Archive for August, 2007

August 31st, 2007

The Beer Hunter rests

Michael Jackson, the British drinks writer known as the Beer Hunter, died yesterday in London. He was 65. If you have visited a beer bar or brewpub and enjoyed the flavorful, varied selection of beverages found therein, you can thank Jackson for that. He basically invented the field of beer writing in the 1970s and ’80s and thereby shepherded and hugely influenced the worldwide beer renaissance that has occurred since then.

Michael Jackson and meHe inspired most if not all of the beer writers working today, including me. I have a few of his books: Great Beers of Belgium, the Bar and Cocktail Companion and an autographed copy of the Beer Companion. He also inspired artisanal brewers in the U.S. who lovingly revived the near-forgotten beer styles these books describe — stuff like porter, bock and IPA. It is in large measure because of him that mass-produced light lagers no longer monopolize the beer market like they did 20, 30 years ago.

Jackson succeeded because he wrote well. In his columns, he could be witty and poignant in the same paragraph, and his descriptions of drinks were concise and expressive, not florid. He wrote like he was talking to you, bringing you along on a pub crawl around the world. I met him briefly only a couple of times, including at a 1999 dinner at Redbones BBQ, where the above photo was taken. Philadelphia-based beer writer Lew Bryson knew him fairly well and wrote a heartfelt remembrance of the man, who had fought Parkinson’s disease over the past several years.

In the Beer Companion, Jackson describes what it’s like to drink Kolsch beer in its city of origin, Cologne, Germany. Many of us have had vivid, poetic beer-drinking experiences, but Jackson could actually put those experiences into words:

“In Cologne’s brewpubs during the early evening, small casks are raised from the cellar by dumb-waiter, tapped, and exhausted within minutes. To the visitor, in the jostled space of the standing area (known to the locals as the Schwemme, or ‘swimming bath’), it is an impressive sight. The waiters, whose uniform jackets or shirts are traditionally blue, over leather aprons, carry specially designed circular trays that hold the glasses like cartridges in a revolver.”

Posted in Beer, Books & resources | 1 Comment »

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!

Posted in Bitters, Drinking supplies | 53 Comments »

August 21st, 2007

Monks make it, we shake it

Chartreuse Cocktail party - Fancy Brandy

I’m guessing that when the monks of the Order of Chartreuse created their “liqueur of health” in 1737 they never imagined that, three centuries later, mixed-drink enthusiasts in the New World would gather at a Chartreuse cocktail party thrown by a group of debauched dames called Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails.

That’s precisely what went down at Green Street in Cambridge last night. joined the Boston chapter of LUPEC to celebrate the herbaceous Chartreuse liqueur and the evocative elixirs that result when you mix it with, oh, gin and cucumbers. We served up two old-school Chartreuse cocktails and two new-school Chartreuse cocktails (see recipes below) while a monkishly robed local bartender and drinks historian bestowed his knowledge and blessings on those gathered.

Misty Kalkofen, Green Street bar manager and president of LUPEC Boston, and her fellow Ladies (who all go by aliases that are names of drinks) created two new cocktails specifically for the event. One of them, the Irma La Douce, was a winner in’s recent cocktail contest. It and the other featured cocktails were shaken to perfection by the Ladies and were damn tasty. Proceeds from the event got LUPEC started on its mission to throw co-ed cocktail events that raise funds for local women’s charities. Check the LUPEC blog in the coming weeks for information about an event in October.

The Can Can (created by LUPEC Boston)
5 sour cherries
1 oz yellow Chartreuse
.25 oz fresh grapefruit juice
1 dash Angostura Bitters
sparkling wine
Muddle the sour cherries in a mixing glass. Add the Chartreuse, grapefruit juice, and bitters. Shake with ice and strain into a flute. Top with sparkling wine. This drink’s name is inspired by its peppery kick.

The Irma La Douce (created by LUPEC Boston)
1.5 oz Hendrick’s gin
.5 oz green Chartreuse
.5 oz fresh cucumber puree (peel and blend cucumber, then pass through a sieve)
.5 oz fresh lemon juice
.5 oz grapefruit juice
.25 oz simple syrup
Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a slice of cucumber. (Don’t want to make a puree? If you’re making this cocktail for one or just a few guests, you can just muddle a few slices of peeled cucumber in a shaker.) A green French liqueur + a movie in which Shirley MacLaine plays a Parisian prostitute dressed in bright green stockings = a drink called the Irma La Douce.

The Champs-Elysees
1.5 oz brandy
.75 oz yellow Chartreuse
.75 oz fresh lemon juice
1 dash bitters
Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. This vintage drink is on the regular cocktail menu at the B-Side Lounge.

The Scoff Law
1 oz rye whiskey
1 oz dry vermouth
.75 oz fresh lemon juice
.75 oz green Chartreuse
2 dashes orange bitters
Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. This drink, according to Ted Haigh’s book Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails, was invented at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris and “hilariously baited Prohibition sensibilities (the term originally referred specifically to a frequenter of speakeasies and general flouter of the National Prohibition Act).” Another version of the Scoff Law calls for real pomegranate grenadine instead of Chartreuse. Both cocktails are terrific.

Posted in Cocktails, Events, Liqueur | 5 Comments »

August 21st, 2007

We had a nice chat

Chat bubble with shot glassLast Thursday at about 2:30 in the afternoon, a photo of me drinking a Jack Rose appeared on the homepage of (the Boston Globe’s website) with an announcement that I would be available for an online chat at 3:00. The chat was an added feature of an article about me and that appeared in that day’s edition of the Globe. When I recovered from the shock of sudden global fame, I hunkered down at my computer and got ready to type. “Don’t worry if you don’t see any questions at first. For the first 15 minutes, they just kind of trickle in,” a staffer told me.

So, leaning back in my chair, I logged in at a fashionably late 3:01. Whoa! There were already five or six questions waiting for me. I started typing furiously and didn’t stop for a solid hour as the chat grew to 40-odd questions and answers. I had a blast. Many thanks to everyone who joined in, and apologies to those whose questions I didn’t have time to answer. If you missed it, here’s the transcript. (It’s free to view, but you have to log in to with an email address to access it.)

Note: a couple of friends joined the chat to goof on me, and I goofed them back — hence the Zima cocktail recipe.

Posted in Boston bars, Cocktails, drinkboston in the news | No Comments »

August 17th, 2007

Chartreuse sneak preview on Salon

One of the Chartreuse cocktails that the boozin’ broads of LUPEC Boston created for Sunday night’s Chartreuse Cocktails event at Green Street is a winner in’s first summer cocktail contest. Congrats, ladies! LUPEC is Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails, and the Boston chapter’s blog is here. The winning cocktail’s called the Irma La Douce. “Take a green French liqueur and a movie in which Shirley MacLaine plays a Parisian prostitute dressed in bright green stockings — and it adds up to a cocktail called the Irma la Douce,” the article reads. One Salon taster described the drink as “spicy and tart, like its namesake.” Santé!

Posted in Cocktails, drinkboston in the news, Liqueur | 3 Comments »