Robert Hess

since August 2007
job Cocktail Evangelist
interests Cocktails, Cooking, Computers, Science Fiction


Cherries in Cocktails - A Proper Garnish for the Little Italy Cocktail 20 Apr 2015
4:29 pm


You probably don’t need an ice machine (but it wouldn’t hurt), and as for how much ice you need, just base that on if you find yourself running out, and then buy another tray.

As for using hot water… this is for trying to make “clear” ice. And the concept here is that you boil the water first to release as much trapped oxygen as possible, let it cool and then freeze it. It doesn’t work as well as some folks say however. And frankly, making clear ice really doesn’t make a technical difference in your cocktails, it just makes for a better presentation. If you really want to find some good details on how to make clear ice, Camper English has some good stuff he’s done on this, Start here:

Sponsored: White Lady Cocktail 10 Apr 2015
12:17 pm

While often attributed to Harry Craddock, the White Lady was actually created by Harry MacElhone in 1919.

The White Lady is a pretty funny drink if you look into it’s history a little bit. As with many cocktails, it can be easy to find a few different recipes, often with little variations from one to the other. Harry MacElhone himself has at least four different recipes for this drink.

Originally, it was Creme de Menthe, Cointreau, and Lemon Juice. In “ABC of Mixing Drinks” he provides a recipe listing Brandy, Creme de Menthe, and Cointreau, later he updates the recipe yet again to be gin, Cointreau, and lemon juice, and still later he finally adds egg white to the drink.

I typically list the sans-egg-white recipe for this drink, and am often criticized by folks who claim the “White” in it’s name is a clear indication that egg white is a required ingredient. Fortunately, they would be wrong :->

Learn the Foundational Cocktail Recipes - Trident Cocktail 26 Feb 2015
1:43 pm


The best way to understand what makes a cocktail work (foundational or not) is through personal experimentation. One of the first cocktails I played around with, was the sidecar, trying all of the variations of the recipes I could find, and trying to figure out what was the underlying flavor character that “made” it a sidecar, and which of the various recipes I felt best represented that. For me, the sidecar isn’t a “tart” drink like a Daiquiri, but it is smoother and more refined, with just enough tartness to balance out the sweetness. It is however within the same basic family as the Daiquiri, Margarita, Lemon Drop, Cosmopolitan, and other “Sour” style drinks. So understanding the overall foundations of the sour style, but at the same time being able to key in on the specific drink, is part of what makes it so exciting.

For books, my own “The Essential Bartenders Guide” (, hardbound is now out of print, but the “Pocket” edition - if you have a big pocket - is still available) has a solid section on the classic/foundational cocktails. But I also highly recommend “The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks” by David Embury (also on

Product Choice is Important - The Sidecar Cocktail 19 Mar 2015
3:23 pm

B&B, Cointreau, and Lemon Juice, while similar to a Sidecar, would be a new drink. One way to think about it, is that if a knowledgeable customer ordered a “sidecar” at a bar, and the bartender made it with B&B, would the customer still think it tasted exactly like the sidecar he was wanting? He might like it “better”, but that’s different from noticing a difference.

I’m not sure if it is still common, but it used to be that lots of bars were offer a “Mataxa Sidecar” made with Mataxa instead of brandy (Mataxa is a flavored brandy), it’s a good drink, but important to let the customer know that it isn’t specifically a sidecar.

As for B&B, I might instead recommend using a combo of brandy and Benedictine. There are a few reasons for this, most important is that it allows you to choose the quality of brandy/cognac to use, secondly is that any bar that has B&B “should” also have Benedictine, but not vice versa. Granted, I see lots of bars that have B&B but not Benedictine. Since there are a lot more cocktails that call for Benedictine as an ingredient, you are better off stocking that first, because with Benedictine you can make B&B, as well as any cocktail that calls for Benedictine (or B&B), while with B&B you can just make… well… B&B :->

Oh… and a quick spin over at appears to indicate that this drink essentially exists (Brandy, Cointreau, Lemon Juice, Benedictine)
And is called: “T.s.i.t.e. (they Shall Inherit The Earth)”
I’m totally clueless where this might have come from, I’ve never heard of it before.

When Good Recipes Go Bad – The Old Fashioned Cocktail 4 Dec 2014
1:29 pm

Actually, the printed recipe here is wrong (ironic, no?). The garnish step should read “Garnish with a lemon twist” and not “Garnish with an orange zest”.

While I would never turn back a rye old fashioned garnished with orange, I think lemon works better. While at the same time, I feel that for a bourbon old fashioned an orange works better.

And technically a “zest” is small shavings you would get if you used a grater, while a “twist” can be anything from the thin strip you get from by using a channel knife, to a slice you get (as I am using here) by using a knife.

When Good Recipes Go Bad – The Old Fashioned Cocktail 5 Dec 2014
9:42 am

Ok. So I was just watching this video again and realized that I go so busy pontificating about the proper and improper ways of making the Old Fashioned that I totally forgot to stir the drink! My bad.

Don't Use Bad Ice in Your Cocktails - Mai Tai Recipe 20 Nov 2014
2:17 pm

Regarding the rum to use in a Mai Tai… I always struggle with specifically mentioning a particular brand or narrowly defined product for my recipes, even though I know it can make a big difference. My feeling is that the more narrowly you define the product that needs to be used, the harder you are going to make it for somebody to make the recipe at home. The home enthusiast (at various levels of “enthusiasm”) will already have their “rums of choice”, which they feel meet their taste needs. So showing them how they can make a Mai Tai with out forcing them to feel like they have to go out and buy yet another rum makes the recipe more approachable to them… at the unfortunate cost of them making a drink which isn’t quite as good as it could have been. It’s a balancing act.

When I first started “evangelizing” cocktails, the world was a different place. The number of people who were true enthusiasts were quite small, and so I couldn’t make a lot of assumptions as to the degree of investment that folks would be willing to take. These days however we thankfully have a much better educated audience, and I think it is about time that I got a little more specific about the type/quality of products that should be used.

That said, I am STILL looking hard to find a rum that I think comes close to making a Mai Tai that would be up to what Trader Vic originally made. I’ve tried the Wray and Nephew that he used (and had gone out of production even during Vic’s days!) and it was amazingly flavorful and aromatic. I really haven’t found a “still in production” product that comes even close.


Don't Use Bad Ice in Your Cocktails - Mai Tai Recipe 20 Nov 2014
2:22 pm

On the Mint Garnish… I know that this was the original garnish, but frankly I prefer a half lime shell instead. But both are quite acceptable. The reason I didn’t garnish this drink was purely an oversight on my part. I was too caught up with the whole ice thing :->

And on silicone ice molds… I too have noticed the slight funk that can come from these molds, but it is mostly noticeable if you aren’t cycling your ice out fast enough. I make ice, and then transfer it to a large ziplock in my freezer so I always have plenty. But I also have several generic “large cube” ice trays that came with my refrigerator, and those work great, and are even larger then the tovolo cubes. I am always amazed at when I look in “kitchen stores” and such at their ice trays, that the cubes are always way too small and don’t even come close to maximizing the space the tray itself is using up.

Don't Use Bad Ice in Your Cocktails - Mai Tai Recipe 23 Nov 2014
2:15 pm

Round Ice… Yes those metal molds which work REALLY well (albeit one sphere at a time), are hideously expensive. I’ve used the very simple, and very cheap plastic molds, and while they do get stuck, a quick run of warm water clears that up.


Don't Use Old Vermouth 16 Nov 2014
12:51 pm


I think the comparison between vermouth and wine is quite a fair one, vermouth is almost, but not quite, a wine. But you are correct in that the expected time-for-consumption of a vermouth is different from wine. So yes, a bottle of vermouth is going to be around longer than a bottle of wine, which is a great reason to use as small of a bottle of vermouth as possible. Ideally, you’d buy your vermouth in “minis”, which are made, but unfortunately rarely (if ever?) sold here in the US.

As for how long to hold onto that bottle of vermouth in the fridge… it should be fine for several months. As for being able to tell the difference in a bottle that has been held onto for “just a little too long”, the answer is yes, but not everybody. Some people have a better sense of taste than others, and I know that my wife is more sensitive to slightly-too-old vermouth than I am.

My recommendation for a question like this is always to experiment yourself! If you’ve got what you think might be a “too old” bottle of vermouth around, just pick up a fresh bottle of the same brand, and do a taste comparison, both straight, and in your favorite cocktail. If you can’t tell the difference, then you’ve got your answer.


Don't Use Old Vermouth 16 Nov 2014
12:57 pm


You are so right about getting away from the “fear” of vermouth! I once asked a bartender to make me a gin martini in a 3-to-1 ratio, and he tried his hardest to talk me out of it. Telling me that so much vermouth would ruin the drink. You could see the pain on his face as I encouraged him to add more and more vermouth as he slowly drizzled it into the mixing glass. It was pure torture for him. Then I had him taste it… he had to walk away for a few moments, but when he came back, he admitted it was the best Martini he had ever had (he preferred vodka Martinis).

Another way to make it easier to always have fresh vermouth around, is to realize that it can also be a great drink had all by itself! In Europe, it is quite common to drink vermouth on the rocks with a twist of lemon. This works well for both dry and sweet.

And I’m sure the vermouth producers would appreciate it!


Don't Use Old Vermouth 16 Nov 2014
1:02 pm


Exactly, which is why we still have a lot of teaching to do. It’s pretty amazing how people “redefined” what a “dry Martini” is, and more amazing that their new-found definition resulted in making a worse drink, and yet their attachment to this ill-conceived bias got them to convince themselves that the drink was actually better. The fact that this also was happening about the time when vodka was replacing gin played a role too, since you typically would want to use far less vermouth in a vodka martini then you would a gin one… of course you could easily argue that a vodka martini is a martini in name only.


Don't Use Old Vermouth 17 Nov 2014
4:39 pm

Rick, when I say “minis”, I mean honest to goodness minis… just like those small little bottles of gin, whiskey, etc that you can get at many liquor stores. They are about 5cl in size, and so work really well for making Martinis and not having to worry about needing to store the vermouth in the fridge. I’m stumped as to why liquor stores don’t carry them.


Don't Use Old Vermouth 18 Nov 2014
10:21 am

I’ve frankly never seen the 5cl bottles for sale in any liquor stores, I had to get mine by asking Martini & Rossi directly for them. I’m sure there must be somebody somewhere selling them since they “are” being made.

As for using vermouth in drinks other than the Martini. I’ve already done about 25 episodes so far! :-> Here is a list of those, plus some episodes that others have done here on Small Screen too:

I might specifically recommend the “Black Feather”, one of my own drinks that I think showcases dry vermouth nicely:


Don't Use Old Vermouth 25 Nov 2014
4:53 pm

Celestino, it’s not that vermouth minis aren’t “made”, just that they aren’t readily “available”. As you can see here:

They are available.

But your rational is also correct in noting that the cost of bottling minis is ounce for ounce more expensive than larger bottles.

Angostura makes a “2 drink” mini of their bitters, and I recall hearing somewhere that it costs more to bottle the mini then it does to bottle the standard size.

The Trouble with Ice Muddling 7 Nov 2014
9:48 am

The Caipirinha is one of those drinks where the form of the ritual trumps the rule of careful measuring. So a “dry muddle” is the right way to do it here, and with granulated sugar instead of simple syrup. I think of the Caipirinha as sort of a rustic daiquiri. They are both “essentially” the same drink, but the Caipirinha has a little more personality to it due to its preparation.

How to Choose Proper Glassware - Sazerac Cocktail 4 Nov 2014
3:32 pm


Glad you love the show! There are a couple of different ways to make a Sazerac, the method I am using here is one of them. Another would be to combine the syrup (or sugar + water + muddle), bitters, and whiskey in a small rocks glass with ice and stir, then strain into a second absinthe coated glass. Traditionally it would never be made in a regular mixing glass, although technically it would be no different.

How to Choose Proper Glassware - Sazerac Cocktail 7 Nov 2014
9:58 am

This style (ie, not stirred with ice) is one that I just came to enjoy more. It turns the drink into more of a contemplative “sipper” and differentiates it from an Old Fashioned a little more.

In the video I should have prefaced the process to indicate that, but it’s just become my “normal” way to make a Sazerac and at the moment it didn’t occur to me that I was doing anything different.

Sour Mix: Just Say No - Daiquiri Cocktail 23 Oct 2014
11:30 am

I think I got those at a thrift store. It’s great to peruse through the various glassware and housewares they have. There are some great finds to be had. You can also simply search for “small glass carafe” and probably find something similar.

Sour Mix: Just Say No - Daiquiri Cocktail 29 Oct 2014
11:19 am

Regarding the freshness of juice… There are those who will swear by citrus juices needing to be the freshest possible for the best result. However there are others, and with some evidence to back them up, that lemon and lime juice are actually better if they age for a few hours. Squeezing enough juice at the start of a shift I think is a perfectly fine option and I doubt will affect quality. You might actually want to try your own blind tasting on this.

Here is what you want to try (and I recommend this to any bars/bartenders out there who might be reading this). Try this at the end of the evening once things are winding down.

1. Have somebody secretly measure out old lime juice into two identical glasses, and also squeeze some fresh lime juice and similarly measure that into two glasses identical to the first two. They will then randomly label the glasses “1”, “2”, “3”, and “4” and record what type of juice each glass had in it on a piece of paper.

2. Now another person will secretly use the juice from THREE of those glasses to make a cocktail like the Daiquiri (or something else that is still a simple sour style). And randomly label these drinks “A”, “B”, and “C” and mark down which juice (1, 2, 3, or 4) were used in those drinks on a piece of paper.

NOTE: the person from step 1 shouldn’t know what juices the person from step 2 is using, and vice versa. Nor should anybody else.

Now anybody who wants to participate can taste the drinks and the first thing they need to decide, is which two drinks were made with the SAME juice, and then see if they can decide which drink they like the best, and by how much.

Once everybody has recorded there opinions, the two folks who mixed up the drinks compare their records in order to reveal which drink had which juice in it.

This is what I call a “triple blind” test. It starts out being “double blind” because neither the test givers or the test takers know what is what. And then it gets another blind because you don’t know which two drinks are the same.

If you do give this a try, please drop back here and let us know how things went!

And here is a little extra reading material:

Sour Mix: Just Say No - Daiquiri Cocktail 29 Oct 2014
11:23 am


In most of these episodes I am using the Leopold Coupe from Cocktail Kingdom. Typically I use the 6oz. coup. I think these are great all-purpose cocktail glasses and just the right size for most drinks. I also have some of their 3.5 oz glasses.


Sour Mix: Just Say No - Daiquiri Cocktail 4 Nov 2014
3:43 pm

Organics… I guess part of the answer really depends on what you are asking. If you are simply concerned about reducing or removing the possibility of being exposed to pesticides on the skin… Then yes, using organically grown citrus would do this, but so would (for the most part) washing the fruit in a proper fruit rinse (there are organic products for this available in most supermarkets). But the pesticides sprayed on citrus doesn’t just sit on the surface, it also can work its way into the fruit as well, and there are also all of the other chemicals used throughout the growing process which are going to be systemic into the fruit too.
So whenever possible, it is always good to go with organic products for a variety of reasons. It is true that sometimes they will appear to be of inferior quality. Often this is simply cosmetic, since they haven’t been sprayed with the chemicals that are designed to keep away the various insects or such which can cause blemishes and such, but the fruit itself should be just as good, if not better, than non-organics.

A Proper "Frozen" Margarita 2 Jan 2014
3:57 pm

Aaron… Yes, I am familiar with Harlequin, but still feel that Cointreau has a flavor which works better in most cocktails which call for triple sec. It is important to remember that while there can be some confusion between “triple sec” and “curacao”, there is (or should be) a difference between the two. Triple Sec has a neutral grain spirit base with just orange added to it, while curacao is (typically) brand/cognac based with orange and “sometimes” additional flavors added for accent. This makes a triple sec more of a bright and distinctive flavor, and curacao a more mellow rounded flavor.

I always recommend folks do blind tastings when trying to zero in on the product they should use, especially when you are wanting to know if the higher cost of Cointreau is justified for your usage! The goal should never be to identify which drink has which product in it, but just which drink you prefer, as well as how much of a difference you think it makes. If you prefer Cointreau over Harlequin, but only by the tiniest of margins, then perhaps it makes sense to continue using Harlequin.

A Proper "Frozen" Margarita 11 Jun 2014
10:36 am

Dylan, glad you enjoyed the video!

I totally understand the need to be mindful of liquor costs when you are outfitting your bar. When I first starting getting into cocktails I often gravitated toward the cheaper products hoping that it wouldn’t make “that” much difference. It was with the “Sidecar” one of the first drinks I played around with, that I learned my lesson and from that point on always had a bottle of Cointreau on hand which I would use for any drink that called for “Triple Sec”.

Technically, Grand Mariner is a Curaçao, which can be considered as rounder in flavor than a triple sec. Try two sidecars, one with Cointreau and one with Grand Mariner, and you’ll see the difference.

For cocktails I totally recommend keeping Cointreau on hand, and use it for any drink that calls for either Cointreau or Triple Sec. For drinks that call for Curaçao, I recommend actually using Curaçao instead of Grand Mariner. Marie Brizard is a great brand if you can find it, if not, then BOLs. I rarely use Grand Mariner at all, mostly for sipping straight instead of in cocktails.

As for absinthe… good absinthe is indeed expensive. The cheaper “absinthe” products aren’t really that good, sometimes even pretty bad. Of the less expensive versions, Lucid is probably the safest one to go with. It is real absinthe, and overall pretty good, just lacking the complexities I like when drinking it as a drip, but in cocktails it works well. Otherwise you could use Pernod or Ricard “Pastis”, which was what absinthe was replaced by when it first became illegal. For some great absinthe information I recommend checking out the Wormwood Society ( Gwydion Stone runs it, and also makes Marteau absinthe (, and as I recall he was planning on coming out with a smaller bottling just to address the issue you are having here.

Queen's Park Swizzle Cocktail 4 Feb 2015
2:51 pm

To the best of my knowledge a “float of aromatic bitters” is not part of the authentic recipe. The amount of bitters added can vary from the single dash I am using here, to multiple dashes, some recipes can list 6 or more dashes. Of course as Gary “Gaz” Regan always says “Nothing is Written In Stone”. So making adjustments to the amount of bitters added, and how, is a fine thing to do, as long as it doesn’t change the character of the drink itself.

La Paloma Cocktail 3 Oct 2013
5:35 pm

And of course start out at the Pegu Club.

Bamboo Cocktail 30 Aug 2013
2:39 pm

Yes, those are the Cocktail Kingdom jiggers I’m using, I think they are great. They’ve got a good feel to them and look snappy to boot! :->... I’m not a big fan of using the scored lines on the insides of jiggers. It takes a little longer, I think it is less accurate, and when the light isn’t quite right they are hard to see. I like the OXO mini angled jiggers, but only the acrylic ones, not the steel ones, for much of the same reasons. The acrylic ones are a lot easier to see, and thus use, then the steel ones, but even then I recommend the OXOs only for home use, and not for use in bars (except to stand in when you don’t have a jigger of the size you are needing).

My preference for jiggers is to have a 2oz-1oz as well as a 3/4oz-1/2oz. These are the measures that Audrey (my wife) introduced me to as a great way to be able to get (almost) all of the measures you really typically need. The 2-1 is often easy to find, but the 3/4-1/2 for whatever reason seems very hard to find, so I was glad to see that Cocktail Kingdom came out with their set using that format.


Deshler Cocktail 15 Aug 2013
5:05 pm

I suppose I should have been a little more specific :->... bitters are “typically” classified as non-potable. This puts them into a different tax bracket and I believe also simplifies some of the hoops they need to jump through to get onto store shelves.

If I remember correctly, The Bitter Truth folks weren’t aware of this strange US issue, and didn’t bother getting their bitters listed as non-potable. Which they then weren’t able to do after the fact… so instead they brought out a specific line for the US “Berg and Haucks” (


Deshler Cocktail 24 Aug 2013
11:33 pm


Your comment regarding julep strainers “I suppose I could buy a new strainer, as they’re fairly cheap” strikes me sadly as funny. There was a time where simply “finding” a julep strainer was cause for celebration! :->

But I hear your frustration, while you might hope that there were a standardized size for all such products, there is in fact not. In the same way that shaker tins aren’t necessarily the same size, even some pint glasses have “just enough” difference in their size to make it confusing.

When we were first locating julep strainers, there was the notion of the one with the “diamond” hole in the handle, and the “round” hole. One fit well in the standard pint glass, the other, not so well. I unfortunately at the moment can’t remember which was which.

A similar problem can also be seen in buying a standard tin, and smaller tin which fit together. Rarely are they sold specifically in sets that are “designed” to fit together, so it can often feel like you are rolling the dice.

Personally, I think the julep strainers for sale on are probably of the best quality, and I know that they are sized to properly fit their mixing glasses… however, even there it can be hard to understand “which” mixing glasses they fit properly, in addition to a few different sizes of mixing tins, they also have a few different sizes of mixing glasses now as well.

I will also point out that in my video here I am using a Cocktail Kingdom mixing glass (and jiggers, and glassware :->) but the julep strainer is not (note the “diamond” hold in the handle, and not the “crown”), you might also barely notice that I struggled just a little bit to get the julep strainer to actually fit properly. It was a tad tight.

What sort of hole is in the handle of your julep strainer?


Violet Fizz Cocktail 1 Aug 2013
3:05 pm

Patrick, a great question. It can be difficult sometimes to understand how one type of drink differs from another. Sometime those differences can be so slight as to be almost non-existent. Here is how I handled this very issue in my book “The Essential Bartender’s Guide”:

“It’s easy to confuse a Fizz with a Collins since the ingredients are essentially the same. The Fizz has, however some slight differences. In a Fizz, the spirit, sweetener and citrus should be shaken first with ice before straining it into an ice-filled glass. It’s then topped with club soda, ideally from a charged soda siphon to add a nice bubbly fizz.”

Hope that helps!