MxMo LXXXVIII (88): Coconuts!

Ah the Coconut, so round, so firm, so fully packed…with flavor. You know back in March I seem to remember going on a regular madcap romance with this tropical icon. Infact I think I used coconut in just about every form I could. After all that you’d think I’d have had enough, and you’d be dead wrong. Coconut is versatile, coconut is magical, not only is it edible but it can be made into scores of products. However this month you need only concern yourself with the liquid variety as I unveil MxMo Coconut.

Yes friends it is my sincere belief the coconut does not get the love, nay the respect it so richly deserves. Because this easy going tropical seed had it’s heyday in the Tiki era it’s happily associated with the same fun loving drinks. Infact this ingredient is well within the Tiki wheelhouse yours truly occupies. Despite all the great Tiki drinks coconut appear in most people are down on the humble seed because of the Pina Colada. Friends this need not be so, I say we take this delicious ingredient and show it can yield a tasty, well balanced cocktail. It doesn’t have to be tropical necessarily. I’d really love to see some of my friends more classically minded come up with a cocktail more befitting a pre-prohibition mindset.

Wanna join my Coco-Crusade? Well here’s the rules you have to play by class.

1. Make a cocktail recipe using some coconut! Explore a classic drink, Come up with your own, Show us how to make our own coconut cream at home if you want. Then write it up and slap it on your blog, website, or tumblr. Hell you can tattoo it to your grandma’s back and email me the photo. I’ll put that up to. Just get it done and post a link here or hit me with it on Twitter @RatedRCocktails.

2. Slap the MxMo logo on that puppy. Make sure to give Rated R Cocktails and Mixology Monday a link in your post.

3. Get it done and get it to me by midnight August 25th to be included in the roundup. I’m looking forward to seeing what your mind can crack open.

I see great potential in the coconut and I know our great blogger community can show me more new ways to use it. Coconut water, cream, milk, flavored rum, even tinctures and homemade infusions are all up for grabs. If you have a coconut product I haven’t listed that you can wedge in a drink it’s welcome to. Be creative, be wild, tap into your inner stranded sailor and make me a coconut delight. The Tiki Terrors of Rated R Cocktail’s Dark Isle await your tribute. Until then…

“You Get Hammered America!” - JFL

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MxMo: A Smashing Attempt

So they tell me it’s MxMo time again? Well with a theme like smashes we sadly can’t work our usual Tiki magic. Still we’ll give this the old college try for our host the Stacy Markow Blog. Smashes are by all accounts a julep in shot form. Having borrowed a copy of Imbibe from an esteemed bartender friend I realized two things. The first is that I really should own a copy of my own, and the second is that you can really plug and play a lot of flavors into the simple formula.

Well I originally wanted to use lavender, figs and tequila to make something really rather funky but my lavender plant decided to leave for the big herb garden in the sky. The sage looked really fresh though and I always loved the combination of sage and pineapple. Naturally I looked to my rums for support and I wasn’t let down. Using the proportions Mr. Wondrich listed in his book as a base I cobbled this together. It’s a little to sweet and simple for my tastes but it is a quick pleasant sip.


For some reason smashes remind me of a boozy snow cone.

Caribe Smash
2 oz Demerera rum (8 year El Dorado will work if your sane, but Lemon Hart 151 is toe curlingly delicious in this as well.)
1 oz Pineapple Syrup
5 leaves of sage
2 strips of lime peel
3 dashes Orange Bitters (Angostura or Fee Brothers Gin Barrel Aged)

Lightly muddle the leaves and peel in your tin before adding the other ingredients and ice. Shake like hell and then strain into a small rocks glass or small julep tin. Mound snow ice on top and garnish with pineapple fronds and a sprig of sage.

Sweet and pineappley with notes of dark smokey rum and sage. The lime peel adds some nice bitterness and manages to save it from being a cloying drink. The bitters play their part well and you gain a lot from using a tart orange bitter. This isn’t our normal complex layered Tiki fare but it is a nice light diversion.


Yes, you should probably try a smaller glass.

Well thanks again to Stacy for hosting the party this month. I’ve really enjoyed seeing how pretty everyone’s drinks came out. Maybe if I can get a lavender plant to live I’ll try that tequila smash sometime. Until next time…

“You Get Hammered America!” -JFL

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7 Tips from a Tales Virgin

If one is studious they may realize I haven’t produced quite as many cocktails this year as last. If the bar has been thin this year it’s because I’ve been saving my pennies to pay a visit to Tales of the Cocktail. Cocktail weeks seem to be popping up in many fine cities but Tales is one of the largest and highest regarded festivals. You find yourself turned out into the always interesting french quarter to face heat, torrential rain, and everyone from beggar to business trying to milk a tourist of their last dime. Yes Tales can be hectic at times, a festival so large is a challenge to coordinate. However Tales is something I believe every cocktail geek and bar professional should attend. Below I present you with seven essentials I learned from my first Tales.


Yeah, this photo is my best photo from Tales. I didn’t even fanboy out…I think.

1. Your going to be a little Starstruck
The seminars at Tales read like a who’s who in the cocktail word. The writers of your favorite books and tenders of your favorite bars will probably be at Tales in some capacity. Get a ticket to their class or make it a point to be in their tasting room. You must remember they are very busy, but if you wait politely you’ll be rewarded. I know the highlight of my trip was meeting Jeff Berry and Martin Cate. Without the Beachbum there would surely be no Rated R Cocktails. Also if you are a Spirits Professional in any capacity I encourage you to create and carry more business cards then you think you’ll need. I learned this in San Antonio and putting it in to practice served me well at Tales.


Photo credit to William Batson. He was paid a whole punch in the groin for posting in on Instagram.

2. Your going to get drunk faster than you expected

The above shot is a lovely portrait of me after hitting every tasting room and the Carousel Bar Wednesday afternoon. Texas Tiki Throwdown was delicious and I devoted myself to enjoying everyone’s entry. This would have been fine if I had paused there, or maybe even if I didn’t finish every sample or sip provided at every other room. Luckily I’m a quiet sleepy drunk who tends to stumble his way home to nap rather than cause trouble. Here’s the thing Tales is a marathon not a race. Every article about these festivals says that, but it’s easy to forget once your there and excited. Make an extra effort to remember to drink water, takes breaks to eat, and if you do drink a little to much a midday nap doesn’t hurt. Also a big city like New Orleans has a lot of taxi drivers. Put them to work to help keep you safe on the way from place to place.

When problems arise The Iron Tiki simply crushes them with his mighty grip.

When problems arise The Iron Tiki simply crushes them with his mighty grip.

3. No matter how well you plan problems will arise

Thats just a rule of life and vacations. Tales is a huge festival with a lot of moving parts and vendors having parties within the party. They have a hard job and do it well, but even if they do it perfectly acts of God and the city itself are out of their control. Plan to fly down? Nearly everyone I knew had a flight delayed. Oh you’ll be smart and drive huh? Even with a parking pass clearly displayed I was towed once and ticketed twice by an overzealous parking authority. Make it down and get squared away without a problem? Watch that weather. I spent Friday so drenched I fruitlessly went through three pairs of clean socks. By the end of the day I’d have taken some dry clothes and a bed over a Hawaiian vacation and a copy of don’s signed and uncoded notes. I was also told, despite the heat, how much cooler this Tales was than ever before. Also speaking of the rain if you’d gone to Pig and Punch hoping for a delicious meal and charity fundraiser in the park you’d have better luck trying to eat your ribs at the bottom of the Hotel pool thanks to the downpour. Also did you notice we didn’t have any posts last week? Yup, no wifi at the place we rented, and no internet cafes to rent a computer.

Long story short problems will happen, they are inevitable at such a large event and really on any trip to a new place. Yours will probably be entirely different. However that’s no reason not to go. Personally I find that some of the problems make for the funniest stories later. Plan ahead, but when plans go awry just grin and just realize some things are out of your hands.


Something cool we tried at tales that we’ll be buying in the future. You can spend a bundle on the bitters!

4. Watch your wallet.

Tales can be expensive. Spirited dinners, seminars, hotel rooms, transportation, guest bartenders, and the fine dining that abounds all around New Orleans. Add to this the fact that much of the festival takes place in the very touristy french quarter and you’ll soon find your bank account far lighter than when you came. I could have spent a years pay in the Books and Bitters store alone. You should take full advantage of Tales and loose the purse strings a little. Take time however to monitor your bank account and keep an eye on your spending. You want to make sure when you see that really must have item you can pounce. Just remember being thrifty shouldn’t apply when tipping. These bartenders and servers get their butts kicked during tales.


Calvados is awesome, we need to be sent some of the good stuff. Chop Chop!

5. Be open to new flavors and facts.

It’s easy to just go for the events that are in your wheelhouse, but if you do your not taking advantage of Tales. Now sure I went to plenty of Tiki and Rum seminars and rooms, however I also made time to look into things I was newer to as well. Calvados Unpeeled was an amazing look at a fun and refined spirit that I hope to be able to show you more of in cocktails this Fall. Both Camper and Darcy’s classes helped me understand why things taste the way they do and give me ideas on new ways to enhance and modify future Tiki Tipples. We never use Vermouth but that may change after I got to taste some amazing on tap Spanish vermouth from Vya. In short don’t be afraid to try something new even if your pretty sure it won’t be your favorite. An open mind and an open palate are necessary to fully experience a wide range of flavors.


The quarter may be pretty, but there’s alot more to New Orleans.

6. Get out of the Quarter!

There’s a lot of fun to be had in the quarter that’s true. Arnuad’s, Sobou, and Cane and Table are must visits in my book. However if you never leave the french quarter your really going to miss out. Bellocq which we visited back in January is a real treat in the business district. Cure is uptown and I have sadly still not been able to make it. The Old New Orleans distillery had buses running but both days they ran I had a seminar and couldn’t attend. Many of the late night parties are outside of the quarter as well. If I hadn’t left the french quarter I’d have never known that New Orleans has amazing Chinese Food to. Trust me folks get on by the Lucky Rooster and have some Bao. Tales is a great chance to experience more than just the quarter.



Your experience may not include neon trash can punches.

7. Make some new friends.

Probably some of the best times I had were with all the new friends I’d made. Chris and his amazing wife from A Bar Above were great company. Tiare from A Mountain of Crushed Ice, Trader Magnus himself, and Rum Scout Rob Burr became my new rum running crew. And I want to send them and their other friends I met a big Mahalo. Even the drunk smelly dude who kept accidentally spitting on me at tasting rooms was a blast. I also wanna thank the great bartenders who served us when we went out, and the CAPS who worked hard while we played. One of the best reasons I can tell you to go to tales is not only to network, but to really make new friends. To put a face to the name of the cocktail friends you’d only met so far on social media. Or just meet someone totally new.



Well every great trip has to come to an end sadly. There are times you wish would never end and times you think you’ll never live to see the end. But I’ll always have great memories of a fun time. We’ll be talking tales a few more times on the site this week before we return to regularly scheduled programming. Until next time…

“You Get Hammered America” - JFL

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All mixed up with Calypso Confuser

Well will you look at that It’s cherry season. All around you at the market are those little gems with the cyanide containing pits. Tasty stuff let me tell you, cherries aren’t bad either. But seriously folks we all love cherries, but what about the rest of the year when we can’t enjoy them? Well we have a cocktail here that will keep those cherry season memories in your mind even when it’s snowing.

CalypsoConfuser (3)
The idea was born by a package I was excited to receive. When I was in college nothing was better than Berentzen liqueurs. They weren’t to sweet and I’d always enjoyed their fresh fruit flavor. I still remember the New Years we spent in Mobile with cheap beer, a bar fight, and a bottle of Apfelkorn. Luckily I dodged the fight and ducked out to enjoy some liqueur back at the apartment. Well I’d never tasted the cherry before so when Berentzen came to me to ask for my opinion on bushel and barrel (Pretty much just a blend of the apple and a light bodied bourbon) I asked for some cherry to play with. Well let me tell you I wasn’t disappointed. It’s not as sweet as Herring, and it has a slight tartness that one would expect from a ripe cherry. That cherry tartness really inspired me to mix.

At the time of writing this I’ve also been very elated about my first Tales of the Cocktail. So Cognac and Absinthe were wanted to help a New Orleans state of mind. Rum is where things got tricky, rum choices affect this drink a great deal. To dark ruined the color, an amber rum was called for and V/X yielded some tasty results. I was happy with it’s flavor and so were my tasters, however when the photos needed to be re-shot I ran out of V/X and decided to use a smattering of similarly colored rums. Well damned if the results weren’t pretty good as well.

CalypsoConfuser (2)

Calypso Confuser #1
1 ½ oz Appleton V/X
1 oz Camus VS Cognac
¾ oz fresh lime juice
¾ oz fresh pineapple juice
½ oz cinnamon syrup
½ oz cherry liqueur (We used Berentzen)
¼ oz absinthe
1 dash elemakule bitters

Shake all ingredients well and strain into a small goblet. Garnish with a lime speared to a cherry.


Aromas of cherry, island spice, and anise greet the nostrils with light wafts of pineapple that follow. Up front Anise comes in big to play with hints of pineapple and amber rum. Cherry intensifies along with the lime and pineapple in the middle. The finish is mellow with cognac, dark cherry, and light clove notes.

CalypsoConfuser (1)

Calypso Confuser #2
1 oz Cruzan Gold
½ oz Smith and Cross Jamaican Rum
1 oz Camus VS Cognac
¾ oz fresh lime juice
¾ oz fresh pineapple juice
½ oz cinnamon syrup
½ oz cherry liqueur (We used Berentzen)
¼ oz absinthe
4 drops Angostura

Shake all ingredients well except the angostura and strain into a small goblet. Garnish with a lime speared to a cherry and drip angostura bitters over the top.


A rich aroma of cherry, lime, oak, molasses, and the spice of the bitters fills the nose. The front is a tickle of the playful marriage of cognac and rum. The Smith and Cross lends lovely funk but the small pour keeps it from stealing the show. Anise and then cherry build to a bright tart pop bolstered by natural acidity and lime. The finish bring a light sweet, tart, spiced note with parting kisses of pineapple.

I realize we just presented two versions of the same drink last time with the Hala Luana and I am a touch embarrassed. However I do think it illustrates just how much seemingly minor changes can effect complex Tiki cocktails. We’d love to hear your opinions in the comments below. Until next time…

“You get Hammered America!” – JFL

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Rated R Syrups: Water Replacement Syrups

Syrups are an important part of what makes a great Tiki drink. I’m always looking for new things to make syrup from and a whole shelf of my fridge here is littered with bottles of juice and syrup. Last time we talked cocktail syrup we talked infusions with simple syrup. Infusions are not the only way I’ve found to make a tasty syrup. Replacing the water in your simple with juice or other liquids can make a nice flavored syrup. Aside from the ingredients I make them the same way I do my infused syrups except without the four hour infusion time. Some of the syrups I make like the coffee and tea syrups I move into syrup making right after they are brewed nice and hot. Because they are already hot I heat them far less and stir them constantly just so they are combined and very lightly simmered. The special attention is so they don’t scorch.

Syrups5On the topic of grenadine which is probably the biggest water replacement syrup I make I’m not sure where I got the notion for my recipe. I’m sure I probably read the idea on some blog or site years ago. I know a lot of people use fresh pomegranate seeds and boil them in simple syrup for their grenadine. For me I chose the pom wonderful route both to save time and because it’s not always easy to find pomegranates year round in my town. If you wish to add more depth to a recipe I found a ¼ cup of dried Hibiscus added to the process and left to infuse is quite delightful. Be careful though it will affect the profile of a drink calling for normal grenadine. If you decide to use POM brand juice make sure you buy the purely pomegranate juice as they sell a lot of other blended juices and it’s not always easy to tell them apart. If you want to go the fresh pomegranate seed route Tiare has a bang up article here.


JFL’s Grenadine
1 cup sugar
1 cup pom wonderful 100% pomegranate juice
¼ cup of dried hibiscus flowers

Combine ingredients, including ingredients to be infused if applicable, in a small saucepan and stir often. Bring syrup to a boil then turn heat two low and allow to simmer for two minutes. Remove from heat and stir quickly, cover the pan to cool before bottling. If making an infused syrup allow the syrup to sit with the ingredients off the heat for four hours before straining and bottling.


Coffee Syrup is another thing I’ve a taste and passion for, there’s a lot of recipes out there but I think mine is simple and tasty. I use a cup of regular strength Cafe Bustello stove top espresso brewed in a moka pot. Then I combine that with an equal cup of sugar stirring frequently until it lightly simmers before immediately cooling and bottling. In the past I’ve made syrup with green tea in a similar fashion brewed from K cups because well, I had them lying around. Lately I’ve been thinking the syrup would benefit from a stronger more flavorful tea, I’ll keep playing and keep you posted.

JFL’s Method for Brewed Syrups
1 cup sugar
1 cup fresh brewed coffee or tea

Once the brew is complete pour it fresh and hot into a saucepan. Add an equal measure of sugar and stir often over heat until a very light simmer is attained and the sugar is dissolved completely. Cool immediately and then bottle.

As a matter of odds and ends our coconut syrup counts as both a infusion and a water replacement like our hibiscus grenadine. Though it doesn’t quite fit in this category our passion fruit syrup is made just as Jeff Berry recommends by combining Goya passion fruit puree with an equal portion of simple syrup. I’ve recently tried this method to make other fruit syrups, though tamarind didn’t work out as I hoped. The passion fruit puree is very consistent which is why I faithfully choose this method over others. The fruits themselves vary to wildly in flavor to depend on. I hope you’ve enjoyed the continuation of our syrupy sweet sermons. Until next time…

“You Get Hammered America” - JFL

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MxMo Pineapple: The Fruits of Relaxation

Well it’s MxMo time again and I was heartbroken to miss the last one. However when pineapple by Thiago of Bartending Notes is the theme I’m honor bound to answer the call. We really go through pineapples around here, just about all the juice we use is fresh unless we’re making Jungle Birds. It’s hard not to love the fruit that cools in spicy dishes and caramelizes so well on the grill. The official fruit of the amazing detective comedy Psych, and a crucial ingredient in many Tiki drinks.

HanaLuana (5)

When I started out making this drink I began with pineapple and pomegranate. In my mind I saw a “blood” of the pineapple filling the golden vessel. Perhaps we will achieve that another day. This drink was a week long battle with balance and my liver at that. Hala is Hawaiian for fruit, and luana is Hawaiian for relaxing. The liquid content of this fruit will relax you. Indeed it may lay you out on the lawn in your brand new tartan boxers, not that I know anything about that. Lets just say for the record it packs a wallop in the booze category.


The flavors are a product of all of my favorite pineapple pairings. Jamaican rum and pineapple are always good friends. Hoppy American IPA’s and Pineapple are a flavor romance for the ages. Fortified by lime and grapefruit we threw in Lemon Hart to give it some KAPOW. Originally this drink depended on cinnamon syrup instead of passion fruit but it dominated to much. The replacement finally allowed other flavors to burst through like a baby turtle through a shell. We present you with two recipes below, the first my favorite, the second a fruity funky version that has some merit. The differences are very minor, but the results are very different.

HanaLuana (3)

Hala Luana (For Rummies)
1 oz Appleton Special
1 oz Appleton 12 year Dark Jamaican Rum
¾ oz Lemon Hart 151
1 oz fresh pineapple juice
1 oz fresh lime juice
½ oz white grapefruit juice (This time a year you’ll have to get it bottled)
½ oz grenadine (pomegranate syrup)
½ oz passion fruit syrup
1 generous dash Bittermen’s Elemakule Bitters
1 oz American IPA beer (We used Sam Adams Rebel IPA)

Add all ingredients except the beer to a shaker tin and shake well. Add IPA to shaker then pour into a tall pilsner glass. Or double the recipe and strain over fresh ice cubes into a fresh cored pineapple to make a Hala Luana for two. Garnish with a gardenia or pineapple frond.


Fragrant notes of clove, hops, cinnamon, and rum. Sweet scents of vanilla open to pineapple and passion fruit on the nostril. Rich notes of burnt molasses, oak, demerera funk, and passion fruit fill the mouth. Cinnamon, and clove greet the taster followed by pineapple, hops, and grapefruit. The finish has a decidedly Lemon Hart spark with happy notes of pineapple and passion fruit.

HanaLuana (2)

Hala Luana #2 (For balance loving fruit fans)
1 oz Appleton Special
1 oz Myers Dark Jamaican Rum
½ oz Lemon Hart 151
1 oz fresh pineapple juice
1 oz fresh lime juice
¼ oz white grapefruit juice (This time a year you’ll have to get it bottled)
½ oz grenadine (pomegranate syrup)
½ oz passion fruit syrup
1 reserved dash Bittermen’s Elemakule Bitters
1 oz American IPA beer (We used Sam Adams Rebel IPA)

Add all ingredients except the beer to a shaker tin and shake well. Add IPA to shaker then pour into a tall pilsner glass. Or double the recipe and strain over fresh ice cubes into a fresh cored pineapple to make a Hala Luana for two. Garnish with a gardenia or pineapple frond.


Rich wafts of cinnamon, pineapple, passion fruit, and molasses. Pineapple, Hops, and a demerera bite quickly snap you like a wet towel to the butt, but you in a fun way. The flavor folds into lime, passion fruit and bigger Jamaican rum flavors. The finish is a funky round medley of fat pineapple, Myers brown sugar, refreshing beer, and Lemon Hart snap.

I hope you’ll try both drinks and find a favorite. I find myself very enamored with the first drink. However both show how much a small change can impact a concoction. I hope you’ve enjoyed this departure and you’ll remember to visit us often for your libation needs when you need an island of the mind. Until next time.



“You get Hammered America”- JFL

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Birmingham’s Negroni Week

If you’ve been on social media this past week you’ve probably heard of a little thing called Negroni Week. I first came to know about it during a USBG meeting when our local chapter vice president asked for Volunteers to head up the drive. Birmingham’s own Queen of the Cocktail Steva Casey took the reigns of the project and boy did it yield amazing results. The idea for the event was each chapter would sell Negroni’s and donate a dollar from each to the local charity of choice. Some of Birmingham’s best bars signed on to participate with funds raised going to our own Jimmy Hale Mission. I got around and sucked up as many Negroni’s as the wallet would allow and would like present to you my findings below.


Mike Tobey-Mckenzie of Octane had one hell of a special I call the Tobigroni. The Genever really adds a rich malty body to a refreshing, herbal, young orange flavor. The mix of Campari and Cappelletti was pretty inspired as well to add depth and variance. Mike himself is always a perfect host at his bar with well made creative drinks and great coffee on hand as well.

by Mike Tobey-Mckenzie
1 oz Bols Genever
1 oz Campari
½ oz Cappelletti
½ oz Cocchi Red

Stir with ice and strain serving up in a chilled cocktail glass then garnish with a flamed peel of orange.


William Hamrick of Hot and Hot is one of my favorite people and a real dynamite bartender to boot. As is usual the restaurant was jumping busy when I came in. Still he found time to shake my hand and make me something special for Negroni week. His Tikagroni featured 10 Cane rum, Saint Germain, Campari, Cocchi, cantaloupe, grenadine, and angostura. With a custom Tiki mug that really made me grin. I’m tweaking his drink for a fun spin I hope to be able to show you all next month after I do a few restocks. It was a sweet delicious treat with enough bitter to keep some balance, the cantaloupe really wowed me. I never thought melon could play so well with Campari and vermouth but the combination was inspired and crazy good. Hats off to Hamrick.

Carrigan’s Public House is a newer spot than many, but blessed with Eric Bennet. It’s a big attractive room with a fun bar and tasty vittles. Their Negroni was on point but what really blew me away was Eric’s spin on the classic. A wonderful aroma of sweet mint and light cocoa along with strawberries and the dry minerality of the cremant greeted one’s nostril. Bubbly red berry with a light touch of mild vinegar fold into a lovely chalky mineral note that fills out with rosemary and sweet strawberry. The Heartbeat was a most lovely drink and I pine to enjoy it again.

Certainly I must take time to mention our hostess with the mostess. Steva Casey of Veranda was very kind to give her time to Chapter and Charity alike to put together such a wonderful week of barhopping. Veranda is a fun location and Steva holds court affably greeting and conversing with customers. Her spin on the Negroni had light wisps of green smoke that melded with flavors of fresh cut wood, arugala, pepper, cherry and rich pomegranate. I proudly present to you her cocktail below.

Heaven Help Us
by Steva Casey
1 oz Mezcal
1 oz Punt e Mes
½ oz Pama
½ oz Marsala

Stir vigorously and strain into a rocks glass topping with a large globe of ice and garnish with a peel of orange.


Of course the entire event was capped off with a big party at Collins bar. The place was packed as Steva and Will Hamrick served Negroni’s to a thirsty crowd. I think the Frozen Kingston Negroni might be the next big thing. That party alone raised $600 dollars for a great local charity. I’m sorry to other local spots my wallet and schedule wouldn’t allow me to drop in on. I do know that new local hotspot Paramount did a bang up classic Negroni themselves for the event. Until Next Time….
“You get Hammered America” – JFL

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Rated R Syrups: Simple Infusions

Syrups play an important role in all cocktails, however they are particularly vital in Tiki cocktails. I remember when I first started trying to create and learn about mixing drinks I was confused as to what simple syrup was. Everything on the family bookshelf just sort of assumed you knew what it was already. Imagine my confusion when other syrups began to pop up as well; orgeat, gomme, cinnamon, cherry vanilla, coffee, and falernum. In truth there are as many recipe’s for syrups as there are bartenders and probably more. Why there’s probably a dozen ways to make “simple” syrup alone. These days coming up with Tiki cocktails, studying drinks, and being simply a creative drunk a lot of my life is syrup related. So over the next couple of weeks it’s my hope to show you what it is I’ve learned.



Hot Infused syrups are simple syrups cooked with spices or other items to imbue the syrup with that item’s flavor. Usually I find this is best done with spices like cinnamon and vanilla. I have often seen berries ginger root and other items used as well which makes me curious about using cubed tropical fruit to make a syrup. Another topic for another time perhaps. For the spices I select items in their most whole forms like cinnamon sticks and vanilla beans that I then break down so they infuse better in the syrup. However before I get to my handy chart we must resolve the sugar issue.

Many bartenders use 2:1 or double strength simple syrup or syrups in general. With all but two exceptions, honey and demerera, I do not abide by this. My way is not the only way, but for my drinks and the way I make them I find great balance in 1:1 syrup. My syrups also serve as lengtheners in some of the drinks I have seen and made. If I do use a 2:1 simple you will see me list it as a rock candy syrup. Breaking another tradition I also heat all of my simple syrup on the stove top. I heat all of my syrups to reduce bacteria, infuse flavor through heat, and promote product longevity. I leave below my syrup method to show the basic foundation with which I make all my syrups.


JFL’s Simple Syrup Method
1 cup sugar
1 cup water

Combine ingredients, including ingredients to be infused if applicable, in a small saucepan and stir often. Bring syrup to a boil then turn heat two low and allow to simmer for two minutes. Remove from heat and stir quickly, cover the pan to cool before bottling. If making an infused syrup allow the syrup to sit with the ingredients off the heat for four hours before straining and bottling.


The table above gives you amounts for the various syrups I’ve made in this method. I will update this table overtime as I experiment with new syrups. For a long time I’ve resisted doing this as a topic because I thought it was to basic and uninteresting in it’s wonkishness. However with as many ways as there are to make syrups I wanted to include mine. After three years of reading and mixing I’ve come to rely on them and have faith in their flavors. These syrups and the way I make them are largely inspired and influenced by the works of Jeff Berry. My method for making cinnamon syrup is almost exactly as he lists his save for an additional cinnamon stick and a longer infusion time.


Almost all my syrups are the product of a lot of tinkering and tweaking of various recipes that I’ve made work for me. With all the ways to make syrup your always learning. Darcy O’Neil mentioned he’s been using a 3:2 method soda fountains had used near the turn of the century that I might look into. I hope this hasn’t been to dull and you’ll join us as we continue the rest of our syrup series. Until next time…


“You get Hammered America” – JFL

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Rhum Boogie with Clement and Friends

Last week members of the United States Bartender’s Guild across the southeast met in Atlanta. Along with Birmingham’s finest yours truly was present as pet blogger and token drunk. Imagine my surprise when I found myself rooming with my friend Chris from Clement whom I’d met in San Antonio at a seminar that really opened up the world of Rhum Agricole for me. Chris was there for a seminar to spread the joy of one of my favorite Agricole’s to the attendee’s of the conference.


Agricultural Rhum is made from fresh pressed sugarcane. Martinique is the only AOC I know of outside of mainland France. I believe I heard that Guadeloupe has their own AOC as well, however I can’t find a way to double check this. What’s special about an AOC you ask? In the same way French law sets standards and practices to ensure the quality and historical consistency of wine based on region it can do the same for spirits. This is most noted is Cognac, but Armangac, Calvados, and Martinique also have AOC guidelines that ensure a quality product. Under law sugarcane in Martinique can only be harvested March through June. It must be collected within 24 hours to begin fermentation. All Martinique rhum is aged to some degree. By law the white rhum must spend atleast three months in steel to mellow though Clement’s white rum spends no less than six. Below are some impressions of the Clement products we got to take home.

The new Clement Canne Bleue was a real treat. A bright briny aroma that’s reminiscent of grape must and ground pecans, The lively and herbacious flavor begins with hints of arugula, basil, and white pepper before melding into lemon oil and green wood. The finish is rich in flavors of raisin while also being nutty but in an unripe, unroasted sort of way. A very lite amount of salinity also becomes present around the edges as you sip. It’s very interesting to taste alongside the Premiere Canne.

Premiere Canne has a buttery salty and slight sweet nose. The flavors are reminiscent to me of soft black pepper, bamboo shoots, edamame, and basil. It finishes herbaceous, bold, and tasting slightly of the essential oils of lime peels. This rum can provide a lot of dry agricole funk to your cocktails, and it’s not bad on it’s own either.

Creole Shrubb has a strong nose that jumps to the senses with clove, fennel, sweet orange, and brown sugar. The flavor is dominant in sweet orange but flavors of allspice, anise, and cinnamon are also present in the foreground and lingering afterward. The peppery, herbal agricole notes are well masked, but still present especially on the finish. Creole Shrubb’s spice blend and Agricole do a good job in controlling the sweetness to make it manageable, this would be a nice twist in curacao based drinks.

V.S.O.P is full of oaky aromas and hints of figs, jasmine and peach pits. The flavor is minty and mineral with a dry finish of white pepper and dried orange peel. It’s got a full body and a walnut shell like huskiness to it. It does well as a dry sipping rum but can also add a lot of flair and funk to mixed drinks like a classic Mai Tai.

Also on hand was the new Select Barrel, this Rhum was very enticing and sweeter than the normal V.S.O.P offering. I also noticed it was darker in color. It was very enjoyable, sweet notes but still dry, funky, and balanced with hints of banana. Another new product Mahina de Coco was not present, but it is something I hope to be able to taste soon. Damoiseau however was present with their herbal, grassy, white rhum; and the smooth, deep, subtly pineappley V.S.O.P. Both are delicious though sadly pretty hard for me to find.

Agricole isn’t always talked up in the Tiki community, I’m not sure why. While not sweet like it’s molasses based cousins it’s dry almost agave like notes can appeal to whiskey and tequila fans alike. Agricole is also used in a number of classic Tiki cocktails like Donn Beach’s Isle of Martinique and Mariano Licudine’s Last Rites. I also seem to remember it being crucial in some famous Trader Vic drink. We hope you’ll give some a try either as a sipper, in a Tiki masterpiece, or in a classic Ti Punch. Though we’re happy to get free samples I can assure you I’ve also happily shelled out my own tips for Agricole several times and will be doing so again. Tell us your favorite Agricole in the comments and until next time…
“You get Hammered America!” -JFL

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Lemon lessons and the Sunswirl

As lemon month draws to a close I feel quite energized, and not just because I can go back to using the small green overpriced fruit I adore. Thanks to the drinks of Trader Vic and his lemon secrets I now feel confident in mixing with this fragrant citrus. Lemon is a strong flavor and quite sour it can overpower many ingredients, but as shown with the Trader Vic punch combining the juice with other fresh juices lessens it’s strength. In our final drink I present to you one of the best drinks I ever made, and entirely lime free.

Sunswirl (2)
The original Hurricane was not some syrupy sweet college trash drink. It was a New Orleans invention to market rum which was almost all they could get after Prohibition. The drink was a sour mix of Jamaican rum, lemon juice, and passion fruit. Some say it was red due to a highly sweet jammy additive called fassionola which some have said is cherry flavored and some have claimed passion fruit. Either way the drink is strong the we like them but perhaps not deep enough. Armed with our new knowledge in regards to the lemon I aimed to fix that.

I varied up the rums to add flavor and body, also I really just wanted to add some demerera. Pama liqueur gives us the reddish orange hue so many demand. Then we add the juices of lemon, and pineapple before we sweeten it up with homemade passion fruit syrup. The recipe for this syrup is owed to Jeff Berry’s Remixed. The result was surprising and tasty. You may feel free to experiment by adding a dash of bitters, but my tasters preferred this original version. I think a small dash however of a bitters with a strong spice note might make for fun results. Still it is presented in it’s original form because of all the smiles it made.

Sunswirl (4)

1 oz El Dorado 15 year
1 oz Matusalem Silver
½ oz Pama Pomegranate Liqueur
¾ oz fresh lemon juice
¾ oz fresh pineapple juice
¾ oz passion fruit syrup

Shake ingredients well with plenty of ice then pour unstrained into a small hurricane or tulip glass. Garnish with two wheels of citrus one larger than the other and a straw.


This drink is lively and bright and fills your senses with tropical fruit. The rich pineapple and rum aroma entice the first sip that brings frothy pineapple, tart lemon, and rich smokey rum. The lemon and rum join well together and then unfold into flavors of orange, passion fruit, and the light hint of pomegranate. This is a drink for the mid evening or a rainy day, it fills your heart with sun in the storm.

Sunswirl (3)
We’ve only scratched the surface on how lemons can be used in classic Tiki style drinks. There’s a lot more to mix and learn. For more classics we recommend you dive head first into Remixed as we did this month and try all the lemon drinks you can. For new lemon drinks keep it here as we use the experience we gained to keep making new ones. Until next time….

“You get Hammered America.” – JFL

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