Mr. Booze’s 2011 Holiday Gift Guide!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, right? Well….it could be made a heck of a lot more wonderful with a little something for your favorite home bartender tucked under the tree or behind the bar. This is our 3rd annual gift guide, and I consider it time very well spent.  Hosting eight maids-a-milking or ten lords- a-leaping can be exhausting and tough on the most seasoned bartender.  Why not have a little more fun or ease behind the bar by using any one of these swell barmen’s tools or additions.  Believe me, you as the giver will get plenty of “ooohs & ahhhs” as the bartender in your life cracks one of these gifties open….and you know what you’ll get?  Satisfaction, thanks,  and a well -made drink.  Sounds like a fair exchange to me.

1) King Cube Ice Cube Tray – Just two fat, enormous cubes keepin’ your bourbon cold and not watering it all down is just what the doc ordered.   I love these trays.  Huge  ice-cubes which melt slower than a handful of smaller ice cubes keep a cold drink colder longer and won’t water down that expensive bottle of booze you found in your stocking.  Buy it here.


2) Barker & Mills Bourbon Vanilla Cocktail Cherries – ‘Tis the season to be decadent and all that.  If you wish to make a statement in this winter’s cocktails, you can’t yell any louder in a drink that calls for cherries than by plopping in one or two of these babies.  I picked up a jar while tooling around this past fall and rushed back home to try these for myself. Unbelievable is what I have to say. This cherry elevated my humdrum manhattan to another level with its far from subtle flavor. People save the cherry in their drink for last & with the richness of this whiskey-vanilla soaked goddess as a finish, you’ll be making more cocktails. Find it here.

3) Polka Dot Glasses, Gift Box of 4 – I’m always looking for funky or cool retro tall glasses in which to pour my summery, limey, gingery cocktails. I like glasses that funnel ice the whole way down the glass, keeping the drink ice-cold from top to bottom, and this set certainly accomplishes that. Eye-catching and thirst-causing at the same time, this set would look smashing and polka-dotty on your home bar.  Find it here.

4) Guinness, Black & Tan Pouring Spoon – This is one of those items that a lot of people say they have, but when it’s put up or shut up time, especially around St. Patrick’s Day, they say they can’t find it. If I had a buck for every time a guest promised to bring one over for a night of Black & Tans and Irish Whisky, yet somehow manages not to be able to find it, I’d have at least six dollars. This one comes with a little chain so you can hang it from a nail at your bar. They’re extremely useful, the thing comes with directions, everyone likes a Black & Tan or a Half & Half. This enables you to pour, without blending, a Guinness & Harp, or a Guinness & Bass, thereby layering one beer over another. “Mmmm,” now I want a Black ‘n Tan. Get one here.

5) Glencairn Wide-Bottomed Whiskey Glasses (set of 4, personalized) – Cocktail this, high-ball that, sometimes you just want to cut through the flotsam of build-a-drink-bartending, and sit down with a glass of iced whiskey; I know I sure do.  Whiskey – be it Irish, Bourbon, Scotch or Canadia, is the spirit that’s most conducive to good conversation or healthy retrospection. The right jazz, three ice-cubes, a splash of H20 and a great whiskey can make a night. These wide-bottomed glasses feel wonderful in your hand and will make your improv-golf-story so much more convincing and interesting for the listener. Find them here.

6) Copper Moscow Mule Mug – ManOhManOhChevitz!  When I saw in the 2011 Nov/Dec  Imbibe magazine that these were being re-introduced, I jumped for joy. The Moscow Mule, made with spicy ginger beer, vodka and lime Juice, is an absolutely fantastic cocktail and one that warranted its own vessel back in the 1960’s. I have a few originals but will definitely be filling  my collection with a few of these. The cold drink inside creates an ice-cold condensation on the outside of the copper mug that begs you to enjoy the drink even more. A true must-have! Get your mug here.

7) Squire’s Flask – I like this one because when I carry a flask, I always carry it in my coat side pocket, not in my inside breast pocket, which eliminates the need for the curve that you’ll find on most of them. Chunky enough to easily find when you need it, yet still discreet enough to sneak out quickly while smack-dab in the middle of that parent/teacher meeting, this is all the flask you’ll ever need.  I know that people seldom carry them anymore, but … they once did, and there are times when a flask comes in darned handy.  Share that good whiskey while watching your boy getting bounced around on the football field. Buy on here.

8)Limited Edition “Dean Martini” Set – Not sure how much longer you’ll be able to get your hands on one of these babies.  I picked one up a year or so ago and still dig it. Just a swank little black leatherette carry-box, etched with Dean’s signature, this is just one of those cool little things you have around your bar.  Shaker, olive picks, two martini glasses, jigger, and a flask come packaged. Straight from Dean Martin’s estate and limited edition.  If you’re a fan of Dean or know a fan, this is a neat gift. Find the set here.

9) Midnight Rise of the Tikis Tiki Mug – The first ever hectagonal (6-sided) tiki mug offered by my favorite tiki mug site, Tikifarm, this midnight blue glazed beauty would just be perfect for your next tiki concoction.  I try and mention Tikifarm every year on my gift guide because I love everything they do. Prone to fast sell-outs, snatch this mug as soon as you read this.  I have a lot of TF mugs, and I use them whenever I take a trip to rumville.  I promise that I, and whomever you give this to, will be using it come summer.  Get your Tiki mug here.

10) Oktoberfest Style Glass Boot Beer Stein – I have one…and, believe it or not, I use it. Do I feel good about myself after finishing a boot?  Well, never, but I still keep it, and break it out for whatever odd reason.  It holds around five brewskies, and if you think about it, that’s not too bad. Where you get into trouble is when you try and suck down the beer before it gets warm.  Still, when full you can still tell your significant other that your steppin’ out to the back porch for “a brew” and not be lying.  Fill one up while you’re grilling and promise your family that delicious burned, unattended burgers are on their way.  I guess it’s more of a statement of non-conformity and independence than anything….”Yeah, I’m drinking a huge glass boot of beer, so what!” Grab it here.

Well, there you have it. I hope we’ve been able to help with one or a few ideas for holiday gifts.  New batch will be up next year, so look for us.

Here’s the link to last year’s gift suggestions if you want to take a look-see. Still some great stuff there.


On the Town: Life in Saloons, Speak Easies, & the Big City Bars A May Evening with “The King of Cocktails,” Dale DeGroff

I honestly didn’t know what the hell to expect as I was ushered into the black walled back bar theater at The Passenger Bar in DC. The place honestly looked like it was just rediscovered after a half century of being sealed off. My pal at The American Cocktail Museum, Phil Greene, introduced me to DeGroff, and it was like meeting the most down-to-earth gent in the industry. Unpretentious, relaxed, charming and so not like what I preconceived, Dale Degroff is the guy you’d want sitting next to you at the crowded bar. We chatted for a minute; I pitched our site and told him I’d read his book. I then went back out into the bar and waited to roll back into the theater with the crowd.

We’re all given a Sherry Cobbler while waiting to be seated. A mixture of sweet sherry, cognac, muddled orange peel and berries, the drink was like a Victorian carpet of flavors. It set the tone, I knew, at least the drinks were gonna be interesting. I sat in the musty house and out walks Dale playing a guitar like Woody Guthrie, singing Hank’s I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry. “Whoa,” this is already not just a bar-pro talking about the history of cocktails. I’m at a freakin’ performance art show. Dale finishes the song, explains its importance to his saloon passion and liver, then launches into two hours of pretty riveting bar stories — my favorite kind of story period. I’m hooked as the second drink, an Absinthe Frappe, rolls out. It’s a strong absinthe based drink, so I’m even more convinced I’m in for an evening.

I like DeGroff a lot ’cause, on occasion, he’d just stop talking, look down at his drink and smile as a pre-recorded song played softly in the background. This was no pre-planned gesture, you could see the guy drift off in a bar memory seconds before he told the tale. It was like watching a man remember old friends at a party. The smile or mumbled lyric came before the story. You could tell this stuff was important to him. Sometimes he would just stop his story before the last sentences and wave his hand as if in a “you just had to be there” gesture. What a breath of fresh air in its sincerity.

Don’t get me wrong, history was shared. I had no idea that cocktails were a direct result of America’s Industrial Revolution; that the Bitter Sling cocktail was most likely the very first; bartenders by the thousands were taught their trade between 1800 & 1850. What I was really surprised about was how little Dale DeGroff spoke about actual recipe & prep. This man is responsible for the rebirth of cocktail culture; he’s designed dozens of powerhouse cocktail menus and bar layouts, won a 2009 James Beard Foundation award, yet was just as interested in telling stories about why wishbones hang in a favorite NYC watering hole (in honor of soldiers who didn’t make it back from WW2 to take theirs down), or matriarchal saloon owners with mean left hooks. He shook off accolades aimed at him by the night’s MC like they were beer spills. This is why the night was so cool. Here we had the, arguably, most important professional in the cocktail industry telling more stories about characters and great old bars than he did about modern mixology and trends.

By the time the third cocktail rolled around, a Major Bailey cocktail made with gin, lime juice and fresh mint, the stories were still flowing. DeGroff talked about his time actually bartending in the major NYC power bars. His redesign of the Rainbow Room drink menu tied in with the deco, panoramic views and old-school refurbishing was very cool. The Rainbow Room was a place I’ve always wished I’d visited when I had the chance. Having the Bar King who brought classic cocktails back to it was a nice second place. He also spoke of the Times Square’ Howard Johnsons and how he washed dishes there. At least I could recall having three pretty damn good martinis there with my wife fifteen years back.

As the fourth and final cocktail of the evening was passed down the aisles, some sort of Gimlet, I’d given up on taking notes after the third drink, DeGroff spoke about the current state of cocktails and how he believed they were close to superseding or equaling food in importance in the kitchen. I’m not too sure about that and actually hope not, but DeGroff ended the thought with downplay and hope. He wished for a return and resurgence of the neighborhood saloon and saloon singing. The social heartbeat of a neighborhood can be found in their bars he explained. What I took away from this was what I’ve been saying on Mr. Booze for years — your bar, be it brick and mortar or in your very own basement or garage, is the place where friends and folks come together over a few drinks to laugh and goof and sort stuff out. How refreshing it was to have these feelings reconfirmed by the King of the pour. Great night!

The Museum of the American Cocktail

Hello Darlings! The Missus here. Yes, you’re in luck this museum really does exist. The Museum of the American Cocktail is housed within the new Southern Food and Beverage Museum in New Orleans. It is the perfect place because all the other cities just make cocktails. New Orleans invented them. A guy named Antoine Amadie Peychaud, a Creole pharmacist, came up with his own proprietary blend called Peychaud’s Bitters, which became the Sazerac cocktail when mixed with a line of French cognac.

The museum traces the American cocktail from its birth in the early 19th century through its “golden age” in the early 20th century, up to its revival in the 1990s. The brainchild of collectors, historians, and mixologists, the Museum features exhibits of vintage cocktail shakers, glasses, Prohibition artifacts, and many other relics connected to the cocktail and its enthusiasts. There are also a series of mixology seminars given by preeminent mixologists and held at various holidays and festivals such as Mardi Gras and Jazzfest.

For a small space, it’s an impressive collection of old bottles, juicers, ice picks, glassware, bartending guides, and propaganda for pro- and anti-temperance forces. The collection’s highlights include a copy of the very Repository newspaper that first mentioned the word “cocktail,” and a cabinet taken from Antoine Peychaud’s pharmacy, both holy relics in the cocktail world.

The museum also offers a timeline of cocktail history, from the prehistoric “bitters” period, through the advent of electricity (which allowed for ice storage and instant carbonation) through Prohibition, then the post-WWII period, which brought us vodka and rum-based tropical cocktails. Even those of you that are cocktail nerds will probably learn new bits of trivia.

Is all this talk of drinks making you thirsty?

Here are some classic cocktail recipes sure to tickle your fancy…

Sherry Cognac Cobbler
1800 – 1850, The Early Years
1 orange and 8 lemons to prepare syrup
1 quart spring water
1 cup sugar
24 ounces fresh lemon juice
16 oz Emilio Lustau Pedro Ximenez*
1 bottle Martell Cognac
In a mixing glass filled with ice pour 2 ½ ounces of the base ingredient. Shake with ice to chill and strain into a goblet filled with cracked ice. Top with Berries and an orange and lemon peel.

Absinthe Frappé
(The Gilded Age 1880 – 1910, )
1 ounce Pernod Absinthe
1 ounce water
2 dashes Anisette
Fill a mixing glass with crushed ice and roll once or twice to chill strain into a goblet filled with crushed ice. Splash with seltzer.

The Major Bailey
(Post Prohibition) Served at demolition party on last night at Jack & Charlies
1 1/2 ounce Plymouth Gin
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 ounce lemon juice
1/4 ounce lime juice
Several mint leaves and a mint sprig
Crushed ice
Muddle the sugar and mint leaves in the bottom of a Delmonico glass with a splash of seltzer to help dissolve. Add the crushed ice and gin stir and garnish with mint sprig.

Jasper’s Planters Punch
(The Revival 1980 – 2000)
1 1/2 oz Appleton 12-yr-old Rum
Float of Coruba Dark
1 1/2 oz. Jasper’s Mix*
Cherry, pineapple spear, and sugarcane stick garnishes
Assemble the two ingredients in a medium highball glass with cracked ice. Stir to chill top with additional ice and the float of Coruba rum. Garnish with the pineapple, cherry and sugarcane *(see page 177 of Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails (Deluxe Edition)

Velvet Fog
(The New Wave 2000 – 2011)
1 1/2 ounces Skyy Vodka
1/2 ounces fresh lime juice
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
1 ounce Velvet Falernum Syrup
1 ounce fresh orange juice
Shake ingredients well with ice, stain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a flamed orange.

For more information about the museum:

How to Remove Cocktail Stains

Hello Darlings! It’s me the Missus. Sooner or later in your life, you’re bound to spill one of your delicious cocktails on your favorite shirt or dress. No worries, it is possible to remove alcohol stains from your clothes, and here’s how.

Before you do anything, make sure you know what you’re “allowed” to do to your clothes. You can generally find any warnings about washing the article of clothing in question on the label. Keep this warnings in mind – if you don’t pay attention to them, you could have much worse than an alcohol stain to deal with.

Things You’ll Need:


Mild detergent



1. Run cool water directly over the stain, rubbing with your fingers to remove the loosest stain on the surface of the fabric.

2. Fill the sink halfway with cool water.

3. Wet the sponge with cool water.

Squeeze several drops of mild detergent onto the wet sponge, and rub it into the sponge to create a soapy froth.

4. Rub the sponge into the stain on your garment.

5. Allow the garment to soak in the cool water for 20 minutes.

Rinse the garment in cool water and inspect the stain.

6. Repeat the process as necessary for stubborn stains.

7. Drain the sink when you have determined that the garment’s stain has been satisfactorily removed.

8. Allow the garment to air-dry before laundering as usual.

9. Launder as usual once the garment is dry and shows no sign of the stain persisting.

Read more: How to Remove Alcohol Stains |