Archive for LCL Contributors

B is for Bergamot, C is for Calabria

Posted in Cocktails, Exotic Citrus, Left Coast Libations with tags , , , on January 29, 2010 by Mr. Manhattan

Another in a series of posts about exotic citrus.

Those of you who follow my tweets (@manhattan_up) know I was recently blown away by a cocktail made for me by LCL contributor Brooke Arthur at Range. It was called the B-Line, a variant of their Third Rail cocktail, made with fresh squeezed Bergamot oranges. I left Range on a mission to find Bergamot oranges so I could re-create this amazing cocktail at home. Over the next few days I scoured the markets I know carry unusual citrus. When I inquired about them at my favorite Berkeley Bowl I was told only that they had come and gone. [See UPDATE at the end of this post.] However I persisted and finally located Bergamots at Monterey Market in north Berkeley. Joy!

What are Bergamots?

First, a bit of 411 for you straight from wikipedia:

The bergamot Citrus aurantium subsp. bergamia (Risso & Poit.) synonym (Citrus bergamia Risso) is a fruit the size of an orange, with a yellow color similar to a lemon, and has a pleasant fragrance. The juice tastes less sour than lemon, but more bitter than grapefruit.

The real magic in Bergamot however comes from the peel in the form of the oil it contains. This oil is not all all sweet or particularly citrusy (in contrast to orange or tangerine oils) and has a rather distinct rosiny character, which is not to everyone’s taste. It’s this oil which is used to give Earl Grey tea its unique aroma. (Actually, people are often surprised to learn this since orange is NOT what one thinks of when they smell Earl Grey.)

The best Bergamot fruit are grown in the province of Calabria in Italy, where the juice is used as a folk remedy for malaria. Reggio Calabria, the capital, is in fact sometime called “The city of Bergamot.” The fruit may also be made into marmalade, which after tasting the fruit, I could see being delicious.

NOTE: just after posting this I found a wealth of additional information about Bergamot oranges. Rather than simply re-state what someone else did so well already, I’ve elected to include a link for those interested in learning more to follow at their leisure. Here you go:

My Creation: Calabria

While I loved the B-Line (see recipe below), I felt the intensity of the Bergamot would be further complemented by additional spice and complexity, specifically a higher-proof bourbon than the Bulleit and an amaro in place of the Lillet (which is pretty lightweight). After a bit of tinkering, I came up with this libation named for the region in Italy where the best Bergamot fruit are grown.

NOTE: I wanted to continue the tradition of giving train-related names to derivatives of The Third Rail. Unfortunately, the tram system in the capital of Calabria, Reggio Calabria, doesn’t have a distinctive name. Here is a beautiful old photo of the capital with a tram to go with this delicious cocktail anyway.


1 1/2 oz. Old Grand Dad 114-proof bourbon
1 oz. Bergamot orange juice
3/4 oz. honey syrup (2:1)
1/2 oz. Amaro Averna
4 drops Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel Aged bitters
2 small pieces of Bergamot orange shell (after juicing)
A very long thin strip of orange peel, tied with an overhand knot, for garnish

Shake everything, but the garnish, hard over ice.
Double strain into a chilled coupe.
Garnish with the knotted orange peel.


1 1/2 oz. Bulleit Bourbon
1 oz. Bergamot orange juice
3/4 oz. Lillet blanc
1/2 oz. honey syrup (1:1)
1 – 2 dashes orange bitters
1 piece Bergamot orange peel or a small chunk of orange*
A thin strip of orange peel, for garnish

Shake everything, but the garnish, hard over ice.
Double strain into a chilled coupe.
Garnish with the orange peel.

NOTE: This cocktail just got a nice write up on Here’s the link.

(*) – The recipe outline on the Range blog “Cocktail of the Day” calls for the chunk orange but I am pretty sure Brooke made it for me with a piece of peel in the shaker.

UPDATE: A few days after first writing this, here’s what greeted me at Berkeley Bowl:

The moral of the story, I guess, is to take what the produce people there have to say with a large grain of salt.


SF LCL Bartenders Featured at Clock Bar Anniversary

Posted in Left Coast Libations with tags , on July 14, 2009 by Mr. Manhattan

Just back from Tales of the Cocktail (will do a bit of blogging on that later) but wanted to report that several of the SF-based LCL bartenders will be working guest slots with Marco Dionysos at the Clock Bar this week as part of celebrating its one year anniversary. Here’s the skinny:

Brooke Arthur (Range) & Neyah White (NOPA) will be there on Tuesday the 14th of July.

Erik Adkins (Heaven’s Dog) will be there on Thursday the 16th of July.

The Clock Bar is located in the lobby of the Westin St. Francis hotel, off Union Square. Marco’s cocktails (if you haven’t had them before) are simply divine. My favorites are the Uptown Manhattan and the English Breakfast (which will be featured in the book by the way). Marco also makes a mean Wibble, created by Dick Bradsell of London fame.

Of course, I am sure Brooke, Neyah and Erik will all be mixing up specialties of their own. Probably best to come early and bring a posse so you can sample all the goodnes.


Whence “shrub”?

Posted in Home Made Ingredients, Left Coast Libations with tags , , on May 18, 2009 by Mr. Manhattan

Over this past weekend I’ve had several occasions to tell people about the two shrubs which I put up (and blogged about) on Friday. Everyone asks the same thing after hearing about them: where heck does that word come from and what does it mean? I had no good answer till this morning when I finally got around to doing some serious web research. Here’s what I learned.

Our word “shrub” most likely comes from the Arabic “sharbah” (or “sharabb”) which is a syrup made from fruits and/or extracts of flowers and herbs, generally mixed with lime juice which serves as a preservative of flavor and color. This syrup is then diluted with water or evaporated milk before serving. In India this is called sharbat. Interestingly I was already familiar with sharbat as I had to research these flavorings as part of proofing Anu Apte’s recipe for the “Saffron Sandalwood Sour” just a couple of months ago. Having made sharbat and now shrubb, the case for a connection seems pretty strong to me.

Our syrup shrub would seem to be a variation on the sharbah/sharbat where the lime juice has been replaced by vinegar as a matter of practicality, I imagine, at time and place when limes would have been rare or non-existent. Exactly when sharbah/sharbat were introduced to the West is unfortunately lost in the misty “day after” of history.

Here’s a link to more information on sharbat (and sharbat recipes):

Tis’ the Season to be Shrubbin’

Posted in Cherries, Cocktails, Home Made Ingredients, Left Coast Libations, Stone Fruit with tags , , , , on May 16, 2009 by Mr. Manhattan

OK…it’s still a little early in the season for local berries to be stacked in low-cost abundance on the shelves at Berkeley Bowl, but raspberries and blackberries from the good old USA are now once again available. That, plus a good dose of the inspiration I received during last night’s seminar on home made ingredients given by Neyah White of Nopa and Jeff Hollinger of Absinthe (part of 2009 SF Cocktail Week) and there was nothing more to stop me shrubbin’ today than finding the right jars.

I’d been wanting to make a shrub for a while now. It was one of very the first special ingredients that caught my eye in the original version of LCL, called for in one of Jamie Boudreau’s contributions to that book. Here’s the recipe:

Clarke’s Conundrum
Jamie Boudreau

2 1/4 oz. Rye
1/2 oz. Pedro Ximinez Sherry
1/2 oz. Raspberry/Blackberry Shrub
3 dashes of Angostura Bitters

Stir all ingredients with ice.
Strain into a cocktail glass.
Garnish with a lemon twist.

[Here’s is a link to Jamie Boudreau’s own write up on this cocktail and a generally good introduction to the topic of shrub.]

I of course wanted to learn more about shrubs after reading this but by the time I was done with my research (and making bacon bourbon – remember that?), berries were long out of season. Living in northern CA where juicy ripe berries can be had cheaply and in abundance in season, I could not bring myself to buy Mexican or Chilean imports (to say nothing of paying the obscene prices these fetch). I would have to bide my time – which as it turned out was fully consumed making all the things I needed for the 100 new LCL cocktails, sadly none of which called for shrbb.

Anyway, today I started two shrubs, which I am choosing to make without cooking as suggested by Neyah White. One will be blackberry and raspberry (so I can make Clarke’s Conundrum) and one will be black cherry – to which I will also add some cinnamon and use balsamic vinegar when the time comes. Right now I am macerating the fruit with sugar and a little vinegar to control fermentation. (Oh, and I also muddled the cherries before adding the sugar. I just hope I used the right end of the muddler.) I also chose to use Turbinado (AKA Demerara) sugar for the cherries, mostly because I ran out of refined white cane and had a supply of it on hand. (I also seem to recall the Neyah said he favored “really dirty sugar” in his concoctions, so I think I am on solid ground having made this choice). Here’s a photo taken on my back deck of the beautiful macerating fruit:

Shrubs Macerating

I’ll probably let them stand for a couple of days down in my cool basement (it’s getting warm in the house) and then add the vinegar before I leave town for a few days. I’ll filter and try ’em when I return and let you know how they turned out in a follow up post.


One other thing I was inspired to do after last night’s seminar was to add a whole bunch of fresh orange peel to this bastard chocolate-orange-chili bitters I’ve been tinkering with for the last couple of months. It started life as something of a disaster (the story of which cannot yet be told) exhibiting almost no chocolate character when it was supposedly “ready.” I however could not bring myself to sink it. So I put it away and ignored it until about three weeks ago when I filtered it (dumping what was left of the original ingredients) and added back about 4 oz. of cacao nibs. About two weeks later (and after shaking it almost daily) I noticed it was finally developing a reasonable chocolate nose. I now have hope. I added the orange peel to push that component even further. Oh, and I also snagged what was probably one of the last Seville oranges of the season and threw the peel of that in there as well. I’ll also keep you posted on this. (Here’s a photo. Kind of pretty actually.)

Bastard Chocolate-Orange-Chili Bitters

Handy’s Heat

Posted in Cocktails with tags , on May 13, 2009 by Mr. Manhattan

A Submission for the Monteleone Cocktail Contest

As has been posted on several notable cocktail blogs, The Monteleone Hotel in New Orleans is hosting an online contest (in conjunction with Tales of the Cocktail) to find a new official Monteleone Cocktail, the original recipe for which was lost in the haze of the 1970’s (not a good decade for cocktails I guess). The winner will receive four nights lodging at The Monteleone during this year’s Tales gathering.

Now, I hadn’t been thinking of entering this but a couple days ago I was egged on to do so by my erstwhile business partner Ted Munat. Actually, I think Ted is hoping I win so that he can crash for free in my room. We’ll see about that.

Anyway, after putting some thought into what would make an appropriate Monteleone, I decided that in consideration of the fact it would be spending the rest of its life in New Orleans, it would need to “bow” in two specific directions:

First, towards The Quarter, meaning rye and absinthe.

Second, towards the Bayou, meaning cajun spice and heat.

After some tinkering, here’s what I came up with:

The Monteleone Cocktail (AKA Handy’s Heat)

2 oz. Sazerac Rye (or Thomas Handy Rye for more depth and kick)
1 oz. Orange Juice
1/2 oz. Lime Juice
1/2 oz. Agave Nectar
1/4 tsp Absinthe
5 drops Chili Tincture (see recipe below)

Shake well over ice. Double strain into a chilled coupe. Lime peel garnish.

Here’s a photo of the finished drink, which I must say went down very nicely every time I made it this weekend:

Monteleone Cocktail (AKA Handy's Heat) by Michael Lazar

Chili Tincture (ala Erik Adkins/Jon Santer)

Fill a jar with de-stemmed, intact Thai (or other small, hot) chilies and cover with Wray & Nephew Overproof rum for two weeks. Strain out chilies and store tincture in a sealed container. Handle this stuff with care!

Making the Rounds (III)

Posted in Left Coast Libations with tags on May 3, 2009 by Mr. Manhattan

Part III of reports on visits to LCL bartenders in SF.


Last Wednesday Scott and I headed over to visit with Duggan McDonnell at Cantina. After our last failed attempt to drop in (see the end of Part II) I exchanged a couple of emails with the man himself and determined a prime time when drinks could be had along with some conversation.

When I arrived (before Scott), the bar was already pretty hopping with nary a seat to be had but it was certainly not packed to the brim. I had the distinct impression that many of the folks here were semi-regulars, in for a post-work libation (or two or three). But then, after watching Duggan in action for a while, I became less certain of this. What I saw was that Duggan, working the well at the front of the bar, greeted each and every patron as they arrived, making them feel immediately welcome. (Though I could imagine this not happening if the bar became very croweded.) Duggan also made it a point to learn the names of the people for whom he was making drinks and then took it all a bit further by introducing adjacent patrons to each other. (The success of this “trick” was certainly aided and abetted by everyone having shared a few of his delicious cocktails.) In fact, of all the LCL bars visited thus far Cantina felt the most like a neighborhood watering hole – and something of a secret one at that with little signage out front. Here, I thought, was an example of how important a component is hospitality to a good bar and a great cocktail drinking experience. This should not be underestimated.

After Scott arrived and we settled in, we got down to business which was to try Duggan’s drinks from Left Coast Libations, both of which were on the cocktail menu. (Oh, and I should mention for folks not familiar with Cantina, this place is 100% cocktails and no food). As Duggan started to mix, I noticed two things right away.

First, there were the dishes of chopped ginger and sliced serrano chiles which play a supporting role in several of the Cantina cocktails. Duggan had made a point of submitting two cocktails each of which used some of the same ingredients so that (and I quote him here) “one’s mise-en-place could be minimalized.” Sage advise from a hard working bartender.

Second, Duggan was using Barritt’s Ginger Beer, an exotic import from Bermuda. When I first read through Duggan’s recipe for The Laughing Buddha I saw that the drink called for ginger beer but as ginger beer fanatics will tell you, these vary greatly in taste and quality. So I had Ted make an inquiry (I had not yet made Duggan’s acquaintance) and learned of Duggan’s preference for Barritt’s. Well, that took me on quite a journey! Even in today’s brand-crazed market Barritt’s was not readily found. Finally I just stumbled upon it at a very nice wine and liquor store called Beltramo’s in Atherton, down on the peninsula, about 20 miles south of San Francisco. (Well worth the trip, especially if you fancy unusual single malts.) Anyway, Duggan told me they had a wholesaler in SF keeping them supplied with Barritt’s. Handy.

After we enjoyed (all to fast) both The Laughing Buddha and The Misdemeanor, it was time to explore the rest of the menu. Of particular note was the Sommelier’s Sidecar, made with late-harvest riesling brandy, homegrown Meyer lemon, Cointreau and Sauternes (Carmes de Rieussec). Yum! I must confess that cocktails made with dessert wine to add sweetness are a new favorite of mine. But it was the brandy which really put this over the top. This had been made by Lance Winters at Hangar One. Cantina had purchased an entire barrel, though I guess that was a while ago. We didn’t ask but I’d hazard a guess that when this stock is gone, this drink will be off the menu.

By this point it was getting late, Duggan was off entertaining and mixing for other customers and we were getting hungry. (Remember I said there was no food?) Scott and I said our good byes and went off to put something in our bellies besides cocktails.

[CODA: I suppose I shouldn’t even mention our lack luster visit to B&B later than evening after we had some food. However, I feel somewhat compelled to do so. It seems that every time we go we wind up having a highly average experience. (And what’s up with offering an Aviation w/o Creme de Violette anyway?) If there’s someone out there feels they can help us manifest an exemplar evening at the place, do give us a shout.]