Cocktail Ingredients: Homemade Orgeat Syrup

Among cocktail ingredients, orgeat syrup is somewhat esoteric. There is one colossally classic drink that requires it – the Mai Tai – and several other unusual and not-often-seen cocktails that call it into service as well, including the Momisette, “the Japanese cocktail” and the Trinidad Sour. The main thing that orgeat brings to the table is a milky, nutty sweetness, often used to balance out strong bitter flavors. I was eager to make a Trinidad Sour at home, a drink known for its overwhelmingly heavy use of Angostura bitters as a primary ingredient, and sought out some orgeat. Commercial versions are available, most commonly one from Fee Brothers, but the ingredient list will turn off anyone opposed to the use of corn syrup and artificial flavors in their cocktails. Making orgeat at home is not that difficult, but does require a bit of time and procuring some orange blossom water, a minor but vital ingredient.

I followed the recipe found on Imbibe’s website. It will take a total of 6 hours or so, most of it spent soaking chopped-up almonds in water. And, other than the orange blossom water, the ingredients are simple – raw sliced almonds, water, a bit of vodka, and sugar. Once made, the orgeat syrup will last for several weeks, but I highly recommend making use of it in a variety of cocktails to get a feel for what orgeat can do. One thing to note is that the milky color and density of the syrup has a tendency to make cocktails look like absolute crap (see photo of Trinidad Sour below, one of the ugliest cocktails I’ve ever seen).

So, on with the cocktails. The Trinidad Sour is for the bold among you (seriously, this is heavy duty stuff), the Japanese Cocktail is for the distinguished (brandy is the predominant note), the Momisette is for those eager for refreshing invigoration (a sweet take on pastis), and the Mai Tai, well, for those who want to Tiki (party!). Here are the recipes:

The Trinidad Sour
1 oz Angostura bitters
1 oz orgeat syrup (I personally prefer to up this to 1 1/2 oz, but start with 1 oz)
¾ oz fresh lemon juice
½ oz rye, such as Rittenhouse Bottled in Bond

Shake well with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Japanese Cocktail
2 oz brandy
½ oz orgeat syrup
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Shake with ice, strain into a chilled glass and garnish with lemon peel.

1½ oz Pernod or other pastis
½ oz orgeat syrup
Sparkling mineral water

Add pastis and orgeat to a tall glass, add ice, top off to taste with sparkling water.

Mai Tai
2 oz rum (the original called for 17-year old J. Wray & Nephew Rum)
½ oz orange curacao
½ oz orgeat syrup
3/4 oz fresh lime juice

Shake vigorously with ice and strain into an old fashioned glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with a mint sprig.

Do You Drink Like An Old Man?

Do you drink like an old man? Well? Do you, punk? I guess it depends on the old man in question. For Robert Schnakenberg, who wrote Old Man Drinks: Recipes, Advice, and Barstool Wisdom, drinking like an old man means favoring classic cocktails – imagine Don Draper from Mad Men forty years older, aging poorly, hanging out at the smokey corner bar down the street, still drinking the same old Manhattans and Old-Fashioneds. It seems like there are several thousand cocktail books out there these days, but this one clearly has a unique point of view – that of the grumpy old man. Mixed in with the 70 or so cocktail recipes are photos of and quotes from the type of salty old guys who populate those smokey corner bars, complaining about the vodka and red bull and appletinis all around them. Dry Mahoney, Grumpy Old Man, Rusty Nail, Harvey Wallbanger, Salty Dog – the names could describe the cocktails or the old men themselves equally well.

A good friend of mine has tackled the book with gusto in recent weeks, well on his way to “Old Man-hood,” and has been taking photos of his cocktail exploits and sharing them on Twitter (a not so “old man” thing to do, admittedly). I can’t help but head over to my home bar each time I see one of these photos, so spellbinding in their directness and ability to capture the essence of drinking like an old man. I have to admit, I’m pretty darn close to drinking like an old man myself. Enjoy…

Photos courtesy of Rowdyfood. Full flickr photo set here. Thanks to Robert Schnakenberg for the inspiration!


Thirsty Reading: Boozehound, by Jason Wilson

See this book? The one with the multitude of darkly enticing bottles and casks on the cover? This is a dangerous book. A book that will cost you dearly. A book that will drive you to drink. A book that just may turn you off vodka forever (OK, that last part is not so dangerous).

Boozehound: On the Trail of the Rare, the Obscure, and the Overrated in Spirits by Jason Wilson is dangerous not because of its somewhat subversive stories of what constitutes a good drink, but rather because it will likely compel any fan of spirits and cocktails into the dangerous realm of obsession that the author clearly occupies. A world where chasing down rare brandies or long forgotten liqueurs is a path to wallet depleting joy and illumination.

Mr. Wilson finds a way of weaving tales that will leave you tipsy and laughing and thirsty for more. The book is literally a tour through some of the world’s great libations, their history, their path through glorious popularity or confounding decline. A jaunt into the agave fields of Mexico juts up against a tale of teenage tippling in suburban New Jersey. Secret formulas of herbs and uncommon ingredients are juxtaposed against the hyperbolic and highly suspect modern marketing “backstories” that seem to come with every new bottle on the liquor store shelf. Cocktail recipes appear at the end of each chapter to entice the mind, to further the already deeply felt urges that the stories implant – WHERE can I track down that rare Calvados, HOW can I live without that Creme de Violette, WHY is my collection of Italian Amari so minuscule???

Beware. Reading Boozehound is dangerous stuff. Now I better get over to the liquor store to pick up my bottles of Dubonnet, Benedictine, Amaro Montenegro, Creme Yvette, Luxardo Maraschino, rhum agricole…

Local Three, Atlanta: Elvis, The Dude, & a Big Pig

Who knew that the “three” in Atlanta’s new bar and restaurant, Local Three, referred to Elvis, the Dude (from The Big Lebowski), and a very big pig? Some have surmised that it refers to owners Todd Mussman and Ryan Turner (of Muss & Turner’s), along with chef Chris Hall. Heck, the menu even says as much. But just get a load of all the artwork around the restaurant, and it’s clear that there is a serious devotion to Elvis, the Dude, and all things pig. That’s three for three in our book. And the Elvis/Dude attitude is one thing that sets Local Three apart from the crowd of local/Southern/farm-to-table restaurants all over town these days. We’re certainly fans of places like Miller Union, Cakes & Ale, Empire State South and Sprig, but chances are that black velvet Elvis won’t be making an appearance in those joints any time soon.

“In Hungry” and “Out Happy” grace the wall by the kitchen at Local Three

The fine folks behind Local Three have done a beautiful job of converting the old Joel space off Northside Parkway into a warm and comfortable environment that fits the restaurant’s down-home, locavore menu perfectly. Boiled peanuts, a charcuterie plate nicknamed “the Notorious P.I.G.,” and so many other dishes that shout amped-up Southern goodness all seem right amidst the wood, the funky art, and the fine collection of bourbons lining the bar.


While Local Three is surely a restaurant first and a bar second, the bar offerings already fit nicely alongside the cuisine and the general feel of the place. A concise but (mostly) classic cocktail list, for example, features a Whiskey Sour, a Julep, and a “Caucasian” lifted as carefully as possible from the Dude’s drink of choice in The Big Lebowski. In the spirit of sharing, the menu even includes the basic recipe for each cocktail – a nice touch more bars would be wise to follow as a way to engage curious cocktail drinkers. Like the restaurant side, the bar hopes to keep things as house-made and local as possible, always a sign of a bar that takes their craft seriously.

“Hey man, there’s a beverage here” – two views of the cocktail and beer menu

The spirits list goes heavy on the bourbon, with startling variety at the affordable end of the spectrum, and a wonderful collection of bourbon and whiskey flights that allow for tasting and contrasting three different whiskeys that share some common traits – a group of ryes for example, or a trio of top shelf selections including Pappy Van Winkle 23 (for now, though their stock is being depleted rapidly by eager Pappy devotees!). The prices are nice as well. In addition to the bourbons, a few less-often-seen whiskeys from abroad fill out the selection, from the Pig’s Nose Scotch Whisky (5 years old) to Redbreast Irish Whiskey to the Yamazaki 12 year old single malt whisky from Japan.

Matthew behind the bar has also assembled an enticing beer and wine menu: 11 beers on tap with a Southern center of gravity, and about 90 more by the bottle; 100 wines covering a nice spectrum, focused on fitting the food and shifting with the seasons. The folks at Local Three clearly want the drinks to find a harmony with the food, but also aim to please by offering a broad enough selection that will offer something for everyone. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine walking out of Local Three without a big smile on your face, from the salt and pepper shakers to the paintings to the ingredients and menu to the drinks and staff – Local Three aims to please.

In the spirit of aiming to please, here’s a taste of the Local Three experience in photos, featuring more Elvis, pigs and peanuts (and be sure to check out the videos on the food at Local Three over at as well:

pigs nose
notorious PIG

There’s A New Bar In Town…

The latest arrival to Atlanta’s cocktail and spirits scene sits in an old train station in a rather derelict part of town, but the cocktails and whiskey selection will have people lining up to get on board (OK, no more bad train puns, I promise). H. Harper Station is the name, and they call themselves “a modern watering stop.” The conductors (really?? another one?) are chefs Duane Nutter, Reginald Washington and mixologist Jerry Slater, and if you’ve ever had an hour to spare in Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson international terminal, you may recognize a few things from their well-regarded One Flew South bar and restaurant there. A first look at H. Harper Station will be forthcoming, but it’s worth pointing out now that the cocktail list instantly vaults them into consideration among Atlanta’s most ambitious cocktail bars. One particularly good and creative drink on the list is the “Bufala Negra,” with Buffalo Trace Bourbon, basil, brown sugar, a touch of balsamic vinegar, and some ginger beer – it all melds together wonderfully. The spirits selection is one of the best you will find in town, with over 40 whiskeys (including Pappy Van Winkle 20 year old and Caol Ila 18 year old). Beer and wine lists are fairly short, but interesting (Brewer-Clifton pinot noir, La Spinetta barbaresco, Domaine Weinbach riesling on the wine lists; Allagash Four and Hitachino White on the very nice draft beer list). Let us know what you think if you make it over to H. Harper Station, we’re looking forward to good things…