Friday, March 30, 2007



1 oz. vodka
1/2 oz. apricot brandy
1/2 oz. dry vermouth
1 dash bitters

Stir (if you like a silkier texture) or shake all ingredients with ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass.

I pulled the Czarina from Stuart Walton's The Ultimate Book of Cocktails. After trying it (and liking it), I did a little digging online and found a variant recipe listed in several places (shown below). I thought both were very good, so I'm listing each recipe.

I really liked this drink. It's a beautiful pale honey color and very evenly flavored. The brandy and vermouth are complementary, and the vodka seems the ideal base spirit with which to match them.

None of the flavors compete. They combine to make a simple, subtle drink. The brandy is warm on the tongue, but the vodka streamlines it and keeps it from being too dominant. The vermouth softens both, and the bitters put a nice little edge on it all.

Czarina (alternate)

1 oz. vodka
3/4 oz. apricot brandy
1/2 oz. dry vermouth
1/2 oz. sweet vermouth

This recipe, while similar, makes a couple changes- it substitutes sweet vermouth for the bitters, and ups the brandy by a quarter-ounce.

Taste-wise, this recipe is comparable to the first one. However, it's a softer, warmer, and deeper version. Most of the key flavors are still there, but they're more subdued and rounded. The sweet vermouth really plays a role here, and it makes an already smooth drink even smoother.

I also found that the first recipe was ideal when just out of the shaker and at it's coldest. The second really seemed to shine after warming slightly, when the flavors came out a bit more. Either would be a great option for someone who wants to begin venturing beyond a comfort zone of "vodka plus sweet mixers"-style drinks.

Monday, March 19, 2007



3 oz. gin
1 oz. cherry brandy (I used Cherry Heering)
1/2 oz. Campari

Combine ingredients with ice in cocktail shaker and shake well. Strain into chilled cocktail glass and garnish with fresh cherry.

This one comes from The Martini Book by Sally Ann Berk. Unfortunately, the book lists no information on the history of the drink, so I have no idea as to it's origins.

The drink itself is a great blend of flavors. The gin lays back and provides a relatively neutral foundation for the brandy & Campari to come forward. Although you initially get the zap of the brandy/Campari combo, you can still detect the gin lurking around the edges.

At first glance, I was a little leery of a drink that used both gin and brandy. I had a vague perception of gin as a "cool" spirit and brandy as "warm", and wondered if they'd work well together. After trying this recipe I think they do work well together, and I'm definitely going to scrounge up more recipes that combine them.

Overall, the Rendevous is one of those drinks where the first sip or two may come across a little harsh, but stay with it- everything smooths out quickly and all the flavors really reveal themselves. Being that all three ingredients contain alcohol, it falls into the "all killer, no filler" category, but it's a very evenly-flavored drink despite it's strength.

A quick note on gin: I'd recommend using one of the crisper-tasting brands (i.e. Bombay, Tanqueray, Broker's) as opposed to a "big" gin like Bluecoat or Hendrick's where the aromatics and infusions are up front- You'll pile too much herbal flavor on top of the already punchy Campari and end up with a drink that's too flowery.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Satan's Whiskers

Satan's Whiskers Cocktail (Curled)

1/2 oz. gin
1/2 oz. dry vermouth
1/2 oz. sweet vermouth
1/2 oz. orange juice
2 teaspoons orange Curacao
1 teaspoon orange bitters

Shake with ice and strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with orange twist.

I have to admit the name of this drink played a major part in my choosing it. Who wouldn't be intrigued?

The Satan's Whiskers Cocktail is another selection from Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails, which list two variants: straight and curled. The straight version substitutes Grand Marnier for the Curacao, and I tried 'em both.


The bitters really comes through in this one. Of all the ingredients, it seems to be the one that asserts itself right up front but also lingers on the finish. Aside from the bitters, there's a noticeable orange flavor throughout, but it's not dominant.

My overall impression is that this version would work equally well as an after-meal drink (due to the hefty dose of bitters), or as part of a summertime menu paired with something like barbeque or grilled chicken.


I definitely preferred this version- It's much smoother and has noticeably less edge to it than the curled version. In many ways it reminded me of a Margarita, but with the characteristic citrus flavor coming from the orange rather than lime.

If you like your drinks citrusy and on the dry side, give this one a shot. Besides, it'll be really fun to tell anyone who asks that you're drinking a "Satan's Whiskers". You have to admit it sounds much cooler than a vodka tonic.