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.

Shopping News: Good, French-made Dubonnet

Dubonnet Red

Those of you who have tasted the good, original Quinquina Dubonnet that is actually made in France can never go back to the stuff that has been under license in Kentucky for about 75 years. Drinks writers like David Embury and others decried the blatantly different taste and quality between the two. Why do you suppose American drinks containing Dubonnet suddenly stopped being made in anything like the previous numbers around 1940?

Well, if you are like me and are willing to pay the price of getting a trans-Atlantic every now and then (combining enough key products a large enough order to mitigate the shipping costs), there is good news! The Whisky Exchange in London, for a while out of stock, now has authentic, French-produced Dubonnet ready to ship!

WARNING: Don’t purchase the so-called Dubonnet Blanc on the Whisky Exchange website. The French producer has never made a “blanc.” What the Whisky Exchange is selling as the blanc is the American product. It was invented in the U.S.A. and is just as crappy, in my opinion, as their other product called ‘Dubonnet.’

Giffard vs. U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau Ignorance

Giffard CTS

I like and use Giffard products. But, as an Aspie, I am driven a little crazy that their excellent triple-sec Curaçao liqueur must be labeled, by decision of the ever-ignorant U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (a.k.a. ‘T.T.B.’), only as ‘triple sec’ — an adjectival phrase bereft of any noun — for the American market.

Giffard vs Giffard

This is like calling a shaggy, white dog just a “shaggy white.”

In the rest of the world, the label reads, in French, “Curaçao Triple Sec.” To translate that, we must also put it into English word order. It becomes, “Triple Dry Curaçao.”

The official product description in the Giffard USA website says: “A distillation of the finest blend of sweet and bitter oranges from the island of Curaçao.”

Duh, T.T.B.! That’s what Curaçao liqueur is!

This one from Giffard does happen to be of the triple-sec grade — traditionally containing between 250 and 350 grams of sugar per liter. It’s not wrong for those words to be on the label. But just calling something ‘triple-dry’ without saying what it is, is just wrong, and nothing less than the bureaucratic imposition of ignorance upon the rest of us by the T.T.B.

Not all Curaçao liqueurs are of the triple-sec grade.

Curaçao Liqueur Grades

Cointreau and Senior produce extra-sec Curaçao liqueur — having just 240 grams and 242 grams, respectively, of sugar per liter. Legendary, long-gone Cusenier produced the first extra-sec Curaçao liqueur in the early decades of the twentieth century. But it was never the only grade they produced.



Is there anyone who will try to assert that understanding the different, traditional grades of Curaçao liqueur is pointless? Is there no point in understanding varying levels of sweetness, bitterness and aroma? If we want to elevate the mixing of drinks, we cannot carry on in such ignorance of ingredients.

I imagine someone with more power than education at the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau objected to the original label, saying something stupid like, “Which is it: triple-sec, or Curaçao?” [As you play that in your head, be sure to hear it by one of the dumb-jock-type characters so excellently voiced by Patrick Warburton over the years — Seinfeld’s Puddy, perhaps.]

That would be like asking about a red fire-engine, “Which is it: red, or a fire-engine?

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!

Oaxacan Mezcal & Tequila Mezcal


French (and therefore European Union and international) law requires that Cognac brandy be produced in Cognac using the Charentais still. Any variance from that point of origin or that method of distillation yields a product that is simply brandy or French brandy. This is all very common knowledge.

Now imagine, if you will, France changing, for no other reason than an obvious attempt to boost profits and tariffs, its laws concerning brandy and Cognac brandy. Imagine the new regulation leaving the appellation rules for ‘Cognac’ mostly unchanged, while restricting the use of the generic term “brandy” only to brandy produced in the Burgundy region. The fact that brandy from Cognac, distilled the traditional Charente way, could no longer be legally labelled as brandy would not change that fact that that is exactly what it is.

This is why I persist in stating that there are two major types of mezcal available at market in the U.S.A. – Oaxacan mezcal and Tequila mezcal.

Nevertheless, the Mexican government’s manipulation of labeling regulations has worked very well.

Once upon a time, Tequila mezcal was the more-exclusive stuff made near the city of Tequila, Jalisco of a more specific ingredient (blue agave) — while other mezcals could be made anywhere in Mexico from less-specific ingredients (any type of agave), and were usually less expensive. Non-Tequila mezcal was then the common tipple of campesinos in the southern parts of Mexico and of hard-working, under-paid vaqueros in the central and northern parts.

I think of the 1971 Columbo episode, “A Matter of Honor.” In it, el dueño del rancho, played by Ricardo Montalban, tosses a bottle of mezcal to an old cowboy, who responds, “Good mezcal, señor. You touch the heart of an old vaquero.”

Watch the episode. It’s pretty good. But, that was 1971, and non-Tequila mezcal is not for old vaqueros any more.

In their lust to transform Oaxacan mezcal into the next expensive, boutique spirit on the world stage, the Mexican government and the Oaxacan distillers have turned their backs on the campesinos and the vaqueros.

You should consider that next time you want to go to a bar to try various mezcals from bottles that routinely retail for around $200. The focus on the paradigm would be sharpened if the bar were in a freshly ‘gentrified’ part of the city and the guy next to you were paying for his precious, exclusive, sips of Oaxacan mezcal with the proceeds of flipped houses.

What would be needed to remedy this situation would be the Evan Williams or Old Grand-dad of Oaxacan mezcal – something with reliably-acceptable quality at a price that won’t mock the poor heart of the campesino or vaquero (or even of the median-or-lower-income Yanqui).

Real de Magueyes

One such product was the Real de Magueyes mezcal (sensibly without any worm or insect) that I routinely bought at the Beverage Warehouse in Culver City for $19.99 for the yearling (añejo — I never did see the blanco there). It was from San Luis Potosi instead of Oaxaca. It was smokey, yet smooth and perfectly delicious. It seems to have disappeared from the U.S.A. around 2010. Nothing has filled the void it left.

Buenas noches, viejo vaquero.

“Viejo Vaquero” — there’s the product name for a solid mezcal at about $20 per bottle. Now, someone, make that happen!

Drink of the Day: the Liberal Cocktail

Writing about the drinks that are alleged by modern drinkers and tenders to be the Negroni Cocktail – being the Camparinete Cocktail and the Campari Mixte Cocktail — inspired me to consider how inspired their creation actually was.

I have no doubt that if George Kappeler had been asked by a customer in 1895 to make the Dundorado Cocktail so that it featured the cinchona grand bitters more prominently, he would have worked from basic, traditional assumptions. He would have considered that at more than two dashes out of the full-sized liquor bottle (~1 tsp., each) that calisaya bitters came in, they should probably just be jiggered — that is, made part of the 2 fluid-ounce jigger that was considered the basic portion of liquor per drink, mixed or not. Two proportions that would have sprung to his mind without any inspiration necessary. They would have been either to proportion the three alcoholic ingredients into either 1/3 jigger each, or for leaving half the jigger for the gin (as in the Dundorado Cocktail) and splitting the other half of the jigger between the vermouth wine and the cinchona bitters.

That he was using cinchona bitters featuring Cinchona calisaya instead of the Cinchona officinalis found in Campari Bitter is worth noting. But it does not make as much difference as some might assume. What is different is that Campari Bitter contains more sugar than the calisaya bitter currently available.

At any rate, the two proportions that would have first come to his mind as part of American Mixology 101, so to speak, would have essentially created either of the 1929 drinks, the Campari Mixte and the Camparinete Cocktail.

So, was the idea of making grand bitters part of the jigger the only innovative concept involved in creating the Boulevardier/Campari Mixte/Camparinete-class cocktails that George Kappeler and American bar-tenders of his day lacked?

Even that was no great inspiration in 1927 or 1929. George Kappeler published the oldest-known recipe for the Liberal Cocktail in 1895. And that drink is a true cocktail with grand bitters right there inside the jigger.

Liberal Cocktail

Picon bitters (that’s what amer means) aren’t available everywhere, so Paolucci CioCiaro bitters (that’s what amaro means) can be used as a substitute.

Picon Bitters & substitute

The Liberal Cocktail has actually been one of my ‘go to’ drinks since about 2009. I like it with a little more of the jigger given to the rye whiskey than to the bitters, but it’s good either way. Just don’t put in any sugar or simple syrup that you might expect should go into a Whiskey Cocktail along with the bitters and whiskey. Like most grand bitters, both Picon bitters and CioCiaro bitters are plenty sweet by themselves.

The Liberal Cocktail was, itself, no product of grand inspiration. Once cocktails with petite bitters are popular, grand bitters will be used, too — and someone is going to try making them part of the 2 fluid-ounce jigger.

Once the Liberal Cocktail existed and was at all well-received (it is delicious), it was just a matter of time before someone further fancified the family by addition of vermouth wine as a modifier.

Let’s stop building up cult-of-personality around these drinks and just enjoy them for what they are: the predictable products of mixological culture.