Category Archives: In the library


Forty-some years ago, my father was an auditor for the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, working from HUD’s offices in Lexington and Covington, Kentucky. His duties sometimes took him into the mountains of Eastern Kentucky, and in those days (we’re talking around 1965 or so), he met some resistance from local townsmen who apparently mistook him for an IRS man–a “revenuer.” The story’s come down to me second-hand, but the way my mother tells it, he was apparently chased out of one town by a man bearing a shotgun.

Who knows whether this is true? Dad ain’t around to tell the story, and he had a reputation as one who’d sometimes embellish a tale to get a bigger laugh. But it kept popping into my head as I read Matthew Rowley’s fine new book, Moonshine! This one’s got a hootenanny of a subtitle: Recipes, Tall Tales, Drinking Songs, Historical Stuff, Knee Slappers, How to Make It, How to Drink It, Pleasin’ the Law, Recoverin’ the Next Day.
Continue reading Moonshine!

Lost and found

As most of you already know, two classic lost ingredients have started peppering liquor stores again–absinthe and crème de violette. I found the Lucid absinthe about a month ago, but it was only last week that I finally tracked down this beauty:


The first damn thing I did with it was to mix a proper Aviation, using Paul Clarke‘s recipe on Serious Eats.

What a revelation. The violette lifts this drink above the clouds, and it’s easy to picture yourself in the cocktail lounge of a Pan Am Clipper sipping this drink.

Then, last night, I remembered my vow to work through the absinthe cocktails in the Savoy. I grabbed my copy and started flipping through. I don’t really have a plan to work through them in order or anything like that. If a drink sounds good and we have all the ingredients, I’ll test it out. So it’s just coincidence that I landed in the A’s, with the Atty Cocktail.

I don’t know the meaning of the name. While stomping around on eGullet, Erik Ellestad suggests that it might come from the common abbreviation for attorney–which is ironic, given that Mrs. Bitters is a lawyer-coddler. Erik notes of the drink that

it is a fascinating, elegant and complex thing, with the hints of Absinthe and Violet trading each other for flavor dominance as you sip.

Atty!Couldn’t put it better myself. I didn’t quite use his proportions, instead crunching through the math in my head to adapt the Savoy formula (one part vermouth, three parts gin, and three dashes each of violette and absinthe) into an ounce-based recipe.

So, my version of the Atty.

Atty Cocktail

  • 3/4-oz. French vermouth
  • 2 1/2-oz. gin (I used Plymouth)
  • 1/4-tsp. crème de violette (Rothman and Winter)
  • 1/4-tsp. absinthe (Lucid)

Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a twist of lemon peel.

The drink suffered from a not-long-enough stir, so be sure to either stir it well or shake it to make sure it’s properly chilled.

And now, the fun begins

Got me some Lucid, I wancha to know

photo by Jennifer Hess

Do you know how many absinthe cocktails are in the Savoy Cocktail Book? According to the Real Absinthe blog, there are 104. One hundred and four recipes that geeks like me couldn’t easily mix in this country, thanks to the cost and difficulty of acquiring absinthe from overseas.

Now that Lucid is available domestically, those sad days have ended. Hm, 104. If I mixed up one absinthe cocktail a week, I’d have blog fodder for the next two years. I can’t guarantee that I’ll mix them that frequently, but I am damn well going to try all 104 of those drinks, as long as legal absinthe and my liver hold out.

And, no, that’s not a first-edition Savoy; it’s the facsimile release.

“Liquor: The Servant of Man” on eBay

Just a quick follow-up to last night’s post…

If any of you are interested in procuring your own copy of this book, it’s available again on eBay. The printing currently listed is the 1948. The book was originally published in 1939, and my copy is the 1940 reprint.

The 1948 was published by Garden City Pub. Co., whereas the original was under the Little, Brown mark. I can’t tell you whether that makes a difference but I figured I’d point it out.

Bidding war…GO!

Edited to add: There’s a 1965 book with the exact same title–Liquor, the Servant of Man–but by an author named Morris Chavetz. If you’re shopping, buyer beware. I know nothing of the Chavetz volume; it seems fishy that he recycled the title of the earlier book, but beyond that, I know nothing of the ’65.

Talk about timing!

Last week, I was catching up on the cocktail blogs–specifically, I was reading one of my new favorites, Cocktailnerd. Gabriel, the author, wrote up a cool piece on the Blinker. Now, the Blinker’s a drink to try some time, but I’ll have to be careful, because it calls for grapefruit juice, to which Lady Bitters is sadly allergic. (I’ll just fix her a Negroni; that covers a number of sins.)

More to the point, though, Gabriel linked out to an interview with Ted Haigh at Modern Drunkard Magazine. I have hazy memories of having read this interview previously, but I’ve had too many Sazeracs to be sure.
Continue reading Talk about timing!

One down

logo for Imbibe magazineHappy birthday, Imbibe magazine! It’s been a great first year, and here’s a toast to many more. Issue 7 hit my mailbox yesterday, and I must confess that since it arrived the same day as this issue of Esquire, I didn’t open Imbibe first.

(Even my wife saw Halle and said, “Wwwwow!”)

But I closeted my hormones, stirred up martinis, grabbed a cigar, and repaired out back to enjoy the warm weather and browse Imbibe.
Continue reading One down

Choke Artist

I’ve been in the weeds lately, starting a new job and finishing several freelance projects. Although we’ve certainly enjoyed our nightly aperitifs, I’ve had little time for anything more than old stand-bys, like Martinis and Old Fashioneds.

But things are calming down finally, so it’s time again for research and experimentation. To that end, I delved back into a book that I bought a few months ago but haven’t taken time to review: The Art of the Bar. In flipping through it, I found a flavor combination that really surprised me–Cynar, tequila, and sherry–in a drink aptly named Choke Artist.

Choke Artist

photograph by Jennifer Hess

Here’s why I’m no professional: I’d have never thought to match up these ingredients. But this drink just works. It’s the very definition of a well-balanced drink–everything’s present and notable, but nothing dominates. You can learn a lot about mixing from this drink.

It reminds me a lot of those friendships we’ve all been a part of, where two strong personalities need a third, more laid-back, person to mediate the differences and smooth things out for everyone. That’s the role of the sherry here.

Finally, the bitters. Even with five dashes’ worth, they’re subtle.

But you should not be subtle. Instead, be fearless. Try it.

Choke Artist

from The Art of the Bar, by Jeff Hollinger and Rob Schwartz

  • 1 ounce Cynar
  • 1 ounce Gran Centenario Anejo tequila (I used Tequila Espolon Reposado, which I had on hand)
  • ½ ounce fino sherry
  • 5 dashes Regan’s Orange Bitters No. 6
  • Extra-wide orange twist for garnish

Technique: Combine the Cynar, tequila, and sherry in an ice-filled mixing glass and stir. Add the bitters to a chilled snifter and roll around to coat the glass. Pour the Cynar and tequila mixture into the snifter. Garnish with the orange twist.

Embury and his fine art

Embury's "Fine Art"

photograph by Jennifer Hess

The 1948 first edition of David A. Embury’s The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks. This thing usually sells for upwards of $150-200, but Jen got it for a steal, from an online vendor who apparently didn’t know what he/she had. Although the dust jacket is missing, the condition of the book itself is excellent, with just a few scratches on the cover and a stamp on the edge of the book. But no tears, dogears, or obvious wear on the pages. Bargain!

Imbibe’s Karen Foley in a video interview

Kevin at writes to tell me of Karen Foley’s interview on the TasteTV site. (Thanks, Kevin!) Karen talks about the ideas behind Imbibe magazine. The interview appears to be a couple of months old because they talk only about the first two issues, but it’s worth a watch if you haven’t seen it.

Unless your broadband is fast like Speedy Gonzalez, I advise you to let the video fully load before you watch.

Here’s a direct link, if you’d rather go out to TasteTV to watch.

Tiki Talky

tiki mask

For the tiki-crazed among you, American Heritage has just published an excerpt from Wayne Kramer’s book, And a Bottle of Rum, which I keep bloody-well meaning to read. The excerpt focuses on Tiki culture and the histories of Don the Beachcomber and Trader Vic. They’ve paired the excerpt with a James Teitelbaum review of ten tiki bars. Makes me wanna open the rum.