Tag cocktails

MxMo Monday: Curacao Punch

Mixology Monday this month, brought to us by Dennis at Rock and Rye, highlights “forgotten cocktails.”

I suppose everyone has a different threshold for when a cocktail recipe is “forgotten”…the average person who doesn’t frequent “serious” cocktail bars wouldn’t recognize a Japanese, for example, but if you’ve hung out at Rob Roy or Vessel in Seattle regularly, you’ve probably had one in the last year.  Again, if you’d read Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, then you’d probably say that Curacao Punch was no longer “forgotten.”

But try to walk into a bar, even most of the serious ones we tend to frequent, and Curacao Punch isn’t easy to find.  Murray Stenson looked at my blankly, and so have a number of other serious bartenders in several cities.  So I’m going to claim that Curacao Punch still fits this month’s theme.

Frankly, the recipe in Ted Haigh’s book is something I find damned near undrinkable.  He uses 2 full ounces of Curacao, compared to 1 ounce each of cognac and rum.  Let that sink in, in its sticky orange glory.  This might be historically accurate, but unless you’re looking for an adult orange snowcone, dial back on ratios here.  My own favorite was posted by Adam Elmegirab, of Boker’s Bitters in Scotland fame, and I’ve tinkered with it a bit here.

In particular, I find that I prefer a mix of overproof aged Jamaican rum, aged agricole rhum, and cognac.  The nice thing here is you can tailor this to local conditions and ingredients, so if all you get is Appleton V/X, you’re still gonna be seriously happy.  The Curacao should not be Cointreau, this demands richness rather than the drier crisper Cointreau.  Clement Creole Shrubb or the original Senior of Senior Curacao are optimal here.

2 oz  cognac (here:  Remy VS)

1 oz aged Jamaican rum (here:  Smith and Cross Navy Strength)

1 oz aged Martinique agricole rhum (here:  Saint James Ambre)

1/2 oz curacao (here:  Clement Creole Shrubb)

1/2 oz lemon juice

1 oz water (not soda water, just cold filtered water)

1 heaping barspoon cane syrup (3:1 in this case)

Shake and strain onto cracked and shaved ice, garnish with berries or whatever you have.

The effect here is a subtle mix of brandy and rum flavors, with a bit of orange on the finish.  The overproof Jamaican rum  adds a decent but mellow burn, so you’re not going to mistake this for a soft drink.  (Don’t use white Wray and Nephew here, by the way, you want aged flavors, so sacrifice overproof for aged.  Appleton 12 is amazing here too, the Reserve is great, and the V/X is perfectly sufficient)  The sweetness stays in the background, and I find this much more balanced than the recipe from Ted Haigh’s book (sorry, Ted).

Not complicated, but a classic which deserves to be much more well-known in the bars of the West Coast.

MxMo: Vieux Caribeño

This month’s Mixology Monday theme was fun, especially since I’ve been working with rum recipes lately, learning the history, and focusing especially on agricole.  Lime and rum have been paired flavors for centuries, probably since the rum ration under Admiral Vernon (“Old Grog”) included limes and citrus and was found to ward off scurvy.

Early in my cocktailing days, back in college, friends and I drank an unnamed cocktail from Hemingway’s Islands in the Stream, lovingly described as gin, green coconut water, lime, and bitters, served tall in a glass wrapped in wet paper towels to keep it cool in the tropical heat.  The drink was unnamed by Hemingway, and in the late 80’s the resources simply weren’t easy to find to do good historical research.  We added tonic water and simply called it the “Hemingway” and still sip them to this day.

Something like this is made by Mr. Martin Cate down at Smuggler’s Cove, under the name Caribeño, and since I just finished a batch of barrel-aged gin (in a former Tuthilltown rye whiskey barrel), I thought I’d go with the following:

Vieux Caribeño

1.5 oz barrel-aged gin

3 oz young coconut water (fresh is best, some of the asian canned varieties with pulp are fine)

3/4 oz lime juice

1/2 oz cane sugar syrup (for fun, use Lyle’s Golden)

1 dash Angostura

Shake the ingredients and pour over fresh rocks in a collins glass with lime shells.  In the pictured presentation I’ve added a sugar cane stir-stick rolled in powdered lime zest mixed with a small amount of cane sugar.

This works, but my barrel-aged gin is pretty vanilla-forward right now since it’s the first batch through this particular barrel.  The next one I’ll probably cut the straight barrel-aged gin 2:1 with london dry to mellow out the vanillin a bit.  Otherwise tasty!

The importance of sugar: Smith and Cross and Lyle

Smith and Cross and Lyle

When making cocktails at home, I’ve noticed that a lot of folks don’t pay close attention to the sweetener they’re using.  A good simple syrup, hopefully.  But it turns out that the kind, and form, of the sweetening agent you use matters a great deal.

One of my favorite rums is Smith and Cross Navy Strength Jamaican rum, imported by Haus Alpenz, and constructed of pot still rums in combining the lighter Plummer and heavier Wedderburn styles, it weighs in at 114 proof.  It’s not necessarily easy to mix with given the strength, but one of my favorite ways to use S&C is very simple punch or a variant on Navy Grog.

My usual starting point is a recipe from Cocktail Virgin Slut, a group of folks on the east coast who drink great cocktails, get seriously nerdy about their ingredients, and only write about one thing:  recipes, and how well they worked.  Their Smith and Cross punch is excellent, if a trifle….stiff.  Usually I tend to mellow it by using a bit of Trader Tiki’s superb Orgeat with it, which if you’ll notice essentially means I’m a mint leaf and some proportions away from having a Trader Vic’s Mai Tai made with Smith and Cross.

But I’ve been researching Navy Grog a bit lately, and the tradition of the Royal Navy’s rum ration lately, in preparation for a possible chance to taste Black Tot Rum later this year, so tonight I decided to stick to the basics.

Which means keeping the proportions the same (final recipe below), but perhaps playing with the way it’s sweetened, to match the boldness and burn of the Smith and Cross with a sweetener with enough body.  Molasses came to mind, but that’s too heavy.  I don’t keep Karo syrup in the house, and agave nectar seemed like the wrong flavor profile.  The answer is….Lyle’s Golden Syrup.  You may never have bought it, but I’ll bet you’ve seen the can on the shelf or the newish squeeze bottle in the specialty baking/dessert section of a good market.

Turns out, Lyle’s Golden Syrup is essentially old school pure cane syrup, partially inverted sugars and a rich, caramel flavor without the bitterness of molasses or Lyle’s Black Treacle.  Dear lord, I’m not one for sweet things, don’t put sugar in coffee or iced tea, and prefer salty snacks to sweets any day.  But if I ever slide into a diabetic coma, there will be a pile of Lyle’s tins somewhere nearby.

Historically, many of the rum drinks actually consumed by islanders in the Caribbean were fairly simple punch-like, or grog-like.  Ti’ punch, for example, mixes rhum agricole with a squeeze of lime and cane syrup.   This punch mixes aged Jamaican pot-stil rum with the same, and smoothes the harshness of the rum, allowing it to really express its funky self:

Smith and Cross and Lyle

2 oz Smith and Cross Navy Strength Jamaican rum

1/2 oz lime juice

1/2 oz Lyle’s Golden Syrup

3 dashes Angostura bitters

Construct by squeezing the lime into the shaker tin, then adding the Lyle’s.  It will require a lot of scraping to get the sticky mass into the tin, keep at it.  Then use the lime to thin out the Lyle’s before adding any cold ingredients.  Once cold liquids or ice hit the Lyle’s, it will turn into a sticky and solid mass like hard candy.

Once thin, add the other ingredients, ice, and shake like hell until your fingers stick to the shaker.  Really mix that gooey syrup in there.

Strain over rocks and garnish with lime and shaved nutmeg.


Sugar matters because ingredients matter.  If a recipe doesn’t seem quite right, tinker until it is.  Enjoy.

Cocktail Party to Benefit the San Juan Island Permanent Farmer’s Market

Last fall, at our annual Harvest Dinner and Auction to benefit the San Juan Island Permanent Farmer’s Market project, I donated two cocktail classes and parties.  The concept was that the purchasers would select an era, and if they chose, dress in period clothing.  This last Sunday, I hosted the second of the parties, and it was a ton of fun.

As part of the festivities, I taught a short class on cocktail making fundamentals — the bare minimum one needs in order to mix any drink recipe found in a book, etc.  When to shake, when to stir.  Why the dilution from ice is critical to making a balanced cocktail.  How the various ingredients “work” to produce a tasty, balanced beverage.   And then I simply mixed good drinks for the rest of the evening, with food catered by Market Chef in Friday Harbor.

Each person attending also got a booklet which covered the basics of cocktail making, and a bit of cocktail history, in addition to the evening’s menu of cocktails (with short recipes).  I focused on the history of “martini-like” cocktails, beginning from combinations of Old Tom gin and italian vermouth in the mid-1800’s (e.g., Martinez), down through the transition to dry gin and dry vermouth, to the martini as we recognize it today.  Most of the information, of course, is derived from online sources and the incomparable book by David Wondrich, but it’s fun to have a nice summary.

I wanted to post the menu, for folks who were interested.  And, of course, to pique the interest of others who might want a similar party and class.  It goes to benefit a terrific cause — a permanent, year-round home for the farmer’s market on San Juan Island.  Whether you live up here or not, consider supporting the cause!