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Monster in a Glass
Not Only History of Cocktails, but History Through Cocktails
Category: History
Location: http://blackliverproject.com/
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March 11, 2015 11:09 AM PDT

Cameron had a cold and Rachel has a serious love for hot liquids so we invited Michael at the Brixton to introduce us to the hot toddies he serves at his bar. Along the way we learn what the hell "toddy" is.

March 04, 2015 12:05 PM PST

Many cocktails got their start in the medicinal realm, and you can often see the transformations over time from cure-all to tasty beverage. So when a drink with a name like the Doctor Cocktail comes along, it is fair to assume that your aches and pains might be relieved from the ingredients. It does have citrus in it, so the Vitamin C might be warding off that pesky scurvy. Other than that, we don’t have much of an idea of how it got the name.

It seems to have originated sometime in the 1920s  and was originally made with gin, Swedish Punsch, and lime or lemon juice. Depending on the recipe you might also have gotten some brandy or even Crème de Menthe in it. Mmm, medicine. This drink really doesn’t show up in many places, but it did make enough of a blip on the radar to be picked up by Trader Vic, who traded the gin for rum and helped it stay alive enough to be talked about by us today.

The cocktail ingredients were as follows:

  • 2 oz – Jamaica rum
  • 1 oz – Swedish Punsch
  • 1 oz – fresh lime juice

This drink was a huge hit with everyone but me.  It was a mouthful of lime juice with each taste.  I can’t deal with that much lime juice, which is exactly what everyone else said was great about the cocktail.  So if you love lime juice, you will love this cocktail…just be sure to bring your own Swedish Punsch.

February 23, 2015 02:36 PM PST

The Diki-Diki cocktail sounds just dirty enough to make the 12 year-old boy in you giggle. Grow up! This is a sophisticated podcast. Hee-hee, it sounds like dick.

The ingredients are definitely not the usual suspects, featuring the infrequently used grapefruit juice, the Normandy-based apple brandy, Calvados, and finally Swedish Punsch, an arrack-based liqueur. Wait a minute. No gin? No whiskey? No bitters? What kind of a cocktail is this?

Unlike most of the cocktails we have covered, we know the exact origins of the cocktail AND its name! In his 1922 book, Cocktails: How to Mix Them, bartender Robert Vermeire, claims that he created it at the Embassy Club in February of 1922, and named it after the king of a Philippine island. I love it when the information is right there. During the 1920s, King Panglima Diki-Diki, was going public in his search for a bride. What made this newsworthy was that he apparently was under 40 inches tall and weighed around 25 lbs, and he found a bride of similar stature on a neighboring island.

Join us as we explore this cocktail, King Diki-Diki, and a little bit of Robert Vermeire’s life.

The ingredients are as follows:

  • 1.5 oz Calvados
  • 1/2 oz Swedish Punsch
  • 3/4 oz Grapefruit Juice

We were excited to try this cocktail. The ingredients seemed so exotic and special. We really wanted to like it. But it just was not to be. As Kevin said, “It was not greater than the sum of its parts.” Nevertheless, I’m glad to have become acquainted with the Diki Diki and the story of its origins.

February 11, 2015 01:56 PM PST

So having done the Mint Julep, what more is there to say about derbies?

We take a look at the Derby Cocktail which poses a few problems when trying to talk history about it. First, there are numerous recipes for Derby Cocktails, and none seem to be related to the others. Second, derby could be referring to any number of things like the Kentucky Derby, derby races, derby hats, Derby, England, or the Derby restaurant. So which is it? All and none!

The many derbies generally have a common source though in Mr. Edward Smith-Stanley, 12th Earl of Derby. He arranged with his chums an annual horse race, and a flip of a coin determined the name. But further investigation into the father of the modern derby revealed steamy courtly intrigues in the lives of 18th century English nobility involving illicit affairs and false gardeners.

Due to the popularity of derbies at the time, it is possible that different versions were created independently in honor of horse racing. Maybe the recipes in print became more well-known, beating out the others. There has to be a winner though, so this is the version we tried:

  • 1 oz bourbon
  • 1/2 oz sweet vermouth
  • 1/2 oz orange curaçao
  • 3/4 oz fresh lime juice

This cocktail was definitely one of the more challenging ones for me to enjoy.  Kevin and Rachel, both fans of bourbon and lime, thought this cocktail was wonderful. The lime juice was simply too overpowering; all I tasted was lime and for me that is not a good thing.  But I have to admit, trying it gave me a sense of how much citrus juice was appropriate for drinks of that time.

January 27, 2015 12:10 PM PST

The Delicious Sour. I like a cocktail that tells you all you need to know right in the name. Sours are a family of cocktail going back a long way, with notable features of putting a lime or lemon peel in the glass and an egg white.

We also dive into the life of William “The Only William” Schmidt, a bartender who some call the “godfather of mixology.” Acrobatic bartending feats, cranking out on-the-fly cocktails on a near daily basis, and creating cocktails with ten or more ingredients may have earned William this posthumous title. His recipe books are filled with hundreds of recipes and apparently there are tons more that never even made it to print.

Join us this episode where we discuss this prolific proto-mixologist and one of his creations. We also talk Applejack, a colonial American apple brandy with an interesting method of creation and some history of its own.

The ingredients in the drink are as follows:


  • 2 oz Applejack
  • 2 oz Peach Brandy
  • 1 oz fresh lime juice
  • 1 barspoon sugar
  • 1 egg white
  • Splash of soda
January 22, 2015 12:59 PM PST

I chatted with one of the BLP's regular contributors, Mr. Charles Brinkman. We talk about beer and then we talk about talking about beer. And then we talk about some other things.

January 20, 2015 09:20 AM PST

The Curacao Punch is generally attributed to Harry Johnson, and if you spell it the correct way of “Curacao” it is the earliest it shows up in a recipe book. However, if you spell it “Curacoa” then Jerry Thomas printed it first in his recipe book. I thought he might have just spelled it wrong, but mentions of “Curacoa Punch” show up in newspapers and books as early as the 1830s, and a recipe shows up in a periodical from the 1840s. In our experience, it probably was around even before this.

With nearly 100 years of existence and continuous appearances in cocktail recipe books through the 1910s, this seems like a drink that would withstand prohibition. It just sort of disappears though, and not for a lack of curacao or an interest in using it in cocktails. We try to take some guesses as to why Curacao Punch became a forgotten cocktail, but it might just remain a mystery.

During the period of history when the Spanish led the world in ranging the high seas, and staking claims all over the Caribbean, they discovered a tiny island they named Curacao. In 1499 they brought Valencia oranges with them to plant on this idyllic spot. Unfortunately the climate and volcanic soil on the island grew fruit that was utterly horrible and inedible. The Spanish left it to the Dutch to discover that the peels of these oranges, called laraha by the locals, were loaded with aromatic oils and they did what anybody does with fruits that are inedible…they made booze. Clever Dutch.

Curacao Punch contains:

  • 1/2 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 or 3 dashes fresh lemon juice
  • 1 ounce soda water
  • 1 ounce brandy
  • 2 ounce orange curacao
  • 1 ounce Jamaican rum

This drink was strange. To me it kind of tasted like plastic, though not terribly so. I’m sure it seems odd to say that something that tasted like plastic was delicious, but it was, and the flavors were complex enough that it created an entirely new sensation as a mixture.  All of us tasters thought it was fine, not amazing.

January 14, 2015 10:55 AM PST

As we proceed with the forgotten cocktails, I’ve noticed that it’s more difficult to squeeze the interesting background out of them. Often it’s just a couple of words smashed together and attributed to a new recipe. In this episode’s cocktail it’s an attribution made in honor of a personality that I consider less than the cocktail inventor.

The cocktail is named after the Italian-Sardinian general of the Crimean War. He was a dashing European fellow, Alfonso Ferrero Marmora, climbing the ladder of prestige through his political career in Europe by saving dignitaries from angry mobs, serving various political posts in other countries and leading an army in a strange little war. A French chef from England hoisted a glass of this beverage in the man’s honor.

Alexis Soyer left France before his career really took off, but when he arrived in London, there was no stopping him.  He quickly gained employment as a chef in a prestigious restaurant where he immediately began implementing innovations that set the establishment apart from all others, including temperature controlled ovens, gas ovens and water cooled refrigerators. He’s responsible for setting up the first soup kitchens ever in response to the Irish Famine and the proceeds of his book when toward hunger relief. He was a leader in innovation and charitable contributions.

As a personality he demonstrated the reason why every group of friends should have a chef in their midst. After an evening of drinking, he would invite his friends to a cellar restaurant called the Cave of Harmony where he would make them a greasy feast of comfort food at 2 am. He was also remarkable in his outrageous outfits and his tendency to sing and dance when the mood took him.  He was popular, compassionate, motivated and full of life.

Then the Crimean War began. The Crimean War, as I have learned, was a bit of a strange scene. Since Napoleon’s bid for empire in the early 19th century, warfare just wasn’t the same as it had been for millennia. The established methodologies had been shaken up and new technologies were also changing how humans were fighting throughout the 19th century. The Crimean War was the first war since all of the new developments and countries throughout Europe were eager to try out their new toys and strategies. It was an experimental war.

Alexis Soyer had been developing technologies and strategies to aid in maintaining supply lines and allowing soldiers to prepare and eat food while in the field. The Crimean War was an event where he could try out some of his ideas too.  It was during this conflict that Mssr. Soyer became familiar with Marmora and so named a punch he created after the man.

This is what Michael made us at the Brixton.  The ingredients were as follows:

  • 2 slices lemon peel
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 oz dark Jamaican rum
  • 1 oz brandy
  • 1/2 oz maraschino liqueur
  • 1/2 oz white Jamaican rum
  • 2 oz orgeat syrup
  • 1/2 oz lemon juice
  • 4 oz soda water
  • 3 oz chilled champagne

This is one of the best drinks we have had since we started the project.  It was sweet, but still approachable, being light with many flavors of cherry and citrus interplaying with the effervescence. Michael needed some extra hands to craft this one for us because of its complexity, but we all agreed it was simply fucking amazing. Rachel was scheming for ways to make this one at home.

All in all, this was the epitome of why I enjoy this project. The drink was fun to learn about and created a window into the past I had not known before. It was fun to make with ten ingredients and numerous steps, it challenged the bar staff but only enough to keep it fun. And, even though whether I like the cocktail is the least of interest to me, it was a delight to drink. This drink will be hard to top as we continue.

January 06, 2015 12:34 PM PST

We are going to go out on a limb and say that the Communist Cocktail is probably named after Communists. Nothing states it definitively, but…Communist. This drink calls for Cherry Bounce in the original recipe, an old cordial made from sour cherries, the pits, sugar and spices. Cherry Bounce: the 19th century’s answer to Kool-Aid! It is a relative of Cherry Brandy, and Cherry Heering, used in most recipes now. The red color of Cherry Bounce or Cherry Heering is probably the reason it ended up with the name that it did, since when mixed it becomes a brownish-orange. Would this be a…Red Herring?

There isn’t a whole lot to go on with this drink other than it seems like another one-off from a book/pamphlet of cocktails called Cocktail Parade (1933). The pictures from this publication are enough to draw conclusions about the creation of the drink and who was drinking it though. The drawing paired with the drink takes us into a discussion of images of communists throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Ridiculous stereotypes of dark, mustachioed, immigrants scheming to overthrow capitalism with their cartoon bombs. We explore communism throughout time and space from communal experiments to labor movements to Bolsheviks to attempts to end prohibition by associating it with the communist behavior.

This one is chock-full of revolution, class, immigration, and even a little bit of Genghis Khan for good measure.

The ingredients are:

  • 1 oz gin
  • 1 oz fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 1/2 oz cherry brandy (Cherry Heering)
  • 3/4 oz fresh lemon juice

Despite the reliance on citrus I really liked this drink. Tasting the Cherry Heering alone I knew I would. The sour from the citrus is really offset by the thick, cherry sweet coming through. It was good; it wasn’t amazing but I did enjoy it and would be happy to have it again.

December 30, 2014 01:56 PM PST

In this episode we take a look at the Brooklyn cocktail, which looks to be the product of Jack Grohusko from the early part of the 20th century. Most cocktails take some wondering and digging and guessing in order to figure out why a bartender gave it a particular name. With the Brooklyn, we go out on a limb here and say that it is probably named after the borough in New York. Sometimes it is not worth overthinking. There is no indication as to why it is called the Brooklyn though. Was this a sister drink of the Manhattan and the Bronx and part of a trend? Was it created in Brooklyn? Or was this another one-off cocktail requested by some random patron that got thrown into a recipe book?

With a whole big lack of information on this one, we discuss the gentleman’s trade that was being a bartender in the cocktail era. With many recipe books working as trade manuals of sorts, they often laid out the appropriate behavior for a barman when slinging drinks. Spoiler: There was a lot less chatting and a whole lot more crisp white shirts back in the day.

Join us as a dive into another cocktail with an obvious reference, but a mysterious origin.

2 ounces rye or other whiskey
1 ounce dry vermouth
1/4 ounce maraschino liqueur
1/4 ounce Amer Picon

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