August 24th, 2007

Operation 1919 – seeking lost ingredients

We want lost ingredients

Looking for lost cocktail ingredients? Know where to shop for them? Read on.

OK, enough. It really shouldn’t be that hard to find ingredients for the pre-Prohibition cocktails we’re all crazy about and attempting to mix in our homes when we’re not ordering them in bars. In the past week, people have asked me where they can purchase Peychaud’s bitters, orange bitters, Amer Picon, Fernet Branca — even rye whiskey, for chrissakes! Then there’s the really weird stuff like Swedish punsch and creme de violette. One reader has taken it upon himself to purchase cases of bitters and absinthe online and then sell them (at cost) to fellow cocktail enthusiasts (thanks, Adam!). That is commendable. But, um, shouldn’t someone else be doing that on a larger, more profitable scale? Like, say, a liquor store?

Sure, some liquor stores mentioned here in the past — Blanchard’s, Wine & Cheese Cask, Downtown Wine & Spirits, Martignetti’s, Beacon Hill Wine, Atlas in Medford — carry one or two of these ingredients, but none of them stock a decent, dependable selection. Why not? I’m guessing it’s because not enough people have asked them to. Well, folks, it’s time. Please join me in Operation 1919 — a mission to make lost and rare cocktail ingredients readily available to the home mixologist. We must do the cyberspace equivalent of standing en masse outside Boston’s finer booze purveyors and chanting: “What do we want? Peychaud’s bitters! When do we want it? Now!”

Leave a comment on this post and tell me a) which vintage cocktail ingredients you’re looking for and b) whether you have found such ingredients in the Boston area — or anywhere in New England, for that matter. I will then pass our wish list on to the proprietors of the above and other establishments in hopes that they’re interested in serving a niche market. Ready, set, demonstrate!

Permalink | Filed under Bitters, Drinking supplies |

53 Responses to “Operation 1919 – seeking lost ingredients”

  1. Das

    Thanks for taking up the good fight!
    I have desperately searched for and haven’t found anywhere in the Boston area:
    1. Herbsaint
    2. Carpano Antica Formula (Martignetti’s carries Carpano Punt e Mes, but alas no Antica)
    3. Any bitters other than Angostura and Fee’s Orange (and what about Angostura Orange – why is that taking SO long??)
    4. Torani Amer/Amer Picon
    5. St.Germain Elderflower liqueur
    6. Luxardo Marasca cherries

    And how about a decent selection of rye? I’ve found the Rittenhouse 100 Proof and Sazerac 18 and 6 yr at Julio’s Liquors in Westborough in the past – if anyone’s looking.

  2. leswes

    Finding the various bitters has definitely hindered efforts to add variety to my home mixing, the aim of which is to expand my own horizons and introduce friends to some great “new” drinks. Thanks for asking!

  3. Stephen

    herbsaint at cirace in the north end…. on north street next to Mare. you will also find marie brizard apry there…. on the down low they are trying to bring in carpano antica but there are lots of legal issues. you will never see it legitametaly imported again….

    buffalotrace.com has reagan’s and peychauds bitters very cheap. i just had angostura orange at no. 9. park… ryan was mixing it up.

    amer picon is still available at brix in the south end but that is the last of it…. no. 9. park still has bottles and so does E.S. its pretty good but try ramazotti from Cirace in the no. end.

    st. germain can be found at brix. liquor land in roxbury. and cirace.

    i’m gonna can a bunch of maraschino cherries tomarrow afternoon if anyone wants to learn how to do it…. you have one more week of good bing cherries.

    emit @ liquor land in roxbury carries overholt, pappy winkle, and ritten house ryes…. the big liquor store in central square also has an awsome selection.

    i think i’m gonna check it out tomarrow but emit told me he was gonna pick up “ron del barrleitto” three star for liquor land…. his and my favorite rum….

    i got a couple bottles of creme de violette from brix. i actually bought the whole supply…. as soon as its not back ordered they are gonna get more and they are gonna carry the entire rothman and winters line…. its some pretty serious juice….

    other cities are not so lucky….

  4. Marty

    Ahh…lost cocktail ingredients. Well, I stumbled on Carpano Antica in New Jersey, and picked up a few bottles. Wilson-Daniels has the rights to it, and they’re not too fast on the uptake.

    Didn’t know that Herbsaint was available at Cirace. THank you! I’m told it’s supposed to show up soon, via Horizon Beverages.

  5. Marty

    As I think about it, part of the problem is knowing if a particular spirit is available in Massachusetts. Then, if it is-and the distributor has inventory-it’s a 2 day at most process for a “good” (read: customer-service oriented) liquor store to order it, even if you only want one bottle. When in doubt, call Andrew at Brix. He’s more than willing to order you whatever you want.

    Also, don’t forget about the NH state liquor stores. They have a searchable real time inventory online.

  6. Stephen

    the brix people are pretty awsome. if you need something in MA i highly endorse them…

    brix has the vya vermouth’s as well that are hard to come by…

  7. Jason

    I definitely follow Marty’s advice whenever I’m re-stocking my bar. My roommates and I occasionally make road trips to NH to spend far too much money on liquor. Even if someone’s only looking to buy a select few bottles, it’s absolutely worth the drive and the extra money spent on gas. Prices there are much friendlier on your wallet.

    Also, I was shocked to see Angostura being sold in a Stop and Shop out here. I thought blue laws would prevent that from happening, but they were sitting on the shelf next to the cosmo-in-a-bucket and other alcoholic abominations in the soda aisle. Go figure.

  8. Andrea

    In case anyone is looking for Vya vermouth, I’ve found it at Julio’s in Westborough and at Mall Discount Liquors at Fresh Pond Mall in Cambridge. In fact, Mall Discount has a very nice selection of weird booze overall, though the prices are sometimes a bit high.

    Still scouring Boston for Amer Picon. Sigh. Maybe I’ll have to take a trip the this Brix place of which many have spoken.

    Another liqueur we’ve been searching for, and it isn’t available in Mass., is Kummel. It’s a caraway-flavored spirit that is used in the Foxhound, among others. I’m hoping Indiana/Michigan might have some, given the sizable german population; I’m headed there this weekend.

    We’ve campaigned for Peychaud’s at Ball Square Fine Wines and Liquors (Somerville) to no avail. We can certainly pester the folks at Wine and Cheese Cask, too.

  9. Stephen

    i think i’ve seen kummel at liquor land but i’m not sure…
    peychaud’s is available at brix… and i think you can still buy them over the counter at eastern standard…

  10. ben

    @Andrea… I’ve found Peychaud’s at the liquor store in Porter Square, next to the Shaws.

  11. Frederic

    I can confirm that Brix does have 1 liter bottles of Amer Picon for $20 (I went this afternoon) although they have a very limited stock left. I did spy Peychaud’s bitters as well.

    One thing I’m looking for is Sloe Gin that’s not bottom shelf stuff like Leroux, Dekuypers, or Kappy’s. I know that Plymouth makes some but will not export it.

  12. ljclark

    Everybody, your comments are fantastically helpful. I’m going to try to generate even more so that we have a very impressive crowd of mixologists to wield as influence. Looks like a post on Brix will have to be in the works, too!

  13. Stephen

    there is huge interest and many recipes on making your own sloe gin… if you can come across the fruit i bet you can make a better handmade version than anything you could buy.

    my go to cordial is my black berry shrub… maybe i will make it with gin the next go around…

    quince season is coming up… and jerry thomas contributes a good recipe… “you can rely upon it because it comes from a women known for her potations”

    you have probably two more weeks to make plum liqueur… can it in gin like the gumbo page’s “tequila por mi amante” add some sugar so through diffusion into the fruit, flavor will be forced out… add grains of paradise for exotic depth and general sex appeal…

  14. Paul

    Sloe gin is the liquor I’m searching for these days. I’ll be sloe hunting this upcoming fall (rare but maybe around) and have come to potentially importing the fruit itself. What started as a quest for myself may benefit many. Anyone interested? Don’t know prices yet but I’ll keep you informed

  15. marty

    As seen on Food & Wine’s website:

    Beginning of a Sloe Gin Fizzle, Question Mark Removed
    By Kristin Donnelly, Food Editorial Assistant
    Related Categories: Cocktails, News
    A couple of weeks ago, I lamented the fact that Plymouth, the U.K.-based gin brand, made a fantastic sloe gin but had no plans to bring it to the U.S. I just received word from Plymouth that the company’s plans have changed. Next April, the sweet-tart, sloe berry–infused spirit will be making its first appearance on U.S. soil. Mixologists, start your shakers.

  16. Adam

    You can get Peychaud’s and Fee’s bitters on Amazon! No need to search for them locally.

    The liquor store next to Shaws in Porter has a few different vermouths, and generally a much better liquor selection than Downtown in Davis has (but Downtown’s beer selection pretty much destroys everyone else in the area–gotta love ‘em for that )

  17. Paul

    shoppersvineyard.com I know they can’t ship to Mass but if youve got friends in nearby states, I just ordered from them:

    Carpano Antica
    St Germaine Elderflower
    Bluecoat Gin
    Rittenhouse 100 Bonded Rye for $12.99!

    Lots of other stuff too

  18. Todd

    looking for
    byrrh wine and old Tom’s gin

  19. Walt

    Paul Clark of the Cocktail Chronicles refers readers to Haus Alpenz (www.alpenz.com) in New Jersey. They import, among other items, Creme de Violette and Batavia-Arrak. Their distributor in Massachusetts is Ideal Wine & Spirits. Passing along the name of the distributor will help your local reseller.

  20. Carri

    Hi everyone. Carri here…I am co-owner of BRIX Wine Shop in the South End. A client of mine gave me a heads up on your blog (thanks Jim). I love what you guys are doing! Just so you know, we would be happy to track down or special order any particular ingredients that you are looking for. Some things we have in stock right now are: Amer Picon, Regan’s and Peychaud’s Bitters (staple items), Vya Dry and Sweet vermouth, Luxardo, Luxardo Amaretto, St. Germain, Carpano Put e Mes, etc.

    In response to the Haus Alpenz stuff, as soon as Ideal gets the Creme de Violette back in we will carry it (Stephen cleared us out. :) Some other finds from them include the Nux Alpina Walnut Liqueur, Zirbenz Stone Pine Liqueur, and Lauria Alpine Cream Liqueur. All can be special ordered.

    If anyone has any questions, please feel free to call me at the store at 617.542.2749. For those of you who may not know, we are also opening a second location in the Financial District on Broad Street in October.

  21. ljclark

    Carrie, this is absolutely fantastic. Thanks for chiming in. I’ll be pestering you to stock some Swedish punsch. And Walt, thanks for the Haus Alpenz distribution info.

  22. flea

    As far as retail goes the person to see in town is Andrew at BRIX in the Souht End. This guy really knows his stuff and he’s more than happy to try and track something down for you.

  23. Bluebell

    After finishing a bottle of maracshino this summer and not finding any at the NH stores, I was pleasantly surprised to find it at Mall Discount Liquors in Fresh Pond. I also have a vague recollection of seeing Vya at Pemberton Market (across the st from Pemberton Farms) in N. Cambridge.

    My next purchase will probably be the St. Germain Elderflower. I think I saw it at Mall discount, but am not sure.

  24. Stephen

    you can get vya at the liquor store next to central kitchen… sorry i got a head start on the creme de violette…

  25. Paul

    Speaking of hard to get-look for a an almost 1/2 bottle of pre- 1940 Abbott’s I’m putting on ebay today…

  26. Stephen

    i forgot it was september… that means cranberries are coming back in season… last year i made a delicious, faintly sweetened liqueur (

  27. Stephen

    yikes my post died…

  28. ljclark

    Paul, are you serious? I’m assuming your Abbot’s already sold. Let us know for how much.

  29. Paul

    FWIW it sold for 93 bucks for a 1/3 of a bottle

  30. Rich

    I am searching for Peychaud’s Bitters. Does anyone know where in the Boston area I can find it?

  31. ljclark

    Rich, you can get them at BRIX wine shop in the South End.

  32. stef

    Where can I get amer Picon in the US?Can you get it at all here??We bought our PIcon in Germany, but I have never seen it here anywhere:-(

  33. ljclark

    Stef, you can get Amer Picon at BRIX Wine shop in the South End. Cheers!

  34. Frederic

    We’re on a quest for gum arabic for making gomme/gum syrup. Any sources in the Cambridge/Boston area?

  35. Das

    Frederic, you can find gum arabic at Christina’s Spice & Specialty Foods.

    1255 Cambridge St
    Cambridge, MA 02139

    The gomme syrup is absolutely heavenly in a Sazerac or an ‘Improved’ Holland Gin cocktail. Good luck!

  36. Frederic

    We were in Christina’s yesterday since it seemed like such a logical place to go. The sales clerk (who I’ve seen there for years) looked at us like we had a 3rd eye when we asked.

    Whole Foods and Harvest are other options for the gum arabic. Otherwise, I can see if I can mail order some food grade (instead of the Pagan/Wiccan incense grade) in an ounce or two size. I did see food grade in pound-sized packages online.

  37. Joe

    To give an idea how nice just suggesting your local Liqour store get something, I spoke to the folks at Gordon’s in Newton about Peychaud’s, Regan’s Orange Bitters and Rothman & Winter Creme De Violette. They’re still working on getting the bitters, but a buddy called me tonight and Viola! just a couple of weeks later they have the Violette at what I think might be the best price in town!

    Proof positive that, particularly with your more solid smaller establishments, your voice can be heard and answered!

    Now to work on a few other thing with them…

  38. Joe

    GORDON’S UPDATE:
    Well they do indeed have the Creme De Violette.

    In addition, though they had not had a chance to unpack it, the Peychaud’s 10oz bottles had arrived as well. So ask if you don’t see it. I snagged two just for security’s sake! They say the Regan’s Orange might be in soon.

    So those folks like me who are west of Boston now have an easier source for a few items!

    YeeHaw!

  39. Eric

    I picked up some Gum Arabic at Seven Arrows Farm in Seekonk.

    Julios on Rt. 9 in Westborough carry a few goodies also (Violettte, Vya) as well.

    For Amaro buffs down here in SE MA it might be worth a drive down to Gasbarro’s on Atwells Ave in Providence.
    Of course they cater to the Italian market and have an great selection of Italian wine as well as some hard to find Amari and Grappa. (Didn’t see any Carpano Antica left sadly) Also have found the Fabbri Cherries in liquor at one of the shops down there (Venda?).

    Found Luxardo Maraschino and Peychauds at Town in Rumpford, RI.

    Happy hunting.

  40. Mike

    More on Brix, which just opened a second location on Broad St. in the Financial District.

    They currently carry ALL of the following “hard to find” ingredients:
    4 or 5 rye whiskeys
    Creme de Violette
    Peychaud’s bitters
    Luxardo Maraschino
    Marasca cherries
    Amer Picon

    Andrew is the guy to ask for. He’s a cocktail fiend (and very knowledgeable about wine too, of course).

  41. ljclark

    Wow! Hurray!

  42. Benjamin

    Pre-Prohibition GIN!!

    Hi all – Not sure if any of you have ventured to the Midwest lately, but if so there is a company worth checking out for their sweet gin. Death’s Door Spirits out of Wisconsin. There gin contains only three botanicals (fennel, coriander, and wild juniper berries). The products for the gin and the distilling is done in Wisconsin. According to many accounts this is the closest thing to a pre-prohibition gin that people have tasted in production today. It is fantastic in a Gin Fizz or Martinez. The product has done particularly well in finer establishment in Chicago as well (Violet Hour).

    Distribution is currently limited to the Midwest but an online distributor – Lush Wine and Spirits carries both the Gin and the Vodka (though the prices are about 10-12 more than in any liquor store in WI).

    You won’t be disappointed!

    http://www.deathsdoorspirits.com

  43. k. montuori

    For anyone looking for Amer Picon, the Wine Gallery on Rt. 9 in Brookline now has it on their shelves. After being fucked over by Brix I had to find an alternate source. The W.G. folks were very accommodating and reasonable ($15/liter).

  44. Frederic

    Any word on the alleged April release of Plymouth Sloe Gin here in the U.S.? The head guy at Marty’s in Newtonville today said that his distributer didn’t carry it.

  45. Carmelo Lisciotto

    Great tips!

    Carmelo Lisciotto

  46. Das

    Is it just me wondering why it’s taking so long for Angostura Orange bitters to reach these shores?? Anyway, I finally caved in and ordered online at: http://www.thewhiskyexchange.com/ (cost + shipping: $22 – your mileage may vary). They’re more complex than any of the other orange bitters I’ve tried and absolutely superb in a 2:1 classic martini.
    Also, anyone looking to pick up Bitter Truth’s limited edition Jerry Thomas Decanter Bitters and Celery Bitters, call LeNell’s in NY @ 718-360-0838. These won’t last!

  47. Torey

    Just picked up on this thread after having a perfect martini made with Vya and Regan’s orange bitters at Tryst in Beverly. FYI, Tryst has Plymouth Sloe Gin at the bar. Thanks for all the info, everyone.

  48. ljclark

    Quality classic cocktails in Beverly? Hooray! Spread the word.

  49. Blake

    I found maraschino liqueur at Marty’s in Newton, along with a great selection or rye whiskey.

  50. Scott

    Wine and Cheese Cask in Somerville is currently carrying Carpano Antica formula. They didn’t have it when I went a couple weeks ago, but when I asked about it they said they would look into ordering some. I got a call a few days ago and sure enough they had quite a few bottles available. So even if you go there and they don’t have it in stock, they are clearly willing and able to get it.

    They also have Peychaud’s…

  51. sushiesque

    Cirace had Carpano Antica when I was there a couple weeks ago, and it was cheaper than at Wine & Cheese Cask (where I’d already bought it).

  52. Will

    Caprano Antica is being carried at Atlas in Medford now, as well as in Porter Square.

  53. Nathaniel

    You can find a wide range of common and obscure bitters (and other cocktailian delights) at the BOston Shaker in Davis Square. http://www.thebostonshaker.com/

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