The Great American Distiller’s Festival: History of the Cocktail with Robert Hess

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The Great American Distiller’s Festival was this past weekend, and I was there on Sunday to witness some of the action with my crusty sidekick, Scott.

The first event was a seminar titled “The History of the Cocktail“, led by Robert Hess. Robert jumped right in there with a crash course on spirits, theories about the origins of mixed drinks in general, and some basic drink etymology. The team from the Teardrop Lounge mixed Old-Fashioned Whiskey Cocktails while Robert demonstrated the simplicity involved in creating this, the original cocktail and a surprisingly complex little number considering its spartan ingredient list.


Robert then jumped into a brief history of aromatized wines such as vermouth, and their popularity in cocktails in the late nineteenth century. The team whipped up a batch of very large Manhattans while the crowd braced themselves for a 1PM rye whoopin‘.


And in a perfectly logical move, Robert demonstrated how the Martini grew out of the Manhattan and proved it by passing around his interpretation of the original Martini, made with Dry Fly gin, Carpano Antica Formula vermouth, and Angostura orange bitters. The crowd swooned as they took another brunch-sized blast of 80 proof liquor.

Ted Munat gets himself mentally prepared

13 Replies to “The Great American Distiller’s Festival: History of the Cocktail with Robert Hess”

  • Jeff Frane says:

    Results from the small database research file:

    Equal parts gin and Antica Formula (ack! bottle is now empty!) is definitely preferred by 100% of the test subject(s). About 1/4 oz of Maraschino & 1 dash of Angostura Orange Bitters is mighty good. Further research will follow.

  • Chas. Munat says:

    Mr. Frane:

    What gin are you using? And how many test subject(s) do you have?

  • Jeff Frane says:

    Chas, the (s) was a clue. Or a joke. One subject, but several tests in the evening. Gin used was Bombay Sapphire, based on comments about milder gins not standing up to the Carpano — and I would agree, based on this tiny sample.

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