cocktail laboratory

January 24, 2014



“As God is my witness, this is for Science!”

So, we did Cocktail Laboratory at New Year’s Eve.

My friends and I have spent awhile now talking about various cocktails and mixed drinks, inspired by a micro distillery run by a friend of a friend in Golden.  Golden Moon Distillery is making some vintage liqueurs, like Creme de Violette.  This makes it possible to mix vintage cocktails from the 1920’s and earlier, that went out of fashion because the ingredients were no longer available, or because they just went out of style.  (I’m becoming fascinated with how cocktails come in and out of style, how the go-to drinks of fifty years ago vanish, how new ones come into being, and how the old ones get rediscovered.  Some of those 20’s cocktails, like the Aviation, are making comebacks.  My parents’ favorite drinks from the 70’s have disappeared. What the hell is a Harvey Wallbanger, anyway?  Turns out it’s a screwdriver with Galliano added.  Um.  No.)

Using recipes from Golden Moon, a holiday recipe guide, and my trusty copy of Steamdrunks, we set out to figure out some of these drinks. And because this was totally For Science, I now share what we learned with you.


(We used plastic shot glasses for taster samples.  I take full credit for this brilliant idea that meant we could mix one drink and share it between 6-7 people, and thereby keep sampling all night long.  I still got drunk, but it took like 6 hours instead of twenty minutes.)

We made a lot of drinks, and we made people write notes, so we would remember what we actually thought about the drinks.  See?  SCIENCE!

White Christmas #1: 1 oz vodka, 1 oz amaretto, 1 oz cream.  Shake with ice, garnish with nutmeg.  Really really nice!  Boozy and smooth.  (recipe found online)

White Christmas #2: 1 oz heavy cream, 1 oz vodka, 1 oz peppermint schnapps, and 1 oz creme de cacao.  Shake with ice.  Tastes just like a candy cane.  (recipe found online)

French Martini:  1 1/2 oz vodka, 1/4 oz chambord, 1/2 oz pineapple juice.  Shake over ice.  Really, really nice.  A big hit with the crowd.  (discovered on a trip last fall)

Fallen Angel:  2 shots gin, 1 tsp creme de menthe, juice from 1/2 lime, 2 dash of bitters.  Shake over ice.  Not just no but hell no!  Although I just saw another recipe for a different Fallen Angel that looked much nicer. (from Steamdrunks)

Orange Abbey:  2 shots gin, 2 shots orange juice, 2 dashes orange bitters, garnish with long-stemmed cherry.  Shake over ice.  One of my favorites.  The Golden Moon gin does really well with anything citrus — really opens up the flavor.  (from Steamdrunks)

Golden Lily:  1 oz gin, 1 oz dry curacao, 1 oz creme de violette, 2 dashes bitters.  Fruity and a little astringent.  Kind of meh. (Golden Moon recipe)

Aviation: 1.5 oz gin, 1/4 oz maraschino liqueur, 1/2 oz creme de violette, juice of 1/2 lemon.  It’s sharp, citrus, interesting. (From Golden Moon recipe)

The Elf:  1/2 oz Midori and 5 oz champagne.  This tasted just like a watermelon Jolly Rancher. This is not necessarily a good thing. (From a holiday recipe book.)

Candy Cane Martini:  1 1/2 oz vodka, 1 tsp peppermint schnapps, 1 oz club soda. Mini candy cane garnish. Shake over ice.  Ugh.  Medicinal.  Actually got worse with each sip. (From holiday recipe book.)

Here we get into egg drinks, which are kind of scary, but also very Victorian.  Many of our participants refused any of the drinks made with raw egg, even though for most of them we used pasteurized whites from a carton, rather than whole eggs.  (We did not try any of the curdled milk recipes, because just no.)

Egg in a Blanket:  1/2 shot Absinthe, 1 shot brandy, 1 egg white, 1 tsp sugar, 1 dash orange bitters.  Shake over ice, garnish with lime.  Quite nice, complex blend of tastes. (Steamdrunks)

Rummy Egg: 2 shots rum, 1 shot brandy, 1 tsp sugar, 1 whole egg, grated nutmeg for garnish.  Shake over ice.  This was a very bland drink.  Just like eggnog, basically.  (Steamdrunks)

Brandy Egg Cloud: 1 egg, 2 shots heavy cream, 1 shot brandy, 2 tsp sugar, dash vanilla extract. Shake over ice, garnish with cinnamon.  This tasted like ice cream, and totally needs more brandy. (Steamdrunks)

And now some absinth drinks (plus the Egg in a Blanket above).  Confession:  I am not a fan of absinthe.  I kept trying it, lots of different brands, with the right kind of loucheing, the wrong kind of loucheing with the burning sugar cube, and I just don’t like it.  So I was very curious about making mixed drinks from absinthe — I had never heard of such a thing.  Turns out, absinthe makes lovely mixed drinks.  Other flavors tone down the licorice, and you end up with really unique cocktails.  As Steamdrunks says, absinthe cocktails need very little absinthe, but they make a great hit at parties because they’re so different and exotic.

Green Russian:  2 shots heavy cream, 1 shot vodka, 1 shot (or 1 tsp, depending on taste) absinthe, 1 tsp sugar, mint leaf garnish.  Stir gently in a lowball glass.  This was a big hit.  Creamy and licoricey.  Fun. (From Steamdrunks)

Death in the Afternoon: 1 oz Absinthe, 4 oz Champagne.  I wasn’t a fan of this one, but some people were.  Exotic, but there are too many good alternatives to settle on this one. (From Golden Moon’s recipes.)

Lessons learned:

  • If someone doesn’t like gin, there’s nothing you can dress it up with to make them like it, even as nice a gin as Golden Moon’s.  I have discovered: I like gin. It goes so nicely with fruit.
  • Eggs and cream basically turn cocktails into dessert — most drinks including egg and cream end up tasting like cake.  This should come as no surprise, but it makes for a nice set of experiments.
  • My hatred for the current trend of infused and flavored rums and vodkas has only increased.  What in five hells would you ever want chocolate cupcake flavored vodka for? Especially when you get the same taste by mixing vodka, cream, and Baileys or Kahlua?  There are so many more interesting, classic liquors out there, based on actual real fruits and herbs.  If you’re trying to mask the booze, you’re drinking the wrong booze.
  • A drink with more than 4-5 ingredients has too many ingredients.  Unless you’re really into stunt drinking.

Another project I took on has been figuring out what the cocktail is that the bartender pours during “Snow” in the movie White Christmas.  When you google “White Christmas” and “cocktail recipes,” it turns out there are something like ninety hundred different recipes for drinks called “White Christmas.”  I have not yet discovered a drink that makes that lovely white froth.  The quest continues. (Yes, I understand the actual drink was probably just a prop made out of dishsoap.  I don’t care!  Much like Mythbusters, I intend on figuring out what it would take to make that drink a reality.)

12 Responses to “cocktail laboratory”

  1. Toni Says:

    What a fun night! And I’m willing to try many of these recipes. I’m ready to adventure into eggy drinks. Now, to get Good Company to make them…. Thanks for the review.

  2. Amber Says:

    I haven’t gotten a chance to try either the gin or the Creme de Violette (since it doesn’t seem to be available in any of the establishments I visit). I’m interested to see how their Creme de Violette compares to the other 2-3 ones that are currently on the market.

    It sounds like their gin is pretty traditional (and maybe a bit minty?…I have a few cocktails that I use for sneaking gin to unsuspecting haters, provided I have a non-juniper heavy gin. I highly recommend both the Leopold Brothers gins.

    Flavored vodkas are for lazy people.

  3. carriev Says:

    Golden Moon’s gin is quite juniper heavy — it was surprising, since I don’t think I’d ever had a very juniper-tasting gin. It’s got quite a strong flavor, in a good way. It makes the best gin and tonic I’ve ever had. Kind of spicy, almost?

  4. Janice Says:

    Love this! Sounds like a fun evening! And all I could think when I read this was how nicely the set of graduated cylinder ‘glasses’ we have would have been for your experiment.

  5. My favorite thing about ingredients no longer being available is that Kina Lillet, the aperitif used in James Bond’s signature “Vesper” martini, hasn’t been made in something like thirty years.

    But that didn’t stop both the first two Daniel Craig Bond movies, Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace from referring to it specifically, by name. I guess in James Bond World, they keep on making these ingredients forever.

  6. carriev Says:

    I’ve become a fan of the martini with a twist of lemon. So many variations to try, so little time!

  7. musicalmom Says:

    And, again, in the name of science, I thank you very much for some very good recipes!

  8. Jenny Says:

    I think this would be a blast with a bunch of medical students. A cocktail laboratory sounds like an intoxicating break from the regular routine – and sure to be educational. I can’t wait to try a few of these recipes.

  9. FD Says:

    I always thought that drink was likely meant to be a spiked egg cream recipie, but maybe not.
    The Golden Moon gin sounds interesting.

  10. Deb V. Says:

    Thank you for continuing your quest to determine what that drink was in White Christmas. Had i known this was your quest, perhaps I could have assisted somehow. I have lately become convinced it was some kind of horrid lemon daiquiri concoction, although why you would order that on a snowy holiday train ride to Vermont, I don’t know. Perhaps it was milk punch? It would have to be something suitable for the ladies’ delicate sensibilities, I think.

  11. JP Says:

    I have also been searching for the “snow” drink and I think I may figured it out? The Gin Fizz was extremely popular in the 40’s and 50’s and with the extreme amount of shaking and egg white to make a “meringue” I think it fits. Going to try it out over the holiday and let you know! Read the wiki if you aren’t already familiar, the history is pretty neat!

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