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Two friends with a shared love for Classic Cocktails, paying homage to the pre-prohibition era. We do parties!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

El Presidente

Photo: T.J. McLachlan

The history of individual cocktails during the prohibition era can be quite hazy. Case in point - our third drink being profiled: El Presidente.

During the Great Experiment, American bartenders left the United States to tend bars overseas in exotic countries that were warm and open to alcohol. One of those countries was Cuba where bartenders (whether they were American or Cuban) invented several classic cocktails to assauge the tastes of American tourists. It was at this time that we received the Mary Pickford, the Rosita (for a great glimpse of what the Rosita looks like, check out Andrew's facebook profile), the Daiquiri (including Hemingway's version, as seen in the post below), the Cuba Libra, and, of course, El Presidente.  

Now, it is reasonable to assume that this classic cocktail was name for or after a president, but which one is definitely up for debate. One story is that it was invented by Eddie Woelke, an American Bartender who fled the US to set up shop in Cuba (after trips to Nice and Paris), at the Jockey Club in Cuba for then president Gerardo Machado.

An opposing view is that an unknown bartender at the Vista Alegre Club in Santiago, for an earlier presidente, Mario Garcia Menocal. Whatever the story, it undoubtedly arose in Cuba and its history is murky - but that should be expected as it is a history that goes down in bars, when people are drinking.

(Mario Garcia Menocal)                                  (Gerardo Machado)

The drink calls for aged White Rum (1 1/2 oz), Dry Vermouth (3/4 oz), Orange Curacao (1/4 oz), and Grenadine (1/2 tsp). There is always a temptation to overuse Orange Curacao, but in this case it is best to let the Aged Rum's character take centre stage, paring down on the orange liqueur's sweetness, and finishing the sip with the dry vermouth. Our homemade grenadine is a great touch to this drink, giving the drink its great colour and adding a final flavour to the palate. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Photo: T.J. McLachlan

"Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut. An intelligent man is sometimes forced to be drunk to spend time with fools."

When Ernest Hemingway penned these words in his 1940 Classic, For Whom the Bells Toll, it is reasonable to assume that he toasted his work with one of his many unique cocktails. While Hemingway was not a cocktail mixer himself, he had, much like his ability to select the right words,  the ability to request an excellent blend of flavour in his drinks. 
In the beginning (around 1939) the drink was named "Daiquiri como Papa" or "Daiquiri a la servaje", then "Papa Doble" and finally it became "Hemingway Especial" after Constante Ribalaigua made the final recipe (whereupon Maraschino Liqueur was added). This cocktail calls for white Rum, fresh lime juice, fresh grapefruit juice and Maraschino Liqueur.

Constante Ribalaigua was the legendary bartender at La Florida (also knowns as El Floridita), which became renowned in the early 1900s as Havana's "Cathedral of Cocktails", and frequented by the literary hero for whom this drink is named. We are excited to bring grapefruit juice to the forefront in this excellent cocktail; its funkiness works exceptionally well with the earthy aroma of Maraschino liqueur, and both settle in well with the lime juice and aged white Rum.

We hope Hemingway would approve.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Blinker

Photo: T.J. McLachlan
Over the next few weeks we'll be writing about some of the cocktails we've selected for our inaugural event. Some of the drinks are pre-prohibition classics, while others are more contemporary. There will even be an original creation or two thrown into the mix.

Up first is The Blinker. I first stumbled across this recipe in my 1940 edition of Patrick Gavin Duffy's Official Mixer's Manual.

Photo: Andrew Borley
Duffy was the bartender of New York's Ashland House bar for some 40 years and his Official Mixer's Manual catalogued all of the most popular drinks in the years before prohibition, as well as those that became famous in speakeasy's around the country during the "dry years". It is fascinating to see how times have changed. The first 103 pages are dedicated to gin cocktails, while a brief half a page near the end of the book lists only two vodka recipes. Duffy also stresses that, "the barkeeper should be neatly shaved, and his hands and nails should be kept immaculately clean." A rule I try my best to follow as well.

Photo: Andrew Borley
Duffy's original recipe calls for: 1 Jigger (1.5 oz.) Rye
1.5 Jigger Grapefruit Juice
.5 Jigger Grenadine

While this sounds delicious, I wanted to use fresh fruit so replaced the grenadine with fresh blackberries and raspberries muddled in 1/2 oz of demerara sugar syrup. I also switched the base spirit of rye for Buffalo Trace Bourbon, a deliciously spicy whisky which is probably a closer match to the American 100% Rye that would have been used at the time, but sadly is difficult to find up here in Canada. 1/2 oz of freshly squeezed grapefruit juice rounds out the mix. Shaken with ice and doubled-strained into a chilled cocktail glass, our new blinker is a fine balance between the dark spice of the bourbon and the tart sweetness of berries and grapefruit. I think it's going to be popular.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Volstead Act Craft Cocktail Service

photo: Library of Congress

Welcome to The Volstead Act Craft Cocktail Service! We are glad you have found your way here. For some time now, the two of us - Andrew Borley and Jeremy Bouw - have been developing our love for Classic Cocktails, excellent flavour, and sharing this love with our family and friends.

Word of our appreciation for cocktails spread throughout our friends and workplaces, and not too long ago we were asked to bartend a 40th birthday party, which we are very excited about.

Given this opportunity, we decided to brand our service and create a few platforms for friends, family, and potential clientele to use to get to know more about us, our love for Classic Cocktails, and what we think we have to offer.

We have named our business The Volstead Act Craft Cocktail Service. We wanted to honour our affinity for the pre-prohibition era and thought what better way than to name ourselves after the Republican who dared to take away the citizenry's access to alcohol. Andrew Volstead was an American member of the United States House of Representatives from Minnestoa, 1903 - 1923, and a member of the Republican Party. His name is closely associated with the National Prohibition Act of 1919, usually called the Volstead Act. The act was the enabling legislation for the enforcement of national prohibition beginning in 1920 (Thank you, Wikipedia...).

So we raise our glasses to Andrew Volstead and take a sip of the fine spirits we know and love.