be found at Canal’s in Pennsauken or Benash Liquors in Cherry Hill.


Bonal Gentiane Quina: the Amari’s French cousin!

Bonal Gentiane Quina: the Amari’s French cousin!


I’m sticking with bitters but taking things in a slightly different direction today by introducing you to Bonal Gentiane Quina, a French apertif. I know what you’re thinking. Here’s yet another Thirsty Camel obscure ingredient. You may even be rolling your eyes at me just a bit. I see you. Let’s start with the pronunciation: it’s (boh-NAHL  jun-tee-AHN  kee-nah), but you don’t have to say the whole name. You can shorten it to just Bonal. Created in 1865 by a monk/doctor named Hippolyte Bonal, also known as Brother Raphael, Bonal is an infusion of the bittering agents gentian root and cinchona bark, along with a secret blend of botanical herbs from the Chartreuse Mountains. Bonal shares many characteristics with its Italian amari cousins, but it’s made in a different way. The French bitter spirits have a wine base that’s been fortified with brandy, and so they retain wine-like or brandy-like flavors. You’ll notice this the minute you take your first sip of the Bonal and find sweet raisins and figs. That gives way to the gentian root’s grassy, herbal notes along with some bitterness from the quinine in the cinchona bark. You already know the flavor profile of quinine because it’s what’s in tonic water. Finally, the whole thing finishes up with with just a little bit of a licorice or anise. It’s a very complex spirit that does magical things in cocktails or even when it’s combined very simply with rye whiskey and an orange twist. You can also substitute it for a sweet vermouth like Punt E Mes in cocktail recipes.

Today’s drink is originally from Carlos Yturria at Cafe Claude Marina in San Francisco, but its recipe was posted online by Serious Eats. I found it there and was immediately drawn to how simple of a cocktail it was. The Bonal is combined with lemon and Lillet Rouge, another French fortified and infused wine made mostly from Merlot grapes. There’s lots of sweetness from the Bonal and the Lillet, but the lemon juice has the effect of countering that. I wanted to amp up the bitterness just a little so I added a dash of bitters as you’ll see in my note. It’s light and refreshing, but with very complex flavors, and because of its very pretty red color I can easily see it working as a before dinner drink on Christmas or anytime during the holiday season. That’s why I added the cranberry to the garnish. The Bonal is a little tricky to find; I’d give Benash Liquors in Cherry Hill a try for this one if you’re local, or it can definitely be found online. It would make a wonderful gift for someone who loves cocktails. The Lillet Rouge is widely available. One thing to remember about both these ingredients, as well as fortified wines or vermouths in general, is that they should be refrigerated in order to stay fresh. As a rule of thumb, any spirit under 20% ABV (found on the label) should be kept refrigerated.


Up in Arms (from

1½ oz Lillet Rouge
½ oz Bonal Gentiane Quina
½ oz fresh lemon juice
1 dash Black Cloud charred cedar bitters*
Orange and cranberry garnish

Add all the ingredients (except the orange peel and cranberry) to a mixing glass. Fill ⅔ full with ice. Stir with a long-handled bar spoon 30-45 seconds or until very cold. Strain into a cocktail glass using a Julep strainer. Place the orange peel and cranberry onto a cocktail pick and garnish. Enjoy!

*The bitters are not in the original recipe. I added them because there’s sweetness to both the Bonal and the Lillet Rouge and I wanted to step up the bitterness in a very subtle way. Regular aromatic bitters would probably work here too, but I’d been looking for the opportunity to use Black Cloud bitters since I purchased their sampler pack online. Their flavors are all very intriguing and the charred cedar is no exception!


Amaro Ramazzotti and a little drink called The Pop Quiz

Amaro Ramazzotti and a little drink called The Pop Quiz


Ramazzotti. No, it’s not an Italian sports car, but doesn’t it sound like one? It’s yet another of the Amari digestivos. I don’t plan to cover all 300 of them, but I did want to at least give you a fair sampling. The recipe for Amaro Ramazzotti was developed in 1815 by Ausano Ramazzotti, a young Italian herbalist who owned a shop in Milan. Ausano wanted to create an Amaro that would appeal to a wide range of people, while still retaining its characteristic bitter style. After much trial and error he perfected a secret blend of 33 ingredients that included bitter orange and star anise, and named it Amaro Festina Ramazzotti. At this same time the first cafes were opening in Milan and this inspired Ausano to open his own type of cafe that served Amaro instead of coffee. His idea caught on and his Ramazzotti became the most popular Amaro in Italy. (Another very Italian thing to say – we all think we’re the favorite grandchild!) The Ramazzotti is still made today according to the same recipe which is said to be known by only 3 people.

Upon tasting the Ramazzotti the first thing that hits me is the orange flavor, as well as something deeper and darker that many people describe as root beer or caramel and that works here for me too. The finish is not quite as long as some of the other amari, but it’s definitely still there hitting me square in the nose. In the cocktail that I’m featuring today the Ramazzotti gives a spicy edge to the bourbon, and the chocolate bitters bind the entire drink together by acting as a flavor bridge between the two main spirits. This is a very easy drink to batch for a party, but it also goes down very easily too, so be forewarned!


Pop Quiz (General Lee’s Cocktail House in Los Angeles, posted on Instagram by @thirstyinla)

2 oz Elijah Craig Bourbon
½ oz Amaro Ramazzotti
1 dash Fee Brothers Aztec chocolate bitters
Orange twist for garnishing

Add all the ingredients (except the orange twist) to a mixing glass. Fill ⅔ full with ice. Stir with a long-handled bar spoon 30-45 seconds or until very cold. Strain into a cocktail glass over one large cube using a Julep strainer. Twist an orange slice over the drink to express its oils and the garnish. Enjoy!


Friday Musings: Sometimes there just really isn’t more than meets the eye.

Friday Musings: Sometimes there just really isn’t more than meets the eye.


Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. For me, it has always marked the beginning of the Christmas season, that quiet moment before we all descend into the madness of decorating, baking, shopping, and wrapping. It’s a holiday of reflection, a time to take stock. What has the last year been like for us? What have we gained? What have we lost? What are we thankful for? It’s as if we push a reset button when we answer these questions. We get back in touch with who we are, and with what’s important to us, and with what we hope for in the year to come. Something momentous happened to me last Thanksgiving that marked the start of an emotional rollercoaster ride where I was yanked and pulled in all directions, until the car finally flew off the tracks this past summer. It was a situation that I tried to give my best to, but even my best wasn’t enough. It was doomed to fail, and so it did. I should have known better, but I didn’t see that until it was too late. Now that the year has come full circle, I see it clearly and it’s time to move on. I’m finally ready to close this brief chapter in my life and be open to the profound happiness that’s waiting just around the corner.

And so how does a cocktail go along with this story?? Let me explain. There is a classic cocktail called the Old Pal whose recipe first turned up in print back in 1927 in Harry McElhone’s Barflies and Cocktails book. I liked the name of the drink; there was something nice and simple about it. Who doesn’t like thinking about a cocktail named after an old friend? I was also drawn to its ingredients: rye whiskey, Campari, and dry vermouth. They reminded me of what goes in a Negroni or in its close cousin, the Boulevardier, and that was the taste I was expecting. As it turns out, neither one of those things was true. The cocktail was named after a sportswriter named “Sparrow” Robertson, not because he was McElhone’s old friend, but because he called everyone “old pal” even if he’d just met them. And the taste of the drink was nothing like a Negroni, quite possibly because there was very little sweetness in this cocktail to counter the Campari’s bitterness and rye’s spice. Rather than being a smooth drink, this one came across as more of a bracing drink, not unenjoyable by any means, but definitely different. So in both cases what I believed and expected turned out not to be true, much like my roller coaster ride. And suddenly I had my Friday Musings post.

Old Pal

1 1/2 oz rye whisky (I used Redemption)
3/4 oz Campari
3/4 ox Dolin Blanc dry vermouth
Lemon twist for garnishing

Place all the ingredients except for the lemon twist into a mixing glass and fill 2/3 full with ice. Stir with a long handled bar spoon until very cold (about 30 – 45 seconds). Strain using a julep strainer, and pour into a Nick and Nora glass. Twist the lemon peel over the drink to express some of the oils and then rub it along the rim of the glass before garnishing. Enjoy!

I hope your Thanksgiving was wonderful and your reflections were happy ones. Here’s to a spectacular holiday season and a bright year ahead!

I’ll be at Gorshin’s Trading Post in Haddonfield tonight pouring cocktails from 5 till closing. Stop by for a drink!


Thursday Barlogue: Local gifts for the cocktail lover in your life!

Thursday Barlogue: Local gifts for the cocktail lover in your life!


Happy Thanksgiving! When I look at the cocktail in the picture above something happens to me. My heart beats a little faster, my pupils dilate, I lose my appetite, I become tongue-tied… in short, I fall in love. It’s not so much about the alcohol, but rather all the details that go into actually making the drink: the recipe, the preparation, the choice of glassware, the garnish… I’m enamored with the entire process. That’s because I am a cocktail lover, through and through. But I’m not the only one. Chances are you have one in your life too. Or maybe you are one yourself. Either way you’re going to need some gift ideas to buy for someone else or to put on your own Christmas list. Well I have some suggestions for you! Although these ideas are geared towards local shopping right here in Haddonfield, if you don’t live nearby I’m sure you can find some of these items in your own hometowns. With Black Friday and Small Business Saturday right around the corner, now’s the time to get started!


Our first stop is Home on Haddon at 9 Kings Hwy East where you can find the hammered ice bucket above, as well as glassware, a mason jar shaker set, and a tabletop mini bar with decanters, shot glasses, and old-fashioned glasses. Every home bartender loves a nice ice bucket and a shaker set to make drinks, and new glassware is always fun!


Our next stop, Inkwood Books at 31 Kings Hwy East, has a wonderful selection of cocktail books including a few that I especially love like Paris Cocktails for the travel lover, Gone With the Gin for the movie buff, Colonial Spirits for the history expert, and Tequila Mockingbird for the literary-minded. You can bet the Visual Guide to Drink by Pop Chart Lab is on my Christmas list for sure! There’s also a very cool Drink Great Drinkers Shot Glass set that’s certain to make any cocktail lover smile.


Just across the street and up a little ways is A Taste of Olive at 106 Kings Hwy East. Here you’ll be able to put together a gift basket of cocktail ingredients including the fruit vinegars you see pictured above, a huge selection of olives for martinis (including the ones stuffed with Blue cheese), pickled vegetables like carrots, string beans, and peppers that would be crazy good in a Bloody Mary, and two different types of cherries for garnishing: Maraschino and Bada Bing.


Crossing back over at the light will bring you to The Polished Plate right on the corner at 101 Kings Hwy East, with its amazing selection of glassware. Both the William Yeoward (above) and the Simon Pierce are gorgeous collections that would make particularly beautiful gifts. Glassware is so important; pairing the right glass with the right drink elevates things to an entirely new level, something that every home bartender truly appreciates.


If you continue up the street you’ll land at Gorshin Trading Post and Supplies at 125 Kings Hwy East, an absolute bonanza of cocktail making ingredients. This Carry On Cocktail Kit makes a great stocking stuffer, and you’ll also find a substantial number of Jack Rudy tonics and bitters, McClary Brothers and Tait Farms Shrubs, Cocktail Crate mixers, as well as Luxardo and Woodford Reserve cherries. Be sure to read my feature on Gorshin by clicking on the link above and join me this Friday night when I’ll be serving cocktails there from 5 till closing!


Cross the street at Mechanic and pop into The Paper Trail and More‘s new space at 150 Kings Hwy East to see Andrea and Theresa (and Mr. Big) for all your cocktail party invitations! This is only a sampling of the options they have. And don’t forget cocktail napkins, party hats, and confetti.


Dried whole spices, ginger, and salts make great garnishes, especially in fall and winter drinks. Our final stop is Hanna’s Gourmet at 128 Kings Hwy East where you can purchase all of these along with a muddler, bar prep cutting board, and tea towels. Hanna’s also carries beautiful full-sized cutting boards, always a thoughtful gift for the home bartender. They can double as a prep surface and a drink background if you like to take pictures of your cocktails like me!

Three other stops along the way are Patricia of Mullica Hill at 37 Kings Hwy East for very pretty glassware, the most popular being etched coupes, Wild Violet Natural Specialties in Kings Court for organic teas, wild honey, agave, and organic sugar to make simple syrups, and The English Gardener Shop at 123 Kings Hwy East where you can grab a few different sodas for drinks, including Barritt’s Ginger Beer. They also carry many beer glasses, shot glasses, and a few old-fashioned glasses too. The sodas are also available in The British Chip Shop just across the street where you can sit and have lunch during your day of shopping!

The cocktail in this post is my Army & Navy Special Forces. Click for the recipe.

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving with family, friends, and cocktails, of course!!