Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Harvard Cocktail

The Harvard Cocktail

This Ivy Leaguer is top of its class

We’re back from vacation. We had a swell time, and did loads of fun stuff. Including a visit to Boston and Cape Cod (more on that later).

Boston is chock-full of colleges and universities. One of the best known is Harvard, an institution of diverse accomplishments—including having a cocktail named after it.

The Harvard Cocktail contains brandy, which we find rather warming. So it’s perfect for the cool autumn weather we’re beginning to enjoy in our part of the US.

To celebrate our trip to Boston, we’re featuring Harvard’s namesake drink in today’s post. Travel is so educational.


The Harvard Cocktail

Recipe: The Harvard Cocktail

This drink dates back to 1895. It’s similar to a Manhattan Cocktail, but it uses brandy (or cognac) instead of the whiskey that’s traditional in a Manhattan. And it eliminates the maraschino cherry garnish. More notably, the Harvard Cocktail is topped with about an ounce of fizzy water—something you’d never use in a Manhattan. It all adds up to a great-tasting drink that works particularly well before dinner.

The original version of this drink was probably made with equal measures of brandy and Italian (red) vermouth. We prefer a bit more brandy in ours, and so we use a recipe perfected by cocktail historian extraordinaire David Wondrich. (We discuss other interesting variations in the Notes.)

This recipe takes about 5 minutes to prepare, and serves 1.

Ingredients
  • 1½ ounces brandy or cognac (see Notes)
  • 1 ounce Italian (sweet, red) vermouth
  • 2 or 3 dashes of bitters (Angostura or orange bitters, or a mix of the two)
  • ~1 ounce fizzy water (club soda or seltzer)
  • garnish of lemon or orange twist, or orange slice (optional)
Procedure
  1. Place the brandy, vermouth, and bitters in a mixing glass half-filled with ice. Stir briskly until well chilled (20 to 30 seconds).
  2. Strain into a cocktail glass, preferably one that has been chilled. Add about an ounce of fizzy water. Garnish (if desired) and serve.
The Harvard Cocktail

Notes
  • Why stir rather than shake this drink? Because the ingredients are clear. Shaking can introduce small bubbles, which make a drink cloudy. This isn’t a problem when some ingredients are opaque (think citrus juice), but it can be unattractive when the ingredients are clear.
  • With that said, there’s a version of this drink that adds ¼ ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice and 1 teaspoon grenadine (or simple syrup) to the recipe given above. If you make that iteration of the Harvard Cocktail, then shake away. (That variation is good, though we often omit the grenadine sweetener). 
  • We’ve also come across a version of the Harvard Cocktail (called the Harvard Fizz) that’s served on the rocks. Robert Hess likes to build this version of the drink in an ice-filled highball glass (use one with a capacity of about 10 ounces). His recipe calls for 1½ ounces brandy, ¾ ounce Italian vermouth, 1 dash orange bitters, and 2 ounces fizzy water. Serve with a straw. 
  • We’ve also seen recipes that call for a few dashes of maraschino liqueur. (The liqueur tastes nothing like the sweet, fluorescent-red cherries; in fact, its flavor is rather dry, and its color is clear.) We’re fans of maraschino liqueur—though not so much in this drink. But feel free to experiment.
  • You can use either brandy or cognac when you mix this drink. Brandy is what happens when you distill wine; cognac is brandy that is produced in the Cognac region of France. Either works well in this drink.
  • BTW, some brandies and cognacs are quite pricey. But for this drink, there’s no need to buy anything that costs more than $15 or so a bottle. If in doubt about what to buy, ask your liquor store for a recommendation.
  • Harvard isn’t the only college that’s inspired a cocktail. There are also drinks named after Yale, Dartmouth, Penn, Columbia, and Brown, among others. Clearly, we need to research all of these.
  • Harvard University is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, just across the Charles River from Boston. It was founded in 1636, making it the oldest institution of higher education in the US. The university is named after John Harvard, a Puritan pastor whose bequest of money (and his private library) set the school on its way.
  • Harvard’s initial mission was to train ministers. It wasn’t affiliated with a particular denomination, though many of its graduates became Congregationalist or Unitarian clergymen. 
  • Early on, Harvard modeled itself after English universities, which then emphasized religious subjects and classical languages (Greek and Latin). Over time, as new fields of study were developed, the college broadened its curriculum and became more secular. Today Harvard ranks as one of the best universities in the world. And we can attest that its namesake cocktail is world class.

Research Scholars

“Terrific drink,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “Really old school. And what a nice reminder of our trip to Boston.”

“It belongs on the honor roll,” I agreed. “It was great to visit Boston again. I’d forgotten what a wonderful walking city it is. And so many good restaurants!”

“Definitely a city that makes the grade,” said Mrs K R. “And Cape Cod was so much fun!”

“Staying in Provincetown was definitely an A+ move,” I said. “Loads of good meals and drinks there, too. Though oddly enough, we never had a Cape Codder Cocktail while we were visiting.”

“That’s because we were playing hooky from the blog,” said Mrs K R. “But now it’s time to buckle down and brainstorm some ideas for new posts.”

“No problem,” I said. “We don’t even need to crack a book. We had loads of great Italian meals in Boston, so maybe we should do a few Italian dishes this month.”

“Hands-on research is always the best, isn’t it?” said Mrs K R.

Yup. No ivory tower for us.

You may also enjoy reading about:
Manhattan Cocktail
Cape Codder Cocktail
Ward Eight Cocktail
The Golden Dawn Cocktail
Delmonico Cocktail
Bijou Cocktail
Cocktail Basics
Or check out the index for more

114 comments:

  1. I love a good manhattan, so I think I might have to give this one a try too. Your photograph is gorgeous!

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    1. Hi Pamela, Manhattans are one of my favorites, which probably is why I like this one so much. Plus I can never resist brandy. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  2. I never have brandy, but for no particular reason. I'm a big Manhattan fan so I think I'll have to give this Ivy League version a try soon. Plus, it'll be a good excuse to stock some brandy.

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    1. Hi Katherine, if you like Manhattans, you'll like this. And with the brandy you'll need to buy, try a Sidecar -- one of my favorite fall drinks. Thanks for the comment.

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  3. Does sound like the perfect cocktail to warm up the cool nights we're beginning to have. I agree hands-on research is always a good thing.

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    1. Hi SG, hands-on research is a good thing. :D Thanks for the comment.

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  4. Welcome back! My dad loved brandy and used it to make Sri Lankan Christmas Cake and as an anti-dote for toothaches - he'd place a cotton swab dipped in brandy on the tooth that hurt and he would say brandy worked its "magical properties" :)
    By the way this drink is like a sunset in a glass - absolutely gorgeous! Awesome photographs!

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    1. Hi Shashi, I'll have to remember that particular magical property of brandy! ;-) Thanks for the kind words, and the comment.

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  5. Love that trip! We did that same version quite a while back, but it was so good that I'd love to do it again! Hope you also had plenty of lobster and clams! I'm sure the red color of the drink has to do with the colors of the school. When Zoe graduated you could tell where the professors graduated from, by the color of their robes. Crimson was Harvard and it stood out for sure. Just like this drink! Glad you are back, John!

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    1. Hi Abbe, we really need to do Boston again, soon -- so much to do there. And terrific food. We did a short-term condo rental in the North End, so could walk to dinner every night. :-) Thanks for the welcome back, and the comment.

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  6. Welcome back! I loved visiting Boston! I've been there only once, but absolutely loved the presence of the history in every site, something we don't have in California. :) I enjoyed reading the little history education on Harvard too. It seems like it's a wonderful cocktail.

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    1. Hi Nami, thanks, great to be back! Boston is a terrific place to visit -- you need to figure out a way to visit again! Thanks for the comment.

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  7. I love Manhattans. Always have one in honor of my mother on her birthday, which was just this week! I'm guaranteed to like the Harvard then, I'm sure. We just returned from a vacation, too, John. We went to the Adirondacks and the Finger Lakes, then swung by Chautauqua before heading home to PA. Nice trip.

    And I agree with Shashi -- sunset in a glass.

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    1. Hi Rosemary, you'll definitely like the Harvard. The Adirondacks and Finger Lakes are wonderful, aren't they? Terrific museum at Blue Mountain Lake, as I recall. Haven't been there in ages. Thanks for the comment.

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  8. Welcome back, John! I also love Manhattans so know I would like your Harvard cocktail also. Now I need to get some more Brandy!

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    1. Hi Pam, this is a wonderful drink for Manhattan lovers! Thanks for the comment.

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  9. Oh the witty puns! What, Harvard thinks it is too good for a maraschino cherry lol? I would agree anyways. Great cocktail and glad to have you back. Sounds like the time off was well spent!

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    1. Hi Evelyne, we had a wonderful time off. But it's good to be back! Thanks for the comment.

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  10. So if I drink this, will I become as smart as some people who went to HARVARD??

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    1. Hi GiGi, that's the promise! ;-) And if you aren't, you can try the Yale, the Cornell, the . . . :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  11. Hi John,
    So glad that you are back..you were missed...I do not really drink cocktails but I must say this is one I may have to try. I loved your info and never knew much on Harvard. Love when you give us such great facts on the drink and on the University as well. I have been to Boston a few times and I love it. Such history and like you said filled with many schools of education. Thanks for sharing and I love to hear what Mrs.Kitchen Riffs has to say... Have a great rest of the week...Looking forward to some of those Italian dishes that you will be sharing...
    Dottie :)

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    1. Hi Dottie, we have some really dishes coming up! And this is definitely a worth trying sometime -- lovely flavor. Thanks for the comment.

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  12. Welcome back! What a beautiful drink to make a comeback with! I can only imagine the charm of the place that makes you want to go back.

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    1. Hi Ansh, we had a swell time in Boston -- really a terrific place. Thanks for the comment.

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  13. Welcome back you two:) Sounds like you had a fabulous blog break!!!

    I'm a huge fan of anything Manhattan. I'm curious about adding just a tinge of maraschino liqueur. A Manhttan like cocktail in Boston sounds like my cup of tea. I haven't been to Boston in ages!!!

    Thanks for sharing, John...

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    1. Hi Louise, the maraschino liqueur is nice, just a bit over-the-top IMO. The lemon versions might actually be better than the "authentic" version -- that's worth a try. Thanks for the comment.

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  14. Welcome back!! Boston is such a great place to visit. I don't think I have ever had a drink quite like this, something to look forward to.

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    1. Hi Cheri, this is a really nice drink -- it's become an autumn favorite of ours! Thanks for the comment.

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  15. Hands on research is indeed the best. I don't typically stock cognac because I can't be trusted with the stuff. I like it so such as a latenight-sipper I've had to ban it from my house due to next-morning vexation. However, if you promise me this make a great pre-dinner sipper then I think I can trust myself to buy a bottle. GREG

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    1. Hi Greg, yup, we specialize in hands on research. And lots of it! We never keep really good cognac in the house because of the danger you mention. A less expensive brandy works well in cocktails, and doesn't tempt me as a sippin' beverage, so we're safe with those. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  16. Welcome back from your trip! I remember visiting Harvard in the 1970's and was surprised to see a 'freeway' encircling the school- I guess civilization has grown up around the school. Always admired Harvard but thought I could never get into that school, maybe I'll settle for second best and drink the cocktail named after it!

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    1. Hi Fran, Boston really is congested, isn't it? Traffic everywhere! But it's still an extremely walkable city -- so nice that way. Thanks for the comment.

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  17. Love reading about cocktails on your blog John! I always love the story behind food. :) Who knew - Harvard has a cocktail? Glad you had such a wonderful holiday!!

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    1. Hi Nagi, I was surprised when I found out how many schools have cocktails named after them. So many research possibilities! ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  18. Hey, it's back to school time, and this looks gerat. Cheers!

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    1. Hi Adri, it's definitely back to school time. In more ways than one. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  19. You had NO choice but to feature the Harvard Cocktail. You have to say that
    with just right accent of course. It's grand you had such a fab vacation and that
    your punster ability is still sharp.

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    1. Hi Carol, you're right -- the proper accent is very important. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  20. I am not much of a drinker, yet my pantry has quiet a few bottles. I usually use my booze to cook with. :) But... I love your cocktail photography.

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    1. Hi Madonna, we use a lot of our booze to cook with too. But not all of it, obviously. :D Thanks for the comment.

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  21. My husband studied at Harvard many years ago.What a gorgeous cocktail... I am glad you guys had a great time in Boston. I have been in many great cities but not Boston. I hope to visit it one day.

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    1. Hi Denise, Boston is definitely a city you want to see at some point! So much to do and see. And so much to eat and drink! Thanks for the comment.

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  22. Welcome back John! Sounds like you had a great vacation. I've never been to Boston but it's on my list along with many places in the northeast. And yes, I definitely agree that vacations are very educational. Looks like you brought back a great new drink for us. I like it!

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    1. Hi MJ, this really is a great drink. And Boston is a wonderful city -- you'd like it, I think. Thanks for the comment.

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  23. Welcome back! So glad you brought a lovely cocktail with you to toast the new season! Gorgeous as always!

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    1. Hi Liz, isn't this a nice cocktail? Learning about it was well worth the trip. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  24. Welcome back, John. I'm glad you enjoyed your summer. I loved reading about the history of Harvard University. It is world class just like the cocktail! Love the image of the cocktail with the nuts behind it xx

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    1. Hi Charlie, Harvard really does have an interesting history -- I could have written loads more about it. Glad you like that particular image -- my favorite of the lot. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  25. I definitely needed a few of these (ok maybe just one) after my stressful move last week. I'll have to get this next time I travel to Boston. Great post John!

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    1. Hi Yi, moving is the pits, isn't it? Drinking this is the antidote! ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  26. Replies
    1. Hi Lux, you're welcome! And thanks for stopping by.

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  27. Hi, John....I do love reading about your history-cocktails. This is beautiful, I have never been to Boston but would love to visit there. Glad to hear you had a wonderful vacation :)

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    1. Hi Pat, Boston has so much to see -- definitely worth a trip sometime. And the Italian restaurants in the North End are fun. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  28. I've never been one to enjoy a brandy but this cocktail could make me change my ways. It sounds perfect for our cooler Fall nights. Thanks, John.

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    1. Hi John, brandy works really well with sweet vermouth, so I think you'd like this. Lotta flavor! ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  29. It sounds like you had a great vacation and I look forward to some Italian recipes coming up. Interesting facts about Harvard I didn't know, thanks. Your cocktail and photos are beautiful. --Rocquie

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    1. Hi Rocquie, we really had a wonderful time. Nice to get away, and nice to be back! Thanks for the comment.

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    1. Hi Kristi, it is yummy! Thanks for the comment.

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  31. I never knew that stirring and shaking this kinds of cocktails will make a difference, thanks for the new found knowledge

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    1. Hi Raymund, in fact we often shake drinks we "should" stir, but the clear ones do look better when you stir them. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  32. Glad to hear your vacation was nice. I need to try this cocktail ... as a little girl I always thought I wanted to go to Harvard.

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    1. Hi Laura, Harvard is a great school, although there are tons others that provide a good undergraduate education. Where Harvard shines, IMO, is its graduate schools. Thanks for the comment.

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  33. Glad to hear you had a nice vacation! I love Boston and the area - it's so fun plus I like being near the ocean. This drink looks lovely!

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    1. Hi Amy, isn't Boston so nice? We had a great time! Thanks for the comment.

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  34. I may not have gone to an Ivy League college. But I think a sip of this will make me feel quite brilliant. ;)

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    1. Hi Carolyn, yup, drink one of these and you're scholarship material. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  35. My coworker loves Boston and visits as often as he can. I've never been, but from his stories, it sounds like a fantastic experience. I'm glad your back with yet another fantastic cocktail!

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    1. Hi Kristi, Boston really is a cool city -- definitely worth visiting if you ever get the chance. Thanks for the comment.

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  36. Never been to Boston or Cape Cod, but one day we'll make the rounds in New England. Sounds like you and the Mrs. had a wonderful time! Maybe I can score some extra credit at my next little dinner party by making this cocktail! Gorgeous pictures, as always. Glad your back! :)

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    1. Hi Marcelle, this cocktail definitely scores extra credit! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  37. Welcome back! You were missed. Trust the holiday was awesome! Cin cin to this one.

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    1. Hi Liz, we had a terrific holiday. But it's always good to return home. Thanks for the comment.

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  38. I'm going to make some of these and when I serve them I'll call them Hahvahd cocktails - just to remain authentic. Any great vacation photos to share? I'm homesick for New England, you know. :)

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    1. Hi Maureen, took a bunch of pictures -- haven't sorted through them yet, however. And you've definitely got the proper accent for this. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  39. Ok, I'm running to the liquor store today because my American cousins are here for Canadian Thanksgiving and they will be blown away by this drink. I was a bartender in my university days so I'll see if I can resurrect some skills, lol.
    Love this, John - thanks! And you photos are always spectacular :)

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    1. Hi Robyn, make one of these and your bartender skills will be back at graduate level. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  40. Welcome back ... glad to see you shine again with your creations. I have never been to Boston but I would love a tour in the eastern cost just have to wait until next summer, I've heard winter there is so harsh.

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    1. Hi Amira, Boston -- in fact the entire east coast -- is so much fun to visit. We prefer fall or spring, to miss winter/summer weather. Thanks for the comment.

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  41. Welcome back - glad you had a fun trip. This cocktail looks and sounds like keeper! YUM.

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    1. Hi Pam, this definitely is a keeper! Such great flavor. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  42. Hi John , welcome back , looking forward to dishes you are preparing for us .
    I was out of action last month not by choice , Mother Nature had a say ...out from the 10th Sept. --today 10-9-15 . lot of catching up to do .Again welcome back :) Nee

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    1. Hi Nee, sorry you've been out of action! Glad it looks like things are getting back to normal. Thanks for the comment.

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  43. Sounds like a great trip and a really fun recipe. I love how simple it is too.

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    1. Hi Chris, we had a wonderful time! Thanks for the comment.

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  44. So glad to you have you both back! We missed your lovely posts and great recipes. I haven't been to Boston in a long time - can't wait to hear more about your adventure. The color in this drink is lovely!

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    1. Hi Tricia, this really is a nice looking drink. And tastes even better! Thanks for the comment.

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  45. I have lived in Boston area for 3 years and your Harvard cocktail post made me miss New England this time of the year. Sounds like you had a wonderful trip. Welcome back!

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    1. Hi Holly, Boston is wonderful in the fall, isn't it? Nice weather, beautiful leaves! Thanks for the comment.

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  46. Now this delicious drinks looks like the perfect study break drink, After all midterms are well under way. Love that gorgeous deep amber color just like the fall. I can't wait to see some photos from your trip. Is this your alma mater? Missing the fall weather of the States, I am sure it is just gorgeous. Good news thanks so much for the push, shooting in the raw and loving it, have so much to learn from you, the pro... Have a super weekend and welcome back.

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    1. Hi Bam, really great that you're shooting RAW -- makes a big difference, doesn't it? Love the control. We had a great time on vacation -- glorious weather. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  47. Beautiful drink! And welcome back. Boston, along with Chicago and New York City is on my list to visit.

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    1. Hi Lea Ann, all 3 of those are great places to visit! Thanks for the comment.

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  48. I think I would need the grenadine for sweetness. Great cocktail and glad you guys had a great vacay!

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    1. Hi Debra, the grenadine adds a nice touch of color to the drink (in addition to sweetness, of course). Thanks for the comment.

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  49. I'm glad you had a great vacation!! I also like brandy and find it warming at certain times during the year!

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    1. Hi Ashley, brandy is great, isn't it? And wonderful in this drink! Thanks for the comment.

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  50. Boston's a great city, and I'm glad you had a good holiday. Looking forward to all that Italian food later this month!

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    1. Hi Beth, we love Boston, and it's been far too long since we last visited. Won't make that mistake again! ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  51. Boston is one city I still have on my list, would love to see it. This cocktail looks beautiful. Can't wait to see what you blog about next!
    Eva http://kitcheninspirations.wordpress.com/

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    1. Hi Eva, Boston is a wonderful city! Great food, loads of sights, and wonderful museums. Well worth a visit. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  52. Welcome back, I bet you had a great vacation but you were missed. Sounds like a cocktail I think I might like even though I've left New England and the cool weather.

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    1. Hi Karen, we had a great time! Now that you're in Florida you may need to wait until January before the weather will be cool enough for this drink. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  53. HI John,

    Welcome back to blogging!

    Oh! I like the name of this cocktail. So clever and confident! We just came back from SF and LA... but have never been to Boston before and I love to visit this wonderful destination one day.

    Zoe

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    1. Hi Zoe, I hope you had a great trip! We did. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  54. Welcome Back John! I'm sure you enjoyed your trip! This looks like a great cocktail

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    1. Hi Peachy, we had a wonderful time. And this really is a great drink. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  55. Welcome back! It's always a good thing to get away for a bit. Another great cocktail. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Hi Dawn, always love getting away. Then always love returning. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  56. Welcome home, hope you had a super dooper holiday, and you are feeling refreshed and ready for the next few months as we zoom toward Christmas.

    Our head bar guy just walked past my computer and swooned (in a man way) at this cocktail. Looks like another of yours makes it to the National Press Club of Australia bar list. #winning :)

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    1. Hi Anna, we had a great time off! But now we're ready with loads of recipes to write about. ;-) This cocktail is definitely swoon-worthy. Looks great, and tastes wonderful. Thanks for the comment.

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  57. Somehow I do not use brandy very often...but after seeing this drinkI will definitely change my mind...looks so elegant!

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    1. Hi Juliana, we like brandy a lot in cocktails. Really combines well with other ingredients to make some interesting beverages. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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