Cocktails of the Silver Screen at the National Museum of American History

On July 11 the Museum of the American Cocktail teamed up with Smithsonian Associates at the National Museum of American History to celebrate “Cocktails of the Silver Screen.” Philip Greene, Cofounder of MOTAC, was joined by some of DC’s finest craft bartenders to feature memorable cocktails from classic Hollywood films.

From Left: J.P. Caceres, Tim Burt, Alex Bookless, Jamie MacBain, Jon Harris, Chantel Tseng, Jason Strich and Philip Greene.

Featured bartenders included Alex Bookless (Passenger/Columbia Room), Tim Burt (Tabard Inn), J.P. Caceres (Bourbon Steak), Jon Harris (Shaw’s Tavern), Jamie MacBain (Bourbon Steak), Jason Strich (late of Rasika), and Chantel Tseng (Tabard Inn).

The event featured four bars: The “Casablanca” Bar with Alex Bookless and Jamie MacBain serving up the bubbly classics French 75 and Champagne Cocktail, along with Cointreau liqueur. The “Thin Man” bar with Chantel Tseng and Tim Burt stirring up Gin Martinis and the Knickerbocker Cocktail. Jon Harris and JP Caceres manned the “James Bond” bar serving the Vesper (from Casino Royale), the Vodka Martini (from various Bond films, notably “Goldfinger”), and the Rum Collins (from “Thunderball”). Jason Strich and Phil Greene manned the “Movie Mixellany” bar featuring the Sazerac (“Curious Case of Benjamin Button”) and the Daiquiri (from “Our Man in Havana”). See recipes for all below.

Jon Harris mans the Bond Bar.

The event was attended by roughly 250 guests. Phil Greene presented all with a vast overview of cocktails in movies over the years including films from as far back as Charlie Chaplin’s “The Adventurer” from 1917 and “The Idle Class” from 1921. Other films covered included “Dead Reckoning” with Humphrey Bogart and Lizabeth Scott featuring the Ramos Gin Fizz. The Mae West film “Every Day’s a Holiday” (1937) featured the classic line,  “Let’s get you out of those wet clothes, and into a dry martini.”

Philip Greene gives an overview of cocktails in Hollywood.

We would like to thank the Smithsonian Associates for teaming up with MOTAC as well as the Museum of American History for providing the glamorous venue. A special thanks also goes out to our sponsors namely Depaz Rhum, Fee Brothers Bitters, Falernum and Rock Candy Syrup, Skyy Vodka, Pernod, Plymouth Gin, Hendricks Gin, Cointreau, Flor de Caña Extra Dry Rum, Lillet, Noilly Prat Vermouth, 42 Below Vodka, Beefeater 24 and Wild Turkey Rye.    MOTAC also is extremely thankful to Mionetto Prosecco for their generous donation of delicious Prosecco, which we put to great use at the Casablanca bar.

Alex Bookless at the Casablanca Bar.

Casablanca Bar (Alex Bookless and Jamie MacBain)

French 75

1.5 oz Hendrick’s Gin

1 oz simple syrup

3/4 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice

4 oz Mionetto Prosecco

Champagne Cocktail

1 sugar cube, soaked in Fee Brothers Aromatic Bitters

4-6 oz Mionetto Prosecco

Champagne flute, saucer or wineglass, soak sugar cube, add Champagne

Also offered, Cointreau (chilled, 2 oz servings)

Chantel Tseng and Tim Burt.

The Thin Man Bar (Chantal Tseng and Tim Burt)

Gin Martini

2 oz Plymouth Gin

1 oz Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth

Dash Fee Brothers Gin Barrel Aged Orange Bitters

Stir with ice, strain into chilled cocktail glass, garnish olive

Knickerbocker Cocktail

1 ½ oz Hendrick’s Gin

¾ oz Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth

¼ oz Martini Sweet Vermouth

Stir with ice, strain into chilled cocktail glass, garnish lemon peel

J.P. Caceres at the Bond Bar.

James Bond Bar (Jon Harris, J.P. Caceres)

Vesper Cocktail (from Casino Royale)

2 ¼ oz Beefeater 24 Gin

¾ oz 42 Below Vodka

¾ oz Lillet Blanc

Lemon peel

Shake well with ice, strain into chilled cocktail or saucer-type champagne glass, garnish with lemon peel.

Vodka Martini (from various Bond films, notably Goldfinger)

2 oz Skyy Vodka

1 oz Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth


Shake well with ice, strain into chilled cocktail or saucer-type champagne glass, garnish with olive.

Rum Collins (from Thunderball)

1 ½ oz Depaz Rhum Agricole from Martinique

1 oz fresh lime juice

¾ oz Fee Brothers Falernum

2 dashes Fee Brothers Aromatic Bitters

Lime wheel, straw

Philip Greene serves up a classic Daiquiri.

Movie Mixellany Bar (Jason Strich, Phil Greene, Dave Lord)

Sazerac (Curious Case of Benjamin Button)

2 oz Wild Turkey Rye

Dash simple syrup

3 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters

Dash Pernod

Lemon peel

Rocks or Old Fashioned glass

Daiquiri (Our Man in Havana)

2 oz Flor de Cana light rum

¾ oz simple syrup

¾ oz fresh lime juice

Shake well with ice, strain into chilled cocktail glass

By Matt Keller

Matt lives in Washington, DC. When he’s not contributing to his blog District Cocktail – A Drinker’s Notes in Capitol City his imbibing can be followed on Twitter @DCcocktails.

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South of the Border: Cocktails from Warmer Climes

On May 14 Bourbon Steak restaurant, located in the Four Seasons Hotel in historic Georgetown in Washington, DC, hosted the Museum of the American Cocktail for a “South of the Border” cocktail seminar.  The event was presented by esteemed DC bartenders Duane Sylvester, Jamie MacBain and J.P. Caceres, and featured “cocktails from warmer climes.”

From left: Jamie MacBain, Duane Sylvester, J.P. Caceres and Phil Greene.

Duane, who focused on rum, began his presentation by offering the traditional view that that rum was invented out of desperation. It can be credited to Barbados. At the time, the occupying Spanish ran out of wine. At the same time they were producing so much sugar that much of it was spoiling. With large amounts of leftover molasses (a byproduct of sugar production) available, the Spanish used their imported technology of distillation to produce rum. As time went on the distillation of rum became more refined going from a harsh, highly alcoholic spirit to a “softened” version that we all know today.

Duane treated guests to the fresh, summery and classic rum cocktail, the Mojito:

1.5 oz Flor de Caña Extra Dry White Rum

.5 oz fresh lime

.5 oz rich simple (2:1)

6 mint leaves

2 oz club soda

Build in glass, lightly press mint into syrup. Add the rest and fill with ice. Gently stir and garnish with fresh mint.

In describing the different types of rum, Duane informed guests that the English-style rums tend to possess a heavy aroma as it is distilled from molasses, particularly the darker rums from Jamaica. Brazilian/French Caribbean-style rum is made from fresh-pressed cane sugar, usually referred to as Rhum Agricole, which can be lighter in body, but “funkier” and more vegetal in taste and aroma. Spanish-style rum uses charcoal filtration and is filtered before aging into a barrel like a nice brandy. The production of rum is loosely regulated and can be produced nearly anywhere in the world. The exception is Rhum Agricole, which must be produced in the French West Indies.

Duane gives his “Falernum Cocktail” a thorough swizzle.

Duane prepared an original signature cocktail of his called the Falernum Cocktail, a richly flavored, yet clean finishing drink which was inspired by the traditional way of preparing a punch with 1 part sour, 2 parts sweet, 3 parts “strong,” and 4 parts “weak” (the “weak” in this case being the water from the melted ice):

1.5oz  of a one-to-one blend of Appleton Reserve and Depaz rums

.75oz allspice-infused rich syrup*

.5oz fresh lime juice

Build in 10oz Collins glass and fill w/ crushed ice. Swizzle (swizzle sticks can be found online at sites such as Cocktail Kingdom) and top up with additional ice. Garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.

*To prepare the allspice-infused rich syrup, 1.5 cups whole allspice:

1 quart water

2 quarts “sugar in the raw”

Grind/crush allspice into a course powder. Mix powder with water and slowly bring to a boil (covered). Allow to boil for about 5 minutes, then allow to steep for about 20 minutes. Return to heat and stir in sugar until its dissolved. Once dissolved, strain syrup through a fine sieve into a container, allow to come to room temperature and refrigerate. Use as you wish.

JP Caceres discussed two other spirits, namely Cachaça, made from cane sugar with a grassy flavor and Pisco, distilled from grapes. Cachaça’s number one consumer is Brazil, followed by Germany and then the US. Though Cachaça is similar to rum in nature, the amount of proof determines a Cachaça’s designation rather than being called rum.

J.P. says for a good frothy presentation, give your Pisco Sour a hard “dry shake” (without ice) before shaking with ice.

Of course, when you’re talking Cachaça, you’re talking Caipirinha and JP was more than happy to offer guests his version of this hot weather cocktail:

2 oz Leblon Cachaça

.75 oz Fresh Lime Juice

1 oz Simple Syrup (2:1)

1 Peeled Lime (Quartered)

First, peel the skin of a lime, cut flesh into eighths and muddle in a mixing glass. Add the rest of the ingredients with ice and shake vigorously. “Dirty dump” with shaken ice into a Collins glass and serve.

In talking about Pisco, which is slowly yet surely rising in popularity in the US, JP described it as pretty much a brandy made mostly in Peru which was originally distilled from grapes brought by the Spanish.

J.P.’s Pisco Sour garnished with an Angostura bitter MOTAC logo spritz. Thanks, J.P.!!!

JP presented guests with the Pisco Sour garnished with a wonderful symbolic gesture for the Museum of the American Cocktail:

2 oz Barsol Pisco

.5 oz Fresh Lime Juice

.5 oz Fresh Lemon Juice

.5 oz Simple Syrup (2:1)

.75 oz Egg Whites

Angostura Bitters floated on top as a garnish

Add ingredients except bitters into a mixing glass, “dry shake” first (without ice) to get a nice thick foam, then add ice and shake vigorously. Double-strain into a small coupe or rocks glass without ice. With a misto, spray angostura bitters on top.

Jamie MacBain gave guests an overview of Tequila and Mezcal. In looking back at Tequila’s history its distillation originated around the 1600s. At that time the Spanish brought their technology of distillation and applied it to agave. In 1608 you can find the first recorded taxation of tequila. The Cuervo farm was the first to commercially produce tequila made with blue agave, a plant which is actually related to lilies.

Jamie administers the Tequila for his La Paloma.

In describing Mezcal, Jamie said all tequila is mezcal but not all mezcal is tequila. Mezcal, also made from agave, is distilled in small batches. Most mezcal is smokier in flavor in comparison to tequila due to the longer roasting process in stone-lined pits as opposed to the baking process used in making tequila. The roasted agave is then stone ground into a pulp, which later adds to the mezcal’s deeper, more rustic flavor.

In showcasing tequila, Jamie made a classic and thirst-quenching Mexican cocktail, namely La Paloma:

.5 oz of  Partida Tequila


Collins glass

Top with grapefruit soda (such as Squirt)

Jamie’s “We Got the Beet.”

Jamie treated guests to one of his own original cocktail using mezcal called “We Got the Beet,” a play on the Margarita:

1.5 oz of Corz0 Tequila

.5 oz Averna

.5 oz agave syrup

.5 oz lime juice

.5 oz beet juice

Shake and double strain into a half rim salted coup glass.


As always, the Museum of the American Cocktail would like to offer thanks to the generous support of our sponsors for this event, namely: Barsol Pisco, Leblon Cachaça, Depaz Rhum, Appleton Estate Rum, Flor de Caña Rum, Partida Tequila and Corzo Tequila.

By Matt Keller

Matt lives in Washington, DC. When he’s not contributing to his blog District Cocktail – A Drinker’s Notes in Capitol City his imbibing can be followed on Twitter @DCcocktails.

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“On the Town” with Dale DeGroff in Washington, DC

On April 12 the Museum of the American Cocktail (MOTAC) hosted Dale DeGroff, a.k.a. “King Cocktail,” at the Warehouse Theater in Washington, DC where he performed his “On the Town: A Tribute to Bars, Speaks, and Legendary Saloons,” incorporating tales and songs about the watering holes of yesteryear and Dale’s own career path as a bartender. Accompanied by local DC legend Dan Ruskin on piano, Dale strummed his guitar and sang classic tunes while sharing stories. Cocktails were provided by volunteers and the wonderful staff from The Passenger. Proceeds from the event went to fund MOTAC and promote membership to the museum which has many perks including access to the museum’s digital library and discounts on seminars and books.

Dale, Founding President of MOTAC, is considered the father of the modern-day cocktail renaissance, credited with reinventing the profession of bartending in the late 1980s. His career has spanned more than 40 years, having won numerous awards including the 2009 James Beard Foundation Outstanding Wine & Spirits Professional Award. He is the author of “The Craft of the Cocktail: Everything You Need to Know to Be a Master Bartender” and “The Essential Cocktail: The Art of Mixing Perfect Drinks.”

Dale’s stories began with an overview of the history of cocktail-making, spanning over several centuries. He noted that up until the turn of the 20th Century inns, usually located at the center of town, played a uniting role for many communities and cities. The first “celebrity” bartenders such as Jerry Thomas and Harry Johnson came to define cocktail culture during the Gilded Age. As time changed inns and taverns became restaurants and hotels. Cocktails became more widely available as technological advances allowed easier production of ice as well the more efficient shipment of fruits and the mass production of juices and mixers. As the US cocktail culture went underground during Prohibition, many of the great American bartenders either sought work in Canada or overseas or simply moved on to other professions. During Prohibition, speakeasies were generally run by gangsters, which later, even decades after Prohibition was repealed, had a negative effect on the image of bartending as many associated the profession with crime and the mob. Dale attributes Prohibition with the demise of the US cocktail culture and the art of bartending as it left a void of not only knowledgeable and experienced bartenders, but led to the shutting down of many US distilleries and iconic American bars. In the decades to follow, cocktail culture steadily declined with formal, more upscale bars being replaced by rock n’ roll and disco clubs and casual-style fern bars.

Dale segued from story to story with the singing of classic tunes such as “Your Cheating Heart,” “Basin Street,” “Lulu’s Back in Town,” “This is so Nice, it Must Be Illegal,” “Aint Misbehaving,” “C-U-B-A” and “Sweet Sue.”

Dale "King Cocktail" DeGroff

At what was in Dale’s view the end of the New York bar era, he arrived in the Big Apple in 1969 with the intent on becoming an actor which never materialized and led him to take a job in advertising. During that time he would visit many of New York’s iconic bars such as Charley O’s, Downey’s, P.J. Clarke’s, and McSorley’s.  One night Charley O’s was short on staff for an event at the New York mayoral house Gracie Mansion and Dale was able to convince them to give him a shot behind the bar where his love affair with the profession began. While working in advertising DeGroff would come to know Joe Baum, one of New York City’s biggest restaurateurs at the time, who opened the Four Seasons, Charley O’s, and the Latin-themed La Fonda del Sol. In the late 70s DeGroff moved to Los Angeles where he became a bartender at the Hotel Bel-Air where he was able to educate himself and perfect his craft. In 1985 Baum hired DeGroff to be the head bartender at Aurora in New York, which focused on well-made cocktails using top-shelf spirits, fresh-squeezed juices and an atmosphere where the bartender took center stage in welcoming and interacting with guests. DeGroff immersed himself in the history of bartending and books such as Jerry Thomas’ “How to Mix Drinks,” as well as vintage manuals and menus. In 1987 Baum opened the Rainbow Room at Rockefeller Center and put DeGroff in charge of the bar where he worked through the 1990s. DeGroff’s menu of classic cocktails, many of which had gone into virtual extinction such as the Gin Fizz and Singapore Sling, along with the restaurant’s classy mid-century charm, quickly caught the attention of the media, celebrities and politicians. As noted in MOTAC’s DC seminar on Vodka Classics, Dale perfected the Cosmopolitan becoming an iconic cocktail after Madonna was seen drinking one at a Grammy party at the Rainbow Room.

Punch Royal

Guests at the Warehouse Theater were treated to the following classic cocktails including Dale’s original Yuzu Gimlet:

  • Absinthe Frappe
  • The Major Baily (Southside Style)
  • Punch Royal

Recipes for these cocktails can be found on Dale’s website.

If you missed “On The Town” in Washington, DC, Dale is constantly bringing the show to locations across the US. Visit his schedule to see where he is headed next. Get a video peak of Dale’s show.

As always, the Museum of the American Cocktail would like to offer thanks to the generous support of our sponsors for this event, namely: Pernod, Marie Brizard, Hendrick’s Gin, Appleton Estate Rum, and Pierre Ferrand 1er Cru de Cognac.

Be sure to join us again in Washington, DC on May 14 for South of the Border Cocktails at Bourbon Steak presented by J.P. Caceres, Jamie MacBain, and Duane Sylvestre as they look at some of the great spirits and cocktails from warmer climes, notably rum/rhum, mezcal, tequila, pisco, and cachaca.  You’ll not only learn about these great libations, but also how to make the drinks at home.  Plus, enjoy sample cocktails, as well as delicious appetizers.

By Matt Keller

Matt lives in Washington, DC. When he’s not contributing to his blog District Cocktail – A Drinker’s Notes in Capitol City, his imbibing can be followed on his Twitter feed @DCcocktails.

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Vodka Classics with Phil Greene

On Tuesday, April 20 Phil Greene of MOTAC led a seminar titled “Vodka Classics” at the Warehouse Theater in Washington, DC. Guests were treated to five different vodka cocktails prepared by the staff of The Passenger, led by co-owner Derek Brown.  Guests were served the Cook Strait Sling No. 2, the Moscow Mule, the Vesper, the Caipiroska and the Cosmopolitan.

Phil Greene of the Museum of the American Cocktail.

Phil began with the Cook Strait Sling No. 2, a cocktail he created using 42 Below Vodka from New Zealand. He presented this variation on the original version of the Straits Sling, which later became known as the Singapore Sling.  Phil noted that the first documented reference to the word “cocktail” in May of 1806 described it as a “bittered sling,” in other words, a sling (spirit, water, and sugar), but with bitters added.  The cocktail was first defined as a “stimulating liquor, composed of any kind, sugar, water and bitters is vulgarly called a bittered sling, and is supposed to be an excellent electioneering potion inasmuch as it renders the heart stout and bold, at the same time that it fuddles the head.” The quote refers to a popular campaign tactic used by politicians to lure voters to their rallies.

The Cook Strait Sling No. 2

1.5 oz 42 Below Vodka

½ oz lemon juice

½ oz Cherry Heering Liqueur

¾ oz St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur

2 dashes Fee Bros. Aromatic Bitters

2 dashes Fee Bros. Gin Barrel Aged Orange Bitters

Shake all ingredients on ice, strain and top with seltzer.

Knowing that most people in the audience knew their way around a Bloody Mary, Phil refrained from making and serving one, but gave an overview of its colorful history. Phil explained that the origin of the Bloody Mary is a highly contested topic, with some saying that it was invented by Fernand “Pete” Petiot at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris.  One particular theory has it named after Queen Mary Tudor of England. Another story is that it was invented in Florida by actor/toastmaster/bon vivant George Jessel as a way of combating a wicked hangover in Palm Beach, FL.  According to Jessel’s story, it was named after his friend Mary Brown Warburton who, while sampling it, spilled some on her dress and shouted, “Now, you can call me Bloody Mary, George!” There is even a story of it being invented in the 1950s by Bernard “Bertin” Azimont, bartender of the Ritz Paris’ Petit Bar, claiming that he created it for Ernest Hemingway who, at the time, had been forbidden by his doctors from drinking. Bertin believed his mixture was stealthy enough as to not be noticed on Hemingway’s breath by his watchful wife Mary. “Hemingway, he said, was so pleased that he had got the better of his ‘bloody wife’ that he named the drink after her.” (Colin Peter Field, The Cocktails of the Ritz Paris).

Regardless of its origins, Phil recommends the Bloody Mary recipe from the St. Regis Hotel:

1 ounce vodka
2 ounces tomato juice
6 to 8 drops lemon juice
2 large pinches salt
1/3 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 dashes Tabasco sauce
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 wedge of lemon.

Stir the vodka, tomato juice, lemon juice, salt, pepper, Tabasco and Worcestershire in a mixing glass filled with ice until combined and chilled. Strain into a Collins glass filled with ice. Garnish with a wedge of lemon. Makes 1 cocktail.

Phil informed the audience that vodka did not really get a foothold in the US market until the 1950s. Americans were more used to spirits with distinctive and more pronounced flavors, such as whiskey and gin. In the 1940s, John Martin and Jack Morgan introduced the Moscow Mule to promote Martin’s new product Smirnoff Vodka.  Morgan also wanted to promote his Cock n’ Bull brand ginger beer. The Moscow Mule was served in a copper mug and became the house special at the Cock n’ Bull on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. As the Smirnoff brand increased in popularity it ran many ad campaigns featuring the Moscow Mule with celebrities such as Woody Allen, with an accompanying ad campaign, touting that it will “leave you breathless.”

The Moscow Mule:

2 ounces Skyy Vodka

3 ounces Barritt’s ginger beer

1/2 oz fresh lime juice

Build in mug, filled with ice, garnish with lime wedge.

As vodka became more popular its appearances in pop culture began to grow. Vodka was the spirit of choice for Ian Fleming’s James Bond, where in “Casino Royale” he famously instructed a barman to bring him “Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Lillet. Shake it very well until it’s ice cold, then add a large slice of lemon-peel. Got it?” And thus the Vesper was born, named after the novel’s lead female character, Vesper Lynd. Bond is of course also famous for ordering his Vodka Martini “shaken, not stirred.” Both the use of vodka in a martini and shaking it was an act of rebellion by the bad-ass Bond as convention always called for stirring a martini so as to not cloud it with ice shards and they were always made with gin.

The Vesper:

3 oz Plymouth Gin (or Tanqueray)

1 oz Absolut Vodka

½ oz Lillet BlancShake well with ice, strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with lemon peel.

To shake things up Phil also introduced the audience to the Caipiroska, a twist on the Caipirinha.

The Caipiroska:

2 oz 42 Below Vodka

2 tsp sugar

Half a lime, washed and quartered

Muddle sugar with lime.  Add ice and vodka and stir well.  Serve.

Moving to the more recent history of vodka-based cocktails, Phil explained the origins of the Cosmopolitan saying that it was invented in the mid-1980s by bartender Cheryl Cook in South Beach, FL. Around this time, the Martini was making a comeback and many customers were ordering them, seemingly just to be seen holding the iconic martini glass. However, for many, including women, martinis were a bit too strong and powerful. So she came up with the idea to create a drink that was visually stunning and uses the martini glass. Using a new product called Absolut Citron, a splash of triple sec, a few dashes of Rose’s Lime and some cranberry juice to turn it pink, the Cosmopolitan was born. Later, Dale “King Cocktail” DeGroff discovered the drink at the Fog City Diner in San Francisco. Thinking it could use some improving he created his own version at the Rainbow Room in New York.  He used Absolut Citron, Cointreau, cranberry juice and fresh lime juice, along with a flamed orange peel garnish.  The popularity of the Cosmopolitan was catapulted when Madonna was pictured sipping one at the Rainbow Room Grammy party the first year the Grammys moved from Los Angeles to New York. And of course, most Americans now know the Cosmopolitan (or the Cosmo) as a favorite drink from the HBO series “Sex and the City.”

Phil Greene prepares a Dale DeGroff Cosmopolitan.

Dale DeGroff’s Cosmopolitan:

1.5 oz. Absolut Citron Vodka

.5 oz. Cointreau

.25 oz. Fresh Lime Juice

1 oz. Cranberry Juice

Shake all ingredients with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a flamed orange peel.

Though the Cosmopolitan has its roots in the 1980s, DeGroff found a similar recipe by the Ocean Spray Cranberry Growers from the 1960s calling for one ounce of vodka, one ounce of cranberry and a squeeze of lime. Add triple sec or Cointreau and you have a Cosmopolitan.  Adding to the intrigue, Phil also showed a 1934 recipe for a Cosmopolitan that is somewhat similar to the modern-day drink.

As always, the Museum of the American Cocktail would like to offer thanks to the generous support of our sponsors for this event, namely:  Cointreau, Absolut Vodka, Plymouth Gin, 42 Below Vodka, St. Germain, Skyy Vodka, Barritt’s Ginger Beer, and Fee Bros. Bitters, as well as our friends at Lillet.

By Matt Keller

Matt lives in Washington, DC. When he’s not contributing to his blog District Cocktail – A Drinker’s Notes in Capitol City, his imbibing can be followed on his Twitter feed @DCcocktails.

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Cocktails of the Lost Generation – Paris in the 1920s

On Tuesday, February 21, the historic Tabard Inn hosted a “Cocktails of the Lost Generation” cocktail seminar, presented by the Museum of the American Cocktail.  Chantal Tseng and Philip Greene presented a slate of great drinks that were popular in 1920s Paris.  They also read excerpts from Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and other writers of the time, and told stories of that golden era. 

Chantal Tseng and Philip Greene

Phil started things off with an overview of the Lost Generation, some of the great writers, artists, poets, and other bohemians who populated Montparnasse, and told of the origin of the term.  He then described some of the favorite watering holes of the day, including the Dome, the Rotonde, the Closerie des Lilas, the Select, and the Dingo.  It was at that fine establishment where Jimmie “The Barman” Charters ran the bar, and where he invented the Jimmie Special:

The Jimmie Special

For two people, combine in a cocktail shaker:

1 jigger Pierre Ferrand Cognac

1/2 jigger Pernod Anisette

1/2 jigger Amer-Picon

1/2 jigger Mandarin liqueur

1/2 jigger sweet cherry brandy (kirsch).

Shake thoroughly.  Drink straight or mix with soda to taste.

Comment:  A jigger is 1 ½ ounces.  Note that Amer Picon, a French aperitif bitter, is virtually unavailable in the U.S., but you can use Torani Amer as a substitute.

According to Jimmie’s autobiography, This Must Be The Place, “two stiff drinks of it will have some surprising effects!  On women this drink had the effect of causing them to undress in public, and it often kept me busy wrapping overcoats around nude ladies!  But even knowing this did not prevent some of the feminine contingent from asking for the Jimmie Special.  I wish I had 100 francs for every nude or semi-nude lady I’ve wrapped up during the best Montparnasse days!  In the end, Mrs. Wilson, the wife of the owner of the Dingo, forbade me to make any more Jimmie Specials.”

It should be noted that neither the drink nor the fact that it was Mardi Gras had any effect on the female population of the seminar.  Then again, they were served half-sized samples, only.

The next drink was a variation on the Jack Rose.  In his soon-to-be-published book To Have and Have Another – A Hemingway Cocktail Companion, Phil postulates that perhaps this is the Jack Rose that Jake Barnes drank in Chapter VI of The Sun Also Rises while awaiting Brett Ashley.  And why not?  After all, the drink is found in a well-known 1920s bartender’s guide, Cocktails and Barflies, written by Harry MacElhone, the owner of Harry’s New York Bar.  Hemingway was a patron of that bar.  Further, the novel takes place in Paris around the same time, so why not, indeed?  Here’s that drink:

Jack Rose – Harry MacElhone’s 1920s Paris recipe:

1 ½ oz Applejack

¾ oz Hendrick’s Gin

¾ oz orange juice

¾ oz fresh lemon or lime juice

1/3 oz Martini Dry vermouth

1/3 oz Martini Sweet vermouth

Grenadine to colour (about 1/3 oz)

Shake well with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with twist of lime or lemon peel.

            Phil’s third drink was the house cocktail of Gerald and Sara Murphy, the Villa America, also the name of their villa in the south of France, where they played host to many of the bright lights of the day, including Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Picasso, Dos Passos, Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, and many others.

Villa America Special

1 ½ oz Pierre Ferrand Cognac

1 oz liqueur (such as Cointreau, or another liqueur of your choosing)

¾ oz fresh lemon juice

Chill a cocktail glass.  Rub rim of glass with lemon, then dip it in coarse sugar.  Shake brandy, Cointreau and lemon juice well with ice, then strain into chilled glass.

Phil noted that this is nothing more than a Sidecar, assuming the liqueur is Cointreau.  Phil talked about the history of the Sidecar, and its likely origins in the 19th century New Orleans classic the Brandy Crusta. 

Phil then talked about some other popular drinks of the day, notably the Fine a L’eau, the Chambery Cassis, Whiskey Sour, and the Hot Rum Punch.  Here’s one version of that classic cold-weather drink, from Charles Baker’s classic The Gentleman’s Companion:

Hot Rum Punch

1 ½ 750 ml bottles Barbados or lighter Jamaican Rum (or use Rhum Saint James if keeping with the theme of A Moveable Feast)

1 750 ml bottle Cognac

3 quarts boiling water

2 cups lemon juice

Brown sugar, to taste

Handful of cloves

Add all ingredients to a sturdy stockpot or crockpot, stir occasionally.  Garnish each cup with a spiral of yellow lemon peel, careful to remove the white pith, as it contains unwanted bitterness.

Chantal Tseng, head mixologist at the Tabard Inn, then took the stage to talk about liqueurs and their role in Paris’ café society.  She also discussed the popularity of absinthe, specifically dripped absinthe.  Using a beautiful crystal water dripping fountain, she made dripped absinthe for the crowd, using Pernod’s delightful Absinthe Superieure.

Chantal reads a bit of Fitzgerald

Chantal’s final offering was a delicious Boulevardier Cocktail.  This great drink shows off the simple but classic formula of equal parts Campari, Sweet Vermouth, and a spirit (in this case Wild Turkey Bourbon, but if you use gin you have a Negroni).

Chantal mixes a Boulevardier

The Boulevardier

1 oz Wild Turkey 81 Bourbon

1 oz Martini Sweet Vermouth

1 oz Campari

Garnish with lemon or orange peel, serve on rocks.

The Museum of the American Cocktail wishes to thank its generous sponsors for this event, notably Pierre Ferrand Cognac, Laird’s Applejack, Pernod-Ricard USA, Remy-Cointreau USA, Hendrick’s Gin, Wild Turkey, Campari, as well as the generous donations from Martini. 

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History of US Whiskey Seminar with Dr. Dennis Pogue

“I would beg leave to suggest the propriety of erecting Public Distilleries in different States.  The benefits arising from moderate use of strong Liquour, have been experienced in All Armies, and are not to be disputed.” George Washington 1777

On January 17 the Museum of the American Cocktail found itself at the Warehouse Theatre in Washington, DC for a presentation by Dr. Dennis J. Pogue, Vice President for Preservation at George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate, Museum, and Gardens. Dr. Pogue featured his book Founding Spirits, a history of the American whiskey industry. The book also informs readers about George Washington’s successful business in whiskey distillation noting that his farm at Mount Vernon at one point made more money from whiskey than it did from farming. Dr. Pogue was joined by Phil Greene, Founding Member of the Museum of the American Cocktail, and Derek Brown of The Passenger and Columbia Room and member of the Board of Directors of the Museum of the American Cocktail, who prepared four whiskey-based cocktails for guests.

To start, the audience was presented with some “American Whiskey Punch,” a recipe developed by cocktail historian David Wondrich (recipe below), who is also a Contributing Scholar and member of the Board of Advisors of the Museum of the American Cocktail. Its ingredients of Wild Turkey Rye Whiskey, sugar, lemon peel, lemon juice and water is a simple yet balanced flavor of sweet and sour, complemented by the rye’s spicy and woody notes.

In addition, Derek Brown demonstrated how he makes an Old Fashioned (recipe below) explaining that it has the original components of the first cocktail medleys, those being a spirit, sugar, water and bitters. He went on to say that many believe that is how the Old Fashioned got its name in that it is prepared in the “old fashioned” style.

Derek Brown prepares an Old Fashioned.

Dr. Pogue explained to the audience that George Washington’s distillery, which began in the in the late 1790s, was the largest in the country at the time. Most distilleries were very small in nature serving immediate, local markets. Washington was skeptical at first in investing in whiskey production and sought advice from his friends and colleagues. In a letter to Washington in 1797, John Fitzgerald, referring to James Anderson who would become Washington’s distillation manager, stated:

“As I have no doubt Mr. Anderson understands the Distillation of Spirit from Grain I cannot hesitate in my opinion that it might be carried on to great advantage on your Estate … as to a Sale of the Whiskey there can be no doubt if the Quantity was ten times as much as he can make provided it is of good Quality.”

Dr. Dennis Pogue

Once George Washington began distilling whiskey, he produced rye, as it was the most popular at the end of the 18th Century. His consisted of 60% rye, 35% corn and 5% malted barley and yeast to ferment. In Washington’s last year of life he produced 10,500 gallons of rye sold at 60 cents per gallon, resulting in a profit of $7500 in 1799, sold mainly to his thirsty local community.

Up until the US Revolution rum had been the spirit of choice. But after the US Revolution the supply of rum, coming mainly from the British controlled Caribbean, was disrupted. Whiskey quickly replaced rum and became quite popular as it was cheaper and contained a higher alcohol content. By 1810 there were 3500 whiskey distilleries in Virginia alone. Most were only small operations in which farmers would turn excess grain into alcohol. Washington’s whiskey and most others at the time were not aged producing a clear spirit that could move quickly to sale. Not until the mid-19th Century was whiskey aged giving it the distinctive color and flavor we know today.

During his portion of the presentation, Phil Greene presented what he called the New Orleans Cocktail Trinity. Pointing to a map of the French Quarter, he explained how three classic New Orleans drinks all were born within footsteps of each other, near the corner of Royal and Iberville.  Indeed, the original Sazerac House was located on Royal between Canal and Iberville, the Vieux Carre (recipe below) was created at the Monteleone, on Royal just across Iberville, and if you walk up Iberville toward Bourbon you’ll pass the former site of the La Louisiane (recipe below), home of the drink of the same name.  Phil discussed how each drink resembles the other, one swapping out one ingredient for another, or sharing common ingredients.  But all three are unique, not to mention delicious.

Phil demonstrated how to make a Sazerac (technique and recipe below) which like the Old Fashioned is composed of original cocktail parts of spirit, sugar, water and bitters with its use of Wild Turkey Rye Whiskey, Peychaud’s bitter, simple syrup and ice with the addition of Herbisaint/Absinthe, in this case Pernod enhancing the cocktail with a thin layer of anise flavor and aroma.

Phil Greene adds a bit of Pernod in demonstrating the Sazerac.

Phil also discussed another rye whiskey classic, the Deshler (recipe below).  It’s not as well-known as some of the other classics, but it’s enjoying a bit of a renaissance.  Like the Sazerac and Vieux Carre it contains Peychaud’s Bitters, but also the spice and botanicals of Dubonnet Rouge, offset by the slight sweetness of Cointreau.  It’s a fairly easy drink to make and is holding up well, in spite of its age (it will turn 100 later this decade).

David Wondrich’s American Whiskey Punch:

Muddle one cup sugar with the peel of two lemons. Add 4 oz. lemon juice and 8 oz. water until sugar is dissolved. Add 16 oz. Wild Turkey Rye and 3 cups water. Serve over large block of ice in punch bowl. Garnish with lemon wheels.

Derek Brown’s Rye Old Fashioned:

2 oz. Wild Turkey Rye Whiskey

1/2 oz. Cane Sugar Syrup (2:1)

Dash Fee Brothers Aromatic Bitters

Lemon peel

Add ingredients with ice to mixing glass. Stir and strain over fresh ice. Add lemon peel.

The Vieux Carre Cocktail:

3/4 oz Wild Turkey Rye Whiskey

3/4 oz Martini Rosso

3/4 oz Pierre Ferrand 1er Cru de Cognac

1/8 oz Benedictine

2 dashes Angostura bitters

2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters

Build drink in rocks glass with ice, stir until chilled and garnish with lemon peel.


1 1/2 oz. Wild Turkey Rye Whiskey

1 1/2 oz. Dubonnet Rouge

2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters

1 dash Cointreau

1 wide lemon twist

1 wide orange twist

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Twist a broad swathe of lemon peel over the shaker and drop it in. Shake and strain into a chilled glass. Twist one strip of orange peel over the drink and discard. Twist a second one over it, drop it in and serve.


2 oz Wild Turkey Rye Whiskey

2-3 dashes Peychaud’s

Dash Pernod or Absinthe

Dash simple syrup

Chill a rocks glass, set aside.  In mixing glass, add the simple syrup, Peychaud’s Bitters, then fill with ice.  Add the rye whiskey.  Stir well, set aside.

Discard ice from rocks glass.  Add 1 teaspoon Herbsaint, swirl it around, or spin it into the air, to discard excess.  Strain contents of mixing glass into rocks glass.  Garnish with a lemon peel, twist to extract essential oils.  Au votre sante!

Cocktail à la Louisiane:

3/4 ounce Wild Turkey Rye Whiskey
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth
3/4 ounce Bénédictine
3 dashes Pernod or Absinthe
3 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters

Add all ingredients to a mixing glass, stir on ice until well chilled, strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a cherry.

As always, the Museum of the American Cocktail would like to offer thanks to the generous support of our sponsors for this event, namely: Cointreau; Benedictine; Pierre Ferrand 1er Cru de Cognac; Wild Turkey 101 Proof  Rye and Bourbon; and Fee Brothers Bitters.

We would also like to thank the contributions of Sazerac and Co. for their Peychaud’s Bitters, Heaven and Hill for the Dubonnet Rouge, and Martini for its Rosso sweet vermouth.

By Matt Keller

Matt lives in Washington, DC. When he’s not contributing to his blog District Cocktail – A Drinker’s Notes in Capitol City, his imbibing can be followed on his Twitter feed @DCcocktails.

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MOTAC Hosts All-Star Holiday Cocktail Seminar

On December 18 the Museum of the American Cocktail held its 4th annual holiday cocktail seminar in Washington, DC at PS7s Restaurant. A record number of over 50 guests were treated to an ensemble of some of DC’s finest bartenders which included JP Caceres of Bourbon Steak, Gina Chersevani of PS7s, Jon Harris of The Gibson, Katie Nelson of the Columbia Room,  and Dan Searing of Room 11. The seminar was led by MOTAC Founding Member Phil Greene.

From Left: Gina Chersevani, JP Caceres, Phil Greene, Jon Harris, Katie Nelson and Dan Searing

To start things off, Katie Nelson introduced her “Sweet Potato-Ginger Sparkler” (recipe below) which was a delicious spin on holiday flavors using a homemade sweet potato shrub, Wild Turkey Rye, sherry, Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel Bitters and ginger ale, garnished with a roasted marshmallow. The sweet potato shrub acted as a wonderful base with its infusion of ginger and sherry vinegar while the rye and sherry cut through to add a balanced depth of flavor. The acidic base of the cocktail was a good match with the creamy marshmallow.

Katie Nelson's "Sweet Potato Ginger Sparkler"

Jon Harris presented a classic Tom and Jerry using “Professor” Jerry Thomas’ original recipe from the 1850s featured in Esquire Magazine. He informed guests that the drink was created as a variation on the traditional eggnog. The Tom and Jerry Harris presented had a light texture with a clean finish along with a warming, seasonal appeal with its ingredients of Remy Martin Cognac, Appleton’s Reserve Extra 12 Year Old Rum, allspice, cinnamon, cloves, milk, nutmeg, all wrapped in a velvety texture of whipped egg whites.

Jon Harris' classic Tom and Jerry.

JP Caceres showed guests how to make his original “Fall in a Cup” (recipe below) with a unique blend of butter-infused St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur, Wild Turkey Bourbon infused with fall spices, Dolin Rouge vermouth, sparkling wine and Fee Brothers Orange Bitters. With the infused bourbon’s flavors of cinnamon, anise stars and cloves, the cocktail had a well-rounded spicy bite with sweet, floral and buttery overtones of the infused St. Germain.

JP Caceres' "Fall in a Cup"

Dan Searing gave the audience a glimpse into his book “The Punch Bowl – 75 Recipes Spanning Four Centuries of Wanton Revelry” where he presented one of his original punches titled “Conquistador Punch.” Not originally intended as a holiday cocktail, Searing’s punch incorporates clementines, which have become a traditional holiday offering, often called the “Christmas Orange.” Sliced clementines, clementine juice and clementine zest syrup intermingle with Corzo Reposado tequila, sherry and lime juice, for a tart yet balanced flavor appropriate for the holidays or whenever.

Dan Searing's "Conquistador Punch"

As the cocktails were being presented, Gina Chersevani treated guests to her culinary skills, preparing savory flat breads and tuna tartar sliders to accompany the drinks. At the end, Gina emerged from the kitchen to surprise guests with an original warm punch incorporating Pierre Ferrand Ambre Cognac, Benedictine, homemade apple-spiced shrub and cinnamon-apricot tea from Teaism. To accompany the punch, she also prepared a batch of her famous “Cuptails,” cupcakes infused with Pierre Ferrand Ambre Cognac and Benedictine.

Gina Chersevani's "Cuptails."

Katie Nelson’s “Sweet Potato Ginger Sparkler”

To make one:

1 ½ oz. bourbon or rye (in this case, Wild Turkey Rye)

3/4 oz. dry oloroso sherry (Lustau or Alfonso is fine)

3/4 oz. sweet potato-ginger shrub (*)

Dash Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel Bitters

2 oz. Blenheim’s ginger ale

Add all ingredients to an iced highball glass, stir gently to mix, garnish with toasted oolong marshmallow.

(*) To make the sweet potato shrub, first make a ginger vinegar infusion. Soak 1/2 cup (or so) finely chopped fresh ginger root in 1 cup fine sherry vinegar overnight. After straining out the ginger, about 2/3 cup liquid should be left over. If not, add more of the same vinegar to get the 2/3 cup mark, then add a 1/2 cup raw cane sugar to the ginger-infused vinegar over low heat, stirring just to dissolve.  Remove from heat, let cool.

Then make a sweet potato puree. Take about 3 large sweet potatoes, peel, cut into chunks, and bring to a boil in water.  Let cook until fork-tender, and then blend with a small amount of the cooking liquid until smooth. Strain if necessary for a smoother puree.

Add the sweet potato puree to the sweetened ginger vinegar (should be in the quantity ratio of 3 parts puree to 1 part ginger vinegar) in a saucepan over medium heat.  Let cook together for about 10 minutes or so, taste and add more cane sugar to taste if necessary. Remove from heat, let cool completely.

JP Caceres’ “Fall in a Cup”

1½ cups Wild Turkey Bourbon infused Fall Spices (*)

¾ cups Butter-Scotched St. Germain (**)

¾ cups Dolin Rouge Vermouth

2 cups Sparkling wine

12 dashes Fee Brothers Orange Bitters

Mix all ingredients above in a punch bowl and garnish with orange slices and an ice block to keep the punch cold. Yields 10 servings, served in an old fashioned glass over ice.

(*) (Infused style)- In a zip lock bag add 3 cinnamon sticks, 3 anise stars, 5 cloves and bottle of Bourbon. Seal and place in a dark room for 7 days. After the 7 days process open the bag and strain through a cheese cloth or a coffee filter and pour back in  to the bottle.

(**) (Fat Wash style)- In a saucepan, brown a half-pound of organic butter, then let it cool down. In a Mason jar combine 2 cups elderflower liquor and the melted brown butter, seal it and let it sit in a dark room for 7 days. After the 7 day process the butter fat will have risen to the top. Put the Mason jar in the freezer for 15 minutes in order for the butter fat to solidify on top, allowing the fat to be spooned out and discarded. Then strain the liquid through a cheese cloth or a coffee filter in order to strain out any small bits of browned butter.

Dan Searing’s “Conquistador Punch”

1 750-ml bottle of Corzo Reposado Tequila

1 375-ml bottle of Pedro Ximénez Sherry

1 ½ cups lime juice (about 12 limes)

1 ½ cups clementine juice (about 12 clementines)

1 cup clementine zest syrup (*)

1 ice block

2 clementines, peeled, cut into small, coin shapes

Combine all liquid ingredients in a large pitcher, adding the clementine syrup last and to taste. Chill thoroughly. When ready to serve, place the ice block in a punch bowl and pour the punch over it.

(*) Clementine Zest Syrup:

Zest from two clementines

1 cup cold simple syrup (1 part water, 1 part sugar – heat until dissolved, chill)

Use a microplane grater to remove the zest from the two clementines. Add the zest to the cold simple syrup. Cover and refrigerate overnight or for up to 24 hours. Strain out the zest. Refrigerate any unused syrup.

As always, the Museum of the American Cocktail would like to offer thanks to the generous support of our sponsors for this event, namely:  Wild Turkey 101 Proof  Rye and Bourbon; Appleton Estate Rums; Pierre Ferrand 1er Cru de Cognac; Fee Brothers Orange and Whiskey Barrel-Aged Bitters; Rémy Martin Cognac; Corzo Tequila, and Benedictine.

By Matt Keller

Matt lives in Washington, DC. When he’s not contributing to his blog District Cocktail – A Drinker’s Notes in Capitol City, his imbibing can be followed on his Twitter feed @DCcocktails.

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DC Celebrates Repeal Day in Style

On December 3, 2011 the District of Columbia celebrated the 78th anniversary of Repeal Day. Bartenders from across the city and the nation participated in the event commemorating the day (December 5, 1933) Prohibition ended.  On that day, Utah passed the 21st Amendment reaching the needed three-quarters majority of states to end the national ban on the sale of alcoholic beverages. This was the 4th Repeal Day celebration in Washington and was hosted by the DC Craft Bartender’s Guild. The event was held at the Halcyon House in Georgetown. Built in 1787, the house became a center of Washington social life in the 19th Century.

In the spirit of 1933, the black-tie affair was attended by roughly 300 guests, many clad in Prohibition-period attire. A great number of classic and original cocktails flowed as guests were treated to creations by, according to the DC Craft Bartender’s Guild, “local DC favorites Todd Thrasher, Clinton Terry, Elli Benchimol, Owen Thomson, Chantal Tseng, Duane Sylvestre, Jason Strich, Dan Searing, and Gina Chersevani, to mention a few, along with Phil Greene from the Museum of the American Cocktail, as well as visiting mixologists Adam Seger and Charles Joly [Chicago,] Brad Hensarling [Fort Worth,] and Danny Ronen [San Francisco].”

Brad Hensarling's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" with Absolut Vodka, ginger beer, Aabvorg Aquavit, fresh lemon, brown sugar and lavender water.

Phil Greene of the Museum of the American Cocktail prepared “Death in the Afternoon,” a Hemingway cocktail made with Perrier Jouet Champagne, and Pernod Absinthe.  It will be one of the 50-some cocktails featured in Greene’s forthcoming book, To Have and Have Another – A Hemingway Cocktail Companion.  Other cocktails and punches included “The Golden One” by Todd Thrasher (Dewar’s 12 Year, honey, Riesling, pear, and pear bitters), “El Presidente Persico” by Danny Ronen (El Dorado 12 Year Old Rum, Cocchi Americano, FAIR. Goji Liqueur, Cointreau, Orange), and “Ti Punch” by Ed Hamilton of the Ministry of Rum (Rhum Agricole, lime, cane syrup).

Chantel Tseng's "Darmoney Sucker Punch" with Plymouth Gin, Dolin Rouge, Cointreau, and fresh orange juice served from a claw-foot tub.

Chantal Tseng, Head Mixologist of the Tabard Inn, prepared an elaborate “Darmoney Sucker Punch” in a miniature claw-foot tub.  The drink consisted of Plymouth Gin, Dolin Rouge, Cointreau, and fresh orange juice. Gina Chersevani of PS7s Restaurant celebrated the season with her take on Egg Nog titled “NoggingHam,” consisting of Bulleit Bourbon, Benedictine, banana, cardamom, cinnamon, milk, sugar, butter and ham dust. Brad Hensarling made “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” with Absolut Vodka, ginger beer, Aabvorg Aquavit, fresh lemon, brown sugar and lavender water. Adam Seger provided “The String Puller,” consisting of Plymouth Gin, Hum Botanical Spirit, fresh lime, seltzer, Hedonistic Citrus Bitters and Thyme. And Elli Benchimol of Chef Geoff’s Restaurant provided “Candy Apple,” with Beefeater Gin, fresh lemon, apple cider, hibiscus, four spice syrup and a pickled apple.

Elli Benchimol's "Candy Apple" with Beefeater Gin, fresh lemon, apple cider, hibiscus, four-spice syrup, and pickled apple.

The evening even featured a four-spout Absinthe drip with Pernod, water and a sugar cube, tended to by DC bartenders JP Caceres and Diego Zeballos.

JP Caceres overseeing the Absinthe drip.

The 2011 Repeal Day celebration at the Halcyon House was a grand affair with cocktails and punches featured in its historic, Victorian-style upper-level rooms as well as its modern, lower-level exhibition hall. DC Craft Bartender’s Guild President Dan Searing, along with Derek Brown of the Columbia Room, led an evening toast made with a rare ten-year-old aged Magnum of Chimay.

From Left: Dan Searing, President of the DC Craft Bartender's Guild and Bar Manager at Room 11, with Derek Brown of Passenger/Columbia Room make a celebratory toast.

The Museum of the American Cocktail would like to thank the DC Craft Bartender’s Guild as well as the event’s sponsors Plymouth Gin, Absolut Vodka, Beefeater Gin, Pernod Absinthe, Bulleit Bourbon, Macchu Pisco, Dewar’s Scotch Whiskey, Remy Cognac, and Cointreau as a portion of the proceeds from the evening went to enabling the museum to further educate all on the great history and preservation of cocktail making.

By Matt Keller

Matt Keller lives in Washington, DC is the the author of District Cocktail – A Drinker’s Notes in Capitol City. His imbibing can also be followed on Twitter: @DCcocktails

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On The Town with Dale DeGroff

According to Dale DeGroff, founding president of The Museum of the American Cocktail, the cocktail is as American as jazz, apple pie, and baseball… and as diverse and colorful as America itself. Many cocktails arose out of a historical context, and each era can be characterized by its songs and stories.

From this perspective, “On the Town”: a Salute to Neighborhood Bars, Notorious Saloons, and Legendary Drink Palaces brings to life the music, stories, and classic cocktails that characterize the various eras. It is a delightful roadshow that is part cabaret and part history lesson rolled into one.

Joined by jazz guitarist Joel Perry, DeGroff shares songs and stories gleaned from a life of working and carousing bars in the most exciting cities in the world. He also delves into the history and evolution of modern cocktail culture, from the early 19th century through Prohibition to modern day cocktail bars. Guests are treated to sample classic cocktails while learning its connection to the politics, theatre, songs, and headliners of its day. An evening On the Town with Dale DeGroff will introduce you to bar culture, in all its gritty, creative, and intoxicating glory!

Special thanks to William Grant, Pernod Ricard, and Dushan Zaric for all their support! DeGroff will perform “ON THE TOWN” in several cities this year. For schedule and tickets go to:

Welcome Punch

2 Bottles Appleton Reserve
96 ounces spring water
6 ounces Cointreau
6 ounces Martell Cognac
16 ounces fresh squeezd lemon juice
2 cups granulated sugar
12 to 14 fresh firm lemons

Prepare shrub with lemons, sugar & lemon juice. Add gin, Cointreau, and
water to shrub and stir. Serve in goblet over cubed ice. Dust w/nutmeg

Absinthe Frappe

1 ounce (30ml) Pernod Absinthe, 1 ounce (30ml) spring water, 2 dashes Marie Brizard Anisette. Build the three ingredients together in a mixing glass with cubed ice. Shake
and strain into a goblet filled with shaved ice. No garnish

The Major Bailey (Southside Style)

1 1/2 ounce (45ml) Gin
1/2 oz. (15ml) simple syrup (1 pt water 1 part sugar)
1/4 ounce (8ml) lemon juice
1/4 ounce (8ml) lime juice
Several mint leaves and a mint sprig
Crushed ice

3 ½ bottles Gin
28 ounces simple syrup
28 oz fresh squeezed lemon/lime juice
55 mint sprigs
mint leaves for shaking

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An Evening in Washington, DC with Dan Searing, Author and Craft Bartender

On October 4 the Museum of the American Cocktail, in cooperation with The Passenger in Washington, DC, held a punch seminar featuring local bartender and entrepreneur Dan Searing, author of the recently published “The Punch Bowl – 75 Recipes Spanning Four Centuries of Wanton Revelry.” Searing is a founding member and current President of the DC Craft Bartenders Guild and bar manager of Room 11.

Philip Greene, Dan Searing and Gina Chersevani

The seminar was opened by Philip Greene, Founding Member of the Museum of the American Cocktail. Philip welcomed guests, reminding them that the Museum will be sponsoring future events across the nation including another one in DC on December 3 for Repeal Day, marking the passage of the 21st Amendment ending the era of prohibition. Philip also noted that for $35 anyone can become a member of the museum which includes discounts on museum events as well as access to member only information on the museum’s website, as well as discounts on book purchases. Membership also includes a copy of the museum’s special “Pocket Recipe Guide” featuring recipes for nearly 100 classic cocktails.

To warm people up, guests were treated to an appearance by Gina Chersevani, bar manager of PS7’s. She presented the audience with her “Old Faithful” punch featured in Searing’s book (recipe below) which uses bourbon as the base spirit along with elderflower liqueur, pink grapefruit juice, grapefruit bitters, sparkling water, mint leaves, grapefruit peel and sugar. For those more familiar with punches made with rum, gin or brandy, the bourbon added a nice depth of oaky flavor while balanced with the sweet and tart grapefruit juice, boosted with the aromatic mint and sweet, floral undertones of the elderflower liqueur.

Donning an impressive kilt, Searing gave some background on his book, his first, which is not only a collection of 50 historic and classic punches but also 25 recipes from bartenders from Washington, DC and throughout the US, including some Searing originals.

“The Punch Bowl” is a great addition to any imbiber’s library. Beginners will love it as it presents the fundamentals of punch-making in a humorous and down-to-earth fashion. Seasoned bartenders will enjoy it as a reference to its many great recipes as well as a pool of innovative ideas that think outside the punch bowl.

The book gives a brief historical overview of the centuries-old tradition, informing readers, for example, that punch was originally derived from the Hindustani word paunch (sometimes also panch), meaning five, which is the traditional number of elements of a punch (sugar, spice, fruit, spirits and water or tea). Punch began as a favorite elixir among sailors from pirates to the British Navy. Once punch reached land in the West its popularity grew from Europe to the Americas, being commonly served at taverns and private celebrations with punch bowls becoming ornate status symbols to show one’s wealth and success.

The book also offers helpful recommendations on proper punch service and techniques such as making your own syrups, garnishes, proper tea steeping, ways to make block ice at home and how much punch to prepare based on the number of guests and how much you anticipate they will drink.

The audience at The Passenger was treated to punches from Searing’s book. He began with Fish House Punch (recipe below) named after the Schuylkill Fishing Company, a men’s club established in what is now part of Philadelphia in 1732 and is still in existence. It has served many historical patrons including George Washington. With its simple recipe, the Fish House Punch is a refreshing citrus-forward drink with fresh lemon and lime juice, balanced out by dark brown sugar, rum and brandy. A great punch for any occasion.

On the other end of the spectrum, Searing served a Cold Claret Punch (recipe below), a red wine-based punch made with Claret, but Searing notes that other full-bodied wines will work just as well. With its use of ingredients such as orange liqueur and cherry brandy, the punch was reminiscent of Swedish glögg or mulled wine.

Evergreen Dazed

As a final punch, Searing treated guests to a new original recipe of his called Evergreen Dazed (punch and cocktail recipe below). He said that it started as an adaptation of Jake Parrott’s Chip Shop Punch from the book, which itself is an adaptation of the Fish House Punch. The name comes from a song by the band Felt, from their first album, Crumbling the Antiseptic Beauty.

Searing explained that making punch has many advantages when throwing gatherings in that it can be made in advance with some simple and quick additions right before service such as the adding of ice and sparkling water. Not only is it easy to ladle out portions but has the convenient benefit of guests being able to serve themselves. It can also be an economical way of offering one’s guest a unique and memorable experience. Searing even said that experimenting with punches doesn’t always have to be at home, saying that he often pre-mixes batches, packs them in glass jars, and brings them to parties in lieu of the standard bottle of wine or six-pack of beer.

Searing’s book is a great addition to the growing re-appreciation of a centuries-old tradition. How punch later became what many of us remember as that neon-colored, candy-sweet concoction served at childhood birthday parties or school functions, we may never know. “The Punch Bowl” gives readers an enlightening glimpse into the background and preparation of a drink which once bore great popularity and cultural significance – a custom which is thankfully finding its way home again across the nation.

By Matt Keller

Matt Keller is a Washington, DC resident and writes the blog District Cocktail – A Drinker’s Notes in Capitol City. Twitter: @DCcocktails

Featured recipes from “The Punch Bowl” by Dan Searing:

Old Faithful

From Gina Chersevani, PS7’s, Washington, D.C.

This is an update of an authentic 1830 recipe.  You start with good honest straight Bourbon Whiskey (we used Wild Turkey 101 proof), and add a bit of continental sophistication in the form of newly popular St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur, and this punch leaps forward into the twenty-first century.  Together these two ingredients form the base of a punch that won’t let you down whether you prefer to look where you’re going or reflect on where you’ve been.

Recipe for 18 to 24 servings

1 cup powdered sugar
1 750-ml bottle Wild Turkey 101 Proof Bourbon
1 2⁄3 cups St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
4 cups pink grapefruit juice, freshly squeezed (about 4 grapefruit)
20  dashes Fee Brothers Grapefruit Bitters
1 750-ml bottle sparkling water
30  mint leaves
20  strips of grapefruit peel

In a large bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, bourbon, and St. Germain until the sugar is completely dissolved. Add the pink grapefruit juice and grapefruit bitters, and stir to combine.  Top the punch with the mint leaves and grapefruit peels, then stir gently and let the punch sit for about an hour. Immediately before serving add the sparkling water. Ladle into ice-filled glasses.

Fish House Punch

~ Circa 1732 ~

A concoction shrouded in secrecy (and ongoing disagreement about its exact ingredients), this grand old recipe comes from the Schuylkill Fishing Company, one of America’s oldest men’s clubs, originally founded in 1732. Some prominent figures in American history, including George Washington, have enjoyed a glass or two of Fish House Punch at the famous club (which still exists today, though no longer in Schuylkill county). Sip this punch and open a window onto what might have made America’s Founding Fathers feel so very revolutionary.

15 to 20 servings

4  cups freshly squeezed lime juice (about 32 limes)
2  cups freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 12 lemons)
1 cup dark brown sugar
1  cup Appleton’s Estate Reserve dark rum
2  cups Flor de Cana Extra Dry 4 Year Old white rum
1  cup Pierre Ferrand Cognac
1  block of ice

Pour the lemon and lime juices into a large punch bowl. Add the brown
sugar, and gently stir until dissolved. Slowly add the dark and light rums
and the brandy, stirring constantly. Slowly ease the block of ice into the
punch bowl.  Put the punch bowl into the refrigerator, and chill for 3 hours.
Stir the punch every few hours to help the flavors blend.  When ready to serve, remove the bowl from the refrigerator and, if need be, add more ice.

Cold Claret Punch

From Chafing Dish Recipes, 1896

Claret is the British term for Bordeaux wine, which is generally a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc along with a few other varietals. In the United States the blend is known as Meritage. If you cannot easily put your hands on either, your best bet is to select a jammy, full-bodied wine.

For 10 to 15 servings

1 750-ml bottle Claret, or other Bordeaux-style full-bodied red wine
¾  cup demerara sugar
2  tablespoons Orange Curaçao or other orange liqueur (such as Cointreau)
2  tablespoons kirsch (cherry brandy)
2  cups cold water
3  tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
½  pint cherries, pitted, or preserved cherries
2 tablespoons HUM Botanical Spirit

Pour the Claret into a medium punch bowl, and add the sugar, Curaçao, and kirsch. Stir well. Add the water and the lemon juice, and stir well. Add the cherries, and float a large block of ice in the punch bowl. Let stand for 15 minutes to chill, then serve.

Evergreen Dazed Cocktail

Original Recipe by Dan Searing

1.5 oz. Ridge Silvertip Gin
1 oz. Stone Barn Brandyworks Cranberry Liqueur (may substitute ¾ oz. cranberry syrup for liqueur and simple syrup)
½ oz. Old Sugar Cane & Abe Rum
½ oz. fresh lemon juice
½ oz. simple syrup
Dash Angostura Bitters

Add ice, shake and strain into a chilled cocktail stem. To serve as a punch multiply ingredients by 16 and add 2 2/3rds cups water. Chill and serve in a bowl with a large ice block.

As always, the Museum of the American Cocktail would like to offer thanks to the generous support of our sponsors for this event, namely:  Wild Turkey 101 Proof Bourbon and Flor de Cana Extra Dry 4 Year Old Rum (from Skyy); Appleton Estate Rums; Pierre Ferrand 1er Cru de Cognac; Plymouth Gin; Fee Brothers Grapefruit Bitters; and HUM Botanical Liqueur.

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