Book Club Cocktails

Mrs. Mai Tai hosted her monthly Book Club with friends and asked me to make cocktails for the group. This was the menu I came up with, intended to present some different kinds of flavors than are usually seen on mainstream cocktail menus.

  • The Pampanito: a Smuggler’s Cove recipe featuring Molasses Syrup
  • Saturn: a Gin-based cocktail with exotic cocktail sweeteners
  • Blue Hawaii: I included a little quarter ounce of Wray & Nephew Overproof to give this a little extra kick of flavor
  • Tradewinds: a great combination of coconut plus Apricot Liqueur

The cocktail that blew everyone away was the Saturn, served up. Even the attendees who said they didn’t like Gin found this delightful. I made more of these than the other cocktails combined.

I can see why people build or acquire bars for their homes; trying to make this many drinks sink-side in the kitchen is kind of a pain. But at least the results came out great.

Recipe: London Dry Spin

I still had more White Grapefruit Juice so I did a little riff that actually ended up tasting quite nice. This is definitely grapefruit-forward, but I think it pairs well with the gin and the hints of orange and the rich orgeat syrup. This leans tart, so if you like it sweeter I’d suggest bumping the Cointreau to ¾ oz.

London Dry Spin by Kevin Crossman
1 oz Fresh White Grapefruit Juice
¼ oz Fresh Orange Juice
¼ oz Orgeat
½ oz Cointreau
2 oz London Dry Gin (Beefeater)
Shake with ice and strain into a coupe glass

The Orgeat used was homemade from Pearl’s Hideaway and is bit on the cloudy side compared to some commercial syrups such as Latitude 29. In this case, the cloudy white cocktail made this look a bit different from Daiquris and other cocktails served up. Liber & Co. orgeat would have similar cloudy results.

Grapefruit Comparison

I was gifted some White Grapefruit from someone locally who has a neighbor with a tree, so I did some comparison testing with a Rudy Red.

Old Friend
¾ oz Grapefruit Juice
½ oz Campari
¼ oz Elderflower Liqueur
1½ oz Beefeater Gin
Shake with ice and strain into a coupe. Garnish with a lemon twist.
The original spec calls for St. Germain but I only have the Giffard Elderflower.

I made two of these, and found that I preferred the sweeter Red Grapefruit in the cocktail. I don’t know that I would have refused the tarter one with White Grapefruit, but the difference between the two was certainly obvious and noticeable given the relative percentage of juice in this recipe. And you know I like things a little sweeter. Overall, this was a pretty tasty cocktail either way.

Navy Grog and Zombie testing this weekend.

Sling of Davy Jones at Dr. Funk

I was pleased to try this Singapore Sling riff at Dr. Funk, which I found to be a wonderful blend of complex flavors. It is made with “wild roses, velvety honey, bright citrus, Cocchi Rosa aromatized sweet vermouth, Becherovka herbal bitters & gin.”

Ken Wongdejanan really crushed it on this one. The cocktail program at Dr. Funk continues to impress and seems to be extraordinarily strong across all cocktail styles.

Off-Menu Saturn at Dr. Funk

You know that a bartender knows their stuff when don’t flinch when you order an off-menu cocktail. In this case, it was the ask for a Saturn at Dr. Funk in San Jose, and Paul McCoun  made a great one.

The Saturn is a late-classic era tiki cocktail with Gin, Orgeat, Falernum, Passionfruit Syrup, and Lemon Juice. Every tiki bar should have these ingredients and this is a well-known cocktail so it shouldn’t be an issue to order one, but sometimes you never know. I like Dr. Funk’s Mai Tai, so wanted to try a cocktail that also used Orgeat, and the Saturn is one of my favorites. The original specs called for the Saturn to be blended, but I find it is better when served up – and that’s exactly how Paul prepared it. Paul even made a cool planet-with-rings garnish.

Every cocktail I’ve had a Dr. Funk has been great, and I hear an updated cocktail menu is coming soon. Looking forward to see what else the medical staff come up with.

Honey Buzz at Pym’s Tasting Lab

Our family had a lot of great memories at Bug’s Land at Disney California Adventure, and a few even before that when it was the Bountiful Valley Farm, so I was bit sad when it was razed to make way for Avenger Campus that opened last year. And as a California native I regret that DCA’s initial “California” theme continues to be watered down. But, with adult children who love Marvel movies, it wasn’t like we were spending a lot of time in Bug’s Land anymore.

We gave Avenger’s Campus a try this trip. I enjoyed the Spider-Man attraction far more than I expected; it was lots of fun. And we gave the food eatery a chance this time too. Pym’s Test Kitchen is a counter-service restaurant with the gimmick that the food has been altered by Ant-Man shrinking/growing tech. Hence the gigantic pretzel or their chicken sandwich that has a tiny bun but an over-sized chicken patty. I even did a kids meal with make your own PB&J. Pretty good, and both walk-up and mobile order worked great for us on this trip.

Pym’s Tasting Lab is a bar that is adjacent to the Test Kitchen. This is where they offer beer, wine, beer cocktails, and cocktails. I decided to go with the Honey Buzz, which contains Gin, Lemon, and Honey, along with a “honey straw” that is basically a stick of honey. Otherwise known as a Bee’s Knees, this was a very sweet and easy to drink cocktail. I liked it a lot and ordered it again on our second visit.

We also tried The Regulator, which is a beer cocktail with Patrón Silver Tequila and Golden Road Mango Cart Wheat Ale, with Mango and Habanero Syrups, and Mango Flavor-filled Boba. The Habanero was tempered enough for me to drink it, but still was too spicy for me.

French 75: Gin or Cognac?

There was an online discussion started recently by Maxton Kennedy, current bar manager at Forbidden Island and previously from The Kon-Tiki in Oakland and Tiki Tolteca in New Orleans. Notably, Maxton also previously had a stint at the French 75 Bar in NOLA.

Maxton’s premise was that many are making the French 75 incorrectly, since most published recipes use Gin rather than the French spirit, Cognac. It does seem like if the cocktail is a French origin, then the pair of Cognac and Champagne would make sense. 

This idea intrigued me and so without getting into the politics we made these side by side. I also did a poll on my Instagram stories, which split 60/40 in favor of Gin.

French 75
½ oz Lemon Juice
½ oz Simple Syrup
1 oz Gin or Cognac
Top with 1 oz Champagne

I tried both and to me the Gin version with Beefeater Gin tasted better than the one with Ferrand Cognac. Perhaps different spirits in each category would have given a different result, but among these two the floral notes from the Gin seemed to work better with the Champagne.

Though, honestly, straight Champagne tasted better than either.