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Elixir de Amontillado

The plain old Champagne Cocktail is a classic from a bygone era that has remained unchanged since it was invented in the 1800's. Back then, all you did was drop a sugar cube into a flute, douse it with a few dashes of bitters, add bubbly and maybe garnish with a piece of lemon peel. There's not much to it. The sugar cube generates bubbles as it dissolves, more or less carrying the scent and flavor of the bitters throughout. You would be forgiven if you decided not to sacrifice good sparkling wine to this process. Even if it sounds exciting, you might not notice the effect which is probably why you don't see anyone drinking these. At some point, folks started adding other ingredients to give sparkling cocktails a bit more interest. For example, the Casino Cocktail includes a cognac float, and the Kir Royale skips the sugar and bitters opting for liqueur instead. Almost any liqueur will produce interesting results, and so will some base spirits.

Elixir de AmontilladoWe like to have sparkling wine chilling in the fridge for special (or even not so special) occasions, but we don't use it often enough in cocktails. You have to commit to drinking the bottle when you pop the cork—unless we can share the experience, the bottle remains unopened. So, when we spot a drink on a menu featuring Cava, Prosecco, or even local bubbles, we take notice. It happened during a recent visit to Ataula, a favorite restaurant here in Portland, OR. The Elixir de Amontillado was a created by Angel Teta, the mastermind behind the bar. Angel regularly updates the drink menu at Ataula, so if this is missing, she might still be able to make one upon request. Her recipe adds a nutty twist to the old classic and we loved it so much we asked if we could share her creation with our readers.

Elixir de Amontillado by Angel Teta
1.66 oz Amontillado sherry
.5 oz nocino
3 dashes Scrappy's chocolate bitters
4 oz dry sparkling white wine

Stir in a chilled flute and top with dry, ice cold cava or brut.

Angel uses the metric system, but we don't hold that against her: She's also making kick-ass sangria with sous vide brandy—as far as we're concerned, she's the one coming up with the incredible drink recipes—so she can do whatever the hell she wants. For those of us who are still using imperial measurements, we did the conversion. Do the best you can to measure 1 and 2/3 ounces of Amontillado (Angel uses Hidalgo Napoleon) and keep your bubbly volume to about 4 ounces.

The type of sherry is important. Amontillado is dry—darker and richer than a fino, though not quite an oloroso. The second ingredient is nocino, an Italian liqueur we've featured before made from unripe walnuts. Those Italians know all kinds of tricks when it comes to making delicious liqueur! Angel likes to use Toschi, but we had success with Nux Alpina as well as our own homemade nocino (we will write about that someday). Different brands will obviously affect the outcome but we doubt any nocino will result in a bad drink.

The last item is the bitters. We didn't have any Scrappy's, but we did make our own chocolate bitters once upon a time. You can too by soaking cacao nibs in alcohol for a few days. The resulting tincture can be used as-is or sweetened and diluted slightly with optional spices added. Look, this isn't a post about making chocolate bitters—other brands are out there if you can't find Scrappy's—but with a little imagination you can still make a great drink. Just don't leave them out!

You might not think white wine, walnuts, sherry and chocolate would work together, but it does. Sherry is already a fortified wine product, and its oxidized character pairs well with nocino and chocolate. The prickly bubbles of the wine help to balance and elongate the sweetness of the nocino which draws your attention initially before the sherry takes over for a long, nutty finish. It's a nice sipper that is better than the sum of its parts. The biggest problem we find with Champagne cocktails is keeping them cold. Refrigerate your sherry and put your flute in the freezer for a while before you start. Every bit helps since this drink is not stirred with ice. Obviously, your bubbly should be ice cold. We used Sokol Blosser Evolution Brut, a wonderful Willamette Valley offering, and now we will have to finish the whole bottle. We can't be too sad about that. Salud!

Never Wash Glassware Again

Old Fashioned "mug"

One of the joys of going out for drinks at a bar is that you don't have to do any of the work. Yes, we have been writing for years about how anyone can make fantastic cocktails at home, but sometimes you don't want to think about the details. You want to let a professional take care of you. Sure, using the proper tools and techniques you can make your own delicious beverages, and over the years we have documented plenty of great ideas. Some of them might have seemed foolish or unorthodox at the time, but strokes of brilliance rarely feel commonplace. This year, we've come up with a solution to a problem that plagues every aspiring mixologist: washing glassware.

It's a recurring problem that never goes away: cleanup is something you cannot avoid. Maybe that splash of lime isn't hurting anybody, and the egg white on the

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Gangs Of New York

Gangs of New York

It's hard not to love the Whiskey Sour with all of its many variations. Even if you don't think of yourself as a whiskey drinker you can usually find something you like in this category. You can go for the classic preparation with egg white, something a bit more modern like a Rattlesnake variant, a wonderful Whiskey Smash, or even the best Amaretto Sour in the world! But with everyone's favorite Irish holiday just around the corner, we decided to explore a little history and see if we could find a version that would be appropriate for March. The Gangs of New York cocktail by Sandy Levine of The Oakland Art Novelty Company in Ferndale, Michigan is the perfect solution.

The Oakland is an elegant speakeasy in the Detroit area often considered the best cocktail spot in the city. So, why then, is this whiskey

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Beretta's Rattlesnake

Rattlesnake

A sour cocktail is perhaps the most versatile framework when it comes to mixed drinks. It is both accessible and interesting, combining the flavors of any spirit with acid from fresh citrus while balancing that with some form of sugar. The sour formula is also flexible and forgiving, allowing different ingredients to successfully change the cocktail—sometimes subtly, but often with dramatic effect. For example, the Bee's Knees cocktail would be a plain gin sour (not really a popular choice) if not for the honey syrup. By just using honey instead of simple sugar syrup, it achieves an unexpected depth of character that mingles in unpredictable ways with the gin making it a memorable favorite.

Any base spirit works as a sour. Exploring the possibilities will lead you into categories like the Daiquiri, Sidecar, Margarita and the list goes on and on as you swap sweeteners or

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Pama Frost

Pama Frost Detail

Happy New Year!

Over the years we have done plenty of experiments with ingredients, often recommending to our readers that it's okay to adopt a playful attitude of trial and error when it comes to recipes. Sometimes it's a result of substitutions for not having the right ingredients, but more often it comes down to personal taste. There are recipes that call for very specific proportions, but most of the time it makes more sense to taste the result and adjust as necessary. For instance, adjustments are almost always expected when balancing sweet and sour. One never knows how much acid is present in a volume of citrus juice, and personal taste can affect what you consider "balanced". We tend to lean toward the sour side, but we understand that some recipes are meant to be sweet. Time and experience can transform your idea of a good cocktail.

Today, we

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Holiday Gift Ideas 2015

FloralElixir

It's that time of the year when folks like to give gifts, and we know it's sometimes difficult to find the perfect item for the mixologist in your life. Regular readers know that when we aren't scrutinizing over menus at local establishments, we like to spend our time trying new and old recipes, testing commercial ingredients, creating homemade ones, and testing various tools and techniques. At the end of the year we usually put together a list of things we recommend. Be sure to check out similar posts from years past to get ideas about tools and other items we have found useful.

Travel Cocktail Kit The past few months have allowed us to thoroughly field-test our version of a handy kit for mixing cocktails during commercial air travel. We think we have the best travel cocktail kit in terms of size and function. You can read all about

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Tailspin

Tailspin

Well, the holiday season is just around the corner! Too soon? Ok, then let's have a little distraction before we deal with lots of food, family, gifts and snow. Today, we are stirring a drink called the Tailspin. This is a lovely, spirit-driven classic that follows the same formula as the Bijou cocktail, only instead of orange bitters, the Tailspin uses Campari.

A few things stand out here. First, this gin drink combines the three main ingredients in equal proportions. That makes it fast and easy to remember. The second is that as a gin drink, the gin is not the dominant flavor—not by a long shot. As such, we prefer the spirit to play its supporting role without distracting us with intense juniper. Modern dry gins work well, but we usually reach for Plymouth.

Tailspin 1 oz gin 1 oz sweet vermouth 1 oz Green Chartreuse 1 dash

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