Updating the Ethan Allen

Way back in 2009, I came up with a drink for the Great American Distillers Festival that used smoke apple puree and apple cider gastrique. We served it at Carlyle and Metrovino (then-Carlyle chef Jake Martin had the idea for the smoked apples), but the ingredients were always improvised and we never had a definitive recipe.

This weekend I was cooking with my friend Paul Willenberg and he mentioned that he was borrowing a smoker. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to revisit the drink and simplify the recipe, omitting ingredients like smoked butter that we’d used to smooth out the puree in the past. What we came up with is direct and works very nicely. Check it out here.

Mexican Turnover

Mexican Turnover.

I’d completely forgotten about this drink until today, when Frederic from Cocktail Virgin Slut mentioned it in one of his year-in-review posts. I came up with this to round out the tequila chapter in the out of print Cocktail Collective, and making one tonight I’m happy to say that I still like it. It’s yet another cocktail inspired by the Alto Cucina, albeit with very different proportions.

1 1/2 oz anejo tequila
3/4 oz dry vermouth
1/2 oz Cynar
1/4 oz St. Germain
orange peel, for garnish

Stir with ice and serve up, garnished with a twist of orange peel.

New cocktail section

I’m launching a new section of the site today devoted entirely to cocktail recipes. I’ll continue updating this blog exactly as I always have with whatever topics are of interest to me, including documenting drinks. The new section complements the blog, presenting recipes in a way that’s user and SEO-friendly. Read the introduction and check out the site, including another new drink from Aquavit Week, the Aquavit Hot Toddy pictured above.

Scandinavian Sling

Scandinavian Sling.

I’m going to say right up front that the proportions called for in this recipe are a bit crazy. This was my entry into the 2012 Cherry Heering Sling Award competition, in which competitors were challenged to make their own variation on the Singapore Sling. The catch? The initial rules that I read mandated the use of at least two ounces of Heering. I like the stuff, but that is a lot of it! Looking at the site now it appears that one ounce is all that was required, so I’m not sure what happened there. In any case, this is a very tasty drink and it made the top ten in the competition. Besides, sometimes a super-sized tropical cocktail is just what the doctor ordered.

2 oz cherry Heering
1 oz Krogstad Festlig aquavit
1 oz lime juice
1/2 oz Angostura bitters
2 oz sparkling wine
1/2 orange wheel, for garnish
cherries, for garnish
sprig tarragon, for garnish

Pour the sparkling wine into a chalice filled with ice. Shake all the other ingredients with ice and strain into the goblet. Garnish with the fruit and tarragon.

For Aquavit Week at Metrovino, we’ve downsized the drink to more sensible proportions. Here’s a revised recipe:

1 oz cherry Heering
3/4 oz Linie aquavit
3/4 oz lime juice
1/4 oz Angostura bitters
1 oz sparkling wine
1/2 orange wheel, for garnish
cherries, for garnish
1 sprig tarragon, for garnish

Serve as above, in a rocks glass instead of a chalice. The drink is a bit drier in this formulation, so feel free to add more Heering for greater lushness.

Aquavit Week at Metrovino

Aquavit Week coming to Metrovino!

I’ve been making the case for a while that aquavit is an underrated spirit. Many bars don’t carry it at all, and those that do usually only have one bottle. But with more American distillers trying their hands at this traditionally Scandinavian spirit, we decided it was time to host an Aquavit Week at Metrovino.

Aquavit Week kicks off Tuesday, December 11 with an all-aquavit cocktail menu and an aquavit-inspired beer from Breakside Brewing. The cocktail menu will have six cocktails featuring six different aquavits: Krostad Festlig and Gamle (Portland), Bull Run’s forthcoming Regnig Dag aquavit (Portland), North Shore (Chicago), Sound Spirits (Seattle), and Linie (Norway). To show off aquavit’s versatility in mixing, the cocktails range from spirit-forward to citrusy, from sparkling wine to a Hot Toddy. We’ll also have chef Dustin See’s house cured gravlax on hand to pair with the drinks. The cocktails and food will be available all week.

The beer is a fun project that brewmaster Ben Edmunds invited me to collaborate with him on at Breakside Brewing. New Nordic Porter is inspired by the flavors of aquavit and cutting edge Nordic cuisine. It’s a classic porter flavored with caraway, dill and fennel pollens, and a hint of plum. It’s on tap at Metrovino this Tuesday only and at the Breakside brewpub.

The newest aquavit we’re featuring is Bull Run’s, which will be out in limited quantities very soon. We’re pouring it in this riff on the Boulevardier, the Swordplay:

1 1/2 oz Bull Run Regnig Dag aquavit
3/4 oz Campari
3/4 oz Maurin Quina

Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange peel.

I would have liked to include Gamle Ode dill aquavit in this event, but we weren’t able to get it into Oregon in time. However if all goes well, we’ll have it here sometime soon. I highly recommend it.

The full cocktail menu is below. Come get it next week.

Bull Run aquavit, Campari, Maurin Quina

Aquavit and Tonic
Sound Spirits aquavit, house dill and mustard seed tonic, lime

Stockholm 75
Krogstad Festlig aquavit, lemon, sugar, sriracha bitters, sparkling wine

Golden Lion
North Shore aquavit, Dolin blanc vermouth, Galliano, celery bitters

Scandinavian Sling
Linie aquavit, cherry Heering, lime, Angostura bitters, sparkling wine

Aquavit Hot Toddy
Krogstad Gamle aquavit, house Swedish punsch, lemon, star anise

Hot Buttered Chartreuse

Hot Buttered Chartreuse.

If Paula Deen opened a bartending school in the French mountains, the result might be something like this: Hot Buttered Chartreuse. Decadent? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely.

A few years ago my friend Lance Mayhew introduced me to Hot Buttered Rum, which is exactly what it sounds like. Take rum, add butter, sugar, and spices, mix it with hot water, and you have Hot Buttered Rum. Butter is not a typical cocktail ingredient but don’t be put off by it. Melting butter into a steaming hot drink makes it rich and delicious.

There are countless recipes for Hot Buttered Rum batter and you can buy it pre-mixed in stores, but it’s so easy to make at home that there is no reason to do that. Lance’s “World’s Best Hot Buttered Rum Recipe” lives up to the name and I’ve enjoyed it every year since moving to Portland. Go over to Lance’s site and make a batch.

Lance has made Hot Buttered Rum a Thanksgiving tradition for me, so last weekend I whipped some up at work. A few lines of advice from Lance’s post stood out to me:


- Use a quality rum. I like one with some age on it. I’ll be using Bacardi 8 this Thanksgiving, I don’t think there is a better rum for a Hot Buttered Rum.


- Use cheap rum. Cheap rum is going to taste even cheaper when you warm it up. You can’t hide poor quality ingredients in this drink.

If it’s important to use good spirits, why not go all out and use one of the best spirits in the world? Why not use Chartreuse? Though I’ve mixed Chartreuse in hot chocolate many times, I had no idea if this would be a hot mess or a mug of pure awesomeness. The concept was so tantalizing — Hot. Buttered. Chartreuse. — that I needed to try it out. And after a long shift, I did. Happily, the drink is every bit as good as it sounds.

Making Hot Buttered Chartreuse is simple. All you need is:

1 1/2 oz Chartreuse (green)
1 big dollop Hot Buttered Rum batter, to taste
hot water

Add the batter and some of the hot water to a mug, stirring to dissolve. Then add the Chartreuse and top off with more hot water, giving everything one final stir to combine.

Now, about that dollop. This is no time for moderation. You left moderation behind the moment you decided to drink butter and Chartreuse. Compensate later if you have to, but get the most of out of this experience and don’t hold back on the batter.

About the mug: Be sure to pre-heat it. The mug, the batter, and the spirit are going to lower the temperature of the water. The drink is Hot Buttered Chartreuse, not Tepid Buttered Chartreuse. A mug pre-heated with hot water will keep your drink warmer longer.

Sharing a couple mugs of this with someone you care about it is a great way to warm up on a cold winter night.

Vaccari Nero is the new black (or blue)

Vaccari Nero, finally available in Oregon. Make it blue!

Blue drinks are back, at least ironically. As Camper English wrote this summer:

Blue drinks have long been a mixologists’ in-joke. When bartenders were getting serious about pre-Prohibition cocktails about five years ago, jet-setting New Zealand bartender Jacob Briars invented the Corpse Reviver Number Blue, a piss-take on the sacrosanct classic Corpse Reviver #2 that was enjoying a major comeback.

Since then, he and other bartenders have been practicing “sabluetage”—spiking the drinks of unwitting victims with blue curaçao when no one is looking. The forbidden liqueur can now be found on the menus of a few of the world’s best cocktail bars, including Jasper’s Corner Tap in San Francisco, PDT in New York City (where it’s mixed with other unfashionable ingredients, such as Frangelico and cream), and London’s Artesian Bar (winner of the World’s Best Hotel Bar award this week), where a new blue drink—called Blue Lagoon—also features Sprite and bubble tea.

I’ve had my own run-ins with blue drinks, including a publisher who put a blue cocktail on the cover of my recipe guide despite my objections and an off-menu Mad Dog Blue Raspberry and aquavit cocktail we served for a while at Metrovino (it was actually pretty good!). Most blue cocktails get their coloration from blue curacao. But there’s another way to do it…

Vaccari Nero is a black sambuca that’s part of the Bols portfolio. I didn’t work with it for a long time because it wasn’t available in Oregon, but on road trips to other states I found that it had the potential to become an enthusiastically embraced spirit. This is in part because it’s a quality sambuca: It’s named after Arturo Vaccari, the creator of Galliano, and gets its extracts and distillates from the same source. It’s also in part due to its rich color, which despite its name is not black, but rather a very deep midnight blue. Mixed in cocktails, it adds a strong anise kick and striking hue.

I’m just beginning to explore the possibilities of this spirit in cocktails. My favorite so far comes from Erik Trickett, barman at the forthcoming Roe Restaurant and Fish Market in Long Beach, California. The drink he came up with is basically a Ramos Gin Fizz substituting Vaccari Nero for gin. Trading sambuca for gin is a counterintuitive stroke of genius that shouldn’t work yet somehow does, resulting in the lovely robin egg colored drink above. And since this drink needs a name, let’s go ahead and call it a Robin’s Egg (a.k.a. the Samblueca Fizz):

1 1/2 oz Vaccari Nero
1 oz lemon juice
1/2 oz Bols Genever
1/2 oz simple syrup
1/2 oz cream
1 egg white
coffee bean, for garnish

Add the sambuca, lemon, genever, simple syrup, cream, and egg white to a shaker. Dry shake to aerate, then add ice and shake again. Give it a good, long, hard shake. Strain into a glass, preferably a champagne flute if you have a tall one. Let the foam settle and top with soda. Finish by grating a bit of coffee bean on top, a nod to the traditional “con mosca” way of serving sambuca.

Vaccari Nero is finally available in Oregon, so I’m looking forward to seeing what local bartenders end up doing with it. To kick things off, I’ll be guest bartending at Portland’s new Italian spot Bar alla Bomba this Thursday, November 29, from 7-10 pm with a menu of cocktails featuring Vaccari Nero, Galliano L’Autentico, and Galliano Ristretto, including the drink above. Come on by to try it out.

Resplendent Island

New cocktail at Metrovino: Margarita flavored with Sri Lankan curry and honey, cumin-salt rim.

If I were making a parody of my own cocktail menus, a Sri Lankan Curry Margarita is exactly the kind of drink I’d put on it. Yet after a making a batch of this curry powder, I knew it had to put it into a drink. At our chef’s suggestion we’re pairing it with tequila in a Margarita variation on the latest Metrovino cocktail menu:

1 1/2 oz reposado tequila (Espolon)
3/4 oz Sri Lankan curry-honey syrup
3/4 oz lime juice
1/4 oz Royal Combier
salt and ground cumin, for garnish

Moisten half the rim of a rocks glass with lime juice and coat with the salt and cumin mixture, then fill with ice. Shake cocktail ingredients with ice and strain into the glass.

About that curry blend: It’s the roasted curry powder from Rice and Curry: Sri Lankan Home Cooking by Skiz Fernando, Jr., a very interesting cookbook a friend sent me recently. Rather than copy that recipe here, I’d rather encourage you to support the author by buying the book or purchasing his blend directly, which you can do here. It requires a few hard to find ingredients like curry leaves and a dozen spices, so buying the blend is the easier approach. I recommend the book though and have enjoyed the wonderfully flavored curries I’ve made from it.

Once you have your blend, here’s how to make the syrup:

2 tablespoons roasted curry powder
1 cup honey
1 cup water

Simmer all ingredients for a few minutes until flavorful, then add a pinch of salt. Cool, strain, and bottle. Or save yourself the trouble and come enjoy one at the bar.

The new Black Glove and fancy garnishes

black-glove Today’s Wall Street Journal includes a story on fancy and functional cocktail garnishes. I’m flattered that they chose to include a cocktail recipe from Metrovino, the Black Glove:

It’s not the ebony color that surprises drinkers most when they order a Black Glove cocktail at Metrovino in Portland, Ore. It’s the curious frill straddling its rim. The garnish, a preserved green walnut wrapped in a strip of orange peel, embodies the flavors of the cocktail—the sweetness of rum, nuttiness of nocino (a green walnut liqueur) and sharpness of bitters—in one bite. “The walnuts bring out the flavor of the nocino and add a texture like chewy candy,” said the Black Glove’s creator, Jacob Grier.

I posted about this drink once before, but for the article I adapted the recipe to work with commercially available ingredients. The nocino made by Todd Steele, the owner of Metrovino, is drier and spicier than what’s commercially available. I changed the rum selection, altered the proportions, and added a dash of bitters, and I have to say I’m very happy with the results. If you wanted to try this drink at home, make it this way:

2 oz aged rum (Gosling’s Black Seal)
1 oz sweet vermouth (Dolin)
1/2 oz nocino (Nux Alpina)
1 dash Angostura bitters

Stir with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish with orange peel and preserved green walnut. You can buy the walnuts from Harvest Song here.

Read the whole article for more garnish ideas, including a beer cocktail garnished with speck.

[Photo by F. Martin Ramin for the Wall Street Journal, styling by Anne Cardenas.]

Midnight Shift

Midnight Shift cocktail on my rooftop.

It’s been a while since I posted a “brown, bitter, and stirred” cocktail (as my friend Lindsey likes to order them). It’s also been a while since I made a new cocktail with Novo Fogo cachaça. The Midnight Shift addresses both of those oversights:

1 1/2 oz Novo Fogo Gold Cachaça
3/4 oz Cynar
3/4 oz sweet vermouth
1/4 oz Galliano L’Autentico
2 dashes mole bitters
1 dash absinthe
orange peel, for garnish

Give all the ingredients a good long stir with ice and strain onto a big frozen cube, if you have one handy. Otherwise serve it on your normal rocks. And don’t omit the orange peel. Like Jeff Lebowski’s rug, the citrus oil really ties everything together.

Speaking of Novo Fogo, the other purpose of this post is to inform you that Novo Fogo founder Dragos Axinte and Los Angeles bartender Jaymee Mandeville of Drago Centro will be guest bartending at Metrovino on October 22 as part of Novo Fogo’s “Bars on Fire” series. Come by from 5-8 pm to welcome them to Portland and enjoy creative cachaça cocktails.

Spirit of Scandinavia


Last month I completed my collection of all the commercial aquavits distilled in the United States. That’s not as difficult as it sounds, since there are only four of them. However I think that aquavit is a very underrated spirit for mixing into cocktails, so hopefully these four are just the tip of the iceberg. I won’t be surprised if we start seeing aquavit appear on more and more cocktail menus. My latest article for Culinate reviews aquavits from Krogstad, North Shore, Sound Spirits, and Gamle Ode, along with a cocktail recipe for each. Check it out here.

[Photo courtesy of Culinate.]

Zelda cocktail

IMG_20120901_170923 (1)

Continuing our practice of always having at least one beer cocktail on the Metrovino cocktail menu, the Zelda is replacing the popular Mai Ta-IPA. Fans of pink drinks, rejoice!

2 oz Small’s gin
3/4 oz lemon juice
3/4 oz framboise lambic reduction
1 egg white
pickled peach, for garnish

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker and shake without ice to aerate the egg white. Add ice and shake again. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with the peach.

The gin used in this cocktail is unique: Small’s from Ransom Spirits, distilled with raspberries and cardamom. It has a distinctive flavor that doesn’t work in every gin cocktail, but in the right drink there’s no substitute for it. If you can find it, pick up a bottle of Small’s.

There are exceptionally good, exceptionally expensive lambic beers flavored with fruit. They are not what you want for this cocktail. Get the inexpensive, fruity, sweet kind that’s widely available. You won’t feel bad about boiling it down into a syrup. I got the idea of reducing these beers with spices from Teardrop Lounge here in Portland and have tried a few variations on it. Here’s the latest:

1 750 ml bottle Lindemans Framboise
1 small stick cinnamon
1 star anise
2 inches ginger, sliced

Combine the beer and spices in a pan and simmer until flavorful and reduced by about a third in volume. Strain out the spices and measure the liquid. Mix with an equal volume of sugar. Bottle the syrup and keep refrigerated.

Finally, there’s the pickled peach. These come from our chef and are tart with a touch of winter spices. I don’t have an exact recipe, but here is one that you might try. Or simply garnish with fresh raspberries and call it good.

[Informal cocktail naming contest won by Megan McArdle, who is back to blogging this week. Thanks, Megan!]

Behind the scenes at a Spirited Dinner


What does it take to put on a cocktail pairing dinner of four courses for sixty guests with 140 eggs? A lot of shaking, help from friends, and one very powerful blender. My latest post at The Drink Nation goes behind the scenes at our Brewing Up Cocktails Spirited Dinner in New Orleans and includes the recipe for our decadent closing cocktail, the Chocolate Stout Flip.

Wit-ty Flip


Here’s one more preview of the cocktails Ezra Johnson-Greenough and I will be serving at our Brewing Up Cocktails Spirited Dinner at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans. Because we’re gluttons for punishment, we’re serving not one but two flips during our dinner. That means that if all 70 seats sell out, we’ll be shaking up 140 flips in the course of an evening in addition to 140 other drinks. Our arms will be feeling it the next day.

New Orleans in summer doesn’t exactly scream flips, but this one bucks the reputation flips have as heavy, wintertime indulgences. The four ounces of Belgian-style witbier used in this drink lightens and carbonates the cocktail, making it suitable for hotter weather. The orange peel and coriander often used in witbier also make a nice complement to the spice and herbal notes in Drambuie:

1 1/2 oz Drambuie
3/4 oz lemon juice
2 dashes orange bitters
2 dashes allspice dram
1 whole egg
4 oz witbier
nutmeg, for garnish

Pour the beer into a pilsner or wine glass. Shake all the other ingredients hard with ice. Fine strain back into the mixing glass and then pour into the beer. Garnish with freshly grated nutmeg. (Pouring the heavier flip mixture into the beer rather than the other way around ensures that it mixes thoroughly.)

If this drinks sound weird, you don’t have to take my word for its tastiness: A version of it took third place in the Drambuie Nail or Fail cocktail competition earlier this year.

Tickets for our Spirited Dinner, happening this Thursday, are on sale here. It’s at Emeril’s Delmonic Steakhouse and is sponsored by Drambuie and El Dorado rum.

[Photo via the Drambuie Facebook page.]

The Black Glove


This morning I tweeted with frustration about the inane Dark Knight Rises themed cocktail press releases that were arriving in my inbox. It didn’t occur to me that my agenda for the day included writing about my own Batman-inspired cocktail recipe. Hypocrite, thy name is Grier! (In my defense, the name for this drink comes from Grant Morrison’s fantastic run on the comics and its appearance alongside the new Christopher Nolan movie is completely coincidental.)

A while back the owner of Metrovino, Todd Steele, harvested a bunch of green walnuts to make Nocino, a liqueur made by steeping the unripe nuts in neutral spirits. The liqueur came out powerfully flavored, pitch black and both drier and spicier than the commercial versions I’ve tried. We decided to embrace the darkness and pair it with the very molassesy Cruzan Black Strap rum in this rich variation on the Manhattan:

1 1/2 oz Cruzan Black Strap rum
1 oz Dolin sweet vermouth
1/2 oz house Nocino

Stir with and serve up. Garnish with an orange peel and preserved walnut. (The preserved walnuts come from Armenia and are produced by Harvest Song; they deserve a post all their own and make the perfect edible garnish for drinks made with Nocino.)

Since we only produced two bottles of house Nocino, the Black Glove is available for an inherently limited time. Get it while it lasts!

I haven’t tried making this with a commercial Nocino, but my guess is one would have to reduce the amount of liqueur used and add aromatic bitters to prevent the drink from becoming too sweet.

Mai Ta-IPA


When warm weather arrives, I start thinking about the Mai Tai. Not the sickly sweet concoctions of rum, juice, and sour mix that sometimes masquerade under that venerable name, but rather the real thing, made with real orgeat. When mixed correctly it’s a drink that needs no improvement.

It does, however, welcome variation. Last summer at Metrovino we offered the Transatlantic Mai Tai, an all-grain take on the cocktail that substitutes genever and rye for the usual rums. This year we’re trying something different using one of my favorite cocktail ingredients, beer.

The genesis of this drink is the Brewing Up Cocktails Spirited Dinner that Ezra Johnson-Greenough and I are putting on at Tales of the Cocktail next month. One of our sponsors is El Dorado, maker of exceptional rums in Guyana. We thought their rum went fantastically in a Mai Tai — or, for this event, a Mai Ta-IPA:

1 oz El Dorado white rum
1 oz El Dorado 8 year aged rum
1 1/2 oz IPA
1 oz lime juice
3/4 oz B. G. Reynolds’ orgeat
1/2 oz Combier liqueur d’orange

Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into an ice-filled collins glass. Garnish with a cherry (on a parasol, of course!).

The classic Mai Tai offers a perfect balance of sweet, sour, and spirituous elements. It doesn’t offer anything bitter. The addition of a hoppy IPA brings just a touch of bitterness to the drink while the carbonation makes it deliciously light and frothy.

If you’re attending Tales of the Cocktail this year, make reservations for our dinner with El Dorado and Drambuie at Emeril’s Delmonico Steakhouse, where we’ll be offering this and three more beer cocktails. Or if you’re in Portland, come by Metrovino to find a Mai Ta-IPA on our summer cocktail menu.

Filtering tonic water with the Espro Press


Homemade tonic water is delicious. Homemade tonic water is also a real pain to make. The natural source of quinine, cinchona bark, usually comes in a very fine powder that’s difficult to filter out of the finished product. It can take hours to drip through coffee filters and leaves a sticky mess on the counter if you’re not careful. Difficulty of filtering is the number one reason many people I know buy commercial tonics, many of which are now quite good, instead of making their own. But there are still reasons one might like to make a homemade tonic, including lower cost and the freedom to flavor it exactly how one wants.


Happily, I recently stumbled onto a solution that makes filtering tonic water easy. One of the hit new products at this year’s Specialty Coffee Association of America show was the Espro Press, a new kind of French press developed in Vancouver, Canada. Two things make this press unique. One is that the brewing chamber is enclosed by double wall vacuum-insulated stainless steel, so that it retains heat very well. The second is that it uses not one but two filters on the plunger. The primary filter is much finer than that on a standard French press and the secondary filter is finer still. This allows it to brew French press coffee without the “sludge” that the brewing method tends to leave in the bottom of the cup. It makes a nice cup of joe and I’ve been using it fairly often for my morning coffee the past few weeks.



I realized that the same things that make the Espro Press good for brewing coffee could also make it good for making tonic water. The heat retention should make it possible to brew the entire tonic in the press without need of a stovetop pan. And the dual filters, if they don’t get clogged with cinchona, would be perfect for removing the fine powder. The Espro sold out quickly at the show but luckily I was able to buy their demo press. I brought it back to the bar to try it out. The experiment worked and I have to say that I was a little more excited than a grown man should be when the first runnings of nearly perfectly clarified tonic came pouring out of the press.

What follows is a sample recipe for making tonic with an Espro Press. The proportions aren’t meant to be definitive, as this isn’t something I’ve needed to make consistently for a menu item. My usual approach to tonic is to riff off a standard recipe with whatever citrus and spices I happen to have on hand. A couple recipes that I often work from are this one from Kevin Ludwig in Imbibe magazine and this one from Jeffrey Morgenthaler (whoever he is). Two notes before proceeding:

Note 1: Quinine has effects on the body and can be dangerous in high doses. Read up on the possible adverse effects before proceeding. I’ve never heard of anyone coming to harm from homemade tonic water but I’m a bartender, not a doctor. Proceed at your own risk!

Note 2: Contrary to what some recipes say, add the sugar and citric acid after you filter out everything else. These need to be dissolved but they don’t have flavors that need to be extracted with heat. Adding them early just makes the mixture more viscous and more difficult to filter. Make life easier and add them at the end.

That out of the way, here’s one of the recipes I used to make tonic with the Espro Press:

4 cups hot water
3 cups sugar
6 tablespoons citric acid
3 tablespoons cinchona bark
zest of one grapefruit
zest of one lime
6 oz grapefruit juice
2 oz lime juice
1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
1 teaspoon dill seeds

Step 1: Pre-heat the Espro Press with hot water so that the temperature will remain stable when you brew the tonic.

Step 2: Discard the water and place the cinchona bark, citrus zests, citrus juices, and spices into the press. Add the four cups of hot water and stir. Place the plunger on top of the press to seal in heat and let sit for twenty minutes.

Step 3: Lower the plunger to filter the tonic. The bark will offer significant resistance so you can’t just Hulk Smash the plunger into the chamber. Proceed slowly, using your weight to gently press the plunger down.

Step 4: Pour as much of the tonic out of the press as possible. When it stops flowing, rotate it and pour from a different angle; I think this gets around some blockage caused by the cinchona powder. Doing this a few times will maximize the yield.

Step 5: Beneath the filters there will still be some liquid remaining with all the powder and spices. You can filter this with some more labor-intensive method or simply discard it. This recipe being all about making things easy, I opt for the latter.

Step 6: Add the sugar and citric acid to the tonic to make a syrup. Stir to dissolve and pour into a bottle for storage.

That’s all there is to it. The syrup is ready to enjoy with soda water or mixed into a classic Gin and Tonic:

1 1/2 oz gin
3/4 oz tonic syrup
lime wedge

Combine all ingredients in a glass with ice, squeeze in the lime wedge, and stir.

A few additional notes…

I’ve made two batches of tonic with the Espro Press. It’s easy to clean afterwards and I don’t think repeated use would be a problem. However I haven’t put it up to the rigors of regular use in a busy bar, so if you’re buying one for that purpose I can’t guarantee that it will hold up. If you’re buying one for home use it should be fine and you’ll get a stylish coffee brewer too.

The Espro Press comes in two sizes. I bought the larger one, which at 30 oz is large indeed. The 8 oz one is intended for single servings of coffee. I haven’t tried it out for tonic. A list of retailers selling the Espro Press is here. It’s also available on Amazon (large; small). Cinchona powder can be purchased in bulk at herb shops such as this one.

Finally, in a surprising bit of synchronicity this isn’t the only post published this week about using coffee equipment to filter tonic water. Camper English of Alcademics features a method from Kevin Liu for using an Aeropress to accomplish the same thing. Check out that post too and keep following Camper’s blog for additional ideas.

[Photos of the Espro Press courtesy of Espro.]