New Year’s Day Citrus Bounty!


This morning, as I arrived at the NipJoint (the Elemental Mixology bar), I discovered a little key in the mailbox. That key opened a parcel box a few feet away. Inside was a package from a coreligionist and friend in the Los Angeles area. Inside that package was a bounty of citrus. Most of it is citrus that I would not ever be able to purchase fresh from any source in Oregon.

Thank you, Rob!

There was a big bag of Seville bitter oranges! This is really a very nice thing to have. Palmetto Punches will be made during this weekend’s class sessions. That should leave enough to do some more Palmetto Punches within a week or so, and then to make up some authentic ‘al pastor‘ marinade can it or freeze it.

I am pleased that two Fred Meyer locations in Portland (west Burnside and northeast Glisan) carry Marsh grapefruit in their commercial season of winter. But, I was really happy to find some Marsh grapefruits in this generous box that are not already mushy and too sweet.

I am also really looking forward to playing with the oranges from Swaziland!

Thank you, again, and happy new year, Rob!

Happy new year to all of you!

My Own Peach Bitters

Peach Bitters

Greetings, Everyone!

I have just updated the recommended liquors to include my own recipe for making peach bitters.

P.S. There is something labeled ‘peach bitters’ that you can buy from a company whose motto is, “Don’t squeeze, use Fee’s” in an effort to sell their sour mix. Well, at least their sour mix is sour. Their ‘bitters’ are for fools. They don’t make bitters — they make mostly-bitterless, glycerin-based liquids that will not do the traditional work of the bitters in a true cocktail to mitigate the fumatic harshness of ethanol. The best thing you can call their so-called ‘bitters’ is flavor drops. Don’t be caught dead with them.

Elemental Mixology Mixing Stock Pages Being Added


For those that have not noticed it, I have been adding pages to the website giving the liquor products that I like to work with during Elemental Mxiology courses.

I have gotten through the geist spirits. Any thing after that is still under construction, but the Elemental Mixology Mixing Stock page already contains a lot of information worth looking at.

Keep checking back!

Drink of the Day — Ancient Roman Vermouth Wine

Ancient Roman Wine Vessel

Today’s drink of the day is the oldest known vermouth wine.

How old is vermouth wine? It is older than the year 1786 on the label of Carpano’s Antica Formula [sic]. It’s even older than Hippocras wine of the middle ages — which has been recently suggested as the ancestor of vermouth wine. Vermouth wine actually dates back to ancient Rome.

A recipe for Absintium Romanum is found in the cookbook traditionally attributed to Apicius, called De Re Coquinaria (‘on cookery’) That book dates back to late imperial Rome (~400 c.e.), and surely contains recipes from earlier centuries.

In Latin, Romanum means ‘Roman’ and absintium or absinthium means ‘wormwood.’ The French word absinthe is obviously directly from the Latin absinthium. German for wormwood is wermud — or in older German, vermouth. So, whether you call it absinthe or vermouth, in linguistics it’s the same word, ‘wormwood.’

That is absolutely true. But, modern English idiom has it that when we use the French word, we are talking about a wormwood spirit — and when we use the German word, we are talking about wormwood flavored wine.

In his 1936 translation of De Re Coquinaria, Joseph Dommers Vehling called the recipe ‘Roman Vermouth.’ His reason for doing so was very good — both on linguistic and culinary grounds. The ancient Romans made wormwood-flavored wine — or in other words, vermouth wine. That’s exactly what it turns out to be — even according to modern idiom.

One can still make ancient Roman vermouth wine, with some preparation.

You should be able to get wormwood very easily online. Saffron, dates and honey should not be difficult to find in a shop near you.

Dried costmary leaves are the most difficult of the ingredients to obtain. When in season, you can purchase them here. Otherwise, you will need to grow some costmary for yourself. It’s worth doing so — since a few fresh costmary leaves really deliciously accent a pitcher of lemonade or a bowl of punch. Fresh costmary is equally wonderful as garniture for that great, nearly-forgotten type of drink, the cup. In 2006, I made myself a Gin Costmary Julep that was as good a julep as a julep can be (at least the way I remember it). I have never made costmary syrup, but I can think of no reason that it would be anything but delicious.

It can also be a bit difficult to find mastic resin. A good Greek market should have some. Otherwise, you can order it here.

It seems that the recipe instructs the use of Camerinian wine in making Roman vermouth wine. Whatever that might have been is unknown to me. A red wine would be the safest assumption.

So, here is the recipe for making yourself a bottle of ancient Roman vermouth wine:

Ancient Roman Vermouth Wine


Question: which of the following bottles contains more applejack than the other — the one to the left or the one to the right?

Applejack Quiz

Answer: the one on the left. It is straight apple brandy, or pure applejack. The other one is blended applejack.

That may be confusing to some, but here is the explanation…

In section 5.22 of the Code of Federal Regulations that establishes the legal standards of identity for liquor in the U.S.A., we read:

“apple brandy” may be designated “applejack”


“Blended applejack” (applejack—a blend) is a mixture which contains at least 20 percent of apple brandy (applejack)

Applejack and apple brandy from the U.S.A. are the same thing — both traditionally and legally.

Thus, blended applejack is is made by blending applejack, or apple brandy, with a greater amount of neutral grain spirits. Straight applejack, or straight apple brandy, is the pure stuff. The Scottish analog would be that malt whisky is pure, barley whisky, while blended whisky is a little malt whisky blended with a greater amount of neutral grain spirit. I think of blended whisky as whisky-flavored vodka. I think of blended applejack as applejack-flavored vodka.

I use the older, more traditional term of “straight applejack” throughout my book when referring to un-blended American apple brandy. That should not be misunderstood by anyone as an instruction to use “blended applejack” in any of my recipes!

Using Bad Bitters

Using Bad Bitters

Over the years I have ended up with a lot of imitation bitters and bad bitters. I consider any ‘bitters’ made with glycerin instead of spirits to be imitation. I consider any bitters to be bad if their flavor is inferior — or, if they lack the bitterness needed to remove the sensation of alcoholic harshness in a true cocktail.

I will never use imitation bitters or bad bitters in any tipple that I want to serve or drink. I have no interest in packing them up and taking them north.

Then a solution occurred to me for getting the most use out of all of these products…

Today I emptied all of the above-pictured products down the drain. That freed up the bottles (and their dasher inserts) to be stripped of their labels, washed and set aside for the students in the Ingredient Fabrication Course to use to take home the peach bitters we will be making.

Waste not, want not!

P.S. – Since posting, I found a bottle of Elmegirab’s guess at Boker’s bitters and a couple of bottles of things by the San Francisco Diego bitters company. All of that stuff went down the drain to free up the more valuable empty bottles!

Last Batch of Los Angeles Peach Bitters

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Today, I put up the last batch of peach bitters that will be finished by attendees of an Ingredient Fabrication Course in Elemental Mixology’s Los Angeles location.

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4 ounces of dried peach kernels and 2 ounces of dried cinchona bark were placed in each jar. 192-proof rectified spirit was added to the one on the left and 80-proof French brandywine was added to the one on the right. The students will filter, blend and add other ingredients next week to finish the peach bitters.

The Cinnamon Syrup Recipe Revealed!

Cinnamon Syrup

Above, from left to right; my cinnamon syrup, dried bark of Cinnamomum verum zeylanicum (true cinnamon from Ceylon), dried buds of Cinnamomum cassia (common cassia ‘cinnamon’), and dried bark of Cinnamomum cassia.

Many attendees of the shorter Elemental Mixology courses and classes have asked me for my recipe for my ‘triple cinnamon’ cinnamon syrup.  I  have usually replied that the recipe is divulged and the syrup made during the Ingredient Fabrication Course.  But, many people just don’t have the time to take that course and want to make the excellent San Francisco Pisco Punch that was made in the course they have attended.

So, here it is:

Pour 750 milliliters distilled water into a saucepan and bring it to a boil.  Turn off the heat.


40 grams of dried, true cinnamon bark from Ceylon

20 grams of dried, cassia bark (common ‘cinnamon’ in the U.S.A.)

10 grams of dried, cassia buds

Place the saucepan over the lowest flame possible, cover well and simmer for several hours.

After at least two hours, remove from heat and strain out the solids through a chinois-type strainer, and then through a coffee filter.

Weigh the liquid infusion.  It should weigh about 600 grams.

Add the same weight in fine, white sugar and whisk until dissolved.

Pour through a funnel into a one-liter bottle, which should be right about the entire yield.

Cap and label and store in a refrigerator.

Use the syrup over vanilla iced cream, or in a San Francisco Pisco Punch (below) or a San Francisco Rum Punch (scroll all the way down), or in any other spirit version!  San Francisco Rye Punch is good, too!

San Francisco Pisco Punch

San Francisco Rum Punch