The Super JC

The Super JC

First and, I guess, foremost: When I say "JC," I'm talking 'bout Jersey City, not Jesus Christ. Although now that I mention it, perhaps this post's/cocktail's name will SEO some hyperChristians my way. In which case, give God the glory and pass me the bar nuts, flock! I think Jesus was a cool dude with lots of nice things to say -- even if he did prefer wine over the hard stuff.

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The Champagne Martini

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I have seen recipes for champagne martinis that call for just vodka and sparkler. I have come across others (more than I would have guessed) that all swear by a spoonful of raspberry puree in the bottom of the glass, with some fizz and whatever else on top. And I have read that just bubbly and Cointreau is what constitutes a proper Champagne Martini -- if "proper" is even a descriptor we can properly use when discussing a cocktail that bears, at best, a second-cousin resemblance to a proper-proper martini-martini.

My new favorite acronym is MINO -- Martini in Name Only. It was, I will admit to you devout drinkers, a fact of life I had to swallow (straight, no chaser) when I agreed to author a cocktail book called The Big Book of Martinis for Moms. Clearly, not all 175+ recipes in the book are vodka- and or gin-based, for one thing. Believe you me, I did strive to make as many of the book's recipes fall in line with a classic martini's most hallowed guidelines. As it turns out, Mom does not live on vermouth alone.

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Anyway, I wasn't down with all of those other Champagne Martini variants referenced above. Just vodka and bubbly? Too stiff and fumey. With a spot of jam? I'm intrigued (and inclined to adopt a British-nanny affect), but sounds messy, so pish-posh, ol' chum, and fanks but no fanks! (Besides, I don't think moms need any more messes to clean up. For that matter, do any of us?) Cointreau and champagne? OK, but can't we do better than that?

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Here's better.

The Champagne Martini

3-4 ounces champagne

3/4 ounce Cointreau

1/2 ounce Luxardo maraschino liqueur

2 dashes Fee Brothers Peach Bitters

Combine Cointreau, Luxardo, and Fee Brothers Peach Bitters in an ice-filled mixing glass. Stir briskly for about a minute with a bar spoon. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Top with champagne.

Tasting Notes

Obvs, you can use either capital-C Champagne (du France) or little-c champagne (sparkling white wine) for this recipe, just whatever you have on hand.

For that matter, you can forego big-C Cointreau and just use little-t triple sec if that's what you've got.

Lastly, speaking of drink-it-if-you've-got-it, I find this is a great recipe for leftovers. Like when you need something to do with that opened bottle of bubbly, and who doesn't always have way too much triple sec on hand? (I swear my bottle of triple sec predates Will & Grace.) Leftovers -- they're not just for moms!

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The Clifton Heights

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Hey, bourbon face! Are you as cray-cray in love with bourbon as this blotto besotted bourbonperson is? Do you eat, drink dream drink and sleep drink bourbon? Have you considered naming a pet and/or child Bourbon?

Then have I got a cocktail for you! Like me, you're probably always on the hunt for yet another way to enjoy your bourbon. After all, just because you can't spell "Manhattans" without "man" doesn't mean man should live on Manhattans alone! So here's what you're gonna do. You're gonna add pineapple juice to your Manhattan.

I'll wait a moment for you to finish going pppppppppppffffffffttttttttttttttttt... wuhhhhhh?

Gonk2 (1)

A bourbon Manhattan with pineapple juice is what we at The Royale Food & Spirits (my old muddling ground) used to call The Clifton Heights. The Royale's cocktail menu named a drink for each of the city's 28 wards, and I liked Clifton Heights the drink so much, I even went in my car once and hunted down Clifton Heights, the tucked-away, little-known nabe. Just as it was described in its bit of verbiage on The Royale's original cocktail menu (beautifully penned by Tim O'Connell, truly the Gateway City's greatest nonprofessional cocktailian), Clifton Heights is leafy and reclusive; Clifton Heights the cocktail was  similarly the perfect potable for contemplation.

Now, when I say "we" at The Royale called it the Clifton Heights, who I'm really talking about is me and those puzzled patrons who listened politely as this wackadoo, way-over-enthused barmaid tried to sell them on the rounded, mellow wondrousness of this cocktail. I get it; it sounds weird at best, icky at worst. But please, do give it a try. I have loved this cocktail every time I've had it, and I've had it at home dozens of times (as well as at many bars where I've asked the bartender to mix it up for me).

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I know that you hear pineapple juice and you think of something very tart, perhaps too sugary, maybe even a silly-tiki-tini sort of thing. But the pineapple juice here does not overpower the other three ingredients. In fact, it's one of those cocktails that becomes more than the sum of its parts. If I'd had my first Clifton Heights while blindfolded, I would have done a very bad job of guessing what was in it. (The sign of a good recipe, no?)

If it helps make it sound more palatable, the Clifton Heights is really just an other-side-of-the-Rorschach-test cousin to The Algonquin, with bourbon instead of rye and sweet instead of dry vermouth.

So what are you waiting for? Order now!

The Clifton Heights

(Based on how I remember making it at The Royale Food & Spirits in St. Louis)

2 ounces Buffalo Trace

3/4 ounce Martini & Rossi sweet vermouth

2 dashes Angostura Bitters

1 ounce pineapple juice, preferably freshly squeezed

Maraschino cherry, to garnish (optional)

Combine all ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously for about 20 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Add garnish if so desired.

Tasting Notes

I've had a Clifton Heights made with both fresh pineapple juice and canned. Obviously fresh is always best, but the one-ounce measurement I suggest here will work with either.

If you look at the first pic in this post, you'll see lotsa little ice floes. I love ice-floes drinks! (That means ones where you shake 'em so hard, your ice cubes break down a bit and some floes are freed through the strainer and into the drink.) I think ice floes are so much fun and a good indicator that you've shaken your drink strenuously enough.

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The Bonne-Bonne

Bon Bon Blog01

When I was penning The Big Book of Martinis for Moms -- because that's how one writes a book; one pens them ever so eloquently; one doesn't thrash at one's laptop until the "c" key gets permanently stuck or try to organize one's writer-blocked thoughts by haphazardly slapping a bajillion Post-Its on the wall like a mental patient -- I had an idea for a chocolate-cherry cocktail.

If you've readskimmed why haven't you bought this book yet please buy this seen the book, you know that the cocktail recipes therein each correspond to a particular feat of motherhood that deserves a potent, potable reward. So like babyproofing the house is an accomplishment that calls for a Rusty Nail, while helping with homework earns Mom a Brainstorm. The chocolate-cherry cocktail, I thought, would be a mother's just desserts on those blessed afternoons or evenings when she gets to do nothing at all, fluffy-slippered feet resting atop the coffee table. In other words, like drinking a bonbon.

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Unfortunately, I knew that actually inventing said cocktail would not be so easy-breezy. Chocolate and cherry are two very forceful flavors. I find that sometimes when I try to combine two big, bold tastes like that, I wind up with a flavor profile that's somehow less than, or even worse than, the sum of its parts. It can taste entirely like one flavor and none like the other, or two two can meld into something downright blech-y.

Anyway, one way I snuck around those problems was by relying on cranberry juice, which provided a lovely hue (seriously, cranberry juice really does pretty up a drink) as well as an easygoing companion, palate-wise, to my white creme de cacao.

The Bonne Bonne (which I've given a French feminine spelling) wound up not making it into the book. Quel mal-mal for the book but goody for us!

The Bonne Bonne

1 1/4 ounces vodka

3/4 ounce white creme de cacao

2 ounces cranberry juice cocktail

2 dashes chocolate bitters

Combine all four ingredients into an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously for about 20 seconds and strain into a chilled cocktail or martini glass.

Tasting Notes

I didn't have any Three Olives Cherry vodka on hand while testing out this recipe, but I'd bet it's an ever better ingredient to use in this instance that straight-up vodka.

An even bigger cheat: You can make a drink with equal parts chocolate vodka and cranberry juice. Not bad at all. (Ghetto Bonne Bonne, anyone?)

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The Expat

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Fitting as it may be, I did not name this cocktail.

Lantern's Keep did. Lantern's Keep being a swankadoodle cocktail spot inside NYC's Iroquois Hotel on West 44th Street. I've never visited there, but I'm already kinda in love with the place just based on its website, where it describes itself as "a salon devoted to the art and enjoyment of great cocktails. This secretive salon [seems to be a speakeasy-style place located off the hotel lobby, hence the need for the lantern] is already luring cocktail aficionados in and transporting them back to a turn-of-the-century Parisian salon." Which immediately makes me think: Midnight in Paris! C'est l'age d'or, Marion Cotillard! I want in!

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Now what I liked about this cocktail right off the bat -- before I even tasted or tried making it, when I'd only read about it in Life & Style Magazine (um, which I was reading... on a plane? While getting a mani-pedi? Let's go with that one) -- was its simplicity. The more I experiment with cocktails, the more I appreciate those that get to the point, that express an intention and just get over themselves and get on with it already in as few ingredients as possible.

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The L&S write-up didn't mention how much Angostura to use, so I started with one dash. I mixed that up, and in one sip I went to my happy place; immediately, visual pictures of me cozied up in alluringly dim cocktail boites came to mind. The PhoBlograpHusband tried it and felt it had a too-sweet-bordering-on-cloying finish, so I made another with two dashes of bitters. The result was simultaneously a) weirdly muted, b) all tartness with no anchoring bottom note, c) completely devoid of any sort of finish at all.

It's amazing how much a quarter-ounce of syrup, or a single dash of bitters, really matters in a cocktail.

The Expat

(based on Lantern's Keep's recipe as printed in Life & Style)

2 ounces Buffalo Trace

1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice

3/4 ounce simple syrup

1 dash Angostura bitters

Mint sprig, to garnish

Combine liquid ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously for about 20 seconds. Strain into a chilled coupe glass. Give your mint sprig a smack and then arrange it atop the drink to garnish.

Tasting Notes

Let me explain, if necessary,what I just wrote about the mint sprig slap. This is something commonly done at your better cocktail lounges and I've been remiss not mentioning it here. The mint's not just something pretty to look at or a pop of contrasting color; it really does make a difference in your overall enjoyment of The Expat if you get that whiff of mint up the shnozz right as you're taking a sip. By smacking the mint, you get an extra release of those minterrific notes. You're literally smacking the mint outta that mint. So hold your sprig by the stem with one hand and give it a thwap! against the open palm of your other hand.

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