Black Feather Cocktail

This is a unique little cocktail that I created a few years ago. It is an excellent way to illustrate the the valuable role that dry vermouth can play in a properly balanced drink. I’ve found that it is easily enjoyed by both experienced cocktail drinkers as well as those who haven’t quite built up their palate for spirits.


2 oz Brandy

1 oz Dry Vermouth

1/2 oz Cointreau

dash of Angostura Bitters


Stir with ice.

Strain into a cocktail glass.


Max Heusler 11 Feb 2008
4:29 pm

Lol, am I nuts or did you not add the cointreau???

Also three quick questions

1) Is this your bar in all these episodes (the black feather?)

2) What Cognac do you recommend using as a “house brand”

3) Finally, did you get your hands on those Mr. Bitterman Bitters I keep hearing about and if so how are they?

Boavida 11 Feb 2008
4:35 pm

You forgot the Cointreau?!

bd 11 Feb 2008
4:54 pm

You don’t have the “dash of bitters” in the recipes…

Thomas 11 Feb 2008
5:58 pm

Yup, the Cointreau is still sitting there.  But we get the idea. 

The Black Feather bar… what are your hours?

Robert Hess 11 Feb 2008
6:29 pm


My “intention” was to quickly post the first comment, in which I fessed up about the Cointreau, but I was stuck in meetings all day and you guys beat me to it.

Yeah… I got to pontificating and totally spaced on adding the Cointreau. After we finished filming this segment and were getting ready to prep for the next drink, I looked down and saw my jigger with the Cointreau in it… Du-ohhh! We filmed a “cover” for that, of me just pouring the Cointreau in, but when we got to the editing stage we noticed that it really didn’t work right, so we just left things as they are.

Oh well :->

Max, as to your questions…

1) Yes, this is my bar in all of these episodes.

2) The cognac I’m using here is “Chalfonte”, which is a relatively inexpensive cognac ($20) that I think works reasonably well in cocktails. I don’t like it for sipping however. Would a $50 bottle of Hennessy make a better cocktail? Probably, but not one that was nearly three times better.

3) Bittermans Bitters… yes, I do have some of the bittermans bitters. Although I haven’t yet had the chance to do much playing around with them.


Al Nelson 12 Feb 2008
4:59 am

That is why I would likr to see you TASTE every drink you make for us…

Al Nelson 12 Feb 2008
5:00 am


Adam 12 Feb 2008
11:02 pm

Very informative and very relaxing to watch Mr. Hess.
An excellent viewing for those of us who wish to advance from bartender to mixologist.

Now not to “backseat bar” you’re presentation, but I have just one question:

In your videos, you never use pour spouts on the bottles, why is that?
I’m referring to a simple, spill stop spout or maybe the 12 measured kinds with the ball bearing. The latter of which I abhor using cause it regulates the bartenders performance too much.
Just curious on your take in reference to the use of pour spouts. }:^}

Robert Hess 13 Feb 2008
7:35 am


Glad you are enjoying the shows!

I don’t use pour spouts for several reasons, most importantly perhaps is because I “measure” all of my drinks using the OXO jigger you see here. Pour spouts are mostly used for freepouring liquids whereby the bartender will mentally “count” as they pour, hopefully getting the proper amount of liquid in. You can use them to also pour into a jigger for measuring, but for that I prefer simply pouring straight from the bottle without messing with a pour spout.


Rob 15 Feb 2008
4:14 pm


Always enjoy your podcast and always learn something. Please keep them coming. You inspire me to do great things behind my bar (at home, that is)!

PS - I think it’s time to go HD and W-I-D-E-S-C-R-E-E-N! Alberta Straub’s leading the way! :) Okay, I’m rambling… a well-made cocktail in standard res is the same as a well-made cocktail in HD. Just glad you are both doing what you do so well.

Small Screen Colin 15 Feb 2008
5:44 pm

I am glad you bring HD up Rob. We just shot a whole new season of The Cocktail Spirit all in HD!!

All of our new series, like Resonance, a series on independent music, will be in HD from now on.


Ian 16 Feb 2008
9:39 pm

Well, since someone brought up the question of HD video, and since I’ve been curious about this—may I continue off topic for a moment?

How do the economics of these video presentations work? You don’t seem to have any prominent ads or messages from sponsors. Of course I greatly enjoy the site, and long may you continue, but I presume you don’t do it just as a hobby?

Colin Kimball 17 Feb 2008
7:53 am


Small Screen Network is a small company with big dreams and do not consider this show or others as hobbies. We love to do it and hope to make it our careers. To that end we are seeking sponsorship on a per episode basis up to a whole “season”. We have done so for the first 12 episodes of the next season and are always talking to potential sponsors. The hope is that any advertising or sponsorship will not impede the but rather compliment or become integral with the content adding to the information we can provide the audience.

Thanks for the question!

Harry W. Reineke IV 11 May 2008
9:02 pm

I notice you use Cointreau quite a bit.  Can the same effect be obtained with Triple Sec in places as my budget does not currently allow for Cointreau.

Harry, fledgling Mixologist

Robert Hess 12 May 2008
5:00 am

Harry, Technically Cointreau “is” a Triple Sec, just a very high end one. You can substitute triple sec for any recipe I use Cointreau in, but it will usually result in a drink of lesser quality.

I first became convinced of the value of using Cointreau in cocktails when I was messing around with the Sidecar, and tried a wide variety of recipes to determine which worked best. Cointreau quickly showed how it produced very fine results.


Frank Rust 24 May 2008
11:14 am


Thanks for these videos, I’ve been enjoying them for months. I have a quick question about your tools: I love the glass cocktail pitcher you use here (and in some of the other videos if memory serves) but have never seen one for sale before. It appears to have a metal strainer on top and looks large enough to prepare several cocktails at once. Where did you find this?

Thanks again and keep up the great work!

Jonathan Stout 15 Feb 2009
8:49 am

Finally got around to having one of these. Excellent!
I was at the Edison in Los Angeles, and they had the cocktail on a special event menu (with proper attribution) with Remy XO. Talk about gilding the lily! And it was only $14. I’ve been meaning to make one with the Paul Masson Grande Amber VSOP that Wondrich mentioned in esquire, but I have a feeling I’m going to have get some good stuff, like Hine. I wonder what it would be like with the overproof Royer Force 53. Crap, now I have to start collecting Cognacs.

Steve Rosenthal 2 Mar 2009
7:44 pm

Hi Robert,

I just happened to discover this site yesterday. What a great find.  I just tried the Black Feather tonight.  My wife and I really enjoyed it.  Being out of Cointreau, I used Grand Marnier.  The biggest surprise to me was how well the Dry Vermouth works in this recipe.  I would never have imagined it.

I’ll be making this one often.



Robert Hess 3 Mar 2009
4:19 am

Steve, I occassionally find that people cringe when they hear how much vermouth I put in this drink. They are so used to it being dosed in dashes, that they think there must be something wrong with it. So I liked coming up with a drink like this that used a fairly large amount!

Jonathan, Yes, Marco had told me he was going to use it over at the Edison. Quite a space, eh? :->

Garretto 5 Jun 2009
2:53 pm

I originally tried this/your drink from Gary Regan’s “Joy of Mixology” and I guess my palette was not sophisticated enough, or maybe the vermouth wasn’t fresh—whatever the case,
I did not enjoy the drink at all. A year later I see you prepare it on the show and I try it again…..damn! What a wonderful drink!! That subtle hint of Cointreau, the balance of the vermouth——just a beautiful balance. Since, I’ve been adding more french vermouth to my martinis——great!! Bravo!

Matt Joy 23 Feb 2010
8:45 pm

Mr. Hess!  I’m a huge fan!  I’ve only recently discovered your show as of late, quite by accident actually on another site of recipes that includes every variation under the sun on how to not make a cocktail, lol.  I was immediately drawn to your shows by your meticulous attention to balance and method of preparation.  Soooo many recipes are vague and leave room for error. I appreciate your explanation of why you do what you do and how it makes a better cocktail.  My question is:  Have you compared Patron Citronge with Cointreau? I understand they are both in the triple sec category, but you can get a 750ml of the Patron for about the same price as a 375ml of cointreau.  As for many, Cointreau is a bit out of budget for myself and the Patron seemed to be a better deal per volume. Have you compared the two at all?
  Also as a side note:  Using egg white in a whiskey sour is pure genius, I will never make it any other way!

Robert Hess 24 Feb 2010
4:40 am

Matt, glad you found your way here.
Patron Citronge is not (in my mind) an appropriate substitute for Cointreau. It definately has it’s own distinctive flavor and so will not produce the same results in all cocktails. You may find you like what it brings to the drink better than Cointreau, but it will be different. I agree that Cointreau is on the expensive side, but it is almost the only general purpose product that I regularly list in my recipes by name because I really feel it makes the drink. Recently, the product Combier has started showing up here in the States, and it too is a great product with a similar level of quality, but also about the same price as well.
If you are interested in reading more about some of the different orange liqueurs on the market I might recommend this great article over at “Oh Gosh!”:

Benjamin D. 26 Feb 2010
2:22 pm

Hello Robert,

I absolutely love this drink and appreciate your fondness for vermouth. Great job creating this one!

I was reading your comment of this drink on your DrinkBoy website and you mentioned using homemade bitters. I was wondering/hoping if you could make a web cast of the preparation of bitters, particularly recipes of possible substitutes for angostura, orange and peychauds bitters. You see, at the moment I live in Moscow, Russia and bitters are about as hard to find here as a sensible Republican. I have a couple bitters left from the U.S. but I fear that they will soon run out. I’d really like to find a way to make them myself whenever supply becomes a daunting task, in this country or wherever else life might take me. Plus I imagine I could play around with a basic recipe to create other flavors (the obscure celery bitters come to mind—ha, I was just joking about how obscure that bitter is with a friend today). Anyway, I think it would be a useful skill to have.


Michael "Michaelogist" Kelley 24 Apr 2010
6:56 am


I noticed a few people concerned about the cost of Cointreau. I use Luxardo’s Triplum Triple Sec Liqueur, which is priced almost exactly between Cointreau and generic triple sec’s. The Luxardo product has excellent orange flavor and isn’t overly sweet.  Just a thought!

Robert Hess 24 Apr 2010
10:30 am

Michael, I think the key thing is for people to take a little time and discover how different products work in different drinks. I agree that Cointreau is expensive, especially when you see “$7” triple secs on the shelves. The Luxardo brand is pretty good, but I still prefer to pony up the extra $$ for Cointreau. but that’s not to say the everybody feels that way. So experimentation and personal preferences are the order of business! :->

Michael "Michaelogist" Kelley 24 Apr 2010
12:28 pm


Well put and right you are!  That said—I tried your Black Feather with A.E. Dor VSOP, Noilly Prat, and Luxardo Triplum triple sec and it was excellent.  I was in a hurry to try your recipe and didn’t have Cointreau at the moment.  The Black Feather is a really fantastic cocktail.  Well done!


zach 11 Mar 2011
7:37 am

Hey Robert-

Finally tried this cocktail last night using Salignac and it is a great one.  Couple of questions…with all the talk about orange liqueurs, I’ve got a bottle of Mandarin Napoleon and am wondering if you’ve used it much or could recommend a particular cocktail that it works well with.  Also, I remember reading that when you created the Black Feather you used your own house made bitters…do you have a recipe you could share or refer me to?  Thanks much


Robert Hess 11 Mar 2011
7:45 am

Mandarin Napoleon isn’t quite a replacement for Triple Sec or Curacao, although it does have a decidedly orange flavor to it. It also includes the addition of a secret blend of herbs and spices which turns it into a bit of a different beast. That doesn’t mean you can’t do a 1-to-1 substitution, it just means the result you get will be different.

You can find my “House Bitters” recipe here:


Michael Meyers 19 Nov 2012
10:01 pm

Yeah, I know I’m late to the party here. I really like this. Expressive nose. Nice tension. Nice final “pull” on the palate. A hot cocktail.

Robert Hess 20 Nov 2012
5:49 pm

Michael, never consider yourself late to the party here! I’m glad you like the Black Feather!


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