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Bloody Mario

It is no secret that we are not fans of tomato juice. Consequently, we have never written about that famous classic, the Bloody Mary. Of course, we recognize that many of our readers probably enjoy this morning pick-me-up and it has been somewhat irresponsible to ignore it for so long. We thought it might be time to set aside our foolish challenges and come to the table with a working recipe. And then it hit us: While we may not like tomato juice, we absolutely love pizza! It's a wonder we hadn't thought of this before.

Just in time for spring, and for all of our fellow pizza lovers, we give you the Bloody Mario. No, it has nothing to do with video games or mustachioed plumbers in colorful suspenders. This is an honest cocktail, modeled after the Bloody Mary, but one with more Italian flair, like a slice of

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Organize Your Bitters

If you are like us, you have collected quite a few bitters brands over the years. Cocktail bitters typically come in "woozy" bottles for dashing small quantities into drinks. However, not all of them are sized consistently. There are flat narrow bottles, short stocky sizes, and some that are huge compared to others. We buy Angostura, for example, in big 18-ounce bottles—not a very convenient size to keep at the ready wherever you mix drinks. Our solution is to use small eye-dropper bottles for everything. They store easily and can be labeled using simple envelope address stickers (for laser printing, we like self-adhesive 1" x 2-5/8" address label sheets). Some brands like Bittercube already market their products in 1-ounce dropper bottles. This not only saves space, but allows precision when you need it. For example, administering dashes is easy enough with just a squirt from the dropper, but you can

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White Whiskey

White whiskey has many names. It can be marketed as white dog or white lightning, or even the yokel moonshine, although that usually refers to illicit varieties. A few things are clear, however, besides this unusual spirit. First, it is an unaged product, meaning it does not typically spend time in oak barrels. Second, because it is whiskey, it is a distillate made from fermented grain. This is where products differ. Depending on the grain used, where it is farmed, the water added, and of course, the distillation process itself, one white whiskey can taste dramatically different from another.

Traditionally, whiskey is thought of as a "brown" spirit, but all of that color and much of the flavor comes form the aging process. Time spent in charred oak barrels allows the high concentration of alcohol to extract flavors from the wood. Caramel, vanilla, smoke, fruit, spices—these are all derived from

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Water

It's often a good sign when you sit down at a bar to be greeted by the bartender with a glass of water. We don't drink alcohol to quench our thirst—it's a full-sensory experience—so a glass of water not only satisfies the need for hydration, it also balances the social ritual allowing you to extend the enjoyment of your selected beverage. It sounds like an over-the-top description of simply drinking a glass of water—which it is—but we think every great drink deserves this "sidekick" and we can't over emphasize the importance of drinking water while you drink booze. Whether you ordered the expensive and obscure signature cocktail from the seasonal menu at your favorite bar or you are happily sipping beer at home, water should always be within reach. We don't often feature this unsung hero in photographs, but it is the most important beverage you can drink and serve,

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The Ferrari: a Bartender's Handshake

Often regarded as the "bartender's handshake", a shot of Fernet-Branca has become a modern fixture for bartenders visiting one another at their respective craft cocktail establishments. It is as much a nod from one professional to another as it is confirmation that, as a fellow enthusiast of the craft, your tastes have evolved to the point that an intensely herbal, bitter Italian aperitivo is a perfectly acceptable refreshment that doesn't require extra time mixing up a signature recipe.

Regular patrons can also sometimes upgrade their "bar table image" and gain immediate street credit by ordering Fernet, (or if it's not too busy, requesting a bartender's choice cocktail made with the stuff). Calling out Fernet-Branca is still unusual enough—even in better bars—that it might earn you a smile or a double-take from the bartender and occasionally leads to conversations about ingredients or recipe construction. But, sipping Fernet neat is just

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Final Say

There are a handful of cocktails in our experience that anyone reading this should recognize, or at the very least, drinks you should try. One example is the Last Word—a forgotten classic until it was unearthed by Seattle bartending legend Murray Stenson of Zig Zag Café. To the uninitiated, its bold and unusual flavor profile featuring both Luxardo maraschino liqueur and Green Chartreuse can be a revelation. The fact that it is citrus-based makes it accessible, and if you are a self-proclaimed gin hater, it is a drink that can definitely open your mind to the wonderful possibilities that a good craft cocktail can offer. Don't feel like you need to make the Last Word before you try today's feature, but if you haven't had the pleasure you are certainly missing out. Knowing one drink can also serve as a convenient benchmark for judging another.

As good as

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Cold Brew & Tonic

Normally, we don't reach for tonic when we want a cocktail. The old G&T may be a popular choice, but we think it's because people don't know what else to make with gin. It's a shame because many of the best classic cocktails call for gin—not vodka—not only because vodka was unknown in the pre-prohibition era, but because gin brings something extra to a cocktail that simply isn't there otherwise—and we don't mean juniper. It may be a requirement in gin, but not all brands choose to emphasize juniper flavor, allowing other botanicals, citrus and even spice to play the center role. Yet, even with strong, piney examples, gin is transformed by other ingredients in a way that can be hard to explain to people who think they are gin-averse. But tasting is believing.

On a recent trip to Minnesota to visit some of our former haunts, we happened

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