Tag Archives: whiskey



Ages ago I was given a neat little dark-blue tome called The Architecture of the Cocktail, which I snobbishly dismissed as a little more than a gimmick; the book’s illustrations are designed to look like blueprints, lending it a serious, mathematical vibe; there’s no warm, inviting photos; and at first glance it looks like one of those smugly superior books that’s mighty clever but irritating to follow.

I shelved it and thought I would never use it.

How wrong I was.

This has become one of my favourite cocktail books for precisely the reasons I initially disliked it. The recipes are easy to follow; the lack of photos means it hasn’t dated badly (the Savoy Cocktail Book doesn’t have photos, either); and the concise preamble to each cocktail is a joy to read.

In other words, it’s small, but it packs a punch. Just like the Blackthorn.

The Blackthorn takes the absinthe rinse of a Sazerac, marries it with the balanced, simple nature of a Manhattan, and then plays havoc with genetics, swapping the Manhattan’s rye whiskey for Irish and its sweet vermouth for dry. I don’t know if that makes it a lovechild or a bastard cousin of the aforementioned classic cocktails, but I figure it gives me a bit of leeway with it – at least, that’s my excuse for switching Irish whiskey for Scotch, and using the wrong glassware to boot.

No matter if you follow the original recipe or my off-plan one, if you like Sazeracs and Manhattans, you will love this strong, slightly bitter, anise-laced drink.


2 dashes absinthe (I figured this meant half a teaspoon, but I’m sure some people would use less)

45ml Irish whiskey (I used Scotch and it still tasted good, but I’m keen to try it with Irish next time)

30ml dry vermouth

2 dashes Angostura bitters

lemon peel, to garnish


Cocktail glass, chilled (I used a chilled tumbler)


Pour the absinthe into the glass and swirl it about gently so the absinthe coats the glass. Tip out any excess.

Half fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the whiskey, vermouth and Angostura and stir well to combine. Strain into the glass. Gently peel a long piece of lemon peel (avoiding the pith) over the glass and drop it in to garnish.


I butchered this recipe, and it still worked. So here’s cheers to the original recipe, which appears in The Architecture of the Cocktail by Amy Zavatto (Harper Collins, 2013).

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New Fashioned & Old Fashioned


I love a good Old Fashioned and I love gin, so it’s only natural that the first drink I tried from the new Dan Jones book, Gin: Shake, Muddle, Stir was a gin-based old fashioned – aptly called a New Fashioned.

It’s made almost entirely of gin – think of it as a martini of sorts for people who really, REALLY don’t like vermouth – so it’s logical that Jones instructs readers to use ‘really excellent gin’. To me, that means Four Pillars or West Winds (actually, it means a bunch of others, too, but hey, who’s counting?) and today I opted for West Winds The Sabre, partly because its blue-tinged bottle matched the book and partly because I’d been looking for an excuse to crack open a new bottle and this seemed like the perfect reason. (I must rethink this policy of waiting for a special occasion to open new bottles. New bottles of liquor could be languishing for days behind my bar if I keep this up.)

You’ve got to really love gin to enjoy this cocktail – so naturally, I loved it. It’s a great way to enjoy your very fave gin with just a hint of sweetness and not a lot else going on; if you’re not a gin-head, don’t bother.



60ml really excellent gin (seriously, use your very very best gin)

splash of sugar syrup (I used 5ml)

dash of Angostura Bitters

dash of orange bitters (I used Angostura Orange Bitters)

strip of lime peel, to garnish


Tumbler or old-fashioned glass


Add a massive chunk of ice to your tumbler (one of those spherical moulds of ice will work, or just use a heap of decent-sized ice cubes). Add gin and sugar syrup and stir briefly to combine. Splash the bitters over the top and garnish with the lime peel.


This is from Gin: Shake, Muddle, Stir by Dan Jones (Hardie Grant Books, 2016)



If you’re not into gin, make an Old Fashioned instead. Recipes vary a bit – here’s an ultra-cool one courtesy of Esquire – but the recipe below, a variation on the traditional recipe, is the one served at 52 Cocktails’ HQ.


60ml Johnnie Walker red label whisky

15ml sugar syrup

several dashed Fee Brothers Black Walnut Bitters


Old-fashioned or tumbler


Place several ice cubes in a mixing glass. Add half the whisky and half the sugar syrup and stir well. Add a few more ice cubes and the remaining ingredients and stir again. Half-fill the serving glass with ice. Strain the cocktail into the glass and serve.


This is a variation on the theme of a traditional Old Fashioned, and we’ve been serving it up for years. The Black Walnut Bitters adds a delicious caramel note, changing the drink from a gutsy pre-dinner tipple to something you could almost serve with (or instead of) dessert. It’s a divine winter warmer, too.

Adding a fruit garnish is optional – there’s a bit of debate about whether a regular Old Fashioned should be garnished or not – but, for the record, our House Old Fashioned has never sported a garnish, and no one has ever complained.

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