Friday, 20 June 2014

LOST INGREDIENTS: Aromatic Bitters

by Anistatia Miller and Jared Brown

We dare someone to say that they haven’t dashed bitters into a drink recently. We double dare them! Aromatic bitters and digestive bitters are the icing on the cocktail cake. They add dimensions of spice and dryness that complement the work of the spirits, vermouths, liqueurs and other ingredients that appear in nearly every cocktail, even the Mojito.

The Cocktail Renaissance has ignited a passion in cocktail classicists and modernists alike. Intrepid souls are delving into dusty volumes and not only reviving, but revising these potions to suit a new audience of drinkers. However, some of the original ingredients are lost and, for decades, forgotten. How can we convince cocktailians to explore and evolve lost classics unless we are willing to pull up our shirtsleeves and recreate missing ingredients?

We’ve personally gone a little over the top by growing our own botanicals whenever possible from wormwood, mints, licorice, rhubarb, borage, lovage, and bay leaves to angelica, verveine, bergamot (flowers), elderflowers, chamomile, calamus, and lavender, plus fruits: morello cherries, sloes, damsons, strawberries, cranberries, and currants. But you don’t have to spend all of your time gardening to experience and experiment with a variety of bitters.

Let’s start with Jerry “The Professor” Thomas’s favourite, Bogart’s Bitters, actually named Boker’s Bitters. Darcy O’Neil found the recipe in Robert Haldane’s 1883 book Workshop Receipts, Volume 2. (And we’ve added a few tricks for sourcing ingredients and making this elixir.)

40 gr quassia bark [aka: Quassia amara]
40 gr calamus [aka: Acorus calamus]
40 gr catechu [aka: a powdered extract of Acacia catechu]
30 gr cardamom pods, crushed [aka: Elachi or Elettaria Cardomomum]
60 gr dried orange peel [preferably Seville orange or bitter orange]
Macerate botanicals in a clean glass demijohn for 10 days in 2 litres rye whiskey. Shake daily. Filter through a jelly bag or a layer of chef’s muslin into a clean glass demijohn and add 7.5 litres water. Colour with dried mallow or malva flower petals. Age in glass for at least six months.

This is a bartender’s dream. A bitters that takes only a scant few ingredients to recreate and use in recipes such as Thomas’s posthumous version of the Martinez, which was added in the 1887 edition after Thomas’s death.

45 ml Beefeater Gin
30 ml vermouth di Torino
1 barspoon maraschino liqueur
1 barspoon Boker’s bitters
Shake ingredients over ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Why are we shaking? Because shaking enhances the nose on the cocktail and adds a creamy texture to the complex ingredients. 

The secret to making bitters such as these is to macerate in glass, not in uncharred barrels, which impart far too much wood into the liquid. If a barrel-aged character is desired and you don’t have a charred wood barrel formerly used for ageing bourbon or rye whiskey, you can purchase whiskey-barrel chips from culinary suppliers such as Polyscience® ( or Kentucky Barrels LLC ( Adding these to your filtered and diluted liquid in its glass container will provide more satisfying flavour and colour results.

According to some cocktailians, Abbott’s Bitters was the finishing touch on one early version of the Manhattan recipe and appeared in numerous drinks recipes during its commercial life from 1865 to the late 1940s. The replete bitters fanatic, Robert “Drinkboy” Hess found one recipe for this potion that’s made its way around the internet.

5 gr star anise, crushed
40 gr benzoin resin [a preservative available from aromatherapy suppliers]
20 gr dried bay leaves [aka: Pimenta racemosa]
40 gr cardamom pods, crushed (crushed)
470 gr whole cloves
16 cassia sticks [optionally, use cinnamon sticks]
6 gr dried spearmint
3 gr dried lavender [note: do not use lavendula as a substitute]
3 tsp dried yellow gentian
350 gr ginger root, chopped
14 gr grated nutmeg
8 gr allspice berries, crushed
225 gr tonka beans, cracked
Macerate botanicals in a clean glass demijohn for 10 days in 2 litres rye whiskey. Filter through a jelly bag or a layer of chef’s muslin into a clean glass demijohn and add 600 ml water. Age in glass for at least six months.

Considering the complex natures of bourbon or rye whiskey and sweet vermouth, there must have been some fascinating debates about the use of orange bitters or Abbott’s over the decades. But if spice is preferred over citrus as an enhancement, then by all means this bitters has its merits.

45 ml rye whiskey
20 ml vermouth di Torino
2 dashes Abbott’s bitters
Shake ingredients over ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist.

Another style of bitters that has found its way into the cocktail repertoire is the revival of French apéritif bitters such as Dubonnet, Lillet, Suze, and Amer Picon (a category that was popularized after Napoleon provided bittered wine rations to troops in his Egyptian campaign). Before the 1960s, there were numerous brands produced as regional specialties. One that piqued our interest was Bitters de Secrestat, which appeared in some versions of the Alfonso Cocktail, a sparkling potion that was first popularized around 1922, in the French resort town of Deauville. Simply a gentian bitters enhanced by a strong portion of citrus, we found a few recipes that can replicate this specialty from France’s Bordeaux region. This one gives you an idea of its character.

60 gr yellow gentian root, bruised
30 gr cassia sticks
75 gr fresh Seville orange peel
15 gr cardamom pods, crushed
Macerate botanicals in a clean glass demijohn for 8 days in 2 litres brandy or Jamaican rum. Filter through a jelly bag or a layer of chef’s muslin into a clean glass demijohn and add 1 litre water and 300 gr sugar. Age in glass for at least six months. Combine the finished liquid with a white bordeaux, approximately 2 parts wine to 1 part macerated spirit.

Matched against the classic mixture of lump sugar dosed with Angostura bitters and champagne, this “amer” style of bitters plays beautifully off the toast and citrus notes inherent in any champagne cocktail.

1 sugar cube
3 dashes Angostura bitters
15 ml Gentian bitters
120 ml champagne
Please sugar in a coupette. Dash bitters on the cube. Add Gentian bitters. Slowly pour champagne into the glass.

We are relieved that these lost ingredients are not so lost after all thanks to the treasure trove of old recipe books are now making their way onto the internet; to the daring mixologists who are blogging their bitters-making experiences; and the entrepreneurial mixologists who are commercially reproducing old recipes such as The Bitter Truth and Adam Elmegirab. And we raise a toast to intrepid mixological archaeologists everywhere!


by Anistatia Miller and Jared Brown

Arrack, arak, raki, arkhi. It is confusing. These are not all the same spirit, and people have been getting them mixed up for as long as international travel has brought them to the attention of international travelers. Arak and raki are middle-eastern grape-based spirits flavoured with anise. Arkhi, from Mongolia, is distilled from koumis, fermented mare’s milk that is frequently described as one of the least-pleasant beverages ever consumed for pleasure. And arrack was once a Hindi umbrella-term for all distilled spirits: One intrepid explorer wrote, in 1825, “The natives call our gin, English arrack.”

But arrack is not all spirits. It is one very pleasant—and almost completely forgotten—liquor produced in India, Sri Lanka, Java, and the Philippines. Actually, it is a few spirits. Still confused? Read on.

Although its birth is lost in history, there is no doubt arrack is one of the world’s oldest distilled spirits. It predates Scotch and Irish whiskey. It predates gin and genever. After Marco Polo commented about it in his memoir Il Millione, it was brought to Russia by Genoese merchants a century before the Russians’ love of mead and beer was replaced with a taste for distilled spirits. In fact, it is the parent of vodka.

Arrack predates all of the New World spirits. The taste of rum and cachaça would never have come about if it hadn’t been for arrack. The same Genoese merchants who introduced the spirit to Russian nobility also invested in sugar cane production throughout the Canary Islands. Besides making sugar, they produced arrack instead of importing it for their growing list of customers. So arrack was also the parent of cachaça, which was the parent of rum, rhum agricole, and ron.

Produced on the island of Java, Batavia arrack is distilled from molasses and water, using dried cakes of red rice and botanicals that contain yeast and other fungi spores that trigger the fermentation process. This technique can be traced back thousands of years to China and even predates the birth of distillation. The fermented molasses mixture is then distilled in traditional pot stills. The Dutch East India Company, in 1619, laid claim to Java and renamed the capital city Batavia: A name it would hold until the Japanese occupation, in 1942, when it was titled Djakarta.

The Dutch found very willing consumers throughout Europe, especially in Britain and Sweden. Arrack was immensely popular, during the early 1700s, in London. Considered superior to Caribbean rum, arrack was a higher-priced option for tavern-goers whose preferred drink at the time was punch.

Punch was introduced from India to Britain, during the late 1500s, by sailors who were enamoured with its remarkable flavour and its base spirit, arrack. Testament to its popularity, a 1737 illustration of a proposed monument to notorious Covent Garden coffee house owner Tom King featured casks of arrack and brandy, but no gin. Arrack was the drink of those who could afford better than the basics.

When Britain took possession of Ceylon (now, Sri Lanka) in 1802, following the French Revolution, arrack distillation was long established both there and in Goa, India. Unlike Batavia arrack, this liquor was produced from toddy, the fermented juice of the coconut palm, extracted by cutting the flowers from the tree and hanging a bucket below the cut to gather the free-flowing sap. No yeast is added. In fact, the sap has to be gathered in the mornings. The heat of the day sparks the airborne yeast in the sap into action, turning it from slightly sweet, milky water to toddy—palm wine—in a matter of hours. (The name “toddy” derives from the Hindi word “taree”, and was mispronounced as “terry” for ages before the British settled on calling it toddy.)

Toddy production has changed little since Marco Polo first described it in Il Millione. Toddy tappers climb to the tops of towering palm trees on sweeping plantations in Sri Lanka’s “toddy belt”. Here, they cut the buds from the flower stems and lower full buckets of palm water to the ground before crossing by rope to the next tree. It would make no sense for them to go up and down each tree. So groups of up to a dozen palm trees are roped together allowing the tapper to tightrope walk between them, adding even more of a challenge than just swaying 100 feet above the ground gripping a machete. The toddy was once distilled strictly in pot stills, though column stills are now in use producing a much higher quality spirit. 

The best-known drink recipe to include Batavia arrack is Swedish Punsch (aka: Caloric Punch, Arrack Punch). It has been for a few centuries, as documented by Pehr Osbeck, Olof Torén, and Carl Gustav Ekeberg, in their 1771 book A Voyage to China and the East Indies

“It is known to almost every one how punch is made; but, that it may be observed for the future where it is made to its greatest perfection, I will mention the true proportion of its constituent parts*. To a quart of boiling water, half a pint of arrack is taken, to which one pound of sugar, and five or six lemons, or instead of them as many tamarinds as are necessary to give it the true acidity, are added: a nutmeg is likewise grated into it. The punch, which is made for the men in our ship was heated with red hot iron balls which were thrown into it. Those who can afford it, make punch a usual drink after dinner. While we stayed in China, we drunk it at dinner instead of wine which the company allowed the first table.

[* If the English reader should be inclined to smile at seeing a receipt for punch so gravely introduced, let him consider that it proves the simple and abstemious life of the Swedes, and how little they are acquainted with those luxuries so common to the rest of Europe.]”

The Swedish East India Company first imported Batavia arrack, in 1733, which became the toast of the nation with songs being written about it and university staff and students embracing it as part of the cultural life of the campuses. Due to this growing popularity, Swedish Punsch was commercially produced beginning in the 1840s and is still available today under numerous brand names.

Can’t find this liqueur? Erik Ellestad recently researched and crafted this Swedish Punsch recipe:

750 ml Batavia Arrack
1.5 litres El Dorado Rum
8 lemons, sliced thin and seeded
750 ml water
8 teaspoons loose black tea
2 crushed cardamom pods
4 cups sugar
Place the lemon slices, rum, and Batavia arrack in a large container, seal and steep for 6 hours. Steep the water, tea, and cardamom pods for 6 minutes, then strain. Add sugar and allow to cool. Strain the arrack mixture and blend with the tea. Bottle and allow to rest at least overnight.

So, why did such a popular spirit vanish? The first blow was taxation. By the early 1800s protectionist import taxes were levied against spirits imported from the east, giving an enormous advantage in Europe—then the world’s richest market—to Caribbean and American rum producers. The British East India Company went so far as to ban the transport of arrack on its ships except for consumption on board. Rum production grew exponentially, while arrack production gradually faded.

However, Harry Johnson, in his 1882 Bartenders’ Manual, did include Batavia arrack in his recipes for English Royal Punch, Hot Arrack Punch, and this fine Cold Ruby Punch:

1 litre Batavia arrack 
1 litre ruby port
1.5 litres green tea 
500 gr granulated sugar 
Juice of 6 lemons 
1/2 pineapple, cut into small slices
Dissolve the sugar into the tea and add other ingredients into a punch bowl. Serve iced.

During the Second World War, the Pacific theatre witnessed horrific battles, and most arrack production ceased. In some places, like in Goa, it disappeared completely. In Java, it nearly disappeared (exports were almost solely sold to China and Sweden), but has come streaming back onto the world market only in the last few years.

Despite the external pressures, it is odd that arrack disappeared. Polynesia and the East Indies provided the inspiration, during the 1930s, for Trader Vic and Don Beach to launch the Tiki craze that now thrives around the globe. Yet, those first tropical drinks that they experienced were far more likely made with arrack—Polynesian rum. (Caribbean rum was simply an available substitute when they were mixed in the United States.) In fact, combined with Puerto Rican rum, Trader Vic Bergeron included in his 1948 Bartender’s Guide an Arrack Cooler:

45 ml arrack
15 ml Puerto Rican rum
1 barspoon fresh lemon juice
2 dashes gomme syrup
Shakes ingredients over ice and strain into a goblet. Add a large piece of ice, fill with seltzer and top with a champagne float.

Now that arrack has once again emerged, it is important to understand the differences between the two primary styles (differences that make them less alike than vodka and gin, for example). Batavia Arrack is a heavy, funky uncle of dark rum. It is oily and unrefined, rich both in pleasant flavours and harsh impurities.

Ceylon Arrack, by contrast, is a remarkably refined, soft and subtle spirit. It has hints of Cognac and rum character and a wealth of delicate floral notes, and would likely run screaming from a glass of its coarse Batavian namesake. (This style is not to be confused with Philippine Lambanog, which is distilled from coconut palm sap, but has more in common with moonshine and is rarely seen outside of the Philippines.)

The appeal of Ceylon Arrack has spawned three designations. Premium Aged indicates that the spirit has been aged in Halmilla vats for up to 15 years. Premium Clear, which signifies that the unaged spirit has been distilled or filtered more than once to achieve a level of softness and smoothness. And Common indicates that the spirit has been blended with other neutral spirits used as filler.

Isn’t time you should become acquainted with this great grandfather of so many of our favourite spirits behind the bar?

Lost Ingredients: Kümmel

by Anistatia Miller and Jared Brown

Kümmel. Few liqueurs from the early cocktail repertoire have so much confusion surrounding their names. Some say that it is a cumin liqueur. Some say that is a caraway liqueur. The Netherlands, Russia, and Germany have all claimed to make the finest. What’s the truth behind this herbal liquid with the German name? 

There has always been confusion surrounding cumin and caraway. Both are herbaceous annual plants whose seeds bear more than a close resemblance. In more than one country the names for these botanicals are frighteningly similar. In Scandinavia, caraway is called kummin, while cumin is called spiskummin. In Romania, chimen (caraway) and chimion (cumin). Even in German, kümmel (caraway) and Kreuzkümmel (cumin) walk hand in hand.

Cumin plays a large role in Asian and Mexican cuisines because of its strong aroma and flavour. It’s also used in the Netherlands to produce Leidse and Frisian clove cheeses. Caraway, on the other hand is more closely related to fennel in its character and appears in Scandinavian, German, Middle Eastern, and even British cuisine. In fact, one of the world’s largest crops of caraway is grown in the Netherlands and traditionally harvested in the dead of night.

According to Dutch claims, the Bols family produced a cumin distillate along with other products when it first established operations in 1575, in the Netherlands. It gained rapid popularity in Denmark and Latvia, where it was valued as a remedy for indigestion and children’s colic. A century later, the Dutch distillery de Kuypers, also put kümmel on its product roster. The simplest recipe for this liqueur relies entirely on cumin, distilling 900 grams with 11 litres 80° neutral grain spirit. The resulting 10 litres of distillate are diluted to 40° with 1:1 sugar syrup.

Kümmel won the heart of Russia’s Peter the Great, when he first tasted it in 1696 while living in Amsterdam for 18 months to learn shipbuilding (under an assumed identity, of course). He even went to the Bols distillery to see how it was made. Upon his return, he introduced it to his court. Naturally, it was an overnight sensation.

But this liqueur did not garner half the reputation or commercial success  it would see until a century later when, in Latvia in 1823, Dutch Baron von Blanckenhagen established the Allasch distillery on his country estate near Riga so he could produce his family’s personal kümmel recipe: a distillate of cumin, caraway, and sugar beet spirit. The business rapidly developed and, in 1850, the baron approached Ludwig Mentzendorff to export the product to London. The young man agreed on the condition that his name appeared on the label and the rights to the products were his and his alone. Thus Mentzendorff Kümmel was born.

It’s fair to say that Mentzendorff Kümmel was not the only Riga-based producer of this liqueur. Albert Wolfschmidt founded a distillery in Riga in 1847, producing vodka and schnapps, including kümmel and Riga black balsam. 

By 1868, kümmel made its mark on the British palate. Chamber’s Encyclopaedia defined kümmel or doppel-kümmel as the “principal liqueur of Russia” made “in the ordinary way with sweetened spirit, flavoured with cumin and caraway seeds, the latter usually so strong as to conceal any other flavour.” The entry included a critical comment: “there are two qualities: that made in Riga is the sort in common use, and is not the finest; the better sort is only manufactured in smaller quantities at Weissenstein, in Estonia; the chief difference is the greater purity of the spirit used.” Obviously, the British love for kümmel elicited passion, almost as much as for the country’s traditional seed cake, which is flavoured with caraway.

Around this same time, kümmel also made its way into the United States and into cocktail recipes crafted by Harry Johnson and Willy Schmidt. Johnson went as far as to recommend that every well-stocked establishment should have a bottle of “Allasch Russian Kümmel” and specified a “Berlin” kümmel for his Prussian Grandeur Punch.

(Use a large bowl.)
1 1/2 lbs. of loaf sugar;6 lemons, cut in slices;1 gill of anisette;1 bottle of Berlin kummel; 6 oranges, sliced;1 bottle of kirschwasser;
1/2 gallon of water;6 bottles of Nordhauser brantwein;1 gill of curacao.Stir up well with a punch ladle, and surround the bowl with ice, and serve in a wine glass.

Founded in Berlin, in 1836 by Carl Joseph Aloys Gilka, the J.A. Gilka distillery was famed for its Kaiser-Kümmel, which was favourite of royal courts in both Germany and Austria. This version contains a higher level of caraway than its Russian counterpart, thus making it easier to enhance with the addition of anisette.

 “The Only” William Schmidt made a vermouth family cocktail—The Beginner–that favoured the Russian style. 

A goblet with fine ice,
2 dashes of gum,
2 dashes of orange bitters,
1 dash of absinthe,
1/2 [glass] of French vermouth
1/2 [glass] Russian kümmel.
Stir this well, strain, and serve.

Numerous producers attempted to recreate both styles. A 1918 French distillation book, listed four formulae and a few cold-compounded recipes that blend botanical essences with spirit. Kummel de Breslau distilled cumin seeds, fennel, and Chinese cinnamon. Kummel de Dantzig employed cumin seeds, coriander, and orange peel. Kummel de Magdebourg upped the anise component by combining cumin seeds, anise, and fennel. The Bardi distillery in Livorno, Italy, opted to use cumin flowers in its “Doppio Kümmel Italiano”.

In the 1940s kümmel even made its way into Tiki drinks in the hands of Trader Vic Begeron, who crafted a Kaiser Cocktail.

3/4 oz gin
3/4 oz kümmel
2 dashes French vermouth
Stir with cracked ice; strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Then kümmel disappeared from the back bar, relegated to service as an after-game sip amongst British and Scot golfers who call it “putting mixture”: the perfect digestif after a hearty Welsh Rarebit. It is for that market that the Combier distillery in France’s Loire Valley continued to produce the Allasch distillery’s original 1823 recipe.

Was it because anisette, pastis, and other anise-style beverages were easier to acquire and cheaper to purchase that kümmel went off the radar? We’ll never know. But the complexity of kümmel—not in name or origin alone, but the excellent flavour–makes it worth further experimentation in this grand new age of cocktail making.


By Jared Brown & Anistatia Miller

Rumblings have been heard for a few years now about a lost ingredient that makes frequent appearances in The Savoy Cocktail Book and The Café Royal Cocktail Book: a citrus liqueur called Forbidden Fruit. 

Certainly Harry Craddock’s Virgin Cocktail and Tantalus Cocktail could be easily replicated by substituting triple sec and grapefruit bitters for the mysterious Forbidden Fruit.

Virgin Cocktail
1 part Forbidden Fruit Liqueur
1 part crème de menthe
1 part dry gin
Shake over ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Tantalus Cocktail 
1 part Forbidden Fruit Liqueur
1 part fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1 part dry gin
Shake over ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

But somehow this didn’t seem right when we read a description of the ingredient that appeared in 1937 in William Tarling’s The Café Royal Cocktail Book: “An American liqueur. The flavour is a mixture of grapefruit and orange. Colour, a red flame. Sweet, with a bitter after-taste. High alcoholic strength.”

Martin Doudoroff on traced the liqueurs lineage to Basque-born Louis Bustanoby, who owned the Café des Beaux Arts at 80 West 40th Street in New York before his untimely death, in 1917, at the age of 44 in his apartment above the restaurant. Opened in 1901, Bustanoby’s establishment was considered one of the city’s finest “lobster palaces”. The famed dining duel between Diamond Jim Brady and actress Lillian Russell took place there. But it was in 1911, that the restaurateur came up with the perfect business model: he added a dance floor in the cellar that employed “gigolos” to escort a new clientele through the latest dance steps. The most famous gigolo was the young and then-unknown Rudolph Valentino. 

His new clientele? Women. Bustanoby (nicknamed: Bust Anybody) installed the world’s first lady’s bar, a place where respectable women could drink the offerings of bartenders François and Gabriel, who catered to their whims. Sazeracs, New Orleans Fizzes, and vividly-hued concoctions where the most popular after an afternoon of shopping. As Françcois noted: "They wanted pearl-colored drinks, amethyst drinks, opaline drinks, and it keeps the establishment busy trying to think up new color combinations."

Even before the ladies’ bar was open, Bustanoby offered a Forbidden Fruit Cocktail—reputedly his own invention—so wives could savor a special sip whilst their husbands mused over a cognac or other strong digestif. We’ve only found one recipe for this libation in Boston restaurateur Louis Muckensturm’s 1906 book Louis’ Mixed Drinks:

Forbidden Fruit
Take half a grapefruit. Remove the pulp and turn the skin inside out, so as to form a small bowl. Put in two lumps of sugar and two liqueur-glasses of brandy. Set fire to the brandy, and when burnt pour the liquid in a liqueur-glass and serve while hot. For each extra person add one liqueur-glass of brandy and half a lump of sugar.

Muckensturm also detailed the recipe for an Orangine, which followed the same steps. Think of the character of the roasted-brown oranges used in a traditional Bishop recipe and you get the idea.

This seems like a very complicated drink to make in large quantities, which a restaurant like the Café des Beaux Arts would have commanded in its heyday. Its popularity was such that Bustanoby and his brothers Andre and Jacques started a side business, in 1905, bottling his cordial in a distinctive globe bottle with garnish gold ornaments.

Now Doudoroff further described this liqueur as a shaddock-based, while predecessors defined it as being of grapefruit origin. Which was right? The shaddock (citrus decumana) was allegedly named so because of British Royal Navy Captain Shaddock, who introduced the seeds of this Malaysian native to the West Indies in 1696. Not really a pomelo (citrus maxima or citrus grandis) not really a grapefruit (citrus x paradis), the shaddock is a rougher-skinned cousin that grows in Antigua, Grenada, Jamaica, and other tropical paradises. But was this the not-so-secret ingredient in the commercial formula?

It’s a possibility that it was. In a 1907 newspaper article titled “Real Forbidden Fruit” provides another clue to the citrus’s identity, stating that “The name forbidden fruit was given on account of the three dark brown stains, like finger marks, which invariably show on this variety of shaddock. The stains are close together on one side and are believed to be the marks of Eve’s fingers….” But the same article cautioned that: “Forbidden fruit is much liked by people who are able to get it fresh, so far it has not been shipped abroad as extensively as its cousins, the grapefruit and the shaddock.”

Not a grapefruit, not a shaddock, but a hybrid. The Manhattan restaurateur did own the city’s poshest lobster palace. It wouldn’t be a stretch for him to import such an exotic fruit. 

What was Muckensturm using in his takeoff of this beverage? Grapefruits had been cultivated in the United States since Count Odette Phillippe first planted them, in 1823, in Safety Harbor, Florida. Pink grapefruits were first discovered in 1906, while ruby grapefruits appeared in 1929. White grapefruits an exotic phenomenon that had only gained popularity during the late 1800s and without Bustanoby’s resources for purchasing ingredients that tickled the hearts of his fancy clientele, white grapefruits had to do.

Intrepid mixologist Eric Ellestad, on his Savoy Stomp blog, went to great lengths to replicate this secret recipe that when it passed from Bustonaby to Philadelphia distiller Chatam International after the former’s company went bust in 1921 was not as desirable, but was 100 proof (50% ABV)—there are some cognacs that proof that high! Ellestad missed pomelo season, so his macerated recipe goes like this:

Underhill Forbidden Fruit Liqueur
Peel from 1 marsh ruby grapefruit
Peel from 1 cocktail grapefruit*
Peel from 4 small blood oranges (golf ball size)
1 tablespoon cardamom pods, crushed
1 tablespoon coriander seeds, crushed
3/4 bottle vodka
1/2 bottle brandy
1/2 pound orange flower honey
1/2 teaspoon natural vanilla extract
Steep peels with spices in vodka and brandy for 2 weeks. Strain out solids and add 1/2 pound orange flower Honey and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. Shake to combine. Let stand another week and rack off clear liquid from settled solids. Makes about 750ml.

Other bloggers have tried macerating starfruit and the pulp of the pomelo to recreate the supposed character. But all have been done without actually tasting a bottle.

Guilano Morandin at The Dorchester worked, in 2010, with the hotel’s pastry chef Robert Petri to make a version that could be used in Harry Craddock’s signature Dorchester of London Cocktail. A tasting of both Petrie’s fresh creation and a 1930s bottle of Forbidden Fruit, revealed that the post-Bustanoby liqueur was “not that citrus and…not particularly sweet at all.” Petrie’s version bore the character of vanilla, lemon, grapefruit, and honey.

Dorchester of London Cocktail
2 parts dry gin
2 parts Forbidden Fruit Liqueur
1 part Cuban rum
Stir over ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Our minds turn back to Muckensturm’s recipe as the preferred inspiration:

In a dry skillet, roast the peel of an organic pomelo or shaddock over a medium heat until it turns light brown. Cool and grind into a powder. In a small saucepan, combine the peel powder with 500 ml cognac. Simmer on a low heat until it is aromatic. Filter through a jelly bag or coffee filter and sweeten to taste with caster sugar. Add red food colouring like the Chatam company did to create the “red flame” colour of the later version. Bottle for future use.

Now it’s your turn. The best way to determine if this lost ingredient works for you is to make a few different versions like the ones we have just presented. Then see which one makes your customers smile.

LOST INGREDIENTS: Parfait d’Amour and Créme de Violette

By Jared Brown & Anistatia Miller

The Aviation would never have achieved such a lovely hue if it hadn’t been for a soupçon of Crème de Violette. The same could be said for the aroma and tint that Parfait d’Amour lends to the Jupiter Cocktail. At the turn of the 20th century, these two floral liqueurs appeared in dozens of recipes. But what were bartenders really using? Were they both violet liqueurs? Their profiles are confusing as they vary from vintage cocktail book to vintage cocktail book.

Take Crème de Violette. Pierre Duplais in his 1855 book Traité des liqueurs, et de la distillation des alcohols provided commercial producers with an easy formula: “Infusion of Irises [Florentine] 12 litres; 85° ABV alcohol 24 litres; Refined white sugar 56 kilos; Common water 26 litres”. Blended together, the resulting spirit was given its violet hue with cochineal red and blue food colouring.

By 1918, American-style Crème de Violette was all the rage as the Aviation landed in Europe. A more alluring recipe appeared in Encyclopedie Roret’s Distillateur Liquoriste that year: “Blend the following ingredients with 7.2 litres 87° ABV alcohol, 11.2 kg refined sugar, and 5.2 litres water, then steep for 48 hours before filtering and bottling: extracts of violets 8 gr; redcurrants 8 gr; jasmine 3 gr; and roses 3 gr; infusions of Florentine irises 1.6 gr and nutmeg 0.02 gr; essences of Parisian neroli 0.4 gr; Nice geranium 0.2 gr.”

From this formula, one can imagine why the Aviation was such a hit and why the Blue Moon Cocktail also made its appearance.

Blue Moon Cocktail
60 ml Beefeater London Dry Gin
15 ml fresh-squeezed lemon juice
15 ml Crème de Violette
Shake ingredients over ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

The equally violet-hued Parfait d’Amour or Parfait-Amour was even quirkier in its profile, which some say had the aroma of violets, others say roses, and still others say coriander and lemons. Pierre Duplais once again offered a fast commercial solution, in 1855, to making “Parfait-Amour”: “Distill essences of the following in pure spirit: lemon 50 grams, citron 20 grams, coriander 1 gram. Colour with red food colouring.” The 1900 book La Distillerie dans le Monde Entier nearly concurred with this approach citing the main ingredients as citron and coriander. But this did not please everyone.

Recipes such as these led to the scandalous criticism of Parfait d’Amour in Eneas Sweetland Dallas’s 1877 cookbook Kettner’s Book of the Table which noted: “Parfait Amour unhappily is a liqueur which lives by its name and nothing else. We all like to taste that unknown bliss which is not to be found on earth, and we hope to find its semblance in the bottle. The liqueur is too true as a satire. Starting with the idea that love is a bitter-sweet, Parfait Amour is made of the bitter zest of limes, mollified with syrup, with the spirit of roses, and with spicy odours. It is in fact a kind of orange bitters spoilt. Whoever drinks of Parfait Amour says in his heart, this is a mistake. And therein lies the success of the liqueur: it has a rosy colour, it has a fine name, and it is nought. One trial is enough.”

What roses?!

A better, yet still not perfect recipe in Benson Earle Hill’s 1842 The Epicure’s Almanac: or, diary of Good Living gave a slightly rosier rendition even though it also lacked roses: “The peel of a dozen lemons should be bruised in a mortar, the strained juice added, then mixed with an equal weight of Cognac brandy; put these into a stone bottle, cork it down well, and keep it in hot water for ten days. Reduce a quarter of an ounce of cinnamon and two ounces of coriander seed to a fine powder, mix these in a quantity of clarified syrup, equal to the brandy and lemon juice. At the expiration of the ten days, add the sugar and spice to the former. Shake the jar or bottle well, and let it stand for ten days more in hot water, then filter through blotting paper, into case or liqueur bottles. … If you desire two sorts of “Perfect Love,” red as well as white, you may convert half the latter into a roseate liqueur by adding a drachm of cochineal and a drachm of alum to the other materials.”

It seems that long ago, the rose petals were cast aside for commercial reasons. Fresh rose petals are not cheap. Producers had to compete with  perfumers in the flower markets to gain these precious ingredients, especially in the perfume capital of the world—France. So what was the original recipe that gave cause for lament? One only has to look toward the eastern side of the Piedmont mountain range to find a clue.

Rosolio de Lavanda is a traditional Italian liqueur that not only provides the hue but the aroma that these authors sought to replicate. Macerate 30 gr lavender flowers, 10 gr rose petals, 5 gr orange flowers, 5 gr nutmeg, and 5 gr cinnamon stick in 500 ml of 85° ABV alcohol for 10 days, shaking the mixture each day. Make a syrup from 900 gr sugar and 1 litre water and add to the botanical mixture. Steep for 3 days before filtering and bottling. Decant after a few weeks to remove any remaining sediment.

With that profile, it is easy to understand where the English Rose got its name, not only from the colour but from the heady floral aroma, too.

English Rose
50 ml Plymouth Gin
20 ml French dry vermouth
15 ml Parfait d’Amour
5 ml fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1 barspoon pomegranate syrup
Shake ingredients over ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a cocktail cherry.

Perhaps the truth of a lost ingredient is that when people attempt to guess decades later what the old masters were using, they are more times than not absolutely wrong. And as commercial producers take steps to revive these ingredients, they sadly refer to manuals such as Duplais’ that offer the path of least cost and least effort rather than search for the essence of what made that ingredient a critical element in a cocktail.

That is why it is important to understand what flavours and colour an ingredient brought to the bar and then, if necessary, take the time to make it yourself to truly appreciate the inspirations of the past.

Lost Ingredients: Danzigwasser, Goldwasser, & Eau d’Argent

by Anistatia Miller and Jared Brown

In this episode, we visit an ingredient that adds a touch of gold (and sometimes silver) and spice to cocktails—Danzigwasser or goldwasser. And unlike the Swiss cinnamon schnapps that adds gold flecks to its clear liquid, this liqueur’s history has a tale to tell all on its own that reaches farther back in time than you might imagine that is as complex as its multi-botanical recipe.

Ancient Egyptians and Chinese believed that ingesting gold purified the body and soul. Alchemists in the empire’s intellectual cradle—Alexandria—compounded elixirs made with liquid gold that were touted as the perfect cure for numerous ailments. This belief was handed down to monastic alchemists throughout Europe who rediscovered gold’s health-giving benefits as they translated the ancient texts hidden away from the watchful eye of the Vatican. (Greek, Egyptian, Arab, and Indian treatises on the any of the sciences were deemed as heretic works until the Renaissance.)

During the late 1200s, Arnaud de Villeneuve (the father of European distillation and of eau-de-vie) distilled aqua auri [“gold water’] or aurum potabile [“drinkable gold”] “whose curative elements were claimed to be infallible.” (In his multi-volume Histoire de la république de Venise—written in the late 1700s—Count Pierre Antoine Daru noted that: “This tincture uninterruptedly for six centuries maintained a vigorous vitality as a popular medicinal drink or tonic, and such devotion may be attributed to that excessive zeal among erudite scientists to compound a sovereign elixir, elevating its possessor above the necessity of resorting to other remedies.”)

Italian alchemist Bernard of Treviso followed suit, experimenting with a “universal catholicon” [cure-all] during the 1400s which he also called “potable gold”. Borage sap, Narbonne honey, and a “mercurial sap” from a wine distillate were combined with white wine and gentian root, then filtered and aged to create a serum that “prolongs life, confirms health against all manner of maladies, even gout, and moderates heat in the bowels. It is good for sciatica, vertigo, and generally for all internal complaints”.

It may have been promoted as a cure-all, yet many European alchemists achieved positive results adding powdered gold to herbal elixirs to comfort sore limbs. Gold waters they were called. According to legend, King Sigimund II Augustus of Poland and Lithuania received a gift of “gold water” during his 1549 visit to Danzig, Prussia and sung its praises.

Enter Dutch alchemist, Ambrosius Vermeulen (or Vermöllen), who emigrated to Danzig some time before 1598 when he became a naturalized citizen. It was in this coastal city that he commercially produced a medicinal “gold water”—a Danziger Goldwasser. A century later, Russian tsar Peter the Great encountered Vermöllen’s elixir in 1697 during his “Grand Embassy”, traveling from Moscow through Riga, Mittau, Königsberg, Danzig, Berlin, and on to Zaandam. So delighted was he that he established a standing order for the liqueur to be delivered to his palace.

Naturally, this endorsement bolstered sales. The preparation’s popularity was such that the alchemist’s grandson Salomon Vermöllen relocated the business in 1704 to larger quarters in the Breitgasse. He and his brother-in-law Isaac Wed-Ling renamed the product Der Lachs zu Danzig Goldwasser.

Many competitors entered the market with their goldwassers over the the next century with distillation books offering numerous simple and complex formulas for making this elixir—some containing up to 20 botanicals, while others blended distillates of only the obvious flavours which were then sweetened with syrup and flecked with colloidal gold leaf.

One goldwasser recipe prescribed a 24-hour maceration of Chinese cinnamon, anise seeds, juniper berries, nutmeg, orris root, rosemary flowers, cardamom, clove, fresh orange and lemon peels in 85° neutral grain spirit to which a sugar syrup and gold flecks were added after filtration.

Another for Danzig Wasser blended distillates of Ceylonese cinnamon, Chinese cinnamon, lemon, coriander, greater cardamom (Amomum Subulatum) and lesser cardamom (Amomum cardamomum), and ambrette seeds with additional 85° neutral grain spirit, sugar syrup, and gold flakes.

A similar liqueur called Eau d’Argent had a more complex character, macerating young flowers from lilies of the valley, English mint, almonds, nutmeg, Chinese cinnamon, anise seeds, angelica root, cubebs, and cloves in 85° neutral grain spirit. The liquid was then filtered, sweetened with sugar syrup, suspending flakes of food-grade metal leaf into the finished liqueur.

Fast forward to Europe’s Golden Age of the Cocktail from the 1900s to the 1930s. Despite its long lineage, goldwassers were still incorporated into the bartenders’ repertoire as an enhancement to both gin and vodka cocktails. In William J Tarling’s 1937 Café Royal Cocktail Book, you’ll find a few examples of how this spicy liqueur and its counterpart silverwasser add a touch of posh to the proceedings.

created by C. Toni Watkins
1/3 Gin
1/3 Danzig Goldwasser
1/3 Cointreau
Dash Lemon juice
Shake and strain into cocktail glass.

created by Laurie Ross
2/3 Gin
1/6 Danzig Silver Water
1/12 Lemon Juice
1/12 Blue Curaçao
Rim the glass with sugar. Shake and strain into the prepared glass.

created by S.T. Yakimovitch
1 dash Peach bitters
1/3 Danzig Silver Water
1/6 Baczewski's Antique Liqueur
1/6 Lemon and barley syrup
1/3 Baczewski's Pearl Vodka. 

create by S.T. Yakimovitch
3 dashes Danzig Goldwasser
1 dash Angostura bitters
1/2 Italian vermouth
1/2 Zubrowka
Shake and strain off into cocktail glass, putting a small piece of lemon peel on top.

Today, Vermöllen’s Der Lachs zu Danzig is distilled in Berlin using the same recipe that delighted Peter the Great: rich in its botanical mix that includes cardamom, coriander, juniper, cinnamon, lavender, cloves, thyme as well as gold.  But there are other versions to discover such as the Polish Gdanska Zlotowka and Zlota Woda and the German Schwabacher Goldwasser.

Meetings with Legendary Scotch Drinks. Episode 6: Harry Craddock

The man who put London’s American Bar at the Savoy on the international bartending map during the 1920s and 1930s pushed the envelope to bulging when it came to crafting drinks with blended scotch whisky. He was also almost single-handedly responsible for elevating and championing the craft of British cocktail making at a time when the average Londoner knew little about these “American” concoctions called cocktails.

Harry Lawson Craddock was the youngest of five children, born on 29 August 1876, in the Cotswolds village of Stroud, Gloucestershire. His family worked in the garment industry. But Harry sought to carve out a different life when he grew up. Sailing from Liverpool on board the vessel Teutonic, Harry landed in 1897 in New York City.

Within three years of his arrival, Craddock was employed as a bartender at the Hollenden Hotel, Cleveland’s grandest luxury hotel. Some say he made his way to Chicago’s Palmer House for a time before returning to Manhattan, in 1906, where he stood behind the mahogany at the Hotel Knickerbocker alongside Eddie Woelke and Adam Heiselman under the guidance of James B Regan. There he finessed his style at making a variation on the Bobby Burns Cocktail, called the Thistle Cocktail.

45 ml blended scotch whisky
45 ml Italian sweet vermouth
3 dashes Angostura bitters
Shake over ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Squeeze lemon peel over the top.

Like Woelke, who made his way to Havana’s Hotel Sevilla-Biltmore, Craddock left the celebrity hangout after the hotel’s owner John Jacob Astor IV died, in 1912, in the tragic sinking of the Titanic. He went to Nassau, to work at the Hotel Colonial bar in Nassau before he landed a managerial position, by 1916, at the famed Hoffman House. It was then that he became a naturalized American citizen.

The First World War broke out during those years. Harry did his part—after taking a bartending job at another Manhattan landmark, the Holland House—by registering for the draft in September 1918. There was little chance that the 42-year-old barman would be called to serve. But the next major event in his life sent him back home. 

Prohibition was enacted in the US. That meant Harry was out of work. After 23 years in America, Harry applied for a passport and moved his wife Annie and step-daughter Lulu to London, where with his remarkable credentials at making American cocktails, he secured a position at the dispensary bar at the Savoy Hotel.

It was then that Harry’s star shined brightly. The newspapers chatted up Harry’s attitude about cocktails noting in London’s Catering Industry Employer that the “great American exile among English potations may not yet have broken through the phlegm of the Englishman. But the check is only temporary.” He had already placed 200 “American” drinks on the dispensary bar’s menu.

A few cocktails appeared at Savoy, not the least of which was The Barbary Coast, a creamy concoction that also went by the moniker Whizz-Doodle amongst the fashionable Bright Young People, who haunted the nightlife circuit around Piccadilly Circus.

20 ml Chivas Regal
20 ml Beefeater London Dry Gin
20 ml crème de cacao
20 ml heavy cream
Shake over cracked ice. Pour into a highball glass.

Although Ada Coleman and Ruth Burgess still held court in the Savoy’s American Bar, Harry managed to introduce the Blood & Sand Cocktail, a homage to Rudolph Valentino’s blockbuster silent film.

20 ml Chivas Regal
20 ml Italian sweet vermouth
20 ml cherry brandy
20 ml freshly-squeezed orange juice
Shake over cracked ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Then a strange set of circumstances changed the face of the American Bar. The influx of American A-lister tourists and Harry’s dedication to the trade put Ada out of business and put Harry in the driver’s seat. Why? Management realized that the hotel needed an AMERICAN bartender. Just like Brit-born Bob Hope and Cary Grant, Harry capitalized on his acquired American accent to win customer loyalty at the Savoy. Ada was sent to the hotel’s flower shop in 1926 and Harry was repositioned to head the American Bar.

The cocktail trend was in full force as was the Savoy’s popularity when the hotel’s management decided to publish a book of its recipes. Harry compiled the contents of the bar’s recipe index, adding more than a few future classics of his own such as the White Lady, White Cargo, and the Flying Scotchman, which celebrated the inauguration, in 1928, of non-stop Flying Scotsman train service from London to Edinburgh.

30 ml Chivas Regal
25 ml Italian vermouth
2 dashes Angostura bitters
1-2 dashes sugar syrup
Shake ingredients over ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. 

As the numbers of London bartenders grew by leaps and bounds, it seemed only right that its was time to establish a professional organization that served to standard recipes and hone technical skills. Harry, along with William J Tarling, founded the United Kingdom Bartenders Guild in 1933 to raise the bar in British bartending. 

Not to be outdone for cocktail business, The Dorchester in Mayfair rebuilt its bar in 1938. When it reopened, the fanfare not only celebrated its new look, but its new head bartender, Harry Craddock. He stayed through the bombings, the rationing, the shortages that were brought on by the Second World War, serving General Dwight D Eisenhower, who set up headquarters in the hotel during the planning of the Normandy invasion.

When peace rang out and London pulled up its sleeves to rebuild the city, in 1947, the 71-year-old Craddock decided it was time to hang up his white jacket and shaker for good. He had seen the zenith of cocktail’s golden age in America and contributed to yet another in Europe. His legacy still lives at the Savoy and The Dorchester as well as in the hearts of barmen around the world.

Want to know more about Harry Craddock?