Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Scofflaw Cocktail

Scofflaw Cocktail in cocktail glass with orange slice garnish

The drink that thumbed its nose at Prohibition

Everybody knows what a scofflaw is, right? But you may not know that the term was coined during the Prohibition era in the US.

Prohibition (which was in effect from 1920 to 1933) banned the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages. It failed spectacularly, however. Many people ignored the law and just kept on drinking—both in the privacy of their homes and in unlicensed saloons called speakeasies.

So widespread was this behavior that in 1924, the Boston Herald newspaper ran a contest asking people to create a moniker for these lawless tipplers. The winning entry was “scofflaw.”

A few days later, a bartender at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris created a tasty new drink—and named it the Scofflaw Cocktail (how could he resist?)

Prohibition finally ended in the US on December 5, 1933. So this Friday marks the anniversary of that happy day. Guess what we’ll be drinking to celebrate?


Scofflaw Cocktail in cocktail glass with orange twist garnish

Recipe: The Scofflaw Cocktail

The Scofflaw Cocktail has a festive look and flavor—which makes it particularly appropriate for the holidays, we think.

This drink calls for rye whiskey. Originally the Scofflaw may have been made with Canadian whiskey, because production of US rye whiskey ceased during Prohibition. Canadian whiskey typically has a bit more rye in it than other whiskies, so it’s a logical choice.

But because Canadian whiskey consists mainly of neutral grain spirits—which are flavorless—its taste is rather light. So we always use rye whiskey when making this drink, to make sure we get our full allotment of flavor.

This recipes takes about 5 minutes to prepare, and serves one. As with any cocktail recipe, it’s easy to scale up.

Ingredients
  • 1 ounce rye or Canadian whiskey (we much prefer rye; see headnote)
  • 1 ounce dry (white) vermouth
  • ½ ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ½ ounce grenadine, preferably homemade (or to taste; see Notes) 
  • 1 dash orange bitters (see Notes) 
  • orange slice or twist for garnish (optional)
Procedure
  1. Combine all ingredients (except garnish) in a cocktail shaker half-filled with ice. Shake vigorously until the shaker is frosted and the drink is thoroughly chilled (about 20 seconds).
  2. Strain the contents of the shaker into a cocktail glass, preferably one that’s been chilled. Garnish with a slice or twist of orange, if you wish. Serve and enjoy.
Scofflaw Cocktail in cocktail glass

Notes
  • Which rye to use? Any of them will work in a cocktail, but we’re partial to Rittenhouse Bottled in Bond (100 proof). It’s not our favorite sipping rye, but the flavor is just right in a cocktail. Wild Turkey (particularly the 101 proof) also works well in cocktails.
  • BTW, let us reiterate our usual disclaimer here: Our blog is noncommercial, and no one compensates us to mention brands by name. We recommend only what we like and buy with our own money.
  • If you want a more pronounced whiskey flavor in this drink, increase the amount of rye to 1½ ounces.
  • Prefer to use Canadian whiskey? We don’t have a brand preference to offer in that case. Canadian Club and Seagram’s VO are popular, so you might try one of those. But our experience with Canadian whiskey is limited.
  • Don’t want to use rye? You could probably substitute bourbon. We haven’t tried it in this drink, but suspect it would work OK.
  • Feel free to vary the amount of grenadine you use in this drink, depending on how sweet you’d like it to be. The ½ ounce we call for makes this cocktail slightly sweet. We generally prefer drinks to be more on the dry side, but sweetness works here.
  • We strongly recommend using real (i.e., pomegranate) grenadine, not the ersatz stuff that liquor stores usually stock. Many commercial brands of grenadine are made primarily from artificial flavors.
  • If you can’t find the real thing, you’re better off making your own Homemade Grenadine. It’s easy and takes just minutes. 
  • Most good liquor stores carry orange bitters (any brand of which will work in this drink). 
  • Angostura bitters (the most commonly available bitters) aren’t a suitable substitute in this cocktail. But Angostura also makes orange bitters, and they would work fine. 
  • If you can’t find orange bitters, just make the drink without them. But keep in mind that they do add a nice, though subtle, flavor note. 
  • Prohibition in the US was authorized by the 18th amendment to the US Constitution, which took effect on January 17, 1920. This amendment prohibited the manufacture, sale, or transport of “intoxicating liquors” in the US, though it left many details vague (for example, it didn’t define exactly what constituted an intoxicating liquor). Separate legislation had to be enacted to specify how the 18th amendment would be enforced. 
  • That enabling legislation was the Volstead Act, which Congress adopted on October 28, 1919 (and named after Andrew Volstead, who was then chairman of the House Judiciary Committee). Much of the legislation’s language was contributed by representatives of the Anti-Saloon League. 
  • The Volstead Act defined “intoxicating liquor” as any beverage containing more that 0.5% alcohol by volume. This definition was broad enough to take in beer—and it came as an unpleasant surprise to many US citizens, who had assumed that beer and wine would be exempt from Prohibition. 
  • The Volstead Act proved to be very unpopular, and was nearly impossible to enforce. It also led to a general decline in respect for the law (after all, anyone who enjoyed a drink during Prohibition was technically a lawbreaker). Because many people found Prohibition so unreasonable, being a scofflaw became socially acceptable, particularly in urban areas. 
  • Many people drank at home, of course. But they also visited speakeasies (illegal saloons) to toss back a few. New York’s famed 21 Club began life as a speakeasy during the 1920s. 
  • The Jazz Age largely coincided with Prohibition—and the confluence of the two helped change social norms. It was during this time, for example, that it became acceptable for women to drink in public. Prior to Prohibition, saloon patrons were exclusively male. 
  • This was the era of “flaming youth.” You’ve probably heard of flappers, the iconic women of the 1920s. Their male counterparts were known as “sheiks” (the name derived from a 1921 Rudolph Valentino movie called, well, The Sheik). 
  • Prohibition led to the rise of organized crime in the US, making gangsters like Al Capone famous. Transporting large quantities of illegal booze around the country required coordination; crime syndicates emerged to meet the growing consumer demand. 
  • Elbow-bending scofflaws turned back into law-abiding citizens on December 5, 1933. That’s when the US enacted the 21st amendment, which ended Prohibition.
Scofflaw Cocktail in cocktail glass with orange slice garnish

Partners in Crime

“I’m glad we didn’t live during Prohibition,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs, taking a sip of her Scofflaw Cocktail. “We wouldn’t have been able to enjoy great drinks like this.”

“Well, we could have traveled to Paris for a drink at Harry’s Bar,” I said. “Or to Cuba for a Daiquiri.”

“Too much trouble,” said Mrs K R.

“Yeah, that’s true,” I said. “Though knowing us, I’m sure we’d have found a way to satisfy our thirst closer to home.”

“We’d probably be publishing recipes for bathtub gin,” said Mrs K R.

“And reviews of speakeasies,” I added.

Scofflaws R Us.

You may also enjoy reading about:
Homemade Grenadine
Daiquiri Cocktail
Whiskey Sour
Manhattan Cocktail
Opera Cocktail
Algonquin Cocktail
Delmonico Cocktail
Dry Martini
Cocktail Basics
Or check out the index for more






106 comments:

  1. I'm with Mrs K on this one - prohibition was the dumbest idea ever, and I raise a glass with her that we didn't live during it- cheers!

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    1. Hi Donalyn, Prohibition really was one of those smack-your-head, what were they thinking moments in history, wasn't it? But it gave birth to this drink, which is a good thing. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  2. Sounds fab, love the colour and nice and citrusy for this time of year.

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    1. Hi Caroline, isn't the color nice? And I love the citrus too. But then, I'm a citrus freak. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  3. Beautiful drink with nice part of American history behind it. I like the delicious color of this drink. Thank you, John. :)

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    1. HI Ray, isn't this a pretty drink? Festive both in appearance and flavor! Thanks for the comment.

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  4. I had actually never heard of the term scofflaw until today! Learn something new here everytime! As usual, love the story behind the drink and it is beauitful as always. I'm quite partial to the citrusy tones of the drink. Thanks John for all the great info!

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    1. Hi Nazneen, the citrus really appeals to us, too! This is a very flavorful drink. Thanks for the comment.

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  5. My grandfather was definitely a scofflaw--he made moonshine. This cocktail is much more elegant than any he would have concocted. But I would not have wanted to drink any of his spirits! Thanks for the fun post, Rocquie

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    1. Hi Rozquie, your grandfather would have fit right in during the 1920s! Thanks for the comment.

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  6. I haven't heard of the scofflaw but it's a great term. I also didn't know prohibition lasted 13 years. Imagine going 13 years without a drink! This certainly does look festive and it's my kind of cocktail - citrusy! xx

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    1. Hi Charlie, 13 years is way too long! And isn't scofflaw a wonderful word? Thanks for the comment.

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  7. Such a great story, l will remember this cocktail for that reason. Love the color!

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    1. Hi Cheri, the color of this is great, isn't it? Grenadine really dresses up a drink. Thanks for the comment.

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  8. Hi John,
    An interesting post. I was a fan of HBO's "Boardwalk Empire" and I remember hearing that word "Scofflaw Cocktail" mentioned a few times. That show was about Prohibition and the illegal places where you could get a drink.(Plus other illegal things that went on) I guess you must have heard of this show or even seen it.I have never tasted this drink but all of your notes are always so factual. I love it! Looks so festive and yummy, I will have to try this one...Thanks for sharing, have a great rest of the week!
    Dottie :)

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    1. Hi Dottie, haven't actually heard of this show -- but we don't subscribe to HBO. Should look to see if we can download it -- sounds interesting. Thanks for the comment.

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  9. What a beauty, John! You have the best cocktail pictures of all. I have never tried it... Its color reminds me of sunshine.

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    1. Hi Denise, you'll feel like sunshine inside once you taste this drink! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  10. Hi John , another beautiful drink to add to my list , wonderful history behind the cocktail and being from my neck off the woods , my family has many tails about bootleggers and whiskey runners . :) thanks so much for sharing . Also thanks for your get well wishes ...Nee

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    1. Hi Nee, isn't the history of this fun? I'd love to hear all about those bootleggers and whiskey runners. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  11. This is so pretty.....I love your little history lessons. On Friday, have one on me :)

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    1. Hi Pat, we will! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  12. This is a great post John! I think that is a great holiday to celebrate and a tasty looking drink to try.

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    1. Hi Amy, it should be a national holiday, don't you think? :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  13. The repercussions of Prohibition still live with us today, John. Indeed one of the most ignorant laws ever! However, like this drink, there were a few positive overtones. None come to mind at the moment:)

    This drink sounds as festive for the season as well as the anniversary of the end of Prohibition. Of course, I love the sip of history too:) Thank you so much for sharing, John...

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    1. Hi Louise, it really is a nice, festive drink! Just right for the holidays. And for celebrating the end to Prohibition. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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    2. Thanks for that FYI on my blog John. It was a huge help!!!

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  14. Had not heard of the term Scofflaw. Very informative post, as usual. I however grew up in a place where there was prohibition every now and then. And have seen how people just manage to drink anyway . Dumbest law ever!

    Now If only the husband would hurry and mix me a scofflaw :D

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    1. HI Ansh, tell hubby to get to it! ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  15. we had not heard of scofflaw before but this cocktail is delicious and such clear,beautiful food clicks...is definitely making us excited to try this sip out,thanks so much :-)

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    1. Hi Kumar, it's a great drink -- definitely worth trying. Thanks for the comment.

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  16. You two would NEVER have made it through prohibition! :) Have never heard of the scofflaw and didn't know that Friday was the anniversary of the end. Looks like I need to head to the liqueur store and get some rye whiskey! Fun post John

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    1. Hi MJ, you're right -- sad, isn't it? ;-) And yes, you definitely need to get some rye! Thanks for the comment.

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  17. I just learned about the "prohibition" when watching the Boardwalk Empire...so interesting...and I am so happy that we are not living at that time...this cocktail sounds and looks beautiful John...
    Hope you are enjoying your week :)

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    1. Hi Julia, I'm also happy we're not living then! What a pain that must have been for people. :-( Thanks for the comment.

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  18. I see a lot of chicks in their 20s getting drunk off of these LOL!!

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    1. Hi GiGi, this really is a smooth drink -- one that can kinda creep up on you. Thanks for the comment.

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  19. this is such an interesting post! Thanks for sharing! well.... I'd die to taste it now!

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    1. Hi Marcela, it's a great drink! Hope you have a chance to try one. Thanks for the comment.

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  20. Beautiful colour, interesting name and delicious combination!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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    1. Hi Rosa, isn't the color nice? Fun to look at, fun to drink! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  21. I am sure we would have been right there in the membership of Scofflaws R Us.

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    1. Hi Debra, maybe we should start an organization? :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  22. Another delicious looking & sounding cocktail. YUM.

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    1. Hi Pam, it's a really great drink -- loads of flavor. Thanks for the comment.

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  23. I love how you shot the cocktail with both a black and white background…no one does a better cocktail photo than you. :)

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    1. Hi Karen, the fun thing about those two setups is with the black background you're rimming the stem of the glass with white, in the white background you're rimming it with black. Magic! ;-) It's an interesting way to shoot cocktails. Thanks for your very kind comment.

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  24. I never knew the root of this word! You always have a great little tidbit :)

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    1. Hi Liz, isn't that interesting? I love useless facts like this! Thanks for the comment.

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    1. Hi Greg, Rittenhouse is wonderful, isn't it? Just lovely in cocktails. Thanks for the comment.

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  26. I had no idea about how the word scofflaw came about and I so enjoyed the story behind it and how that bartender came up with the "scofflaw cocktail" - it does look very festive - and very pretty!

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    1. Hi Shashi, isn't that history interesting? As is the drink -- and I agree it's really festive! Thanks for the comment.

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  27. Throughly enjoyable post, I love a little history with my cocktail. And this might be the perfect excuse to make up another batch of homemade grenadine.
    Thanks

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    1. Hi Melinda, I almost always have homemade grenadine on hand -- really good flavor, and a fair number of drinks use it as an ingredient. Thanks for the comment.

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  28. I actually didn't know what a scofflaw was, so I learned something today! Thanks!

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    1. Hi Laura, always happy to be of help. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  29. This sounds amazing, John, but had no idea what a scofflaw was. Great story, informative post, really great.

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    1. Hi Lizzy, that's a fun word, isn't it? And so descriptive! Thanks for the comment.

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  30. I was jazzed---seemed like an appropriate verb, since we are talking about prohibition---to see a cocktail photo appear after I clicked in. Perfect cocktail of course for that propitious date of 12/5. I enjoyed the post as usual.

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    1. Hi Carol, glad you were jazzed! :-) Thank for the comment.

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  31. Lol, another fun History 101/Cocktail 101 from nobody else but John! Reviewing speakeasies may be fun and you should be like Houdini to be able to get away with that ;) Cheers!

    Julie & Alesah
    Gourmet Getaways xx

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    1. Hi Julie & Alesah, wouldn't it be fun to review speakeasies? Tough job, but someone would have had to do it back then! :--) Thanks for the comment.

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  32. You put so much research and history into most of your posts - it's admirable and plain interesting to read! And, this cocktail is calling my name!

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    1. Hi Julia, glad you enjoy reading the posts -- they're fun to write. And this is definitely a drink you want calling your name! Thanks for the comment.

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  33. Love the name and the story behind it. I think I'd feel rather clandestine sipping it, too. ;)

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    1. Hi Carolyn, isn't the story cool? Fun drink. Maybe we should all wear trench coats when we drink this so we can be undercover. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  34. Love the story! Love this cocktail! It's a gorgeous color.

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    1. Hi Ashley, I agree this is a gorgeous drink! Not to mention tasty. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  35. Lovely cocktail and very interesting bit of history. Very pretty photo as always. This is perfect for a holiday gathering.

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    1. Hi Karen, this really is a wonderful holiday drink -- dynamite color, and flavor that won't quite. Good stuff! Thanks for the comment.

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  36. This drink has a citrus appeal, doesn't it? Lovely color too!

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    1. Hi Kristi, yup, the citrus definitely appeals to a citrus freak! Which resembles me. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  37. Great history on the Prohibition. I never knew much about it before, and it's such a great story. I had no idea it lasted 13 years!

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    1. Hi Beth, Prohibition is really a fascinating -- and bizarre -- episode in US history. One of those 'what were they thinking?' eras. Thanks for the comment.

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  38. That is the most beautiful shot of a cocktail I've ever seen! (I'm going to make one, or two, tonight!)

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    1. Hi Sue, isn't this pretty? We're going to have one, or two!, tonight, too. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  39. O I love all your cocktails John! So beautiful and I also love that little bit of history behind it. Of course I had never heard of a scofflaw before but can't wait to try one!

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    1. Hi Simone, this really is a delish drink! Looks kinda nice too, doesn't it? ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  40. Can you believe I am not familiar with rye whiskey - that is cool :D
    And the colours are perfect for the season!

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

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    1. Hi Uru, rye isn't even all that well known in the US today -- although 200 years ago it probably was the most popular whiskey. George Washington distilled in on his estate, for example. Thanks for the comment.

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  41. I failed to celebrate yesterday, so I'll toast the occasion one day late! Love the color of this.

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    1. Hi Lisa, better late than never! :-) Isn't this a pretty drink? Thanks for the comment.

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  42. We don't drink, but I love the photo, my friend. Fabulous color.

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    1. Hi Lail, one of the neat things about cocktails is that even if you don't drink, their history is so interesting! And they're pretty, too. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  43. Another tasty cocktail from you that I need to try John! Love the sound of this one.

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    1. Hi Amanda, it's really a good one! You'll enjoy it. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  44. Your cocktail photography is better than half the professionals. You should give lessons. I'd love to shoot something this pretty. This is a beauty for the holidays.

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    1. Hi Maureen, thanks so much for that very nice comment! I have thought about putting together a tutorial about how to shoot cocktails against both a white and black background, and probably will someday (and also one on shooting on black acrylic), and probably will one of these days. Never seem to have the time to do it, but I should just make the time -- it'd be fun.

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  45. Perfect reason to celebrate in honor of the end of the prohibition! ;)

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    1. Hi Kristi, isn't this a nice reason to celebrate the end of Prohibition? And we did. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  46. I love a citrusy drink, I like this specially with the summer here down under

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    1. Hi Raymund, citrus in drinks is wonderful! A real favorite of ours. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  47. What a pretty drink! And since I am a great rule breaker, I am sure I would love it! Thanks John!

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    1. Hi Abbe, we know all about that rule breaker thing. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  48. You are the ultimate cocktail master! What a beauty.

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    1. Hi Pamela, isn't this pretty? Thanks for such a nice comment!

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  49. Wow, that sucks. I just typed a long comment and it up and disappeared!
    It's a beautiful cocktail, I just love how the colour sits on that black background.
    The area that I live in now (West Toronto) was dry for many years because a gentleman named John Howard bequeathed some 400 acres of parkland (called High Park) to the city with two stipulations: that there were not be a Catholic Mayor, and that it would remain dry. That rule was active until...wait for it... 1997! Just 17 years ago!! It was rather unfortunate for the area because it kept the values and new businesses depressed, even house prices didn't go up as much as other similar areas in the city. We bought our house in 2001 and fortunately values have escalated beyond belief (our house is worth 3X what we paid for it). Demand is always greater than supply sadly, and retail property owners are greedy so many of the small businesses are not able to survive because of escalating rental fees so we have a revolving door of shops and restaurants. But at least they can sell booze!

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    1. Hi Eva, sorry you lost your comment! But glad you wrote it out again. I had no idea there were areas of Canada that were booze-free, ever. And until 1997? Really interesting -- I visited Toronto frequently int he 1990s and never heard that. Always love learning new stuff! Thanks for the comment.

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  50. Yum, this drink looks nice and fruity! Thank God for the end of Prohibition- it made the 'Mob' grow richer... Come to think of it, I haven't had any alcohol in 6 weeks, but who's counting!

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    1. Hi Fran, Prohibition really had a whole lot of negative consequences, didn't it? Fortunately this drink was one of the nicer outcomes of it. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  51. I had no idea what scofflaw meant, but that's interesting. I also didn't know how to make grenadine, which normally I don't like. But making it will be different. The drink looks divine. I'll try it with bourbon because that's what we usually have on hand. We have some special cherry bitters that might work.

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    1. Hi Angela, a lot of drinks have really interesting histories. This one is more interesting than most, though. Real grenadine is really good, IMO. Doesn't taste anything like many of the commercial grenadines (although some of them have a fascinating luminous hue!). The cherry bitters sound like they might be fun. Thanks for the comment.

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  52. This cocktail is amazing. A local Thai restaurant served one that my girlfriend and I both fell in love with, so I came home to search for it and, lo and behold, it's on Kitchenriffs! I love your cocktail posts.

    I've found my homemade scofflaws to be quite a bit sweeter than the Thai one, which can be both good and bad depending on your mood, but this is a really interesting drink. It also gives you the excuse to act a little bourgeoise when explaining to people that grenade is really from pomegranates and not cherries!

    FYI I have invented a drink that I think you would love! I don't really have a name, and it may exist, but I'd love if you could give it a shot:

    * 2 oz brandy
    * 1 oz Amaro (I had Meletti; I haven't tried others so I'm not sure how well other substitutes would work)
    * 1/2 oz Benedictine (this stuff is amazing but potently sweet! holy cow)
    * 2 dashes angostura
    * garnish with orange

    Stir in ice and pour over a large ice cube in an old fashioned glass. It is fantastic!

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    1. Hi Marshall, isn't this a great drink? If you homemade one is a bit too sweet, just cut down on the amount of grenadine. Or maybe try a bit more lemon juice. Your cocktail looks great -- we'll have to give it a try. Glad you like the cocktail posts! They're fun. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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