In my opinion, one of the greatest triumphs of the cocktail renaissance is the rediscovery of the classic Old Fashioned. I’ve often spoken of how at some point after the repeal of Prohibition, the Old Fashioned became lost and possibly confused with a long-forgotten drink called a Smash (basically a tarted-up Mint Julep covered in fruit), a mere husk of its former, glorious self.
For decades, bartenders just like me served a limp, weak concoction consisting of a half-muddled sugar cube, a mashed-up neon red cherry and orange, a splash of whiskey, and some soda water drowning the results.
With a little luck, and a lot of hard work, that’s all changed with the renewed interest in classic cocktails. Now at any given night at my bar you can find literally a dozen people sipping on two ounces bourbon touched with a teaspoon of sugar and two dashes of bitters, garnished with a simple orange twist over a couple big ice cubes. (more…)
A side project, an experiment or just a simple curiosity that turned into a delicious phenomenon that we're still serving to much delight at our bar, barrel aged cocktails explore the gentle manipulation of a drink's flavors over time. This post details the inspiration, the history and the methods behind my barrel aged cocktails.
My problem with homemade tonic water has always been a flavor profile that was too esoteric for the general audience. This recipe takes some of the positive qualities people have come to understand from commercial tonic water and updated them with fresh ingredients.
Turned off by the glop you find in the grocery store, and unable to endure another long egg and cream whipping session, I set out to build an egg nog recipe from the ground up that retained the character of the orginal formula, was easy to make in a few minutes at home or at the bar, and tasted absolutely delicious. See if you agree with the result.
One question I'm often asked is "Do you have any drink-related book recommendations?" Well, funny you should ask, I've compiled a list of the ten books every professional bartender or home mixologist should own. I keep every one of these close at hand and have read most of them several times. I suggest you do the same.
The problem with living in Oregon is the absence of little wooden shacks by the sea that sell cases of fresh ginger beer stacked on back porches. But with some readily-available ingredients, a recipe I've been revising for several years - and a few free minutes - I can easily transport myself to a little fishing boat on the ocean as I sip a Dark and Stormy made with fresh, house-made ginger beer.
It's always mojito season somewhere, so this advice is timely in your area about half the year. Wether you're making them or simply enjoying them, this advice will help you look like a pro in no time at all.
Not to be confused with the Spanish wine-and-fruit-based alcoholic beverage sangria, sangrita (meaning "little blood") is a traditional accompaniment to a tequila served completo; a non-alcoholic sipper that cleanses the palate between fiery doses of agave.
The world of booze can be mystifying to people that don't work in bars or around alcohol all the time. I hear a lot of assumptions about the industry I'm in that are - much like 90% of what you hear in bars - completely false. Here are a few you've probably heard yourself.
The traditional garnish for a Pisco Sour is a couple of drops of bitters in the foam, but I've never been particularly impressed with the way these few paltry drops of bitters sat in their little egg-white mattress and didn't play along with the rest of the drink. I envisioned a Pisco Sour with a uniformly-distributed bitters-scorched foam: slightly crisp as the fire burnt the sugars, and slightly warm as the foam insulated the rest of the frosty cocktail from the heat. A pisco creme brulée in a glass!
I always love showing up to a party with a gallon jug of pre-mixed margaritas, so I've decided to share my recipe. This margarita recipe is the perfect blend of strong, sweet, and sour. But be warned: this recipe packs a serious punch.
There isn't much I can say about this video that hasn't been said already. If you've read anything I've written about cocktails, you'll understand why this video symbolizes everything wrong with the state of bartending in America today. Watch and learn, but be warned: this one isn't for the feint of heart.
My name is Jeff Morgenthaler and I'm the bar manager at Clyde Common in Portland, Oregon.
I've been tending bar since 1996 and writing about it since 2004. I started tending bar while getting my degree in Interior Architecture, and slowly I came to the conclusion that bartending was what I really loved, and that I might as well drop everything and focus on being a professional bartender. Over the years I have strived, both behind the bar and with this website, to elevate the experience of having a drink from something mundane to something more culinary.
The writing I do here is intended as a work in progress. My recipes are like my opinions: they are constantly being revised and refined as I work them through my mind and my fingers. Comments and participation are encouraged, so please don't feel the need to tread lightly here.
Years ago, I shared with you all a video from yet another bartending school or something that showed the most horrific excuse for a Mint Julep many of you have ever seen. It’s so bad that I’m honestly surprised that Woodford Reserve hasn’t bothered to have the video taken down. You can watch it here:
Anyway, as part of my continuing work with the Small Screen Network, I’ve put together my rebuttal and a quick demonstration of what I think a proper mint julep should be. Seems like a lot of people liked the last one, so I hope this one is just as satisfying. Click the image below to head over to Small Screen and check it out.
I have a confession for you: I can’t remember how to make a Mai Tai. I’m serious, I can’t. I mean, I know what goes in one, I know the legend of the drink, the names of the supposed creators, and the importance of the Mai Tai in modern cocktail culture. I can even conjure up the flavor and texture of the three most perfect Mai Tais I’ve ever had as if they were sitting in front of me.
But for the life of me I can never remember if it’s a half ounce of orgeat and a quarter ounce of simple syrup, or a quarter ounce of orgeat and a half ounce of simple syrup. Honestly, I probably get about five Mai Tai orders a year at my bar, so there’s a lot of time to forget exactly how to make one.
So, rather than just guess at it and risk screwing up my guest’s drink order, I simply swallow my pride and reach for a book that I’ve kept in my back pocket for the past six years: a Moleskine Address Book that contains every drink recipe I deem worthwhile.
It’s the most important tool I own, and I never set foot behind a bar without my book. The alphabetical tabs make it quick and easy to look up a recipe, and inside I’ve got years worth of classic cocktails, house recipes, syrup and mixer recipes for prep or to share with guests, variations, and layer upon layer of correction fluid and margin notes. It’s absolutely indispensable to me.
I also keep a second copy behind the bar, with every house recipe and house version of classic cocktails for my bar staff to consult when a menu drink from two years ago comes across the bar. Additionally, I present each new bartender with their own blank recipe book on their first day behind the bar, and we’ve all spent many late nights sharing with each other and transcribing the recipes we’ve discovered during our travels.
It’s the first thing I mention when aspiring bartenders ask me what my ideal tool kit would be. With a good book, the rest of what we do can be improvised. Pick one up for yourself here.
Contrary to what you may have heard, there’s more to my job than coming up with cool mezcal cocktails and bitching about having to write the schedule. At the end of the day, I’ve got to approach this career as a professional, with an eye on business. One of the more challenging parts of my job is designing a cocktail menu that is not only constantly fresh and on the cutting-edge, but also satisfies my two cruel taskmasters: our guests, and the guy who signs my paycheck.
My guests need to feel like they’re getting their money’s worth when they’re spending it at my bar. My restaurant needs to make a certain margin in order to pay purveyors, sign payroll, and maintain bills. The beauty of my job lies in that place in between, where guests are happy and the business is healthy. That place in between is where a successful bar lives.
There is some simple math involved with pricing a cocktail. At the core, all you need to do is figure out how much the drink costs to make, and multiply by your targeted pour cost (if you’re unsure what this is, ask your boss or bookkeeper; the industry standard usually lies somewhere between 18% and 24%). It’s that easy, but it can get a little tricky sometimes. And so…
Over the years I’ve developed a lot of spreadsheets to help make my job easier, and I’m going to share my simple cost calculator with you here today. All you need to plug into the formula are the following pieces of information: the cost and size of each bottle you’re pouring from, the cocktail recipe, and your target pour cost (all highlighted in yellow). The spreadsheet will calculate the rest.
Keep in mind that this is pricing at its most simple. The orchestration of a full cocktail menu can be a beautiful and complex thing, or it can be as simple as using the spreadsheet above. A simple list would have all of its drinks priced according to the formula I’ve given you. A complex list – like the one I currently curate – takes into account some other factors.
Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that you’ve got a two-drink cocktail menu, consisting of Drink A and Drink B.
Drink A is a complex cocktail that requires a little more attention from the bartender and uses some more obscure, expensive ingredients. It costs $10 but comes in at a 32% pour cost, but it’s designed appeal to a smaller segment of the customer base, and therefore you only sell ten of them a night. You make up for this with Drink B. Drink B costs $8 but comes in at a 17% pour cost. It’s appealing to a much larger audience, and therefore you sell 150 of them a night. Drink A is called a loss leader and it keeps your bar on the cutting edge, is there for the cocktail geeks, and helps stimulate the sale of Drink B by bringing in a constant flow of new guests to the bar. And the good news is that you can calculate all of these percentages with the spreadsheet I’m providing you.
I hope this spreadsheet helps and is of some help to at least a few of you out there. If there’s enough interest in this boring topic I’ll be happy to post some of my other formulas in the interest of being of service to my fellow bar managers everywhere.
As a last-minute addition, I’m including a metric version of this spreadsheet for our friends outside of the United States. I think I’ve converted everything successfully but if anyone notices any problems (yes, the default currency is in Euros but that shouldn’t have any bearing on the final numbers) please do let me know.
Note: This was originally posted on April 14, 2010. I’m updating the original post for our New York Times readers who might find their way here. Welcome!
Inspired by a visit to see Tony Conigliaro at the unnamed bar at 69 Colebrooke Row in London last fall, where Manhattans are aged in glass vessels to sublime and subtle effect, the barrel aged cocktails I’ve been serving at Clyde Common this year are a decidedly American curiosity.
The rub of aging cocktails in a glass bottle is that the whole premise is built upon subtlety, as we know that spirits aged in glass or steel do so at an unremarkable pace. Being from the United States, where – as everyone is aware – bigger equals better, I pondered the following question: what if you could prepare a large batch of a single, spirit-driven cocktail and age it in a used oak barrel?
A hundred some-odd dollars in liquor later, I was nervously pouring a gallon of pre-batched rye Manhattans into a small, used oak cask whose previous contents were a gallon Madeira wine. I plugged the barrel and sat back in anxious anticipation; if the experiment was a success I’d have a delicious cocktail to share at the bar – if it was a failure then I’d be pouring the restaurant’s money down the floor drain.
Over the next several weeks I popped open the barrel to test my little concoction until I stumbled upon the magic mark at five-to-six weeks. And there it was, lying beautifully on the the finish: a soft blend of oak, wine, caramel and char. That first batch sold out in a matter of days and I was left with a compelling need to push the process even further.
Now, three gallons of Negroni might not be practical for the home enthusiast, but the average bar or restaurant should be able to afford that sort of quantity quite easily. For those of you trying this at home, try searching the internet for one-gallon charred oak casks (stay away from the fancy lacquered kind meant for display in dens and 1980s wine bars) and be sure to let us know what you find in the comments section below.
We procured a small number of used whiskey casks from the Tuthilltown distillery and proceeded to fill them with a large batch of Negronis; and that’s when the magic of barrel aged cocktails grabbed our attention. After six weeks in the bourbon barrel, our Negroni emerged a rare beauty. The sweet vermouth so slightly oxidized, the color paler and rosier than the original, the mid-palate softly mingled with whiskey, the finish long and lingering with oak tannins. We knew we were on to something unique and immediately made plans to take the cask aging program to the next level.
Negronis are now prepared in five-gallon batches and poured into multiple bourbon barrels. Robert Hess’ ubiquitous Trident cocktail is currently resting inside single-malt barrels. The El Presidente (à laMatt Robold), Deshlers, Remember the Maines, they’re all receiving the oaked treatment in a little storage room in the basement of the restaurant that I refer to as my “office”.
Once the cocktail is aged long enough for my taste, I then drain the bottle, straining out any charred bits of wood, and bottle the contents for use by my bartenders. To order, the cocktail is then measured out and poured over ice in a mixing glass, stirred, strained into a cocktail glass, and then garnished with the appropriate garnish. It’s quick and simple, as all of the real work has already been done by the barrel.
Anyway, on to the recipes. As simple as it seems to do, I figured not everyone is going to want to do the math to get started on some of these recipes, so here are a few I’ve figured out:
Makes Three Gallons
128 oz (approximately five 750ml bottles) dry gin
128 oz sweet vermouth
128 oz Campari
Stir ingredients together (without ice) and pour into a three-gallon oak barrel. Let rest for five to seven weeks and pour into glass bottles until ready to serve.
Makes Three Gallons
256 oz (approximately ten 750ml bottles) rye whiskey
128 oz (approximately five 750ml bottles) sweet vermouth
7 oz Angostura bitters
Stir ingredients together (without ice) and pour into a three-gallon oak barrel (I prefer a barrel that has previously stored sherry, Madeira, or port wine). Let rest for five to seven weeks and pour into glass bottles until ready to serve.
Makes Three Gallons
128 oz (approximately five 750ml bottles) aquavit
128 oz dry sherry
128 oz Cynar
7 oz peach bitters
Stir ingredients together (without ice) and pour into a three-gallon oak barrel (I prefer a used single malt barrel). Let rest for five to seven weeks and pour into glass bottles until ready to serve.
And be sure to check out this video of the barrel-aged cocktail process, courtesy of our friends Grant Achatz, Craig Schoettler and Josh Habiger at Alinea in Chicago:
Today, on April 15th, while the United States is busy mourning Tax Day, the Argentineans are celebrating Bartender’s Day. Here’s the story as related to me by my friend Federico Cuco:
Sixty-nine years ago today, a group of young bartenders from Buenos Aires met for a dinner hosted by the magazine The Barman (the first ever Spanish-speaking bar trade magazine, founded in 1936). It was at this dinner that they decided to form the brotherhood of Argentine bartenders, baptized with the name ‘AMBA’ (Association Mutual Barmen Argentinos). A friend of the group’s designed the rooster logo (which, obviously stood for the cocktail) on a shaker with the initials of the association. Several years later, in 1947, the boys from AMBA bought a house in the neighborhood of San Cristobal that remains today as a gathering place for all Argentinean bartenders.
While this is a topic that has been covered by pretty much every cocktail blog under the sun, I haven’t yet written about it. Why? Well, for one, I’m lazy and never got around to it. But after having made various versions of grenadine for years at my bars and after doing a little research on the web recently, I’ve wondered if the topic of homemade grenadine couldn’t use a little revisit.
There are a few key problems with a lot of the house-made grenadines out there. The first issue you can see immediately: the color is all wrong. Grenadine isn’t brown, and the good stuff, the real grenadine won’t make your El Presidente look like mud. Grenadine also isn’t pale pink, and it shouldn’t turn your Jack Rose grey. Grenadine is a vibrant shade of magenta, a rich syrup that brightens every cocktail it touches with its sweet, slightly tart, beautifully bright, rich, deep and lightly floral flavors.
What do you have in store for Repeal Day? It’s only 2 weeks away and you’ve been as quiet as a church mouse!
All the Best,
Gulp. Well, Kris, I’ll tell you. But first, a short primer for those who might not know what Repeal Day is all about. A few years ago, I wrote a piece on this website urging people to embrace a new celebratory holiday: the day Prohibition was repealed, December Fifth. It was something I’d been celebrating in my bars for years, but just threw up onto my blog for a lark. Well, the Internet went for it in a big way and suddenly people were taking Repeal Day seriously.
And so, to answer Kris’ question, I’m headed back to Washington, D.C. for the nation’s largest, most boisterous, celebration’est Repeal Day party, hosted by the DC Craft Bartenders Guild. Here’s what they themselves have to say about the shindig:
“The DC Craft Bartender’s Guild (DCCBG) is holding the Second Annual Repeal Day Ball on December 5th from 9 P.M. to midnight, celebrating the 76th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition. Attendees will enjoy craft cocktails from the city and country’s best mixologists and food from renowned chef Peter Smith while dancing along to the Prohibition-era sounds of the Red Hot Rhythm Chiefs. The ball is black tie and will be held at PS7’s restaurant at 777 Eye Street, NW.
This year’s ball location is across from historic Calvary Baptist Church, the first national convention site of the Anti-Saloon League, which launched the legislative agenda for Prohibition. Of course, the DCCBG is pleased to announce our own agenda–to have fun! We will celebrate our freedom in style and have dubbed this year the “Spirit of 76” to commemorate the freedom to drink as adults, featuring our “Founding Drinkers” dressed as the founding fathers.
Dan Searing, vice president of the DCCBG and co-owner of Room 11, calls the event “…a celebration of one of our most important freedoms, to imbibe responsibly. A freedom our founding fathers celebrated enthusiastically.”
Come celebrate too with cocktail creations from local favorites Gina Chersevani, Derek Brown and Todd Thrasher, to name a few, along with special guests–bartending legend Dale DeGroff, nationally-renowned bartender Tad Carducci, and toastmaster Jeffrey Morgenthaler. We will also feature top spirit brands and a special rum and cigar lounge.
No, thisArt of the Cocktail is a new cocktail-centric event in Victoria, British Columbia. Distillery ambassadors, representatives and lounges will be offering tastes of their products or creating sophisticated cocktails for sampling. Wander around the Tasting Room sampling the cocktails that appeal to you while catching tips from mixologists (I guess this is where I come in), authors and reps. Take in ongoing demonstrations on the side stage that will run throughout the Tastings. One-dollar-each tasting tickets may be purchased on the website and are only available in advance – no tickets will be available at the door.
I’ll be there teaching you how to make your own cocktail mixers like ginger beer and tonic water in person, so if you’re in the Pacific Northwest please do stop by what promises to be a great event. Oh, and I’d be remiss not to mention the immense involvement in this event by the hardest working bartender in the business, Mr. Shawn Soole. Try to watch this video of my friend Shawn, if you can get past the fake English accent:
The Most Important Bar Tool You’re Probably Not Using
I have a confession for you: I can’t remember how to make a Mai Tai. I’m serious, I can’t. I mean, I know what goes in one, I know the legend of the drink, the names of the supposed creators, and the importance of the Mai Tai in modern cocktail culture. I can [...]