Black Metal Manhattan

This diabolical and hessian delight was fabricated at Alembic in San Francisco. Who actually devised it, we may never know. Actually, it probably wouldn’t be that tough to find out; you’d just have to go there an ask, most likely. I may not get to it any time soon, but that should stop you from running/screaming to the nearest spirit proprietor to acquire the needed items to craft it. I finally was able to use my own homemade nocino for the first time, and it mixed really well. I need to be clear: this drink is very good. Not at all crappy. You could serve it on chain mail with a smoked goat’s head, if you liked.

Black Metal Manhattan ✯✯✯✯✯
2 oz rye
1/2 oz Ramazzotti
1/4 oz nocino
1/4 oz sweet vermouth
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.


Had to share this great recipe created by Alex Smith who works at Honor in Emeryville, CA. It’s a superb vehicle for the homemade clove bitters I posted about earlier. Delicious and seasonal!

Belsnickle ✯✯✯✯1/2
1 1/2 oz apple brandy
1 oz sweet vermouth
1/2 oz cranberry liqueur
3 dashes clove bitters

Stir and strain. Garnish with fresh cranberries on a pick.

How To: Homemade Clove Bitters

1. Purchase a 4 oz bottle of Angostura bitters.

2. Pat yourself on the back, because it’s cool to make your own stuff.

3. Deposit five whole cloves into the bottle.

4. Allow to steep for 48 hours, shaking the bottle several times a day.

5. Pour into another container, then strain the bitters back into the bottle using a small funnel and a fine-mesh strainer, such as a tea strainer.

The Shah Sleeps holds a monthly cocktail contest called, oddly enough, Mixology Monday. To participate, I’m also supposed to post a link to Putney Farm.

MixMo logo

The theme of this round is “inversion,” or flipping traditional ratios of spirits in drinks, i.e. flipping a Manhattan to have two parts vermouth and one part whiskey, etc. I feel like my The Shah Sleeps cocktail fits the bill by putting amaro forward as the base ingredient augmented by apple brandy.

Had a moment of real inspiration the other night after having already downed one cocktail and listening to one of my favorite bands, the Butthole Surfers. It’s about time somebody paid homage to them in the form of a beverage. Speaking of having more than one drink, I recently had a conversation with a friend who is spiritually inclined and believes that alcohol is one of God’s greatest gifts. This is something I think about a lot. I’ve decided the magic number for cocktails in a day is 1 (not that I adhere to this rule absolutely, or even frequently). It relaxes you, inspires you, puts you in a different headspace, but doesn’t inebriate or dehydrate you. It also doesn’t mess with your sleep (in my case, anyway). I believe “God” (if you want to call it that) can be found in moderation. With every gift given to us comes a challenge: will you abuse it with your brain-stem, animal self, or will you rise to the occasion and approach it with reverence and restraint, from your cerebral cortex? For creatives like me, a drink is like a sacrament. A source of inspiration, but also a temptation. The concept of the razor’s edge is never more true than when applied to imbibing. There you go: Butthole Surfers and God discussed in the same post. You’re welcome. Anyway, a drink:

The Shah Sleeps ✯✯✯✯✯
1 1/2 oz amaro Montenegro
1 oz Pays d’Auge Calvados
1/2 oz Punt e Mes
1 tsp green Chartreuse
1/4 tsp allspice dram

Stir and strain into an chilled cocktail glass and float an orange peel.

Deeth Starr

OK. Jeeze! Time for a drink. It’s been too long. The name of this one will only mean something to you if you’ve ever taken Interstate 80 through Nevada, which a lot of people might have you believe is a bad time, but I beg to differ, having done it many times in the last 27 years. Trust me. And stay in Winnemucca. This one isn’t in the book; I whipped it up just now. It aspires to be in the next book!

Deeth Starr ✯✯✯✯1/2
1 oz pisco
1 oz Strega
1 oz Cynar
2 dashes grapefruit bitters

Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Cointreau vs. Patrón Citronge

A friend recently asked me for the best margarita recipe. Authentic margaritas are composed of just three ingredients: tequila, lime juice, and triple sec. Of course, you can get creative and take liberties with substitutions, additions, etc., but these three ingredients are the true foundation. Making recommendations for margarita ingredients to my friend set me on an investigation into triple sec options. Triple sec is a variety of curaçao liqueur, and the gold standard for triple sec is Cointreau, which, as many of you know, ain’t cheap. I wanted to look into the best and most affordable substitutes for Cointreau to see if I might be willing to forgo the gold standard. Generic brands of triple sec, such as those offered by DeKuyper and Bols, are cheaply made and have a corresponding shelf price. While their low price makes them a tempting option, they tend to have somewhat of a chemical aftertaste and are clearly inferior to the likes of Cointreau.

In the 1930s, the Mexicans started making a domestic and more affordable alternative to Cointreau called Controy, which is clearly a knock-off of Cointreau both in name and bottle design. As such, the Mexicans have always had a hell of a time trying to market the stuff outside of Mexico; the producers of Cointreau tend to get a bit litigious at that prospect. As a marketing solution, the rights to Controy were bought by Patrón (of premium tequila fame), who now sells Controy in the states and elsewhere under the name Citronge. It’s the same stuff, just in a different package.

This morning (yes, this morning) I picked up a bottle of Citronge (a bargain at $15 compared to $32 for Cointreau) and did a side-by-side tasting against Cointreau to see how it stacks up against the heavyweight. Citronge has a thicker viscosity, which some would argue is a good quality for making a margarita. I didn’t notice that it was any sweeter than Cointreau, however. It also smells a bit like tequila, interestingly. Maybe some tequila or agave nectar is added to it to make it seem more “Mexican,” I don’t know. Cointreau has a definitively stronger and fuller flavor of orange, with a longer finish, but I found the flavor of Citronge to be pretty good, just milder, with a tequila note. Bottom line: I would definitely use Citronge for margaritas and might even sub it for Cointreau in other drinks. It’s a good value at half the cost of Cointreau. Other options I haven’t yet tried are Marie Brizzard triple sec and the Italian liqueur GranGala, both of which are reputed to be good-quality margarita ingredients. If you happen try them out (or have already), let me know how they stack up against Cointreau!

Evans Margarita

Here’s another twist on a margarita in which I’ve replaced conventional triple sec with a mixture of herbal Bénédictine liqueur (Made in France since 1863. It’s creator claimed that the secret recipe was originally concocted by Benedictine monks, but really it wasn’t.) and crème de cassis. It turns out that backers of Kickstarter projects are rather partial to tart tequila drinks, and one person in particular whose last name is Evans is no exception. Enjoy, Mr. or Mrs. Evans.

Evans Margarita ✯✯✯✯1/2
2 oz silver tequila
1/2 oz Bénédictine
1/2 oz crème de cassis
3/4 oz lime juice

Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

The Lloyd Promise

Have I mentioned how invaluable this backer drink project has been in honing my ability to come up with a tasty drink on the fly with whatever’s on hand? I’ve been crafting one new drink a night for going on two months now and have learned very much about what tastes good with what and what doesn’t. I suppose our next drink could be interpreted as a riff on a Manhattan, or on a Manhattan/Whiskey Sour frankenstein. Cherry Heering, a delectably sweet cherry liqueur made in Copenhagen since 1818, happens to pair nicely with whiskey and loves to get all tarted up with lemon juice. A dude whose last name is Lloyd may be enjoying this drink right now. Or he might hate it, I really can’t say for sure.

The Lloyd Promise ✯✯✯✯
2 oz Rittenhouse 100 rye
1/2 oz Cherry Heering
1/4 oz sweet vermouth
3/4 oz lemon juice
1/2 tsp rich (2:1) simple syrup

Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

To be perfectly clear, rich simple syrup is mixed two parts sugar to one part water. In fact, here are explicit instructions for making it:

1. Stir 1 cup sugar (I recommend either demerara or turbinado for a rich, molasses-y flavor) with 1⁄2 cup water over low heat until the sugar is dissolved.

2. Funnel the syrup into a small bottle and add 1 tsp 151 rum to help keep it fresh.

3. Store in your refrigerator for up to two months.