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Category Archives: brandy

Lincoln, NE – March 14, 2012

During my last trip to Lincoln I found several nice places that made up for my disappointment with Marz.  However, hands down, the best of the bunch is the Bourbon Theater.  I can assure you the next time and every time I’m in Lincoln I’ll be stopping by to see Luke Edson!

The Bourbon Theater is an interesting venue – a music club (the night I was there featured a DJ playing house, very loudly) along with an amazingingly well stocked bar and the very talented Luke Edson behind the bar.

For openers, I enjoyed that fact that Luke spent a few minutes chatting with me to find out what I like in a drink.  After our conversation he made me his twist on a Rob Roy.   Featuring Skye scotch along with Dubonnet, orange bitters and an orange twist, this was an amazing cocktail – and better than the original Rob Roy.  This wonderful smokey scotch with the orange flavors was very cohesive and well done. 

The next drink Luke made for me was the Mont Blanc, an original of his.  Here it is.

  Mont Blanc

  • 1-1/2 oz St. Remy brandy (or better)
  • 3/4 oz Bianco vermouth
  • 1/4 oz Luxardo maraschino liqueur
  • 1/4 – 1/3 oz Averna

In my notes at the time I wrote “OMG amazing!”  It’s like a boozy dessert.  Vanilla notes, a hint of cherry and an almost creamy texture.  This is, without a doubt, one of the best cocktails I’ve ever had. 

By the way, if you want to make this at home (and I will be!) you will need the use Bianco vermouth, not dry vermouth.  Bianco is a sweetened white vermouth and using dry will not yeild the same result at all!

Cheers!

Saturday, July 23, 2011 – The Patio Swim Club at the Twilight Lounge

Summer is in full swing at the Patio Swim Club and that means it was time to break out the smoker and BBQ some pork shoulder.  With Paula and Cookie here for the weekend, this was the perfect day to do it.

Producing my eastern North Carolina style pork butt is an all day affair.  I started at 8am, getting the smoker out and getting the fire going.  After years of experimenting I’ve settled on lump hardwood charcoal as my base fuel with chunks of hickory to provide the smoke and flavor.  With the fire going, it was time to get back into the kitchen and prep my butt. 

I unwrapped the pork (thanks to the Germantown House of Sausage) and patted it dry then went to work with my rub.  Yes, it’s my own recipe.  No, I won’t publish it.  Yes, it’s good!  This part is critical and I make sure I really work the rub into the pork so that I’ll end up with a great crust on the butt when I’m done with the smoker.

It's All in the Rub!

With that, all I had to do was wait for the smoker to get up to about 200 degrees – and I didn’t have to wait long.  With that, the pork butt went on the grill, the cover was shut and now it was 8 to 10 hours of patience and fire tending.

Patience is the Key Now

Of course, nothing helps the patience like a good cocktail and some poolside fun.  Normally when I smoke I have bourbon – with cola, or maybe Mountain Dew (that’s what we did in the Carolina’s) or just with some ice.  However, as I was reading the Wall Street Journal after putting the butt in the smoker, I found an interesting recipe that used Pisco.  I’ve had a bottle around since New Year’s Eve (thanks again Christian and Meredith) and this seemed like a great way to use some of it up.

 
  El Capitan
  • 2 ounces Pisco
  • 2 ounces sweet vermouth
  • 1 dash orange bitters
  • 1 dash aromatic bitters

Combine all the ingredients in a mixing glass with ice.  Stir to combine and then pour into a rocks glass.

I used Cesar Pisco and Peychaud’s bitters in this drink, and enjoyed it immensely.  The flavor of the Pisco comes through, but there is a strong resemblence to a Manhattan, especially with as much sweet vermouth as is in this.  The orange bitters (from Agnostura) also make themselves known.  The whole cocktail comes together nicely, and since it was on the rocks, it was perfect for sipping as I tended my smoker and enjoyed the pool.

As for the pork butt – well, it was perfect if I say so myself.

A Little Bit of Carolina Heaven

Moist and spicy, but not too hot, we all enjoyed this along with beans, slaw and corn bread Gwen put together. 

 
Cheers and bon appetit!

 

June 21, 2011 – La Crosse, WI

I’d been hearing about the Starlite Lounge for years from my buddy Greg.  His daughter Katie had gone to college at UW La Crosse and as a result, Greg and Patti had numerous opportunities to enjoy the retro and swinging atmosphere of the Starlite.  So, when I had the opportunity to spend a night in La Crosse on a recent business trip I knew exactly where I was headed.  As luck would have it, I even managed to select a hotel right next to the Starlite…it was fate!

Beca was behind the bar for the evening and proved to be an incredibley good bartender and host.  She took care of all her guests deftly and during the peak rush was banging out martinis and various assorted cocktails with no muss and no fuss.  Great job Beca!

The decor of the Starlite is exactly what you’d expect.  Plenty of 50’s style light fixtures and vinyl covered bachelor pad chairs down in classic Howard Johnson aqua and orange.  A mix of Rat Pack and other lounge music was in the background, loud enough to add to the atmosphere, but soft enough not to be intrusive. 

As I perused the cocktail menu, my eye immediately was drawn to the drink I knew I’d have to have first.  The Daddy-O martini just called to me, and I could not resist its singsong melody.  Made with four parts vodka and one part dry vermouth, and garnished with an olive, it was the perfect way to unwind from the days meetings and travels. 

As I contemplated what to have from the appetizer menu I next had a Rusty Nail (yeah, by now Beca was beginning to think I was old…).  Made with Macgregor and Drambuie, this was a nice follow up to the martini, was well made, and went with the seafood stuffed mushrooms perfectly.

For a night cap, I finally cajoled Beca into making me her favorite drink.  Given that it is Wisconsin, she popped out an excellent and authentic Brandy Old Fashioned, complete with muddled orange and cherries at the bottom of the glass and an extra dose of bitters.  I have to admit that the bitters through me for a bit and I originally guessed that it was whiskey, but Beca was delighted to correct me on that score.  It was perfect way to end my visit to this terrific throwback lounge!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Yeah, I know, I’m going backwards in time…I got a little out of order so that I could get my Kentucky Derby Mint Julep post in while it was still fresh.

So, last week I was in the Twin Cities for a series of customer meetings.  Fortunately, I had the chance one evening to try out a local spot near where I was staying.  Bricks American Pub, in Blaine, MN was suggested by my good friend Ashish and it lived up to his recommendation.  They have a well stocked bar and can serve up craft beers, wines and classic and speciality cocktails.

The cocktail I had was an off menu drink mixed up by Dave, our bartender for the evening.  It consisted of Tanqueray Ten, lemon juice, bar syrup and muddled basil.  It was very tasty as the fresh basil was perfectly balanced with the lemon and offset the flavor of the Tanqueray to perfection.  Not too sweet and not too boozy, this cocktail was just right!

I also sampled their brandy Old Fashioned along with my associate Mikhail.  Mikhail is from Russia and fortunately the Bricks Old Fashioned was a terrific introduction to this classic cocktail.  Dave made our Old Fashioneds properly, muddling the orange and cherry in the glass and not using premixed sour.  It was well done and was bursting with the fruit flavors along with the brandy. 

So, if you happen to find yourself in Blaine, MN in the future and are thirsty, definately check out Bricks – it will be worth your time!

Day 354, Cocktails 357 & 358

Friday night and both Gwen and I were ready for a fun evening.  I had been in Texas for the bulk of the week and it was hectic getting started up on the new job.  It had also been a busy week for Gwen with lots of activities for the girls that had to be taken care of.  So when Friday rolled around we were ready to celebrate our birthdays in style (Gwen’s is coming up next week). 

Our first stop of the evening was the Firefly Urban Bar + Grill for dinner (using my trusty Groupon!) and a drink.  Firefly is located in Wauwatos and has a very hip and slightly upscale vibe – so definately wear your best t-shirt when you go, as the one of the girls at the table next to us did.  The food is varied and ranges from appetizers to sandwiches to full dinners that are twists on traditional comfort type foods.  The pork chops that we both ordered were good, and the speciality cocktails were very good.  Gwen had the White Cosmopolitan, which I won’t report on (since I only tasted it) while I went with the Metaxa Side Car.  Consisting of Metaxa, a greek brandy that is a blend of brandy and wine, Patron Citronage, orange and lemon juice, this was a very nice, mellow cocktail.  It’s flavors were multilayered with the orange and just a hint of lemon made dark, silky and almost chocolatey by the Metaxa, with a hint of the Patron lurking in the background.  Very smooth and not too sweet but not boozy either.  I definately recommend this cocktail if you visit Firefly.

After dinner we headed back to Germantown and stopped by the Klavier Lounge.  We both had their special for the night, a Berry Mojito.  Consisting of Bacardi Dragon Berry rum, simple syrup, grapefruit, lime and garnished with a mint sprig this was propietor Kris Peters’ twist on the classic mojito.  This cocktail had a nice, sweet flavor that goes over big with the girls.  I also enjoyed mine, but one was enough for me on the sweet scale and I moved on the a Rusty Nail and then Monterrey Mules for the rest of the night.  As usual though, it was a lively time at the Klavier and we enjoyed ourselves immensely!

Cheers!

Day 310, Cocktail 312

Ok boys and girls, let this be a lesson to you…do not let middle aged men drink and have access to bermuda shorts. 

With that said, Tuesday night I was again somewhat aimlessly wandering through the Ultimate Bar Book, looking for a cocktail for the evening.  A few pages after the not so special Barton’s Special I found Tuesday’s drink.  Thinking of Bermuda got me thinking of warm weather, summer and fun.  Yes, the pool is still buried under several feet of snow and ice, but it is March.  Spring training is under way and it won’t be long before the warm breezes reach us, the tiki torches are lit and we are on our way to summer fun.

In the meantime, the Bermuda Highball (and those guys in the funny shorts) will have to sustain me.

  Bermuda Highball

  • 1 oz gin
  • 1 oz brandy
  • 1 oz dry vermouth
  • ginger ale

Combine the gin, brandy and vermouth in a mixing glass with a few ice cubes and stir to mix.  Pour, ice and all, into a collins glass, fill with ice and top with the ginger ale.  Give a quick stir to mix.

A pretty tasty cocktail that is well balanced.  I used St. Remy brandy and Beefeater gin in this one and they both blended well with the vermouth.  There were hints of the vermouth that came through the ginger ale, with the gin and brandy playing nice supporting roles.

So breakout the shorts and get ready for summer!

Cheers!

Day 309, Cocktail 311

Monday, Monday, Monday…it was just a blah kind of day this past Monday.  Very little to make it remarkable or even notable.  So how to cheer up Monday?

I pulled the Ultimate Bar Book down off the shelf in the Twilight Lounge and started flipping through it.  I headed right to the very beginning of the cocktails by spirit section, which is brandy.  I’m fairly well stocked in brandy between the cognac, brandy and Calvados that I have, so it seemed like a good place to start.  And then, there it was…the angels started singing and a single spotlight illuminated the entry.  The Barton Special Cocktail.  If this cocktail can’t make Monday special, what can?

I attempted to do some research on the history of this drink.  It does appear in the Savoy cocktail guide, but I really couldn’t find anything definitive regarding its history or just how Barton is.  However, I didn’t let that stop me from mixing one up.

  Barton Special

  • 1-1/2 oz Calvados
  • 3/4 oz gin
  • 3/4 oz scotch

Combine the ingredients in a shaker with ice.  Shake, shake, shake to mix and chill.  Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Ok, so I’m sure the selection of gin and scotch would make a difference in this drink.  I went with the Beefeater for the gin, figuring this would need all the oomph that a quality London dry would provide.  I used the Johnny Walker Red because, well, its what I had.  However, it’s big, smokey flavor figured to stand up to the Calvados.  Which is does, almost.  The clear flavor of this drink is the Calvados, backed by the smoky scotch.  The gin gets totally lost in this.  It really is just a huge shot…not much going on here with flavor to make this a distinctive cocktail.  I suspect some lemon and bitters would help pull this three headed beast together and tame it.  That experiment, however, will have to wait for another day.  So, alas, my Monday remained uninspired.

Cheers!

Day 308, Cocktail 310

Well, with that big shindig in LA last night (and for the record, I didn’t watch a minute of it, and, actually, still don’t know who won what…seriously.  I have better things to do, like drink all these cocktails and tell you about them!) what would be a better cocktail for Sunday (at least by name) than the Hulla Balloo.  Like several of my recent efforts, this comes from Dr. Tiki at the TikiBar TV podcast.  And like all of my posts to date, it has nothing to do with the Oscars…hehe.  So, without further adieu (drum roll and dramatic announcer voiceover), I bring you the Hulla Balloo!

  Hulla Balloo

  • 2 oz brandy
  • 2 oz scotch
  • 5 oz lemonade

Combine the brandy, scotch and lemonade in a mixing glass and stir.  Pour into a tall tiki or collins glass filled with cracked ice.  Add your favorite umbrella or plastic monkey and serve.

Actually, I was pleasantly surprised by this drink.  I really thought that this particular combination of ingredients wouldn’t be quite so tasty, but it was.  You get a nice depth from the brandy (I had used St. Remy) and a pleasant, smokey taste from the Johnny Walker Red scotch that I used.  With the sweetness of the lemonade, this turns out to be just right.  Even Gwen liked it, and that really came as a surpise given the brandy and scotch in it.

So the next time your event hits Hulla Balloo territory, break one of these out for your guests!

Cheers!

Day 303, Cocktail 304 & 305

Ah yes, the entire Brady clan enjoyed Alice’s pork chops and applesauce dinners…be sure to sound like a wiseguy while you say it!

No, I didn’t make pork chops and applesauce for dinner last night.  Instead, it was a pork roast with a garlic, onion and thyme rub along with mashed potatoes and braised brussel sprouts with bacon.  So no pork chops and no applesauce.  However, I felt that I needed something with apple to make the night complete.  A quick search of the CocktailDB for options and the next thing I knew I was in the Twilight Lounge whipping up the Calvados Cocktail to enjoy while I made dinner.

  Calvados Cocktail

  • 1-1/2 oz Calvados
  • 1 oz orange juice
  • 1/4 oz Cointreau
  • 2 dashes orange bitters

Combine the ingredients in a shaker with ice cubes and shake, shake, shake to mix and combine.  Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, no garnish required.

A pretty decent cocktail.  A bit of a bite from the Calvados, not unusual for a brandy.  A touch of sweetness from the orange juice and Cointreau, while the orange bitters keeps the whole thing well balanced.  As an aside, the original recipe called for just one dash of orange bitters, but I amped it up and thought it was much better with two.

After dinner I was ready for dessert, and decided to try a home grown variant of the Calvados cocktail.

  Calvados Toffee

  • 1-1/2 oz Calvados
  • 1 oz orange juice
  • 1/4 oz Cointreau
  • 2 dashes orange bitters
  • 2 drops LorAnn Gourmet English Toffee flavoring

Combine the ingredients in a shaker with ice cubes and shake, shake, shake to mix and combine.  Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, no garnish required.

Very similar to the Calvados Cocktail with just a hint of toffee flavor that makes the drink, to me, a bit sweeter and richer.  I thought it was a very nice after dinner cocktail, but Gwen wasn’t too thrilled with it.  I wouldn’t hesitate to make this again.

I want to mention the flavorings I’ve been using lately.  I’ve mentioned before that I found these at a local cake / bake shop.  They are all labelled LorAnn Gourmet and they are a great way to have fun with cocktails on the cheap.  If you do get some, use them sparingly, they do pack a punch!

Cheers!

Day 294, Cocktail 293

Yes, I’ve fallen a bit behind with the posts…not the drinks, mind you, just the posts.  This post actually harks back to last Sunday (and you thought I was going to write the herald angels sing, didn’t you!). 

So, last Sunday I was at a bit of a loss so I picked up the Ultimate Bar Book and just started thumbing through the gin section.  I came across the Guggenheim, which fit my needs for something relatively simple and for which I had everything on hand.  It also kind of fit the stream of consciousness motif I’ve been in.  You see, this is a variant on a cocktail known as the Between the Sheets, which is itself a variant of the classic Singapore Sling

  Guggenheim

  • 1 oz gin
  • 1 oz brandy
  • 1 oz Cointreau

Combine the ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir to chill and combine.  Strain into a chilled coupe.  No garnish necessary.

A nice cocktail.  The orange of the Cointreau takes control of the flavor profile while the brandy and florals of the gin (I used Beefeater) played supporting roles.  Not too boozy, not too fruity, this one is just right.

Cheers!