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Robert Hess Age 55

about

  • since
    August 2007
  • website
  • job
    Cocktail Evangelist
  • interests

    Cocktails, Cooking, Computers, Science Fiction

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A Proper "Frozen" Margarita 2 Jan 2014
4:57 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 (http://wormwoodsociety.org/). Gwydion Stone runs it, and also makes Marteau absinthe (http://absinthemarteau.com), and as I recall he was planning on coming out with a smaller bottling just to address the issue you are having here.

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

Alex, 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. -Robert

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" (http://www.berg-and-hauck.com/). -Robert

Deshler Cocktail 24 Aug 2013
11:33 pm

Ben, 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 CocktailKingdom.com 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? -Robert

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! -Robert

Violet Fizz Cocktail 2 Aug 2013
11:58 pm

Patrick, it is easy to start getting into problems when you try to hard to pigeon hole drinks into specific categories or to take a drink that is "named" for a category and force it into it. The Ramos Gin Fizz for example would be better called the Ramos Gin Silver Fizz, but then a fizz doesn't normally have cream in it, so what's up with that? A Collins can/should be made by stirring the lemon, sweetener, and spirit in the ice-filled glass before topping it with soda (not tonic), while a fizz is typically shaken then poured into the glass (some say with ice, some say not), then topped with seltzer from a soda siphon. But at a certain level that is splitting hairs. Both a Collins and a Fizz can be made with the exact same ingredients, and it really doesn't matter that much if you stir one in the glass and shake the other then pour (some difference yes, but not much). And a Mojito wouldn't be a fizz because it has mint, which is non-typical, and the amount of soda added is typically less then you see added to a fizz or Collins. When you add a dash of bitters to a Mojito (which some say is one of the original ways), it almost becomes a punch! While I definitely want to promote that folks are aware of the classic cocktails as well as the classic styles/categories, I think it is also good to remember that nothing is written in stone, and it is ok to not have everything nicely compartmentalized all the time. :-> -Robert

Strawberry Basil Blush Cocktail 25 Jul 2013
5:02 pm

Nick, one important thing to remember here is that not all herbs are created equal. The main thing they have in common is that they are all plants, and so they all have chlorophyll, which as you mention can add a bitterness to the drink. This will come out more as you muddle more. Mint carries it's flavor oils in small little sacks on the surface of the leaves, which is why the "spank" to release those oils without any chlorophyll. But frankly spanking is most useful for mint which is added as a garnish, as opposed to adding before muddling/shaking. If you are going to muddle your mint, you need to do so lightly, or essentially "tamping" instead of "muddling". Personally I prefer the control I have by tamping/muddling the mint before shaking. That said, you don't want to shake it so much/hard as to start bringing out the chlorophyll. For other herbs, the key thing is in understanding how the flavor oils are best brought out. When in doubt, try experimentations to see what methods you think work best. -Robert

Morlacco Julep 7 Nov 2012
2:59 pm

Steve, the Luxardo cherries out of the jar are neither tart nor bitter, they are delightfully sweet and are perhaps the best cherry for any cocktail that would traditionally use a cherry as a garnish. ...and I feel compelled to also provide some details on the Old Fashioned, since that cocktail is one of my personal specialties. While I realize that many bartenders these days will muddle the "cherry" in the bottom (often along with an orange wedge/wheel), this is in fact not the best way to make this drink. A proper Old Fashioned is made thusly... To a rocks glass add a teaspoon of simple syrup and a dash (or two) of Angostura bitters. Half fill the glass with ice, and give it a quick stir. Add 2 ounces of Bourbon (or American Rye), and give it another quick stir. Squeeze a slice of orange peel over the top and drop it in, and garnish with a cherry (a Luxardo Maraschino cherry, pierced on a cocktail pick is highly recommended). If you are using American Rye here, I might recommend using a slice of lemon peel instead of orange. You can also use any spirit you might want instead of whiskey. Gin works very well, with which you might want to use orange bitters (and lemon peel). Tequila is also very nice, and here you might want to use agave syrup instead of simple syrup. -Robert

Bainbridge Island Iced Tea 4 Apr 2013
5:43 pm

Ginty, the name "Bainbridge Island" comes from the fact that Colin Kimball (SSN founder and producer) lives on Bainbridge Island which is in the Puget Sound just off of Seattle. At this particular filming session Colin couldn't make it, and so as a joke for/on him, I decided on the spur of the moment to have the crew quickly film this spoof video. I gathered all of the "leftovers" from the day's shoot and combined them together into the drink you see here. -Robert

Corpse Reviver #1 13 Sep 2012
2:57 am

Re: Hercules.... This is a product used in a few cocktails from the Savoy that generates more than a few debates. Some have suggested it was similar to pastis, while others say it was more like an amaro. If you search on savoystomp.com you'll find a few recipes that Eric worked up to solve this problem when he was trying to work through all of the drinks. Re: VS vs VSOP... A brandy old fashioned could be a good use of a vsop, but a vs works very well in a sidecar. It is also important to remember that one brands vs might be better than another's vsop.

Guion Cocktail 30 Aug 2012
1:58 pm

Steven, the similarities between this and a martini are of course obvious. When this drink was actually created is less so. It certainly post-dates the martini, probably closer to 1910 or so. If you look through the Waldorf bar book, or the Savoy cocktail book, you will ser a LOT of recipes that are for all intents a martini by a different name. I often wonder if bartenders were mixing martinis for customers and simply telling them ... "yeah... This is a new drink I created just for you....thats right...."

Guion Cocktail 5 Sep 2012
10:04 am

It is always interesting to see how different products play in different drinks. It is especially interesting to see whe a product (like a gin) that you've decided is your overall favorite may not work as well in a drink as another product. Which can make it difficult to have just a single "go to" gin in your cupboard.

Weeski Cocktail - Courtesy of David Wondrich 16 Aug 2012
12:53 pm

Nick... yeah, it does look like I got a little heavy handed there. Happens sometimes when I talk and pour :-> Edison... It's hard to find a solid alternative to Cointreau that is much cheaper. This is a case of "you get what you pay for". Early on I tried using various cheaper "triple secs", and quickly found that it really does make a difference. As for bitters, there are several different "orange bitters" around, and they are all quite different. I suspect that any of them would work fine in this drink, although you'll notice slight differences in the final result. -Robert

Weeski Cocktail - Courtesy of David Wondrich 21 Aug 2012
10:03 am

There are a variety of upper end triple secs, Citronge, Combier, etc. that you may want to experiment with instead of Cointreau. Personally, I haven't found anything yet that I recommend using instead of Cointreau. I find that Citronge has a flavor element in it that doesn't quite work for me (but it is still far better than ordinary "triple sec". I think Combier is better than Ctronge, but then it also costs about the same as Cointreau. In the end however, it is all about what you personally prefer. If possible, I'd recommend trying to do a blind taste test between the two, and even if Cointreau wins, determine for yourself if the difference was big enough to warrant paying the extra $$.

Prohibition Cocktail 12 Aug 2012
1:48 pm

Dave, I haven't had a chance to try the Tempus Fugit product yet, but Cocchi is very good, albiet different from Lillet. I'm still trying to track down details on the "switch" from "Kina Lillet" to "Lillet". There is some ongoing debate as to how much of a change there was, some reports indicate that the overall recipe process was changed to allow them to have better consistency with higher volume, but with every attempt to keep the flavor profile the same... although there are other reports where people speculate that Kina had noticeably more quinine in it. Michael, I'm not sure it is safe to say that prohibition or even pre-prohibition products were better or more "natural". During prohibition a lot of the bootlegging and such going on was with stuff that was hastily produced with dubious ingredients. And even in the pre-prohibition bartender books you will find "recipes" for how to make Scotch, Gin, Rum, etc... behind the bar with equally dubious ingredients that nobody in their right mind would consider using today. Sure, there wasn't any mass produced "sour mix", so you'd almost always get real lemon juice... but maybe it wasn't always "fresh" or even stored properly. People back then didn't have the same level of understanding of food safety as we do today. Remember, it wasn't until the early 1800's that we even figured out what yeast was all about. :-> -Robert

Prohibition Cocktail 16 Aug 2012
1:42 pm

Steve, I find that Lillet Rouge is too tannic to use as a cocktail ingredient. I think it is in this episode that I mention that while both red and white vermouth use white wine, but just use different herbs to change the color/flavor, with Lillet Blanc and Rouge they use the same herbs/botonicals, and just use a white wine for blanc, and a red wine for rouge.

Flame of Love Cocktail 17 Jul 2012
1:47 pm

Blair, Using a lighter would make something like this a lot easier, because you wouldn't have to regularly light a new match. However just as i don't like to add lighter fluid to my charcoal when I bbq, I don't like using a lighter for flaming peels because I feel it adds a bit of a chemical flavor to the end results. I suppose what would work best, especially for this, would be to use a long fireplace match that would last a little longer, or perhaps a lighter filled with a neutral grain spirit so as not to add any "petroleum by products" to the equation? Hmmmm.... -Robert

Flame of Love Cocktail 17 Jul 2012
2:06 pm

I should clarify the use of "Sherry" in this drink. If you check your store shelves, you'll no doubt see several different options. Originally this drink was apparently made with what is known as "Fino" sherry. Fino is the palest of your sherry choices, but I like to use something with just a little more backbone to it, and so chose to use Amontillado here. If you want something even deeper in flavor, then you might want to try an Oloroso. In a cocktail that uses an actual "measure" of sherry in it, your choice will have a more decided impact on the final drink, but here where we are just coating the glass, the difference will be more subtle.

Flame of Love Cocktail 31 Jul 2012
8:21 am

Danny, ice is a very important part of making a great cocktail, and one that is often underappreciated by many bar owners. If you want to get "really" picky, you can select different ice for different types of drinks. The obvious ones of course are things like a mint julep, which likes to have crushed/powdered ice, or a cobbler which should have more "pebbled" ice. But you can also pick ice that is better for stirring your martini with, or ice that is better for shaking in a daiquiri.

Flame of Love Cocktail 2 Aug 2012
9:52 am

Edison, Glad you have been enjoying the show and working dilligently at home to perfect your craft! As for NY cocktails, you should be able to easily find some great drinks there, it is one of the best cities in the country for having some really great cocktail experiences, second only to Seattle in my mind :-> My personal recommendation would be to first give the Pegu Club a try (77 W. Houston St, 2nd floor), and I'd recommend trying them on an evening besides Friday or Saturday (which get fairly busy) Personally, I prefer going to bars on slower nights so I can have a better chance of getting a seat at the bar. All of the drinks you get there should match up very well with what you seem me do on my show. Other great bars would be Employees Only, Milk & Honey, Death & Company, PainKiller (aka: PKNY), Clover Club, Dutch Kills, and several others. -Robert

Flame of Love Cocktail 12 Aug 2012
1:38 pm

I think that Tito's vodka is fine, although I think other less expensive brands are just as good (if not better). Vodka is a category that you need to be VERY careful about spending more than you should. Anybody who thinks they have a favorite vodka should try a blind taste test some time at home. Invite some friends over and have each one sign up to bring their favorite vodka (make sure there aren't any duplicates). Try to make sure that nobody has a good idea "what" vodkas are being tasted. And you should supply a "solid" standard vodka (Absolut, Smirnoff, etc.) something not terribly expensive, but not cheap either. One person, out of sight of the others, pours the vodkas into identical carafe's, and then marks each carafe with a number (1, 2, 3, 4...) and records which vodka they put in which number. That person hides the "evidence" of the vodka bottles, and leaves the room. Another person comes in and randomly replaces the numbers with letters. AND records which letter they assigned to which numbered carafe, and then removes the numbers. NOBODY should now know what vodka is in what carafe. Now you bring the vodkas out to your friends and everybody pours tastes of the different vodkas and discusses what they think of them. They should NOT try to guess which vodka is which, just try to figure out which one they like... and why. Compare your notes and see if there is a clear winner/loser in this, and if the differenes between them were highly obvious (ie. would you pay $5 more a bottle for the "best" one over the "worst" one?). Now make a vodka cocktail with both the "best" and "worst" ones (and perhaps one or two others)... if you want to take the time to "double blind" this as well, so much the better. The key here is to notice how much difference there is between these vodkas when used in a cocktail. Once this is all done and everybody has an idea of where their favors lie, have the two people who prepared the vodkas compare notes so you can figure out which vodka was which. I totally expect some of your friends will be VERY surprised by the results of this. -Robert

How to Carbonate and Bottle Cocktails - Ruban Bleu #2 31 Jul 2012
1:03 pm

Christian, I should point out here that the "Twist N Sparkle" by ISI has been recalled (http://twistnsparkle.com/index.html) and you shouldn't be using it. If you don't have a Perlini system, you can use a normal soda siphon, put all the ingredients in, and then carbonate it like normal but WITHOUT the center tube. Shake and let it set for a while in the fridge, and then release the pressure on the siphon (which is why you aren't using the center tube) and then bottle. -Robert

Jack Rose Cocktail 27 Jun 2012
11:02 am

Ben, Applejack Vs. Calvados Both products are distillations of fermented cider. The types of apples used are slightly different, but I don't feel that this is a significant issue. Calvados is also aged, while I don't believe (Laird's) Applejack is. (Laird's) Applejack is also a blended product, combining "apple brandy" with neutral spirits. (Laird's) Apple brandy however is aged, not blended, and they have a "Bottled In Bond" version which is 100 proof. Apple "Jack" gets its name from "Jacking", which is the process of distilling a fermented product through freezing. You put the fermented product (cider, beer, wine, etc) out in the freezing winter air, and the water will freeze, but the alcohol won't. So you simple skim off the ice that forms, and through this process increase the concentration of alcohol. A critical difference between this and the normal distillation process, is that the stuff that doesn't freeze is not only the "good" alcohols, but the "bad" ones as well... the ones that you really don't want to drink. So freeze distillation will produce not just a poorer quality product, but also one which could technically be considered poisonous. So I wouldn't recommend it. From a substitution point, you can most definately substitute between Applejack, Apple Brandy, and Calvados, much the same way you can substitute between Bourbon, Rye, and Blended whiskey... of course since each product has a differerent flavor characteristic, the resulting drink will be slightly different as well. -Robert

Jack Rose Cocktail 27 Jun 2012
11:10 am

Alex, Ratios and Variations... If you look hard enough, you'll find that almost any cocktail out there will come in a wide variety of various recipes. There are few (any?) recipes which are consistently and constantly made with a tightly agreed upon recipe. In my early days of drink exploration the Sidecar was one which caused me a lot of confusion with it's sometimes wide variation of ratios. Later, the Mai Tai was one which really confounded me, and I spent quite a bit of time trying to dig into it to figure out what the heck was going on (this was in the wee-dawn of the internet, so not a lot of information was available at my fingertips). I've also got a friend who swears that the secret to making the perfect margarita is using lemon juice instead of lime. The apple jack recipe I am using here, is one that I encounterd a fair amount, including being what David Wondrich posits as the right way to make the drink. I like it because it is on the tart side, and I sort of equate that to the tart snap of a fresh apple. But there is nothing wrong with adjusting the ratios a bit to sweeten it up a little bit of that provides you with a better balance. A straight forward "daiquiri" style ratio (2, 3/4, 3/4) would be a good place to start. -Robert

Jack Rose Cocktail 27 Jun 2012
11:11 am

Zach, In the PDT book they are essentially taking the "Daiquiri" ratio (2, 3/4, 3/4) and slapping this on the Jack Rose. Not the "wrong" thing to do by any means. -Robert

Jack Rose Cocktail 27 Jun 2012
11:13 am

Lemon vs. Lime... I think one of the reasons I prefer lime here, is because frankly (Laird's) Apple Jack (the "blended" version) doesn't have quite the same apple depth that Calvados or their Apple brandy does. And so I prefer lime, because it brings some extra depth to the drink. -Robert

Caesar Cocktail 13 Jul 2012
1:23 pm

Rhett, thanks for the links to the two Vancouver cocktails! They look great! I had dinner at the Hotel Georgia on my last trip to Vancouver, wish I'd known about the cocktail then, and I would have had one. -Robert

Rum Old Fashioned Cocktail 30 May 2012
11:49 am

Steven, with all of the various bitters around these days (amazing to think about, considering the bleak landscape of only a few years ago), it can often be difficult to get "the" bitters that somebody might have used in a particular drink. I personally have never tried vanilla bitters, so I'm not sure what their overall flavor profile is (besides vanilla of course), but I suspect that this drink would still be very tasty using many other bitters. Spiced Rum already has some vanilla notes in it, so the vanilla characters of a vanilla bitters may not be quite as important here (but I'll let Charlotte chime in otherwise if necessary). I'd recommend first trying this basic drink with a couple other bitters that you might have on hand before clinking down the $30 a bottle... plus shipping... for the vanilla bitters. And maybe you could keep your eyes out at bars in your area to see if any of them might by chance be carrying these bitters? -Robert