Ian Fleming most famously wrote and created the idea of “shaken, not stirred” in the classic novel “Dr. No.” Actually much earlier, in Casino Royale he had Bond ordering (and inventing) a Vesper cocktail- shaken. But is he responsible? Watch the “Thin Man” movie clip montage below and you’ll see Nick Charles shaking away. I believe the overwhelming technique from the 30s-90s was to shake. Everything.
But here’s the general rule of thumb- if the cocktail’s ingredients are all liquor, stir; if they include fruit juice, shake (of course there are exceptions, the Vesper being merely one). Stirred gives a silkier, smoother texture, shaken adds more oxygen, thoroughly integrates ingredients, and does get the drink colder. But if done to a Manhattan for example- the imbiber pays the price- a muted, icey one at that.
Honestly, I shook the hell out of all drinks I made for years (and have bum shoulders to prove it), but I’ve consumed plenty of shaken Manhattans that I certainly enjoyed. Now, however, I even have bar spoons that I prefer for the way they stir- wow. What would James Bond think?
Vesper (as ordered by Mr. Bond):
“Three measures of Gordon's, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it's ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel. Got it?”
Shake all ingredients with ice- the idea is ice cold and slightly diluted. I like the ice chards in this drink but use a fine strainer to remove when pouring (this is double straining) if desired. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish with a lemon peel.
Who doesn’t like high fives? Particularly when they’re of the boozey kind?
This time, still being hot out and all, I thought five great bartenders could showcase Gin around town.
Starting things off, at Clio, Todd Maul is quietly doing incredibly creative stuff- think science meets cocktails- he’s often using a centrifuge for example. Here, he drills holes in perfect cubes of ice, and uses a pipette to insert loomi, a Persian black lime- the drink improves as it melts! This is no ordinary gin and tonic.
Photograph by Wayne Chinnock.
Bull’s Eye Gin & Tonic
2 oz Death’s Door Gin
3 oz Fever Tree Tonic
Loomi ice cubes
Long lime peel
Around the corner in Kenmore, it is a treat to sit in front of Scott Marshall, one of Boston’s all time greats, at Hawthorne. Incredibly likable, talented and can personally drink a gallon (how many bottles is that?) of Chartreuse in a sitting, he whipped up one of my summer standbys:
2 oz Plymouth Gin
.75 oz pomegranate grenadine
.75 oz lemon juice
3 slices muddled cucumber
6-8 mint leaves
(he mentions it’s also great tall over ice with soda as a Collins)
Heading across the river on Mass Ave, Noon Ithansuwan has upped the ante with her new cocktail program at Moksa in Cenrtal Square. By the way, I love that her cocktail menu states “get properly drunk with Noon.” Always on the cutting edge with tea infusions, spices, syrups and fresh ingredients, here featuring:
The Peking Sailor
2oz Hendrick’s Gin
1 oz Elderflower infused cider vinegar
1 oz lemon juice
1 oz Prosecco float
Cucumber and orange garnish
A bit further into Cambridge, Chris Olds has created a new bar program to mirror the beautiful new space at Park in Harvard Square. His classically styled gin drink leans to the turn of the century:
1.5 oz Hayman’s Old Tom Gin
1.5 oz Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth
Barspoon Crème Yvette
Dash Reagan’s Orange Bitters
Orange peel garnish
A bit of a U-turn to Inman Square, Beau Sturm at Trina’s Starlite Lounge, prepares a simple elegant twist on the classic Gimlet. Named after a trip to MOMA in New York where he found a cilantro infused gin on the café menu, his drink, to me, is a summer classic.
2oz Cilantro Gin
.75 oz simple syrup
.5 oz lime juice
Sweet 100 tomato garnish
Wait, that’s the High Five, but how about a night-cap? So, I’m cheating I guess, but this last one is also a terrific like-minded example, and shows how versatilie a classic cocktail can be.
Also, “High Five plus one” works for me.
Head back into Boston, slip late night into rising star Ryan Mcgrale’s bar at Storyville. His take switches the herb to basil and adds fruit with “rose” referring to a specific type of Italian fragola (strawberry).
2 oz Plymouth Gin
.75 lime juice
.75 simple syrup
Muddled strawberry and basil leaves
Basil leaf garnish
Customers have asked to split a check with five credit cards and ordered Pisco Sours as their last call drinks. You still have to stock beer, break down all syrups and juices, clean the dish machine, sort all recyclables, count your bank and wipe all the liquor bottles. When your done, you've been standing on your feet for at least ten hours. The solace: a unique pleasure in sitting in an empty bar, after hours. Time for a shift drink.
Thomas Tietjen, who by day is a talented artist and creator of ASIZ industries, by night bartends at Trina's Starlite Lounge. He also suggested I start finding out what bartender's shift drinks are around town, and in doing so unwittingly is the first.
Thomas' shift drink: A Bud and Michter's Rye.
Tales of the Cocktail is celebrating its 10th year this July 25th. What is it? An excuse for a bunch of bartenders, industry professionals, and other entusiasts to get together in New Orleans and, well, get drunk. I joke, certainly it is much more than that, and has become the apex of cocktail conventions. If you simply say "Tales" most industry types will know exactly what you're talking about.
The vision: "to be instrumental in advancing the craft of the cocktail through education, networking and promotion." There can be no argument, it has succeeded. I know many, many great bartenders who are going, yet I am not and I have never been. So, what do I know?
Well, the key to life, if you ask me, is to surround oneself with people who have far more talent. So, I know enough to have the spirit queen Kirsten Amann of Fernet Boston and bartender goddess Sabrina Kershaw sending me reports from the front lines - or at least a re-cap later on.
As a send off, Sabrina (who you can find at Citzen in the Fenway) made me a classic cocktail invented during 1930s New Orleans and named after a town in Normady. It boasts refreshing citrus and apple with backbone of brandy- perfect on a hot day in NOLA.
For those heading down check out Imbibe's TOTC Survival Guide and remember Dean Martin's words of wisdom: "You're not drunk if you can lie on floor without holding on."
But thanks to Bully Boy it is.
Founded by brothers Will and Dave Willis in 2010, this family operation epitomizes what our extended bar/cocktail culture should be and strive for. Bully Boy began as a hobby, now aided by racks of oak barrels that once held red wine or Four Roses bourbon, and a state of the art German combination pot/column still, has become much more.
They are completely hands on; when I walked in to the warehouse I met their mom Sally who was in the process of manually affixing neck labels and plastic seals over finished vodka bottles (it was instantly clear to me who kept the operation in line both literally and figuratively). They use certified organic ingredients, make all their spirits in small batches and focus on quality over quantity.
Dave graciously showed me vodka in process, admitting its distillation is “100% science,” where their art is needed more when making rum and whiskey. Wheat based from Aurora Farms in Maine and carbon-filtered, the vodka has a “subtle sweetness and smooth finish.” The white rum is equally as well distilled with a nod to Boston’s past using Blackstrap molasses, but refined using cognac making techniques. The whiskey, clear and un-aged in barrels is clean and boasts a pleasantly bracing mint character.
I looked at the production line in eager anticipation- in the late fall their aged rum and whiskey will be available. In the meantime, think local- not only just great people, Dave and Will have a real handle on their craft. Hoping to do them justice, here’s an aperitif cocktail to enjoy now.
Pour ingredients over ice in a cocktail shaker and stir. Strain into a “down” glass and garnish with an orange peel.
90 degrees outside and I received a call yesterday at work downtown to taste some spirits- sure, why not, I’m a professional taster right? Ha, just a bit crazy. I will say however, this is a pretty great perk when working in the bar business- suppliers come to you with new products to try. Ranging from an Amaro (Italian bitters) to a Agricole Rhum (from Martinique- sugar cane, not molasses) what stood out on a hot day: Whistlepig Rye Whiskey from Vermont. I warned you, crazy.
Merely six short years ago, Raj Bhakta purchased and began restoring a sustainable organic farm on 500 acres in Shoreham, Vermont with the guidance of Dave Pickering, previous master distiller at Maker’s Mark. This all comes at a price, but worth it.
100% rye and 100 proof, it is surprisingly smooth, partially due to 10 years bottle age. With toffee and butterscotch, the spice of the rye is there too, accompanied by some orange citrus. Delicious as I tried it with a cube of ice, I’m looking forward to trying it in a Manhattan- maybe when it’s a little cooler outside.
Remember: “There is no bad whiskey. There are only some whiskeys that aren’t as good as others.”-Raymond Chandler
Warm summer weather this week, coupled with Bastille Day tomorrow, got me imagining myself in Provence, drinking Pastis (a generic term for French anise flavored liqueurs). Normally, I'm drinking a High Life in a cold, dark bar, so indulge me for a minute.
Ideally it's a sunny afternoon at a café table, with a water pitcher and two small glasses - one with a few cubes of ice, the other Pernod.
Pouring water into the glass with Pernod decreases the alcohol content and changes the insoluibility of some of the ingredients, creating a milky white liqueuer (whoa, that sentence makes me sound way smarter than I really am).
Enjoying that ritual with the sun on my back, I sip and watch the world go by. For the classic aperitif, there is no place better to enjoy it than Les Zygomates by South Station, where General Manager Nick Daddona lined it up for me. The star anise flavor is quite strong, so you have to be a fan of licorice- however, in cocktails it can subtly add a lot.
A classic example:
Corpse Reviver #2
.75 oz Gin
.75 oz Lillet Blanc
.75 oz lemon juice
.75 oz Cointreau
Shake all ingredients with ice, strain into a cocktail glass.
Optional orange peel garnish
When in the hands of a real pro, more liberal application can be appropriate. Steve Shur, a cocktail guru who also happens to be a bartender at the Boston College Club, offered up this libation when a customer asked him for an anise based cocktail.
Alexa’s Absinthe Punch
.75 St Germain
.75 lime juice
barspoon simple syrup (1/8 oz)
Stir ingredients over ice for 1 minute, strain over fresh ice in an old fashioned glass.
Sunday, July 15th, The Opus Affair is having a summer party event at Eastern Standard, The Big Party starting at 1pm. Celebrate the arts and get to pretend you're Gatsby.
Tuesday, July 17th, at 7pm, check out Grafton Street's Bulleit Patio Dinner, featuring Bulleit Bourbon and Bulleit Rye. Summer evening outside of Harvard Square, drinking Bulleit Rye and a delicious dinner- now that's living the dream (at least mine).
Sunday July 22nd, Franklin Southie at 5pm, crawfish boil and TOTC send off party: with Drambuie- prep up for New Orleans, or at least feel as if you're there!
While I cannot take credit for naming this blog I would like to point out the obvious connection between it and a Paula Abdul song. After watching the video, tell me, am I just caught up in a hit and run?
Here’s my Paula-inspired cocktail:
Hey, Hey, Paula
2oz Grey Goose Vodka
lemon peel garnish
Pour ingredients over ice in a wine glass.
(no jiggering necessary)
Repeat as required, re-use same garnish.
In 1950 Venetians started drinking the Aperol Spritz, but it has become a standard warm weather aperitif cocktail all over Italy- it was everywhere in Rome and further north in Tuscany when I was lucky enough to be there late last spring.
I must admit, I shared more than a few with my mom, and between the two of us we want to help bring it's popularity back here to the States. A low alcohol bitters, sweeter than Campari, with balanced rhubarb, orange and mandarin flavors, its popularity is not surprising- so this summer have one... ok, maybe two.
Check out the Aperol Spritz video in Italian- awesome.
1oz soda water
Fill a tall glass with ice, add Prosecco, then soda, then Aperol. I like to do a quick stir to integrate ingredients. Finish by zesting a long orange peel and floating on top. Cin Cin!
On the 4th of July most of us think of drinking an ice cold beer- and we’re mostly right. When our forefathers were signing the Declaration of Independence, however, they most likely toasted their achievement with Madeira; the cooked, fortified wine from the island of the same name off Portugal. While not necessarily thought of as a Summery libation, in homage, try this (or just have a Budweiser):
1oz Bual Madeira
.5oz simple syrup
1 egg white
.5 lemon juice
1 dash Fee Bros. Black Walnut Bitters
Mix all ingredients in a shaker without ice, vigorously dry shake.
Add ice, re-shake.
Strain into a Collins glass without ice, top with soda.
Garnish with dash of Walnut Bitters.
The drink is surprisingly light, nutty, and refreshing- happy 4th!