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October 14, 2014 / Andrew ("the Alchemist")

Update Notice


You may be weary of the subject, but I have added a lot of really interesting stuff to the post and you simply must click on the link below and read it:

October 1, 2014 / Andrew ("the Alchemist")

Take the Traditional American Mixology Quiz!

I sometimes get inquiries from bar-tenders as to whether they would actually learn anything from an Elemental Mixology Course.

The answer is always, “Yes.”  It would be a resounding ‘yes’ even if the bar-tender asking were Eric Alperin, Matthew Biancaniello, Julian Cox, Aidan Demarest, Vincenzo Marianella, etc.

In fact, I would give any of the bar-tenders I mentioned a money-back guarantee to take either the Standard Mixing Course or the Master Mixing Course.  If they could look me in the eye at the end of the course and tell me that they had not leaned plenty, I would be happy to refund them.

Well, we know that won’t happen.  But, what about the less-famous bar-tender that isn’t sure whether there is really that much to learn?

I have set up a Traditional American Mixology Quiz.  Anyone who scores a perfect 100 percent on the quiz might already be familiar enough with traditional, pre-prohibition, American mixology that they would be wasting their time and money at Elemental Mixology.  Everyone else would have their understanding-and-making of mixed drinks revolutionized and impassioned by the course.

Find out if that includes you.  Take the twenty-question Elemental Mixology Traditional American Mixology Quiz!

September 30, 2014 / Andrew ("the Alchemist")

The Cinnamon Syrup Recipe Revealed!

Cinnamon Syrup

Above, from left to right; my cinnamon syrup, dried bark of Cinnamomum verum zeylanicum (true cinnamon from Ceylon), dried buds of Cinnamomum cassia (common cassia ‘cinnamon’), and dried bark of Cinnamomum cassia.

Many attendees of the shorter Elemental Mixology courses and classes have asked me for my recipe for my ‘triple cinnamon’ cinnamon syrup.  I  have usually replied that the recipe is divulged and the syrup made during the Ingredient Fabrication Course.  But, many people just don’t have the time to take that course and want to make the excellent San Francisco Pisco Punch that was made in the course they have attended.

So, here it is:

Pour 750 milliliters distilled water into a saucepan and bring it to a boil.  Turn off the heat.


40 grams of dried, true cinnamon bark from Ceylon

20 grams of dried, cassia bark (common ‘cinnamon’ in the U.S.A.)

10 grams of dried, cassia buds

Place the saucepan over the lowest flame possible, cover well and leave for several hours.  Do not allow the liquid to reach anything near a boiling temperature!  Don’t even allow a bubbling simmer!

After at least two hours, remove from heat and strain out the solids through a chinois-type strainer, and then through a coffee filter.

Weigh the liquid infusion.  It should weigh about 600 grams.

Add the same weight in fine, white sugar and whisk until dissolved.

Pour through a funnel into a one-liter bottle, which should be right about the entire yield.

Cap and label and store in a refrigerator.

Use the syrup over vanilla iced cream, or in a San Francisco Pisco Punch (below) or a San Francisco Rum Punch (scroll all the way down), or in any other spirit version!  San Francisco Rye Punch is good, too!

San Francisco Pisco Punch

San Francisco Rum Punch

September 30, 2014 / Andrew ("the Alchemist")

Liquor Stewards’ Course Starting Soon!


The Elemental Mixology Liquor Stewards’ Course is beginning soon (in Los Angeles) and there are spaces still available…

Here is the course description:

The Liquor Stewards’ Course is a course toward becoming a liquor steward [being to liquor what a wine steward (or sommelier) is to wine].

Learn how to taste liquors for the ingredients they are made of, fermentation and distillation methods, and any aging or lack thereof.

This is a must for all bar professionals and home enthusiasts.

Liquor Stewards’ Course 20141018

Saturdays, Noon – 4:00 p.m.

Session 01: October 18

Session 02: October 25

Session 03: November 01

Session 04: November 08

Session 05: November 15

Session 06: November 22


September 15, 2014 / Andrew ("the Alchemist")

Maraschino Cherries?

Luxardo Marasche Jar

Do you remember this label on a jar of cherries?  Some of you must.  I remember it very well.  There was a time when I used to tell my students how nice it was that Luxardo didn’t try to sell their lovely marasca cherries with any lie that they were somehow maraschino cherries.  The label simply, and correctly, identified the product as marasche — plural in Italian for marasca.  The label also stated that the product consisted of marasca cherries in a pure, marasca cherry syrup.  I recall how I would praise Luxardo’s integrity versus the shameful lie on the label of any so-called “maraschino cherries” found in an American supermarket.

Then some handful of years ago, Luxardo went and did this:

Luxardo Marasche New Jars

Imagine my disappointment.

They didn’t bother to remake the product’s name on the can — so if you procure that item, you will still get the truth:

Luxardo Marasche Can

So it goes.

There was a time before the prohibition of alcohol in the U.S.A. killed off the huge north American demand for the true, alcoholic, maraschino cherry.  Here is what the U.S. Board of Food and Drug Inspection decided in their decision number 141 of 1912:

BFDI Decision 141

Note the decision by the board that:

BFDI Decision 141 Opinion

That simple, obvious standard would mean that there is no such thing as maraschino cherries in the world today — at least not commercially-available ones.  Dear reader, you have never had a true maraschino cherry.

That is why, in my book, I instruct the reader to garnish those drinks calling for a cherry with a “marasca cherry” instead of a “maraschino cherry.”

Over the years, I have toyed with the idea of taking some of Luxardo’s marasche, rinsing the syrup off of them and placing them in a jar and then covering them with Luxardo’s maraschino liqueur.  But, for the liqueur to really permeate the cherries, I expect they would have to be fresh — not already saturated with heavier-than-liqueur syrup.  I have never been willing to spend so much money to try something that common sense tells me would not yield anything like the correct result.

The good, old standard (and the governmental body that set it) is long gone.  Now we have so-called “maraschino cherries” that are not marasca cherries — nor cherries of any type preserved in maraschino liqueur.  Luxardo’s cherries really are marasca cherries, so it was understandable that they would want to cash in by joining those that had been stretching the ‘maraschino cherry’ truth for so long.  Though I understand the financial motivation behind it, I find Luxardo’s labeling change to be vulgar and distasteful.

I wish, instead, that Luxardo had brought to market some true maraschino cherries.  They would have been expensive — their marasca cherries in syrup already are so without the inclusion of maraschino liqueur.  I imagine that the cherries preserved in Luxardo’s good maraschino liqueur might have cost a lot more money.  But, I would have bought at least a couple of jars.  Plenty of our nation’s more pretentious drinking establishments would’ve have made an ostentatious display of using them.  Luxardo could have sold both marasca cherries (marasche) and true maraschino cherries.

But why bother when a little lie is so much easier?  Luxardo’s marasche are very good — even when called something that they are not.  Who would ever know the difference, anyway?  Well, you do — now.

September 12, 2014 / Andrew ("the Alchemist")

Curaçao Liqueurs




Anything called Curaçao liqueur should be made of the zest or peel of Citrus aurantium currassuviencis, the Curaçao orange — an especially bitter variety of Citrus aurantium, the bitter orange. The Curaçao orange grows on the island of Curaçao in the Netherlands Antilles.


Surfin Curaçao liqueur is specifically distilled from of a maceration of the peels in an overproof spirit. It is considered the standard. Surfin is French for ‘superfine.’



Surfin Curaçao liqueur may be of any of several grades for sweetness, and intensity of bitter orange aroma.


In addition, surfin Curaçao liqueur of any of the above grades may also be either colored or left blanc (‘white’ or colorless).



The sweetest grade of Curaçao liqueur is doux (French for ‘sweet’).  No Curaçao doux liqueur seems to be commercially produced anymore.






Less sweet than Curaçao doux is Curaçao sec.  Sec is French for ‘dry.’ Early French Curaçao liqueurs were very sweet, and Curaçao sec may have been created as a later adaptation toward the Netherlands original.





Even drier and more aromatic than Curaçao sec is Curaçao triple-secTriple-sec is French for ‘triple-dry.’




The very driest and most aromatic grade of Curaçao liqueur is extra-sec (French for ‘extra-dry’). Though originally of a sweeter grade, Cointreau’s famous product has become drier over the decades (perhaps in response to the success of Cusenier’s extra-sec product), and is now an extra-sec Curaçao liqueur.



Watch for a future post giving the grams of sugar per liter for each easily-obtained true Curaçao liqueur still on the market!

August 30, 2014 / Andrew ("the Alchemist")

Rock and Rye, and Genuine Rock Candy Syrup

[This expansion is in response to a bar-tender's request for additional information]

Do you want to make a historically-authentic Rock and Rye?

Let’s take a look at historic sources for the majority consensus on what that drink was:


Notice Thomas Stuart’s plagiarism.

I serve Rock and Rye giving the whiskey and the syrup separately so that the drinker can mix it however sweet they like.

The drink seems pretty straightforward.  Rye whiskey served with rock candy syrup is Rock and Rye.  It was good treatment for a sore throat because the alcohol in the whiskey is both antiseptic and temporarily deadens nerve endings, temporarily killing the pain.  The rock candy syrup, being the heaviest-possible suspension of sucrose in water, makes the drink viscous enough to coat the throat long enough to do its alcoholic work there better.

It is common today to find flavored rye whiskey liqueur, or flavored rye whiskey served with a stick of rock candy, called “Rock and Rye.”  While they can be tasty and worthwhile, they are not the historic drink Rock and Rye.  It is misleading to tell guests that such things are something traditional or time-honored.  Those who truly do care about drink tradition should give such new concoctions names other than “Rock and Rye.”

AJoP 67 1895

The above is from the American Journal of Pharmacy, volume 67, in 1895.  It indicates that rock candy syrup is the left-over syrup from the production of rock candy.  As such, no sugar should be left to crystallize out of the syrup.  In New York State, in 1873, a case was brought to court over an alleged deficiency found in barrels of rock candy syrup.  The plaintiffs made clear that they had desired high quality rock candy syrup “that would not crystallize, or the sugar fall down.”

Around the same time, admonitions can be found advising to obtain “rock candy syrup from a rock candy manufacturer.”

Below is from the Western Druggist, Volume 17 in 1895:

WD17 1895 97

Volume eleven of the Bulletin of Pharmacy in 1897, specifies that when cooking the syrup from which rock candy will be produced, no temperature higher than 112º Fahrenheit should be allowed.

BoP 11 1897

The 112º Fahrenheit limit is kept to prevent the conversion of sucrose into invert glucose.  Some amount of conversion from sucrose into glucose may be considered acceptable by some people making simple syrup, but it isn’t okay for the production of rock candy.  If you want to produce rock candy, you’d best stick to low temperatures and pure sucrose and pure water — in super-saturation so that rock candy will form.  Once all of the excess sugar has crystallized out, you will have rock candy syrup.

So, rock candy syrup and buttermilk have this in common: they were both traditionally the stuff left-over after the making of the named thing (rock candy or butter), but are now routinely divorced from those processes and are simply compounded independently.

Notice that, according to some of the above sources, it seems to have became common for other types of syrup to be sold as rock candy syrup.  Perhaps the growing difficulty in getting authentic rock candy syrup led to some bars serving an altogether different drink when asked for Rock and Rye.  Such recipes as those below make up a tiny minority of published recipes for anything called Rock and Rye, but they do exist.


Note that the above drinks would not relieve a sore throat very well, being without the thick viscosity of actual rock candy syrup.  One of the sources, William Boothby, was apparently spoken to so much about the Rock and Rye recipe in his 1891 book that he dramatically added to it for his 1908 book.


To this day, when shown that their methods are out of step, many bar-tenders will still assert that “either way is correct.”

But what about the syrup?  Has authentic rock candy syrup become available again?  

Amoretti RCS

The above ingredients for Amoretti brand so-called ‘rock candy syrup’ show that, though it may be a heavy syrup, it is definitely not traditional rock candy syrup.  Traditional rock candy syrup would not contain dextrose or fructose.  Genuine rock candy syrup carefully contains only sucrose and water.  Why it would need dextrose, fructose and “natural flavor” is a mystery to me!

So, what if you want to have traditional rock candy syrup?  Some old sources state that one of the reasons for the production of so much imitation rock candy syrup is that making the real thing via rock candy production takes time.  Unfortunately, that is true.  But, if you don’t care how much rock candy you make, the time needed can be drastically shortened.

Bring one part (by volume) distilled water to a temperature as close as possible to, but not higher than, 112º Fahrenheit.  An induction cook-top (like this one) that can be set at exactly 110º Fahrenheit is really useful.  Add three parts (by volume) pure, refined sugar (sucrose).  Stir over the same heat (never exceeding it!) until the sugar is dissolved.  It may take some time.  Pour the syrup into mason jars.  If you want to harvest the rock candy instead of discarding it (stuck to the inside of the jar), suspend a string in the mason jar to which the rock candy will form.  Once no more rock candy forms inside the syrup, pour it from the mason jar into a syrup bottle.  This syrup will contain the highest possible amount of sugar in a stable solution.  It will be the closest thing to genuine and traditional rock candy syrup that you will have ever had.


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