The Savoy Variations: Ping-Pong Special

I’m bored, so I’m taking random cocktail recipes from The Savoy Cocktail Book (1930), giving them a try, and modifying/improving them if  I think it’s necessary, and reporting my findings here.

Ping-Pong Special

p. 124

(6 people)

Carefully shake together 3 glasses of Sloe Gin and 3 glasses of Italian Vermouth with half a dessertspoonful of Angostura Bitters and a dessertspoonful of sugar syrup or Curaçao. Serve with a cherry and a piece of lemon rind.

I interpreted this as

  • 1.5 oz sloe gin
  • 1.5 oz sweet vermouth
  • .25 oz orange curaçao
  • 2–3 dashes Angostura

It was okay. It was a bit cloying, so I tossed it and remade it, reducing the amount of vermouth. Still cloying.



Ping-Pong Special (2)

  • 1.5 oz sloe gin
  • .75 oz sweet vermouth
  • .25 oz orange curaçao
  • .25–.5 oz Gran Classico amaro

I added the Gran Classico for some bitterness. It was not satisfactory.

Then I thought, if Angostura was the bittering agent in the original, why not Angostura Amaro?








Ping-Pong Special(3)

  • 1.5 oz sloe gin
  • .75 oz sweet vermouth
  • .5 oz Amaro di Angostura
  • .25 oz orange curaçao
  • Angostura bitters

It was okay. It was not a revelation.

I gave up — which I’m beginning to suspect is going the be the outcome of most of these experiments.

However, the Amaro di Angostura reminded me of a very good cocktail indeed: The Smoky Quartz, invented for me by the head bartender of AnonymouS Bar in Prague. Go read about it.

And finally, the evening began.


  • Savoy: 1
  • Dale: 1
  • Sink: 2

The Savoy Variations: Empire Cocktail

The Savoy Variations: Empire Cocktail

I’m bored, so I’m taking random cocktail recipes from The Savoy Cocktail Book (1930), giving them a try, and modifying/improving them if  I think it’s necessary, and reporting my findings here.

I had intended to tackle the Nineteen Twenty Cocktail today, but when I set about doing so I realized that I had forgotten to look up “groseille syrup.” As it turns out, it doesn’t exist any more, but you can make your own. Oy. (Fun fact: red currants are also unobtainable.)

So randomly flipping through the book, I settled on

Empire Cocktail

  • 1/4 apricot brandy
  • 1/4 Calvados
  • 1/2 gin

Again, Craddock’s instructions are to shake, but I stirred. Hold that thought.

Perhaps the day will come when I will be bold enough to declare a drink SINK right off the bat, but today is not that day.

However, this drink is an assault on the mouth. The dry gin hits you just like gin does to people who hate gin, and the overall taste is so brassy that it was tough to taste it more than twice.

So how to tackle it? I began by switching the gin and the Calvados, hoping that might round it out a bit. [That’s 1/2 Calvados, 1/4 each of gin and apricot.] Alas, it was not much better. (I began to suspect that shaking not stirring is required to dilute the hell out of these concoctions.)

Empire, take 2

Perhaps the gin was the issue. A more floral gin might take the edge off.

It did not.

(At this point I decided to make half-recipes — otherwise I was pouring perfectly good liquor down the sink, and I needed to minimize that.)





Empire, take 3

How about an Old Tom gin? And what if we switched to an apricot liqueur, which would be sweeter?








Empire, take 4

What if we tried the pomegranate gin that my fabulous neighbor made and gave me?

A little more interesting, but still no .







Empire, take 5

Last ditch effort: stick with the pomegranate gin, but go back to the apricot brandy.

Alas, none of these were interesting enough to finish. (Thank goodness, because I was supposed to be cooking dinner, and following a Blue Apron recipe is not easy when one is squiffed, and even a sip or two out of five cocktails in rapid succession is a bit much.) If I had to serve one to guests, it would probably be #3, but I really would rather not.

So, how to score this? It’s obviously a SINK, but is it one or five? I thought about having a separate SINK score for both Craddock and me, but I realized I would always come out on the short end of that stick so I think what we’ll do is just declare the whole thing one big SINK.


  • Savoy: 1
  • Dale: 1
  • Sink: 1

The Savoy Variations: Yellow Daisy

I’m bored, so I’m taking random cocktail recipes from The Savoy Cocktail Book (1930), giving them a try, and modifying/improving them if  I think it’s necessary, and reporting my findings here.

Today’s cocktail is the Yellow Daisy. (To be clear, I experiment with these cocktails the afternoon before. I am not day drinking. Yet.)

I should mention here that Harry Craddock’s recipes are idiosyncratic, mostly proportions. (The recipe for The Classic, our cocktail yesterday, has proportions of 1/6, 1/6, 1/6, and 1/2.) I’ll be converting to ounces as we go along.

Here’s the original:

Yellow Daisy

(6 people)

  • 2 glasses Gin
  • 2 glasses French Vermouth
  • 1 glass Grand Marnier
  • Before shaking, add a dash of Absinthe.

There follows an actual paragraph: Not only the favourite drink, but also the one made famous, if not invented, by Richard William (“Deadwood Dick”) Clark, recently deceased…

Okay then.

The Yellow Daisy is still a thing, though perhaps not as famous as it once must have been. As is becoming evident, many recipes in the book are variations on the Martini, and this one is no exception. (I will note that if I saw this recipe without the instructions, I would have stirred it, not shaken it. Apparently this Martini is an exception to the rule of shaking v. stirring.)

I made it straight, and despite the fact that dry vermouth and absinthe are not my favorites, this one was not bad from the start. I would advise going light on the “dash” of absinthe, like 4–5 drops max.

Nevertheless, I tried my hand at modification. Instead of absinthe, what if I used one of the many amaros at my disposal? Here is where my amateur status as a mixologist is an impediment: I don’t have each amaro’s “notes” in my head, especially the ones I rarely use. I gave a mini-taste-test to a couple and decided to try Amaro Montenegro.

Yellow Daisy variation

  • 1 oz gin
  • 1 oz dry vermouth
  • 1/2 oz Grand Marnier
  • dash–1/4 oz Amaro Montenegro

I started with a dash then bumped it up. Honestly, it was OK, but not the improvement that I got with The Classic. I’d stick with the original if I needed this drink for some reason.

Perhaps some other amaro might work, but I don’t know that it’s worth the trouble. (Let us note, too, that if I were to find that Amaro Ciociaro or Meletti worked, the drink would no longer be a Yellow Daisy. That’s a subthread that we’ll pay attention to as we go along.)

Shall we keep score? I feel as if we should keep score.


Savoy: 1

Dale: 1

Sink: 0 <— when neither Craddock nor I create a palatable drink

I’m bored, so MOAR COCKTAILS!

Here’s my new game: take a recipe from the venerable Savoy Cocktail Book, try it. If it’s good, great. If it’s not, try to modify it so that it is. If that doesn’t work… well, failure is always an option, as we Lichtenbergians say.

The Savoy is the work of the immortal Harry Craddock, famed mixologist of the American Bar at the Savoy Hotel in London. With the U.S. suffering under Prohibition, Craddock returned to his mother country and cranked it up to 11. He published the book in 1930, and it’s still in print. (The fact that he’s buried in a pauper’s grave is even more disturbing when you see that a first edition of his book is going for $2,763.31 on Etsy. (You can get free PDFs on various sites with free “memberships,” or an online version at the EUVS Vintage Cocktail Books website.))

There are 750 cocktail recipes. Some are still famous, some are headscratchers: what is “Hercules” in the Wow Cocktail? Most are probably negligible, just quick swigs for the Bright Young Things inhabiting the bar of an evening the last time we did the Roaring Twenties.

Still, it should be fun to play with.

Here’s one I discovered by randomly opening it one day:

Rolls Royce Cocktail

  • 1 ½ oz gin
  • ¾ oz sweet vermouth
  • ¾ oz dry vermouth
  • ¼ oz Bénédictine
  • lemon peel

It’s a riff on the Perfect Martini (most cocktails called “perfect” have both sweet/Italian and dry/French vermouth in them), and the Bénédictine takes some of the edge off that. Lemon peel is essential.

Anway, my game will be to open the book at random, look over the page, pick a cocktail, try it, modify it, toss it, whatever — and then blog about it.

Here we go!

Classic Cocktail

First of all, it takes a bit of chutzpah to label a cocktail The Classic. Here’s the original recipe:

  • 1 ½ oz brandy
  • ½ oz orange curaçao
  • ½ oz Luxardo maraschino liqueur
  • ½ oz lemon juice
  • sugar rim
  • lemon peel

Rim a coupe with sugar. Shake ingredients with ice, strain into the coupe. Express the lemon peel over the drink and toss it in.

Verdict: Not bad at all. I tried one small improvement and it was better: add ¼ oz orgeat. So…

Classic Cocktail (adapted)

  • 1 ½ oz brandy
  • ½ oz orange curaçao
  • ½ oz Luxardo
  • ½ oz lemon juice
  • ¼ oz orgeat
  • sugar rim
  • lemon peel

The orgeat rounds out the sweetness, although to be sure, I used a dry curaçao; the deKuyper stuff would probably be a lot sweeter.

Fun fact: I have about a pint of purple sugar that I got for a signature cocktail I created for my son’s wedding reception. The bar ran out of the drink fairly soon — I didn’t even get one — and seven years later I still have purple sugar. It made a great rim, iridescent and complementary to the gold of the cocktail.

Till next time!

Dishevelment update, 11/6/21

It’s been seven months since I’ve displayed my long luscious locks, mostly because they’ve become so much a part of what life is these days that I don’t even think about them any more.

I’ve had a couple of haircuts, really just trims, during this time, but mostly I just let it grow. I keep the beard trimmed, but the hair is just a glorious mess.

That’s it. That’s the post. I don’t have any real insights about life or beauty or haircare. Just thought I’d check in.

New cocktail: the Fire Agate

Here’s a tasty new cocktail, the name of which is still unsettled. For the moment I am sticking to my hippie woo gemstones series and am calling it:

The Fire Agate

  • 1.5 oz bourbon
  • .75 oz sweet vermouth
  • .25 oz blood orange liqueur
  • .25 oz creme cacao
  • hickory smoke

Stir everything with ice then smoke it before pouring. The hickory smoke is not strictly necessary, but boy does it elevate the drink to cocktail status. For fun, put ice in your glass and smoke the ice just before pouring the drink.

Also, I used Salerno blood orange liqueur because I had it, but I imagine most any orange liqueur would serve. (I tried a fancier, more cocoa-er chocolate liqueur, but plain old DeKuyper is better.)


The Smokening™ (r)

This is spectacular for a party, especially at Halloween. I prefer to use the smoker outside simply because it’s not a precision instrument and you will find your kitchen/bar/entertainment area filling with smoke. Tasty, tasty smoke, but still.

This breaks my brain

So this was on the Twittermaschine just now (#HoldTheLine was the trending topic), and I just…

Look, I know these people do not have a full command of logical thought, but this is just… I don’t know, velcro that doesn’t stick anymore? Brainworms? Unfortunate result of too much glue-sniffing?

Apparently #HoldTheLine is being used by those brave, brave souls who see mandates for vaccines as what they truly are: SUPPRESSION, KENNETH, OF OUR PRECIOUS BODILY AUTONOMY NOT NOT YOU LADY WHO WANTS AN ABORTION JUST US WITH OUR PRECIOUS BODILY FLUIDS.

Free — as we say — dumb.

Let me say up front that the Toronto Star probably shouldn’t have gone with this approach. Even though I agree 100% with the sentiments expressed, it nonetheless seems antagonistic.

However, Mr. Changizi the Unvaccinated’s reaction is stupid. The rest of us are indeed exasperated by the unvaccinated’s refusal to protect themselves and those around them, and yet somehow Mr. Changizi the Unvaccinated sees this as some kind of purge that we are doing to them.

Dude, no. It’s the other thing, the reverse of that. We’re doing everything we can to keep you from catching Covid-19 and dying from it, which is significantly more likely if you are unvaccinated.

He is not alone. Here is one of the responses to his tweet:

“Mass genocides.” “Never again.” Jebus H. Cthulhu. And brave, brave Winston Smith, standing up to Big Brother, who is even as we speak hunting down the unvaxxed in the streets of Toronto and hauling them off to the labor camps and crematoria of Saskatchewan I guess. Nor is he the only one who responded like this. There were dozens of people shaking their little fists in anger against this Holocaust they definitely didn’t make up in their heads.


Let me say it again for the hard-of-thinking: WE ARE NOT TRYING TO PURGE YOU IDIOTS. WE’RE TRYING GET RID OF THE VIRUS, and we can’t do that if y’all insist on refusing the vaccine because [reasons]. The more y’all get sick, the more likely it becomes that those of us who are vaccinated will suffer a breakthrough infection. Not only that, but the longer y’all remain unvaccinated, the more likely the virus will use its free access to your precious bodily fluids to mutate into yet another variant. You’re plague dogs.

Has our empathy for the willfully unvaccinated who are sick with this pernicious virus worn thin? You better believe it. At least we had empathy to start with, unlike your obvious lack of empathy for those who cannot get vaccinated because of health issues. But do we wish death on you? No. We wish you’d get vaccinated.

And maybe some mental health counseling.

Also too: The Sociopathic Style in American Politics

Satanic Milton

Let me tell you a story.

Years and years ago, when I was media specialist at East Coweta High School, the assistant principal in charge of curriculum bustled in, needing my assistance.  A mother had come in to complain that her son was being taught Satanic literature in his college-bound senior English lit class, and they wanted my recommendations for an alternative assignment.

I raised my eyebrows and pursed my lips and inquired as to exactly what Satanic literature this woman could possibly be objecting to in the British Lit textbook.  The asst. principal turned to the page and showed me.

Satan being cast down from heaven, from Milton's Paradise LostIt was Paradise Lost, by John Milton.  Right there, opposite the first page of text, was a full-page woodcut illustration of a leather-winged Satan being cast down from Heaven.  There was more: the text contained such damnéd names as Lucifer and Beelzebub. LUCIFER AND BEELZEBUB, KENNETH!

Really?  Really?? I asked the asst. principal.  We’re going to confirm this woman’s crazy, superstitious, ignorant error?

Well, Day-uhl, we have to accommodate parents’ requests, came the reply.

We’re not going to explain to this woman that she’s wrong, that in fact John Milton was a Puritan and wrote Paradise Lost to prove that Christian themes could support epic poetry?  (Leaving aside the fact that Satan is by far the most interesting and dynamic character in the whole piece…)  That her son is in a college prep English class and that he kind of will be expected to know at least something about the poem when he gets to college?

Oh, Day-uhl—as if I were the one who needed to be humored…

So I assigned him “L’Allegro and Il Penseroso“.  Served him right.

It’s simple.

A local church has on its street bulletin board the message:


That’s good. Simple is good.

But as H. L. Mencken reminds us, “For every complex problem, there’s a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong.

And so I’d like to ask some questions.

What does that mean, exactly, to “get America back to God”? I know where the concept comes from, all those Psalms and Old Testament moanings about Israel “turning away” from Yahweh, wherein Yahweh got testy if the Israelites weren’t paying attention to him 24/7. I suspect this church means the same thing, i.e., make everyone worship exactly as they do — since we haven’t been doing that, God has allowed (or worse, caused) our problems.

What mechanism is the church thinking of, exactly, to “get” us back to God? Public whippings? The stocks? Re-education camps? Blue laws?[1] The Mildred Layton Committee to Stamp Out Strife and Tribulation?

What problems, exactly, have been caused by America’s not paying attention to God? Are these real problems, like global warming or income disparity? Or are they the imaginary boogeymen that are the usual sources of fear for this church’s amygdalas, like Teh Gays and illegal immigrants and some soaring crime rate that doesn’t exist?

Does this return to God involve increasing freedoms and liberty and prosperity to every American and non-American in our country? Or does it involve repression and hiding and cutting off? Do they want everyone to support each other with love or are they demanding that we all straighten up and fly right?

Do they mean that we should throw our weight behind politicians who are going to vote to provide for the least of these, with policies like socialized medical care and childcare and a livable minimum wage? Or do they want to restrict our tax dollars to those who “deserve” it?

It would be uncivil of me to put words in this church’s mouth, so to speak, but I think the odds are pretty great that what this church means is that this nation has changed in ways that make them uncomfortable. Where before there were tidy boxes for every category — and there were categories — now we have boxes and crates and beanbag chairs and waterbeds, and people keep going from one to the other with shocking ease. Those People act as if they have a seat at the table, and this church wants us to remove those chairs immediately. With prejudice.

In the end, their sanctimonious sign is empty posturing, a static version of the gospel of Luke’s Pharisee in the Temple, smug that they are not as other men are. They might be better off reading Matthew’s reporting.


[1] Blue laws, for those too young to remember, required local businesses to be closed on Sundays — and yes, this church would be in favor of their return.

New cocktail: The Vivian

Last week, our good friends Marc and Mary Frances became grandparents with the birth of Vivian. Marc promptly asked me to come up with a cocktail to commemorate the event, something honoring both the South and Korea (her mother is of Asian descent). I replied, “So bourbon and kimchi?,” which I thought was rather witty, but that idea went nowhere.

One problem was that although there are multiple Korean alcohols to try, none are readily available in these parts other than soju (which we were aware of after watching Mystic Pop-Up Bar). Another problem was that I had no idea what soju tasted like.

You may imagine my surprise when I found that soju is flavorless. Rather, it tastes like water, unlike vodka, the ABV[1] of which produces a burn that has to count for flavor. (Soju’s ABV is only 25%, stronger than wine but nowhere near the 40% of Smirnoff No. 21, for example.)

Therefore the cocktail I had imagined of soju and bourbon would have been pointless.

And then I saw it: a bottle of muscadine juice. I don’t know why I had a bottle of muscadine juice, nor why I had set it on the kitchen counter in my “lab” space and left it there for months, but this was certainly a message, right? Southern and Korean. Bingo.

It took me three or four tries, but finally I achieved a drink that is sweet, but not overly, with layers that are detectable. May I present

cocktail with bottles behind itThe Vivian

  • 1.5 oz soju (unflavored)
  • 1.5 oz muscadine juice
  • .75 oz lemon juice
  • .5 oz Richland Rum (distilled here in Georgia)
  • .5 oz orgeat

Shake with ice, double-strain into a cocktail glass. Lemon peel garnish.

The rum and orgeat tilt the drink towards tiki, but not overly so. If you don’t have muscadine juice — and really, why would you? — try white grape juice. For Richland Rum, any aged rum should do.

And here’s to Vivian!


[1] ABV = Alcohol by volume