Category Archives: How to Advice

An Americano Holiday

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As I sit here a four day weekend 100 miles from my basement bar is staring me in the face. What to pack? Don’t want to over pack, don’t want to under pack and be at the mercy of host’s bar. Whatever you’re bringing needs to be versatile, mobile, and it must play well with others.

I’m headed to my Father’s house. Fortunately he will have plenty of gin and bourbon, as well as a variety of dusty liqueurs and a weathered bottle of Angostura bitters. I would venture to guess his stock is similar to what you’d find in many basement bars. Just with more gin and bourbon. That being said, certainly not everything you need for a four day weekend.

I’ll be poolside for much of the weekend, but night caps and eye openers will also be required. I could lug Cointreau, Absinthe, and Lillet down to go with the gin for my eye opening Corpse Reviver. Follow that with a series of Dark and Stormy talls, a case of Goslings ginger beer and rum later, how will I have room for the pre dinner Aviation makings and night cap Manhattans.

I’m a solutions oriented guy, so here’s the solution:

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Campari, sweet vermouth, oranges, and Spanish Bitters? Yes. And here’s how it works.

Eye opener; 1 to 1 Campari to Dolin, adjust to fit your palate.

Poolside? Poolside on Independence Day? Why an Americano of course; 1 to 1 to 2 parts Campari, Dolin, club soda.

To garnish the first I’d do a swath of orange, for the second, an orange wheel or three. I like the Spanish Bitters in each. Heavier in the eye opener, just a couple dashes in the Americano.

What about the night capper? Well, remember that gin I mentioned? A classic Negroni; 1 to 1 to 1 of our three players. Spanish Bitters to finish. And if the fireworks aren’t delivering, flame the orange for a finale.

I chose the Spanish Bitters for this weekend because they work well in the above drinks, but also in a Gin & Tonic or martini in case those are called for and I want to add a twist for the drinker.

Additionally, by going this route I also ensure that after a sixxer of Bell’s Two Hearted tonight, when my dad wants to switch to Manhattans, I know the vermouth will be fresh, because I brought it.

But most importantly, you arrive with only two bottles, no hassle, no strange looks, no scene. Yet, you can make all the above cocktails, and many more.

More you say? Yes. Take for example the Esquire Cocktail a 1 to 1 to 1 to 3 part ration of Aperol, liqueur, lemon, base spirit. Now, you’ve packed Campari, so that’s going to pack a bigger punch than Aperol, but if some wisenheimer cousin or brother in law starts talking cocktails and you want to show who the family cocktologist really is, give it a spin. I’d suggest pairing Dad’s bourbon, that crusty bottle of Benedictine, some lemons you saved from drowning in sun tea, and the Campari, with a splash of the Angostura or Spanish Bitters. Shake it up, or if you’ve finely strained the juice, you could even try stirring this one. It may not be the smoothest sipper, but it’ll put any naysayer in their place.

If you aren’t looking to over rattle your cocktologist’s saber, try the Golden Ratio by Jamie Boudreau. 1.5 parts spirit, .75 parts vermouth or other modifier, .25 parts liqueur or amaro. This ratio produces many fine cocktails. Simply use the vermouth you brought, the gin or bourbon available, and a quarter ounce of one of those dusty liqueurs.

So there you have it. Toss a bottle of Campari, some bitters, and a not too complex sweet vermouth in your bag and you’ll be ready to enjoy this long weekend in true cocktologist fashion.

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How to stock; Glassware, Gadgetry, and Guides.

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You’re welcome for the grocery list, hope you didn’t break the bank, but now what do you need to properly prepare and serve your new collection?

I thought I’d break down the basics on glasses, guides, and gadgetry. As always, if your tastes take you in a different direction, run with it, it’s your collection, not mine. And, if you’re doing some type of specialization with your bar, then a greater variety of delivery apparatti may be needed, like tiki glasses, but this list will allow you to prepare and serve most, if not all, drinks, though you may lack in flair.

To help, where you see the hyper link on the word “glasses” or on a product, click and it should take you to an A-D approved version available online, or an example to then find your own unique version elsewhere. Further down I will explain those products which might not immediately come to mind for bar stocking. I will also discuss multitaskers that might not be as obvious to those who’ve not spent much time behind the stick. In a later blog I will break down a dozen or so must have kitchen items.

Glassware
12 Red Wine glasses
12 White Wine glasses
8 Old Fashioned glasses
8 Coupe glasses
8 Grappa or Port glasses
8 Sipping glasses
8 Vodka or Cordial glasses
12 Pint glasses
12 Champagne flutes
12 Highball glasses
12 Tom Collins/Mojeto glasses
1 Punch Bowl
24 Punch Cups/Sherry glasses 2-4 oz
12 coffee mugs (Irish Coffees/Totties)
1 Carafe (water for tastings)
1 Pitcher (stirring/pouring eye openers)

Here is my collection, minus the Waterford old fashioneds, martini glasses, and my pint glasses.

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One of my glassware cabinets.

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Another cabinet.

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Some sweet vodka/cordials my boss gave me.

I’ve got a bit more than I need.

Especially for the glassware, the examples I’m giving are those located at your local Sur La Table or Crate & Barrel. Look them up and get ideas of your own. By all means, please, find something second hand. Or if your tastes differ, then something a bit more flashy may be needed. But I’d suggest looking at the size and type of glass I’m suggesting before heading out shopping in antique stores. Smaller volume is generally better, cocktail recipes are usually about three ounces of booze, plus the ounce or so of melted ice that’s been diluted, leaves you with four ounces total of liquid, you don’t need a twelve ounce glass for four ounces of liquid. I use my old fashioned for a lot more than just an old fashioned. I like a very heavy bottom on those glasses. I like to feel I could throw one through some dry wall wall.

Glasses that can be used for more than one purpose are the way to go. Martini glasses are generally too large, unless you get antique versions. That’s why I suggest coupe glasses. They’re smaller and will work for any classic cocktail served up, or for champagne. Think of the glasses you see at Rick’s in Casablanca, or the glasses you see at any cocktail bar worth it’s salt. Again, you’re not looking to serve four ounces of liquid in a fish bowl. On the highballs and Tom Collins glasses, you may choose to go with one or the other. There is really no reason you can’t make a mojito, Tom Collins, El Diablo, rum and coke, cooler, or seven and seven in a highball, Collins, or standard pint glass. I prefer to have a second option other than pint glasses, because mine have logos, and that’s not classy. On pint glasses, just shop at your local tavern or brew pub. These random glasses also work well as conversation starters.

Another note on size, those individuals you deem worthy of an invite to have a drink at your home bar, should trust you’ll pour a proper pour of a good product, so, you don’t need to wow them with glass size and style, just with what’s in the glass. A well made three ounce drink in a heavy six or seven, volume, ounce glass is ideal, and you can always ask for a second cocktail, I know I’d join you.

Gadgets
Le Creuset Citrus Juicer
Bar Spoon
Hawthorne Straine
Julep Strainer
Boston Style Shaker
Yarai Mixing Glass
Channel Knife
Kuhn Vegetable Peeler
Pairing Knife
Nutmeg Grater
Bottle Opener
Cocktail Picks
Tea Strainer (for double straining)
Milk Shake Spoons
Wine Key
Blender
Muddler

I like a Boston shaker, I’m not a fan of cleaning those three piece shakers, plus it like cooler and has more volume for making larger batches, but a safety note, never more than one egg at a time. I like the stirring pitcher, I think they add a touch of class over a pint glass when you’re building a Manhattan or Martini. For bar spoons, I have an antique one, if I were to buy a new one I’d go with something with a fork on the end for fishing garnishes out of jars. Some spoons have a flat Muddler on the end, these aren’t necessary due to the fact that you’ll naturally follow my advice and get a nice maple bat styled Muddler. Try cracking ice with a bar spoon, then try it with a maple stick. Both are possible, but I like that batty. You need the tea strainer for double straining your drinks, especially your fruit juiced concoctions, but also to strain your tea. Milk shake spoons are a nice addition. They can be used to sip and stir drinks. They’ll have a spoon end with the straw opening behind it. The various knives and peelers will make garnish preparation much easier. Most of this stuff will help you in the kitchen as well. I keep a lot of this stuff, juicer, grater, peeler, etc in the kitchen. The strainers, spoon, and shaker are the only things I have down in the bar.

These tools will have you stylishly crafting and serving fine drinks, but how will you know what booze to use?

Guides
The Joy of Mixology
Imbibe
Vintage Cocktails and Forgotten Spirits

The Joy of Mixology has about every drink you can imagine, besides the Last Word. It has a section on bar tools and stocking a bar. It also has a section on a sort of Bartender’s code of ethics as well as some insight on running a bar. It’s a solid reference guide. Imbibe goes deep into the origin and history of the cocktail, types of cocktails, and individual cocktails. It is an excellent resource for those wanting to geek out or to show off. I suggest only using it for geeking out purposes, otherwise you may find yourself in a “Harvard” bar situation, being schooled by some page quoting, original, individual who will be serving your children French fries. That would make you an unoriginal douche, and that can be embarrassing.

Another fun guide, that marries the first two, is Vintage Cocktails and Forgotten Spirits by Dr. Cocktail, Ted Haigh. This is a great book, full of history and tasty drinks. If it’s not in Haigh’s book or Hess’s, you probably don’t need to serve it. Unless it is a punch, but if you need a punch just email me. Unless, you’re really into this stuff, then go buy Imbibe’s companion Punch a great history and recipe book.

I might also throw in, the above mentioned, Robert Hess’s guide, The Essential Bartender’s Guide. It’s easy and quick to use and has color photographs. It is not as comprehensive as Joy of Mixology, but it’s a good starter and more approachable.

I’ve got a few more,

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they’re great reference guides and are full of interesting tidbits and variations on the same drinks, allowing you to try these variations, learn these tidbits, and figure out which you enjoy most, and tell it’s story.

On guides, please search them out in a local, independent book store, like the Left Bank Book, if not, some day, we’ll only be able to read what Barne’s and Noble allows us, and only mix the cocktails B&N informs us of. On the glassware, try local boutiques. On the liquor, local liquor stores, I prefer the business practices of The Wine Merchant and 33 Wine. And when snagging pint glasses, snag from local pubs, but make sure and advertise for them at your home bar.

I know you’ll have more shopping to do now, but, I find that there’s no use pouring crap booze into generic glassware based on bad ratios from juvenile guides, so, I don’t, and if you cared enough to read this, you shouldn’t either, so just bite the bullet, this stuff doesn’t go out of style.

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How to stock your bar?

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My notes for this blog, a real head scratcher.

A friend has acquired a beutiful slab of end grain rock maple from my good friend Norbert at John Boos in Effingham, IL and used it to create a basement bar. As it was my advice that brought him to Boos and therefore the focal point of his bar, he naturally asked me my opinion on stocking the beast. Before doing so, I did a quick check on the google and was surprised at the lack of quality advice on the matter, hence, this entry into Amuse-Douche.

The first thing I came across on the interwebs was a blog titled The Art of Manliness, if the other articles are on par with the one on bar stocking, reading this thing will only make you a douche, an unamusing douche. Anyone typing that white rum is better for mixing, excuse me, but what about the Pimento, listing Patron as a preference, or that clear tequila is better for sipping, I’ve got a couple reposados and añejos that would beg to differ, blended single malts, what, Grey Goose, try Tito’s, and suggesting Jim Beam for an Old Fashioned, look, asking for an Old Fashioned and having it made with bourbon is like requesting Radiohead and getting Cold Play, sure, it’s music, and to the unintelligent listener it may sound similar, but Cold Play couldn’t hold Radiohead’s jock, and rye, not bourbon, goes in an Old Fashioned. That being said, the guy makes some okay points. It’s really just his selection of booze that I take umbrage with.

So, what do you need? Let’s start with the mixers and work our way up.

Mixers
Coca-Cola Classic
Ginger Beer (Goslings)
Club Soda
Tonic Water
7-Up
Limes
Oranges
Lemons
Grapefruits
Grenadine

That’s really all I offer. I generally don’t consume any carbonated beverages, but have those listed just in case. My tea toting friends seem to enjoy the Ginger Beer. The juices should always be fresh, I like the reemer in a bowl juicer. Also, always double strained. I like having the fresh fruit around for cooking as well. Limes for pico, guacamole, marinades. Lemons for tea or fish or a pie. Oranges and grapefruits for fresh juice or breakfast eating. Some times you look in the refrigerator bin and see you’ve got a little penicillin farm, but you pay the cost to be the boss, and sometimes the cost is tossing moldy citrus into the compost.

garnish
Various citrus peals
Cocktail olives
Cocktail onions
Cherries
Mint
Nutmeg

I also choose to have cinnamon sticks, cloves, and various other baking spices available. In addition, as a home pickler, I have asparagus, okra, and green beans to garnish my savory drinks. I also keep cherries soaked in kirsch, house maraschino cherries, and brandy soaked cherries on hand.

Ice
1 inch cubes
2 inch cubes

I also offer two inch ice balls. The balls and larger cubes melt slower and thus, don’t dilute your cocktail. Dilution is necessary in drink preparation, as about a quarter of your drink is water after stirring or shaking, but you don’t want further dilution while sipping. Good quality ice made with clean water is key. Funky ice equals bad drink. Fortunately those of us in St. Louis profit from Anheuser Busch’s early decision to filter the water they use, not at their brewery, but at the source, so all the city could enjoy crisp, clean, water, and good ice.

Modifiers
French (dry) Vermouth
Italian (sweet) Vermouth
Lilet
Cynar

I buy half bottles, or splits, of Nolle Prat dry vermouth. I don’t use a lot of it so I’ll have one opened in the fridge and one sealed in the cabinet. This ensures I have some in case the fridge bottle has expired. I keep full bottles of sweet vermouth around in several flavors. I suggest Dolin Rouge for it’s price and approachability. If you want to upgrade, I’d suggest Punt a Mes. Carpano Antica, though exceptional, is not the catch all, do anything, sweet vermouth you need when you’re just beginning. Lilet is a nice apertif and can be served alone or mixed into a cocktail, I enjoy it with four parts gin to one part Lilet. The Cynar is your Italian bitter bottle. It’s not as flashy as Fernet Branca, but it’s, again, a catch all, and that’s what you should be trying to get when starting to build a bar. You don’t want niche bottles sitting around collecting dust when you could have something more useful in that shelf space. Averna would also make a nice addition, but if you get a bottle, as with the Lilet and your vermouths, refrigerate once opening.

Liqueurs
Maraschino Liqueur
Cointreau
Creme de Cassis or Chambord
Canton, The Big O, or Stirrings Ginger
Cherry Herring
Aperol or Campari, I’d get both
Drambuie (375)
Benedictine (375)
St. Germaine (375)
Galliano (375)
Pimms
Green Chartreuse
Kahlua
Swedish Punsch
Ameretto

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All of these aren’t necessary. It really depends on how much cocktail making you do. As you taste cocktails at Sanctuaria, Taste,Franco, or Blood & Sand ask what liqueurs are in the ones you particularly enjoy, then purchase those bottles and experiment at home. As you frequent one of the above mentioned establishments, you’ll find that if you ask, they will let you taste any modifier, liqueur, or base. This is very helpful when building a bar.

The list I gave is by no means complete or completely necessary. I’d start with Cointreau, Maraschino, Creme de Cassis and one of the ginger flavored options. Once summer rolls around I’d score a bottle of Pimms for the Pimms Cups. If you’re a Blood & Sand fan, you’ll have to pick up a bottle of Cherry Herring.

I really only have the Chartreuse on the list because I love Last Words. I bought my Maraschino Liqueur for Aviations, but enjoy it in the occasional Manhattan, as the base for my cocktail cherries, and as a dressing for fruit salad, along with the many cocktails I now know it to be an ingredient in. I suggest purchasing 375 ml bottles for the liqueurs where you can. Many are very flavorful or overly sweet, and you’ll only need a quarter ounce or so.

As you build your bar, I’d suggest purchasing different types of the various flavored liqueurs. To start either Chambord or Creme de Cassis will do, but eventually you’ll want both so you can have the proper ingredient. I’d also suggest in investing in a variety of citrus liqueurs such as Grand Mariner or Mandarin Napoleon. They will allow you to put your own twist on a “house” drink when the standard recipe calls for Cointreau. If you like bitter, I suggest you get more bitter drinks, if you have a sweet tooth, grab more fruity sugar packed liqueurs. If you’d like to spend a little more money, try these,

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but, use them sparingly, as they are full of flavor, but a truely top of the line bar should have oak aged Green Chartreuse, Amaro Nonino, and Carpano Antica.

More than anything, your palet should guide your purchases with modifiers, liqueurs, and most importantly, your bases.

Bases
Whiskey
(American; Buffalo Trace, Rittenhouse)
(Global; Glenmorangie, John Powers)
Tequila (Espalón Reposado)
Rum or Rhum (Flor de Cana white)
Gin (Plymouth)
Vodka (Tito’s)
Eau de Vie (C.C. Pear, Laird’s Bonded)

The bottles listed above would be my suggestion for the basics, for more, read on:

Whiskey, Bourbon, Canadian, Irish, Scotch, Rye, Tennessee, Colorado. What to choose? For the bourbon, go with Elijah Craig 12 year or Buffalo Trace for your mixing bourbon. I’d also stock a nicer bottle, maybe Michter’s. As for Canadian, V.O. Or Seagrum’s Seven will do. I don’t use them much, but stock a bottle for the occasional 7&7 or V.O. press. For the Irish, John Power’s. Scotch, I’d go Glenmorangie for a smooth mixer or sipper and maybe something funky, like Laphroig or Ardbeg 10 year to start. Rye is a must for Old Fashioneds and Manhattans. I love Rittenhouse and at $20 it’s a great bargain, Old Overholt is $11, but not nearly as tasty. Thomas Handy makes a $60 bottling of over-proof rye, and is a nice addition to any bar. As to the Tenn and Colo whiskies, those aren’t really necessary, but Stranahan’s and George Dickel could be added once the other components are present, if American whiskey is your thing.

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A few whiskey upgrades, rye, bourbon, Irish, and a Bordeaux finished Scotch.

I like a white dog as well. White dogs are simply unaged whiskies, and are a nice night cap.

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The above bottle is unaged Rittenhouse, and is great on the rocks with a cherry. Don’t try to do anything but slide into bed after one.

Tequila, Espalón, Espalón, Espalón. Unaged and the Reposado. Luna Zule makes an affordable Añejo and I suggest it be added to your list. Don’t throw good money after bad tequila, these will all be $25 or less, no reason to spend more.

Rum, Flor de Cana white and the four year are your basics. Goslings Black Seal is a must for hot summer days in a Dark & Stormy. Smith & Cross is my ideal Jamaican rum. El Dorado 12 year is my sipper of choice, and won’t break the bank. For a couple of odd additions, Cachaca for Caipirinhas and Batavia-Arrack for a bit of funk. Three suggestions if you’re going rum heavy,

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Pyrat is a Jamiacan with lots of Hugo, Zacapa may be the best rum ever, and the 15 year old Rhum Barbancourt may be the best of the French style rums. If you’re going full tiki, you may also choose to add orgeat and velvet falernum.

Gin, Plymouth and Hayman’s Old Tom are necessary, something a bit more London dry, like Beefeater, can be nice for Gin & Tonics. I’d also add an American craft distiller such as Aviation, Cap Rock, or Pinkney to try with your classic gin cocktails. Nothing beats Aviation in an Aviation.

Vodka, Stolichnaya and Tito’s is all one needs.

Eau de Vie, I stock a pear, a peach, a kirsch, grapa, calvados, cognac, etc. These are nice to close an evening with. I suggest Clear Creek Distillery’s Pear option, it will certainly surprise a dinner guest. Laird’s Bonded is a nice aged apple brandy, and for $22 it deffinately earns a spot. Pass it off as Calvados after dinner, it’s just the New Jersey version. My favorite after dinner Eau de Vies are bellow.

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Really, as mentioned, taste, and theme, should drive your purchases. Do you prefer prohibition era cocktails, you may want to offer a greater gin selection. Are you a scotch man, then go with maybe two of each base and a half dozen or so scotches. Running an at home tikki establishment, probably need some 151 along with a few other rums. Margaritaville? Bump up the tequila, add some Mescal, but stick with 100% agave. I have a large selection of American whiskies, be they bourbon, rye, wheat, Tennessee, or originating from another state. I have some low price, high quality options, as well as high end high quality options.

As to the bitters, read my blog “Everyday I’m Bittering.” Please, don’t forget them. Not bitters, but made by Fee Brothers, orange flower water is a necessity when having a Ramos Gin Fizz or Pisco Sour for breakfast.

I keep the bulk of my booze in the basement,

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the basics in the kitchen,

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and a few nice things to sip on in a barristers book shelf,

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this way, no matter where I am in the house, I’m never more than a few feet from a proper drink.

None of these suggestions are in anyway biased by advertising or sponsorship dollars. At the moment, this is a true, no spin zone. That being said, everyone has a price, and if properly incentivized, I can whore like no other. If you’d like your product pushed, shoot me an email at Amuse.Douche11@gmail.com or direct message me on Twitter @AmuseDouche11.

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