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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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When Good Recipes Go Bad – The Old Fashioned Cocktail 4 Dec 2014
2:29 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
10:42 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
3:17 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. -Robert

Don't Use Bad Ice in Your Cocktails - Mai Tai Recipe 20 Nov 2014
3:22 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
3:15 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. -Robert

Don't Use Old Vermouth 16 Nov 2014
1:51 pm

Rick, 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. -Robert

Don't Use Old Vermouth 16 Nov 2014
1:57 pm

Dinah, 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! -Robert

Don't Use Old Vermouth 16 Nov 2014
2:02 pm

Onkelandy, 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. -Robert

Don't Use Old Vermouth 17 Nov 2014
5:39 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. -Robert

Don't Use Old Vermouth 18 Nov 2014
11:21 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: http://www.smallscreennetwork.com/show/category/dry_vermouth/ I might specifically recommend the "Black Feather", one of my own drinks that I think showcases dry vermouth nicely: http://www.smallscreennetwork.com/video/72/cocktail_spirit_black_feather -Robert

Don't Use Old Vermouth 25 Nov 2014
5:53 pm

Celestino, it's not that vermouth minis aren't "made", just that they aren't readily "available". As you can see here: http://www.thedrinkshop.com/products/nlpdetail.php?prodid=5642 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
10:48 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
4:32 pm

Paul, 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 6 Nov 2014
11:11 am

And if you'd like to see the other method of making the Sazerac (ie. stirring with ice and straining into a second glass), you can see me do it that way in this video: http://www.smallscreennetwork.com/video/94/cocktail_spirit_sazerac -Robert

How to Choose Proper Glassware - Sazerac Cocktail 7 Nov 2014
10:58 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

George, 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. -Robert

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

Oliver, 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: http://www.cookingissues.com/2010/10/01/fresh-lime-juice-wtf/

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

Shawn, 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. http://www.cocktailkingdom.com/all-glassware/coupes.html -Robert

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

Oliver, 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
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