If there's one thing that's going to make a grown-ass dude squee out loud, it's discovering that a national newspaper named one of the bars you work in as one of the best places to drink in the country (I mean, not the best place to drink in the country but Dandelyan is amaze and I guess you don't get to be precious if you've won it before).

If there's one thing that's going to cause any pretence of humility evaporate, it's noticing that the two drinks highlighted in the previously-mentioned national newspaper are my recipes and also Ericka said it was OK.

The Walt Whitman's a drink we designed to answer a specific demand - Old Fashioneds are now a thing; not up to the level of a Mojito or a Cosmopolitan, but it's definitely an order that people will call without looking at a menu. Their popularity, I think, derives from them being delicious, versatile and available basically anywhere. The plan with what ended up as the Walt Whitman was to create something that would work for that guy who orders an Old Fashioned without thinking about it but is also a little more developed, a little more unique.

Walt Whitman
40ml Buffalo Trace bourbon
20ml Cocchi Aperitivo Americano
10ml Yellow Chartreuse
1 bsp Islay single malt whisky (your choice; originally I used Ardbeg Uigeadail)
Stir the first three ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled rocks glass over a large block of ice. Float the single malt.

The recipe's a bit of chimera - essentially, it's a bourbon-based Bobby Burns with a bit of steal from Sam Ross' Penicillin. There's sweetness from the Chartreuse, a hint of bitter from the Cocchi and I opted to keep it on bourbon to maintain that Old Fashioned feel and to provide a counterpoint to the single malt. The steal from the Penicillin comes in the idea that it starts rich and intense with the float but then starts to mellow out as you drink it.

Actually, I did a shift in Bramble a few months ago and a dude asked, "what can you tell me about the Walt Whitman?"

"It is," I said, "fucking delicious."

Posted on October 22, 2015 .

Nothing Like A Timely Update

Wow, has there always been this much dust around here? Anyway, I had some stuff on.

Also also also - one of my drinks from Bramble is one of gaz regan's 101 Best New Cocktails of 2015 which is kind of amazing.

Stepford Sister

20ml Beefeater Gin
20ml St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
20ml Amaro Nonino
20ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 bsp sugar syrup

Shake all ingredients with ice and fine-strain into a chilled coupette.
Garnish with a twist of orange zest.

Posted on October 16, 2015 .

One year and 10,000 miles later

Has it really been a year since the last World Gin Day?

No, seriously, don't -

Look, it's called a rhetorical question. Of course it's been a year since the last World Gin Day. This year, however, marks the first year that it's fallen - for me, at least - in winter.

This is because I'm currently in the Southern Hemisphere and things are weird here. I'm told it's winter, but seriously? It's 18° Celsius (64° Fahrenheit) and, as a native of Scotland, I'd call that positively toasty but I'm surrounded by people wearing scarves and more layers than the middle act of Inception.

People are drinking mulled wine. In June. This I cannot deal with.

I'm used to thinking about drinks for summer right about now, so it's been a fun challenge to think about something a little more seasonally appropriate for where I am. It helps that I work at a bar that is famed for its house-made ginger beer, because what could be more warming than the rich spiciness of ginger beer?

Besides actual hot drinks, yes.

The obvious choice is Audrey Saunders' Gin-Gin Mule, although the one we make at Grandma's could be called a version of it rather than a strictly authentic recreation - the original calls for a still ginger beer and the addition of soda water whereas our ginger beer is carbonated; we also like to thrown in a dash of Angostura Bitters because reasons. It's turned out to be one of the most popular drinks on our new menu - that shouldn't be surprising, given that it has been named as one of the 25 most influential drinks of the past century by Imbibe (US). Described by its creator as an "ambassador to gin," maybe - like its base spirit - that's worth celebrating all year round?

Yes, again with the rhetorical questions.



Gin-Gin Mule

45ml Tanqueray Gin
15ml lime juice
15ml sugar syrup
1 dash Angostura Bitters
8 mint leaves
Top with ginger beer

Shake the first five ingredients with ice and fine-strain* into an ice-filled sling/catalina glass. Garnish with a mint sprig and a piece of crystallised ginger.

 * Your mileage may vary when it comes to fine-straining drinks served over ice; in this particular instance I'd do it to remove any teensy, annoying bits of mint from the finished drink.

Posted on June 17, 2013 and filed under Mixology, Recipes.

A whole barrel of monkeys

Incidentally, as part of the above inquiry, experiments were carried out on monkeys. Two were used. The first was made drunk with new whisky and was seen to become quarrelsome, no doubt due to the fusel oil (which was well-known for making men fighting drunk), and the second was intoxicated with 'fine old whisky' with the result that it became 'markedly hilarious', the maturity and the lack of toxic ingredients obviously agreeing with the chimp. Once sobered-up, the experiment was reversed, causing the quarrelsome beast to cheer up somewhat and the contented one to become aggressive. The conclusion drawn was that new or freshly distilled whisky did have an adverse effect, at least on monkeys, and that its storage to allow maturation appeared to be beneficial.

From Bad Whisky: The Scandal That Created The World's Most Successful Spirit, by Edward Burns


Posted on June 10, 2013 and filed under Quotes.

A swing and a miss

I recently got back into bartending - which, yes, is a weird thing to say on a blog all about bartending and making cocktails, but it's been a couple of years since I spent more than one or two days at the most actually behind a bar making actual drinks for actual customers. Of course, among the various duties of a working bartender is to represent his employers in cocktail competitions and seeing as I'm not currently drawing a paycheck from a spirits producer, I thought I'd try my hand at the Australian qualifers for Diageo Reserve Brands' World Class comp.

World Class is pretty emblematic of how cocktail competitions have evolved over the past few years. This year's UK final took place on a plane while the prize for the winner of the Australian final is $100,000 towards opening their own bar (SPOILERS: it's not going to be me, it's going to be one of these guys) and as the potential benefits have grown, so has the competitive level.

Now, most of the time, workshopping a drink isn't that expensive of an exercise, assuming you have access to the equipment and ingredients you need and that access usually comes through the bar you work at. This time, to satisfy my own curiosity as much as anything, I ended following the entire process from scratch on my own dime. I did manage to avoid some cost: despite moving to Australia in January, I did have my own shakers, strainers and measures with me. Anything I needed and didn't have, I bought.

The competition was structured around two 'bursts', each containing four drink categories associated with one or two of Diageo's Reserve Brands. I opted to tackle Tropical Drinks with Don Julio Tequila and ended up drawing once more from the well of Dave Arnold's fast'n'cheap infusion. I wanted to take a Tiki-ish approach to flavour - fun fruit flavours set against citrus and spice - and present it in a more refined, elegant fashion. The shopping list ended up looking like this:

1 x iSi 0.5 ltr Cream Whipper $100

1 x 10 pack Cream chargers $5

1 x pineapple $4

500g root ginger $15

1 x 700ml vodka $45

1 x 750ml Don Julio Reposado $85

1 x 2 ltr pressed apple juice $4

1 x 5 pack lemons $3

All in, that's $261 (all prices are in Australian dollars); maybe $500 was a touch of an overestimate and no doubt I could have got things cheaper if I tried. If you have all that stuff lying around, of course, the R&D cost of the drink drops somewhat. And from that, to this?


 Señora Primavera

45ml pineapple infused Don Julio Reposado
30ml pressed apple juice
15ml lemon juice
10ml ginger syrup

Shake all ingredients with ice and fine-strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a twist of lemon zest. 


Pineapple infused Tequila 

300ml Tequila
150g fresh pineapple, diced

  Combine Tequila and diced pineapple in a cream whipper; seal and charge with N2O and shake vigorously for thirty seconds. Wait a further seconds before quickly venting the N2O from the whipper; strain out any remaining solids and reserve liquid.


 Ginger syrup

500g root ginger, diced
300ml 40% ABV vodka
1kg caster sugar

In a food processor, blend ginger and vodka into a rough purée. Press the purée through a strainer or chinois and reserve the liquid. Add water to bring the volume of the reserved liquid to 500ml and add the sugar. Stir until the sugar is fully dissolved. 


Ultimately, I didn't end up getting anywhere in the competition. As with any risk/reward calculation, there's a chance of getting nothing and - NEWSFLASH - with $100k up for grabs, it was always going to be tough. Besides, for once, the story of this drink doesn't end with the comp: the finished product is going on the new cocktail menu at Grandma's Bar in Sydney. Which ought to help towards making that $261 back. 

Posted on June 5, 2013 and filed under Mixology, Recipes.