Rob Roy, Tom Collins and something else

I kicked off tonight with another experiment. I needed to find at least one thing I could put the Marie Brizard vanilla liqueur I somewhat foolishly bought to good use in. So I thought, vanilla… brandy… egg. Why not try, say, a Brandy Royal Fizz with vanilla liqueur as the sweetener? Throw some Benedictine in there for some interest as well. And try it out with the cheap Australian brandy I have, which I wouldn’t use for something like a Sidecar but makes a very delicious Horse’s Neck.

I suppose this would be a good place to talk about using eggs in cocktails. Whenever you have egg, white or otherwise, in a drink, you’ll want to shake it hard for a while before adding any ice to get it mixed well and properly aerated with a good foamy head. This shake without ice is termed the “dry shake” or “mime shake”; the latter term, which I picked up on eGullet from Toby Maloney from The Violet Hour, makes far more sense to me as the shake is entirely liquid but comparatively silent. Most people also tend to shake for a prolonged period with ice, especially with the Ramos Gin Fizz which also contains cream. Regarding hygiene issues with raw eggs, suffice to say there is a very low chance of getting ill, at least in Australia and the USA. A 2002 study by the US Department of Agriculture showed that only about 1 in 30,000 eggs was contaminated with Salmonella. Furthermore, the alcohol and citrus juices in many recipes are thought to have antibacterial effects. If concerned, try to minimise contact between the contents and the egg shell, where Salmonella is most likely to be present. I’ll leave the googling up to you for further reading.

Royal Madagascar

ad hoc

1 1/2 Brandy (St. Agnes VSOP)
3/4 Marie Brizard Vanilla Madagascar
1/2 Lemon Juice
1tsp Benedictine
1/2tsp Brown sugar
Dash Angostura Bitters
~1 1/3 Soda Water
Freshly grated nutmeg

Mime shake, then shake with ice all ingredients except soda water and nutmeg. Strain into a Collins glass, top with soda water and grate nutmeg on foam.

I was surprised with how well this turned out. It’s not divine, but it’s quite palatable, especially given I was half expecting it to completely flop. It’s kind of like a lighter and citrusy brandy flip. The vanilla flavour isn’t pronounced- the flavour of this liqueur tends to get drowned in mixes I find. The nutmeg is essential, and makes the drinking experience here a lot more exciting. However, despite the soda and lemon, the drink is still very rich, and by the bottom of the glass I was getting a bit sick of the texture and the flavour, which was revealing some unpleasant bitterness. I might make it again, though I’m not sure exactly what I’d change to improve it.

Tom Collins
1 1/2 Gin (Beefeater)
3/4 Lemon juice
1tsp Sugar
<2 Soda Water

Build in an ice filled Collins glass. Stir, garnish with orange slice and cherry (this is the standard, but I’m sure you could sub a lemon slice in a pinch)

This was for mum- finally got around to finding the Tom Collins ratio that works for me. This drink was named after Old Tom Gin, a style popular in the 19th century with added sugar. Old Tom Gin had all but died out for many years, but recently several distillers such as Hayman’s have resurrected this type of gin. Anyway, this post isn’t about Old Tom Gin; I don’t have any because it’s prohibitively priced in the Australian market for my budges and London Dry Gin is a completely acceptable substitute for most purposes. Maybe my lemons aren’t that sour, but I can’t imagine wanting more than a teaspoon of sugar in this. Definitely sweet enough. Slightly less might do, if you like your drinks tart.

Bobby Burns (stub)

Bobby Burns

2 Blended Scotch (Famous Grouse Malt)
3/4 Sweet Vermouth (Cinzano Rosso)
1/4 Benedictine

Stir with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Dale DeGroff thinks you should serve it with shortbread, because “it’s traditional, it’s Scottish, and it’s delicious”.

This was for dad. A really nice Scotch drink, obvious ties with the Manhattan. It doesn’t quite command the same power of flavour as a Manhattan though. I think I just slightly overstirred this one – it was a shade too diluted. Made to this recipe, it’s sweetish, but not sweet. I’ll try it with slightly less Benedictine next time, just a teaspoon.

Daddy Burns

Daddy Burns

Published in: on August 17, 2009 at 1:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

Scorched Earth

Now, most of the younger ones out there might remember Scorched Earth as being something like this:
Scorched Earth
But it’s also a fairly enjoyable drink.

On my regular eGullet trawls I saw a recommendation for the Scorched Earth cocktail, invented by Gary Regan. Now I thought I’d tried this before- on the chowhound forums, someone had recommended it with the below recipe, except with lemon juice instead of vermouth. It turned out appallingly. When I saw the actual recipe, it sounded quite delicious, and I was eager to correct my previous error. I had thus far little mixing use for Cynar, which I loved, and my recently acquired Chabot Armagnac, which does not stand up to the Polignac Cognac I have for most applications. I decided to give the Chabot a go here, as all of the ingredients are fairly sweet and the Armagnac is a bit drier than the Cognac.

Scorched Earth by Gary Regan
1 1/2 Brandy (Chabot VSOP Armagnac)
1/2 Sweet Vermouth (Cinzano)
1/2 Cynar
Lemon twist

Stir with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Flame a fat lemon twist over the surface of the drink and rub it over the rim of the glass. Drop it in, or not.

This is pretty much the first time I’ve flamed a twist, but from what I’ve read here are some recommendations:
You want to cut a large, thick piece of peel.
Hold the peel just above the fire source for a bit first, to warm it up. (Traditionally a match is used, but I couldn’t find any so used one of those electrical fire starters with the triggers. This worked alright but didn’t provide a very big flare- which could be due to my peel squeezing technique as well.)
Holding the peel, by the edges, diagonally above the surface of the drink, pointing through the fire source, snap the edges of the peel together to propel oils through the fire, into the drink.
A good video demonstration of the technique is given here. (Though I doubt it’s the “standard” garnish for the Cosmopolitan)
If dropping the twist in, you may even want to consider cutting separate twists for flaming and garnishing, depending on your aesthetic preference.

Even with the drier Armagnac, this was a fairly sweet drink and in my mind best suited as a digestif. There is a nice balance of flavours here- the Cynar certainly doesn’t dominate, and the Cinzano is difficult to pick out but detectable. The brandy is very present, and the Cynar gives a long bitter finish. I’d say this is a good, richly flavoured brandy drink to have after dinner. I didn’t drop the twist in this time, but might try it the next to give a stronger lemon presence, which might balance out some of the sweetness. I’ll also try to improve my flaming technique to get more oils in.

Published in: on August 16, 2009 at 4:09 am  Comments (1)  

Taking Two to Tangelo

Had these two a few days ago.

Tip Top

Tip Top

2 Dry Vermouth (Noilly Prat)
1/8 Benedictine
1 dash Angostura Bitters

Stir with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

This cocktail was recently featured on Robert Hess’s video blog The Cocktail Spirit. Feeling like a light aperitif, I decided to mix one of these up. Lacking a spirit base, I found the Tip Top to be weak in flavour and texture, though this was not much of a surprise, and it consequentially went down rather easily. The flavour was herbal, and slightly funky. Perhaps a stronger dash of bitters and a bit more Benedictine would’ve done the drink good (as I quite love Benedictine). Overall, I wasn’t particularly impressed, and am unlikely to revisit. For my money, I’d rather the Noilly in a Martini, or fridge chilled or on the rocks.

Tart Gin Cooler

Tart Gin Cooler

2 Gin (Beefeater)
2 Fresh grapefruit juice (Ruby)
2 Tonic Water (Schweppes)
3-6 dashes Peychaud’s bitters, to taste

Build over cracked ice in a tall glass. Stir.

This drink was invented by Gary and Mardee Haidin Regan for a Food & Wine article. What struck me most about this was how well the Peychaud’s complement the grapefruit juice. As cocktailnerd pointed out, you’ll definitely want the bitters “to taste”, as a major flavour component – it’s all about that interplay. Don’t forget to stir like I did or it’ll be too ginny for a while. I’d still say that an arbitrary 3 times out of 5 I would go for a fresh juice Paloma as my preferred grapefruity summer beverage, but this is certainly a great drink and another showcase of the excellent mixing potential of grapefruit juice.

Tonight I made myself a Manhattan (Rye, 3:1). No detailed post on this yet, but suffice to say it reminded me why it was one of my favourite cocktails ever.

Also, my mother asked me to make her something using the tangelos we had in the fridge. I’ve not had much experience or success thus far with improvising drinks; I’ve rarely felt the need to try, given the many great recipe sources at my disposal. But here goes.

Ad-lib Tangelo Cooler

Tangelo Cooler

Muddle half a tangelo and a few leftover slices of grapefruit, all peeled
Add 1 1/2 White Rum (Havana Club)
Taste. Hmm…. gee, I might’ve put too much rum in for her liking.
Add 1tsp sugar and mime shake to dissolve.
Taste. Add a dash each of The Bitter Truth Orange Bitters and Angostura Bitters, another quarter of tangelo and muddle more.
Taste. Not fantastic, but the flavours are more balanced and blended. Let’s see how it turns out.
Shake with ice. Strain into a stemless goblet/tumbler/not quite old fashioned glass full of crushed ice.
Taste. It’s pretty dull. Needs perhaps some sour, but I don’t feel like using a lemon. Oh, tonic water in the fridge!
Top up with tonic water.
Taste. Yes, that’s quite good.
Garnish with a tangelo quarter.

It turned out pretty well thankfully. Probably should have used just tangelos instead of grapefruit as well, for a cleaner flavour.
For dad, who asked for something simple with gin:

Old Fashioned Gin Cocktail (stub)

Old Fashioned Gin Cocktail

2 Gin (Beefeater)
1tsp white sugar
2 dashes Angostura Bitters

Dissolve sugar with very little water in an old-fashioned glass. Add bitters, gin, and ice. Stir to chill, serve.

Better be into your juniper for this one. Obviously, if you really like gin with not much else going on, you’ll probably dig this drink. It’s kind of a sweetened Pink Gin on the rocks. The taste of the gin seem to be expressed fairly emphatically here, when compared to, say, a Martini, though I do like those relatively heavy in vermouth. It’s also a bit of a strange sensation to be drinking such sweet gin. It was enjoyable, but if I had a full one I could see myself getting sick of the heavy gin flavour, and probably be left wondering why I didn’t just have a whiskey Old Fashioned in the first place. If I got my hands on some old Holland gin though, I shall definitely be revisiting the gin Cocktail, most likely in Improved form.

Published in: on August 15, 2009 at 12:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

Of Orange Juice and Toddies

Just a quick post for tonight’s drinks. Having woken up this morning with a sore throat and a peeled lemon in the fridge, I decided to make myself a hot toddy after dinner. I loosely followed Dale Degroff’s recipe from The Essential Cocktail, a truly excellent book, but whereas his calls for equal parts dark rum and American whiskey I used Scotch instead. I think most dark spirits would work just fine in this though.

Hot Toddy
1 Scotch Whisky (Famous Grouse Malt)
1/2 Lemon juice
1/2 Honey
~3 Hot water

Mix honey, lemon and hot water in a mug, then add the whisky.

Very delicious on first sip, but I wanted a stronger scotch presence. I added a third of an ounce of Laphroaig, which brought a very subtle smokiness and beefed up the whisky flavour. Still a bit subtle for my liking, anywhere from a half to two thirds would’ve done better but I didn’t want to drink too much more and thought that such a fine single malt could be put to better uses. The drink was appropriately soothing on the throat, and left an unexpected but appreciated mint freshness in the mouth.

I also made a few drinks for my parents. As I was sick I did not get a proper chance to taste these, so I’ll post the recipes and say what I can.

Cameron’s Kick (stub)
1 Scotch Whisky (Famous Grouse Malt)
1 Irish Whiskey (Jameson’s)
1/2 Lemon Juice
1/2 Orgeat Syrup (I substitued Monin Amaretto syrup)

Shake, strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with orange twist.

This is what I did with the other half of the lemon. I thought the almond syrup was a bit overpowering at these proportions. Could take it down to 1/3.

Tango [no. 2?] (stub)
1/2 White Rum (Havana Club Anejo Blanco)
1/2 Sweet Vermouth (Cinzano Rosso)
1/2 Dry Vermouth (Noilly Prat)
1/2 Benedictine
1/2 Orange Juice

This was very appreciable, if a bit sweet, very much a herbal Benedictine and vermouth affair. Huge finish from the Benedictine. The orange I used might’ve been slightly funky. Will definitely make this for myself soon. Unfortunately it has quite a muddy colour.

Bronx (stub)


1 Gin (Beefeater – a curious 37% ABV bottling that’s not as sharp as the 40%)
1/2 Sweet Vermouth (Cinzano Rosso)
1/2 Dry Vermouth (Noilly Prat)
1 Orange Juice

Perhaps another half ounce of gin could do this good. But mum doesn’t like her drinks very strong.

Published in: on August 11, 2009 at 1:38 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Welcome; the Floridita and the Margarita

Hullo and welcome to The Manhattan Project. My name is Aaron, I’m an 18 year old engineering student from Melbourne, Australia with a keen interest in mixing drinks. (And if you want to avoid a self-indulgent history lesson, you’d best scroll to the bottom of this post.)

I guess my interest in the subject sparked about a year and a half ago, when underaged Aaron’s father contemplated a bottle of Bombay Sapphire in an airport shop, and was mildly curious about the brilliant blue bottle and its contents. A the same month, at a Sufjan Stevens concert (which my father was decidedly bored at), he let me have a sip from his gin & tonic. I thought it tasted bloody brilliant. “Vodka lime?” I asked. “No. It’s a gin and tonic.”

In the following months I began taking nips from my parents’ dusty collection of duty-free liquor they had acquired over the years (they were more wine drinkers than anything), then mixing them- I remember being fond of Bacardi and grapefruit juice, serving my friend Nick White Russians, and even once trying a recipe inspired by the “Colorado Bulldog” – vodka, Kahlua, Coca-Cola and milk. But I replaced the Coca-Cola. With root beer. And liked it. One of these days, that concotion must be revisited…

Thankfully, in the year since then I have been scouring the Internet and a handful of print sources fervently for educational material. The most helpful by far, when I was getting started, was Robert Hess’s video blog, The Cocktail Spirit. He provided much insight into all the basic principles of mixing drinks, and many a great, classically styled recipe. Another resource that was very important to me was 750 Cocktails, by Walton, Olivier and Farrow. It provided detailed backgrounds and explainations of most of the spirits and liqueurs one is likely to encounter in a lifetime, and many recipes with short descriptions and sometimes photographs and histories for each. Though I could now recommend better texts for a beginner, this publication is certainly far above the depressing average standard of most cocktail books on the shelves today. Shout outs must also go to Jay from Oh Gosh! and the boys from Infusions of Grandeur (who seemingly mysteriously disappeared almost exactly a year ago). More recently, I’ve found a wealth of knowledge at the eGullet forums, which many of today’s cocktail visionaries frequent, and have been exploring some of the excellent cocktail bars my city has to offer (Der Raum and Black Pearl being my favourites so far).

Well, that’s more than enough of a history lesson. I can hardly expect you, the reader, to care in the slightest about a backstory when I’ve not yet posted a single thing. So, on to the first drink of the blog!



1 1/2 White Rum (Havana Club Anejo Blanco)

1/2 Sweet Vermouth (Cinzano Rosso)

1/2 Fresh lime juice

1tsp Grenadine (Monin; I used 4mL actually)

<1tsp White Creme de Cacao (Baitz, I substituted dark; about 3.7mL. White is preferred for a cleaner colour, but seeing as such a small quantity was added the brown did not impact too badly.)

Shake all ingredients with ice. Strain into achilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime slice.

Sorry for the slightly mangled garnish – mum used a lime’s peel for cooking and I used the juice.

An interesting and somewhat unlikely recipe, the Floridita combines rum, lime, grenadine… vermouth… and chocolate? I had made one of these before, but that was a long time ago in my newbie days when I was using a 10 year old bottle (!) of local sweet vermouth – far from ideal (though an interesting flavour in its own right; My best friend and I, upon first sip, concluded that it tasted like Mother Nature). I thought it was about time I retried it, seeing as it had given great praise by Robert Hess and a few others.

On tasting, the drink reflects the complexity in its recipe: the initial flavour is mostly vermouth and spirit (alcohol), a suggestion of rum, but whilst swallowing this gives way to a wave of crisp lime, then the body of the rum, more lime and just a hint of chocolate – more the ‘feeling’ of chocolate than a pronounced flavour. It’s quite a pleasant drink, but though the flavours are complex and give that great “marching down the tongue” sensation, they are light and none of them particularly grab you; I love complex drinks, but I prefer them to have bold, heavy flavours, like a Sazerac or an Islay Morning Fizz. This is much the same issue I had with the 20th Century I had at 1806, and come to think of it, the two drinks are kind of similar (the 20th Century consisting of Gin, Lillet, lemon juice and Creme de Cacao, albiet quite a lot more Cacao). Regardless, both are fine drinks, well worth trying, and may certainly appeal to many drinkers out there.

Margarita (stub)


1 1/2 Blanco Tequila (Trago Silver – 100% agave)

1 Cointreau

3/4 Fresh lime juice

Before juicing the lime, take a cocktail glass and run the exposed flesh of the lime around the outer lip of half of the rim.  Lightly sprinkle salt upon the wet edge of the rim. Chill the cocktail glass. Juice the lime, shake all ingredients with ice and strain into the prepared glass. Garnish with a lime slice.

I made this one for my father, so I can’t write in depth about how it tasted. From the few sips I had though, it was quite delicious. I made it using a super-premium 100% agave Tequila which I managed to pick up for half price due to import discontinuation (for the other Melbourninans out there, Nick’s Wine Merchants is one hell of a shop if you love your wine and/or spirits, and they have a fantastic site to boot which is a real trove of information). I had only made Margaritas before with Tequila Blu before, which as far as I know is a mixto (meaning it’s not pure agave spirit, instead being blended most likely with sugar spirit to produce an inferior and cheaper product) Reposado (it has been lightly aged). Some confusion arises from Tequila Blu being occasionally marketed as 100% agave- however, as it is fairly cheap, bottled locally (100% agave Tequilas are by law restricted to bottling in Mexico) and not stated as being 100% on the packaging this is highly unlikely. It does have a very strong pepper note, and the Margaritas never turned out quite right. It did quite well in Palomas and Prados though, which I shall cover later.

On the other hand, Trago Silver is a very clean tasting tequila, and makes a very drinkable Margarita, if a bit light on the agave flavour. To be honest, I’ve never tried another 100% agave tequila, but I feel I’d prefer if the Trago could stand up for itself a bit better in a mix – the Cointreau somewhat overshadowed it in this drink. Maybe I need to try a drier ratio, or a Tommy’s style recipe, using agave syrup as the sweetener instead of Cointreau. Other future Margarita experiments will include using Grand Marnier instead of Cointreau (“Cadillac Margarita”), and mixing one using Sauza Blanco, a mixto, for when I’m not feeling so luxurious.

The final note on the Margarita for this post is the salt rim. Some love it, some hate it. I like to salt half the rim, and only lightly, to give the drinker a choice with every sip. I’m not partial to the salt myself, and oversalting to get a big crusty rim  I feel is harsh on the tastebuds, and the cocktail. If desired, the salt should just be there to slightly enhance the flavour of the drink – and between Mexican food, the alcohol and the lime juice, you’re going to be thirsty enough! It is also very important not to get any salt on the inside of the glass, where it will dissolve into the drink.

Thank you for reading!