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Wed06032020

Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

One advantage of living where I do is that I have access to a bartender.

Actually, our household has two (very bored) bartenders: Myself and longtime Coachella Valley barman Neil Goetz, the head bartender at Blackbook in Palm Springs. We’re resisting the urge to do what most barmen do in their downtime—it’s funny how little I feel like drinking now that I am not behind the bar—so we decided to do some research, and record some videos on basic cocktail making and such. I also sat down with Neil to talk about some of the things we researched and some random subjects as well.

If anyone wants to see the videos or hear the entire half-hour interview, where we go way off topic and tell some off-color stories, visit crypticcocktails.com.

KC: Let’s start with the martini. What are your thoughts on the martini?

NG: Still one of the best drinks ever—simple, two ingredients, and when made the right way, 2-to-1 (gin to vermouth), it goes down like nothing.

KC: In our research, we found that dry vermouth wasn’t really around until the end of the 19th century, making it a relatively new drink compared to, say, the Manhattan.

NG: Unfortunately, now we’re in that world now where most of the world thinks a martini is shaken vodka.

KC: I still have people coming in, asking, “What kind of martinis do you have?”

NG: In a true restaurant environment, I am basically OK with that. If you have three goofy drinks served up (called martinis), so be it. A properly made cosmo …

KC: Yeah, or a lemon drop; those drinks are basically daisies. (More on daisies later.) But back to proper martinis. I like a dry martini, with a 5-to-1 gin-to-vermouth ratio, at home.

NG: With a lot of gins, I would actually prefer a nice gin on the rocks with a lemon twist. I’m that guy, I guess. I like a super-light, citrus-forward gin on the rocks with a lemon twist.

KC: Let’s move onto Manhattans.

NG: Still probably the best cocktail ever. Virtually every whiskey drink is kind of derived from that. Let me rephrase that: The whiskey drinks that are popular today, they’re all just derivatives.

KC: Whiskey, fortified wine and a bitter component. The first person who added citrus to a whiskey cocktail must have felt like he discovered the zero—like, “Why hasn’t anybody thought of this before?!” People must have resisted at first.

NG: The best variation—I like to call it a Manhattan on steroids—is the Vieux Carré.

  • 1 ounce of rye or bourbon
  • 1 ounce of cognac
  • 1 ounce of sweet vermouth
  • 2 dashes each of Angostura and Peychaud’s bitters

Stir; serve on the rocks; top with a half-ounce of Benedictine.

KC: I feel like that’s one of those “throw everything in but the kitchen sink” cocktails.

NG: It’s a Manhattan, with “extra.” It’s a coolish weather drink in my brain. The Benedictine gives it that Christmas-y vibe.

KC: We also looked into the history of the margarita—how, despite all of the legends behind the naming of the drink, it’s a daisy, and was probably just named that, but in Spanish; once the tequila went in—voilá, “margarita.” The daisy template:

  • 1 part spirit
  • 1/2 part triple sec
  • 1/2 part lemon (or lime) juice

Shaken, served up (or sometimes tall with soda). A little simple syrup helps; it can be made with almost any spirit.

NG: I subscribe to that, too. The simple answer is usually the right one. I’m sure you’ve done it; I know I’ve done it: A girl comes in, usually a girl, sometimes a guy. You made them something that’s basically a margarita with a little something different in it. They’re like, “Oh my gosh, this is amazing. What do you call this?” And you say, “What’s your name?” And you name it after them.

KC: Oh god, you’re playing to the cheap seats! Yes, I am guilty of doing that once or twice, back in the day. That’s better than when they ask me what the drink is called, and I don’t have a name for it, and they tell me I should call it “The Kevin.” First of all, I would never name a drink after myself; secondly, “The Kevin?” What is it? A boring, suburban white guy? Besides, my drink is an over-proof daiquiri or a boilermaker.

NG: If you can find rum out here. I went looking for a decent clear rum at four different places the other day, and the “best” they had was (redacted) silver. I can’t believe I said that was “the best” out loud.

KC: Yeah, I pretty much get one if I see good rum and know the bar has fresh juice. It’s a shame, with all the Tiki and Tiki history in this town, there isn’t more rum available retail here. Let’s change the subject before we go down the tiki hole, though: How about a light-hearted question. Favorite bar snack?

NG: For sure: Pickled eggs. There is nothing better to see behind a bar than that big old jar of pickled eggs floating around in it. It’s perfection.

KC: Agreed. Anything pickled, even a pepperoncini. I am not a big Bloody Mary guy, but if they load it up with assorted pickles, I am in.

NG: One of my biggest pet peeves is someone who comes in and orders a Bloody Mary or a chavela at 9 p.m. It’s like, buddy, go (expletive) yourself.

KC: A lot of them are probably Canadian. They drink Bloody Caesars all night. But it’s cold up there, so maybe the salt keeps the blood from freezing or something.

NG: When I worked at the club at Fantasy Springs, people used to drink five or six chavelas in a row. It’s like, switch to a Bud Light or something; you’re dancing.

(At this point, the conversation spiraled off topic, so we’ll leave it here for now. Stay safe, everyone, and please don’t drink yourselves through this mess! If two bar-lifers can practice moderation and find some constructive things to do, you can too!)

Kevin Carlow can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in Cocktails

“You guys must be so busy during Coachella!”

That drove me crazy my first couple of years here in the desert—almost as crazy as when people ask for “something with vodka, but not too sweet.” Bacchus, save the doe-eyed innocents who say things like that in my presence.

I am not trying to be a jerk. I swear. I just need to smack that little floater of small talk into the ground like I’m Dikembe Mutombo. And instead of just taking my answer—“No, business is actually slow; it’s pretty far from here and fills all the local hotels so nobody can just visit Palm Springs”—as a good explanation, they make me draw a little map of the Coachella Valley, point out our hours of operation, explain the basic rules of supply and demand, and so on.

The end result: For most valley bars and restaurants open in the evening, Coachella sucks.

I realize I am writing this with a particular experience—that of a bartender in Palm Springs. I understand that a pool server at a hotel or at a breakfast spot, or a bartender closer to the event grounds, may have a very different experience. Nevertheless, I believe that the move of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival to October should be a permanent thing. It would be better for the whole Coachella Valley—and festival-goers, too.

Related question: What, exactly, is “season” here in the desert? People ask me that all the time, and the quick answer for me is February to April. We also have busy spurts at Christmas, New Year’s Eve and Thanksgiving, plus the pool parties in the summer if you work at certain hotels, and Palm Springs Pride if you work in downtown Palm Springs.

That’s about it. Otherwise, it’s very sleepy most days.

April, regardless of Coachella, would be high season (at least in years when we’re not dealing with pandemics). It’s the time of year when the weather is still pretty darn nice here, except for the wind. The hotels and vacation rentals would be full regardless of the festival, as April is a pretty blah and rainy month for most of the U.S. and Canada—and without the festival, those visitors wouldn’t be here for a cloistered event and would actually be out supporting local businesses. Much of the town at night wouldn’t be empty for two prime weekends a season. Think about that: The bars and restaurants, at least in Palm Springs, are slow for half the weekends during one of the potentially busiest months of the year due to Coachella. We lose most of a third weekend if you count Stagecoach, although the effects aren’t as dramatic.

About that wind … it can get pretty severe in April. I have a mental .gif from a few years ago when I watched two acquaintances of mine, in their cherry British convertible, get smacked in the face with an errant palm frond while driving down Arenas Road. It gets so bad that even Palm Springs VillageFest closes some weeks, and the smell from the Salton Sea can be intense. In other words … this is a great time to be at a hotel, with breeze blocks and such, but not such a great time to be standing in an open and unprotected polo field. Just look at last year, when festival-goers were dehydrated in the heat and covered in dust from head to toe. Remember, that dust is full of salt and agricultural runoff—the same terrible air quality that has been covered in this very paper for its deleterious effects on the human body. I am not so jaded against festival-goers that I want them subjected to that.

Now … let’s think of October. This is the underused start of shoulder season, and while I enjoy the generally perfect weather and quiet streets, there is a lot of room for economic growth. Guests often comment on the fact we have Greater Palm Springs Pride here in the fall—at the start of November—rather than during the summer months, when it’s scorching. Attendees love having a reason to come here and get another round of parties, parades and good vibes. Halloween here—while not as wild as the celebrations I attended during my youthful days in the witch capital of Salem, Mass.—is also a real spectacle. The costumes are top-notch, and the bars are busy downtown, but not intimidatingly so. October and early November are a second potential busy season left on the vine, in my opinion.

I did some informal polling in the time between the Coachella-postponement announcement and the stay-at-home order. While most service-industry people didn’t want to go on the record—or I didn’t feel right asking for an official quote as things got more dire—the consensus, at least in Palm Springs, is that October should be the permanent home of Coachella.

An owner of a large rental company sparked this take when he told me he wished the festival would stay in October. I figured people renting out properties were just raking it in during the two weeks in April and wouldn’t want to rock the boat—but I was wrong. He, like me, sees a wasted opportunity in October. He hates that his company has to waste two or three weeks that they could easily rent for good prices worrying about festival-goers. In non-Coachella Octobers, properties are more or less rented for off-season prices. A switch would be a win-win for them.

I am sure most readers of this paper don’t care too much for the profits of landlords—but I do find it telling that the wealthy rental owners and restaurant moguls are on the same page as the local cocktail bartenders, restaurant managers and servers.

It’s becoming a poorly kept secret that you can walk into any of our best restaurants during festival weekends and get a table any time you want. You can have a normally full popular bar mostly to yourself on a Saturday in April. This is a lot of wasted opportunity. We shouldn’t be making less on a weekend in April than we make on a weekend in September.

I have been trying to find a good reason that Coachella shouldn’t permanently be in October, and the only one I can think of is marketing: Coachella in April makes it the Iowa caucus or New Hampshire primary of music festivals. By being the first of the major music festivals during the calendar year in the Northern Hemisphere, it gets to be the flagship, the trend-setter, the taste-maker. When you are in the industry of cool, it’s important to be first. But still … hopefully this rescheduling will show Goldenvoice that Coachella can still be the top music festival without it being early in the calendar year. After all, if you are the 600-pound gorilla, you can sit wherever you want. On behalf of most industry folks in my part of the desert: Coachella, please go sit in October for good.

Kevin Carlow can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in Cocktails

It’s not very often a cocktail columnist for a desert newspaper gets to pretend to be an “in the trenches” correspondent. It’s pretty chill here, and I write about drinks.

Now here we are.

It’s Sunday, March 15. I am sitting in an empty hotel bar with my computer, practicing social distancing, conversing about the situation with my buddy the bartender, as well as a tattooed stranger from L.A. We’re all at least six feet apart. The pool outside hasn’t slowed, however. Dozens of half-naked people still touch, breathe all over each other and swim in the communal water.

I just found out I am unemployed.

I was planning on writing a little piece about how moving Coachella to October would affect the bars and restaurants in this town. I was excited about that for a couple of reasons. Through some informal polling, I got some good takes on why that could, in the long run, be a good thing for the local economy.

Now I am being told, in real time, that I need to move from the empty bar to the pool area, which is crawling with people. It’s not the manager’s fault. They’re following the letter of the law, and I completely understand that. Nobody knows what to do.

Let’s flashback a few days. I had taken Wednesday off as a precautionary measure—I wasn’t feeling great, and though I had no COVID-19 symptoms, one can’t be too careful. I felt great Thursday, but due to slow business at work, I left around 8 p.m. and walked most of the way home to get a feel for things.

There was no VillageFest. A few people were walking around; a couple of the local dives were half-busy. It wasn’t eerily quiet or anything; I am used to Palm Springs being quiet at night. It’s part of the reason I like it here. It felt like a Tuesday instead of a Thursday—otherwise, not too jarring.

On Friday, I rode my bike into work. It’s a 25-minute ride, slightly uphill, and it was into a strong headwind, just in case anyone wanted to question my being healthy. (That sounds petty, but I didn’t want anyone at work to question that I would ever put their health in jeopardy over a shift or two.) I was scheduled at the restaurant, but the bar had two staff members stay home as a precaution, so we were a little short-handed overall. Only a few parties cancelled, and we stayed busy most of the night. People still fought over the limited seating at the bar—standing two deep behind the chairs, breathing and leaning all over each other. We can only do so much; if the guests wish to be unsafe, that’s their prerogative. Behind the bar, we used the strongest sanitizers, washing hands in between even the slightest possible contaminations. Our hands were chapped from the soap and hot water. We took the situation very seriously and parsed every possible vector of transmission. Do we toss the pens after each use? Do we sanitize them? What about the menus … do we recycle them after each use?

I went over to help next door at the bar. A wedding party of 40 had walked in, taking over a whole side of the room—hugging, sharing drinks, sneezing and coughing all over the place. To a co-worker, I referred to them as “plague rats” and “zombies,” and finally “plague zombies,” which felt the most accurate. Regulars were trying to shake hands with me and hug me; a couple of drinks makes the pandemic go away, after all.

On Saturday, there was a slight dip in the number of covers at the restaurant, and frankly, we three bartenders were beginning to get bored—but once 9 o’clock hit, the zombies were back. People were three-deep at the bar, breathing on each other, up close and personal. Regulars were sick of watching the news and coming in for a friendly face and a bite to eat—all jockeying for those precious seats.

I had mixed feelings. Not knowing how many shifts I would have left, the way things were going—or even if people would leave the house for two months—I felt fortunate that we were still busy. There are no easy answers here. A medical crisis or an economic one … who is right, and who is wrong? How the hell am I going to make money for the next month, or two, or year? Is it right to choose to save a small percentage from death only to put millions upon millions out of work? I started thinking of my college political-philosophy 101 classes and John Stuart Mill for the first time in decades.

I had a guest sarcastically tell me my expensive undergrad degree was “doing me a hell of a lot of good” as a bartender recently. Well, pal, when you’re right, you’re right.

Coachella … who the hell cares right now?

Now it’s Sunday. I went for a ride on my bike to this hotel, to write in the dark and have a burger. Now it’s hard to write by this pool, although I am 20 feet from anyone. All of these skinny people here are from Los Angeles, escaping the grim realities of that city for a day or two. It’s hard to blame them. I am imagining them in six months, smashing store windows in Silver Lake for toilet paper and White Claws.

It’s hard to write this; I am worried for myself. I’m worried for my parents back in Massachusetts. Worried for the local economy. For my friends who work at bars, or own bars, or just work with the public at all.

My mind keeps going back to almost 10 years ago, when I was working at an outdoor bar in downtown Boston when the marathon bombing happened. Restaurant and bar managers were trying to make decisions on the fly as to whether they should close on the spot, or not. Everyone was looking suspiciously at strangers. Soon after, the governor and mayor told everyone to effectively shelter in place. We sat at home glued to the news, police scanners and social media.

That only ended up lasting a couple of days, and things got better. With California’s tourism-based economy, and this little desert realizing it has lost a desperately needed season, it’s hard to stay hopeful. We’d already lost a new bar, Glitch, in town before this hit, and many more are teetering as it is. I fear the landscape here is going to be bleak this summer. The labor crunch will be over, if there is a silver lining, as places go out of business and lay off workers. The corporate hospitality groups will feast on the remains, and I fear fast-casual brands will slide like hermit crabs into the dead shells of mom-and-pop places. Perhaps I am being too gloomy; a friend commented the other day that New Englanders panic better than anyone. Maybe this will all just blow over, and I will look like a Chicken Little. I certainly hope so.

Riding home, I have the Talking Heads’ “Life During Wartime” in my head. I’ve got some groceries, some peanut butter, to last a couple of days.

Now it’s late Sunday night, and we’re with a small group of friends saying goodbye to a local bar that fills a lovely niche space in this town. It didn’t take long for the fallout to start.

I’ll see you on the other side. Cocktail of the month, straight shot of whiskey.

Kevin Carlow can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in Cocktails

Spring is nearly upon us here in the desert—and it’s a great time for me and other transplants to remember how fortunate we are to have traded gray 40-degree days for 82 degrees and sunshine.

Granted, we now have to dodge double-decker buses packed with house-peepers, as well as land yachts piloted by frail and bespectacled nonagenarians; such is the trade-off, I suppose—and late winter/early spring is certainly a better time for my wallet. I don’t know if it was the extended chilly weather or the dilution of the clientele base caused by the frenzy of development, but “season” definitely came late this year for most of us craft bartenders. And as summer approaches, we’re gonna need some whiskey.

Specifically, we’re gonna need some Irish whiskey.

If there is one drink that pretty much every bartender has in common, it’s Irish whiskey—specifically, the stuff in the green bottle. I used to think it was a Boston thing, or an East Coast thing, as I grew up on the stuff, but the reality is that bartenders from coast to coast and beyond will revert back to it after they’re done pretending they’re all cool and esoteric.

Americans drink 40 percent of the entire output of Irish whiskey, which helped save it as a viable export, according to Forbes.com. It’s so easy to drink, and it gets you where you’re going without a lot of burn—so what’s not to love?

Without the Irish, we might not have had whiskey at all. As legend has it, Irish monks invented it. They saw that Muslim Moors were wasting the technology of alembic distilling on things like “medicine” and decided to give it a proper use! The resulting “uisce beatha”—pronounced something like how a Bostonian would say, “Ooh, whiskey bar” and meaning “water of life”—became the root of the word “whiskey.” Of course, their cousins the Scots didn’t take long to make their own “whisky” after the Irish showed them the process, and a bit of a rivalry began.

Irish whiskey was originally made in a pot still from malted barley, and could even be peated, like many Scotches are—but chances are the ones you’re drinking at most bars weren’t. There are four types of Irish whiskey, according to Whisky Advocate:

• Malt: One hundred percent malted barley, made in pot stills; if it’s all from a single distillery, it’s called “single malt.”

• Pot still (my favorite): At least 30 percent malted and 30 percent unmalted barley, and no more than 5 percent cereal grains.

• Grain: No more than 30 percent malted barley, distilled in a column still, with pretty much any other common cereal grain, like corn or wheat.

• Blended: A blend of two or more of the above styles.

The brands most people, including inebriated bartenders and/or Bostonians, drink are of the blended variety. This doesn’t make them inferior, necessarily, as some of the tastiest Irish whiskeys are blends; it’s one of the reasons people think of Irish whiskey as a smoother option than other whiskeys. However, I thoroughly advise branching out and trying some of the pot-still varieties: While still quite easy-drinking, they have a good deal more body and a fuller flavor. The recent rise in popularity of premium Irish whiskey (skyrocketing since 2002, according to the Distilled Spirits Council) has meant that finding smaller brands making a more craft-focused product has never been easier.

America has had a taste for the stuff for some time. As David Wondrich points out in Imbibe!, Irish whiskey was quite popular in The States in the 1800s, with bartenders as storied as Jerry Thomas recommending it in cocktails like the Irish Whiskey Skin and the notorious Blue Blazer. I will put the recipe for the Blue Blazer here, but my team of high-powered lawyers has advised me to state that this should not be tried at home. If you burn down your midcentury-modern house or singe the hair off of your eyebrows (and/or the skin off of your arms), I don’t want to hear about it.

  • Two silver-plated mugs with handles and glass bottoms (Wondrich recommends using ones with tulip-flared edges)
  • One teaspoon full of sugar
  • A wineglass of Scotch and Irish whisky mixed (one ounce each, Wondrich says)

Add one wineglass (1 1/2 ounces, per Wondrich) of boiling water; set it on fire, and while blazing, pour from each into the other mug, being particular to keep the other blazing during the pouring process. Serve in small bar tumblers; add a piece of lemon skin; pour the mixture into glass blazing; and cover with a cup.

Thomas recommends practicing with cold water to get the pour down first, as do I if you simply must try this despite my warnings.

Since the only purpose of the Blue Blazer is to show off, let’s do a safer cocktail instead, no? How about something boozy that uses a green ingredient (Chartreuse) and actually tastes good … right on time for St. Patrick’s Day! Come to think of it, I did a column on Chartreuse last month. I love it when a plan comes together. Here’s the Tipperary Cocktail No. 1:

  • 1 ounce of Irish Whiskey
  • 1 ounce of Green Chartreuse
  • 1 ounce of sweet vermouth

Stir and serve up!

This is basically the version in Hugo Ensslin’s 1917 (or 1916 … cocktail history, oof) Recipes for Mixed Drinks, but I adapted it from the Savoy Cocktail Book. I like adding a dash of orange bitters, since this is basically a Bijou cocktail with whiskey, and garnishing with orange zest. Pot-still stuff holds up nicely in this drink, but the blends give it a softer touch, which I prefer in this application.

A lot of bartenders favor the recently late and lamented Gary “Gaz” Regan’s Tipperary No. 3, which reduces the Chartreuse to a half an ounce and ups the whiskey by double. It’s a nice drink, to be sure, but I like it closer to the original. As for the No. 2, let’s just say it doesn’t work for this piece.

Feel free to substitute Irish whiskey into your Old Fashioned, of course, and your highballs and Collinses as well. There is even a shot we used to drink back in the day, a riff on the Washington Apple, called the Irish Apple: It’s two parts green-bottle Irish whiskey, and one part each of cranberry juice cocktail and sour-apple liqueur. Don’t judge me; those years are mostly a blur. But I might just order one on St. Patrick’s Day, to remember the days when I had to elbow my way through the throngs of drunken parade-goers on Dorchester Street on my way to a double shift downtown.

These buses and Buicks don’t seem so bad now, actually. Sláinte!

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..

Published in Cocktails

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 a recent 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..

Published in Cocktails

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..

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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..

Published in Cocktails

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..

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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..

Published in Cocktails

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..

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