Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman

What cocktail to offer on Independence Day, the day some of the greatest political minds signed the document outlining the most secure and fair methods of governance, formally and with uncommon eloquence and foresight, and obliterating all ties with Great Britain? I suggest a smash, connoting demolition and also one of our country’s oldest cocktails, featuring one of our oldest spirits. I do so after consulting Brad Thomas Parsons, whose book Bitters I continue to admire. Responding to my email, he wrote: “Cocktails were born in America, but for that question, I guess I’m thinking less of an iconic drink like an Old-Fashioned or a Manhattan or a Martini, and instead, as it’s the Fourth of July, thinking about a spirit with heritage—something the American colonists might be drinking. Something like applejack or apple brandy. Laird & Company is America’s Read On »

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Martinez-2@540

                                                          I’m in Chicago this weekend interviewing and hanging out with Grant Achatz. Grant, executive chef of Chicago’s Alinea, Next, and the innovative cocktail hub Aviary, is of course one of the most talented cooks and chefs in the country, but what makes this relationship special for me is that I first met Grant at the French Laundry, where he was, when I arrived to discuss writing The French Laundry Cookbook with Thomas Keller, a 23-year-old working garde manger station. I think I’ll be reflecting on all that’s happened in this nearly two-decade span. Until then, a repost of one of my favorite cocktails, of my own creation and named Read On »

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Casting about for a cocktail high in bitters to make use of some of my own personal blend, and one with gin, because that’s what the evening wanted, I happened on this distinctive cocktail, so high in bitters it can clearly fill in for a post-prandial digestif. It was created by Don Lee several years ago at Ssäm Bar in NYC, inspired by Chef Wylie Dufresne, and named for that chef’s daughter. Served to the writer Brad Parsons, it wound up in Parsons’s bitters book. I love bitters for the complexity they bring to a drink, this one very much in the sour category with its dose of fresh lime juice. It’s become one of my favorite cocktails. If you don’t have citrus bitters (or your own bitters), use what’s on hand. This can be mixed Read On »

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I love bitters for the complexity they bring to any drink, or situation in life for that matter, and I use them with a heavy hand in cocktails. One of my favorite cocktails is the Old-Fashioned (see below), so simple, so satisfying: whiskey, sugar, bitters. But what exactly are bitters? You don’t really know until you make some yourself. Bitters are simply flavor extractions. Happily, our neighbor Tobin Ludwig is one of the founders of Hella Bitters, which makes a variety of splendid bitters (about 1500 bottles a month), and he gave me a quick lesson in their making. “I totally encourage people to make their own bitters at home,” Tobin told me this summer. “It’s a fun experiment.” There is a single key to bitters: the bittering agent itself, most commonly angelica root or Read On »

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I pay for a service called SaneBox to deal with email overload, so much of it mass PR mail. Somehow a diligent soul, Sally Alfis of M Booth, who represents the company’s spirit clients, got though the barricades. Having seen my Friday cocktail hour posts, she asked if she could send me some premium hooch. I never turn down free premium hooch. Thus, the most excellent rum in the photo (it’s very good). Surprisingly, though, she continues to read Friday posts and, following my hasty Negroni post (no link, Donna unhappy with photo), sent me a new cocktail made by Scott Fitzgerald (no, relation, though he does beat on, like all the rest of us boats) of the Mulberry Project in NYC. What got me about Fitzgerald’s lovely cocktail was its variation on a personal fave, the Negroni (thus Sally’s clever suggestion—she Read On »

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