Category Archives: by the book

Tommy’s Margarita


A few years ago at Top Shelf* (a festival of boutique spirits and drinks held right here in Melbourne, which I have previously summarised as the best day of the entire year), the delightful Jason Crawley (MD of The Drink Cabinet and all-round clever-pants when it comes to anything alcoholic) presented a talk that was titled something like ‘The top five drinks to order to impress your bartender that show you are not just some schmuck who orders Cosmopolitans because you still think they’re original and interesting’ (look, I can’t recall the exact title, it was a long time ago and I was drunk, but you get the general idea, right?).

One of the cocktails he discussed – and then passed around for taste-testing – was Tommy’s Margarita, which I finally got around to making this week. It’s nothing like the kind of margarita you used to get at crappy Mexican restaurants in the ’80s –  all blended ice and fruit flavouring and colours that don’t exist in nature, served in a vessel the size of your head with a warning that drinking more than one will render you useless for the rest of the day in the office. Rather, it’s a sophisticated way to get acquainted with good-quality tequila, which has finally broken free of its ‘lick, sip, suck’ reputation (a method for getting wasted incredibly quickly involving licking salt off your hand, sipping tequila and sucking on a lemon or lime wedge) and an ingredient that until fairly recently had been hard to obtain here – agave syrup.

Now, I’m no detective but it seems like a mighty odd coincidence that just as Melbourne (or, perhaps, most of the world) worked out that tequila is actually an artisan product with as many terroir-based nuances as fine wine and deserves to be treated as such, the ‘no sugar’ movement over in ‘I’m Determined To Be Annoyingly Healthy And If That Means Denying Myself Simple Pleasures And Demanding Odd Ingredients Such As No-Added-Sugar-Soy-Carob Sprinkles On My Decaff Dandelion Chai Soy Latte Then So Be It Land’ was taking off, resulting in more and more ingredients such as agave syrup becoming readily available and, ironically enough, just begging to be used in cocktails.

Which I have done, following Jason Crawley’s lead.

I think you should, too, for the Tommy’s Margarita is absolutely delicious and deserves to be drunk even if you are not trying to impress your bartender. It shows off the tequila’s minerality and smokiness and has a nice balance between mellow and tart. It can be drunk with ice cubes in the glass (great in summer) or without (perfect in winter). Yeah, yeah, this goes against most recipes, which say it should be served in a chilled glass, sans ice, but we’ve tried it each way and we think it works. Experiment and find your own preferred serving method! Oh, and in case you’re wondering – Tommy’s Margarita was invented by Julio Bermejo in the 1990s, who named it after his family’s restaurant and bar. You can read more about it here.

This particular recipe is from Eau De Vie, one of Melbourne’s best cocktail bars. If you’re ever in town, don’t be put off by its location (down an alley and through an unmarked door, as many of Melbourne’s bars are) or the long queues – it’s most definitely worth a visit.



Unlike other margaritas, this is traditionally served without a salt rim on the glass….although it is delicious with a Maldon sea salt rim, or a Smalt smoked salt rim, or a combination of both.


50ml Reposado tequila

25ml lime juice

20ml agave syrup (we used dark agave syrup)


Rocks or old-fashioned


Combine all ingredients with ice in a cocktail shaker and shake like mad. Strain into a rocks glass – it’s up to you if you have ice in the glass or not.


Well, that depends on which tequila you use, whether you use dark or light agave syrup and the age of your lime. An older lime (with yellowed skin) is generally more mellow than a young one (with green skin). Various tequilas all have their own flavour. Serving the drink with/without ice will alter how you taste it, too. Your best bet is to make one and sip it slowly and see for yourself why this is a modern classic. As a rough guide, a Tommy’s should show off the tequila’s flavours – think smoke and minerals – and temper them with a smooth sweetness, perhaps a slight caramelly earthiness, even,  from the agave, and just enough sourness from the lime to liven things up. Sometimes we get notes of apricot loaf and sponge cake coming through; sometimes it’s all about the minerals; sometimes we sounds like a pack of wankers who should piss off and go have a drink. That’s ok – we get the hint. Cheers!


This recipe is in Eau de Vie‘s beautiful book Cocktails done the Eau de Vie Way by Sven Almenning (2013, the Speakeasy Group).

*Top Shelf has since changed its name to the Australian Drinks Festival. You can (and should) buy tickets here.

Whisky Smash


Hulk Smash!

And Whiskey Smash as well, apparently. This is a pretty old recipe – the original appears in Jerry Thomas‘ bartending guide, aka the Bible – and, like the best recipes, it’s stood the test of time. Drink a couple and you’ll be smashed, too.


2 lemon quarters

3-6 mint leaves

45ml bourbon

25ml sugar syrup

2 dashes Angostura bitters


Rocks/Old fashioned


Muddle the lemon and mint in the base of a cocktail shaker. Add remaining ingredients and a good handful of ice. Shake it, baby, yeah! Strain into a glass that’s half-full of ice, garnish with a mint sprig and serve with a swagger.


A mint julep’s kissing cousin. Lemon and sugar really bring out bourbon’s sweet side – there’s a jellybean-like sweetness going on here – but the mint just stops it from getting too cloying. It’s a good one for folks who want a more mellow side to a julep; those who like strong flavours might find it’s not to their taste.


This particular version appeared in a Dan Murphy’s catalogue. (Dan’s is an Australian chain of bottle shops. Although at 52 Cocktails HQ, it’s generally referred to as ‘the supermarket’ since we go there so often.)


Bourbon Stone Martini


Everyone who’s drunk this beguiling cocktail – it’s somehow mellow, sweet and a bit tart all at the same time – has asked two things:

(1) why is it called a Bourbon Stone Martini?, and

(2) can I have another one?

I can’t answer the first question but I can say yes to the second. Especially since, now that I’m giving you the recipe, you can make me one while you’re at it.


45 ml bourbon

30 ml orange curacao or triple sec (I used triple sec; for a good explanation of the difference between them, check out Ten Cocktails, a brilliant book by Alice Lascelles, or read this)

30 ml fresh lemon juice

30ml fresh orange juice

1 tsp castor sugar or sugar syrup (I used sugar syrup as it plays nicely with the other ingredients)




Shake all ingredients together with ice. Double-strain into a cocktail glass. (Double-straining gets rid of any fruit pulp. Don’t know how to do it? It’s easy – check out this video for instructions.)


You could be stoned, and still get this one right. Maybe that’s how the name came about…


The Cocktail: 200 fabulous drinks by Jane Rocca (Hardie Grant Books, 2005) features this and loads of other delish creations.


Pineapple, lychee & mint daiquiri


Some cocktails are best suited to a particular time and place. The Fluffy Duck, for example, is best suited to a time long gone in a parallel universe. And most tropical cocktails, such as this super-fruity, tart daiquiri, are best suited to, well, the tropics. Sure, it’s delish at any time of year, but unless you’re surrounded by palm trees, dripping sweat onto your sand-covered feet and really, REALLY in need of refreshment, it just won’t taste as good as it can be.

So here’s my tip: don’t bother making this at home. Go to a tropical island and get somebody to make it for you. It’s good for the tourist economy and it means you don’t have to clean up. Winning.


4 mint leaves

45ml white rum

80g diced fresh pineapple (confession time: I used canned instead. Shoot me)

4 lychees, peeled and seeded (yes, you should use fresh. Yes, I used canned instead)

15ml pineapple juice (you can probably guess by now that I used store-bought, not fresh)

15ml lime juice (but hey, I’m not THAT bad that I’d use bottled lime juice. I used the fresh stuff)

15ml sugar syrup

1 cup crushed ice

mint sprig, for garnish

pineapple leaf, for garnish (obviously you will only have one of these handy if you used fresh pineapple. If you used canned pineapple, do not use the pineapple can lid as a substitute garnish!)


cocktail glass


Place everything except the crushed ice and garnish(es) in a blender. Blend.

Add crushed ice and blend until mixture has the consistency of shaved ice.

Pour into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish.

Drink on a tropical island or, failing that, drink it on a hot day while thinking about a tropical island. And if no tropical islands or hot weather are coming your way, drink it to console yourself…


Let’s see, you’ve got to either peel pineapples or open cans, and you need to crush ice, and then you have to clean a blender. It’s probably best to get someone else to make this for you, preferably a hot waiter on a tropical island.


This recipe appears in the mighty tome that is Shaken: 250 very sexy cocktails (Murdoch Books, 2004).

Japanese Cocktail


Despite its name, the Japanese Cocktail is not, in fact, Japanese. Nor does it contain any Japanese ingredients. I don’t know if it is even available in Japan (although if anyone wants to fund a research trip, I’m up for it; with its hint of marzipan balanced by oaky brandy, this well-balanced, aromatic drink is rather moreish). Apparently it was the first cocktail on record to have a name that does not reflect its ingredients – David Wondrich explains its origins here – and now it can boast that it’s the first brandy-based drink to grace these pages, too.


1 piece lemon peel

60ml brandy

15ml orgeat

2 dashes Angostura Bitters

Lemon twist, for garnish


Cocktail or coupe


Muddle the lemon peel in a mixing glass. Add ice and the remaining ingredients. Stir until chilled and strain into a chilled glass. Garnish with the lemon twist.


This elegant concoction is much easier to make than it is to say ‘elegant concoction’ three times fast after you’ve had a few.


This version appears in Asian Cocktails – Creative Drinks Inspired by the East by Holly Jennings and Christine LeBlond (Tuttle, 2009).

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Grand Pagoda


Confession time: I fell in love with foamy cocktails at Potato Head Beach Club in Bali a few years ago and, despite them being oh-so-last-decade now, I still love them. A good one is like dessert in a glass, a textural wonderland of creamy, cloud-like topping leading to a sometimes sweet, sometimes tart, always refreshing cocktail below. A good foam-topped cocktail is a cheat’s way of getting two cocktails for the price of one, since you get two different experiences (and sometimes flavours) as you drink your way through the layers. A good one is heaven.

A bad one is hell.

A lot of foams are made from egg white, so, at their worst, a bad foam-topped cocktail is basically a mess of raw meringue topping that stinks of egg and goes droopy and gloopy before you’ve even got to the cocktail hiding in shame below. At their worst at home, a bad foam-topped cocktail is all of that AND it’s hard to clean the foam that’s gone all over the kitchen as you’ve accidentally pressed the lever on the foaminator too hard and it’s sprayed further than a pack of alley cats on heat. Which is what happened the first time I used my foaminator (aka whipped-cream charger) to make cocktail foam (thank you, 52 Cocktails CTO for the thoughtful gift. Sorry about the mess. Honestly, I think egg-white stalactites are the latest trend in home interiors…). Seriously, they look easy to use, as per Jamie Boudreau’s how-to video (although he could make apologising for meringue-inating the house look easy), but if you’ve never used one before I suggest you practise outside until you’ve got the hang of it. Preferably in someone else’s garden.

Alternatively, you could just cheat, and make a cocktail that uses pineapple juice, since shaking pineapple juice produces a pretty decent foam. This is due to something involving molecules and science, the upshot being that pineapple juice foam is admittedly not as strong as a foam made in a foaminator but is still strong enough to be called a foam, and sometimes, that’s all you need.

The Grand Pagoda is a good example of a cheat’s foam-topped cocktail, and the science-lovers among you (come on, with that hugely helpful scientific explanation in that last paragraph I just know you’re still reading) might like to conduct the same experiment I did, to see just how foamy the juice can get depending on what it’s shaken with (yep, Saturday nights are a real blast at my place).

First up, I made a Grand Pagoda, which looked like this:


It was made using the original recipe, which is below. The foam was pretty good and the drink beneath was a nice muted ruby colour. Overall, the taste was good, too – quite sharp, dry-ish and minerally despite the drink looking sweet.

Next up, I made what I’ve since dubbed a Grand Pagoda Party. I wanted to make enough drinks for four people but of course that much liquid would not fit in a shaker. So I shook all the ingredients except pineapple juice together and poured them into glasses, then shook the pineapple juice and poured it over the top. The result (pictured at the very top of this long, nonsensical ramble) was actually better. The foam was stronger, the colours were brighter and you could just differentiate between the flavour of the foam and the flavour of what lay beneath. I still wasn’t 100% sold on the drink, though. I think it was the taste of the sake coming through that I didn’t really like; it stood out too much, demanding attention instead of blending nicely with the other ingredients.

And so, onto experiment no.3:


What would happen, I wondered, if I used vanilla vodka instead of sake? The result was a sweet, dessert-like drink in which all the flavours played well together. It instantly reminded me of lollies (perhaps it was just the colour, but I thought of Redskins – Australia has terribly racist food) and thus I named it the Candy Pagoda. I think it’s the best one of the bunch – you could say the others just foam it in.


45ml sake

15ml creme de cassis

7ml lime juice

75ml pineapple juice

The above ingredients will make a Grand Pagoda.

If you’re making a Grand Pagoda Party, multiply the above ingredients by however many guests you have.

If you’d prefer to try a Candy Pagoda, use 45ml vanilla vodka instead of the sake.


Tumbler, cocktail or coupe – whatever takes your fancy!


For a Grand Pagoda or a Candy Pagoda, combine the ingredients in a cocktail shaker that’s half full of ice. Shake hard and strain into your preferred glass.

For a Grand Pagoda Party, multiply the ingredients by however many guests you have*. Combine all the ingredients except the pineapple juice in a cocktail shaker that’s half full of ice. Shake hard and strain into your preferred glass(es). Rinse the shaker and refill it with ice. Add the pineapple juice and shake hard. Strain over the top of the ruby-red liquid that’s already in each glass. You should end up with a vibrant red cocktail topped with a good head of foam.

*Within reason, of course. I multiplied by 4; that much fluid fits neatly into a cocktail shaker. If your party is 300-people strong, you might want to consider making a bathtub of punch instead.

Note: the original recipe calls for a garnish of dried coconut shavings and a maraschino cherry. Whichever method/recipe you use, the pineapple juice should create a thick foam so that you can sprinkle the coconut on top. I decided not to bother, but I bet it would look pretty!


Way easier than using a foaminator.


The original recipe appears in Asian Cocktails – Creative Drinks Inspired by the East by Holly Jennings and Christine LeBlond (Tuttle, 2009).

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The Sound and the Slurry

sound and the slurry

If you like cocktails (hell yes) and word play (it’s a pundamental part of life), Tequila Mockingbird is a novel idea that’s worth seeking out. Clever-pants author Tim Federle  has taken a bunch of cocktail recipes and given them a literary twist, so that you end up with such drinks as ‘A Midsummer Night’s Beam’ and ‘The Rye in the Catcher’. As a bonus, there’s a synopsis of the literary work in question, so that if you’re drinking, say, a ‘Pitcher of Dorian Grey Goose’ but you haven’t read Oscar Wilde’s classic Picture of Dorian Gray, at least you can pretend you have. Which is pretty handy if you decide to make a drink named after William Faulkner’s novel The Sound and the Fury, smug in the knowledge that you read it as a teenager, and then realise it’s been a long time between then and now and you can’t remember anything about it. Not that such a thing would happen around here, of course. Ahem.

I’m pretty sure this tart, bracing cocktail is supposed to be pronounced ‘The Sound and the Slur-ry’ (not ‘slurry’), because (a) it’s quite pretty, and not slurry-like at all, and (b) you’ll definitely be slurring after you’ve had a few. There’s a good chance, for example, that you’ll be slur-ily analysing the deliberate lack of punctuation and the, er, the…thing… in the Faulkner novel about…about…

sound and the slurry 2


60ml gin

15ml creme de cassis

15ml lemon juice


Coupe or cocktail


Shake everything together with ice and strain into the glass. Alternatively, you can serve this in a tumbler on the rocks.


So much easier to make than it is to make head or tail of The Sound and the Fury.


Tequila Mockingbird by Tim Federle (Running Press, 2013) contains this and many other fun recipes.

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42 Flying Mules, or, This is Gonna Hurt

42 flying mules

If you ever encounter 42 flying mules you will quite possibly get hurt, what with the kicking of legs and the beating of wings and the fact that you’ve probably taken a mind-altering substance that makes you hallucinate such things in the first place.

If you ever encounter a cocktail that bears the same name you will most definitely get hurt; the chilli in it is real ring-of-fire stuff, from the lip burn as you drink it to the, er, other kind. It’s based on a Moscow Mule (an easy-drinking blend of lime, vodka and ginger beer), but it’s so hot it’s like there’s no ice in the glass. Where a Moscow Mule is a great way to cool down in summer, this is a good way to warm up in winter.

There are two ways to make this drink; the first is as per the recipe, which results in a more refined, slightly less spicy drink – the original 42 Flying Mules. The second is the way I make it, which results in a drink with bits of chilli and mint floating in it and a lot of kick (hence the alternative name – the This is Gonna Hurt). I suppose you could use less chilli, or at least a milder a chilli, but where’s the fun in that?!


1/2 lime

6 mint leaves

1/2 large (finger-length) Thai chilli, sliced

30ml sake

30ml vodka

10ml lemon juice

ginger beer

mint sprig, to garnish (optional)


The original recipe calls for a highball glass. This will hold quite a bit of ginger beer, which will help to dilute the heat from the chilli. I used a tumbler so that the flavours would not be so diluted. (Plus, this follows a long-standing 52 Cocktails tradition to make Moscow Mules in a tumbler, using twice as much vodka and half as much ginger beer as you’re supposed to use, which results in a drink that’s delightfully named a Russian Headfuck.)


Chop the lime into quarters. Muddle lime, mint and chilli in a shaker. Add the sake, vodka and lemon juice, plus a good handful of ice. Shake it hard. Strain into a highball glass, top with ginger beer and garnish with a mint sprig.


Juice the lime. Muddle lime juice, mint and chilli in a tumbler. Half-fill the tumbler with ice. Add the sake, vodka, lemon juice and ginger beer and stir gently.


Making this drink – using either method – is easy. Drinking it can be a bit of a challenge!


The Cocktail – 200 Fabulous Drinks by Jane Rocca (Hardie Grant Books, 2005) includes this hot little number.


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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).


Gin Garden – one drink, three ways


When you’re having a dinner party and every guest except for one drinks, what do you do? It’s easy to single out your one teetotalling friend and hand them an exciting glass of …er…water (ooh! thrilling!), but it’s kind of mean. It’s much more fun to work out a cocktail that everyone else can drink that will also work fine as a mocktail – or vice versa. Happily, the Gin Garden works just as well with gin in it as without, though naturally I prefer mine with!

When I was experimenting with this recipe, I discovered three ways to serve it; it’s a pretty forgiving recipe, so don’t worry if you don’t have the quantities quite right, it will probably still taste good anyway. The original recipe comes from the book The Cocktail – 200 fabulous drinks by Jane Rocca, which features divine illustrations by the talented Kat Macleod. Served as per the original recipe (see Version One below), it’s  sweet and intriguing and tastes like what you’d drink on a summer’s day at a rooftop bar. Version Two – which is pictured above and is basically the same as the original version, but with soda – is a light, delicate drink that’s reminiscent of picnics in the shade beneath Grandma’s apple tree. Version Three – the mocktail – is admittedly less sophisticated but just as flavourful. As my drinking and non-drinking dinner guests said, “More please.”


3 good chunks of cucumber

15ml elderflower cordial

45ml gin

45ml apple juice – store bought is fine, but look for one that’s freshly pressed, not one that’s made from apple juice concentrate. I used Spreyton Fresh and was very happy with the result

soda water, to top up

cucumber slices, to garnish

mint leaves

mint sprig, to garnish


Martini glass (for Version One); tumbler (for Versions Two and Three)


For Version One: muddle the cucumber with the elderflower cordial in the base of a cocktail shaker. Add the gin and apple juice and a handful of ice cubes. Shake, then strain into a chilled martini glass. You can double-strain if you really want to be rid of any little cucumber bits. Garnish with a few cucumber wheels.

For Version Two: follow the instructions for Version One, but strain (or double strain) into a tumbler that’s half-full of ice, and top up with soda. Garnish with cucumber wheels. If you’re catering for a crowd on a hot night, make up a jugful of Version One and serve it as per these instructions as each guest arrives. They will love it and you won’t have to spend your whole night mixing drinks! The easiest way to make up a jugful is to multiply the above recipe by 10. Even if you have only four people present, you’ll get through it all, trust me. And if you accidentally make way too much, it keeps in the fridge overnight.

For Version Three – the mocktail: muddle the cucumber with a few mint leaves and the elderflower cordial in the base of a cocktail shaker. Add the apple juice and a handful of ice cubes. Shake, then strain into tumbler that’s half-full of ice, and top up with soda. You can double-strain if you really want to be rid of any little green bits. Garnish with a mint sprig so it’s easy to tell which drink is the mocktail.


Who knew a three-way could be so easy?


The original recipe appears in The Cocktail – 200 fabulous drinks by Jane Rocca (Hardie Grant Books, 2005).

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