You are currently browsing the archive for the cocktails category.

How to make a Flintlocke cocktail

Yesterday I got an email from a reader, Mike McClure, telling me about a cocktail I’d never heard of called The Flintlocke. I asked Mike if I could post his letter (and attached recipe) and he said, “Please do! It would be great to see the Flintlocke make a comeback!” So here it is. The original recipe (as well as Mike’s adaptations) follows.

I really enjoyed your ‘I’ll Take Manhattan’ magazine article from several years back; and have shared it with many of my friends. (as well as the link to your web site: “My Father’s Thanksgiving Manhattan”)

If you ever wonder if your articles connect with your readers; I’d like to share with you the following.

I enjoyed the article for two reasons:

·        You really helped me improve my Manhattans. (i.e.: Orange bitters vs. Angostura; Rye vs. Bourbon; etc.) BTW, Like you, I’m  a big Maker’s Mark fan.  Recently though I’ve been able to find really great Ryes.  My favorite is George Dinkel’s Rye. (Total Wines price ~$22).

·        The second reason is the nostalgic tie to your father.  In our family, we have a similar story. 

For our family, the drink is called the Flintlocke.  Legend has it that back in the 1960′s; a bartender at the Colonial Inn in Concord Massachusetts entered and won a national drink contest sponsored by Laird’s (Maker of Apple Jack and Early Times bourbon).   His drink was the Flintlocke.  It’s similar to a Manhattan: (Bourbon, Apple Jack but also includes Crème de Cacao, lemon juice and Grenadine) Proportions have to be accurate or it will taste like bad cough syrup or worse.  For the next couple of decades, the Inn featured the drink.

In the late sixties, my father, while dining there, spotted a ‘table-tent’ card on the table featuring this drink.  He enjoyed the drink and brought home the card. 

Over the next few years, he perfected the mixing of the drink.  I remember when my parents were having cocktail parties, Dad would make up a batch and share the recipe with their friends. (Think Christopher Walken in the opening scene of “Blast from the Past”) At future get-togethers, the friends would all compare notes with him on their own mastery of the drink.

As my siblings and I reached the drinking age (I’m now 59), we carried on the tradition and have shared this with our friends and extended families.  In the mid-eighties, one friend made a trip back to the Colonial Inn; only to find the drink still being featured…with the same table-tent placard.

Sometime in the ’90s, the restaurant stopped featuring the drink.  In 2011, my wife and I made a trip  back to New England and the Inn.  In making our hotel & dinner reservation, I spoke to Dave the restaurant manager and asked if they still had the drink.  He said ‘Yes.’  I then shared with him this story of my dad and that table-tent card.  Dave asked if I still had that card; and he admitted that none of his current bartenders really knew how to master the drink and the old-time patrons have been complaining.  So I sent him a photocopy of the card as well as my notes/tips on how to make it (see attached).  While we were at the Inn, one of bartenders (John) made a pretty good one. (Of course, not as good as my dad’s.)

Like you, this has become our holiday seasonal drink of choice.  As the family gathers at Thanksgiving and Christmas, we always make up a batch of Flintlockes; and continue to share the recipe.

Our father passed away in December, 2000.  In his final days, the family gathered around his bed.  We had one more Flintlocke with him while eating his favorite Christmas cookies (Old fashion German Sand Tarts).  To this day, we sacrilegiously referred to it as “the body and blood of our Father”; Amen.

So, again, thank you for your article.  Glad to know other folks have similar traditions and memories of their parents.

–Mike McClure

Tags: , ,

Redbreast whiskey

The Irish whiskey selection at Castle Leslie. The 12-year-old Redbreast single-pot whiskey is perfect for a Dubliner. Photo by David Lansing.

My go-to cocktail is a Perfect Manhattan. Not “perfect” because I make the best in the world (although I pretty much do) but because it’s made with half sweet vermouth and half dry vermouth. I like it because it’s not as sweet as a regular Manhattan.

Still, I always feel guilty in the summer when I order a Perfect Manhattan. I mean, I should probably order a G + T, or a Tom Collins or a margarita. And I will. On occasion. Just not very often.

But in Ireland I never feel bad ordering a Manhattan in summer. Mostly because there is no summer in Ireland. What they call summer we’d call a nasty winter day in California. But the thing is, it’s hard to get a good Manhattan in Ireland. Mostly because they don’t know what bourbon is (not to mention rye). You have to ask the bartender how he makes them because usually it will be with Scotch. I even had a guy in a very nice bar in Dublin thinking he was doing me a favor by making me a Manhattan with Jack Daniels. Gross.

But I’ve found a solution. And that’s to order a Dubliner. The Dubliner cocktail was created by Gary Regan back in 1999 to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in NYC. Gary is a character. He’s written a number of books, most notably The Joy of Mixology, and founded the Zen-sounding Institute for Mindful Bartending. I like that. It’s the sort of shit I would do: Zen bartending.

Anyway, Gary (who, for reasons only he would know, now goes by the name gaz regan—yes, it’s lowercase) is a big bourbon guy (he’s got at least three books out about bourbon, including The Book of Bourbon and Other Fine American Whiskeys) so it’s not too surprising that the Dubliner is basically just his rif on a Manhattan. To whit, it’s made with 2 shots Irish whiskey, 1/2 shot sweet vermouth, 1/2 shot Grand Marnier, and a dash of his very own Regan’s Orange Bitters No. 6. Shake over ice and strain in to a chilled cocktail glass.

I think the original recipe called for using Jameson, which makes sense for St. Patrick’s Day, but I generally ask the bartender to make it with my favorite Irish whiskey, 12 year old Redbreast. Try it. It’s lovely. By the way, gaz also invented the James Joyce Cocktail, which I also quite like. We’ll talk about that on another day.

A Dubliner cocktail.

Tags: , ,

Arizona Biltmore Tequila Sunrise

The Original Tequila Sunrise as served in the Wright Bar at the Arizona Biltmore.

After my somewhat disappointing visit to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West, I felt like I needed a drink, and what better place to get one than at the Arizona Biltmore’s Wright Bar, named after the famed architect. Their house cocktails seemed overly sweet and uninspired: something called a Wright Passion (pomegranate liqueur and Grand Marnier); Wright’s Root Beer Float (Appleton rum & root beer with whipped cream—yuck).

Then I came across a story in the cocktail menu on “The History of the Arizona Biltmore’s Original Tequila Sunrise.” According to the resort, the Tequila Sunrise was created in the “late 1930s or early 1940s when a gentleman by the name of Gene Sulit came to work for The Arizona Biltmore.”

As the legend goes, a loyal and longtime repeat guest had returned to the Arizona Biltmore and told Sulit that he loved tequila, “But was looking for a refreshing beverage to enjoy poolside, and asked Gene to surprise him.”

So right then and there Sulit created the “iconic cocktail made famous in songs, movies, and American pop culture.”

Great story. God only knows if it’s true. Everything I’ve ever read says the Tequila Sunrise was created by a San Francisco bartender named Bobby Lozoff at the Trident restaurant in Sausalito around 1970.

“The Tequila Sunrise was invented here,” Lozoff told a National Geographic writer last February. Lozoff says he and another bartender used to make traditional vodka or gin cocktails with tequila. Lozoff says that his drink was a tequila version of a Singapore Sling.

“We built it in a chimney glass; a shot of tequila with one hand, a shot of sweet and sour with the other hand, the soda gun, then orange juice, float crème de cassis on top, grenadine if you wanted, and that was it, the Tequila Sunrise.”

Two things might suggest the veracity of Lozoff’s story: There are no mentions of a Tequila Sunrise in any major cocktail guides from the 40s or 50s or even 60s; the first “Sunrise” cocktail I’ve come across is in The Bartender’s Standard Manual, published in 1971.

However, there are a couple of other things to consider here. One is that nobody published tequila cocktail recipes prior to 1970 (in my copy of the classic Esquire cocktail book, The Art of Mixing Drinks, published in 1956, there are exactly three tequila cocktails: Margarita, Tequila Sour, and something called a Prado Cocktail , from the Hotel Del Prado in Mexico City, which is just a Gin Sour made with tequila).

Also, the Tequila Sunrise created by Gene Sulit at the Arizona Biltmore had little to do with the Sunrise the Eagles were singing about in the early 70s. It was made with tequila, fresh lime juice, crème de cassis, and club soda. No orange juice, no grenadine.

The 1971 version in the Bartender’s Standard Manual is sort of a compromise between Sulit’s Sunrise and the version we think of now; it calls for grenadine, but no orange juice.

In any case, I ordered the Arizona Biltmore’s “Original Tequila Sunrise” and it was light, refreshing, and much less cloying than that nasty drink from the 70s. I’d highly recommend you give this version a try.

The Biltmore Original Tequila Sunrise

1 1/2 oz. blue agave tequila

3/4 oz. crème de cassis

Fresh lime

Soda water

Fill chimney glass with cracked ice. Add tequila, crème de cassis, and a squeeze of lime. Fill with soda and garnish with a lime wedge.

Tags: , , ,

Sweet Charity cocktail

Last Saturday I went to Copley’s, Cary Grant’s old estate in Palm Springs, for a cocktail. I was thinking of getting this pomegranate and lemon vodka number but then my eye caught their wines by the glass list and a Spanish grenache rose jumped out at me. Mostly because it’s so damn difficult to find bars and restaurants that serve a decent rose. Why is that? Summer to me (okay, it’s October but Saturday evening at 6:30 in Palm Springs it was over a hundred degrees) means rose. In Europe it de rigueur. Summer = rose. Why are Americans so far behind the curve on this? Rose is light, refreshing, floral–all the things I want in a summer drink.

I mention this because not five minutes ago I got a note from my friend Lee Healy, who does pr work for Fleming’s and several other notable restaurants, that all this month they are serving a special cocktail, called “Sweet Charity,” with 100% of sales going to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Here are three things I like about the Sweet Charity: It’s made with Lillet Rose and St.-Germain Elderflower; it’s only $6 (until 7pm); and all profits go to blood cancer research. So stop in the wine bar at Fleming’s in October and order a Sweet Charity. And if you don’t have a Fleming’s near you, here’s the recipe (but it would be nice if you’d send a little check to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society after you make it):

Sweet Charity Cocktail

2 oz. Lillet Rose

1/2 oz. St.-Germain Elderflower

2 oz. soda water (I use cava or champagne if I have a bottle open)

Ice and raspberries to garnish

Fill a wine glass halfway with ice. Add Lillet and St.-Germain Elderflower. Top gently with soda water and garnish with fresh raspberries.


Tags: , ,

How to make a scratch sour mix

Do not, do not, do not use these mixes to make your cocktails.

Yesterday I wrote about how Mexican Controy is now being distributed in the U.S. by a little company in Texas called Pura Vida. I also mentioned a story I’d written a few years ago on how to make The Best Damn Margarita Ever. The keys to that cocktail were using a 100% agave tequila, Mexican Controy, and a homemade sour mix.

Thinking about all this kept me up last night. Getting a really good tequila is obvious and now you know how to get ahold of Mexican Controy. But I didn’t really say anything about the sour mix which is just as important as the spirits.

First of all, if you’ve got a bottle of commercially made sweet and sour mix in your refrigerator, I want you to do the following: Go to fridge. Pick up bottle. Unscrew cap. Pour down drain. Throw bottle away.

Never ever ever insult yourself or your guests by using one of those funky sweet and sour mixes no matter how much they cost (do those colors look natural to you?). There is just no comparison to making your own. And it’s not that hard. First you need to make some simple syrup. This should take you all of about 3 minutes. Simply add 2 cups of sugar and 1 cup of water to a pot and gently heat until all the sugar is dissolved. No need to boil. After it cools, pour the syrup into a clean bottle. (Bar trick: after you pour it into the bottle, add an ounce of vodka to the simple syrup to prevent mold or bacteria from growing.)

Now, to make your homemade sour mix, all you’re going to do is use equal parts freshly-squeezed citrus juice and simple syrup. The easiest thing to do is use equal parts lemon and lime juice. For instance, to make a liter of sour mix you’d combine 8 ounces lime juice, 8 ounces lemon juice, and 16 ounces simple syrup. But you can use other combinations as well. For instance, I typically use a little grapefruit juice when making a sour mix for margaritas. Maybe 4 ounces of grapefruit juice, 4 ounces lemon juice, and 8 ounces lime juice. Sometimes I’ll use blood orange juice as well. Give it a try. You’ll find whatever combination of citrus juices you use will be a lot better tasting than anything you can buy at the store.

Tags: , ,

« Older entries