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Tag Archives: death’s door

Madison, WI – July 12, 2012

I found myself in Madison, WI for an evening recently – and for the first time in my various travels around the midwest.  Being just 90 miles from home was different, but I still managed to hunt down a good cocktail lounge to while away my evening.  The Opus Lounge was my target for the evening.

After reading a few of the Yelp reviews and seeing the menu when I first arrived I was concerned that this would be a menu driven cocktail lounge lacking any real creativity.  Boy, was I wrong, and am I ever glad I was!

The decor is urban chic with a soundtrack to match that ranged from hip hop to acid jazz and many alternative formats in between.  As I scanned the booze behind the bar I saw what I thought were too many flavored vodkas, but then, who doesn’t have too many flavored vodkas these days?  The menu was also full of what sound like fruity, girly drinks and, my pet peeve, is called a martini menu (a martini is a cocktail, and this was a cocktail menu!).  

Fortunately, Marilyn, the bartender on duty, came to the rescue and patiently demonstrated that she and Opus have real cocktail chops.  I ended up sampling three of the menu items, the Dill Collins, an interesting riff on the classic Tom Collins which was very refreshing on a warm summer evening.  This cocktail featured Death’s Door gin over muddled cucumber, dill, lemon and a sugar cube.  Club soda and ice finish off this drink.  It was delicious – the dill was just barely there and added a nice dimension to the drink.

Next was the Royal Highness featuring Plantation rum, cassis, bolivar bitters, lime, Domaine de Canton and egg white among its ingredients.  Yes, I said egg white, and when a bar is mixing cocktails with egg white they get my full attention!  This drink evoked visions of tiki torches and tropical beaches for me.  There was a slight coconut flavor, which I could not figure out for the life of me since this drink had none in it.  It did have a smooth, creamy texture courtesy of the egg white and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
The third menu item was the Pimm’d Up Bondurant.  Only the second cocktail I’ve seen anywhere using the venerable Pimm’s No. 1 and it was delicious.  This is basically a Pimm’s sour with Domaine de Canton in it.  The ginger of the Canton played off the Pimm’s perfectly.  This sipper was served up in a cocktail glass, but would have worked equally as well in a collins glass on the rocks.
I finished the night with an off menu drink from Marilyn that featured Laphroiag scotch, ginger and lemon flavors.  Again, a homerun that has me wishing I had written down the recipe – but unfortunately, didn’t.  

Bottom line is that if you’re looking for good cocktails in Madison, look no further than Opus Lounge.

Day 301, Cocktails 301 & 302

We had some fresh grapefruit in the house, which is currently one of number 2 daughter’s favorite snacks.  I figured that she wouldn’t miss one (it’s not like their that big or anything…), so I grabbed one and took it down to the Twilight Lounge with me.  I didn’t have anything in mind, figuring I’d just experiment and see what I could come up with.

For my first effort I wanted to use the Death’s Door gin that I had in the cabinet.  I was almost out and figured that maybe this would be a good way to use it up, particularly since it is not overly botanical like the London dry gins.  As I looked throught the liqueurs cabinet my eye was drawn to the Luxardo maraschino liqueur (another shock, I know).  I also grabbed the bar syrup figuring that the tart grapefruit would need a little sweetness beyond what the maraschino would provide.  Thus, after a little tinkering, the Death by Grapefruit was born.

  Death by Grapefruit

  • 2 oz Death’s Door gin
  • 1 oz ruby red grapefruit
  • 1/4 oz Luxardo maraschino liqueur
  • 1/2 oz bar syrup

Combine the ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir to chill and combine.  Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Even though I only used 1/4 oz of the Luxardo, it is the maraschino flavor that comes front and center initially, followed by the tart grapefruit and then the juniper of the gin.  It definately needs the bar syrup, otherwise this would be a very tart cocktail.  All in all, a pretty good effort, if I say so myself.

For my next cocktail, I decided to stay in the same vein of gin, but swapped out the Luxardo for Ty Ku, the delightful mangosteen and melon flavored liqueur.  Again, after a little bit of trial and error, here is what I settled upon.

  Ty Ku Grapefruit

  • 1 oz Plymouth gin
  • 1 oz Ty Ku
  • 1 oz ruby red grapefruit juice
  • 1/8 oz bar syrup

Combine the ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir to chill and combine.  Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

As with the Death by Grapefruit, the supporting liqueur is what comes through first, in this cast the Ty Ku.  It is then followed by hints of grapefruit and then even more subtly the Plymouth.  I had chosed the Plymouth because of its relatively neutral presentation (for a gin, that is), and because I was almost out of the Death’s Door.

Of the two drinks from last night, I’d have to give the nod to the Death by Grapefruit, although I thought both were good.  Give ’em both a try and let me know what you think!


Day 261, Cocktail 260

I know you’re looking at that post title and wondering just what the heck is coming up.  You are, aren’t you? 

Well, it’s like this.  Sometimes it’s harder to name the cocktails that I concoct at the Twilight Lounge than it is to actually concoct them.  After yesterday’s rather lame effort with my two new pear cocktails I decided today was to be an inspiring effort, one worthy of great plaudits and driven by outsized ego and ambition.  Thus, the Peary is born.  As in Robert Peary, intrepid explorer of the North Pole (although the second man to reach it).  And why is Robert Peary the inspiration for tonight’s cocktail.  Actually, its only because his name is Pear-y.

  Peary Cocktail

  • 2 oz Death’s Door gin
  • 1 oz lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz Mathilde Poire liqueur
  • 1/2 oz St. Germain liqueur

Combine the ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir vigorously to mix and chill.  Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon peel.

Another very nice cocktail from the Lounge.  Light citrus and elderflower notes at the beginning of this followed by just a hint of pear.  It’s slightly sweet and the “brandy” feel of the Mathilde Poire is totally subsumed by the lemon and St. Germain.  If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll note that the only differences between this and yesterday’s Elderflower Pear is that I dropped the Lillet and amped up the St. Germain. 

As for Admiral Peary, I hope he doesn’t mind that I borrowed his name.


Day 260, Cocktails 258 & 259

Monday I was inspired to follow up on the delicious Pear Flower that I had just last Friday at the NSB Bar and Grill.  I had previously purchased a bottle of Mathilde Poire liqueur that I had intended all along to pair with St. Germain, but I just had never really gotten around to it.  The Mathilde Poire is made from D’Anjou pears and is 36 proof.  It definately smells and taste like ripe pears and also has a brandy like backbeat to it.

So with the Mathilde Poire in hand, what else to use?  Death’s Door gin quickly joined it on the top of the bar followed by Lillet Blanc.  Just smelling each of these seperately and then together was good – I was pretty sure that I was on to something that would turn out good.

  Death’s Door Pear

  • 2 oz Death’s Door Gin
  • 1 oz Lillet Blanc
  • 1/2 oz Mathilde Poire Liqueur

Combine the ingredients in a mixing glass with cubed ice.  Stir to mix and chill.  Strain into a cocktail glass.  No garnish required.

On my initial taste I got a bit of sharpness from the Mathilde (that brandy backbeat I talked about), but it was quickly mellowed by the floral qualitites of the Lillet.  After the drink had a chance to mellow in my glass it had a nice pear flavor that was complimented nicely by the juniper in the the Death’s Door.  By the way, using another gin in lieu of the Death’s Door will definately change the flavor profile and may overwhelm the drink, especially if you use a London Dry gin.  If you can, use the Death’s Door.

One cocktail was not enough this evening.  I was on a roll and ready to introduce St. Germain to the mix.  Here’s what I came up with.

  Elderflower Pear

  • 2 oz Death’s Door gin
  • 1 oz Lillet Blanc
  • 1/2 oz Mathilde Pear Liqueur
  • 1/4 oz St. Germain Liqueur

Combine the ingredients in a mixing glass with cubed ice.  Stir to mix and chill.  Strain into a cocktail glass.  No garnish required.

Oh my god, this is a homerun!  The addition of the St. Germain adds both a touch of sweetness and just enough of the elderflower flavor that combines just right with the pear flavors of the Mathilde.  The flavors just exploded on my tongue, providing me with the perfect balance between the boozy gin, the floral Lillet and the two liqueurs.    This drink alone is enough reason to have the Mathilde around, especially if you are a fan of St. Germain.

Try them out and let me know what you think!


Day 222, Cocktails 218

Friday night turned into home movie night for Gwen and me, with both the daughters out of the house.  We took advantage of the evening by watching one of our favorite Christmas movies – White Christmas with Danny Kaye, Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen.  Man, can that Vera Ellen dance!  We also love all the cocktail lounges that are part of the movie and how the women wear cocktail dresses and the men suits.  I swear that I should have turned 30 in about 1952!

When watching a movie like this we like to sip cocktails ourselves.  I wanted to stay within my sour theme of the moment and also wanted to create a cocktail that would be emblematic of White Christmas.  So, down to the Twilight Lounge I went and started tinkering.  This is what I came up with:

  White Christmas

  • 2 oz Death’s Door gin
  • 3/4 oz lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz bar syrup
  • 1/2 bar spoon peppermint schnapps

Combine all the ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake, shake, shake to mix and chill.  Strain into a chilled coupe and garnish with 3 fresh cranberries.

This was delicious!  Using the shaker and really shaking vigourously left bits of ice that came through the strainer and helped froth up the cocktail a bit.  This gives the drink a very nice, white, almost snowy appearance.  I did have to be careful with the peppermint schnapps to be sure not to overpower the gin and lemon juice with it.  Too much and it just takes over!  You can, however, adjust the amount of schnapps to your taste.  For instance, I do like mine just a bit more minty than Gwen did.  The Death’s Door gin is a local product made from wheat and juniper berries grown on Washington Island.  It’s not quite as strong on the flavor as a typical London dry gin.  If you don’t have Death’s Door in your area I would substitute Plymouth in its place.

With our cocktails in hand we settled in for the movie and had a fun evening!