Category : Cocktails

By Nimble Bar Company

How to Create a Cocktail Menu That Sells: The Nimble Guide

How to create a cocktail menu: the fundamentals

Our goal in this guide is to teach you how to create a cocktail menu that both you and your guests will love. We’ll give you the building blocks — the fundamentals of menu development — so you can churn ’em out to your heart’s content. After reading this guide, you’ll know:

  • Which ingredients make up the DNA of any cocktail
  • Which drinks make up the ‘drink families’ of all modern cocktails
  • What makes for great, workable mise en place
  • When to source new drinks and rotate out old ones
  • How to break down costs and maximize profitability
  • What a great menu looks like

Want to download the full guide? Click here!

The DNA of every cocktail

Study the DNA — the recipe, proportions, flavor harmonies — of classic cocktails to train your mind and palate to recognize balance. You can then transfer that sensory knowledge to new sets of ingredients. Here are the components that make up the DNA of cocktails:

  • Spirits: Whisky, Rum, Gin, Vodka, Tequila, Mezcal, Brandy, Cachaca, Pisco, Calvados, etc.
  • Lengtheners: Fortified wines: Vermouth, Sherry, Port, Quinquina, Madeira, etc.
  • Liqueur modifiers: Cointreau, St Germain, Apricot liqueur, Domaine de Canton ginger, etc.
  • Amaro modifiers: Aperol, Campari, Fernet Branca, Cynar, Ramazzotti, Averna, etc.
  • Sweeteners: Sugar, honey, agave nectar, maple syrup, demerara, etc.
  • Acids: Lemon, lime, citric acid, etc.
  • Modifying acids: Grapefruit, orange
  • Sodas: Soda, ginger beer, tonic water, etc.
  • Bitters: Angostura aromatic, Regan’s No. 6 orange, Peychaud’s, Scrappy’s cardamom, etc.

These basic ingredients make up basically every cocktail ever. Get these down to understand drink balance and harmony and to create a cocktail menu that rocks.

The five cocktail families

We’ve identified five classic cocktails (Negroni, Sidecar, Old Fashioned, Sour, and Collins) that influence the creation of 99% of all great cocktails. Learn them well. From these five recipes, you’ll begin to see the underlying DNA at work. You can come up with ‘golden ratios’ that you can use for your own drinks, mixing and matching the parts. Kinda like Mr. Potato Head.

Understand the bones of a good classic to train your mind and palate. You’ll recognize balance and transfer that sense of harmony to a new set of ingredients. Once you’re rooted with proven ratios and ingredient pairings, formulating a new drink will be much easier.

Negroni: 1 oz. spirit, 1 oz. amaro modifier, 1 oz. lengthener – or – 1.5 oz. spirit, 3⁄4 oz. amaro modifier, 3⁄4 oz. lengthener

Sidecar: 1 1/2 oz. spirit, 3/4 oz. liqueur modifier, 3/4 oz. acid

Old Fashioned: 2 oz. spirit, 1/3 oz. sweetener, 4-6 dashes of bitters

Sour: 2 oz. spirit, 1 oz. sweetener 1 oz. acid, 2-4 dashes of bitters egg white

Collins: 2 oz. spirit, 1 oz. acid, 1⁄2 oz. sweetener, 1-2 oz. soda

House-made ingredients

Syrups, tinctures, bitters, and infusions — the creative possibilities are limitless. House-made ingredients are a great way to incorporate cool-factor into your drinks, but you need to be mindful of the cost and prep-time. A good rule of thumb is to limit yourself to one house-made ingredient for every two cocktails on the menu.

Using non-alcoholic ingredients for these custom elements can be a great way to flesh out a drink while keeping costs low.

Learn to batch in bulk, and find non-alcoholic solutions to flesh out your recipes so that the main cost comes from the base spirit. And remember, boutique and bespoke ingredients won’t always improve a drink. For example, sometimes the store-bought falernum is better (and more cost effective).

Mise en place and prep

12 step programs can help you stop drinking or smoking, but they won’t help your behind-the-bar efficiency on a Saturday night. When in service, your goal should always be to limit the number of steps necessary to make a drink. This means you should set up your mise en place so that all your tools and ingredients are within an arm’s if at all possible. It also means you should get rid of clutter.

Consider batching certain cocktails that might be labour intensive or very popular, and use syrups to maximize efficiency.

For example, just about anything you muddle can be made into a syrup. If there’s a cocktail that muddles cucumber and basil, consider making a cucumber and basil syrup instead.

And don’t just create a cocktail; create a curated set of movements that flow beautifully and efficiently. Set yourself up for success. Your station should reflect your professionalism and keep you above board all night, no matter what comes at you. This philosophy eliminates bottlenecks, and also impresses your guests.

Naming inspiration

When you bring your staff together to name cocktails, you grow their camaraderie and their passion for selling. Keep things aligned with the feel and energy of the room, but let the inner nerdiness and authenticity of your team shine though. The name of a cocktail is your customers’ first glimpse of the drink. It’s what your customers see on paper. If you make them laugh, feel special for getting a reference, or salivate from your description, you’re doing it right. Tell a story with each sip to entice customers.

When making up a cocktail on-the-fly, put the onus on your guest to name the drink. This gives him a sense of ownership.

Pars and stock levels

It can be tough at the start to feel out what moves on a new menu. Don’t trust one or two services; anomalies happen. Don’t over-commit to product that will sit around forever. Buy conservatively to start, and if a product takes off, adjust your ordering and prep accordingly.

People often think customers will love tons of choices. Research suggests otherwise. The more choices you present to a customer, the more anxiety and overwhelm you cause them.

Seasons and trends

Know the people who sit at your bar and dine in your restaurant. Don’t try and push passionfruit juice and rhubarb smashes when it is cold & shitty outside and people are craving something to warm them up.  Offer a good mix of safe & sell-wells, along with some nerdier options to flex the niche of your establishment. But don’t take your drink program too seriously; cocktails are supposed to be fun and inviting, after all.

Have you ever heard the saying ‘the trend is your friend’? Well it’s absolutely true. We often see bartenders banging their heads against the wall trying to come up with the next big thing. But from a business standpoint, something that is currently trending is something that simply works.

When creating new drinks, we love to start with the classics and imbue them with seasonality. For example, a fig and winter-spiced negroni variation in the winter and a watermelon collins in the summer.

Sourcing and rotation

While you want to imbue your drinks with seasonality and source fresh as much as possible, you don’t need to go on a grand excursion out to the middle of nowhere to forage for ingredients. Sometimes you can simply have a gander at what’s inside your walk-in fridge. Not sure what’s in-season? Your chef can be a phenomenal resource to help you out. He / she can also provide ideas for flavour pairings.

And if you don’t have unlimited access to a chef, pick up a copy of The Flavor Bible.

Funky, weird ingredients help a new menu pop and get people talking. BUT, when your supplier no longer carries your funky ingredient and you have to 86 it a week after launching, that doesn’t look good. Take a trip through your walk-in, or have a talk with your chef to come up with ways to move existing overstock that’s just sitting latent. You’ll make the bosses happy and increases the bottom line for the establishment.


If you know exactly what a drink costs to make, you’ll focus more on the profitability of that drink. While bars and restaurants can provide romance — and we’re there to provide a beautiful experience — we’re there to generate profit FIRST.

Often, when people realize that the cost of a cocktail’s ingredients is only $2.00 – $4.00, they wonder why the markup is 100%-300%. But that drink pays for a lot of other expenses. Here are some of them:

  • Rent
  • Glassware
  • Labour
  • Garnish
  • Ice
  • Tools
  • Cocktail napkins, etc.

Cost breakdown of a classic margarita



2 oz. El Jimador Reposado


3/4 oz. Cointreau


1 oz. Lime juice


1/4 oz. Agave nectar


Cost to restaurant: $4.07

Price to customer: $12.00

Pour cost: 34%

What this means: To earn one dollar on a margarita, the restaurant must first spend 34 cents.

But there’s a bit more to it. Let’s say that a classic margarita takes 1 minute for a bartender to prepare. And, of course, the drink will be served in a glass, probably with a napkin… Here are the other costs that eat away at a bar’s profit margins:

Other expenses


Cocktail napkin


Labour (bartender only, based on $11.00/hour)


Rent per hour


TOTAL cost to restaurant = $4.46

ACTUAL cost as proportion of price= 38%

Cost breakdown of a Hidalgo La Gitana Manzanilla

If you give your team a glimpse of the business side of the glass, they’ll think more like owners and managers. Break down the costs of the crazy orchid garnish or the 3 oz., 7 ingredient tiki drink. Sometimes you can feel like a kid in a candy store when selecting ingredients for your new menu cocktail… but remember, the place still needs to make money.

An example menu template

Cocktail Menus and the paradox of choice

Many establishments make menus that have more than 10 cocktails. People often think customers will love tons of choices. Research suggests otherwise. The more choices you present to a customer, the more anxiety and overwhelm you cause them. People simply don’t want to make decisions because making decisions is mentally taxing. Aim for a curated, lean, and well-rounded cocktail menu.

There you have it!

The foundations you need to create a great cocktail menu. Don’t forget to download the guide

if you haven’t already!

By thenimblebar

A Beginner’s Guide To Martinis (and Their Variations)

Martinis for beginners. In the world of cocktails, the martini holds a special place. The mention of its name conjures its distinct glass and garnish, as well as images of its distinctive drinkers. People of influence  casually saunter to the bar and say, “Martini, please”:  businessmen and women, well-to-do housewives, and, of course, James Bond.

The martini, however, is more than just a pretty face. It’s a cocktail of substance;  each variation possesses unique, and, you might even say, magical qualities.

In this article, I’ll describe six different martinis, what you should know about them, and what occasions to make them for.

The Introduction Martinis

Meet the ‘introduction martinis.’ These cocktails best suit two types of drinkers:

  • Those who haven’t developed a taste for spirit-driven cocktails (cocktails made up only of booze — no citrus or added sugar).
  • Those who think that vermouth in a martini is gross. These drinkers are stuck chillin’ in the 90s, when bartenders would leave bottles of vermouth (a fortified wine that is NOT shelf stable) on the back shelf for years. Old vermouth is gross.

The introduction martinis are:

The Fifty-Fifty Martini

A.k.a The pre-prohibition martini or the original dry martini.

The recipe for the fifty-fifty was most common prior to prohibition. As the name suggests, the fifty-fifty contains equal parts dry vermouth and london dry gin. The fifty-fifty also contains some citrus influence via orange bitters and a lemon twist.

I made this for a novice drinker a few years ago. When he tasted it, he exclaimed, “I’d always order a martini if it tasted like this!”

I don’t think he said this because I did an amazing job mixing the drink. I think it was mostly a matter of priming his palate by giving him an idea of what he was going to taste. Don’t get me wrong; formula and execution matter. But so does priming a guest’s brain and palate.

With the fifty-fifty/pre-prohibition martini, guests will smell a very pronounced lemony-freshness on the nose followed by clean, cold, and strong juniper. The drink finishes off with subtle orange-bitter notes. The equal measure of dry vermouth significantly softens the punch of the gin.


1.5 oz gin (preferably Plymouth gin)

1.5 oz dry vermouth

2 dashes of orange bitters (Regan’s or Angostura Orange)

Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail coupe.

Garnish with lemon twist  — be sure to express the oils over the drink.

The Vesper Martini

Created by Ian Fleming in  James Bond, 007.

The vesper martini provides a fantastic introduction to mixed drinks because its origin story is steeped in pop culture. First, it’s directly connected to  James Bond, 007. Second, the vesper is kind of like James Bond took the traditional martini and said “I’m gonna do it my way!”

James Bond’s martini sticks it to the traditional in 3 ways:

  • It mixes gin AND vodka (wtf?).
  • It adds Kina Lillet, which is in a family of fortified wine that is different from vermouth (the primary difference is quinine in Kina Lillet versus wormwood in vermouth). The closest approximation to Kina Lillet widely available today (2017) is Cocchi Americano.
  • It’s shaken, not stirred!

Bond also made up his own ratio of 3 parts gin to 1 part vodka to 1/2 part Kina Lillet. And since it’s 007 we’re talking about, he probably considered 1 part equal to 1 ounce.

While folks often refer to the vesper as James Bond’s martini, Ian Fleming actually only had 007 order it once in all of 14 Bond books. Most of the time, Bond would order a vodka martini (which is technically a kangaroo cocktail) with an olive.

In 1986, the makers of Kina Lillet removed quinine, which made the Kina Lillet a completely different product — Lillet Blanc. These days, the ingredient that most closely approximates the original kina lillet is Cocchi Americano.

Drinkers should find the vesper’s taste and experience extremely accessible. Vodka softens the juniper punch of the gin and the Cocchi Americano sweetens the drink up a bit.

Recipe (adapted):

1.5 oz london dry gin

3/4 oz vodka

3/4 oz Cocchi Americano

Just do it  —  shake it — or at least ask the guest what they prefer, and strain into a chilled martini glass. Most fancy cocktailers will insist you stir this, but there are never hard and fast rules.

Garnish with a lemon swath and be sure to express those oils over the drink.

The Standards

The standard martinis either come with a savory garnish — usually olives —  or a twist of citrus zest. While the formula for the cocktail itself may not change, the type of garnish used can radically change the drinker’s experience. Use a standard martini with one of the following drinkers:

  • The hungry drinker. A standard martini makes a perfect palate cleanser. The citrus twist imparts fresh aromas, which combine with the clean texture of the gin and vermouth. The booze-soaked olives, on the other hand, are the perfect savoury snack to whet the appetite. This martini will never make a guest feel too full for food, unlike beer.
  • Due to the martini’s versatility, drinkers can add their own creative flair. They can choose ANY citrus zest, and ANY olive. Because a standard martini is a very ‘clean’ canvas we’re painting on, the garnish will definitely have a dramatic effect on the experience.


2 oz of gin

1/2 oz dry vermouth

Either a twist OR olives

In my opinion, a london dry style gin will work well with a twist or olives because: a) the bright and sharp juniper works very well with the clean fresh aroma of a twist. B) Juniper and coriander, often the prevailing botanicals used in gin, are originally pickling spices. We all know that olives pair fantastically well with pickles!

The Dirty Martini

A dirty martini is a martini that contains olive brine. Gin and olives accentuate any martini, and olive brine takes the flavors and mouthfeel even further. Note, however, that martinis without olive brine make better palate cleansers.

When I make a dirty martini, I use gins with pronounced notes of Grains of Paradise (which, to me, smell like some kind of mechanic’s grease), or Mediterranean herbs (rosemary, thyme, etc.). Respective examples are Aviation, and Gin Mare.

The amount of brine I add varies depending on the type of brine. We’re only trying to add a bit of sodium and mouthfeel, so usually about a quarter of an ounce will do.

A note on extra, extra, extra dirty martinis: while guests can order whatever they want, I find that a martini with tons of brine is a strange thing. They’re basically saying to me: “I want to drink alcoholic saline.” Weird, no? Excess brine totally covers up the gin. You could probably make the drink with absinthe and the guest wouldn’t know the difference.

The Gibson Martini

As is the case with all great cocktails, the gibson and its pickled onion garnish tell an awesome story.

Charles Dana Gibson created America’s first national standard of feminine idyllic beauty in his satirical drawings of Gibson Girls. Gibson Girls were characterized by both fragility and voluptuousness.

A real-life portrayal of a Gibson Girl

You could say that the gibson martini embodies both of these qualities. The gibson garnishes the martini’s delicate body with TWO cocktail onions. The number of onions represents a Gibson Girl’s two voluptuous breasts. The gibson is the only cocktail in the common repertory that calls for an even number of garnish. Tradition would generally call this bad luck.


2 oz gin of guest’s choice

1/2 oz dry vermouth

Stir, and strain in a chilled cocktail glass

Garnish with TWO cocktail onions


The Dry Martini

The dry martini we know today differs significantly from the original (see the fifty-fifty above). If a guest asks for an ‘extra dry’ martini, they often just want a very cold glass of gin with a twist or with olives. Originally ‘dry’ meant substituting sweet Italian vermouth for dry french vermouth , NOT using less dry french vermouth.

Nonetheless, I generally use a 1/4 oz of dry vermouth when guests ask for a dry martini. A 1/4 oz of dry vermouth added to a punchy London dry gin, though, honestly won’t change the drink very much.


2.5 oz –  3 oz of gin.

0.25 oz Dry Vermouth

A challenge that often comes up with dry martinis is a low ‘washline’. The washline refers to where the drink comes up to on the glass, and is a very important subconscious indicator of the value that the guest is getting. A low washline causes the guest to say “hmm..that is a small drink” even if there is the same amount of alcohol. We never want a drink that is dwarfed by the glass.

People are conditioned to expect that they receive a full glass, so it is in your best interest to ensure that you exceed their expectations on first glance.

This being the case, you may need to bump up the amount of gin you put in a dry martini to make up for the lack of dry vermouth.

Martinis That Aren’t Quite Martinis

These relatives make an excellent choice for guests who want something a little different.

The Martinez

The martinez is the modern martini’s granddaddy. The modern martini (along with the Manhattan, Rob Roy, and others) all descend from the vermouth cocktail (sweet italian vermouth, bitters, ice, twist).

So the vermouth cocktail was a great mid-day, low-octane cocktail that wouldn’t muddy the waters too much. But eventually drinkers longed for a bit more booze in their vermouth cocktails. So imbibers began adding all kinds of spirits to vermouth  —  gin, brandy, whisky, etc. As a result, we now have cocktails like the manhattan, martini, and Rob Roy.

Note the use of sweet italian vermouth in this recipe instead of dry french. The italian vermouth exploded in popularity in the 1880s. In fact, all extant print recipes prior to 1931 used italian vermouth.

So, when it comes to today’s common repertoire of drinks, the martinez is actually the closest thing we’re making on a regular basis to the original martini: gin, sweet vermouth, bitters, and a twist).


3/4 oz london dry gin

3/4 oz old tom gin

1.5 oz sweet vermouth

1/4 oz maraschino liqueur

2 dashes Boker’s Bitters

Note: I’ve adapted this recipe to suit my own palate. The original actually calls for 2 oz of italian sweet vermouth to 1 oz of old tom gin. This proportion, with the maraschino liqueur, makes for a very sweet drink. I add old tom gin to bring down the sweetness of the italian vermouth. Then I bolster the two with a nice london dry. This combination, I find, attains a better balance.

The Arsenic and Old Lace

In Joseph Kesselring’s 1939 black comedy Arsenic and Old Lace, the protagonist, Mortimer Brewster, must contend with his maniacal family. This family includes two homicidal aunts who enjoy murdering lonely men. The aunts feed men a concoction of elderberry wine (often floral, like the violette in this cocktail) laced with “arsenic, strychnine, and just a pinch of cyanide.” In the non-fatal version of this cocktail, we substitute the arsenic, strychnine, and cyanide with absinthe.

Poor lonely old man


1 3/4 oz london dry gin

3/4 oz dry vermouth

1/3 oz violette liqueur

3 dashes of Pernod

Stir, strain into a chilled cocktail glass

Garnish with a lemon twist or something floral

Well, there you have it. A guide to six magical martinis and stories to go with them. Have a taste, serve them up, and don’t forget to prime your guests with their peculiar histories.

By Nimble Bar Company

7 Steps To Become An Absinthe Expert

The US government legalized absinthe more than a decade ago, but mystery and misunderstanding still surrounds the spirit. So we decided to help a bartender out and offer seminars on the worthy drink.

Absinthe, also known as the ‘green fairy,’ is a beautiful and unique spirit with a colourful history. But people always ask us, “Oh, but that’s not the real stuff, is it? Doesn’t the real stuff make you hallucinate”

We answer, “Yes, we’re using the real stuff. And no, it won’t make you hallucinate.”

Here’s our expert’s guide to absinthe

If you master the following 7 simple topics, you’ll be a conversational match for any self-proclaimed absinthe aficionado. You’ll better serve the knowledgable patron, and perhaps teach him a thing or two. And most people know so little about the drink that, if you remember the lessons in these seven steps, you’ll basically become an expert.

1. Know where absinthe comes from

Absinthe originated in 18th Century Switzerland as an over-the-counter medicine. Most potable ethanols share similar origin stories as well as similarly unproven health benefits.

A gentleman named Major Dubied acquired the original recipe for absinthe and in 1797 opened the first distillery in Couvet, Switzerland. Dubied, together with his son Marcellin and son-in-law Henry-Louis Pernod, named the distillery Dubied Père et Fils (Dubied Father and Sons).

In 1805, the trio opened a second distillery in France called Maison Pernod Fils  —  the name Pernod remains in today’s booze conglomerate Pernod-Ricard.

2. Know why absinthe was banned

From 1850 to 1900, famous artists (think Ernest Hemmingway, Vincent van Gogh, Oscar Wilde, Edgar Allen Poe, etc.) cherished the green fairy. So did notorious drinkers like opiate-addicted Bohemians.

The widespread popularity of absinthe, its famous (and infamous) drinkers, and its high alcohol content (a minimum of 60% ABV) combined to create a certain reputation. The public knew the drink as a cause of profligacy.

In 1905, an alcoholic Swiss farmer under the influence of absinthe murdered his wife and two children. This murder hammered the final nail in the spirit’s coffin. While the farmer had also been drinking wine, beer, and cognac all day, absinthe took the blame.

The murder inspired a public petition to ban the green fairy, and 82,000 individuals signed. Thus began the absinthe prohibition in Switzerland.

A handful of other nations followed suit: the United States, Canada, France, Switzerland, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Absinthe, however, remained legal pretty much everywhere else.

The modern day resurgence of absinthe likely began when Brits ‘realized’ that they had never banned it to begin with, and imported the drink.

3. Know how absinthe is made

Meet the Holy Trinity of botanicals: grande wormwood, florence fennel, and green anise. Absinthe makers macerate these greens in a distilled neutral grain spirit, and then redistill the result so that bitter compounds don’t outshine the nuances of the botanicals.

If distillers bottle the drink after the first distillation, the absinthe acquires the label blanche (Switzerland) or bleue (France) due to the liquid’s transparency. These styles can be quite delicate and even somewhat fruity. Oftentimes, I have noticed notes of melon and creamy chamomile.

Some distillers perform a secondary maceration of herbs and botanicals. This further step results in a much more herbaceous finished product. The second maceration also imparts chlorophyl to the spirit and adds the famous green colour. These absinthes appropriately gain the label verte.

4. Understand the chemistry behind the louche

Louche, the French word for ‘opaque’ or ‘shady,’ refers to the cloudy colour that appears after the distiller adds water. Think of adding water to an over-proof whisky. Same concept.

Adding water opens up the absinthe, unlocking essential oils. In fact, the drink gains a louche (shadiness) when the botanicals release solid compounds (primarily anise and fennel). The release of the essential oils also cause the drink to become much more aromatic.

5. Know the different ways absinthe can be prepared

Around the world, bartenders serve absinthe in two popular styles: the French style (the most traditional), and the Czech Republic’s modern Bohemian style.

The Traditional French Style

This is where those beautiful and ornate fountains come into play:

So, you take a glass that looks something like this:

You get an absinthe spoon that looks like this:

And you put a sugar cube on that spoon. Like this:

Then you slowly run the water over the sugar cube.

Note that you don’t need a fancy fountain to do this. You can simply pour ice-cold water from a pitcher or a mixing tin over the sugar cube. Hell, you can even use simple syrup instead of a sugar cube! And then you’ll get a more consistent result.

The Czech Republic Style (a.k.a the Modern Bohemian Style)

Many consider absinthe from the Czech Republic an inferior product because the Czechs don’t use wormwood. The Czechs often create absinthe using a neutral grain spirit and then adding artificial flavours. As a result, the drink does not louche (see above).

These Czech distillers then set the sugar cube on fire and dump it in, which ignites the entire drink. You can make just about anything taste good when you add caramelized (browned or burnt) sugar.

6. Know the essential absinthe cocktails

Three cocktails make our list of absinthe essentials: The Corpse Reviver #2, the Death in the Afternoon, and the Sazerac.

Corpse Reviver #2

The Corpse Reviver #2, a 1920s classic, has gained major popularity for good reason. This drink is a perfect palate-cleansing refresher that also maintains a bit of underlying complexity to keep things interesting. If you’re looking for an accessible cocktail for an absinthe newcomer, the #2 is your drink.

Corpse Reviver #2 Recipe:

  • 1 oz (30 ml) Gin
  • 1 oz (30 ml) Cointreau
  • 1 oz (30 ml) Lillet Blanc (or Cocchi Americano for historical accuracy)
  • 1 oz (30 ml) lemon
  • 1/4 oz (7.5 ml) Pernod

Shake, strain, garnish with a cherry.

I personally like to use Pernod (technically an anise liqueur and not an absinthe) in a Corpse Reviver #2. Pernod is quite bright and shines through the other ingredients well. Pernod is also more economical than other options.

Death in the Afternoon

The Death in the Afternoon was created by none other than Ernest Hemmingway. The Death takes a more traditional French approach to an absinthe cocktail but then uses champagne instead of water. This  particular cocktail really allows the green fairy to shine in all its glory, so use something gangster. For a real treat, grab a bottle of Jade 1901, a nice quality bubbly wine, and pony up to that desk or favourite reading chair and have a deep think. Maybe read some Hemmingway.

Death in the Afternoon recipe:

  • 1 oz (30 ml) of a gangster absinthe
  • Optional: simple syrup or granulated sugar to taste
  • Top with a good sparkling wine


The Sazerac is essentially a whisky cocktail (whisky, sugar, water, and bitters) with the addition of absinthe. It’s served in a chilled rocks glass, neat. The glass should be half full. The drink looks very simple, and so it should.

Despite its simplicity, the Sazerac is actually one of the most challenging drinks to master. The difficulty lies in achieving an ideal sweetness. Not all sugar cubes are created equal, so using cubes can result in inconsistent drinks. To avoid the variability and achieve a consistent sweetness, use simple syrup. The chemically controlled sweetness levels put you in complete control. Note that a lighter rye, like Bulleit, might require a touch less sweetness. A bigger rye, like Rittenhouse, might call for a touch more.

Somewhere between more sweet and less lies the perfect drink.

Sazerac recipe:

  • 2 oz (60 ml) American Rye (or Cognac, or both)
  • 1/4 oz (7.5 ml) simple syrup
  • 1/4 oz (7.5 ml) Absinthe
  • 7-9 dashes of Peychaud’s bitters

Stir, strain into chilled small rocks glass, express lemon oils over the drink (optional: toss lemon zest in the drink).

7. Know a bit about thujone

First, a couple fun wormwood facts to pass on to your guests:

  1. The first known medicinal use of wormwood occurred in 1552 B.C.
  2. In the Bible, wormwood and its bitterness became a metaphor for injustice.
  3. In the middle ages, new mothers would rub wormwood on their nipples to ween their babies.

Most people know that absinthe contains wormwood, and many blame wormwood for the drink’s hallucination potential. Wormwood, however, is not the cause. Thujone, an active ingredient within wormwood, can cause side effects. Thujone is to wormwood what THC is to cannabis.

While thujone consumption can yield mind-altering effects, remember that every chemical, even the most benign ones, can prove lethal when consumed to excess. What’s more, sage, the kitchen herb, contains more thujone than distilled wormwood. Most thujone doesn’t survive the distillation process. Absinthe drinkers would probably die from alcohol poisoning before they would feel the effects of thujone.

Also contrary to popular belief, thujone, if it does anything, increases cognitive capacity. If absinthe drinkers feel the effects of thujone, they’ll probably feel a higher state of clarity (in the midst of their intoxication). Maybe that’s why 19th century artists drank so much absinthe.

That said, don’t drink homemade absinthe. Home distillers sometimes erroneously mix wormwood oil with a neutral grain spirit — this combination is poisonous. Distillation makes the wormwood safe to drink.

There you have it…

7 steps to present yourself as an absinthe expert, even if you secretly aren’t one. What are some of your favourite stories about absinthe?

By thenimblebar

A Stump in the Grove: Honouring BC’s Majesty with a Cocktail

The Story of our Cathedral Grove
Inspired Cocktail: a Stump in the Grove

We Love the Wild, Ancient Trees of Vancouver Island

The unexpected encounters with creatures of the forest; the grandeur of massive groves of ancient cedars and firs.  This is why we decided to create a cocktail based on this beautiful piece of land called Cathedral Grove.

Cathedral Grove is 157 hectares of ancient Douglas Fir trees, and it’s the only stand of Douglas Fir trees in British Columbia accessible by highway.  If you haven’t seen massive trees in person before, we highly recommend getting out to Cathedral Grove to experience these wonders of nature.  So wondrous, in fact, that the grove made the short list for the Seven Wonders of Canada competition held by CBC television in 2007.  The 157 hectares that are Cathedral Grove on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada are part of 301 hectares that make up MacMillan Provincial Park.  You’ll find these gargantuan trees towering over highway 4 in central Vancouver Island – 25 km west of Qualicum Beach and 16 km east of the small town of Port Alberni.

A Stump in the Grove, one of our first wilderness cocktail creations, honours the beauty and majesty of our very own British Columbian coastal forests. We’ve carefully selected winter spices and foraged needles and mixed them with Stump Coastal Forest Gin and Woods Amaro Bitter Liqueur.

To offset the bitterness of the Amaro and the citrus kick from the lime, we created a sweet tea through steeping winter spices in boiling water and sugar. We finished the cocktail with lime, and rimmed with salt infused with the tips of Grand Fir needles (which have a subtle pineapple / citrus taste).  It’s decidedly woodsy, herbaceous, and earthy. The citrus blend of the tree needles, gin, and amaro accentuates the grandeur of the surrounding towering giants on a cool, British Columbian May morning.

Stump in the Grove Ingredients:

1.5 oz (45 ml) Stump Coastal Forest Gin

0.75 oz (22.5 ml) Woods Amaro Bitter Liqueur

0.75 oz (22.5 ml) Lime juice

0.75 oz (22.5 ml) Sweet Winter-Spiced Tea

Serve on the rocks, garnished with Grand Fir tip infused sea salt on the rim

Sweet Winter-Spiced Tea:

A handful of cinnamon, juniper berries, star anise, clove, and allspice mixed with equal parts sugar and water. Simmer all of these ingredients together for 20-25 minutes.

This actually isn’t the first time we’ve used ingredients from the forest in a cocktail. It certainly won’t be the last. Have any ideas or suggestions for mixed drinks that come from the forest? Mention them in the comments below and we’ll give them a try! Assuming they’re legal.

A word of warning: don’t forage ingredients yourself unless you know what you’re doing. Not all plant in our forests are edible. If you want to safely experience unique cocktails like A Stump in the Grove, join our expert bartenders at an outdoor event.

Sign up for our newsletter (below) and follow us on Facebook to learn more about our upcoming outdoor adventures.

Skip to toolbar
How to Create a Cocktail Menu That Sells: The Nimble Guide
A Beginner’s Guide To Martinis (and Their Variations)
7 Steps To Become An Absinthe Expert
A Stump in the Grove: Honouring BC’s Majesty with a Cocktail