New Nocino Recipe for 2016

It’s green walnut season again… nope, it’s over. These things are only around for a few weeks, so grab them while you can.

The last time I cranked out a significant batch of nocino was 2010, and I loved it, but my partner in crime at the time found the menthol and herbal flavors too intense (the term she used was medicinal), so this batch is a little warmer, sweeter and less herbal, but still true to tradition.

Five months is more than adequate maceration time, so if you’re already gearing up for Christmas presents, your nocino will be ready just in time. You will also find that it matures and flavors develop in the bottle for up to a year.

Nocino is a fantastic winter warmer, served chilled or over ice after dinner, but also works remarkably well in place of sweet vermouth in classic cocktail recipes and adds great flavor to hearty cold-weather desserts. I’ll post some recipes soon.


Nocino Nuovo

  • 19 green walnuts, washed and quartered
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 750 ml bottle of vodka
  • 1 cup port
  • Zest of one lemon
  • Zest of one orange
  • 3-inch cinnamon stick
  • 6 cloves
  • 1 star anise
  • 1/2 teaspoon Szechuan peppercorns


1. Combine walnuts, herbs and sugar in a glass jar, stir to coat, and set in a warm spot for two days.
2. Add the rest of the ingredients, cap tightly and give it a good shake.
3. Let your infusion sit for at least 4 months, or up to a year, shaking the jar weekly, if not daily.
4. Pour into a clean glass bottle through a coffee filter-lined funnel.

This recipe yields over a liter, and makes fantastic holiday gifts, packaged in small bottles or flasks with a hand-made label and a couple of cocktail recipes.



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Last Minute Father’s Day Gift Guide

You’re the reason your dad drinks, so you might as well get him what he wants for Father’s Day.

fathers day



There’s even more Japanese influence in the American bar scene now than there was among the Impressionists, so try starting with one of these new, fantastic (yet affordable enough to not make him ask why you are still living in his basement rent-free) bottles of whiskey from the Land of the Rising Sun.

Kikori: named after the Japanese legend of the woodsman (how’s that for a manly dad gift?), Kikori is actually a rice-based spirit, aged in oak for 3+ years like traditional whiskies, and is extremely easy-drinking. A number of cocktail recipes I’ve seen are swapping it out for tequila and even vodka, so he can look tough without upsetting his delicate palate.

Suntory Toki: breaking with tradition, Suntory’s chief blender crafted Toki based not on the usual Yamazaki malts, but focused on their Hakushu single malt with a hearty dose of Chita grain whiskey. It’s additionally unconventional for featuring the boldly flavored grain whiskey, which is usually more of a filler in Japanese blends, so this makes a nice gift for you father, a trailblazer in his day, or perhaps among the other members of his homeowner association.

Hibiki Harmony: a master blend of more than ten different whiskies – perhaps the mellow flavor, warm color, enchanting faceted bottle and overtly calming name will finally get your old man chill out about the Mets.


I don’t know what kind of wine your dad likes to drink; he’s picky. You’re tired of hearing him complain that he never wants to open a bottle of wine anymore, now that he’s the only one drinking it, and since your second-quarter bonus check just came in, check out a Coravin. The impressive nature of the gift will make up for the fact that on Sunday you’ll be handing him a printout of the shipping details.


Yeah, how about you take your dad out for a beer? You never stop by any more and when you do, the kids are always running roughshod over you both, so just take a couple hours and bring him to his favorite pub for a couple of cold ones. He’d like that.

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Three More Equal Parts: The Simplest Cocktail Recipes Expanded

It doesn’t get much easier than this: equal measures of three ingredients to make these six fantastic cocktails from only eight bottles – and now I have an excuse to make a new Venn Diagram (here is last week’s).


Stir ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass or an old fashioned glass with a big cube of ice.  Garnish with an orange twist.

  • Bijou: 1 ounce Green Chartreuse, 1 ounce gin, 1 ounce sweet vermouth, dash of orange bitters
  • Boulevardier: 1 ounce bourbon, 1 ounce Campari, 1 ounce sweet vermouth
  • Contessa:  1 ounce Aperol, 1 ounce gin, 1 ounce dry vermouth
  • Dry Negroni: 1 ounce Campari, 1 ounce gin, 1 ounce dry vermouth
  • Negroni: 1 ounce Campari, 1 ounce gin, 1 ounce sweet vermouth
  • Old Pal: 1 ounce Campari, 1 ounce rye, 1 ounce dry vermouth


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Three Equal Parts: The Simplest Cocktail Recipes

It doesn’t get much easier than this: equal measures of three ingredients to make these four fantastic cocktails from only six bottles – and now I have an excuse to make a Venn Diagram.


Stir ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass or an old fashioned glass with a big cube of ice.  Garnish with an orange twist.

  • Bijou: 1 ounce Green Chartreuse, 1 ounce gin, 1 ounce sweet vermouth, dash of orange bitters
  • Boulevardier: 1 ounce rye, 1 ounce Campari, 1 ounce sweet vermouth
  • Dry Negroni: 1 ounce Campari, 1 ounce gin, 1 ounce dry vermouth
  • Negroni: 1 ounce Campari, 1 ounce gin, 1 ounce sweet vermouth



Note: This has been updated since it was pointed out to me that, despite my preference, a bijou is made with sweet vermouth and not dry, so in reconfiguring my original design (below),  and I dropped the Vieux Carré, which was a stretch on the theme, but also delicious without the benedictine, bitters or lemon twist.

3_equal_partsVieux Carré: 1 ounce rye, 1 ounce cognac, 1 ounce sweet vermouth, 1 teaspoon of benedictine, 2 dashes orange bitters, and is garnished with a lemon twist)


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Bitters Making Workshop at Batch Made Market

I was invited to present a workshop on how to make cocktail bitters at home during the inaugural Batch Made Market in San Francisco, and it was a big success!

We did a quick overview of bitters’ history and uses, then dug into the tools, processes and testing methods for making bitters. It was a fun event, with close to 50 people attending, despite it being advertised as capped at 15, and it had sold out in a matter of minutes online. Twice as many people were standing crowded into the tent as were seated, but I had thought this might happen and brought enough tasting cups and handouts for fifty students.

The handout has a lot of good info, so I thought I should share it here as well. Click image below for PDF.


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Wisdom of My Father


This is my first Father’s Day as a dad, and my parents just came out to visit from Vermont to meet the baby and spend some time with me in San Francisco.

Along with sound advice on parenting and relationships, my father dropped some cocktail wisdom on me when I took my folks out to Trick Dog for drinks.

I usually assess the cocktailing potential of a new bar by ordering a Blood and Sand (equal parts Scotch, sweet vermouth, OJ and Cherry Heering). Any hesitation or confusion from the bartender, and I would know not to order another cocktail. The tragic flaw is that I am rarely in the mood for such a sweet drink. When this came up in conversation, my old man started to smirk.

My dad, he does it one better. He orders a Perfect Manhattan (“perfect” denotes replacing half of the sweet vermouth with dry vermouth), and if the bartender says something like, “Oh, all the drinks here are excellent,” he says, “You know, I’ve changed my mind. I’ll have a beer.”

An engineer by education, and a craftsman by avocation, I’m really unsurprised that he would devise such an efficient and elegant approach.

Perfect Manhattan

(Dad usually calls for Jameson, technically making this a perfect “Emerald”, a much smoother alternative to the traditional rye)

two ounces whiskey
1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
1/2 ounce dry vermouth
a dash of orange bitters

Stir with ice, strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a cherry.

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Etched Liquor Bottles For The Home Bar

On a lark, I practiced my glass etching skills on a few beautiful St. George Spirits apothecary bottles, and the folks I shared them with seem to think I should run with it, so I am considering selling a line of up-cycled liquor bottles as spirits decanters for the home bar. I hope to craft some other fun gimmicks and promotional items too.

The single bottle pictured is etched with the entirety of Benjamin Franklin’s “The Drinker’s Dictionary,” his compendium of every term meaning drunk.

The group shot is the start of a set, each displaying a quote that includes the name of the spirit,  bigger and bolder for emphasis and clear labeling. The Quotes are as follows:

“WHISKEY, like a beautiful woman, demands appreciation. You gaze first, then it’s time to drink.” – Haruki Murakami, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World

“ TEQUILA. Straight. There’s a real polite drink. You keep drinking until you finally take one more and it just won’t go down. Then you know you’ve reached your limit. – Lee Marvin

“I’ll stick with GIN. Champagne is just ginger ale that knows somebody.  ” – Hawkeye, M*A*S*H,  1973


I also etched Charles Bukowski’s “Beer” into a lager bottle, but it needs redesigning before I post a photo.


What do you think?

Any Suggestions?


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Bitter Orange Jello Slices

Ending my Lunar New Year Party with Bitter Orange Jello Shots was a hit, so I will pass along this simple recipe.

Bitter Orange Jello Slices

  • 6 oranges
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 6 oz. package of orange Jello
  • 3/4 cup cold water
  • 1 1/4 cups chilled vodka
  • 1/4 cup orange bitters (I used Angostura brand)


1. Slice oranges in half across the navel. Cut a slit in the pith near the navel, where it is strongest.
2. Slide the end of a metal spoon between skin and fruit to remove cleanly and reserve fruit for another use.
3. Bring water to a boil, and remove from heat.
4. Stir Jello into hot water until dissolved, then stir in cold water , vodka and bitters.
5. Set orange peel halves into shallow cups on a tray so that the edges are level and fill with jello liquid to the rim.
6. Let cool overnight in the refrigerator and slice each half into thirds with two vertical cuts.

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