Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Dire Straits...

Now first things first, I haven’t blogged for a while...nearly two years to be exact and its not like Ive not wanted to...Its just like going to the dentist...I know I have to do it but I just keep putting it off until it becomes too annoying to ignore...Well this time my proverbial “toothache” is over the origins of the name of a fantastic drink...The Straits Sling...

My original curiosity towards the name of this classic libation came whilst holding a tasting session at the bar in which I currently work...The Head bartender (so as not to publish names I will refer to him as Mr. Mendoza) asked me if I knew the origin of the word "Strait."

My reply was based on an assumption (and a fairly good knowledge of the English language) that "Strait" would refer to the old cartographers way of describing a narrow channel of water commonly used for shipping routes and less often but more exciting, as "Aquatic Battlefields."

So, to confirm my assumption I logged onto Google Maps, searched for Singapore and sure enough you can clearly see the "Singapore Strait," a stretch of water located south of the city. My theory was somewhat proven, that the drink must have been named after this famous channel of water...Until today...

I was doing some research this morning and came across an article that I haven’t read for a while, named "The Origins of the Singapore Sling; Some Facts, Some Fancies." written by one of my favourite modern day sources of information, Ted Haigh aka. Dr Cocktail...The article basically points out that there was a fair amount of confusion towards the original recipes of both the Straits and the Singapore Slings at the time due to similar ingredients and then the Straits Sling being recorded as a punch later on and seemingly replaced by the Singapore Sling to the point where a Straits Sling was almost unheard of after 1936...anyways, I’m getting carried away...

My main point of interest was in a small sentence that read:

The current-day Raffles Hotel offers a recipe which they describe, in public literature they produce, this way:

“Originally the Singapore Sling was meant as a woman’s drink, hence the attractive pink colour. Today, it is very definitely a drink enjoyed by all, without which any visit to Raffles Hotel is incomplete.

Now by saying “Originally” do they mean the Straits, or Singapore Sling..?

I ask because I found this alternative definition of the word “Strait” whilst browsing earlier:

STRAIT LACED: This phrase was originally STRAIT laces. The old English word strait meant tight or narrow. In Georgian times, laces were used to hold clothes together. If a woman was STRAIT laced she was prim and proper...

This would tie in with the history due to it being, at the time, British Colonial Singapore and especially the Raffles connection due to Stamford Raffles being the founder of both the city and the hotel...and the drink allegedly being a “Ladies drink.”

So my question may seem trivial to you, but my confusion is this:

What exactly is the Straits Sling named after..?

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

A Tribute To "Tales"

We are on the first day of Tales of the Cocktail...I'm not there and I'm not happy about it, hence for the last few days I have been pining in an attempt to make myself feel better, with various drinks of "Big-Easy" descent, one of which I will review today, the others will come soon...

For those of you that don't know, Tales is an internationally acclaimed festival of cocktail culture, held in New Orleans once a year, that brings together the best and brightest of the cocktail community for a five-day celebration of the history and artistry of making drinks...If you need more info though, Google it...Time is short...

Now that the introduction is over, I'll get down to the important part...The drink that Im going to write about is...drum roll...NOT The Sazerac, or the New Orleans (Ramo's) Fizz...Surprised??
Although they are truly great drinks and they hold their place, when made properly, with every drink-lover in the world, I think (and I'm talking about in Europe) they have grown a little "big-headed" over the last year or two...

There are hundreds of drinks that originated in the "Swampy City," before, most certainly during and after prohibition. A decent way to review them would be to take a glance at "Famous New Orleans Drinks & How To Mix 'Em, by: Stanley Clisby Arthur 1937."

Now, I havent made them all, but apart from the usual suspects, there was one that when I made them, really stood out for those two perfect reasons...taste and simplicity...The drink is called;

The Roffignac

Count Louis Philippe Joseph de Roffignac was Mayor of New Orleans from 1820 to 1828, and was famous for, amongst other things, introducing street lighting to the city and laying the first cobblestones in the French Quarter. What I haven't been able to come across is how his name came about for the drink...

What I do know though, is that the Roffignac is essentially a Highball, the name given to a family of mixed drinks that are composed of an alcoholic base spirit and a larger proportion of a non-alcoholic mixer.

This particular Highball consists of:

6 cl (2 Oz) of Cognac
3 cl (1 Oz) of Raspberry Syrup
Soda Water

How easy is that?? No shaking for 12 minutes, stirring, muddling, layering 6 different spirits, or coating the glass...just a fantastically refreshing drink that isn't wrapped up in the complexities of the bitter's to fancy brandy balance...It just does exactly what it says on the tin..!

So in tribute to Tales...mix one up, grab a deckchair in the sun and sip away...It must be 5 o'clock somewhere right..?

Monday, June 15, 2009

"I Open Sometimes..!"

I think I may have been a little bit vague (again) with my last blog...Which basically means that I've had time to sober up and think about things in a little more detail...I'm not apologizing, just setting the record straight...

My inspiration for the bar I will one day create, is pretty much based on a place I saw a few years ago, when I was in Venice. 

It was a "Speak-easy" type place that belonged to an old Venetian Bartender, who had worked in various places all over the world, including Harry's for a while.

...His concept for that bar was, and still is, the most impressive I have ever seen to date.

It was a tiny place, deep into the back-streets of the Jewish Quarter, not the kind of place you just stumble upon...It was a small room, with no windows and low-lighting containing a bar, two barstools and a small table. On the door was a simple sign saying;

"I Open Sometimes!" 

It gets better..! If he was there, you would knock gently on the door, he would let you in and immediately 
tell you where to sit! Once you were forcibly comfortable, you would glance at the back-bar only to realise that all the spirits were in clear glass bottles! 
Only the Owner/Bartender knew which one was which! He was of the belief that eyes are wasted in a bar. If you want pretty drinks then go to Hawaii!...He would say, "You just need your hands, ears, nose and tongue...Leave everything else at home! It's a tad eccentric but it kind-of makes sense!
Next there was the menu,

or not...

There was no menu, the Bartender would simply ask you a series of questions and make you a drink based on his knowledge/experience...and it worked! I can say, as a bartender, that it's great to have somebody tell you: 

"I don't take requests, but don't worry, I'll make you something good!"

If you were to ask him for a Silver Fizz, he might base his drink on Gin. Or he might just make you something completely different, to show you that although you asked for something Gin based, you would actually enjoy a rum, or a whisky cocktail just the same! If you didn't like the system, then you didn't go...Simple!

It was a beautiful formula. He picked his clients, he picked the drinks and he ultimately did what every Bartender (or maybe just me) likes to fantasize about...He showed people that they are Guests and never Clients...It was all about being professionally confident and keeping control, never the money...If he told someone it was good, then it was, if you didn't like it, then he wouldn't charge you...

A "Catch .22-Placebo" if you like?

He went against the grain of hospitality...But, I never could figure out whether it was obnoxious and intrusive, or if he was simply taking it to the next level? I mean, how many of your customers really know what they want? 

So, basically, this is the concept I would go for...and I wouldn't expect to please everybody, that goes without saying, but it doesn't bother me that much...If you walk away saying the drinks were great, but the Bartender's an ass, then I've done my job!

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Cocktail of the Week #7

The Jet Pilot:

After a short break from blogging for some "extensive product research" (heavy drinking to those not in the industry,) I have decided to break my theme of stone-cold classics to bring you a vintage "Tiki" drink. 
I have to admit that I am fairly small minded in the way of  Tiki. I just couldn't see the point of mixing something up and then destroying all those beautiful fruity rum flavours with a splosh of pineapple juice! 

I still defy any bartender that makes his Mai Tais with Pineapple juice...They should be made to drink a bottle of Saffron Gin and paraded around the streets in a pineapple suit, filmed and posted on You-tube...

The closest I would normally get to Tiki, would be something like the "Royal Bermuda Yacht Club" A fantastic daiquiri variation thought up by Trader Vic in or around 1947...I you haven't tried it, go to a bar now...dont think...just go!

The Jet Pilot was first published, to my knowledge in Jeff Berry's "Beachbum Berry's Sippin Safari."Its a drink that contains everything from Absinthe to Falernum and will really throw all of your senses out of the window! 
If you are like me and used to balancing a perfectly "bittered" Pegu or trying to decide on how many drops of Pernod to make the perfect Corpse Reviver II then this one will leave you completely speechless..! Yes, it does involve using a blender and crushed ice...but it's so great, I dont care...

The Jet Pilot:

½ oz. Fresh lime juice

½ oz. Grapefruit juice

½ oz. Cinnamon-infused sugar syrup

½ oz. Falernum

1 oz. Dark Jamaican rum

¾ oz. Gold Puerto Rican rum

¾ oz Overproof Rum (151 Lemon Hart Demerera)

Dash Angostura bitters

6 drops (1/8 teaspoon) Absinthe

4 ounces crushed ice

Put everything in a blender, saving crushed ice for last. Blend at high speed for no more than 5 seconds. Pour into an old-fashioned glass. If you can find one, then garnish with a USAir Jet (Picture taken from Doug Winships "Pegu Blog")

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Cocktail of the Week #6

This time I am going to delve into the depths of unknown classics...

I first heard of this drink from an article on the Michael Dietsch's site "A Dash of Bitters" although it seems to be another Ted Haigh a.k.a. "Dr Cocktail" discovery. It is a fantastically simple drink, with an orange, bitter twist. However, I cant seem to find it published anywhere so if anybody happens to know when, where and how etc...then share the knowledge!

Otherwise, just blow the dust off that bottle of Benedictine and "Dash Away!"

Ford Cocktail

  • 1 oz. gin
  • 1 oz. dry vermouth
  • 3 dashes Benedictine
  • 3 dashes orange bitters
  • Orange twist, for garnish


Stir over Ice in a mixing glass then "Strain & Serve" into a chilled cocktail glass! Garnish...Drink...

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Sazerac...

There are those who say that this was the first cocktail.... There's a lot of dispute over this and I am certainly not going to add another theory. In this post I will simply log the results of my research…If you wish to know more then I will simply point you in the direction of David Wondrich’s “Imbibe!” a fantastic read that contains some fascinating points of research and a truly inspirational slice of literature.


Now, introduction and plugging aside, I will proceed…


The main name associated with the Sazerac cocktail is one of Antoine Amadie Peychaud, a Creole apothecary who moved to New Orleans from the West Indies and set up shop in the French Quarter.

Peychaud would dispense a proprietary mix of aromatic bitters from an old family recipe, to relieve the ails of his clients, this is obviously what we know today as Peychaud’s Bitters.

Peychaud became famous for a drink he would dispense for his friends, one that today we would call an “Old Fashioned Brandy Cocktail” however periodically it was just known as the “Brandy Cocktail” as it wouldn’t have been very “Old Fashioned” in the mid to late 19th century!

According to local legend he served his drink in the large end of an egg cup that was called a “coquetier” in French, and as convenient as it sounds, some say that the pronunciation of this as "cocktail" brought about the name for the genre of drinks we make today 

Whose monkey was in space first...?!

The drink itself consisted of Cognac, mixed with Peychaud’s secret blend of bitters, a splash of water, a measure of fine sugar and a splash of absinthe. Thirsty?

Unfortunately, we cant reproduce the original drink today, due to the extreme scarcity or non-existence of the Sazerac-du-Forge-et-fils cognac, however you can reproduce it with a good splash of a mid-range Hine or Hennessey Cognac. One problem is that since the prominent spirit was changed in the 1920’s, you will find that in most bars today the Sazerac is made with Rye Whisky.

Now, Sazerac Rye 6yr is the obvious choice for most bartenders but I assure you that after trying it with something like Pappy Van Winkle 13yr Family Rye, you will become instantly ignorant towards anything other than Thomas Handy Uncut Rye (named after the bartender that first used rye whisky in a Sazerac) or Rittenhouse 21 but they are in a different league of flavours, prices and availability.

So, all I can do now is, if you haven't already, recommend that you try one (or more?) with cognac and one with rye whiskey...then let me know which you preferred, with which spirit, and why? 

If you already know...then opinions are expected!!

Until next time...

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Glimpse Of Things To Come...

Over the next few months, in addition to my usual rants and recipes, I will be researching and posting the Etymologies of some of my favorite drinks...with a couple of exceptions, I will focus mostly on the late 19th & early 20th Century era as I believe this to be the true "Age of the Cocktail." 

I digress...

I appreciate that although todays drinks are much more technically and scientifically advanced, with the never ending stream of high quality spirits available to us all (not counting Bacardi of course..) and the skill and knowledge of modern day Bartenders, I just cant help but appreciate the fantastic simplicity of something like the Old Fashioned or the Pegu Club, both are drinks that have stood the test of time even though their creators (or bars) have not. 
They are drinks that when mixed properly, allow you to define every aroma in the spirit, from the mellow sweetness of the bourbon to the bittersweet tang of the gin-cointreau mix. Incorporate this with bitters and the flavours are released on a whole new scale. These are the drinks that for taste, and sheer my opinion...cannot be beaten.

Their simplicity defines their complexity...

I hope my research will be as informative to you as it will to me and, as usual, any input, feedback and especially knowledge, will be greatly appreciated...

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas...

Until next time...


Monday, November 24, 2008

Cocktail of the Week #5

So...I am sticking to my classics theme however my original idea of Dick Bradsell's Bramble, one of the first drinks I ever really appreciated and somewhat of a rock in English Bartending culture, has been scrapped due to my decision to go with the original recipe for what is technically, its father...The Gin Fix, taken from Jerry Thomas' Bartenders Guide (1862) 
Now, I'm a big gin fan, I can't get enough and with recipe's like this, I wish it was still as cheap as it used to be...

I have converted the "old style" measures for you into Centiliters...just to ensure there is less time spent on maths and more on drinking...this one will put hairs on your chest!

Gin Fix Cocktail:

Take one large tea-spoonful (0.5 cl) of powdered white sugar and dissolve in a little water.
2 Dashes of Raspberry Syrup (0.2 cl)
The juice of a quarter of a Lemon (1 cl)
1 wine glass of Hollands Gin (12 cl)


Fill up the glass two thirds full with shaved ice, stir thoroughly and ornament the top with berries in season. Old Tom gin may be used if preferred.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Stumped...By a Cherry!

Recently, I was questioned by a patron regarding a specific form of "Cocktail Etiquette." Something that I have always secretly questioned but never answered.

To set the scene, it was a calm monday evening. The drink was a Blood and Sand and, I had thrown together a garnish of Orange Zest knotted on a cocktail stick followed by three cherries, a tie-pin for the glass if you like. Not too traditional but why not?

Why not indeed? I had shot myself in the foot...You see shortly after serving, I was asked this question:

"Im sorry, but am I allowed to eat the garnish?"

I replied, cautiously, "I would never tell you that you can't but I was always taught that its bad manners..."

The next question, inevitably was, "Why?"

For the first time, in a long time...I was stumped, because I couldn't for the life of me, find a valid and sensible reason to explain it. I couldn't even remember who had told me in the first place!

Now, I have always stuck to the rule that the majority of garnishes are married to at least one of the ingredients in the drink and they are generally used to add or emphasise flavour. Im not talking about eating garnishes such as chillies or citrus twists (even though I once had the pleasure of an old english lady who loved to eat the lemon twists from her Lemon Drops) but how many people do you see resisting the olive in their Dirty Martini, or those shiny red bauble-like cherries in their Old Fashioned?
Personally, I have always resisted the temptation. As a Bartender I always maintain that the garnish is for decoration only but being a good host will tell you never to tell the customer that they cant eat it, especially without a good reason!

The thing that got me is that when asked "Why?" I could not give an answer! I do not know why we are not supposed to, or why it is frowned upon by many others. I have never read an account/story or heard of any official rules. However, every other Bartender I have quizzed has the same opinion as me...unless they are deeply into Molecular Mixology but thats a different set of rules entirely...

Does anybody know why? If so then please share because I am still, truly stumped!



Thursday, November 06, 2008

Cocktail of the Week #4

Next up, The Blinker Cocktail...a solid classic that makes use of only three ingredients, two of which happen to be among my favorites; 
Rye Whisky (Rittenhouse or any Van Winkle Rye will do the trick) 
and the Orange's Evil Cousin...the Grapefruit...
Its a love it or hate it fruit but I confess I mainly save this drink for people who tell me they dont like grapefruit....beacuse afterwards, they always do! 
It was originally made with grenadine, however during the Colonial Era it became scarce, so raspberry syrup was used instead...which in my opinion, makes a much nicer drink...try it with both? Why not?

The Blinker Cocktail:

2 Oz Rye Whisky

1 Oz Freshly Squeezed Grapefruit Juice (Not Pink)

1 Bar-spoon Raspberry Syrup (or Grenadine)


Shake Hard with Ice and Double Strain into a Chilled Cocktail Glass. Traditionally there is no Garnish but if you must, then a grapefruit twist fits nicely...enjoy!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Cocktail of the Week #3

This week my drink of choice is the original recipe for Pepe Ruiz's "Flame of Love" Martini, created by himself for Dean Martin in 1970 at Chasen's Restaurant in Beverly Hills...

"Flame of Love" Martini


2 ounces Stolichnaya Vodka
1/4  barspoon Domecq La Ina Fino Sherry
1 whole orange peel, segmented


Chill a wine or Martini Glass thoroughly. Add the sherry to glass, swirl to coat completely and discard the excess.

Take all but one of the segments of orange peel and using a match or a lighter, squeeze the peel over the flame and into the glass, causing the oils from the zest to coat the sherry-lined glass.

Stir the vodka with ice for around 20 seconds, to cool and strain it into the glass.

Take the final segment of orange peel, squeeze it over the drink, rub around the rim of the glass and discard.

Serve with no garnish and drink like Dean Martin!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Get me a Manhattan, Im Starving..!

Before I start, I would like to apologize for taking so long to write a new article. I have  recently been suffering with a severe case of writers block and so I had to resolve to drinking excessively to get some inspiration. I then however, found myself dismissing everything as rubbish when I sobered up...I am sober this should make sense!

My subject this week occurred to me whilst I was drinking a Manhattan in a lovely bar in Berlin. It is the drink I tend to resort to when Im not too sure of the bar, or the bartender to be more precise. Its a drink that I can instruct anybody to make, to my taste and I find that it is a good way to dip your toes in the water, so to speak!

When I order a Manhattan, I request that it be made with Rye Whisky (Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye, 13yrs, when available) Carpano Antica Formula and served in a Bitters coated glass. 

Thats how I like them (Not how I make them!)

It is certainly different to what I believe is the first published recipe from Byron's 1882 "Modern Bartenders Guide" but that leads to my point...There are only a handful of places here nowadays where you can sip a Julep from a Silver Cup or have a Negroni served with a sugar coated rim, as originally served in Bar Casoni, Florence.

"Is it almost impossible to get a true classic cocktail?" 

At the moment, I see a constant influx of Bartenders becoming more and more obsessed with Mixology, Molecular Mixology and "Trying to be smart-ology." 

I find it's nothing more than disappointing when I am served a drink that contains so many ingredients, that it manages to introduce itself to me before I even take a sip!

The question we (Bartenders) should all ask is; 

"Has the Prestige of Classic Cocktails been lost in the recent boom of Over-Enthusistic Bartending?"

Please feel free to log your opinions as I am intrigued as to what is the common view towards todays "Twisted Classics."

Until next time....


Monday, October 13, 2008

Cocktail of the Week #2

So, this week we have decided to go with the "Red Wood Derby Cocktail."
This one struck us as being unusual due to the combination of Grey Goose Citron and a fantastic bourbon, Woodford Reserve. 

We dont know the creator but it was sourced from the Brown's menu in Brighton, England.....enjoy!

Red Wood Derby


  • 2 ounces Grey Goose Citron Vodka
  • 1 ounce Woodford Reserve Bourbon
  • ¾ ounce Chambord Raspberry Liqueur
  • ¼ ounce Fresh Lemon Juice
  • Fresh Raspberries
Combine all ingredients, except raspberries and shake with ice. Serve in a rocks glass, over cubed ice with the raspberries thrown in as garnish.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Hemingway would turn in his grave…

I was in a Daiquiri mood in Berlin recently and popped into a smart looking bar (lets keep it anonymous) in the Schöneberg area. So, I go straight to the bar, pick a pew , refuse a menu and promptly order my classic, to be made with a good splash of Oronoco.

After watching (and listening) to the bartender hustle a group of guests for tips for a few minutes, I gave him a polite look of confusion (I get confused when I am thirsty, naturally) and his memory jogged enough to place the Boston on the bar. Now, being a bartender myself, I prefer not to watch others make my drinks, it un-nerves me, however, while looking around the accurately arranged back-bar I caught a glimpse of the Bartender pouring a suspiciously yellow liquid into the glass. Now I am not the man from Del Monte but I am under the impression that lime juice has a slight green tinge to it? Either way, without wanting to be a pest or a know-it-all I dismissed it as bad lighting or thirst and surely enough, my drink was soon presented to me on a belated bev-nap.

I discarded the lime wheel garnish from the rim of the glass and took a sip….immediately I cringed and the bartender saw it. He came over and asked if everything was okay. Without answering, I asked “Did you use Lemon or Lime juice to make this?”

I am still angry with myself for asking that question as I make it a general rule not to ask what I already know the answer to.

The bartender answered, “With Lemon juice, Sir.”

I nodded my head politely and asked, “Do you know that Daiquiri’s are traditionally made with fresh lime juice?”

Now this is the reason for my concern. The Bartender replied to me, with a very perplexed expression, “I have always made them with lemon juice. I have never made one with lime juice? In fact, I have never worked in a bar that uses fresh lime juice here, we have Roses Lime. Would you like me to make you another one with that instead?”

Under my breath, I whispered, “My God! Hemingway would turn in his grave.” 

Realising I had said it louder than planned, promptly followed up with, “No thanks, I have to go now, my train is due.”

Now, at that point, I think I slid off the bar stool and through the front door quicker than Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren and walked all the way home in a limbo of disbelief and disgust…I was truly shocked and hence decided to write this article.

If you have any views or explanations on why the Germans are capable of making some of the most fascinating things that exist in our modern world, the Bugatti Veyron for example, however they do not find it necessary to squeeze a lime in order to make an otherwise simple but fantastic cocktail then please feel free to respond to this blog in any way you feel.


Many Thanks,



Monday, October 06, 2008

Cocktail of the Week

Hi folks, since this is the first post of its kind, we thought we would start with a very special drink, created by Sam Ross of Milk & Honey, New York...

The Penicillin Cocktail, in our eyes, is already a modern day classic....enjoy...

Mixologist Sam Ross of Milk & Honey, Little Branch – New York, NY


  • 2 ounces blended Scotch
  • ¼ ounce Laphroaig (single-malt Islay Scotch)
  • ¾ ounce fresh lemon juice
  • ¾ ounce honey-ginger syrup
  • Candied ginger

Combine ingredients and shake with ice. Serve in a rocks glass, ideally with one large ice cube and a candied ginger garnish.

Friday, October 03, 2008


On behalf of Strain and Serve, I would like to welcome everybody to the latest in a line of Mixology Blogs. Over the coming months we intend to provide you with an insight into the world of Mixology and for those of you already in the industry, we will be looking forwards to hearing your opinions and views.
Please feel free to post any information on this blog, from recipes to favorite bars to upcoming events....Many Thanks...