CVIndependent

Fri01242020

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Cocktails

16 Jan 2020
by  - 

It’s the good ol’ plague time of year: If you haven’t been sick this month, you almost certainly knew somebody who was.

Seriously, people: If you would all stop “giving up” drinking after New Year’s Eve (or New Year’s Day brunch), I think we could all avoid this. Skeptical, are we? Well, allow me to expound the wonders of the miracle liqueur, Chartreuse!

If you read this column on a regular basis, you know I tend to avoid naming specific brands. This is an independent paper, and also the liquor companies don’t pay me. Sometimes, however, naming a specific brand is unavoidable—like when a spirit has such a unique flavor and proprietary process that there really are no substitutes. The king (pope?) of those brands is Chartreuse. It’s made under the supervision of monks, who follow mysterious protocols and recipes known only to them. It has been around long enough to have a color or two named after it, so that’s pretty OG. Most importantly to my theme: If you had been sick in the mid-to-late 1700s, had the means and happened to live a horse’s ride from a particular monastery in France, you probably would have been counting on it in some fashion for your recovery.

OK, enough of the fanboying and apocrypha: Let’s get to the bottom of the green bottle.

It turns out the history of this stuff is pretty interesting. If you want to read the entire thing, it’s available on the company website (Chartreuse.fr/en), but I will summarize it here. In 1605, Duc d’ Estreés gave the gift of a mysterious manuscript containing a recipe known as “The Elixir of Long Life” to a certain order of monks known as Carthusians (named after the Chartreuse Mountains, which became “Charter-House” to the English)—specifically, the ones residing in a small monastery outside of Paris. The order, founded by St. Bruno, encourages a life of silence and solitary living. I could go on, but since few people are as fascinated by the history of Western Monasticism as I am, let’s move along.

The manuscript was confusing and complex, but a certain brother “cracked the code” of the manuscript in 1764, creating the “Elixir Vegetal de La Grande-Chartreuse,” a version of which is still made today. Sadly, this version is not available in the U.S.—but if anyone wants to smuggle a bottle in from France for me, I will pay you handsomely. Anyway, this “elixir” became quite a local sensation, and the monks eventually came up with a more readily consumable version we know today as Green Chartreuse, which has an all-natural green hue. This version contains 130 herbs, and the secret to its color is closely guarded. However, due to a couple of centuries of revolution, intrigue, monastic orders being expelled from France, Napoleon, nationalization and later privatization, the recipe did pass through many hands at various points. All we need to know, for the purpose of this column, is that in 1840, the monks made a sweeter, less-potent Yellow Chartreuse—and ignited arguments among cocktail geeks 160 years later as to which version was the “real” one for the cocktail recipes of antiquity.

The monks are back in charge of production, with two brothers entrusted to mix the herbs. As for the herbs, I covered a few of the key ones in the October column—but I know you’re here for the drinks. So here are a few of my favorite modern recipes using each type of Chartreuse. (If you wonder why I left out the Last Word cocktail, well, I’ve been doing this column since 2016, and that would be beating a dead horse at this point.)

The Greenpoint

  • 2 ounces of rye whiskey
  • 1/2 ounce of sweet vermouth
  • 1/2 ounce of Yellow Chartreuse
  • 1 dash each of angostura and orange bitters

Stir; serve up with a twist of lemon. This one was created for the bar Milk and Honey by Michael McIlroy. This was one of the first of the New York “rye-revolution” drinks I encountered, right around the time I tried the Redhook. They had a theme going here: Manhattan variations named after Brooklyn neighborhoods. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s made with the green stuff; if they try, slap them away with a slice of greasy pizza.

The Naked and Famous

  • 1 ounce of mezcal
  • 1 ounce of Aperol
  • 1 ounce of Yellow Chartreuse
  • 1 ounce of lime juice

Shake; serve up; and it’s pretty enough without a garnish. I featured this one in a column last year on “four-part drinks” if you want the history, and it’s still in my regular rotation. People just can’t seem to get enough mezcal these days, so I thought I would mention it again.

The Chartreuse Swizzle

  • 1 1/2 ounces of Green Chartreuse
  • 1 ounce of pineapple juice
  • 3/4 ounce of lime juice
  • 1/2 ounce of falernum

Mix in a tall, Collins-style glass with crushed ice using a swizzle stick, if you have one; otherwise, a barspoon works fine. You want the outside of the glass to be frosty; for easy handling, you can wrap a bar napkin around the outside. (I like to make mine look like a bandanna, but that’s optional, of course.) I like a mint garnish, but anything goes, including a lime wheel, pineapple or even basil, to switch up the aromatics. This one is from Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco and is on the short list of “drinks I wish I’d invented,” but the credit goes to Marco Dionysos. Order one, and watch your bartender get giddy (or perhaps run to the back to Google it … no judgment; I’ve been there). If you make it at home, I suggest buying a spice-forward falernum, and not Taylor’s lighter version. Taylor’s will work in a pinch if you don’t want to make your own falernum. It’s better, though, to find yourself a bar with the “real stuff”; it makes for a much-more interesting cocktail.

I am not a doctor, and the preceding does not constitute medical advice. Besides, everyone knows only hot toddies cure the common cold. Enjoy some Chartreuse anyway!

Kevin Carlow is a bartender at Truss and Twine, and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

16 Dec 2019
by  - 

The most-searched cocktail in 2019 was the Pornstar Martini, according to Google.

Take that in for a second.

I mean, it is the internet, so I guess that is fitting, but I hope people were actually searching for the cocktail, and there isn’t some new glassware-related fetish out there … Rule 34 and all.

This revelation was a bit of a synchronistic, as just a week or so before I learned this, I tried the Pornstar Martini for the first time in Las Vegas, which seemed like an appropriate place for such a venture. Mind you, I have been behind the stick for a long, long time, and I have never made one, or had a guest ask me for one. Ever. So I am guessing there must be some part of popular culture that is outside of my sphere of attention bringing this drink a boost in recent popularity. But seriously: How does a drink have that much hype without my being blasted with orders for it? Either way, it’s a fun drink for New Year’s, and it’s considered a modern classic, so that’s good enough for a spotlight, in my opinion!

The nice thing about “modern classics” is you don’t need to search very far to get the history. This drink was invented in 2002, or 2005, or … well, scratch that. OK, at least it’s easy to get the correct recipe … wait … never mind. What we do know is that it was invented by Douglas Ankrah, a London bartender, for the opening menu of his bar, Townhouse. It was named originally after a South African club he hung out at while writing his cocktail book, but he later renamed it the Pornstar Martini. He has claimed in multiple interviews that he isn’t a fan of porn, necessarily, but wanted a fun and provocative name for his cocktail. (This is the era of bartending that gave us martinis that aren’t martinis; middle-age ladies out on the town still ask, “What kind of martinis do you have?” But I digress.) The reason I don’t get requests for this drink is probably that it never really got out of the United Kingdom, where it is still a top-seller, and that very few craft bars carry passion fruit in any form, aside from tiki bars—and this ain’t tiki. Feel free to order one at your local tiki bar, but only if you want them to show you the door.

If you can get past the puerile name, and (for me) the fact that it is vodka-based, I must say: The Pornstar Martini is pretty delicious. The ingredients must include vodka, passion fruit and vanilla; some recipes call for lime, while others call for lemon. The other necessary component is sparkling wine, preferably Champagne, although some recipes call for prosecco. Now, how you work in these flavors is kind of up to you; you can use passion-fruit liqueur, passion-fruit puree, or both. Some recipes call for vanilla vodka and passion-fruit liqueur, and while that might work for a bachelorette party, I want nothing to do with it. Instead, first, let’s make a vanilla syrup:

  • 1 cup of white sugar
  • 1 cup of water
  • A couple of vanilla beans (or vanilla extract)

Heat the sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, stirring. Turn off the heat; add the vanilla beans, scraped (or 2 teaspoons of extract, to taste), and stir. Allow mixture to cool; strain through a fine strainer (if using beans); and keep in a jar in the refrigerator. This is great for many uses, especially coffee!

As for the puree, I recommend getting a quality frozen one, as the shelf-stable ones in the plastic bottles aren’t as punchy and taste a little artificial. If you have access to fresh passion fruit, scoop the insides into a blender with a little water—and there you go. Reserve a few of the fruit, as the traditional garnish is half a fruit served seed-side-up floating in the drink.

OK, so going off an article in Punch, here is what seems to be Ankrah’s actual recipe, in case you want to give it a whirl:

  • 1 1/2 ounces of vanilla vodka
  • 1/2 ounce of passion-fruit liqueur
  • 2 ounces of passion-fruit puree
  • 2 barspoons of vanilla sugar (vanilla beans and white sugar in a blender instead of a syrup)

Shake with ice; strain into a coupe; and top with half of a passion fruit. Serve with 2 ounces of Champagne on the side.

I am assuming he is using a shelf-stable passion-fruit puree for this; that much fresh passion fruit would be a lip-puckerer, to say the least. Considering he works for the big liquor companies these days and markets his own “ready to drink” version, that would make sense; also, in the early days of the drink, that would be easiest to find. I am sure this recipe is good, and who am I to know better than the inventor? (He apparently isn’t happy about the citrus element later added by other bartenders.) Still, I thought I would try to replicate the version I tried at Cleaver in Las Vegas.

Being that I was in Las Vegas, my memory is a bit hazy, so rather than try to get the actual recipe they use (state secrets and all), I will go off my memory and general drink-making experience:

  • 1 1/2 ounces of vodka
  • 3/4 of an ounce of vanilla syrup
  • 1/2 ounce of lemon juice
  • 3/4 of an ounce of fresh passion fruit puree, to taste (it’s tart!)

Shake; serve up in a coupe; and top with passion fruit, if available. Serve with the “sidecar” of Champagne.

I definitely recommend the Champagne on the side; it’s easier for toasting that way, since the big chunk of fruit will splash the drink over the sides of your glass (and I say that from experience). Feel free to serve a little spoon for people to eat the tart fruit, as I did.

Whether you make the original or the more-recent style, enjoy ringing in the New Year with the scandalous cocktail everyone is apparently Googling—and feel free to tell your mom it’s a Maverick Cocktail, or a Passion Star, two early names for it that are a little more “family friendly.” She doesn’t need to know that the Maverick Club was a seedy strip bar in South Africa. That can be your little secret.

Kevin Carlow is a bartender at Truss and Twine, and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

21 Nov 2019
by  - 

Is there any cocktail more iconic than a classic sour? Well, maybe … but does any cocktail look cooler in a photo?

There is a special elegance to the sour, served up in a long-stemmed coupe, laced with bitters on the frothy, creamy head. The great thing is: Sours aren’t even particularly hard to make. With a little practice, the home bartender can quickly become an expert. Obviously, since raw eggs are involved, you need to make sure you’re comfortable with potential health risks before you begin. Now that the lawyers are satisfied, here are some sour-style drinks that will bring a little classic elegance to any holiday soirée.

Before we begin, it’s a good idea to clarify how eggs got into cocktails in the first place. Yes, the luscious texture is the reason we still put them in, of course, but as big of a reason is that when this all started, distillation wasn’t the science it is today. If you were lucky, the distiller knew how to remove the head and tail from the batch (or cared to), and all the methanol and other bad stuff that can come with them. (That means the first and last of the distillate, in case you’re not a complete booze nerd.) The spirits would also contain a lot of congeners, the ride-along molecules that allow spirits to have flavor … both welcome and not-so-welcome flavors. People figured out that certain things, when added to the spirits, would bind to many of these “off” flavors, and the removal of the curdled protein (often eggs or milk) would clarify the remaining spirits. Alternately, they would leave the milk or eggs in the drink if it was meant for immediate consumption—creating the basis for milk punches and sours.

So let’s make some drinks for immediate consumption, shall we?

Let’s start with the whiskey sour, that classic American drink that has been spread all over the world. Brandy sours were originally more popular, and egg white was an optional but popular ingredient. As is still the case today, the sour could be more sweet than sour, but every bartender has a different opinion on that. The great Jerry Thomas favored a very sweet sour, for instance. Feel free to make up your own mind on that:

  • 2 ounces of rye or bourbon whiskey
  • 1 ounce of fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 to 1 ounce of simple syrup
  • 1 egg white

Separate the egg, and add it to the cocktail tin; check for quality and stray yolk bits. Add the remaining ingredients; shake without ice for about 10 seconds, using both hands to secure the shaker from exploding all over the place! (Trust me: It still happens to me on occasion when I get cocky.) Then add ice, and continue shaking until the tin gets icy. Double-strain into a coupe, and dash the foam with bitters, using a toothpick to create a pattern of your liking.

A sour can be made with gin as well; just substitute and proceed as above. For a more colorful cocktail, try a Clover Club:

  • 2 ounces of gin
  • 1 ounce of lemon
  • 1 ounce of raspberry syrup
  • 1 egg white

Prepare the syrup by smashing raspberries into plain simple syrup, and strain. Prepare the cocktail as with the previous sours, but skip the bitters, or use Peychaud’s instead of Angostura for a more complementary flavor and color.

Of course, let us not forget the famous sour of South America, the pisco sour. Although I have had Peruvians livid at me for saying so, according to cocktail historian David Wondrich, the pisco sour has its origin with American expatriates in the late 1800s. American bars would serve up their sours using readily available local spirit pisco (a grape brandy) instead of whiskey or American brandy. You can simply sub in pisco for whiskey and use the same formula, but many bartenders favor a mix of lemon and lime—including this bartender. Experiment, and find your favorite preparation. Angostura is a must for this one.

Of course, we can’t forget the New Orleans version of a sour, known today as a “Ramos Gin Fizz.” This “eye-opener” also includes seltzer and cream, and is poured into a small fizz or juice glass. I am sharing the original recipe from Ramos himself, slightly paraphrased, although modern versions vary.

  • 1 tablespoon of superfine sugar
  • 3 or 4 drops of orange flower water
  • Juice from half a lime
  • Juice from half a lemon
  • 1 1/2 oz of Old Tom gin
  • 1 egg white
  • Half a glass of crushed ice
  • About 2 tablespoons of whole milk or cream
  • About an ounce of seltzer water

This should all go into the shaker and be shaken for about a minute—carefully, so the shaker doesn’t pop open; double-strain into a fizz glass. Many bartenders make it a two-stage shake, dry-shaking (no ice) everything but the cream and seltzer, before adding the cream and shaking it with some ice, and then straining into a chilled tall glass with seltzer pre-added. Try it both ways, and see what you favor.

Since it’s the holiday season, I would be remiss to not mention that classic milk and egg punch, egg nog. There are as many ways to make this as there are bartenders, but I tend to use about four eggs, separated. I beat about a quarter-cup of sugar into the yolks until they lighten, then two cups of bourbon; one cup of Jamaican rum; and two or three cups of whole milk. Whisk the whites until they become stiff peaks, and fold them into the mixture. Let this chill in the refrigerator for as long as you can resist; top with nutmeg in each glass to order.

And watch out on behalf of your grandma … there are reindeer on the loose this time of year!

Kevin Carlow is a bartender at Truss and Twine, and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

21 Oct 2019
by  - 

I love this spooky time of year. Halloween, for me, starts sometime in late September and ends right before Thanksgiving. It’s a great time to get together with friends—or watch bad horror movies alone.

However, my days of making suspicious punch bowls with black and red dye, candy skulls and gummy worms are over. On a somewhat related note, I did take a little jaunt to Salem, Mass., recently.

Some of the shops are a little hokey and sell many of the same witch tchotchkes, but if you have an eye for “magic” ingredients, there are some places that are veritable medieval apothecaries. As a bar nerd, I, of course, recognized many of these herbs as being some of the very same plants that give my favorite spirits their flavor and character.

Sitting on my shelf is a book called The Drunken Botanist by Amy Stewart, which I dove back into after my trip so I could touch up on some ingredients both familiar and obscure. So … let’s “double double, toil and trouble” ourselves with some booze alchemy.

Angelica is a member of the same family as carrots, but also hemlock—so what better place to start? Its earthy-sweet flavor adds a bottom note to many gins, and also provides major flavor to medicinal-tasting bartender favorites such as fernet and chartreuse. It is long believed to have digestive properties—but don’t go hunting for it yourself in the woods, or you might end up with more than a tummy ache. Stewart suspects that the liqueur Strega (“witch” in Italian), known for its saffron content, has a good deal of angelica in it, and I would certainly agree.

Speaking of saffron, it has many strange properties. Likely a mutant that was never meant to thrive, it is sterile and cannot reproduce by seed … spooky! It can only reproduce with human help, but we have given it that help, because it has been valued by us for millennia for its flavor and color. It has three sets of eight chromosomes, unlike us—and almost everything else living on Earth, adding to the strangeness of this magical spice. It’s a key flavor in such things as Old Raj gin; there is a little hiding in Benedictine and many other monkish delights. It is a member of the iris family.

Myrrh, valued for centuries and referenced in such works as the Bible and Monty Python’s Life of Brian, is an ancient incense resin often used in certain church fumigations, as well as fernet and other intense liqueurs. It has been added to wine since Roman times, and there is a good chance it is also in your favorite bitters. Stewart says myrrh wine was offered by the Romans to people being crucified. Gee, thanks! 

Also referenced in The Life of Brian, now that I think of it, but consumed much more often than myrrh these days, is juniper. This member of the cypress family has been used since ancient days for stomach, liver and kidney ailments. It contains many terpenes and other aromatic molecules, such as a-pinene and myrcene. Some of you may be familiar with the latter in the flavor of your favorite beers and cannabis products. It’s the most important, and only absolutely necessary, flavoring in gin. Oh, also it may have been referred to as “eye of newt” in classic potions. So sorry to all the blind newts out there, I guess; it was a misunderstanding.

Speaking of bitters, the bottle on your home bar with the paper label gets most of its intensity from the alpine plant gentian, and not from the angostura bark; in fact, angostura may not even be an ingredient. Want a straight shot of gentian’s floral and earthy punch? Try the French favorite Suze, either on the rocks or with soda, and perhaps a slice of lemon. It’s also worth a try in a white negroni (although a traditional negroni has plenty of gentian in it, too):

1 1/4 ounces of your favorite gin

1 ounce of white vermouth (not dry vermouth, but its slightly sweeter sibling)

3/4 of an ounce of gentian liqueur, such as Suze

Stir; serve up with a twist of lemon.

As for all of you who hate the flavor of licorice: I don’t fault you for that, but what you really don’t like is a substance called anethole. This isn’t just found in licorice, but also in ancient holy herbs such as fennel and hyssop. The maenads, the fierce wild-women followers of Dionysus, carried a staff called a thyrsus, made of a giant stalk of fennel, as they reveled in the wild places. Feel free to make one for your next bacchanalia … or just enjoy a nice pastis on a sunny desert afternoon, and taste the complex flavors. Mix your absinthe or pastis with some cold water and a little sugar to create the cloudy louche, of course.

Speaking of absinthe, I think it’s only fair to end this tiny discussion of the botanical world with the notorious wormwood. Humans have been using this intense species of artemisia since the ancient Egyptians for its antimicrobial properties; it purportedly kills parasites, too. The Chinese were adding it to wine just as long ago—an early precursor to modern vermouth! By the way, that’s where we get the name for vermouth, another name for wormwood … it all comes full circle, no? It’s good for such spookily named cocktails as the Corpse Reviver No. 2 and Death in the Afternoon. As for Death in the Afternoon, I leave this one to your discretion:

1 ounce of absinthe

4 ounces of sparkling wine

Start with the absinthe in a cocktail glass; slowly add the wine; consume; pray. I can say from personal experience: This one is a bit like a deal with the devil …

Kevin Carlow is a bartender at Truss and Twine, and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

20 Sep 2019
by  - 

Wine cocktails … is there anything more disappointing?

You finally got a reservation at the hot new restaurant in town; the server hands you the cocktail list, and … wine margaritas?! I get it; if you don’t have a full liquor license, you have to work with what you have—but nobody has ever confused sauvignon blanc with tequila.

But what if, instead of trying to replicate boozy cocktails with wine (the cocktail equivalent of kissing your sister), the staff made cocktails born out of wine that embraced the subtleties of the product—cocktails that the home bartender could make just as easily, that were perfect for the fading heat of late summer?

Sangría, the most-familiar wine cocktail, has as many variations as there are people who make it. I was once gifted a Puerto Rican family recipe on a receipt from a guest that included a bottle of Manischewitz wine and a can of lemon-lime soda, so pretty much anything goes … but you didn’t think I was going to give you a bunch of sangría recipes like this was Better Homes and Gardens, did you? No, we’re gonna get nerdy here: Let me introduce you to the Colonial American version of the drink, the sangaree.

There is no record I could find of a direct “missing link” between the two drinks, but the similarity of name and the fact that they are both red-wine drinks made with sweeteners are hard to dismiss. The sangaree, however, is far easier to construct and therefore less likely to be ruined by too many cinnamon sticks; soggy fruit or what have you. Here’s a recipe for port wine sangaree:

4 ounces of Port wine

1 teaspoon of sugar

Shake with ice and dump into a glass goblet; top with grated nutmeg.

This recipe is an adaptation from the great Jerry Thomas, who also recommends using things like sherry and porter (which he calls the “Porteree”); if you do so, adjust the sugar level accordingly. I like the flavor of orange and Port together, so I think a few thinly-sliced oranges around the glass make for a nice presentation. Crushed ice would also be lovely here, although not necessary. Don’t use your fancy Port; any decent ruby will suffice. I think I might grate a little dark chocolate on mine today instead of the nutmeg, because I’m worth it.

What if you want a red-wine cocktail on the go? Don’t worry; the Basque have you covered. Try a “Kalimotxo,” an easy mix of dry Spanish red wine and cola. Keep the bottles on ice in a cooler; mix them (equal parts) in a red plastic cup with ice and a squeeze of lemon. Of course, you can also make these at home in a Collins glass, and let your fancy friends try to scoff at something they can’t even pronounce (cal-ee-MO-cho).

Trigger warning: The next drink absolutely requires a drinking straw. In fact, it was the drink that made the drinking straw “a thing”—public enemy No. 1! I am referring to the sherry cobbler, a drink so ancient, it shows up as early as 1838. Despite its nefarious deed, the drink itself is heavenly. I once referred to it on a cocktail list as a “snow cone for grown-ups” due to the use of crushed ice piled up and over the rim of the glass.

3 ounces of Amontillado sherry (others will work, but start with this medium-dry one)

1 teaspoon of sugar (or 3/4 of an ounce of simple syrup)

1 wheel each of lemon and orange

Muddle the sugar and the fruit wheels; add sherry and crushed ice. Shake; dump into a Collins glass. Garnish with anything fresh—mint, berries, sliced fruit, etc. Use a straw, whichever type your conscience will allow—preferably an actual wheat straw!

The recipe I made at a previous gig in Western Massachusetts, where the clientele of professors enjoyed a dose of history with their tipple, substituted locally made preserves and lemon juice. It’s called the Bistro 63 cobbler.

1 1/2 ounces of dry sherry

1/2 ounce of Pedro Ximenez sherry

1/2 ounce of lemon juice

A fat barspoon of local, seasonally appropriate preserves

Dissolve the jam with the lemon juice using the barspoon in a mixing tin. Add crushed ice; shake; dump into a tumbler; mound extra ice on top. Garnish with basil and berries.

Want to go even easier? Try the Andalusian answer to the Kalimotxo, the Rebujito. It’s kind of like a mojito with sherry, but less complicated. Smack a big sprig of mint in your hand with authority; put it in a Collins glass with ice; and add equal parts fino sherry and a lemon-lime soda of your choice. You can also, as Talia Baiocchi recommends in her wonderful Sherry: A Modern Guide to the Wine World’s Best-Kept Secret, use 3/4 of an ounce of simple to muddle your mint; and substitute the soda pop with a 1/2 ounce each of lemon juice, lime juice and soda water. You could also use a nice tonic water.

So what about something a little more “uptown”? I have two that will get you respect at any cocktail bar, the bamboo and the Adonis. The bamboo cocktail (which doesn’t appear to have been invented in Japan, but was attributed by William Boothby to a German-born American bartender by the name of Louis Eppinger, who ran a hotel bar in Japan) was a product of the 1880s at the latest and served all over the States by 1893, according to David Wondrich. No matter the origin, it’s a classy aperitif. This is Boothby’s 1908 recipe:

1 1/2 ounces of dry vermouth (the best you can find)

1 1/2 ounces of fino sherry

2 dashes of orange bitters

2 drops of Angostura bitters (careful, not dashes!)

Stir; strain into a cocktail glass. (A Nick and Nora is perfect.) Express a lemon peel over the top; garnish with a pimento-stuffed olive.

Try its heftier cousin, the Adonis.

2 ounces of fino sherry

1 ounce of sweet vermouth

2 dashes of orange bitters

Prepare as above, but with an orange peel and no olive.

Perhaps you have a sweet tooth? Here’s the sherry flip:

2 ounces of Oloroso sherry

1/2 ounce of simple syrup

1 whole egg

Shake all ingredients without ice; then add ice, and shake the heck out of it. Strain into a small wine glass, coupe or Nick and Nora; grate nutmeg on top.

The next time you are at an establishment without a liquor license and staring at the possibility of a suspect sangría, ask your bartender for one of these gems. They’re all pretty low on alcohol, too.

Kevin Carlow is a bartender at Truss and Twine, and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

16 Aug 2019
by  - 

If you want something done right, do it yourself.

Yes, there are things best left to professionals, like distilling grappa, dentistry and putting in a new electrical subpanel. However, when I think about all the years I was forced to use mixers that came in shiny bags or bottles—full of food additives and powdered egg whites and dyes—I cringe.

Also, I get it: For many people who give up bartending to become management, a goodly chunk of their pay is incentive bonuses. They have to make the ownership money. Luckily, in 2019, we have a fair share of beverage directors who stake their reputations on quality and owners who have come around to the idea of having such a bar manager. We certainly have several here in the Coachella Valley—but this isn’t about them, not this month.

Back to doing it yourself: Why is anyone buying simple syrup? I walk through the aisles of supermarkets and liquor stores and see bottles of simple syrup for almost $10 a bottle. It’s called “simple” for a reason, people! It costs 50 cents to make. Grab your food scale; weigh a pound (or half-kilogram) of sugar; put it in a tightly sealed container with an equal weight of ice-cold water. Now shake it like it insulted your momma. It will be cloudy, but the cloudiness will dissipate in time. Don’t have a food scale? No problem; just use equal parts by volume … only a total nerd would object. I like the cold-shake method over the heat method, because there is no evaporation: You get exactly what you put in. It does stay cloudy for some time, so don’t make it right when you’re going to need it.

Most bartenders make simple using the hot method: Use the same recipe; put it over a flame and stir, or add super-hot water to the sugar—carefully—and stir until dissolved.

OK … now that you have these methods down pat, why not take your syrup game to the next level?

The easiest way to wow your friends may be an Earl Grey-tea syrup. This has become such a standard in the industry that when I was in a recent drink competition, I used one for my entry … as did three other bartenders. (It wasn’t a great way to stand out, but we are bar geeks. Maybe next time I will use oolong.) Unless you’re in a competition, don’t worry; most people have never tasted the lovely flavor of tea and bergamot in a cocktail. Simply make a strong tea; pour it into the same amount of sugar, and stir. When it’s fully cooled, use it in an old fashioned with gin and a twist of lemon. This is a great alternative old fashioned for the hot weather we still have in the Coachella Valley, as it’s more refreshing than its whiskey cousin:

2 ounces of Plymouth gin (or other light bodied gin)

½ ounce of Earl Grey syrup

2 dashes of orange bitters

Stir over some ice cubes; serve with a twist of lemon.

Make a bee’s knees or gold rush with it, and your friends will be talking about for months. In fact, you can make it the way I did for the contest—as honey syrup—and tell me if I was robbed: Just use extra, extra strong tea, and stir into double the amount of honey. I added some lemon zest and lemongrass as well; it didn’t come through in the finished product enough to make it “mandatory,” but if you have it lying around, feel free. I used egg white, which isn’t the standard recipe but mighty delicious. Feel free to omit it if you don’t like good things … but otherwise:

Drop an egg white into a shaker

2 ounces of dry (or barrel-aged for extra credit) gin for the bee’s knees, or 2 ounces of bourbon for the gold rush

3/4 to 1 ounce of honey syrup

1 ounce of fresh lemon juice

Shake without ice for five to 10 seconds. Add ice, and shake another 10 seconds or until the shaker is nicely frosted. Strain through a fine strainer into a Nick and Nora or coupe glass, and grate a shortbread (or other tea-time-appropriate cookie) over the top with a microplane into a thick line. It’s a little extra, but it will make your guests say, “Oh, I have never seen that before”—and that’s the point, right?

Not a big fan of tea? No problem: If you have some rosemary, or lavender, or thyme, or any other shrubby herb, you can use that to make a great syrup, too! Just take your sugar and water to a simmer; add herbs; turn off the heat; and let it cool. Be sure to remove the herbs when you get the flavor level that you’re looking for, by the way; it can get too strong quickly. Oh, and if it does get too strong, don’t throw it out; just add some plain simple syrup to tame it. Once it’s cooled, you can make a refreshing non-alcoholic lemonade out of it:

2 ounces of herbed simple

2 ounces of fresh lemon juice

3 ounces of water

Shake with ice and dump into a tall glass. Of course, feel free to add vodka or gin if you could use a tipple.

One last twist on syrups: You can make what’s known as an oleo saccharum out of pretty much any citrus peel. Just peel the zest off of the fruit; cover it with sugar; and shake in a mason jar. Then give it the occasional shake until it’s a syrup. I will go into this more when I do an article on punches, but for now, here’s a little tip: You can use hot chilis with the same technique! I use a mix of serrano and Fresno chilis, and slice into fine rings. Ditch most of the seeds, but keep the membranes, and cover with lots of sugar. Shake in the jar … and I like to leave the sealed jar in the hot desert sun. This speeds the process along and adds some more ripeness and fruitiness to the finished syrup—but don’t leave it out there too long. Use a couple of teaspoons of this syrup, after straining, with an ounce of lime juice and two of tequila, and shake over ice next time you’re craving a spicy margarita. No, it’s not a margarita; it’s more of a gimlet. No need to tell anyone, though. Feel free to add some mezcal if you have trendy friends coming.

Oh, and you get candied chili peppers, too! Not only are they delicious; they make a great garnish. Drop a couple in the glass, or if you’re barbecuing chicken or pork, make an hors d'oeuvre with a chunk of meat and a candied chili ring on a toothpick. Talk about a pairing!

However you ride out the rest of the summer, now you can make it a little sweeter.

Kevin Carlow is a bartender at Truss and Twine, and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Page 1 of 7