The Imposters [Cocktail Hour]

What’s Cocktail Hour? Most Fridays at 4 PM I run a popup bar for my company, usually featuring 4 cocktails centered on some ludicrously vague theme. It’s a good exercise in bar logistics, menu planning and high speed cocktail production (my employees are thirsty and ready to cut loose by Friday afternoon, so it’s about 45 drinks in 90 minutes). We’ve recently started capturing feedback on surveys to get an idea of what people like!

The week is all about cocktails of DUBIOUS origin!


SEELBACH (Score: 75.00%)

1 oz Bourbon, preferably Old Forester

.5 oz Triple sec / Bauchant

7 dash Angostura bitters

7 dash Peychaud’s bitters

TOP WITH: 5 oz Sparkling Wine

The most notorious of the bunch is the Seelbach, a long-lost bourbon-champagne cocktail re-discovered in an old pre-Prohibition menu of Louisville’s Seelbach hotel by its bartender Adam Seger. It became immediately popular and made its way into several books on historic cocktails … which was hilarious because Seger had totally made it up.

We’ve got a pretty heavy arsenal of orange liqueurs (Triple Sec, Cointreau, Bauchant, Grand Marnier, Orange Curacao, Clement Creole Shrubb) so it’s rare that I’ll opt for the overly sweet Triple Sec. I went with Bauchant here for it’s lighter, more floral nature.

Similarly, I went with Spanish Cava instead of Italian Prosecco. Cava’s closer to genuine French Champagne in terms of its preparation. I find that cheap Cava has a less medicinal edge for me than Prosecco as it warms up.

I expected the Seelbach to score higher since sparkling cocktails tend to be popular – I suspect that the abnormally high amount of bitters may have turned some people off. However, those who liked the Seelbach LOVED it.


THE STARK (Score: 87.50%)

0,5 oz fresh lemon juice

0.25-0.50 oz honey syrup

0.5-0,75 oz yellow Chartreuse

1,5 oz bourbon

Angostura bitters (Float)

Serve Over crushed ice

The Stark I figured had to be a Game of Thrones or Iron Man reference … little did I know it was from “Regarding Cocktails” from my idol Sasha Petraske (which makes it the farther thing from being an imposter .. which makes THIS the imposter in this line up of imposters!).  It’s always great to find a different bourbon cocktail, especially one that features yellow chartreuse and honey and features a lovely Angostura float.

Several employees raved about this drink and I have to agree – it’s another indefinably elegant creation from Petraske (and once again one has to wonder how many more he would have produced if he hadn’t suddenly died at 42).


CUBAN COCKTAIL #6 (Score: 91.67%)

1 1/2 oz Plantation 3 Star Rum

1/2 oz Apricot Brandy (Rothman & Winter)

¼-1/2 oz Grenadine

¾ oz Lime

Cuban Cocktail #6 is from the “Cocktail Virgin Slut” blog by Boston’s own Fred Yarm (formerly of Loyal Nine, currently at River Bar). Fred’s a guy I really admire because he’s a cocktail enthusiast/journalist who has become an accomplished & creative bartender, he been blogging a new recipe EVERY DAY for years, and he’s a friendly, humble guy.

All that aside, I’m suspicious of this recipe (supposedly from tiki legend Trader Vic) because it’s not mentioned ANYWHERE ELSE ON THE ENTIRE FREAKIN’ INTERNET. And even if it’s not a wonderful Fred Yarm original, it’s still an imposter because I’m pretty damn sure that Trader Vic didn’t get this recipe from Cuba.  At any rate, it’s got rum, apricot, grenadine and lime and I wonder why no one’s combined those 4 glorious things together before.

As the score indicates, this was also a huge hit!

THE MATADOR (35.71%)

2 ounces tequila, preferably Celestial Reposado

3/4 ounce blanc vermouth, preferably Dolin

1/4 ounce Grand Marnier

3 dashes orange bitters

Grapefruit peel

The Matador isn’t Spanish at all!  It’s a boozy mix of Mexico (Tequila) and France (Vermouth fortified wine and Grand Marnier orange liqueur). It’s somewhat boozy, so don’t down these before you step into the ring against Ferdinand.

I found this drink interesting (if not equal to its reputation as a forgotten classic) but once again my employees showed that vermouth can be a tough sell. I’m dying to do a 50/50 martini one of these Fridays but it’s not gonna happen anytime soon!

3 thoughts on “The Imposters [Cocktail Hour]”

  1. I think that Vic teased that series of recipes from a bartender at La Floridita in Havana. It wasn’t in the 1937 La Floridita book, but the first two Cuban recipes were in the Savoy and Difford’s Guide supports the Floridita origins.

    Vic was such a boaster that he takes credit for other’s drinks (or slight variations with the same name), so I doubt that he would give away his drinks without an attribution symbol.

    1. And here’s where I realize that “Frederic” is Fred Yarm himself!! Honored to have you reading the blog, Fred & hope to see you at River Bar soon!

  2. That’s great to know, Frederic (Iso Trader Vic DID get it from Cuba! And yes, it would be extremely atypical for Vic to give away credit if he felt he hasd ANYTHING to do with a cocktail’s origin).

    We were at La Floridita earlier this year (Havana Roundup blog post coming soon) and we didn’t see anything called a “Cuban” on the menu there … but it was a total madhouse at that place and it’s totally likely that Cubans don’t call their drinks “Cuban” any more than we call any of our cocktails “American”.

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