Tag Archives: Bitters

The Connemara Spirit

Spirit.  Sugar.  Bitters.


The building blocks of the classic cocktail.

This month’s Mixology Monday hosted by Sass & Gin is a back to basics with a twist.  We start with the venerable Old Fashioned.  Perhaps the drink that most defines or even originates the concept of a cocktail.  My preferred version is made with 1 sugar cube muddled with 2 dashes Angostura, 1 dash Orange Bitters, and a barspoon of water.  Then firmly press in a large orange peel and pour in 2.5 ounces of Rye.  Add a large sphere or cube of ice and stir until well chilled.

Orange Peels

Sass & Gin has tasked us to take that classic and push it outside the box.

Here it goes.


Since we are all feeling a little Irish this time of year, I thought it fitting to offer up an old fashioned cocktail with one of the world’s oldest spirits: Poitin (say potcheen) derived from the Gaelic word for little pots, as in pot-stills.  Early records apparently report distilling in Ireland way back in the year 584 by Irish monks.  Traditionally made with malted barely, potatoes, and sugar beets, poitin is typically an un-aged Irish moonshine.  It was “outlawed” (or prohibitively taxed) in 1661 by King Charles forcing distillers to ply their craft in hiding, evading the excise men, for the next several hundred years.  So, in a way, you could say that Poitin is the spirited distillate of Irish independence.

The Glendalough mountain-strength Poitin I’m using is rather intense.  It’s got some burn, but it also has a pleasant woody quality with a grape-like fruitiness, maybe a bit of green apple peels and a touch of lime.  A pinch of spice, clove?  My first attempts at this drink used straight-up, mountain-strength.  And well, it was too much…too much to achieve proper balance that is.  So, I backed it off and ‘gasp,’ diluted it a bit.  In the future, I will purchase either the regular strength or the sherry cask finished version rather than the mountain.


Now for the sugar.  I tried a bunch of options.  Molasses was overbearing.  Maple didn’t jive.  Simple syrup was too simple.  Demerara syrup could work.  However, it was a 1:1 honey syrup made with a fall honey that we got from a friend that made it sing.  During the fall, the bees feast on the aster flowers and the resulting honey has a vivacious floral, herbal aroma along with a deep amber color and a heavier flavor than that of, say a spring honey.

Expell the Oils

Bitters…  I really wanted this drink to have some exotic bitters in it, but in the end, I liked the Angostura and Orange bitters best.

Here you have it:


The Connemara Te (pronounced tay)

1.5 oz Poitin, Mountain-Strength

.5 oz Cold Water

.5 tsp Honey Syrup

2 dashes Angostura Bitters

1 dash Orange Bitters

4 drops Orange Blossom Water

Orange Peel


Combine the honey syrup, bitters, and orange peel in the bottom of an old fashioned glass.  Use a muddler to press out the citrus oils.  Add the water and give it a swirl or two with the muddler.  Then add the poitin, the orange blossom water, and ice.  Stir with a barspoon until well chilled.

Note:  I suspect that if I were to use a lesser proof of poitin, I would find this drink quite agreeable using 2oz of spirit and only a barspoon of water.  However, I’ll have to confirm that some other time.

Other Note: Connemara Te is a reference to the song The Hills of Connemara, which is about Irish moonshiners.  In the song they refer to the ‘shine as mountain te.  ‘Te’ is the gaelic word for tea.

To see a round-up of all the great contributions to this month’s Mixology Monday click here.

Connemara Te

Happy Saint Patty’s Day!


Blue In Green: MxMo XCIII

Blue like the January sky.

Blue ghosts cross a white field

Ice blossoms dance in cold sunlight

Blue is the memory of color.

Chilling the Coup

Anyhoo, Blue is the theme for this month’s Mixology Monday hosted by Ginhound!  The blue cocktail trend is supposed to become a thing, so this seems very a la mode.   I’m not really one to add food coloring to my drinks just in order to turn a perfectly good martini blue, or a beer green.  However, it is near impossible to walk a hard line on food coloring.  I’m pretty sure that Campari contributes a fair amount of it, as does Angostura and a host of other common occupants of my bar, for that matter.  But as for just adding a few drops of blue… well, that would be too easy anyway.

So, I originally set out thinking about how I could turn a drink blue more naturally.  (I also didn’t have any Blue Curacao or other blue liqueur.)  Ginhound had plenty of good ideas of using red cabbage, blueberries and the like, which could totally work, but I wasn’t feeling it.  Then I thought about ingredients that have blue in the name, then cocktails that have blue in the name…  But that’s when things got more interesting.  I started thinking about blue outside the food context and things/feelings associated with that color/word.  The challenge to create something around an abstract theme is exciting!

Enter Miles Davis

A smoky, blue lit club swirling sounds about the atmosphere.  Jazz always has had this hazy blue vibe to me.  Not all jazz recordings of course, but rather the general idea of it.

Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue is one of the greatest jazz albums of all time.

“Why does Kind of Blue possess such a mystique? Perhaps because this music never flaunts its genius…. It’s the pinnacle of modal jazz — tonality and solos build from the overall key, not chord changes, giving the music a subtly shifting quality….”  – AllMusic senior editor Stephen Erlewine

Let’s create a cocktail inspired by Kind of Blue!

Establishing 1

After listening to the record, I knew right away that the rounded sophistication of the sound called out for cognac.  Naturally, my thoughts turned to the Vieux Carré, hailing from the land of jazz with a solid base of cognac.  But I didn’t want to just make a classic cocktail.  I wanted something that spoke to the source material more specifically.


The finer details of the drink, therefore, needed more boundaries.  So, I narrowed the album down to one track in particular, Blue in Green.  The soft piano and bass undertones would be played nicely by the cognac.  An accent of scotch for my smoky haze.  The brassy inflections that pop above those undertones add complexity and high notes to the sound and really make the music interesting.  Bitters and a twist of lemon.  A little sweet vermouth to echo the Vieux Carré, add mouth-feel and round it all out.

Let’s swirl some green chartreuse into a chilled coup for the improvisation and a subtle shout out to another New Orleans classic.  Then, we’ll pour our Blue into the Green!


The Stir

The Pour

From Above

Blue in Green

1 oz  Cognac

1 oz  Scotch

1/2 oz  Sweet Vermouth

2 Dashes  Angostura Bitters

2 Dashes  Peychaud Bitters

2 Dashes  Orange Bitters (Fee Bros.)

1 Bar Spoon Green Chartreuse

Lemon Peel for Garnish

Set a cocktail glass to chill.  Combine the first 6 ingredients in a mixing glass/tin.  Add ice and stir.

In the chilled glass, add a bar spoonful of green chartreuse and swirl it around the glass.

Strain the contents of the mixing glass into the coup, twist the lemon peel over the drink to release the oils and garnish.


Blue in Green – a “subtly shifting” cocktail.

Check out the Mixology Monday round up here.

The Revolver

I ran across this drink while trying to figure out what to do with my newly created coffee liqueur.

The Revolver was created by Jon Santer of Bourbon and Branch in San Francisco.  The next time I happen to be in San Fran, I will definitely be stopping in.  I’m not exactly sure how the drink came about, the inspiration behind it and what not, but if you’re out there Jon, would you care to comment?  Otherwise I shall be forced to come up with an outlandish story…

The recommendation is to use a rye-heavy bourbon such as Bulleit, Buffalo Trace, Eagle Rare.  Honestly, I think, any bourbon would probably work, but the rye edge gives the drink it’s spicier character which balances the rich sweetness of the liqueur and helps to bring out the earthy coffee tones.  You could use Tia Maria (that’s what Jon used) or other coffee liqueurs, if you did not make your own.  For the bitters, I used Scrappy’s Orange Bitters which have a bright, sharp zip to them.  Fee Bros would be a second choice.  Regan’s Orange Bitters No. 6 would work, too, but  think the fresh orange quality of those other bitters helps tie the drink together more so than the spicier Regan’s would.

The Revolver

2 ounces Bourbon

1/2 ounce Coffee Liqueur

2 dashes Orange Bitters

Combine with ice in a mixing glass and stir, about 40 revolutions.

Strain into a cocktail glass.  Garnish with an orange peel, flaming optional.

(How to Flame a Citrus Peel coming soon…)

I tried one version of the Revolver with a flamed orange peel and one without.  The caramelized sugars of the peel brought out the creamy caramel notes in the liqueur and bourbon which nicely smoothed and rounded the flavors.

The ashiness of the coffee liqueur still came through (see coffee liqueur #1).  It wasn’t undrinkable or anything, but I felt that it took away from the sweet balance in the drink.  A round 2 with the coffee liqueur is going to happen.  And soon.

To compensate for the ashy liqueur I made:

The Revolver 2.o

2 oz Bourbon

1/2 oz Coffee Liqueur

1/2 tsp Sweet Vermouth (Noilly Prat)

3 dashes Orange Bitters

2 Orange Peels

One of those orange peels was added to the mixing glass along with the vermouth and bitters.  I gave it a light muddle, to press out the oils, not to pulverize.

Then added the bourbon and coffee liqueur, filled with ice and stirred.  Strained out into a cocktail glass and garnish with the other orange peel, which got a little flame treatment as well.

The goal here was to better utilize the coffee liqueur I made by boosting the sweetness and the orange-y essence.  Taking a note from one of my favorite cocktails, the Manhattan, I felt the vermouth would provide enough sweetness while contributing to the overall complexity of the drink.  It is a small enough addition to almost fly under the radar, but large enough to move the drink in the direction I wanted it to go.

The muddled orange peel and additional dash of bitters were enough to successfully connect with the hint of orange peel in the liqueur and to really make the aromatics pop.

I think succeeded in making the other elements of the drink more diverting and only, lightly masking the ashy finish. There was an awkward bitterness in the finish, not ashy, but distracting.  Still not quite there.

24 hours later – I made both of these drinks again, just for the photos…  This time we liked the first rendition of the Revolver better.  The ashy quality from the night before was more subdued.  Not really sure why.  The first time through we used Bulleit and this second time we used Eagle Rare.  That might have made the difference.  I also did a better job on flaming the peels.  On version 2.0, that odd bitterness was still there like a sore thumb.  We found it more unpleasant then the new, less ashy version of 1.0.

Let’s revisit this when the new coffee liqueur is ready.

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