Recipe: Americano (serves one)

  • 1 1/2 oz. Campari
  • 1 1/2 oz. sweet vermouth
  • 3 oz. club soda
  • lemon slice

Stir the Campari and vermouth in a shaker with ice. Strain into ice-filled cocktail glass. Add club soda and stir gently. Garnish with lemon slice.

We just got back from a trip to Spain, where we saw the Americano on a lot of menus as a before-dinner drink. This combination of bitter Campari and sweet vermouth dates back to Italy in the 1860’s; apparently it’s the precursor of the famous Negroni Cocktail. It was nice to have the Americano as a refreshing, low-alcohol option on our trip — we tended to have wine with dinner, so we didn’t want to overdo it on the cocktail front.

One of us opted for an Americano at Boadas, a bar in Barcelona that’s been serving cocktails since 1933. The bartender opened a small bottle of soda water just for that drink, and gave us the rest of the bottle to top it off. This turned out to be the common practice in Spain — we never saw anyone spraying soda from a bar gun there. The other cocktail we got at Boadas was a Negroni, which was mixed in the bar’s signature style by repeatedly “throwing” the drink from one shaker cup to another.

Dinner in Spain doesn’t start until around 9pm (we had an 8 pm reservation at a restaurant and were the only ones there for close to an hour), so before dinner drinks run quite late. Besides the Americano, another typical drink is straight vermouth served over ice with an orange wedge. One more tip: if you order an Americano, make sure to specify that you mean the cocktail; otherwise you may end up with a coffee.

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Recipe: Uh-Oa! (serves 2-3)

  • 2 1/2 oz. Myers’s dark rum
  • 1 1/2 oz. light rum
  • 1 1/2 oz. fresh-squeezed pink grapefruit juice
  • 1 1/2 oz. fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 1/2 oz. pineapple juice
  • 1/2 oz. guava juice
  • 1/2 oz. falernum (sweet liqueur made with lime, almond, clove, and rum)
  • cinnamon
  • 3 cherries
  • half a lime
  • 3 sugar cubes soaked in 151-proof rum

Shake the rum, falernum, juices, and some dashes of cinnamon in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Strain into a 4-cup mixing bowl or a Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar cocktail bowl. Add ice to fill the bowl to the top. Add cherries. Put cinnamon in a small bowl or in the designated spots of the tiki cocktail bowl. Place the half lime in the center of the cocktail bowl on top of the ice. Soak the sugar cubes in 151 for a few seconds and place on top of the half lime. Light sugar cubes on fire (be careful, the flame may be hard to see). Toss cinnamon on the flame to make sparks, and chant uh-oa! if you’d like. After the sugar burns for a bit, take a spoon and turn the lime and sugar cubes over to douse the fire. Stir. Drink with straws.

In an earlier post, we talked about Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar at the Disneyland Hotel. As promised, this is our recreation of one of their signature drinks, the Uh-oa! It’s a variant of the volcano bowl, a tiki classic that we also enjoyed at the Purple Orchid in El Segundo. The bowl at the Purple Orchid had a built-in mini-bowl in the center to hold a pool of flaming 151. But the volcano at Trader Sam’s is built of 151-soaked sugar cubes on top of a lime — something you can do without any special equipment (although we got the souvenir bowl).

The friendly bartender at Trader Sam’s gave us the approximate recipe. We made just a few modifications: we used a higher proportion of dark to light rum since we really like Myers’s rum, replaced some of the grapefruit juice with lime juice, and left out the extra 151 and cinnamon syrup. Our version isn’t too sweet — if you like your drinks sweeter, add an extra ounce of guava and/or pineapple juice. And make sure to share this drink; it packs a punch.

Original recipe from Trader Sam’s bartender:

  • 2 oz. dark rum
  • 2 oz. light rum
  • 2 oz. grapefruit juice
  • 1/2 oz. fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 2 oz. grog
    (The bartender didn’t say exactly what this was, but said it was mostly pineapple, guava and lime juices and falernum. The menu lists orange and passionfruit juice as well, so we guess the grog contains a bit of those too, but we left them out of our version.)
  • 1 oz. cinnamon syrup
  • splash of Gosling’s 151
  • cinnamon
  • 3 cherries
  • half a lime
  • 3 sugar cubes soaked in Gosling’s 151


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Elder Fashioned


Recipe: Elder Fashioned (serves one)

  • 1 1/2 oz. bourbon
  • 1/2 oz. St. Germain elderflower liqueur
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 1 1/2 oz. club soda
  • cherry

Stir the bourbon, St. Germain, and bitters in a shaker with ice. Strain into ice-filled cocktail glass. Add club soda and stir gently. Garnish with a cherry.

We saw the musical adaptation of Amélie at the LA Music Center a while ago, and the outdoor bar there was serving this Paris-themed cocktail. As the name suggests, it’s based on the Old Fashioned, combining whiskey, bitters, and a source of sweetness (the elderflower liqueur in this case). It’s also similar to the scotch based Elderflower Thistle. But what about the club soda? If we went further in that direction — say, mixing one part whiskey with two or three parts carbonated mixer — we’d end up in the category of highballs, home to such classics as the Scotch and soda and the Jack and coke. This recipe stays halfway in between, using a one-to-one spirit-soda ratio and keeping the bitters.

The result is light and refreshing but still flavorful, and not too sweet. We’re planning to pre-mix a batch and take it to a Memorial Day barbecue.

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Honey Walnut Old Fashioned


Recipe: Honey Walnut Old Fashioned (serves one)

  • 1 1/2 oz. bourbon
  • 1 (heaping) tsp. honey
  • 2 dashes walnut bitters
  • cinnamon stick and star anise for garnish

Mix bourbon, honey, and bitters in a glass until honey is dissolved. Add ice, cinnamon stick, and star anise.

If you start with the basic formula for the Old Fashioned — bourbon, sugar, and bitters — you can go in a lot of enticing directions. We had a variation at The Sherman featuring honey and star anise syrup. This inspired us to try making our own honey Old Fashioned, although we didn’t tackle making the spice syrup. We tried various combinations of bitters and spices, and liked this one the best. The sweet walnut bitters plus the cinnamon stick and star anise give the drink the aroma of a freshly baked cookie.

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Rising Sun


Recipe: Rising Sun (serves one)

  • 1 1/2 oz. mezcal
  • 3/4 oz. fresh pink grapefruit juice
  • 1/2 oz. fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 oz. maraschino liqueur
  • pinch of salt
  • Lime wheel for garnish

Shake ingredients vigorously with ice in a cocktail shaker. Strain into glass, and garnish with lime wheel.

Since we enjoyed the smoky-citrus flavor of the Mezcal Margarita from our last post so much, we went hunting for other promising mezcal cocktails. We found this yummy recipe on It follows the same pattern as the margarita, but has grapefruit juice as well as lime, and gets its sweetness from cherry-based maraschino liqueur rather than Cointreau.

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Mezcal Margarita


Recipe: Mezcal Margarita (serves one)

  • 1 1/2 oz. mezcal
  • 1 oz. fresh lime juice
  • 1 oz. Cointreau
  • Lime twist

Shake liquid ingredients vigorously with ice in a cocktail shaker. Strain into glass, and garnish with lime twist.

The Mezcal Margarita is a smoky take on a traditional margarita, substituting mezcal for the silver tequila.

Mezcal and tequila are both made by fermenting the hearts of agave plants. In order to be sold as tequila, the spirit must come from a specific region of Mexico and be made from the blue agave variety. Mezcal can be made from other varieties of the plant; we used an El Silencio mezcal distilled in Oaxaca from espadin agave.

The main difference between mezcal and tequila production is the treatment of the agave hearts (called the piña) before fermentation. To make a tequila, the agave hearts are baked in an above-ground oven. For a mezcal, on the other hand, the agave hearts are roasted in underground pits, lined with wood and rocks, which impart the smokey flavor.

If you love margaritas but are in the mood for something smokier and more complex, this cocktail is for you.

Posted in Liquor facts, Tequila & Mezcal | 1 Comment



Recipe: Blackthorn (serves one)

  • 2 oz. Irish whiskey
  • 1 oz. sweet vermouth
  • 2 dashes (1/4 teaspoon) Angostura bitters
  • 1 bar spoon Pernod or absinthe
  • lemon twist

Coat a cocktail glass with Pernod or absinthe, discard excess, and place glass in refrigerator to chill. Stir liquid ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Strain into cocktail glass. Add the lemon twist.

This cocktail is essentially an Irish Manhattan, with a licorice rinse (like the Sazerac). It dates back at least to the 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book, although the recipe there calls for equal parts whiskey and dry vermouth. This is a sweeter, more spirit-forward version. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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