The Cocktail Spirit with Robert Hess
The Cocktail Spirit with Robert Hess is dedicated to the creation of quality classic cocktails. Watch as he mixes up cocktail recipes from the past using the best ingredients.
10 Sep 07 7
Vodka is the most popular of spirits, it's lack of discernable flavor however, when mixed in a cocktail, makes it necessary to approach it's use slightly differently than other spirits. In this episode we use the "Harrington" to illustrate how vodka can play an important role in various drinks.
Product Choice is Important - The Sidecar Cocktail
11 Dec 14 6
I recall one of the first times I went to the liquor store to “stock my liquor cabinet”. It was a tad daunting to try to make sense of all of the different bottles of booze and understand what I was needing. And the price range, wow! At the time, I didn’t really have any true knowledge of brands and quality variations, but I knew enough to realize that just because there might be a brand that I had heard of through their marketing efforts, didn’t necessarily mean it was a good product. Since there were several different products I needed to buy, and a budget to deal with, the $20+ products became less and less appealing. Knowing that with wines, price wasn’t really a useful measure of the quality, I assumed the same could be true with spirits, and so I tried to be selective on finding “bargain” priced bottles. At first, I thought it was just the recipes I was using which were making my cocktails lackluster. Thankfully I did the right thing when it came time to replace a depleted bottle, I intentionally bought a different brand, and since I only needed to buy one or two on this visit, I was able to buy something a little more expensive. My cocktails quickly improved. This isn’t to say that all of the good spirit choices have to be expensive ones. There are lower-cost products that you can use which can make cocktails as good, if not better than, their costlier counterparts. And sometimes, even if a more expensive product will make a better cocktail, is the difference noticeable enough to warrant the expense? Courvoisier, is a great cognac. Their VSOP costs, say $45 per bottle, but their VS is more like $25. A sidecar made with the VSOP will be a better drink, but will it be twice as good? If you were to compare them side by side, you’d probably pick the VSOP as the better drink, but you’d still really enjoy the VS as well. So in this case there is nothing wrong with going with the less expensive Courvoisier VS. Cointreau is a triple sec, and most recipes for a Sidecar simply list “Triple Sec” as an ingredient. Cointreau costs, say $34 a bottle, while you can get a bottle of triple sec for around $10. The difference here however can be quite amazing. Not only would you clearly identify a Cointreau Sidecar in a side-by-side comparison, but you might be hard-pressed to finish the one made with triple sec after this discovery. So selecting products you are going to use in your cocktails, realize that your choices will make a difference.
15 Aug 13 6
Bitters are a hot topic here on Small Screen. Many of our viewers have written in with various questions about bitters and their use. In this episode, Robert addresses a question from Ian about the interchangeability of bitters and then makes a forgotten classic that is a variation on the Manhattan Cocktail, the Deshler.
Red Snapper Cocktail
21 May 12 6
If you dig into the often confusing history of the Bloody Mary, you will encounter references to it first being served in 1934 at the St. Regis hotel in New York by Fernand Petiot who brought the recipe with him from Paris (where some accounts claim he invented it). Since the name “Bloody Mary” was deemed to be a little to vulgar for the establishment, it was re-christened the “Red Snapper”, it is also said that since vodka wasn’t yet easily available here in the US, gin was used instead. Eventually the original name was returned to the drink, but the Red Snapper continued to be made with gin instead of vodka.
15 Nov 11 6
Robert found the Sherman Cocktail in the book, the "Old Waldorf Bar Days" by Albert Stevens Crockett. It is essentially a twist on the classic Manhattan with the addition of absinthe and double the types of bitters.
18 Oct 11 6
The Delmonico Cocktail is named after what is considered to be the first restaurant opened in the United States. First opened in 1827, Delmonico's has suffered through fire, prohibition and a series of proprietors and still serves its famous steaks today. The eponymous cocktail is just as strong and long lived as the restaurant.
27 Sep 11 6
Essentially a Martini with the addition of Benedictine, the Caprice Cocktail is a simple and delicious drink.
9 Aug 11 6
Many times in making cocktails, just as in life, the simpler the better. Such is the case with the delightful Apricot Cocktail. Originally found in the Fine Art of Mixing Drinks by David Embury,this cocktails three ingredients stirred with ice offer up beautiful aroma and nuanced flavor. Floral, fruity and even herbaceous, the Apricot Cocktail is a classic to be savored.
Lemon Drop Cocktail
12 Apr 11 6
The latter part of the 20th century did not produce the most creative cocktails. With few exceptions, the Cosmopolitan being a notable one, the 70's, 80's and 90's are considered a dark time in the history of mixed libations. But, there are some often overlooked gems that continue to refresh and tantalize. Unfortunately, with the Lemon Drop, the recipe has devolved into a syrupy, cloying, artificial flavor laden mess. As with all great cocktails gone awry, a return to fresh and simple ingredients revives it and brings it back to its former glory. The Lemon Drop also demonstrates how vodka can spread out and maximize the complimentary flavors in a cocktail.
13 Jul 09 6
From what I can figure out, a Diabolo is an odd-looking juggling device that almost looks like a yo-yo. Not quite sure what that has to do with this cocktail, but who am I to argue. This recipe appears in a few different locations starting around 1930, sometimes it also includes a dash or two of orange bitters, so feel free to add some if you wish.
9 Mar 09 6
Benedictine is one of those products which often just seems to gather dust on most bars shelves. When asked, most bartenders only know that it is used in a "B&B" which is why you'll normally see "B&B" on the back shelf instead of "Benedictine". The Cabaret is an excellent way to use Benedictine and grow accustomed to its unique flavor.
10 Nov 08 6
Exotic cocktails often need an exotic display, and few get more exotic than the Volcano. Served in it's namesake vessel, replete with mini volcano burning brightly in the center, this is sure to catch your attention. Fire extinguishers on the ready!
La Louisiane Cocktail
14 Jul 08 6
This wonderful drink is one I first encountered in Stanley Clisby Arthur's book "Famous New Orleans Drinks and How to Mix 'Em". There, he recounts how this was the house cocktail at the "Restaurant de la Louisiane" a once famous New Orleans restaurant. While it is too late to bring back its namesake restaurant, I think this drink deserves to once more see the light of day.
A Proper “Frozen” Margarita
17 Dec 13 5
As David Wondrich says in Esquire Drinks, "Cocktails should not remind you of childhood; therein lies problems." Friends coming over for a party? Sure, make a pitcher of Margaritas. Just remember to leave the blender out of it.
13 Sep 12 5
The December 1934 edition of Esquire Magazine includes a list of the “Top 10” most popular cocktails. The list starts with an Old Fashioned, and ends with a Daiquiri. The rest of the drinks on the list are reasonably well known. One of them, The Harvest Moon, appears to be MIA for most bartenders. It is described as being a “applejack sour with orgeat”.
5 Jun 12 5
The Caesar Cocktail was apparently invented in 1969 by Walter Chell, the restaurant manager of the Calgary Inn in Alberta, Canada and is essentially a Bloody Mary using Clamato juice instead of tomato juice. Chell supposedly spent three months perfecting the drink, ending up with the simple 1-2-3-4 recipe. This drink is very popular in Canada; at one point there was a movement to make it the national drink there!
Champs Elysees Cocktail
4 Jan 12 5
Chartreuse is featured in a number of wonderful classic cocktails. Like the Last Word, the Champs Elysees Cocktail seems poised to become a must serve at craft cocktail bars around the country.
Lion’s Tail Cocktail
12 Jul 11 5
The cocktail resurgence has brought with a it a resurgence in previously hard-to-find products. One of these once forgotten concoctions is Pimento (Allspice) Dram. "In larger doses, pimento dram contributes a richness to a drink evocative of autumn fruits and baking spices. In the drips and dashes with which it is typically deployed, however, the liqueur plays a much more subtle role," writes Paul Clarke of CocktailChronicles.com. That is definitely the case in the Lion's Tail Cocktail; a little goes a long way in transforming a cocktail and adding nuanced flavor.
Clipper Ship Cocktail
10 May 11 5
Created for Robert's friends at Pacific Distillery in Woodinville, WA, the Clipper Ship Cocktail is a classic sour style drink that uses unique, handcrafted spirits to create something simple yet satisfying.
15 Feb 11 5
Sour style cocktails are some of the most popular in the world: Margarita, Sidecar, Daiquiri, to name a few. Take a spirit, add juice from any citrus and a sweetening agent like simple syrup or your favorite liqueur and you have a sour style cocktail. This is essentially what Jeff "Beachbum" Berry did when he invented the Outrigger. Based upon the Sidecar, Jeff says this about his creation,"as with cognac in a Sidecar, the older the rum you use in the Outrigger, the better it tastes!" So, grab a great aged rum and get shaking!
French 75 Cocktail
28 Dec 10 5
The French 75 cocktail has been through a few iterations since its humble beginnings during World War I. Currently, the most popular version of this sparkling cocktail is made with gin. Originally, however, it was most likely made with cognac as in this version that Robert mies up.
Interview with Bill Samuels Jr. of Maker’s Mark
2 Sep 09 5
During a busy visit to Seattle, Bill Samuel's Jr., President of Maker's Mark Bourbon Whisky, was kind enough to sit down for an interview with Robert at Daniel's Broiler. Bill talks about how he wasn't the best rocket scientist and the real reason his dad made him President of Maker's Mark back in 1975.
When Good Recipes Go Bad – The Old Fashioned Cocktail
4 Dec 14 4
In Hannah Glasse's 1747 cookbook “The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy” the following recipe appears - A Savory Veal Pie: TAKE a breast of veal, cut it into pieces, season it with pepper and salt, lay it all into your crust, boil six or eight eggs hard, take only the yolks, put them into the pie here and there, fill your dish almost full of water, put on the lid, and bake it well. The recipe appears fairly simple and straight-forward, but it is also devoid of enough information to allow somebody who has never made it before really understand how to do it right. How large of a breast of veal is it? What sort of “crust” is supposed to be used? Are the egg yolks supposed to be left whole, or broken up? By “lid” do they mean a physical lid or a lid made of crust? What temperature to bake it at, and for how long? Many cocktail recipes are even less descriptive then Hannah’s recipe above. If we take the Old Fashioned for example, one of the earliest published recipes (not counting earlier recipes simply referred to as “Whiskey Cocktail”) for it is from "Modern American Drinks" (1895) by George J. Kappeler - The Old-Fashioned Whiskey Cocktail: Dissolve a small lump of sugar with a little water in a whiskey-glass; add two dashes Angostura bitters, a small piece ice, a piece lemon-peel, one jigger whiskey. Mix with small bar-spoon and serve, leaving spoon in glass. Drink recipes by their very nature are of course are far simpler than cooking recipes, but we are still faced with many unknowns here. For example, how large is a “small lump of sugar”? How much water is “a little”? What type of whiskey is expected to be used? When a recipe leaves out important details, it requires the reader to fill in the gaps to the best of their ability, often without having any idea what so ever what the actual thing they are trying to make should taste like when done properly. This means that whatever they end up with, they will consider as “the way it should taste.” And then they teach this to another bartender, who teaches it to another bartender, who… you get the picture. Perhaps more than any other cocktail, the Old Fashioned is the one to suffer the most from bad interpretations of a good, but poorly written recipe, as well as just plain bad recipes (typically based on a bad interpretation of a good, but poorly written recipe). Here is where a solid understanding of a recipe, and more importantly the foundation that it is built upon, can aid the reader in better understanding how to make it properly. That, plus more details is part of what it takes to make a good recipe. Of course you also can run into the problem of recipes that are just plain bad from the start regardless of how they are made.
The Trouble with Ice Muddling
6 Nov 14 4
Visit a dozen different bars, and you will most likely see more than a dozen different techniques for doing essentially the same thing. Juicing is one of those things that every bar has to deal with one way or another, and there are countless ways to tackle it, not all of them very good. The “Ice Muddle” is one of the “juicing” techniques I often see used by bartenders to make drinks like the Margarita, Mojito, Daiquiri, and other sour style drinks. It has a certain amount of sound and fury to it, which makes for a good show, but in the end it produces sub-par results on several levels. For some reason it appears to be rather prevalent here in my home town of Seattle, which is why Gary Regan coined the term “Seattle Muddle” to describe it when he was in town to research one of his books. While the ice muddle at least shows a desire to use fresh juices in cocktails, it does so at the cost of not being able to provide a proper measure, and in overly damaging the ice as well. It also is a technique that can only really be done with poor quality “chip” ice, and not the nice large cubes which are preferred. Dry muddling is a better approach to getting fresh juice, and if you then measure the juice properly, it can work quite well.
Liqeuer, Aperitif & Digestif
- Almond Liqueur
- Apricot Liqueur
- Blackcurrant Liqueur
- Chocolate Liqueur
- Cherry Liqueur
- Ginger Liqueur
- Herbal Liqueur
- Mint Liqueur
- Pomegranate Liqueur
- Orange Liqueur
- Violet Liqueur