Category Archives: bitters

Gins N Roses I & II


This week, after waiting since, oh, the 1980s, I FINALLY got to see my favourite band from childhood, Guns N Roses. Were they as good as they used to be? I don’t know – You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory – but they played some of my very favourite songs and everyone had a great night, so who cares? That’s fine in My World. And so, to celebrate, I thought I’d make a cocktail in their honour. But what to call it? Sweet Child O’ Wine? Catcher in the Rye Whiskey? Mama Gin? (OK, OK – Mama Kin is not strictly one of their songs, it’s a cover. Don’t put me Right Next Door to Hell for that.) I decided Anything Goes and that the drink should just be named after the band – and so I attempted to make something reflecting the moniker-Slash-pun Gins N Roses. Yep, you might be thinking ‘You’re Crazy’, but You Ain’t the First. And it’s not like I’ve been fertilising my imagination in the cold November Rain – I’ve just been greasing the Axls on the old pun wheels. (If all this reading is making you Dizzy with thirst, grab a Duff… but don’t get too Adler’d. Someone has to be across this post, after all. Stradlin’ it, in fact… )

All of this just goes to show It’s So Easy to have an Appetite for Distraction – I really hope you’re not Out ta Get Me as this Double Talkin’ Jive fills the space that should be filled with a cocktail recipe. It’s just that, well, it turns out I’m better at working song titles into a sentence than I am at inventing cocktails. Don’t Damn Me.

I’ll stop beating this Dead Horse – here’s my attempt at a cocktail intended to reflect the band. I wanted something so hard-hitting (like their music) that it could Get in the Ring, be as bitter as an Estranged band member and still feature notes of roses So Fine they could look Pretty Tied Up.



60ml Four Pillars Navy Strength Gin

30ml honey syrup (made by dissolving 10ml honey in 20ml boiling water)

15ml lime juice

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon rosewater (to taste)





Add all ingredients except tonic to a mixing glass that’s half-full of ice. Stir really well, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass and add a dash of tonic.

If this tastes too much like grandma’s scented drawer-liners (ie if you find the rosewater overpowering), dump the whole lot into a chilled tumbler that’s half-full of ice, add tonic and you’ve got a fancy G&T. It’s not a One in a Million cocktail, but it does taste like something Nice Boys would drink.


It’s not by My (friend) Michelle – it’s by the 52 Cocktails crew.

And you know what? It’s not great. But if you didn’t like it, Don’t Cry – there’s another version of the Gins N Roses just below, and it just might make you think you’re in Paradise City. Ain’t it Fun experimenting?


I confess, I’m not a massive fan of the Gins N Roses I. But back in the ’90s the band released two albums on the same day, Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion  II. So surely I should get two goes at getting the cocktail right – all I need is just a little Patience. (I’ve been  working the bar at night, just trying to get it right…) It’s not a Bad Obsession – I just don’t want this idea to become Dust N Bones. And so, here we have the next version:



60ml Tanqueray gin

30ml lemon juice

15ml sugar syrup

3 good shakes Angostura Bitters

2 shakes Bar Keep Chinese Bitters

soda, to top


Old-fashioned or tumbler, rimmed with Angostura sugar. (To make this, simply add enough bitters to white sugar to turn the sugar pink. There’s more info on it here.)


Add all ingredients except the soda to a cocktail shaker that’s half-full of ice. Shake it hard – Rocket, Queen! – and then pour everything, including the ice, into the tumbler. Top with soda and a few more dashes of each of the bitters.


This is a rough variation on a Fitzgerald (which is a Dale DeGroff creation) that was devised by the 52 Cocktails crew. The ‘pink rocks’ (Angostura sugar) pay homage to the band’s, er, lifestyle, while the refreshing, moreish concoction is just the Welcome to the Jungle I was looking for.



Doctored Pimm’s


A few weeks ago I foolishly attempted to provoke the weather gods into providing Melbourne with a sunny day by offering them a Sergeant Sunplash. It seems they listened, because today they turned their full vengeance upon me with a horrific heatwave, and I am now trying to placate them with a different offering: a Doctored Pimm’s.

Pimm’s, as you probably know, is a gin-based liqueur. Versions based on other spirits are sometimes also available, but most people are familiar with ‘Pimm’s No.1 Cup,’ the gin-based one that gets abbreviated simply to Pimm’s. It’s terribly British and traditional, dahling, and in my terribly traditional extended family it’s made with equal parts Pimm’s, lemonade and ginger beer, garnished with mint, a strip of cucumber peel and an orange slice, and drunk only on Boxing Day. And you do NOT fuck with this tradition. I once tried cutting the oranges into segments instead of slices. What was I thinking?! (Given it was Boxing Day, I was probably thinking, ‘My God I need a drink.’) That was more than a decade ago and I am still hearing about it.

So I am going to blame the heat for this deviation from the norm (and hope the family don’t read this): the Doctored Pimm’s has bourbon in it, and mandarin vodka, and really not very much actual Pimm’s in it at all. It’s about as far as you can get from a proper Pimm’s and still have Pimm’s in the title, really. It’s light and refreshing and tastes a bit like a cross between Fanta and a mint julep, which sounds disgusting but tastes quite nice. It’s the kind of thing you drink when it’s stinking hot and you don’t have enough bourbon to make a decent julep, or the ingredients to make a decent Pimm’s, or the energy to trundle down to the shops to buy either of those things. It’s a good way to use up the dregs of several bottles that somehow always seem to be taking up space on your bottle shelf. Look, it’s cold and wet and vaguely alcoholic, and right now that’s good enough for me!


30ml bourbon

15ml Pimms

15ml Absolut Mandarin

15ml sugar syrup

10ml lemon juice

good dash of Angostura Bitters

soda water, to top up

orange slice, to garnish

mint sprig, to garnish




Half-fill the glass with ice. Add all the ingredients except the garnishes and stir. Garnish, hope your family isn’t watching, and drink to your non-traditional heart’s content.


This one was created out of sheer desperation by the 52 Cocktails crew.


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Apple Strudel


Years ago in Aberdeen, Scotland, I was handed a drink and told it tasted ‘just like apple strudel’ and contained ‘vodka with grass in it’. I was skeptical, but it turned out to be true: when you combine Zubrowka Bison Grass Vodka with cloudy apple juice, it really does taste like strudel. As far as I can tell, there’s no cinnamon in this vodka; it’s distilled from rye and flavoured with bison grass, a type of grass that’s often eaten by bison. The grass – a blade of which is included in every bottle – gives it a dry, herbaceous note, and yet when it’s combined with the apple juice you’d swear there’s a heavy dose of cinnamon sugar going on. Yum.

This cocktail is a real crowd-pleaser and it’s super simple to make, so naturally I decided to tamper with it by adding bitters. Mister Bitters Fig and Cinnamon bitters was the obvious choice and while the result was subtle, it was definitely good. Here’s the recipe – you can alter the proportions if you wish (the original drink I had in Scotland, for example, was in a Collins glass and so contained much more apple juice), omit the bitters or even forget the ice (heaven forbid!) and it will still taste good.


45ml Zubrowka vodka

8-12 drops Mister Bitters Fig and Cinnamon bitters

Cloudy apple juice (do NOT, under any circumstance, use the reconstituted kind)

apple slices, to garnish (optional)




Half-fill the glass with ice. Add vodka and bitters and top up with apple juice. Stir. Garnish if desired.


Apple strudel made by someone who loves you unconditionally and is, coincidentally, really freaking good at making apple strudel.


I don’t know who came up with the original, but whoever it is, I salute you.



Deshler Cocktail


You can imagine the Deshler got its name when someone slurred their third order of this booze bonanza at the bar. Or you can read about its true history here. Either way, you should make yourself a Deshler right now.


45 ml (1 1/2 oz) Red Dubbonet

45 ml (1 1/2 oz) rye whiskey

7ml (1/4 oz) Cointreau

Dash of Angostura bitters

Orange peel, for garnish




Add all ingredients (except the orange peel) to a shaker that’s half-full of ice. Shake it hard, then strain into the glass. Garnish with the orange peel.


It’s the cocktail equivalent of feeling completely welcome in a room full of strangers. The Deshler is immediately inviting, a convivial mix of savoury, earthy flavours lifted by notes of baking spice and citrus with just enough sweetness to balance it all out. This one’s a winner.


The fabulous Dale De Groff published this version of the Deshler in his book The Craft of the Cocktail (Clarkson Potter, 2002).

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Sometimes, it’s the little things that matter, like a stone in your shoe or that damn fly that won’t stop buzzing around your face while you’re sweating through a hangover on a hot summer’s day (hint: have a hair of the dog. It won’t deter the fly but it will make you feel better). In the case of the Zapatero cocktail, the little things are the smallest amounts of ingredients – two kinds of bitters and a pinch of top-notch cinnamon – that pack the biggest flavour-punch and pull the drink’s disparate ingredients together into a cohesive, delicious whole. In terms of flavour, it’s a bit like a complex, layered dessert; there’s a hint of baked goods and a note of the heady tropics rounded out by an earthy smokiness and the feeling that you probably shouldn’t be indulging in something quite so decadent on a weekday but to hell with it, you’re going to. If you’re in that mood (and really, who isn’t?), here’s the recipe.


45ml mezcal

15ml bourbon

2 barspoons orgeat

1 dash Angostura Bitters

1 dash Fee Brothers Aztec Chocolate Bitters


Old-fashioned glass or tumbler


Half-fill a mixing glass with ice. Add all ingredients and stir until mixture is ice-cold.

Strain into an old-fashioned glass that’s half-full of ice.

Garnish with a sprinkle of cinnamon and a orange twist.


This one’s from our good friends at

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You know that life is fine and dandy when you come across a quirky little cocktail book – such as the one pictured above – for a few dollars in an op shop. And you know it’s a good purchase when the first drink you flick to is, in fact, the Dandy.

The book suggests it’s what to drink when you want to channel Oscar Wilde; I’d say it’s one for when you’re feeling quite self-assured and want something whisky-based that will help you win that age-old game of ‘stump the bartender’.

This is a dry-ish, savoury cocktail with subtle notes of orange and cinnamon, perhaps even gingerbread – now that’s just dandy.


1 ounce (30ml) rye whisky

1 ounce (30ml) Dubonnet

1 teaspoon (5ml) Cointreau

1 dash Angostura bitters

Twist of lemon peel and/or orange peel, to garnish


Cocktail or coupe


Add all liquid ingredients to a cocktail shaker that’s half full of ice and stir until cold. Strain into a chilled glass and garnish with the citrus peel.


Way easier than trying to think up an Oscar Wilde quote to use here.


The Dandy is in Let’s Bring Back: The Cocktail Edition by Lesley M M Blume (Chronicle Books, 2012).


Millionaire’s Moscato


Simple, elegant and sophisticated, the classic Champagne cocktail is a cinch to make: add a few drops of Angostura bitters to a sugar cube, pop it into a Champagne flute, add 30ml brandy and top with Champagne. Easy, right? But, this being 52 Cocktails, we just had to adulterate the recipe, partly out of curiosity and partly because we’re tight-arsed and there is no way we’re going to use actual Champagne in a cocktail unless someone else is paying. And so, here you can see what look like a pair of classic Champagne cocktails (though you’d be forgiven for thinking the one on the right is a Berocca in a glass of apple juice), but they’re actually a couple of Millionaire’s Moscatos. Here’s how to make em.


This is the one on the right hand side of the picture. It’s got a slightly medicinal taste and would be most at home in a 1950’s style cigar-smoke-filled men’s club.


Obviously this is the one on the left side of the picture. It’s sweet and fruity and easy to drink. It’s a great way to kick off a party. Speaking of which, it’s New Year’s Eve – happy 2016, and thanks for reading these posts throughout the year. May your new year bring you happiness, cocktails aplenty and a new liver. Now, where was I? Oh yes. The method for making these two cocktails is the same, it’s only the ingredients that differ. Try them both and have a very happy New Year indeed.


Sugar cube

Angostura Bitters – original

30ml brandy

Chilled Moscato (go ahead and use Champagne if you’d rather…and send a case our way, too!)


Sugar cube

Angostura Orange Bitters

30ml apricot brandy

Chilled Moscato


Champagne flute


Add about 10 drops of bitters to the sugar cube. Drop it into the glass. Add the brandy and top up with Moscato.


As easy as toasting your fellow cocktail drinkers on NYE – cheers!


We can’t really take credit for the bastardised recipe that is the Millionaire’s Moscato 1 – but we’ll happily claim we invented the Millionaire’s Moscato 2.

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Memories of Summer


Memories of Summer is so named because it tastes likes it was invented back in the good old days, when all kids had to play with were a couple of plastic dinosaurs and a vodka bottle. As the green dino is saying, it tastes of cinnamon, cherry blossoms and creamy soda; as the orange dino is thinking quietly to itself, if you can hear plastic dinosaurs talking you’ve had one drink too many.

Part of the appeal of this cocktail is that it can be made short and strong, or topped up with soda for a longer, more refreshing drink. Either way, it’ll help make your memories of summer good ones.



30ml peach vodka (we used house-made, yellow-peach-infused vodka; if you don’t have any, then Absolut Apeach will do fine)

15ml St Germain elderflower liqueur

15ml sugar syrup

10ml lime juice

5 drops Bittercube Cherry-Bark Vanilla bitters

soda, to top up (optional)


Tumblers are fine, though a short version of this drink would look better in a martini glass


Half-fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add all ingredients except the soda. Shake like you’ve just run through the sprinkler on a stinking hot day. Strain into the glass; top with soda if you want a long drink.


The hardest part is making the peach vodka, as you have to let the fruit infuse for at least a month before using it. Can’t be arsed? Use store-bought, and perhaps garnish the glass with some peach slices so it at least looks like you made an effort.


Memories of Summer was proudly created by 52 Cocktails. The team would like to order a round at a bar just to see what happens, eg:

‘I’d like two Memories of Summer, please.’

‘Oh? Ah…well, we used to go to the beach…and sometimes we’d have barbecues…’



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The Bitter Mandarin


It probably says a lot about me that in the dead of winter I still have a bottle of uni-student-budget-friendly Moscato handy.

Yep, it says that I am prepared for any drink-making eventuality, including the one where I make a really bitter drink by accident and realise it can only be saved by something sweet and fizzy. Never mind that it also says I am so disorganised that I totally forgot to drink all the Moscato in summer (when it would have been added to a shot of peach or apricot nectar in a cheap imitation of a Bellini) because it was buried beneath all the bottles of gin.

Anyway, it proved useful today when I was craving something citrus-y and had a few mandarines and some Cointreau Noir hanging around (as you do).

Side note: just as you say tomato and I say Bloody Mary, some people say mandarines and some people say mandarins. In reference to the fruit, I’ve always said mandarines, while 52 Cocktails’ CTO (Cocktail Tasting Officer) has always said mandarin. To me, a mandarin is a Chinese bureaucrat, or a type of collar on typical Chinese clothing, or a reference to the Mandarin Chinese language, while a mandarine is smallish orange-coloured citrus fruit with a thin, easy-to-peel skin, a refreshing fragrance and segmented, juicy innards. And since I am in charge of this write-up and the CTO isn’t, well, what I say goes. So if I say mandarine I mean the fruit, and if I say mandarin I mean, well, mandarin.

So, as I was saying, I had some ingredients on hand and combined them, and the result is the Bitter Mandarin.

Yes, Mandarin. Because this drink is quite bitter, and contains mandarines, and so it seemed logical enough to call it the Bitter Mandarine but more catchy to call it the Bitter Mandarin so people drinking it would think of some cross bureaucrat drinking the concoction after a long day full of red tape and a lack of stationery. Really, a bitter Mandarin would be much like a modern-day office worker but in better clothes. Or it would be like this:



2 small mandarines

1 sugar cube

2-3 dashes Fee Brothers Aztec Chocolate Bitters (if you are in Australia, they are available here:

60ml Cointreau Noir

Moscato, to top up


Martini/cocktail glass


Feeling bitter? Work pissing you off, bureaucrat? Then chop the mandarines into quarters, chuck em in the glass part of a Boston shaker, add a sugar cube and the bitters and muddle the hell out of them. Add the Cointreau Noir and half-fill with ice. Shake with rage and then double-strain into the glass. (To double strain, fit a hawthorne strainer into the shaker and place a tea strainer over the glass. As you pour through the hawthorne strainer into the tea strainer, you’ll be double-straining. It’s just like when your boss asks you to meet this week’s deadline as well as next week’s, but needs everything done yesterday… a LOT of straining.) Top with Moscato (you might need quite a lot to sweeten it to your liking.)


Ah, the stress relief that comes with bashing the sh*t out of a helpless piece of fruit – er, I mean, this one’s easy.


This one was invented by 52 Cocktails.


Well, that depends on who you ask. I’d say it tastes bitter (from the mandarine peel, not the bitters themselves), and mandarine-y. A bit like an Asian digestif. The CTO says it’s like a palate-cleansing sorbet and claims, “It’s not bitter at all, but then I’ve been drinking wine all night, so…” We agree that it does not taste like there’s any alcohol involved (which some people might say is the sign of a good cocktail) but suggest you do not serve it to under-18s just in case.


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