Horchata diaries

Part One – The Dude, PDT and Café Arroz

I love horchata, the white cooling drink that seems ubiquitous in farmers’ markets in Southern California where I live, and is of course a staple in Mexico. It’s fresh and slightly rich and creamy, with a little bit of spice from cinnamon.

The first time I made horchata at home was actually for a cocktail recipe! I had spotted the Café Arroz, a long drink made with aged tequila as the base, coffee liqueur, and horchata, in the PDT Cocktail Book. It is a Mexican & non-dairy take on the classic White Russian (vodka, Kahlua, milk).

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The White Negroni

Having been hooked on the Negroni for quite some time, it made sense that I would be at least as enthralled by the White Negroni. It is, in a way, the French cousin of the Negroni – the base of gin is maintained, while the Campari and sweet vermouth of Italian origin are replaced by Suze and Lillet, which both are French ingredients.


Negroni blanc

A White Negroni with Junipero gin Continue reading

Mai Tai variations

What is great with classic cocktails is that they have such a strong structure, even with a twist they still make fabulous drinks. That explains why great cocktails are an endless source of inspiration. You can riff on them to death and still come up with something decent.

1944 Trader Vic Mai Tai with Denizen Merchant's Reserve rum, lime juice, Clement Creole shrubb, homemade orgeat, simple syrup #cocktail #cocktails #craftcocktails #tiki #tikidrinks #tradervic #rum

Mai Tai variations are generally built on a template of base spirit | citrus | orgeat | orange liqueur. In its classic iteration, the Mai Tai is a sour where aged rum is the base spirit, lime is the citrus, and orgeat (almond syrup) + orange curaçao serve a dual purpose as the sweeteners and modifiers. The orgeat adds a nutty, floral and slightly creamy flavor to the drink, while the curaçao contributes a foundation of bitter orange peel. Continue reading

Playing it safe

A discussion on the food & drink forum eGullet got me thinking about safe orders at bars. I am not talking about craft bars here, obviously. By a safe order, I mean the type of drink you’d be comfortable ordering at any bar, regardless of how well it is stocked and the skill level of the staff. This could be your neighborhood bar where you are meeting friends, when you don’t feel like ordering a beer. Another typical scenario is some type of party/event where it’s clear the bartenders are not Tales of the Cocktail Superstars, and the drink options are limited.

The Artesian bar

The Above & Beyond at the Artesian in London, a cocktail with balloon garnish filled with eucalyptus aroma. Maybe not the best idea for a safe order… Continue reading

Daiquiris with benefits

After the Negroni, the Daiquiri is probably my favorite cocktail. This seemingly simple drink – rum, lime juice, sugar – is refreshingly sublime when made with a good rum. Actually, this is an excellent test for any rum – if it doesn’t make a beautiful Daiquiri, then maybe something is wrong with it…

Rhum Agricole Daiquiri and Pegu Club at Pegu club

A rhum agricole Daiquiri (and a Pegu Club) at Pegu Club

This post is devoted to Daiquiri variations that use rum as the base, with a little bit of this or that added. Continue reading

Beta Cocktails

  • Recipes made so far: 30/55
  • Difficulty level: 3/5
  • Originality: 5/5

Beta Cocktails was originally published as Rogue Cocktails in 2009 by bartenders Kirk Estopinal and Maksym Pazuniak who were both working at Cure in New Orleans at the time. It was a little pamphlet of 40 irreverent and boundary-changing cocktails, many of them exploring the bitter end of the spectrum. After its success, it was revised and reissued as Beta Cocktails (due to a trademark infringement claim) at TOTC in 2011.

Boring damned people. All over the earth. Propagating more boring damned people. What a horror show. The earth swarmed with them.

Charles Bukowski

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Negroni variations

From the archives…

The Negroni might be my favorite cocktail (although it may be a close tie with the equally sublime Daiquiri) and over the years, I have experimented with many different variations. By variation I mean:

  • replacing the base alcohol (gin) with another one (rum, scotch, mezcal, tequila, or whiskey of course (*));
  • replacing Campari with another amaro with a similar flavor profile (Aperol, Gran Classico bitter (**) (***));
  • adding other ingredients in small touches (coffee liqueur, Fernet, etc, salt);
  • or experimenting with aperitif wines including various sweet vermouths (Dolin, Vya, Cocchi vermouth di Torino, etc), less sweet sweet vermouths (Punt e Mes), quinquinas (Bonal, Byrrh), and aromatized wines (Cocchi Barolo Chinato).

Negroni with Sipsmith London dry gin, Campari, Cocchi vermouth di Torino #cocktail #cocktails #craftcocktails #negroni #gin #campari
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Ode to Fernet

Fernet is an acquired taste. Like with Campari and other amari, the bitter Italian herbal liqueurs, you tend to remember your first time vividly. Fernet is quite polarizing to say the least. Most people are revulsed at the mere thought of what they perceive as some kind of diabolical medicine. It’s a punch in the face and for most, not an experience they wish to repeat any time soon.

Fernet-Branca (1970) hilft gegen Vampire [abgebildet: Der Hausierer-Vampir]

One unexpected use for Fernet – it helps against vampires! (photo reproduced by H2O74)

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That’s not a Martini!

Finding something original for this month’s Mixology Monday Challenge, “almost, but not quite, a Martini“, was somewhat of a difficult task. The Martini is such a popular cocktail that it already inspired hundreds of variations (and I am not talking about the abominations that don’t bear much resemblance to the gin and dry vermouth classic, other than the glass they are served in). For example, The Savoy Cocktail Book contains endless variations on this theme that only differ by dashes of various ingredients, from bitters to curaçao, grenadine, or absinthe… Continue reading