Carousel Cocktail

carousel-cocktailA prohibition era style cocktail, the Carousel Cocktail is a modern riff on the oddly named Japalac Cocktail.  Japalac was an extremely popular tinted varnish from Glidden that was heavily advertised on billboards, in magazines, and on radio – so recognizable that it eventually ended up having a cocktail named after it, as was the style (I remember a cocktail named after the TV series “Miami Vice” in the mid-1980s).  After making the rounds of many cocktail lounges, the Japalac Cocktail made its first appearance in print in 1931.

This cocktail has a nice balance between sweet and sour and is not too alcohol forward.

Carousel Cocktail

  • 1 oz bourbon
  • 1 oz Aperol
  • 1 oz raspberry syrup
  • 1 oz lime juice

Shake all with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with a Luxardo cherry.

The Phoenix Cooler

Phoenix Cooler
Phoenix Cooler

I came up with this cocktail at the request of that Ambassador of Americana, Charles Phoenix.  At the time, we were planning a podcast for the Test Kitchen section of his wonderful site.  There was a kitschy recipe for a party platter that resembled a clown/circus theme that we were going to construct, and I suggested we should have an equally festive cocktail to go with the party theme.  It needed to be tasty, but not too sweet, and have every kitschy Tiki-style garnish I could think of.  Originally I called it the Clown Cooler, but we ended up shooting the podcast later in the year and by that time we had abandoned the circus theme.  Henceforth, the cocktail became the Phoenix Cooler in honor of Mr. Phoenix.  It’s as kitschy and colorful as he is, and it’s quite tasty as well.

The Phoenix Cooler

  • 2 oz white rum
  • 1.5 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz blueberry concentrate or syrup (available at IKEA)
  • 1/2 oz orgeat
  • Thinly sliced strawberry, lime and lemon
  • Luxardo cherry
  • Umbrella pick for garnish

Add all ingredients to a bar glass filled with ice and stir well.  Strain into a Collins glass filled with crushed ice.  Stack the strawberry, lemon and lime slices as well as the Luxardo cherry and pierce with the stem of an umbrella pick for garnish.

A Nolet’s Vesper at The Big 4 restaurant and bar, San Francisco

Vesper @ Big 4 Dec 2014
A Nolet’s Vesper at The Big 4

During my 2014 winter holiday travels in the San Francisco Bay Area I made the trek to a few of the wonderful bars and lounges, both historic and new, that San Francisco has to offer.

I remembered that my old friend Peter Mintun once played (for 16 years) at the famous L’Etoile restaurant and bar on Nob Hill, and that it (and the Huntington Hotel it is part of) had recently undergone a multi-million dollar restoration.  The restaurant and bar had changed previously into The Big 4, and the hotel is now known as the Scarlet Huntington San Francisco.  Happily, they have kept the historic feel to the bar and restaurant, and it feels like walking into a piece of San Francisco history.  What a wonderful respite from an afternoon of shopping, and a climb up the famously steep Taylor street to the top of Nob Hill.  The cocktail menu features several classics as well as contemporary craft cocktail creations.  I was treated to a classic Vesper (Ian Fleming’s famous creation from his 1953 novel Casino Royale) made with Nolet’s gin, which brings light floral notes to the vodka and lillet.  Why didn’t I think of using Nolet’s for this cocktail!  I will from now on.

Dispelling the Myth of the Coupe

During the 17th century, while the French Benedictine monk Dom Perignon was still trying to figure out a way to rid his wines of the unfashionable bubbles showing up in some of his bottles, the English royalty were embracing this new wine with bubbles.  It became so popular, in fact, that in 1663 the English developed a new shape of glass to enhance the aroma of this bubbly wine from the Champagne region of France – and thus, the Champagne Coupe (or Saucer) was born.  Notice that this date is a full 100 years before Marie Antoinette or Madame de Pompadour even existed – two of the French aristocrats who’s bust lines are commonly accredited with creating the shape of the glass.  Thus dispels the myth that still seems to titillate the schoolboy set.  I’ve never understood why a glass shape that small should entrance imaginations.  Surely any paramour that flat chested wouldn’t stand a chance creating an image as a legendary lover.

Continue reading Dispelling the Myth of the Coupe

The Stork Club

One of the posh Manhattan destinations on anyone’s list during its heyday, which was just about the entire time it was in operation, being seen at The Stork Club meant you had officially ‘arrived’.  Opened in 1929 by ex-bootlegger Sherman Billingsley, influential columnist Walter Winchell called it “New York’s New Yorkiest place on West 58th.”  Indeed, it was located on West 58th Street for the first 5 years of its existence, then when prohibition ended it moved to 3 East 53rd Street where it would remain until its final day of operation on October 4th, 1965.  The building was demolished in 1966, and Paley Park now stands in its place.

Continue reading The Stork Club

The Atomic Cocktail

Las Vegas Atomic Test 1951Las Vegas, January 11, 1951 – The US Department of Energy establishes the Nevada Proving Ground (now known as the Nevada Test Site) 65 miles northwest of the city for the testing of nuclear devices.  Little was known about the effects of nuclear blasts at the time, and above ground, or atmospheric, testing was seen as a necessary step towards the development of our atomic future.  Mushroom clouds from these tests could be seen for almost 100 miles, especially from the glamorous hotels and casinos along Fremont Street. Continue reading The Atomic Cocktail

The Classic Martini

One of the many legends told about the invention of this most famous of cocktails is that it was created in the nineteenth century by ‘Professor’ Jerry Thomas of San Francisco’s Occidental Hotel who named it after the nearby town of Martinez California.

Continue reading The Classic Martini

views from the lounge…