The Intoxicologist

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Make Your Valentine's Day a Red Hottini Success

As always, the Intoxicologist is on a quest for something exciting and new for parties and special occasions. Valentine’s Day 2008 stirred my imagination for creative new cocktail recipes. I’ve been in the test kitchen trying out new concoctions, in the library pouring through books, and in the cellar sampling wine. There are new trends and new liquors on the market for your enjoyment. So, scroll down and take note. Something may spark your interest.

Espresso Cocotini

1-1/4 ounce Three Olives Vanilla Vodka
1/4 ounce Van Gogh Double Espresso Double Caffeine Vodka
3/4 ounce Godiva Chocolate Cream Liqueur
1/2 ounce Starbucks Coffee Liqueur
Hershey’s Syrup
Ground Nutmeg
Chocolate Shavings (optional)

Place first four ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled 1/3 full of ice. Shake well. Swirl Hershey’s Syrup inside a cold cocktail glass. Strain contents of cocktail shaker into Hershey’s Syrup swirled cocktail glass. Sprinkle ground nutmeg and chocolate shavings on top of cocktail. Serve immediately. Another garnish option is a Hershey’s Kiss pierced at the end of a cocktail pick and placed horizontally across the cocktail glass.

Red Hottini

2 ounces Three Olives Vanilla Vodka
1/2 ounce Hot Damn
3 to 5 Whole Candied Red Hots

Mix vodka and Hot Damn in a cocktail shaker filled 1/3 full of ice. Shake well. Place 3 to 5 Red Hot candies in bottom of well chilled cocktail glass. Strain cocktail shaker ingredients into cocktail glass. Serve immediately.

Since Almond Joy is a trademark candy bar, I use caution in naming my cocktail after this particular candy bar. However, after toying with this particular cocktail, I blindly taste tested it on a couple of people and they immediately exclaimed that the Almond Joy is what it tasted like, which is what I was going for in this particular drink. You decide for yourself.

Faux Almond Joy Cocktail

1-1/4 ounce Three Olives Vanilla Vodka
1/4 ounce Parrot Bay Coconut Rum
1/4 ounce Disaronno Amaretto Liqueur
1/8 ounce Godiva Chocolate Cream Liqueur
1/4 ounce Coco Lopez Coconut Cream
Hershey’s Syrup
Ground Blanched Almonds (they can be ground in a coffee grinder)

Place a small amount of Hershey’s Syrup on a saucer. Pour ground blanched almonds on another saucer. Dip the rim of a chilled cocktail glass in the syrup allowing excess to drip off. Next dip the chocolate rim into the blanched almonds to create an almond rim on the glass. Place cocktail glass into the freezer or carefully fill with ice to keep chilled. Mix first five ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled 1/3 full of ice. Shake well. Set aside. Swirl Hershey’s Syrup inside of empty, chilled cocktail glass. Strain contents of cocktail shaker into chocolate swirled cocktail glass. Serve immediately.

Cocktails may not appeal to everyone. I tend to be drawn to bottles and labels. So, when I saw the Little Black Dress wine label I immediately picked it up. With its white lettering, red hanger and red high heeled pumps strewn in wanton abandon on the label, this wine begs to be swiped up, drunk without inhibition, come what may. It is the perfect mid priced wine for any budget. I chose the Merlot, but it also is marketed in Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio. This wine can be found at Whole Foods or online in the price range of $10 - $12.

For a little experimentation of your own, pick up a copy of The Martini Companion: A Connoisseur’s Guide by Gary Regan and Mardee Haidin Regan. These are two of my favorite cocktail experts and they have not disappointed in this book. This copy was a Christmas gift and it is a gift that has kept on giving me a wealth of new ideas. What a pleasure! It will be a tremendous extension to your cocktail library as well with its timeless classics and trendiest cocktails from the most chic hotels, restaurants, and bars.

A relatively new product on the market is Jaguar Vodka. While most vodka is made from grain or potato, this one is made from sugar cane. Jaguar Vodka is distilled five times or more, which means it is a very clean tasting, pure vodka. In a taste test with Chopin (potato vodka), Ciroc (grape vodka), and Tall Blond (grain vodka); Jaguar Vodka stood up well. Chopin and Ciroc have a clean scent, meaning there is no scent at all. Tall Blond and Jaguar both have a denatured alcohol scent. All have a clean, full bodied taste worthy of a refreshing straight up martini. With the grape base of Ciroc and the sugar cane base of Jaguar, both make an incredible foundation for top of the line fruit cocktails. What makes Jaguar a little different is their marketing strategy. They set aside a portion of their proceeds to preserve the Jaguar habitat. For more information log on at

Enjoy this year’s Valentine’s Day, but do not delay. Next Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. Next year it gets scarier. Friday the thirteenth falls just before Valentine’s Day on Saturday. Sounds like the perfect opportunity for scary movies and a Frankentini. The Intoxicologist will be in the lab concocting something special.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Getting Beyond the Core of the Appletini

One would think the Appletini would be a cinch to make. Vodka and a little apple liqueur and voila, one has the perfect cocktail set before them. Not so. This little number is a bit more sophisticated than expected. It can be a breeze for sure, but only if one wants mediocre results. Why settle for average when the exceptional is only a jigger and shake away?

The Appletini is a contemporary cocktail on the International Bartenders Association’s list of official cocktails. It is classified among the family of duo and trio drinks, meaning it is comprised of two or three ingredients. This particular family of drinks is remarkable due to the nature of its flexibility. All of the cocktails begin with only two or three ingredients, making them a fantastic building block for many more drinks to discover and create. This paves the way for duo and trio drinks to go from the ordinary to the extraordinary with only minor changes in dashes or quarter to half ounce additions of bitters, liqueurs and juices. The Appletini is no different. It can go beyond the comic book Green Goblin color to the amazing flavorful cocktail that sends the taste buds zinging with a few minor changes.

Take for instance the basic duo recipe:

Appletini – Duo

2 ounces Vodka
1 ounce Green Apple Liqueur

Pour ingredients into cocktail shaker filled 1/3 full of ice. Shake. Strain into a well chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an apple slice.

The basic recipe is uneventful. It gets the job done. There is indeed apple flavor and the punch of liquor in it, but no layering of flavor to make it interesting. Some adjust the ratios and add apple juice at this point, making this a trio drink.

Appletini – Trio

1 ounce Vodka
1 ounce Green Apple Liqueur
1 ounce Apple Juice

Pour ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled 1/3 full of ice. Shake. Strain into a well chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an apple slice.

This trio Appletini possibly has a bit of layering to it, but now it seems a wee bit watered down. While using fresh juice in fruit based cocktails is always a plus, it is doubtful most would have fresh apple juice in the refrigerator. Even so, apple juice is still thin and weak. Fresh squeezed will always be better in a cocktail, even if it is not the fresh squeezed juice you may expect.

The answer to the multilayered, abundantly flavored Appletini was created by Dale DeGroff for Natalie Cole and her manager for Rupert Murdoch’s seventieth birthday party. You can read a small quip about it in his book, The Craft of the Cocktail, and acquire an abundance of other essential cocktails you won’t believe you ever went without. Below is DeGroff’s version of the indispensable Appletini with fresh lemon juice.

Sour Apple Martini – Dale DeGroff from The Craft of the Cocktail

2 ounces Citrus Vodka
1/2 ounce Sour Apple Pucker
1/2 ounce Cointreau
3/4 ounce Fresh Lemon Juice
Thin Slice of Granny Smith Apple, for garnish

Place first four ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled 1/3 full of ice. Shake until chilled. Strain into a well chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with the apple slice.

The Waterfront Ale House in New York City has a specialty Apple Martini using their own infused vodka with pear, apples, cloves and cinnamon. You will find the recipe for this Apple Martini in The Craft of the Cocktail as well. It is definitely a must see!

Champagne & Orange Juice: The Buck Starts Here

A Buck’s Fizz by any other name is what most Americans know as a Mimosa. This Sunday brunch staple may well be the most commonly known Champagne cocktail. The Buck’s Fizz or Mimosa is a simply elegant cocktail which turns an ordinary breakfast into an invitation for leisurely conversation.

The Buck’s Fizz originated in 1921 with barman, Pat McGarry, the first bartender of the famous Buck’s Club in London. McGarry is also the recognized creator of the original Sidecar cocktail. Captain H. J. Buckmaster established the Buck’s Club in 1919. He wanted an American Cocktail Bar rather than the stuffy traditional gentlemen’s clubs in existence at the time. He must have hit upon something, because the Buck’s Club made its way into contemporary fiction writing and has hit Hollywood’s big screen. Most importantly, Buck’s Club is still in business at the time of this writing.

With only two ingredients, Champagne and orange juice, the Buck’s Fizz is an easy preparation. A Buck’s Fizz is heavier on orange juice than the Mimosa version that followed a few short years later, making its appearance at the Ritz Hotel in Paris in 1925. Both are very similar, the difference being only in the ratios of Champagne to orange juice. If Champagne is not available or desired, sparkling wine or Prosecco may be used. Fresh orange juice is always a plus, but is not absolutely necessary to make either of these cocktails a winning combination.

Buck’s Fizz

4 ounces Orange Juice
2 ounces Champagne

Pour orange juice into a champagne flute. Top off with Champagne, sparkling wine, or Prosecco. This cocktail may be garnished with a float of grenadine and a cherry if desired.


2 ounces Orange Juice
4 ounces Champagne

Pour orange juice into a champagne flute. Top off with Champagne, sparkling wine, or Prosecco. Garnish with a float of grenadine and a cherry if desired.

Barman Frank Meier or the Ritz Bar created an alternate version to the Mimosa calling it a Valencia.


1 ounce Orange Juice
1/2 ounce Apricot Liqueur
5 to 6 ounces Champagne

Place orange juice and apricot liqueur in champagne flute. Top with Champagne. Garnish with an orange spiral.

Yet another version of this ever popular cocktail is the French Mimosa using Gran Marnier. Cointreau may be used as a substitute as well.

French Mimosa

1 ounce Orange Juice
1/2 ounce Gran Marnier
5 to 6 ounces Champagne

Pour orange juice and Gran Marnier into champagne flute. Top with Champagne. Garnish with an orange spiral. A few dashes of orange bitters before adding the Champagne is another alternative for an extra layer of exceptional flavor.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Champagne Cocktails for the Everyday Royale Experience

It is a shame that champagne seems to only make an appearance at special occasions such as weddings, anniversaries, birthday brunches, and New Years Eve. This particular effervescent beverage rises above all others on cocktail menus and wine lists. This may be due in part to the celebratory nature of its existence or the underlying impression that only expensive champagne or sparkling wine is worth partaking of. Not so. Imagine the opportunities wasting away that could be had sipping on a bit of the bubbly while experimenting with exciting flavors of liqueurs.

The Kir Royale for instance not only allows our taste buds the joyous fizzy bubbles, but also a walk on the wild side with the seldom used Cassis liqueur. Cassis is a liqueur made from the tart blackcurrant berries. These tiny berries are miniature pinkish red clusters that appear almost translucent. Once the blackcurrants are refined into liqueur form the liquid takes on a lush, deep purplish hue to match its rich flavor. While blackcurrant berries are tart, the Cassis liqueur is a sharp sort of sweet that is neither syrupy, nor bitter.

The Kir Royale needs just two ingredients, Champagne or sparkling wine and Cassis liqueur. While an expensive bottle of authentic Champagne would indeed make this an exquisite cocktail, it is completely unnecessary. The liqueur added to the Champagne breaks down the complexities a high quality Champagne has to offer. The real reason to spend a great deal of money on a bottle of Champagne is to savor every drop of flavor from the Champagne itself, not to mix it with a liqueur.

An inexpensive Champagne or sparkling wine is the way to go for the Kir Royale or any other Champagne cocktail. Keep in mind liqueurs have a high sugar content. Since Champagne or sparkling wine is already sweet, it is a good idea to look for the classifications of Extra Dry, Brut or Extra Brut. Drier Champagne helps balance the liqueur for a more satisfying cocktail. Save the expensive champagnes for the extraordinary occasions, but bring out a bit of the bubbly for the everyday celebrations that make life festive each day.

Kir Royale

1/4 ounce Mathilde Cassis Liqueur
Lemon peel for garnish

Pour the Cassis Liqueur into a champagne glass and fill with champagne. Garnish with a lemon peel.

A Kir is basically an identical cocktail to the Kir Royale. White wine is used in place of Champagne in the Kir. In France it has become commonplace for waiters to offer the choice of blackcurrant, blackberry, or peach liqueurs when ordering a Kir. A Kir Royale becomes a Kir Imperial when Mathilde Framboise (raspberry) is substituted for Cassis. Try any of these for a pleasant new twist on a classic favorite.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Bartender's Source Guide for Creative Cocktails

Where does a bartender on the rise go to find reputable recipes that are beyond the ordinary? Where does the party host with the most go for the inside scoop on the old fashioned cocktails making their way back into the mainstream trendier bars? Where is that little tidbit of ice breaker cocktail trivia to be found that gives you the edge over the other guy at the end of the bar?

Let’s face it, anyone can throw together a book with slapped together recipes to get someone drunk and call it a bartender’s guide to everything. Throw a few catchy, sexy drink titles in there with flashy photos and someone will buy it. There is no guarantee the cocktails will be great or even remotely good. With the barrage of bartending books out on the market touting 1,000 to 2,800 recipes it is difficult to know where to start. If the recipes are not of quality and satisfying, it does not matter how many are in the book. If a book is awkwardly arranged with recipes difficult to find, it is also not much use. So, where does one start?

Dale DeGroff’s book, The Craft of the Cocktail, is a fabulous starter book for the beginner and seasoned cocktail enthusiast. Dale is internationally recognized as one of the world’s finest mixologists. His book spans setting up a basic bar, selecting and using tools correctly, and the techniques he teaches bartenders who train through his seminars. He includes 500 recipes that are classic and current cocktails. The most fascinating aspect of Dale’s book is the stories and histories behind the cocktails. There is a wealth of personal stories to be told about the individual drinks and how they came to be or the famous people who consumed them. This is an invaluable tool not only for the recipes, but for the little crumbs of information and fascinating facts you will glean in reading this book through and through.

The Joy of Mixology by Gary Regan is another excellent learning tool for the bartender, professional or amateur, interested in learning the mechanics and dynamics of how cocktails are put together. Gary created a system for categorizing drinks to help in remembering drink recipes and also how to build from these categories to create new recipes. For example many cocktails belong to a family of drinks. Once the family standard is recognized, many more cocktails are built from a single few cocktails within one family by adding ingredients or changing out the base liquor. Gary also covers bartending basics along with the 350 recipes provided within the book.

A favorite all purpose guide is The Bartender’s Best Friend by Mardee Haidin Regan. This guide is a favorite due to its ease of use. There are over 850 recipes all listed alphabetically in this book. The index also lists the drinks by liquor. For example, if you want to know what to make with Cachaca, there is a listing for it in the index with all the drinks in the book with that ingredient. Mardee also covers bartending basics and helpful hints for a home bar and cocktail party bar. This is a great book to keep handy for quick referral.

For an up to date glance in cocktail trends from the hottest bars across the United States take a look at the Food & Wine Cocktails 2007. The 150 cocktail recipes outlined in this small paperback are the newest cocktail sensations hitting the market in the finest restaurants and hippest night spots in the nation. These cocktails come from cutting edge bartenders who are out there night after night mixing up traditional favorites and innovative new ones. Each page highlights one cocktail recipe along with information on the bar or restaurant from which it came. Often there is a side note about the cocktail and how it was created or a little anecdote about the establishment itself. This is an excellent tool for any mixologist who loves to get a little creative behind the bar.

There are also online reference guides to make cocktail surfing much easier. with Master Mixologist Dale DeGroff the ultimate location for all of your bartending needs the most spirited event of the summer the internet cocktail database-an encyclopedia for scholars, writers, bartenders, and mixologists Gary and Mardee Regan, cocktail connoisseurs

Infusing the Black Russian with Flavor

An after dinner drink is the icing on the cake for those who would rather drink their dessert instead of eat it. It makes no sense, however, to settle for an ordinary cocktail when it can be made into something spectacular with the right quality ingredients.

Take for instance the Black Russian. It is a fine drink on the surface, but nothing special. The Black Russian is a basic duo drink comprised of vodka and coffee liqueur. Vodka is essentially colorless, odorless, and tasteless, making it the perfect mixer for cocktails trying to mask the alcohol taste. With a duo drink there are only two opportunities for flavor. It stands to reason that both liquor and liqueur should bring the fullest flavor to the party in this drink to make it a superb after dinner dessert cocktail. Make the vodka do some work, too.

Van Gogh’s Double Espresso Double Caffeine Vodka is one component needed to bring about flavor success in the Black Russian. Van Gogh’s handcrafted line of vodkas bring excitement to the vodka world with its all natural, multiple distillation process. This leaves a crisp, clean, high quality tasting vodka. Van Gogh goes a few steps further with its six week flavor infusion process. The Double Espresso Double Caffeine is the only espresso vodka on the market that is FDA-approved with double caffeine. It also adds that extra touch of black to the Black Russian due to the fact that Van Gogh adds color to this particular vodka. The taste is as exquisite as a fine cup of smooth, robust espresso. For those wishing to go without the caffeine there is also the decaffeinated Van Gogh Espresso Vodka which is clear, yet still of the highest quality espresso flavor.

The next ingredient in this after dinner cocktail is the coffee liqueur. Instead of plain, go for something “especial.” Kahlua Especial is a richer, deeper tasting version of the original Kahlua coffee liqueur. The Especial is made from Arabica coffee beans, giving it an exotic, intense flavor. It is marginally less sweet than the original Kahlua, yet is 70 proof compared to the 40 proof of the original. With a price difference of only a few dollars, you definitely get more bang for your buck in price and flavor with the Kahlua Especial.

The Black Russian is a great cocktail to customize to your particular taste. If you prefer something sweeter, just use more Kahlua Especial. If you prefer less sweet, use less Kahlua Especial. The ideal depends on you.

Black Russian

2 ounces Van Gogh Double Espresso Double Caffeine Vodka
1 ounce Kahlua Especial

Build in a rocks glass filled two thirds full of ice in the order given. Stir.

The Black Russian is also the base of several other drinks; White Russian, Bull Dog, and Mudslide.

White Russian

1 ounce Van Gogh Double Espresso Double Caffeine Vodka
1 ounce Kahlua Especial
1 ounce Half and Half

Build in a rocks glass filled two thirds full of ice in the order given. Stir.

Bull Dog

1 ounce Van Gogh Double Espresso Double Caffeine Vodka
1 ounce Kahlua Especial
1 ounce Half and Half
Splash of Coke on top

Place first three ingredients in the order given in a rocks glass filled two thirds full of ice. Stir. Top off with a splash of Coke.


1 ounce Van Gogh Double Espresso Double Caffeine Vodka
1 ounce Kahlua Especial
1 ounce Baileys Irish Cream

Build in a rocks glass filled two thirds full of ice in the order given. Stir.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Back to the Basics

With the ever expanding liquor market and the influx of trendy cocktails, it is increasingly difficult for even the well versed bartender to keep an up to date cocktail recipe book. Picking up one of the many reputable bartenders’ guides on the market can be equally as daunting with thousands of recipes to choose from to begin memorizing. It seems to reason there would be a basic starting point or a well of drinks that the majority of drinkers would return to once a trend has run its course. It is this base of drinks that a bartender worth their salt or sugar rimmer would do well to consider setting to memory.

The International Bartenders Association (IBA) is a worldwide organization that encourages excellent customer service in bartending, provides education as it relates to the habits and customs of drinking and organizes international mixed drink competitions. The IBA also encourages standardized mixed drink recipes. There is an IBA official cocktails listing found on their website ( It is worth noting that the reason these particular cocktails make it to this list is due to the frequency they are made by professional bartenders all around the world and because of the notoriety of the cocktail itself. Some cocktails have a history so intertwined within the roots of the liquor industry that they can not be ignored and will never become outdated.

This cocktail listing is divided into four categories: pre-dinner, after-dinner, long drink, and popular. The cocktails range from the not so surprising Whiskey Sour, Manhattan, and Old Fashioned that are often associated with older style drinks, to the more modern trendier drinks such as the Margarita, Cosmopolitan, and Sex on the Beach. All of these cocktails held a place in popular culture at one time. They rise and fall with trends, yet all have the staying power that many cocktails will never achieve. These are the cocktails that are the foundation of bartending. These are the cocktails worth remembering. They are also the cocktails with a rich history behind them waiting to be shared from bartender to customer. Begin the journey as a bartender by memorizing the basic cocktails and researching the histories. Only then will the real craft of bartending begin to unfold.

International Bartenders Association Official Cocktails with recipes for one of the more obscure drinks from each of the categories:

Pre-Dinner Cocktail: Americano, Bacardi Cocktail, Daiquiri, Frozen Daiquiri, Banana Daiquiri, Bronx, Kir, Kir Royal, Manhattan, Manhattan Dry, Manhattan Medium, Margarita, Martini (Dry, Perfect, Sweet and Vodka), Gibson, Negroni, Old Fashioned, Paradise, Rob Roy, Rose, Whiskey Sour

Paradise Cocktail (Pre-Dinner Cocktail)

2 ounces Gin
3/4 ounce Apricot Brandy
3/4 ounce Fresh Orange Juice
2 dashes of Orange Bitters

Mix ingredients with in a cocktail shaker filled two thirds full of ice. Shake. Strain into a well chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange peel.

After-Dinner: Brandy Alexander, Black Russian, White Russian, French Connection, God Father, God Mother, Golden Cadillac, Golden Dream, Grasshopper, Porto Flip, Rusty Nail

French Connection (After Dinner)

1 ounce Courvoisier Cognac
1 ounce Grand Marnier

Serve in a warm brandy snifter.

Long Drink Style: Bellini, Bloody Mary, Brandy Egg Nog, Buck’s Fizz, Mimosa, Bull Shot, Champagne Cocktail, John Collins, Gin Fizz, Harvey Wallbanger, Horse’s Neck, Irish Coffee, Pina Colada, Planter’s Punch, Screwdriver, Singapore Sling, Tequila Sunrise

Bull Shot (Long Drink Style)

1 and 1/2 ounces Smirnoff Vodka
Dash of Orange Juice
4 Dashes of Tabasco Sauce
Dash of Pepper
4 ounces Cold Beef Broth

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled 1/3 full of ice. Shake well. Strain into a highball glass filled with ice. Garnish with an orange peel.

Popular Cocktails: Caipirinha, Cosmopolitan, Japanese Slipper, Kamikaze, Long Island Iced Tea, Mai-Tai, Mojito, Orgasm, B52, Salty Dog, Sea Breeze, Cuba Libre, Sex on the Beach, Apple Martini

Japanese Slipper (Popular Cocktail)

1 ounce Midori
1 ounce Cointreau
1 ounce Lemon Juice

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled 2/3 full of ice. Shake. Strain into a well chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a honeydew melon slice or skewered honeydew melon cubes.