MOTAC Hosts 5th Annual Holiday Cocktail Seminar in DC

On December 11 at the Warehouse Theater in Washington, DC, the Museum of the American Cocktail assembled five of DC’s most reputable bartenders to present guests with their own holiday-themed cocktail creations. The evening featured Adam Bernbach, Aris Noble, Bryan Tetorakis, Todd Thrasher and Chantal Tseng. The seminar was led by MOTAC Co-Founder Philip Greene, author of the recently-released To Have and Have Another – A Hemingway Cocktail Companion and Victoria Vergason, author of Capitol Cocktails and owner of The Hour, specializing in the sale of vintage cocktailware in Old Town Alexandria.


From left: Arris Noble, Bryan Tetorakis, Chantal Tseng, Adam Bernbach, Todd Thrasher, Philip Greene and Victoria Vergason. Photo courtesy of Stephen Chapman.

To begin Bryan Tetorakis of Rogue 24 presented “The Machine Gun Blues” consisting of

1.5 oz Wild Turkey Rye Whiskey

1.5 oz. Bonal

Dash Celery Bitters

Dash Apple Bitters

Dash Green Chartreuse

Lemon Peel Garnish

Add ingredients to a mixing glass, stir on ice until well chilled, serve in a cocktail glass with a lemon twist.

The Machine Gun Blues has herbaceous and vegetal flavors balanced well by the sweet Bonal and spicy, caramelized, earthy flavors of the rye with a slight bitterness from the Greeen Chartreuse. A distinguished cocktail.


Bryan Tetorakis stirs “The Machine Gun Blues.” Photo courtesy of Stephen Chapman.

Next came Chantal Tseng of the Tabard Inn with her “Hazelnut Toddy” consisting of:

1.5 oz. Pierre Ferrand 1840 Cognac

1/4 oz Cointreau

Dash of Lemon and Honey

Hot Honeybush Hazlenut Tea (can be ordered online)

Clove Studded Orange Peel

To make, build spirits in a glass cup, add the honey and lemon and mix. Top off with hot tea and garnish with the clove-studded orange peel.

The vanilla and caramelized flavors of the cognac are a great duet with the nuttiness of the tea brightened by the citrus flavors of the Cointreau, lemon and orange. The hot tea released the aroma of the clove melding the drink into a warming holiday tipple.


Chantal Tseng displays the ingredients for her “Hazelnut Toddy.” Photo Courtesy of Stephen Chapman.

Todd Thrasher of numerous Virginia-based restaurants, all part of the Eat Good Food Group, presented his “Manzanilla Con Manzana” made up of:

1.5 oz Sherry Mix (see below)

1/2 oz Apple Cider

3/4 oz Cardinal Mendoza brandy

3/4 oz Laird’s Applejack

Angostura and Apple Bitters

Build ingredients in a mixing glass, add ice, stir until well chilled, serve in a coupe glass and garnish with apple balls.

With its several layers of apple flavor, this cocktail is quite appropriate for the holiday season. The Sherry Mix adds a seasoned sweetness that when combined with the brandy and applejack produces a well-rounded cocktail full of apple, spice, vanilla and citrus.

For the Sherry Mix:

2 bottles (1500 ml) Hidalgo Manzanilla Sherry

2 Oranges, Peeled

1 Vanilla Bean (Scraped)

1/2 Cup Sugar

Peel the oranges and put the peels on a sheet tray and put in a 450 degree oven for 5 minutes or until orange peels start to brown. Put the sherry in a pot and bring to a boil, add the sugar and vanilla bean and whisk until sugar is dissolved. Reduce heat to a low simmer, add orange peels and let simmer for 30 minutes. Strain off and refrigerate.


Todd Thrasher prepares his “Manzanilla Con Manzana.” Photo courtesy of Stephen Chapman.

Adam Bernbach of Proof and Estadio showcased his homage to Christmas with the “Die Hard”-themed cocktail “Harry Ellis” named after the cocaine-snorting, sleazy businessman who attempts to work with terrorists who take over the office, helping them find John McClane, played by Bruce Willis. “Die Hard” takes place right before Christmas.

1.5 oz Pierre Ferrand 1840 Cognac

Spiced Ginger Soda

Cranberry and Mint Garnish

Build ingredients on ice in a rocks glass. Garnish with a sprig of mint and skewered cranberries.

Adam’s cocktail was a super spicy drink combining soda made with fresh pureed ginger. Combined with the cognac and mint the drink wakes up the palate with a sweet and zingy boost of energy. Perfect for negotiating with terrorists at Christmas time.


Adam Bernbach presents his “Die Hard”-themed “Harry Ellis.” Photo courtesy of Stephen Chapman.

Lastly, but certainly not least, Arris Noble of SEI presented his Winter Whiskey Sour:

2 oz Wild Turkey Rye Whiskey

1 oz fresh lemon

1 oz 5 spice syrup (clove, anise, black pepper, allspice and cinnamon – for basic instructions, click here)

1 egg white (preferably fresh)

Dash Fee Brothers Aromatic Bitters

Combine ingredients in a shaker and give it a hard “dry shake” with no ice to emulsify the egg white. Once emulsified, add ice and shake vigorously in order to create a foamy texture. Serve in a martini or coupe glass. With the use of the 5 spice syrup this cocktail offers the flavors of the season with a velvety texture from the egg whites and spiciness of the rye with the lemon adding a brightness and clean finish.


Arris Noble displays the ingredients for his “Winter Whiskey Sour.” Photo courtesy of Stephen Chapman.

The Museum of the American Cocktail would like to thank the wonderful people of The Passenger for assisting the bartenders and making the evening flow smoothly. Thanks also to Victoria Vergason for providing her fabulous vintage glasses and barware for use. Many thanks for the great photos by Stephen Chapman who is part of the Eat Good Food Group, and works on digital media for PX and the new bar T.N.T.

And of course, we wouldn’t be able to present these fine cocktails without our sponsors, namely Laird’s Applejack, Cognac FERRAND, Wild Turkey Rye, Chivas Regal, Fee Brothers and Cointreau.


By Matt Keller

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Drinking with Hemingway – An Evening With Author Philip Greene

“Don’t bother with churches, government buildings or city squares; if you want to know about a culture, spend a night in its bars.” –Ernest Hemingway

“When you work hard all day with your head and know you must work again the next day what else can change your ideas and make them run on a different plane like whisky? When you are cold and wet what else can warm you? Before an attack who can say anything that gives you the momentary well being that rum does? I would as soon not eat at night as not to have red wine and water. The only time it isn’t good for you is when you write or when you fight. You have to do that cold. …Modern life, too, is often a mechanical oppression and liquor is the only mechanical relief.”

Letter from Hemingway to Ivan Kashkin, 1935

On November 8 the Smithsonian Associates featured MOTAC Co-Founder Philip Greene and his recently-released book To Have and Have Another: A Hemingway Cocktail Companion. The book has been highly regarded by critics from across the spectrum including the New York Times, Washington Post, Wine Enthusiast Magazine, Imbibe Magazine’s 2012 Holiday Gift Guide, as well as NPR to name just a few. Greene’s work can be best described in its first sentence as “a book about Ernest Hemingway and what he liked to drink, what he wrote about those drinks, and how to make the drinks that he and his characters enjoyed.” Guests were treated to a presentation by Greene highlighting Hemingway’s life, travels, literature and love of drinking which he incorporated into many of his stories such as Island in the Stream, For Whom the Bell Tolls, A Farewell to Arms, and Across the River and Into the Trees, to name a few.

Local DC actor Scott Sedar reads from Hemingway.

Greene’s book features dozens of Hemingway‘s favorite cocktails in alphabetical order, including the Negroni (which he discovered during his time in Italy) and of course the famous Daiquiri (served to him at the Floridita during his time in Cuba). This evening guests were treated to tasting of a Hemingway Martini, Jack Rose, Americano and Gin and Tonic (all recipes below). To accompany the cocktails and Greene’s presentation, guests were treated to readings of Hemingway by DC actor Scott Sedar.

Greene prepares a Hemingway Martini.

Greene pointed out that his book is a celebration of Hemingway’s drinks, his fascinating life, and his compelling manner of writing, in which he used food and drink to add depth to his scenes and characters.  Greene’s book, and the seminar, were not meant to encourage or celebrate excessive drinking. Though history may rumor that he was an alcoholic, Hemingway’s own opinion was that it should be reserved for times of pleasure, after the work was done.  According to biographer Carlos Baker, Hemingway “explained the nights of drinking as a necessary counter force to the daily bouts of writing which left him as whipped, wrung out, and empty as a used dishrag.” It was a “release,” “the irresponsibility that comes after the terrible responsibility of writing.” The book Conversations with Hemingway states that when he was asked if it were true that he took a pitcher of martinis with him every morning on his way to work, Hemingway replied, “Jeezus Christ!…Have you ever heard of anyone who drank while he worked? You’re thinking of Falkner. He does sometimes – and I can tell right in the middle of a page when he’s had his first one. Besides, who in hell would mix more than one martini at a time?”

The Hemingway Martini (found in Across the River and Into the Trees, A Farewell to Arms, The Sun Also Rises, The Garden of Eden, and Islands in the Stream)

Greene’s book explains that Hemingway would freeze ice in tennis ball tubes to assure an ice-cold preparation. Not to diminish the coldness, he would add frozen Spanish cocktail onions, his favorite martini garnish.

1 ¾ oz. London dry gin (we used Plymouth Gin and Beefeater 24)

1/8 oz. French (dry) vermouth (we used Noilly Prat)

Stir well in a mixing glass with plenty of ice; strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a couple of frozen Spanish cocktail onions or a chilled garlic onion. Hemingway sometimes garnished his Martini with a thinly sliced onion.

Jack Rose (found in The Sun Also Rises)

Greene’s book explains that the Jack Rose comes from mysterious origins. Some think it derives its name from its color, others think it was created by “Bald Jack” Rose, a gangster hit man from the early 1900s. Another story has it connected to a flower, the Général Jacqueminot Rose, named after one of Napoleon’s generals, Jean-François Jacqueminot. In another twist, Greene suspects the Jack Rose enjoyed in The Sun Also Rises is nothing like the standard recipe, but rather a version created by Harry MacElhone of Harry’s New York Bar in Paris (one of Hemingway’s haunts when he lived in Paris). But for that recipe, you’ll have to get his book.

2 oz. apple brandy (we used Laird’s Applejack)

½ oz. fresh lime juice or lemon juice

¼ oz. grenadine (we used Fee Brothers American Beauty Grenadine)

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

Americano (Found in “The Good Lion”)

The Americano got its name from American tourists visiting Italy during Prohibition who were big fans the aperitif. Apparently, they had developed a taste for one of its ingredients, Campari, an Italian bitter. Campari was thought to have medicinal value and Americans took advantage of a loophole in Prohibition allowing for it to be prescribed as a form of “medicine” by doctors. Completely unrelated to Hemingway, Greene explains in his book that the Americano is actually the first cocktail to grace the lips of James Bond in Ian Fleming’s first 007 novel Casino Royale. Now there are TWO conversation starters the next time you fix an Americano for your guests!

1 oz. Campari

1 oz. Italian (sweet) vermouth (we used Martini brand vermouth)

1-2 oz. Perrier (to taste)

Add all ingredients to a rocks or highball glass filled with ice. Stir. Garnish with an orange wedge or a lemon twist.

The Hemingway Gin and Tonic (found in “Islands in the Stream” and “The Denunciation”)

Quinine, which gives tonic water its distinctive flavor, was thought to help battle malaria and yellow fever. Greene’s book explains that “in India, British subjects would add a dose of quinine to their gin. This combination became popular in warm-weather climes, where such illnesses were common.” The addition of Angostura bitters gives the G&T a red tint, adding a bit of spice and a light, almost berry-like flavor as it interacts with the sweet tonic.

2 oz. London dry gin (we used Hendrick’s)

4 oz. tonic water

2 dashes Angostura bitters

Fill a tall glass with ice, add ingredients, stir, and garnish with a lime wedge or peel.

MOTAC wishes to thank the generosity of our sponsors, namely, Laird’s, Fee Brothers, Plymouth Gin, Beefeater 24 Gin, Hendrick’s Gin, Campari, Perrier, as well as our friends at Nike Communications, for providing Noilly Prat and Martini vermouth.

We would also like to thank Ruth Robbins, Program Coordinator of the Smithsonian Associates, as well as Scott Sedar for his dramatic readings. Additional thanks to Luke Johnson and Matt Keller for tending the event’s bar.  Thanks also to the great Smithsonian Associates volunteers!

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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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