img_2240Probably most famously known for its appearance in Harry Craddock’s “The Savoy Cocktail Book” published in 1930, this is basically an Aviation cocktail substituting the creme de violette liqueur with orange bitters.  I’m sure the original cocktail hails from the late 1900’s and proved itself to be popular enough that it still makes appearances in cocktail guides today.

Of note is the minimal amount of lemon juice involved.  You may want to stir this drink instead of shaking.  It’s up to you, but no harm, no foul.

Casino Cocktail
2oz gin
1/4 tsp maraschino liqueur
1/4 tsp lemon juice
2 dashes orange bitters
Garnish: maraschino cherry

Shake with ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Add cherry.

For more information go to: Mr. Boston Drinks

tumblr_inline_moeit2yoeL1qz4rgpProbably most of us have had at least a few Harvey Wallbangers over the years.  My first was served out of a huge plastic trash can at a frat party in Geneva, NY back in the early 1980’s.  My most recent was at 2014’s Tales of the Cocktail® in New Orleans where it was served at one of the many parties.  But, few of us know the true story behind this variation on a Screwdriver.  Fellow writer Robert Simonson penned the following article a few years ago and uncovered the fascinating man behind the myth.  So, make yourself a H.W. and spend a few minutes with a legend.

Searching for Harvey Wallbanger by Robert Simonson 

The Harvey Wallbanger has one of the most memorable names in cocktail history. And one of the worst reputations.

A mix of vodka, orange juice and Galliano, it was one of the preeminent drinks of the 1970s, a decade recognized by drink historians as the Death Valley of cocktail eras—a time of sloppy, foolish drinks made with sour mix and other risible shortcuts to flavor, and christened with foolish monikers like Mudslide and Freddie Fudpucker.

Not that Harvey Wallbanger is one of those. It’s actually got one of the best—and most unforgettable—handles in the annals of mixed drinks. This may be why it’s survived long enough to be reappraised. Shortly after Galliano reconfigured its recipe a couple of years ago, returning the Italian liqueur to its original formula, mixologists began to sneak the drink back on respectable lists.

This is all good news for Donato “Duke” Antone, the largely forgotten bartender who, according to longstanding legend, is the creator of the Wallbanger, as well as a number other two-ingredient wonders of the time, like the Rusty Nail and White Russian. Antone, the oft-repeated story goes, ran Duke’s “Blackwatch” Bar on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood in the 1950s. The few biographical facts that pop up again and again tell us that he was the brother-in-law of one-term New York State Senator Carlo Lanzillotti, and that he managed featherweight boxer Willie Pep, a childhood friend. He died In 1992 at the age of 75, according to an obit in the Hartford Courant. At the time he was the retired headmaster of the Bartending School of Mixology in Hartford. The Courant notice repeated the claims that he invented the Wallbanger, Rusty Nail, as well as the Flaming Caesar and many other drinks.

So, did he? As much as we hate to doubt a WWII vet and “the recipient of two silver stars, two bronze stars, two Purple Hearts and a Croix de Guerre” (the Courant), the bartending profession has a long history of credit-grabbing. The provenance of almost every famous cocktail is clouded by the claims and counterclaims of various barmen. Even Jerry Thomas, the father of modern mixology, wasn’t above a fib or two.

Certainly, all the drinks associated with Donato display the same, ham-fisted modus operandi. Take a potent, straightforward base spirit (vodka, whiskey), throw in a taste-profile-dominating liqueur (Galliano, Drambuie, Amaretto, Kahlua), maybe some juice or cream, and presto: new drink! But few figures in bartending history can lay their hand to so many famous drinks, so one doubts Donato invented all of them. So this article will concentrate on clearing away as much fog as possible from the most frequent cited of his children.

According to folklore, Donato invented the Harvey Wallbanger in 1952. It is said he named it after a Manhattan Beach surfer and regular named Tom Harvey—a man about whom we can find nothing. But the cocktail didn’t become popular until the early 1970s. This sudden reversal of fortunes coincides with the arrival of George Bednar, who in 1966 became marketing director of McKesson Imports Co., an importing company that handled Galliano. Previously, the liqueur had a staid ad campaign that featured the line “Fond of things Italiano? Try a sip of Galliano.” Bednar somehow found the Wallbanger and hoisted it up the barroom flagpole. The original ads pushed the drink as a replacement at brunch for the Bloody Mary. Round about late 1969, a rather pained-looking, sandal-wearing mascot named Harvey Wallbanger appeared. His line: “Harvey Wallbanger is the name and I can be made!”

And, boy, did the world make him! Soon, reports were cropping up of bowls of Wallbangers being consumed at Hamptons parties and on Amtrak trains. Harvey Wallbanger cakes were sold. A Puli named after the drink won dog shows. By 1976, Holland House was putting out a Wallbanger dry mix and pre-blended bottles of the cocktail were sold. Riding this wave, Galliano became the number one most imported liqueur during Me Decade, exporting 500,000 cases a year to the U.S. (You’d think the Galliano people—the liqueur is now owned by Lucas Bols—would be interested in the origins of their most famous drink. But the company, while curious, had little or no information to offer about the Wallbanger or Donato.)

Antone, however, is difficult to find during this heyday. He’s not quoted or mentioned in articles or advertisements. The California ABC office can find no listing for a bar called Duke’s “Blackwatch” Bar on Sunset. (To be fair, their computer records are not complete.) Neither do L.A. guides or newspapers from the time mention it. Given that the drink rose to fame with the arrival of Bednar, one can’t help but suspect that good old Harvey was the invention of the Galliano marketing department, and that Antone had nothing to do with it.

The flaw in that theory lies in the Courant obit, which indicates that Antone himself never denied creating the drink. So what came first, the Blackwatch or the Bednar?

I dug up a number of answers in the back pages of the Hartford Courant, which printed a few stories on Antone over the years. It even ran a photo or two, provided pictorial evidence that a short, balding man with thick, black-framed glasses named Donato “Duke” Antone did indeed breathe air. A 1966 Courant article about Antone’s bartending school, located on Farmington Avenue, tells us that he was born in Brooklyn in a Italian-Jewish neighborhood, ran liquor for bootleggers as a youngster, had his first legal bartending job at a place called Diamond Jim Brady’s, and was he was “a likable, fast-talking Runyoneseque character.”

Turns out, there’s a good reason you can’t find evidence of Antone and the Blackwatch Bar in Los Angeles during the 1950s and ’60s. It’s because the man was living in Hartford that entire time. The 1966 Courant piece says he founded his school in 1949 “after he found, when working in Las Vegas, that it was difficult to find good bartenders,” and that it “took him 14 years to perfect the school’s curriculum.” Those would be the years when he was supposed mixing up Harvey Wallbangers for beach bums.

The 1966 story identifies Antone as the author of some new drinks—including the Italian Fascination, which “has won prizes” and “contains Galliano, Kahlua, triple sec and sweet cream”—but the Wallbanger is not mentioned as one of them. However, in a subsequent 1970 Courant story (about how Antone taught his trade to his 12-year-old son!), Antone gets full credit for the Wallbanger. Of course, by that time, the drink was gaining fame and popularity. So what happened between those two date lines?

This sentence in a 1977 Courant piece, in which Antone is “retired,” might hold the key: “Antone…has not limited himself to mixing drinks. Rather, he has been active in all aspects of the liquor industry ranging from restaurant design to marketing.”

“Marketing”! OK, theory time. Could it be that George Bednar, newly hired at McKesson in 1966 and looking for a way to boost Galliano sales, read about Antone’s Galliano-heavy Italian Fascination cocktail, and then traveled up to Hartford to see if the bartender, for a fee, could come up a few more cocktails featuring the liqueur? (Around this time, Antone also invented Freddie Fudpucker, basically a Harvey Wallbanger with tequila.) The tale of the Blackwatch Bar, phantom surfer Tom Harvey, and the sudden appearance of the Wallbanger cartoon figure—that could all well be examples of Bednar and Antone’s marketing acumen. One can see how the two men might have bonded. Antone was a boxing man, and Bednar played football for Notre Dame and the St. Louis Cardinals in the mid-’60s. Booze and sports. They were made for each other.

Noted cocktail historian David Wondrich—who, as it turns out, has been doing his own digging in the Wallbanger—pointed out the Harvey surfer character had been designed by commercial artist name Bill Young, at Galliano and McKesson’s behest. The cartoon figure hit the U.S. like a lava flow in late 1969, “pop art posters, bumper stickers, buttons, crew shirts, mugs and the whole bit,” according to an Oct. 30, 1969, San Antonio Light article uncovered by Wondrich.

“I wonder what the execs at McKesson thought in 1969,” mused Wondrich, “when Bill Young showed them the dopey little cartoon surfer he had come up with, complete with a dopey name, ‘Harvey Wallbanger,’ and an equally dopey slogan, ‘I can be made.’ I doubt they realized what they were in for. With Young’s Harvey to blaze the way, Antone’s simple—even dopey—drink would go on to be the first drink created by a consultant to actually take the nation by storm.”

By 1981, Duke had opened a new academy, Antone’s School of Mixology, and was full-on boasting that he was the genesis of “the Harvey Wallbanger, the Rusty Nail, the White Russian and the Kamakazi, as well as the Freddie Fudpucker.” The reporter of that account, sticking in the word “claims” a couple of times, seemed disinclined to believe him.

Do I believe him? Well, I never had much faith in the story of the Harvey Wallbanger’s creation. (A surfer at Manhattan beach going all the way to Sunset Boulevard for a drink? A Italian-American who gives his bar a Scottish name?) But I do believe Antone had something to do with creating the cocktail. To paraphrase the cartoon Harvey, “cocktail history is the game, and I can be made up.”

Robert Simonson writes about spirits, cocktails and wine for such publications as The New York Times, Imbibe, Edible Brooklyn and Manhattan, Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, and GQ. He holds an advanced certificate from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, and another from the Beverage Alcohol Resource. He was nominated for 2012 Spirited Award for Best Cocktail Writing. Follow him on Twitter: @RobertOSimonson

img_7175FEW Spirits recently announced a truly unique collaboration with legendary Grammy-winning band The Flaming Lips: Brainville Rye Whiskey. The whiskey is made from a combination of rye, corn and malted barley grown within 150 miles of the FEW distillery, and aged in new, charred American oak barrels custom-made in Minnesota. Like FEW’s award-winning regular rye whiskey, the mash is fermented using a French wine yeast.

Brainville Rye features an appropriately psychedelic LIPS-ian label designed by Justin Helton of Status Serigraph, a Knoxville, Tenn.-based studio. Helton has designed materials for some of today’s biggest musical acts, festivals and entertainment brands. Working with bands like Phish, The Avett Brothers, My Morning Jacket, Ween, The Black Keys; breweries including Sierra Nevada Brewing Company and Great Raft Brewing; and festivals like Bonnaroo, Forecastle, Austin City Limits and Outside Lands, he’s created an array of designs for the music industry. The whiskey will be available as a limited edition of only 5,000. 

“Whiskey… it’s such a volatile drink. Upon pouring a drink It’s like accepting that you may become a werewolf … And really… Who doesn’t want to become a werewolf ???  says Flaming Lips lead singer, Wayne Coyne, in typical cryptic fashion.

The Flaming Lips Brainville Rye Whiskey (80 proof)
Visual: Royal gold.
Nose: Cinnamon, peppered toffee, gingerbread, maple cream, dark rye bread dough.
Taste: Very smooth with a laid back spice entry.  After a few seconds some elements of spearmint and rye toast wake up the palate.  What strikes me is the subtle port wine undercarriage which entwines its way throughout the journey.  Quite unusual and unlike any rye I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing.
Finish: Medium long with notes of loaf sugar, hard caramel, maple sugar, and a light rye toast sprinkled with fine cinnamon sugar dust.
Overall: A very easy to drink and unusual rye.  This works well and makes for a refined and subtle rye whiskey that sadly will be never seen again after the limited edition sells out.
GSN Rating: A-

For more information go to: Few Spirits


Jefferson’s Bourbon is proud to introduce the newest expression to its portfolio: Jefferson’s Reserve Old Rum Cask Finish. Debuting nationwide this autumn, it features Jefferson’s Reserve bourbon aged and fully matured in Kentucky prior to being finished in barrels that once held Gosling’s Family Reserve Old Rum.

Founder of Jefferson’s Bourbon, Trey Zoeller, started the aging process by procuring Kentucky straight bourbon that was originally aged for eight years in Kentucky. In December 2014, this bourbon went into old Gosling’s Rum barrels, which previously housed the Family Reserve Old Rum, named the Rum of The Year by The Caribbean Journal in 2012. The barrels themselves have a compelling history — they held bourbon for four years, then held Gosling’s for 16 years, then were sent back to Trey for this experiment, in which he rested the eight-year old, straight Kentucky whiskey. The bourbon aged for an additional 15 months in these barrels before bottling.

“A couple of years ago, I was with Malcolm Gosling and tried his Old Gosling’s Family Reserve and thought it was fantastic,” says Zoeller. “Not being a rum drinker, I poured a little Jefferson’s Reserve and topped it off with the Gosling’s Old Rum and loved it.  I immediately asked Malcolm if I could get a hold of his Old Family Reserve Rum cask.” 

This is not the brand’s first collaborative project. Zoeller has worked with nationally renowned Chef Edward Lee of 610 Magnolia in Louisville, KY to create a special Chef’s Collaboration bourbon meant to pair especially well with Lee’s spicy Korean food. He’s barrel-aged a Manhattan and sold the finished experiment as a premium bottled cocktail nationwide in collaboration with Esquire magazine, and, most recently, he’s collaborated with James Beard Award-winning Chef John Besh in an experiment to float barrels of bourbon along the waterways from Louisville to New York City to determine the difference in maturation and taste from shipping methods of the past and today.

Zoeller put the brand on the map by daring to go where most other producers would not. He has sent bourbon barrels on global ship voyages – crossing several continents and climate zones in the process – and he has aged bourbon in wine barrels to see how it would affect its finish. In keeping with this brand ethos, Jefferson’s Reserve Old Rum Finish tests the boundaries of the traditional whiskey category while still keeping the core aging process steeped in tradition.

“Sometimes you act on a hunch and it turns out as you expected it to,” adds Zoeller.

Jefferson’s Reserve Old Rum Cask Finish  (90.2 proof)
Visual: Deep gold.
Nose: Interesting rum forward nose that lends a patina to the corn distillate base.  Intriguing and evocative.  It conjures up images of 18th century saloons.
Taste: Incredibly smooth and mild in character considering the high-proof.  You’d swear this was more along the lines of 70 proof.  After a second taste, more wood and darker notes of molasses come through, with still plenty of the signature bright high corn base setting the tone.  The rum character actually fades away after a few minutes making you wonder where it could have possibly gone.
Finish: Medium long with a masculine, woody finish.  Cowboy stuff.
Overall: A very well done whiskey that has a layer of intrigue.  I’d definitely invest in a bottle for special occasions on a brisk autumn eve.
GSN Rating: A

For more information go to: Jefferson’s Bourbon


Stranahan’s was the first 21st century distillery to make whiskey in Colorado.  Founded in 2004 by Jess Graber and George Stranahan.  Interestingly, Stranahan began his career in the alcohol industry by founding Flying Dog Brewery.  After meeting Graber, a volunteer firefighter in 1998 at a barn fire located on Stranahan’s property, the two struck up an unlikely friendship while discussing the finer points of whiskey.  Six years later, they began distilling and in 2006, bottled their first product, Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey.  The company is now overseen by Proximo Spirits and the head distiller is Rob Dietrich.  They recently debuted Rocky Mountain Single Malt Whiskey in their expanding portfolio.


Stranahan’s Single Malt Whiskey (94 proof)
Visual: Mild gold.
Nose: Baked apple, egg washed pie crust, fresh hewn oak, grape must.
Taste: Smooth, delightful vanilla-forward and toasty.  Well balanced with wood and just a touch of char, the flavors open up over a few seconds. There is a maple creme brulee finish that leans this single malt toward the sweeter side.
Finish: Touches of green apple, and a sharp, tight finish that is clean and dry.
Overall: Very nice and a great sipper.  Add a splash of water to mellow things out, but nothing will be lost in translation.
GSN Rating: A-

For more information go to: Stranahans

soltado_0128_straighthrFrom Destiladora Juanacatlán, a small distillery in the lowlands region of Jalisco, Mexico, Soltado Spicy Añejo Tequila is produced at one of only two farmer-owned, co-op distilleries in the country of Mexico.

Twice distilled, and filtered 10 times, their añejo tequila is made from 100% blue Weber agave and aged 28 months in American white oak.  After aging, Soltado Spicy Añejo Tequila is infused with fresh, locally grown organic Serrano peppers and cinnamon.

As part of their core values and brand mission, socially responsible Soltado has supported local and national charities through dollar matching programs, event donations, and by leveraging their fan base to drive awareness. From humanitarian causes, animal welfare, health related foundations, and urban farming initiatives, Soltado Tequila remains a purpose driven brand.

Soltado Spicy Añejo Tequila (80 proof)
Visual: Light gold with a slight copper tinge.
Nose: Verdant spiciness with a slight agave sweetness, but ultimately leads back to spice. Fresh tequila aroma with a slight earthiness. Mellow and pleasant.
Taste: Initially soft tequila, but then a massive wave of chili spice overpowers any subtleties. After a minute, the tequila comes through again and finishes with a mildly honeyed finish.
Finish: A slight lingering smoky sweetness.
Overall: A tequila that will appeal to chili-heads.  Great in a Bloody Maria, but also adding a splash of this to a chocolate liqueur like Bailey’s will make for a great wintertime/cold weather cocktail.
GSN Rating: B+

For more information go to: Soltado Tequila

b42086b2206396354f7173a543355bc0“85% of all known worlds in the Galaxy, be they primitive or highly advanced, have invented a drink called jynnan tonnyx, or gee-N’N-T’N-ix, or jinond-o-nicks, or any one of a thousand or more variations on the same phonetic theme. The drinks themselves are not the same, and vary between the Sivolvian “chinanto/mnigs” which is ordinary water served at slightly above room temperature, and the Gagrakackan “tzjin-anthony-ks” which kills cows at a hundred paces; and in fact the one common factor between all of them, beyond the fact that the names sound the same, is that they were all invented and named before the worlds concerned made contact with any other worlds.” – Douglas Adams

Be that as it may, we here on planet Earth will be celebrating International Gin & Tonic Day this weekend.  Cheers!

Gin and Tonic
2 oz. London dry gin
Tonic water (from a fresh bottle)
1-2 ample wedges of lime
Plenty of cold ice cubes
Highball glass

1) Chill the glass. You may want to fill it with ice, then empty it and refill, as some bartenders do with a martini glass.
2) Fill the glass with whole ice cubes. If you wish, take a wedge of lime and moisten the rim the glass with it.
3) Pour the gin over the ice, which should be cold enough that it crackles when the liquor hits it.
4) Fill glass almost to the top with tonic.
5) Squeeze one wedge of lime into the glass. Drop the squeezed lime into the drink as a garnish if you like; it’s not necessary, but can add a bit of extra flavor. (If you do, notes Dale DeGroff, make sure the peel has been washed.) Serve.

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