Tuesday 6 January 2015

Old Fashioned (re-entry)

Well dear drinkers, here I am again nagging about one of my favourite cocktails, the Old Fashioned.

My first entry on this blog about the Old Fashioned was, very honestly, a whole bunch of Bullshit (with a capital 'B'). In my own defence, I was only just getting to know cocktails, I hadn't drunk that much Old Fashioned's in my life, I looked for recipes and inspiration in the wrong places,... You get the picture.

While I was trying out many different cocktails at the time, finding and creating a good Old Fashioned recipe was still somewhat of a quest for me. So I decided to drink more of them made by different bartenders, tried out new recipes and different bitters. In every cocktail bar I visited, I ordered an Old Fashioned just to taste and try them. I've even gone so far that I watched numerous episodes of Mad Men in order to see how Don Draper drinks his Old Fashioned.

There are a few options which you can choose from when making an Old Fashioned. The first and most important choice is the liquor. There is a wide variation Old Fashioned style drinks with different liquors. My personal favorites are bourbon, rye whiskey and tequila. The original Old Fashioned was with bourbon or rye whiskey so I'm not going to tell you too much about the Tequila Old Fashioned except that I make it with agave syrup instead of sugar, with Fee Brothers Aztec Chocolate Bitters instead of Angostura and it is f*'in awesome!

The next thing you will need in your drink is sugar. The original recipe calls for a sugar cube which you need to dissolve in soda water after soaking it in Angostura Bitters. Personally, I find a sugar cube a bit too much sugar for this drink. It is also quite difficult to dissolve sugar in a cold liquid (when I make cold process simple syrup I have to shake the hell out of my jar) and it is even harder to dissolve it in alcohol. This is one of the main reasons why bartenders use simple syrup in their Old Fashioned today. I do it in a slightly different way. I take a barspoon of sugar, soak the sugar in Angostura Bitters and add a splash of soda water. Then I stir vigorously until most of the sugar is dissolved before adding the rest of my ingredients.

Another ingredient that is absolutely indispensable are bitters. Today there is a very wide variety of bitters available for professional bartenders and enthusiast like me who have turned their kitchen into a bar. The most popular bitters on the market are Angostura Bitters. Along with sugar and the liquor these form the base of the Old Fashioned. These are like the cheese in a cheeseburger. You simply can't make this drink without them. Depending on the whiskey I choose to make my Old Fashioned, I add another dash of bitters to the drink. When I use bourbon, I want accentuate the smooth and sweet taste of the bourbon and I find Regan's Orange Bitters No 6 ideal for that. A future project of mine is to make my own orange bitters and try an Old Fashioned with those. (I'll keep you posted) When I use rye whiskey, I want to have a spicy dry taste and there are 2 bitters which do the trick for me in that case, Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel Aged Bitters an Peychaud's Bitters.

For as far as spirits go, most of the time I used Bulleit rye and bourbon. They are quite good for the price you pay but there is certainly better. When I use another bourbon, my choice is quite obvious. My preference is absolutely Maker's Mark. It's not too expensive and it is such a beautiful product. When I make an Old Fashioned with rye whiskey, my preference is a bit expensive. An Old Fashioned made with Michter's Straight Rye Whiskey is like angels pissing on your tongue but it is very difficult to find Michter's in Belgium and when you do stumble upon a bottle, you pay the price. A rye that is fairly better than Bulleit is Old Overholt. It comes in 1l bottles so I can make a whole lot of Old Fashioneds with one of those. Rittenhouse is a great rye whiskey too but the alcohol percentage is higher than in other whiskeys so you might want to adapt your measurements.

Well that was quite the mouthful so I'll just shut up right now and tell you how I make an Old Fashioned today:

2 oz/60ml rye or bourbon whiskey

1 barspoon of sugar
3 dashes of Angostura Bitters
1 dash of additional bitters depending on the whiskey

I put a barspoon of sugar in an Old Fashioned glass, soak the sugar with 3 dashes of Angostura, add a splash of soda water and stir until most of the sugar is dissolved. Then I add 4 icecubes and the whiskey and I stir to dilute some of the ice. Next I add 1 dash of Orange, Peychauds or Barrel Aged Bitters and 4 more ice cubes and I stir to chill. To finish I take an orange peel and squeeze it over the drink and I rub it around the rim of the glass. As a final touch, I drop the orange peel in the glass as garnish.



Monday 26 May 2014

Basil Smash

When I first tried the Basil Smash, it was a failure. The drink I had made was too sour and the taste of the basil was completely lost. However, I was ready to give it another try because the use of basil in a cocktail had made me very curious. The recipe I had found on diffordsguide.com was as following:

  • 12  fresh basil leaves
  • 60 ml fresh lemonjuice
  • 30 ml simple syrup
  • 60 ml gin
This was adapted from the original recipe by Jörg Meyer who invented the Basil Smash at the Bar Le Lion in July 2008. Originally he called the drink Gin Pesto but the name was quickly changed to Basil Smash or Gin Basil Smash. It was called this because the drink was inspired by another famous smash:  the Whiskey Smash. Another drink I already tried. In a Whiskey smash, mint leaves are muddled and then shaken with rye whiskey, lemonjuice and simple syrup.

As I found my first attempt of the Basil Smash to sour, I adapted the recipe myself. I used 50 ml of lemonjuice instead of 60, 40 ml of simple syrup instead of 30 and I made sure that my basil was as fresh as  possible. This is very important, if you keep the leaves for too long, I noticed that they start losing flavour. So my second try was a bigger success. The refreshing basil flavour was everywhere in the drink, there was sourness of the lemon juice and bitterness of Gin. The only thing that still bothered me was the way I had served it, in a big tumbler glass with a straw, simply not elegant enough for me.

This problem was solved however thanks to my parents. As they were moving into a new flat at the time, my mother asked me if I wanted to have a look into their glass collection. I remembered them having a collection of beautiful, classic yet elegant wine glasses. And my luck, they didn't want to bring them along into their new home. So I took a few of them with me and tried the Basil Smash another time. I also reduced the amount of simple syrup back to 30 ml as the glasses were a bit smaller than the tumbler I had originally used. I shaked it, served it in the glass and garnished with a basil sprig and I loved it.

A few weeks later, Niklas and me hosted our first cocktail tasting night where we invited friends and family to try out some of the cocktails we had tried and loved ourselves. I decided to put the Basil Smash on the menu, but I was a bit afraid for its success.  We served cocktails like the Zombie and Lazy Red Cheeks and I had thought that the Basil Smash would have been put in the shadow by fruity cocktails like those. I was (luckily) proven wrong as this was the most successful cocktail on our menu. People were surprised  by the use of basil and how good it tasted in this cocktail. Even on our second cocktail event, people requested this one for a try.

So this is the way I make the Basil Smash today:

  • 12 fresh basil leaves
  • 50 ml fresh lemonjuice
  • 30 ml simple syrup
  • 60 ml of gin
Muddle the basil leaves in the base of a shaker, add all the other ingredients and shake well. Strain into a glass with ice cubes and garnish with a basilsprig.



Wednesday 14 May 2014


A few weeks ago, I was in a newly opened cocktailbar in Ghent. As we were chatting about cocktails and ingredients, he decided to borrow us one of his books: Bitters by Brad Thomas Parsons. As I was checking it out, I saw some interesting recipes or both cocktails and homemade bitters. However, I still remained a bit sceptical. I mean, how can you write an entire book about bitters?

Since I started making cocktails, I always had a bottle of Angostura within hands reach but I guess I was never really aware of the effects of bitters on a cocktail. Last weekend I started reading this book, and ironically couldn't put it away anymore.

The first part of the book contained a brief history of bitters. In the first years bitters were produced, they were sold as medical tonics for all sorts of illness. People (mainly in the U.S.A.) where told to mix bitters with brandy or wine as a cure against hangovers. It wasn't until later however that bitters became essential in cocktails. Angostura for example were used in an Old-Fashioned during the Prohibition because the homemade bourbon or rye whisky couldn't be drunk without it. Later however, bitters became a victim of the prohibition as well. Many producers bankrupted and for a long time, the use of bitters was lost. So naturally, cocktails like the Old-Fashioned, the Manhattan and the Sazerac were lost.

Nowadays, there is a new revival of the use of bitters in the cocktailworld. A lot of new companies like The Bitter Truth, Bittermens, Regan's, ... popped up while old companies like Peychauds and Angostura are still in buisness. Bitters are being used again in cocktailbars and speak-easies all over the world so naturally, after reading this book, I upgraded our bitters collection as well.

I bought a bottle of Peychauds bitters, but didn't really know what to do with it. Until I stumbled on the recipe of the Sazerac and its history. This absolutely classic cocktail was born in New Orleans. In the Sewell Taylor's Sazerac Coffee House to be precise. At first cognac was used in the Sazerac but as during the Prohibition this became scarce in the U.S.A., the spirit of choice became rye whiskey. The other most important ingredient is Peychauds Bitters. These bitters were also produced in New Orleans in the apothecary of Antoine Amedie Peychaud in the French Quarter of the city. It is often said that the Sazerac was America's first cocktail.

After making and tasting it the first time, I was suprised by the different layers in the drink. There is the sourness of lemon oil, the freshness of anise and the complicated taste of rye whiskey an Peychauds bitters. With other words, I loved it.
So this is how I did it:

  • 6 ml of rye whiskey (Bulleit)
  • 0,8 ml of simple syrup
  • 4 generous dashes of Peychauds Bitters
  • a splash of Pernod Pastis (Absinth is also used)
  • a thick lemon peel

I used a spray to rinse the glass with Pernod but u can also roll the glass around with the pastis in it. Then, I added the rye whisky, simple syrup and Peychauds Bitters in a mixing glass with ice and stirred until everything was chilled, strained it in the coated glass and rubbed the rim of the glass with the lemon peel. This cocktail is served straight up so there is no ice in the glass. 



Monday 12 May 2014

Leap Frog

I made a Leap Frog last night. 

I was inspired when I read about it in the PDT Cocktail Book. This is one I was going to make during one of our test runs. 
It kind of slipped my mind recently, because of all the other cocktails we were making and trying to perfect the cocktails we already know and love. 

Yesterday evening I was looking for something new to make. Whilst Oskar was reading in Intoxica, he suddenly stopped at the Leap Frog and said "Weren't you going to make this one?!". "Yes, yes I was old sport."

Straight away I started making the Leap Frog as Oskar was summing up every ingredient. 
I made it, shaked it, poured it in a glass. I liked it. 

Here's what's in it:
- 1 ounce lime Juice
- 1 1/2 ounces apricot brandy
- teaspoon of grenadine
- 1 1/2 ounce white rum

All ingredients in a shaker, shake well with crushed ice. 
Pour into a coupe glass (I don't have that, so it was a martini glass for me)

Whilst I was reading Intoxica to find out more about this cocktail, That's when I saw it. This cocktail needs a teaspoon of grenadine. Oskar failed to mention this to me. Either way, I liked it. Instead of making a new one, I added a teaspoon of grenadine and let it drop to the bottom of the glass. Which gave it a nice effect, but wouldn't of been nice at the end of drinking it. Too sweet, one thinks. 
Once the grenadine was added, this cocktail made even more sense.
Sour enough, because of the lime, but sweet enough with the grenadine and apricot brandy. 
Normally I'm not a big fan of cocktails with a specific dominant taste. But my G.O.D. this one gets a seal of approval.

Before writing about this cocktail, I did some research. I like to find out about it's history, when in fact, some cocktails have no real history to tell. This one was created around the 1940's in the Camellia House of the Drake Hotel, Chicago. Not too fancy, right? 

Anyway, during my research (read: drinking a beer in a public place whilst there's a beautiful girl sitting not too far from me, distracting) I found out there's several different ones to be found amongst the leapfrogs. I have three books with me and all three have something completely different. whilst mine has rum, the other two have gin, one of those two adds mint. 

My next attempt when making the Leapfrog will be the PDT version. 
I'm not going two write about it just yet, but I will give you the ingredients. Let you decide which one you prefer, and could make yourself.

- 2 ounce plymouth gin
- .75 ounce lemon juice
- .5 apricot brandy
- .25 simple syrup
- 2 dashes orange bitters
- 6 mint leaves

Muddle the mint with the simple syrup. Add everything else, shake with ice and fine strain in a coupe glass.


Thursday 8 May 2014

Navy Grog

Ah, The Navy Grog, I had never heard of  this cocktail untill I drank it a few months ago in a local cocktailbar. It is boozy, yet refreshing it has a soft taste and yet a bit sour. This was the perfect drink for me as I am quite the rum-lover.
The recipe is based on the original grog which was drunk by the Royal Navy. Originally, a grog was a mix of water and rum. Later citrus was added to mask the foulness of the water. Also to add vitamin C to the drinks of the sailors to keep them healthier. After a while, the British received the nickname "Limeys" because of the amount of limes they consumed. Later the Continental & U.S. Navy also adopted the Grog. They experimented with rye whiskey instead of rum and called their version of the grog the "Bob Smith".

The Navy Grog we drink today is a typical Tiki Cocktail. It was first served in Don the Beachcomber bars and restaurants in the 1940's and 50's. This was not a typical Donn Beach recipe as it did not contain a blend of 5 rums or no additional alchohol like Pernod or Triple Sec. His original recipe contained a blend of 3 different rums, lime juice and grapejuice. It was served in an Old Fashioned glass with an ice cone surrounding the straw.

Later, different recipes for the Navy Grog popped up. The one I personally prefer and serve included. I searched for a long time for the ideal recipe. I tried a lot of different kinds of rum and a lot of recipes I found online but none of them really to my liking. Once I had found XM Royal Demerara rum in the liquor store, things improved. This rum was perfect for this type of cocktail. It has a strong flavour and is still soft. Some times I even drink this one straight up. The recipe I found in a book Niklas had bought: Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails. The cocktail was called the Ancient Mariner. It is a variation to the original Navy Grog recipe. The drink contains a bled of demerara and Jamaican rum. I have tried Appleton Estate, but I prefer Plantation Jamaica from 2001 much more. The recipe I found also contained Allspice Dram. This is something I did not have at the time. Recently, I found a recipe to make Allspice or Pimento Dram myself so very soon I will give this a try as well. Instead of Allspice, I simply used Angostura Bitters, wich also adds to the softness of the cocktail. As for grapefruit, I like both white and red. The white grapefruitjuice gives a little sour taste to the drink whereas red grapefruit gives the softer flavour I prefer.
The First time I made this Navy Grog, I had some kick-ass new Tiki-mugs. These are tall ones as you can see on the picture. I served it on crushed ice and garnished with a lemonslice and a mintsprig. Now however, I have some new and wider mugs. I fill them with icecubes and pour the shaken cocktail unstrained in to the mug and garnish with a lemonslice and a mintsprig.


- 3 cl. Demerara Rum
- 3 cl. Dark Jamaican rum
- 1.5 cl. Red grapefruitjuice
- 2 cl. Lime juice
- 1.5 cl. simple syrup
- 3 dahses Angostura Bitters

Shake all the ingredients vigorously in a shaker with icecubes and pour into unstrained in a tiki mug filled with icecubes. Garnisch with a slice of lime and a mintsprig.

Corpse Reviver #2

Corpse Reviver #2

This. Cocktail. 

You might find this cocktails on some menu's in cocktail bars, and it's not because of it's silly name. It is truly a very decent cocktail.

It's origin probably finds itself early in the  20th century, though written in a book one can find it in the Savoy Cocktail book, written by Harry Craddock in 1930.

Next to the name, there's also a good punchline that comes with it.
"Drink before 11 am, or whenever steam or energy are needed."

It's wasn't unusual that around the time of writing of the Savoy Cocktail book people would drink cocktails for breakfast or have it during brunch. What he meant by steam or energy, was basically when you had a hangover. Drink one of these and it will definitely wake you up.
Hence, the name, Corpse Reviver.

There is one other line that you should know about though. 
"four of these taken in swift succession will unrevive the corpse again."

I assume this doens't need much explaining. A line that comes up in every cocktail book that consists of the Corpse Reviver. 

What about this cocktail then that's so good?
All different ingredients, a simple cocktail, but perfectly balanced. Perfectly balanced if you get the measurements right.

Cointreau, gives you a ever so slight sweet taste of orange. With the lemon juice giving you that tartness. Lillet brings floral to the mix. Of course, using an good gin base. Then for the finishing a dash of absinthe or pastis. Just subtle, 'cause this can be dominating, but with the right amount it's perfect.

Lillet what?
Lillet is a french aperitif wine. It consists of 85% bordeaux wines and 15% macerated liqueurs (sweet orange peels and bitter orange peels).
To be served fridge temperature with an ice cube and a orange peel. This is mainly only done in France. Anywhere else they use Lillet Blanc in cocktails. 
Next to the Corpse Reviver there's one other cocktail I can think of at this time that also consists of Lillet, and that is the Vesper. You might've heard of it in a James Bond movie? 

The Corpse Reviver #2:

3/4 oz. Gin
3/4 oz. Cointreau
3/4 oz. Lillet Blanc
3/4 oz Lemon Juice
A dash of absynthe or pastis

I used pastis (Pernod) for this, because it's not as easy for consumers to find a absynthe in a store. 
Anyway, there's options with this one. 
I've shaken the pastis in the cocktail with the rest. Not bad, but maybe a bit overwhelming. 
What I did the following time is swirl the pastis in the glass, so it' stuck on the inside of your glass. Any leftover? Drink or use again. It really nice as a smell and then with the little hint in your glass. It's gets you craving for more. 
Steve of the Old Fashioned gave me the idea of using a spray bottle to equally cover the inside of your glass with pastis. Still going to try this, but I imagine it being the best solution.

Garnish with a maraschino cherry, but I'm going for an anise star. It seems fitting with the little bit of pastis. 

(Pics coming soon)


Thursday 3 April 2014

Lazy Red Cheeks

I found the recipe of the Lazy Red Cheeks on  Njam.tv under the cocktail section by Manuel Wouters. At the time, I tried a lot of his recipes and the more I tried them, I found that in almost every of his cocktails there is something off. Too much alcohol in a Long Island Iced Tea, too much lime in a Caipirinha, etc...

Now, this wasn't the case for the Lazy Red Cheeks. The drink has a nice balance between sweet and sour and there is no overwhelming taste of any of the ingredients. I guess the cocktail is so good because mr. Wouters invented the recipe by himself. The name was given to the drink by Tom Barman, lead singer of the Belgian rock band  dEUS.

When I tried the Lazy Red Cheeks myself, I was sold. But like always, I wanted too test it on a crowd. So I served it to some friends and they all liked it as well. Because of  the colour, the sweet taste and the name itself, I thought this one would be a great hit with the ladies. So very recently I had two ladies who were visiting town with their boyfriends in my private bar and I made them one. Both really liked the Lazy Red Cheeks very much. Even one of the boyfriends asked me for one. So my mission was accomplished.

I made it like this:

  • 4,5 cl wodka
  • 1 cl violetsyrup
  • 1 cl simple syrup
  • 4 cl limejuice
  • 6 raspberries
  • 1 barspoon sugar
I muddle the sugar, the raspberries and the violetsyrup in an old fashioned glass. when the raspberries ar reduced to juice, I add the wodka, limejuice and simple syrup and give the drink a good stir. I top this with crushed ice, stir once more and garnish with a limewedge.

If this cocktail seems tempting to you, it will be on the menu of our first event: Sips & Tips vol. 1


Note: dear followers and readers of this blog. It appears I was misinformed about the origin of this cocktail. There has been a debate going on about who invented it. Another bartender was working on a recipe for the Lazy Red Cheeks at the same time. I will not judge about who deserves credit for this delicious cocktail here. That I will leave up to you. My apologies for misinforming you as well.