A Martini with a dot…

According to Difford’s Guide, 365 Days of Cocktails, today is International Dot Day. As the story goes, in 2009, a teacher named Terry Shay introduced her class to Peter H. Reynold’s curious story The Dot. In it, a teacher starts a young girl on a journey of self-discovery by asking her to place a dot on a piece of paper. The exercise offers the girl encouragement in her own abilities and launches Vashti on life’s adventure.

In commemoration, what better libation than the Classic Martini, adorned with its own “dot,” a splash of Absinthe.

The juxtaposition of Dry Vermouth to Anise causes a raised eyebrow… and a little bit more…


Panama Presidente Cocktail

Fridays in the Summer seem to beg for Rum… especially when the temperature and humidity are high.

There are too many variations of “El Presidente” cocktails to even begin to classify any as “classic.” The one common thread between them all is Rum.

Otherwise, the variations are limitless.

I focused in on a recipe that caught my eye because of the juxtaposition of Cointreau and Dry Vermouth. It struck me that this variation would be more balanced than many of the other options.

The recipe specifically called for Grander Rum, an 8-year-old, Bourbon cask-aged spirit. Not having any Grander, I chose a Special Reserve Appleton from Jamaica.

Overall, the cocktail is quite refreshing and very well balanced. The Cointreau lends a lovely orange blossom flavor to the drink, and the Dolin Dry Vermouth keeps the sweetness in check. Quite a happy camper am I…

My friends, I present the Panama Presidente Cocktail:

2oz. Rum (8 year-old, cask aged)

3/4oz. Cointreau

3/4oz. Dry Vermouth

1/4oz. Pure Cane Syrup

Shake ingredients with ice and strain into a coup glass. Garnish with either an orange or lemon peel.


12 Year-Old Ledaig (Tobermory Distillery)

This single malt is produced on the Isle of Mull by Tobermory. It is a 12 year-old Whisky that is heavily peated and aged in wine barrels previously used for the aging of Hermitage wine (Northern Rhone Valley – France).

The character, as you would expect is all peat, but there are undercurrents of sea air and iodine that clearly underscore the influence of island nativity. On the palate, soft elements of berry fruit with vanilla and spice combine with a subtle sweetness that makes the malt quite charming. The malt is cask strength, but is neither hot, nor rough.

Unfortunately, given the nature of these bottles, availability is limited. I found mine at Julio’s in Westborough, MA.

The Bird of Paradise

Google “Bird of Paradise” cocktail and you will be presented with several iterations, each claiming “classic” status. Interestingly, the base spirits range from Gin to Tequila to Rum, with mixers running the gamut from lemon to lime to orange juice. Confusing at best.

After considerable research, the version that catches my fancy is actually the least common recipe. Based on equal parts Aperol and Rum, with a mix of pineapple and lime juice, this version is decidedly tropical, but with a crisp, refreshing edge that leaves the palate crying for more.

Perfect on a warm Summer’s day, this Bird of Paradise will entice your taste buds with suggestions of tropical fruits and exotic destinations.

The Bird of Paradise Cocktail:

1.5oz Aperol

1.5oz Rum (I used Goslings Black Seal)

1.5oz Pineapple Juice

.75oz Lime Juice

Shake the ingredients with crushed ice and strain into a coup. Garnish with a lemon slice.


The Martinez Cocktail

The lore of cocktails is rich and filled with many contradictions. The challenge is that with any lore, there is a fine line between verifiable truth and entertaining story. Cocktail lore is no different.

For many, the Martinez Cocktail is the precursor to the ubiquitous Martini. Seems plausible, given the name and ingredient list, and yet there is a camp (including yours truly) that holds fast to the Hoffman House as the parent of the Martini.

After crafting a few versions of the Martinez, I am actually able to see the evolution of the Martini from this classic tipple.

Both have Gin as their primary spirit. The Martinez leverages Sweet Vermouth, whereas the Martini employs the bracing character of Dry Vermouth. The Martinez also adds a third ingredient- Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur. This nutty, fruity spirit brings a hint of almond skin and hazelnut to the game. In comparison, the two cocktails couldn’t be more different and yet, they share a common bond.

My favorite version of the Martinez Cocktail is thus:

2oz. Old Tom Gin (I prefer Haymans)

2oz. Sweet Vermouth (I used Martini and Rossi Reserva Speciale Ambrato)

1/2oz. Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur

2 dashes Angostura Bitters

Shake with crushed ice and strain into a coup glass. Garnish with either and orange or lemon slice.


Timorous Beastie

Surveys have indicated that over 80% of wines and spirits are purchased because of the label. The Australians created an entire market of wines with cute and / or provocative labels and sold millions of cases in the process.

Well, even the strongest may falter, which was the case when I found Douglas Laing and Co.’s Timorous Beastie. How could I resist with such a cute little mascot on the label? Turns out that while the label piqued my interest, the whisky inside is quite good!

The Timorous Beastie is a vatted malt, presumably a blend of some very fine Scotch: Dalmore, Glengoyne, and Glen Garioch, which is non cold-filtered and bottled at almost 50% alcohol by volume.

Initially spicy on the palate with floral and vanilla notes on the finish. A bit of heat from the alcohol, but overall a smooth and well-balanced dram. There is a lush mouth-feel to the spirit which adds a distinct seductive character.

The name of the Whisky pays homage to Robbie Burns’ timid, little field mouse from his famous poem, “To a Mouse.”

Infinitely drinkable and definitely worth pondering!


Cocchi Cocktail

I am always adding interesting spirits to the bar. Not because I have a plan, but more often because I want options. And as you might expect, things get lost… this was the case with the Cocchi Aperitivo Americano… purchased who knows when and finally used in a cocktail!

Inspiration was taken from an Instagram post and the rest just sort of happened.

I’m dubbing this “old school” libation the Cocchi Cocktail, largely because the primary spirit is Cocchi.

Well-balanced and quite refreshing. A perfect Summer tipple when the dew point is reaching new heights.

I bring you, the Cocchi Cocktail:

2oz. Cocchi Aperitivo Americano

1oz. Aged Rum

1/2oz. Bourbon

Shake with crushed ice and strain into a coup. Garish with a Luxardo cherry.


The Classic Cocktail

Back in the early 19th century, when the cocktail was in its infancy, the driving spirits were either Cognac or Rum. Whiskey was certainly produced in the colonies, primarily rye, but the tipple used most often in cocktails was Cognac. Rum was firmly ensconced in the punch bowl of your local tavern and ventured forth as a cocktail only occasionally.

Paying homage to those early days, the Classic Cocktail is a refreshing Cognac-based drink that emphasizes the key element of a cocktail – balance. Sweet must play against bitter to create a harmonious balance on the palate. The use of Maraschino liqueur softens the bite from the Cognac.

Light, but spiritous, the Classic Cocktail is perfect on a warm summer night!

The Classic Cocktail…

3oz. Cognac

1/2oz. Maraschino Liqueur

1/2oz. Grand Marnier

1/2oz. Lemon Juice

1/2oz. Cold Water

Shake with crushed ice and strain into a coupe. Garnish with a lemon peel, or a Luxardo cherry.


Mackinlay’s “Journey” Scotch Malt Whisky

Last week I posted about the Shackleton Scotch Malt Whisky, produced as the third iteration in celebration of the 1907 Antarctic Voyage by Ernest Shackleton.

Always the inquisitive one, I went on a search for any of the previous bottles and after scouring the Internet, I found a bottle of the second iteration… the “Journey.”

The Journey is another vatted malt, blended more closely to the actual recipe for the 1907 Whisky. Like the original blend, according to some sources, the Journey is impactful – full-bodied but smooth with layers of complex flavors – vanilla, allspice, char and lemongrass. A very long finish leaves a smile on one’s face.

The only problem? The Journey is all but gone and unlike the most recent Shackleton bottling, it is not cheap.

I found my bottle at The Whisky Exchange, which can legally ship to MA…

Certainly worthy of consideration if you enjoy rare malts…


Shackleton Blended Malt Whisky

I’m one of those guys… I firmly believe that blended whisky is perfectly fine and in many cases, is superior (cue Chivas Royal Salute) to some single malts. I especially enjoy vatted malts, which are blends of malt whisky without the addition of grain alcohol. Johnny Walker Green Label and Sheep Dip are two prominent vatted malts, as is the ubiquitous Monkey Shoulder, which is referred to as a “triple-Spey,” being a blend of three Speyside malts.

The Shackleton is a blend of over 20 malts without any grain alcohol, making it a vatted malt. This is the third iteration of the whisky, which pays homage to Ernest Shackleton, the famous polar explorer and adventurer. The whisky is presumably a recreation of the original whisky that Shackleton brought with him on the 1907 voyage of the Nimrod, of which three cases were found frozen in the ice beneath Shackleton’s abandoned base camp in 2007.

The whisky is extraordinarily delicate and complex with hints of honey, vanilla, dried fruit, and wild flowers. On the palate, the dram is smooth with a creamy character. Well-balanced with a kiss of peat, the finish is soft and a bit demure.

The real surprise is the price, retailing for $34.99 in the Boston market. This may supplant Monkey Shoulder for my go-to value in vatted malt.

Availability is good, but it won’t last forever at that price.