Sake Gumi
Rachel Maddow

Last week I had the distinct honor of being one of five NYC mixologists chosen by Gothamist for a special event involving three of my favorite entities: Scotch, cocktails, and Rachel Maddow. The event was held in the private Gonzo Room (named after the late great Hunter S. Thompson) of Aspen in the Flatiron, and our directive was to mix and serve Scotch cocktails for the guest of honor, Ms. Maddow.

For those who don't know, in addition to hosting a show on MSNBC, Rachel is a connoisseur of classic cocktails--meaning among other things, she enjoys her Old Fashioneds the old fashioned way, sans muddled fruits. Also in case you didn't know, she is as cool, humble, and flat-out nice a person as you're likely to meet. Seriously, you'd wish your best friend was this nice.

Rachel & Pay

The premise of the event came from an interview of Ms. Maddow whereby she expressed an interest in exploring Scotch drinks beyond the common Blood and Sand Cocktail; so Gothamist rounded us up and challenged us to present other tasty ways of featuring Scotch in a cocktail. The Dalmore sponsored the event and was generous enough to provide us a wide array and seemingly endless supply of their fine Scotch. Yes, I was as happy as a kid in a liquor store that night.

The Dalmore



The other mixologists that evening--a who's who of mixological mastery to be sure--were Richard Boccato of Dutch Kills, Yael Vengroff of Pegu Club, Jennifer Nelson of Buttermilk Channel, and Jason Litrell of The Randolph. And though the event was billed as a contest, the vibe was less like a competition and more like a cross between a study group and a team relay. Once one of us made a drink, we'd pass it around, share thoughts, and help cleanup for the next person. I was completely humbled at the site of Richard Boccato offering to barback for the others anytime he wasn't mixing a drink--the equivalent of Peyton Manning grabbing towels and water for the rest of the squad.

Rachel, Pay, and Richard Boccato
Above from left: Rachel Maddow, myself, and Richard Boccato

Before the night was over Rachel got in on the act as well, slipping behind the bar to flex a little mixological muscle. She held a cocktail clinic of her own, serving up various cocktails including one my wife really enjoyed, the Bamboo. In the spirit of teamwork she poured the ingredients and I did the honors of providing the hard shake. And it was quite an honor for all of us,to be sure. I mean, how often does a Rhodes Scholar go behind the bar to serve you cocktails?


For those of you who read Happy Hour regularly, you've already seen the successful use of Scotch in cocktails, namely the Bobby Burns and the Cameron's Kick Cocktail. Below are the recipes for the cocktails featured that evening, including my offerings, the Affinity Cocktail and Modern Cocktail No. 2.

Affinity Cocktail

Affinity Cocktail (above)
1 oz Dalmore Gran Reserva
1 oz dry vermouth
1 oz sweet vermouth
2 dashes Bitter-Truth Jerry Thomas Bitters
Lemon twist

Stir well in a mixing glass with ice and strain into a chilled coupe. Squeeze lemon peel on top and garnish.

Modern Cocktail No. 2
1 oz Dalmore 15
1 1/2 oz Sloe gin
1 dash Orange bitters
1 dash Absinthe
1 dash house-made grenadine (don't buy the crappy sugary Rose's brand when it's so easy to make your own)

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled coupe.

Scotch Zoom (Richard Boccato)
2 oz Scotch whisky (unspecified)
3/4 oz honey
3/4 oz cream

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled coupe.

Jack Ward (Yael Vengroff)
1 1/2 oz Dalmore 15
1/2 oz Bonded Applejack
1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
1/2 oz fresh orange juice
1/2 oz grenadine (I don't need to repeat myself)
1/4 oz Benedictine
Absinthe to rinse glass

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass that's been rinsed with absinthe.

The Deather (Jennifer Nelson)
2 1/4 oz Dalmore 15
1/2 oz Lillet Blanc
2 dashes Highland Heather Bitters (can substitute with Peychaud's)
Absinthe to rinse glass
sugar cube
lemon wedge

Muddle sugar cube and lemon with the bitters. Combine with ice, Scotch, and Lillet. Strain into a cocktail glass that's been rinsed with absinthe and garnish with a lemon twist.

The Scottish Rite (Jason Litrell)
2 oz Dalmore 15
1/2 oz Oloroso Drysack Sherry
1/2 oz sweet vermouth
2 dashes Bittermens Xocolatl Mole Bitters
1 dash Benedictine

Stir and strain over an old fashioned glass with a block of ice and garnished with an orange peel.

There you have it folks. An exhaustive list of libations to say the least, that should have you drinking well into the weekend. Speaking of the weekend (or any day of the week for that matter), please don't forget to visit the fine folks above at their respected establishments. Tip them well when you do, and thank them for making cocktails worth drinking again, since not every city is this fortunate! Slainte!

Special thanks: Rachel Maddow, Jen Carlson at Gothamist, Eugene Smolenskiy, Laura Baddish, The Dalmore, and Richard Boccato (for simply being an indispensable source of cocktail knowledge and all-around nice guy; the man would literally give you the shirt off his back if you asked--so don't ask!)

*Got a cocktail question? Hit me on twitter, email me at payman(at)lifesacocktail(dot)com, or simply drop me a comment below!

Paystyle was born in Tehran and grew up in Los Angeles (aka Tehrangeles) before moving to Brooklyn with his wife and co-pilot Vanessa Bahmani who provides the stunning photography of Pay's cocktail concoctions. Return every Wednesday for his weekly Happy Hour column.