If you are into making cocktails at home, you have probably tried and mastered some of the classics-the Margarita, the Martini, the Manhattan. But if you’ve stretched your mixology skills beyond that, you’ve, no doubt, played around with various mixers to add depth and flavor to your cocktail creations. Luckily, there is now an amazing variety of fruit and spice-infused syrups, bitters and shrubs that can be found at any good liquor store or specialty food shop. What is a shrub, you say? Am I referring to a leafy bush? No. A shrub is a fruit-infused vinegar syrup. You may think adding vinegar to any drink would be odd, but the complex, fruity acidity of a shrub syrup adds a brightness and depth that is surprising and very pleasing.
In the great pantheon of classic tiki cocktails, the Zombie has to be one of the best. The Zombie Cocktail is a blend of rums, citrus, pineapple and spice. Invented by Don the Beachcomber, or Donn Beach as he was legally known, in 1934, the Zombie helped to kick off the tiki cocktail craze.. A former bootlegger, Don opened a Polynesian restaurant in Los Angeles in 1937, the Zombie was one of his first signature cocktails. As Jeff Berry recounts in his book “Beachbum Berry Remixed”, Don concocted the recipe for a customer who came in looking for a hangover cure. The story goes that after Don served him this pick-me-up, the customer said “I felt like the living dead–it made a zombie out of me.” Thus, the Zombie Cocktail was born.
Finding the Original Zombie Cocktail recipe
There are numerous versions of the Zombie cocktail recipe. Because Don the Beachcomber was super secretive about the recipe, many other bartenders had to recreate their own versions. It was not until Jeff Berry (or Beachbum Berry) began research into Don’s original notes and interviews with his former staff that he was able to piece together Don’s original recipe. If you are interested in all things tiki, you HAVE to check out Beachbum Berry’s books and website. He is the master!
The Original Zombie Cocktail
by Don the Beachcomber, circa 1934
from the collected tiki recipes in “Beachbum Berry Remixed” by Jeff Berry
3/4 oz fresh lime juice
1/2 oz. Don’s mix*
1/2 oz Falernum
1 1/2 oz. gold Puerto Rican rum
1 1/2 oz. aged Jamaican rum (such as Appleton V/X or Extra)
1 oz. 151-proof Demerara rum
dash Angostura bitters
6 drops Pernod
1 teaspoon grenadine
3/4 cup crushed ice
Put everything in a blender. Blend just until mixed (5 seconds). Pour into tall decorative glass. Add ice cubes to fill and garnish with mint sprig.
And here’s my version….
Zombie Cocktail (Kathy Marker version)
1 oz fresh lime juice
2 oz. pineapple juice
1/2 oz. Falernum
1/2 oz. simple syrup
1 1/2 oz. dark Jamaican rum
1 oz. Demerara rum
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Place all the ingredients with 1 cup crushed ice into a cocktail shaker. Shake until cold. Pour into a tall glass (a tiki glass if you have it!). Garnish with pineapple and cherry.
We are now into Week Two of this year’s World Cup, hosted by Brazil. Maybe, like most Americans, you just aren’t into it. Personally, I’m excited by the non-stop world-class soccer that is being played over the next few weeks. All that national pride! All that amazing play! All those hot players! And USA winning their first game!!! I think the best way to celebrate this year’s World Cup in Brazil is to sip the official cocktail of Brazil – the Caipirinha.
Cachaça – the most popular spirit of Brazil
Similar to the mojito or the margarita, the caipirinha reigns supreme in Brazil. Like the margarita, the caipirinha is a lime sour – mixing spirits with sugar and lime juice. What sets it apart is the main ingredient – cachaça – a distilled spirit that is similar to rum. Unlike rum, which is distilled from cane sugar molasses, cachaça is distilled from fermented cane sugar syrup. Made almost exclusively in Brazil, it is now readily available in the U.S. I always use the light cachaça, even though it does come in a dark, aged version as well.
1 1/2 ounces Cachaça (Brazilian rum)
2 tsp. simple syrup (or 2 teaspoons of brown sugar)
1 lime, cut into 8 wedges
Drop the lime wedges into the bottom of a tall cocktail glass. Crush the limes against the bottom of the glass with a muddler or a sturdy wooden spoon to release all of their juices and the oil from the lime peels. Add the simple syrup (or brown sugar) and cachaça. Muddle again to mix with the lime. Add ice and stir to mix. It’s ready to serve!
I actually like to top mine off with sparkling water or Club Soda, to give it more fizz. That’s not really “official” but I do think that it makes it more refreshing.
If you’re not sure how to SAY Caipirinha (it IS a Portuguese word), just click on this helpful YouTube video.
Saúde (or Cheers)!!
Like many classic gin cocktails, the Pegu Club Cocktail has its origins in the British Colonial Empire. The cocktail was named after the original Pegu Club in Rangoon, Burma – part of the British Empire during Victorian times and now, independent present-day Myanmar. The Pegu Club was a gentleman’s club that catered to the senior British military officers stationed there. The Prince of Wales and George Orwell both dined there. The British writer Rudyard Kipling stopped in on his brief visit to Rangoon and observed that…
“The Pegu Club seemed to be full of men on their way up or down, and the conversation was but an echo of the murmur of conquest far away to the north.”1
To me, this makes it sound like some backwater of the Empire, with officers biding their time before moving on to greater colonial glories in India.
During World War II, the Japanese took control of Rangoon and the Pegu Club, ending the British Empire’s presence there. Its legend lives on today through its signature drink – the Pegu Club cocktail, a refreshing combination of gin, Orange Curaçao, fresh lime juice and bitters.
The Pegu Club Cocktail
Pegu Club Cocktail calls for a London Dry-style gin, such as Gordon’s, Tanqueray or Bombay. The London Dry is the style most familiar to American gin drinkers. It has the classic juniper and citrus taste that we associate with gin. As the name implies, it is very dry and light. Curaçao is a liqueur made from the fragrant peel of the laraha fruit, which was cultivated from the Valencia orange on the Southern Caribbean island of Curaçao. It is naturally clear, but color is added – blue for Blue Curaçao or orange for Orange Curaçao. You’ll see it often in tiki drinks, such as the Kamikaze or the Mai Tai.
Pegu Club Cocktail
2 oz London Dry Gin
3/4 oz Orange Curaçao (you can substitute with Cointreau)
1/2 oz lime juice
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 dash orange bitters
Pour the ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled. Pour into a cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange or grapefruit twist.
1 Rudyard Kipling, From Sea to Sea, and Other Travel Sketches, Letters of Travel (1899)
We’re in the middle of March Madness fever, and this year, I’m particularly excited because my team, the Tennessee Volunteers, has made it to the Sweet 16 round!. They play tonight, and because the Vols are known as the Big Orange, I need an appropriately orange-colored cocktail to celebrate. A quick look at my bar and the bottle of bright orange Aperol popped out at me. I wanted to find an Aperol cocktail that wasn’t an Aperol Spritz, so looking online, I found one that was originally from the Mr. Boston Official Bartender’s Guide. It combined Aperel, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, vodka and fresh lemon juice to make a bright, refreshing mix – The Mr. 404 Cocktail.
The Blood and Sand cocktail is a throwback to the Prohibition-era days when Rudolph Valentino was one of the greatest stars of the Silver Screen. Named after “the Sheik”‘s 1922 movie, this classic cocktail is one of the few that uses scotch as it’s base. Like many cocktails from that era, the recipe could be found in Harry Cradock’s “The Savoy Cocktail Book”.
Using Scotch in a cocktail
There are not too many scotch cocktails around. Scotch has such a distinctive smoky taste, that it is very difficult to combine with other flavors and not have it overwhelm the whole drink. And, let’s be honest. If you’re going to drink a good scotch, you’re probably going to drink it neat or with a little ice and water. The Blood and Sand cocktail is a scotch cocktail worth breaking out the good stuff to try. It’s a satisfying combination of the smokiness of the scotch and the sweetness of the blood orange, cherry heering and vermouth. For this cocktail recipe, I did use a very nice, single-malt scotch, Ardbeg. Some people actually prefer to use a milder, scotch blend, such as Dewar’s or Johnnie Walker.
Blood orange is a sweet orange with a dark red pulp. On the outside, if looks very similar to any other orange, but when you slice one open, it looks almost like a dark ruby red grapefruit, but a lot sweeter. Like many oranges, the blood orange is native to the Mediterranean, but has been cultivated in the U.S. for quite a while. It is a seasonal market find, with the best blood oranges to be found from November to February.
The Blood and Sand Cocktail
1 oz scotch (blended or single-malt is fine)
1 oz. fresh blood orange juice
3/4 oz. cherry heering
3/4 oz. sweet vermouth
orange peel or maraschino cherry to garnish
Place ice in a cocktail shaker. Pour in the scotch, fresh blood orange juice, cherry herring and sweet vermouth. Shake until chilled. Pour into an old-fashioned cocktail glass, then garnish with a wedge of orange peel or a maraschino cherry.
If you want to get fancy, you can do the trick that I showed you a couple of weeks ago… flaming the orange peel. I’ve got pictures posted on how to do this over at my Tangerine Drop Martini blog post.
Mid-winter brings a more monotonous selection in the produce aisle but a bounteous variety in the citrus section. While the fresh berries and melons of summer have faded into memory, the market is piled high with oranges, grapefruits, lemons and limes. Even though varieties of the fruit can be found throughout the year, some citrus is only available in the winter – blood orange, pommelos, Meyer lemons and tangerines. It’s the perfect time of year to add these bright flavors to a cocktail. This week, I’m making a Tangerine Drop Martini.
The Corpse Reviver No. 2 is the perfect Halloween cocktail. Or maybe, like it’s original intent, it is the perfect AFTER-Halloween cocktail, when you need a bit of “the hair of the dog” to revive you. In fact, it used to be served as a “breakfast cocktail” to cure you after a night of debauchery.
Even though I said that I was putting my gin away until warm weather returns, this gin, Cointreau, Lillet Blanc and absinthe cocktail is really delicious AND has the creepy name to commemorate either Hallow’s Eve or The Day of the Dead.
I’m starting to see the fresh pomegranates back in the stores again this week. I do love cutting them open and popping out those garnet-colored seeds to eat. They stain your fingers bright pink, but I really don’t care. They are sweet, but have a slightly tart taste and a crunchy texture. If you turn the juice into a syrup, you have a homemade grenadine to make classic cocktails such as the Jack Rose, the Mistletoe and the El Presidente. Homemade grenadine is tart and sweet and adds a rich red color to any drink.
If you live in the South, you have probably have had your share of muscadines and scuppernongs, our native wild grape. In Georgia, a walk through the woods in late summer and early fall will usually yield at least a handful of the Southern wild grapes to enjoy. You can often find them along the ground, where they’ve fallen from their high perch in the trees. I usually eat them where I find them, but sometimes we’re lucky enough to come upon low-hanging vines that make picking a couple of pints an easy chore. They are fragrant, juicy and sweet. Like pears or apples, the muscadine signals Fall in the South. They are my inspiration this week for a Southern Fall Muscadine Cocktail.