Bay Area, California (1960s)

For dessert sometime, consider this impossible-to-hate variation on The Dude’s “Caucasian” – with freshly-whipped cream on top and a dusting of grated coffee bean as reimagined by Sam Ross. Yes, it’s sweet, and yes it has vodka in it. And it’s awesome. Born from the “Black Russian” cocktail out of Belgium (!!) in the late ’40s, the White Russian upped the decadence in the ’60s by adding cream. The ’60s? Decadent? Say it ain’t so!

The standard way you’ve probably seen this drink is all three ingredients slopped together over ice in a rocks glass. But here’s an idea: It’s dessert. It’s supposed to be a special treat. Kick back and feel as guilty as you want. Or not.

If you can track down the amazing House Spirits coffee liqueur or St. George Firelit, do so – it makes a difference. But Kahlúa works just fine if you come up short. And don’t substitute sweetened whipped cream – it’s sweet enough already. If you don’t have an electric mixer, a few minutes whipping the heavy cream by hand with a whisk will help offset some of these calories!

Just don’t blame me if drinking this makes you want to twist up a fatty and crank up the Floyd.

THE KIT
Hardware:Mixing glass, Jigger, Barspoon, Standing mixer (or whisk), Microplane
Ice:Ice cubes
Glassware: Cocktail glass
Spirit:Vodka (recommended: Absolut, Karlsson’s Gold)
Mixers & Liqueurs: Coffee liqueur (recommended: House Spirits, St. George Firelit, Kahlúa)
Juices, Accents, & Garnishes:Heavy cream, Coffee bean

HOW TO
Chill a cocktail glass in the freezer at least ten minutes. In a standing mixer (or by hand), whip 1/4 cup of heavy cream to thicken. Stop before you get to soft peaks – the cream should be thick but still pourable.

In a mixing glass about a third-full with ice cubes, add:
1 1/2 oz vodka
1 1/2 oz coffee liqueur

Stir well to blend and chill, then strain into the chilled glass. Leave room in the glass for cream. Gently pour just enough whipped cream to top off – distribute and level the cream with the barspoon. Using a microplane, grate a coffee bean in the center of the cream to garnish.

Licking the glass clean at the end is perfectly acceptable, don’t be ashamed.

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New York City, 1880s

They say this drink is named for three beautiful jewels (“bijous” in French): diamond (gin), ruby (vermouth), and emerald (Chartreuse). Of course, “Bijou” was also a popular name for Broadway theatres, and this makes more sense to me: if The Last Word is the refined-but-eccentric type who comes in late for the show wearing tennis whites, the Bijou is his weird cousin who lives in the weed-choked field behind the theatre. Many contemporary versions of this recipe tame down the vermouth and Chartreuse, but the first-documented instance (in Harry Johnson’s 1882 “Bartender’s Manual”) specified equal parts, like a proto-Negroni. Yes, a whole ounce of 110-proof, ass-kicking green Charteuse: the intensely herbal liqueur made by French Carthusian monks since the mid-18th century. Legend says it contains 130 different botanicals and each half of the secret recipe is known by only two monks at a time, who’ve taken a vow of silence. And not just about the liqueur. So goes the legend, anyway. A great drink is made even better by a great story – and drinks tend to lead to stories, you know.

Odds are, because of the date, this would’ve originally been made with Old Tom gin. But if you don’t mind an extra herbal kick, try it with a London Dry gin. Either style works great here.

THE KIT

Hardware: Mixing glass, Jigger, Barspoon
Ice: Ice cubes
Glassware: Cocktail glass
Spirits: Old Tom gin (recommended: Hayman’s) or London Dry gin (recommended: Beefeater, Tanqueray)
Mixers & Liqueurs: Italian vermouth (recommended: Carpano Antica, Noilly Prat), green Chartreuse
Juices, Accents, & Garnishes: Orange bitters (recommended: Regan’s Orange Bitters #6)

HOW TO

Chill a cocktail glass in the freezer at least ten minutes.

In a mixing glass about a third-full with ice cubes, add:

1 oz Old Tom gin or London Dry gin
1 oz Italian vermouth
1 oz green Chartreuse
1 
dash orange bitters 

Stir well to blend and chill, then strain into the chilled glass. No garnish.

The Edison, Los Angeles, CA (2008)

There’s been a bit of a resurgence in punch these last couple years, led by two fronts. One is from craft bartenders wanting to make sure everyone in a crowded bar gets a quick drink when the line starts backing up. The other is David Wondrich, booze historian, and his fascinating book “Punch: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl.” And for good reason: one of the simplest ways to make sure a large party is sufficiently quenched is with a big bowl of punch. Sure, it’s a bit of work upfront that you’ll need to plan far ahead for, but it frees you – the host – to kick back a bit when your guests arrive. They’ll serve themselves and gather around the punch bowl just like in Colonial times. Nice how some things never change!

This particular recipe comes from The Edison in Downtown Los Angeles. Of all the punch recipes I’ve tried recently, this one knocks the rest to the mat with one tap. Delicious, just strong enough, and perfectly balanced. Plus, you’ll pick up a fancy new word to bandy about: “oleosaccharum.” This is another place to use that batch of homemade grenadine you made – please don’t use that fake toxic-red shit.

Look for glass punch bowl sets at thrift stores or estate sales. You’ll find fantastic-looking vintage pieces, sometimes even complete sets with a dozen or more punch cups, edge hooks, and a ladle. I regularly see them in my area for under $20.

To maintain dilution when you serve your punch, you’ll want to hand-fashion a large block of ice instead of using ice cubes, which would melt too quickly…

Easy Ice: Find a freezer-safe bowl that fits well inside your punch bowl, with plenty of room for ladling around the edges. Fill the bowl with water and let freeze overnight. When ready, take the ice out, invert the bowl on the counter, and let it drop out (takes a few minutes).

Not-So-Easy (But Really Freaking Awesome) Ice: Fill a small Igloo lunch cooler with water and let freeze 36 hours. When frozen through, invert the cooler in the sink and let it thaw a bit, then slide out. It’ll take some time – but don’t worry, it’ll announce itself when it drops. You won’t miss it. Wearing protective gloves and using a bread knife, carefully carve away the slush and cloudiness at the bottom of the block to reveal a huge hunk of crystal-clear beauty. Round the corners by sawing and hacking, then shape the block to fit your punch bowl. When finished, you can store the block in a gallon Ziploc in your freezer until needed.

THE KIT

Hardware: Measuring cups & spoons, Muddler, Strainer, Slotted spoon
Ice: Ice block
Glassware: Punch bowl & punch cups (with ladle)
Spirits: Bourbon whiskey (recommended: Wild Turkey 81, Woodford Reserve, Buffalo Trace)
Mixers & Liqueurs: Lemon oleosaccharum, Grenadine, Champagne
Juices, Accents, & Garnishes: Lemon juice, Angostura bitters

HOW TO

OLEOSACCHARUM
Peel from end to end, avoiding the bitter white pith:
6 lemons

Reserve peeled lemons for juicing. In the punch bowl, combine peels with:
10 tablespoons superfine sugar (not Confectioner’s / Powdered Sugar – run regular white sugar through a dry electric blender if you can’t get superfine)

Muddle well to abrade lemon peel and begin expressing zest oils into the sugar. Stir to combine and let sit at least one hour, stirring occasionally. It’s done when the sugar is no longer gritty and the lemon syrup is smooth and fragrant.

PUNCH
To the oleosaccharum in the punch bowl, add:
4 cups bourbon whiskey (works out to an entire 750 ml bottle plus more)
2 cups lemon juice (strained well to remove pulp and small seeds)
1 cup grenadine
8 dashes Angostura bitters
1 1/2 cups cold water

Stir to blend, then using a hand-held strainer or slotted spoon, remove the lemon peels, making sure they don’t bring any of that oleosaccharum with them. Refrigerate, covered, until ready to serve. Just before your guests arrive, add the ice block and:

1 1/2 cups Champagne (about a quarter of a 750 ml bottle)

Stir to blend and then relax. You’re done.

MAKES 20 SERVINGS