The Upside Downer – Halloween

The Upside Downer -

Happy Halloween everyone! I hope you have a lovely day (night?) of scary things (besides Trump), creepy happenings, and general merriment. Oh, and cocktails!

Surrounding this holiday, I saw a lot of different lists of cool black cocktails, so I made my own. Turns out activated charcoal is surprisingly expensive, but I think this came out pretty great, so it was worth it.

Also, if you haven’t seen Stranger Things, the source of this drink’s name, you should do it! Our friends had a Stranger Things themed Halloween party this weekend and it was great.

No news today, because Halloween.

The Upside Downer - Ingredients

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34. St. Charles’ Punch


Happy Fourth of July to all my US readers! And, happy fourth of July to all the rest of you. (No reason not to celebrate the day, I say.) In honor of this occasion, another delicious punch from a very American hero — I’ve said it before, but just to note again — the Bartender’s Guide is the first American cocktail handbook. A piece of history! And this drink is very patriotically colored. Now go make yourself a glass, and watch the fireworks.

No super interesting news stories today (other than my realization that we are just ten years away from the 250th birthday of the United States, which is exciting and also surprising that it hasn’t even been that long), so instead, a quick quote about the inspiration for this drink. It’s apparently named after the St. Charles Hotel in New Orleans at the time. Generously described in Mary Cable’s Lost New Orleans:

The St. Charles was certainly no common structure. It was taller than any building in New Orleans — six stories, surmounted by a gleaming white dome that could be seen for miles up and down the river. According to Norman’s 1845 guidebook, “The effect of the dome upon the sight of the visitor, as he approaches the city, is similar to that of St. Paul’s in London.” Mr. Norman, beside himself with admiration, went on to speak of the “indescribable effect of the sublime and matchless proportions of this building upon all spectators — even the stoical Indian and the cold and strange backwoodsman, when they first view it, are struck with wonder and delight.”

Sadly, it no longer exists. Drink to its memory!

Continue reading “34. St. Charles’ Punch”

Kopke Fine Ruby Port – News Flash


I think I like port now.

That’s the main conclusion I’ve drawn, after trying this very nice Kopke Fine Ruby Port, as well as the Port Wine Sangaree from a few weeks ago.

My first experience with port was about 10 years ago now, on a cold Christmas Eve night in Aberystwyth, Wales. It was included in a prix fixe meal as an after dinner drink, and I was super excited (for some reason), but when it came I hated it. Syrupy, too sweet, too alcoholic… I just wasn’t having it. A disappointing end to a delicious meal. And so, as a first impression, it was a poor one, and since then I’ve assumed that I didn’t like port. But now more and more I feel like it was probably just bad port.

Anyways, back to the Kopke. We received this as a part of the PiC’s Cheese of the Month subscription from the Cheese Store of Silverlake (if you’re in LA, check them out!) and it was a great choice. Just looking at the bottle,  I loved the design – it almost looks like a fake wine bottle from a cartoon or something (I pictured seeing XXX on the other side, like a big jug o’ alcohol). When we poured it, it was a beautiful deep ruby color. Apparently, and I just learned this, ruby port is aged in stainless steel, so doesn’t oxidize or change color (unlike tawny, etc., aged in wooden barrels).

Tastewise, it was very nice, fruit-forward and not too sweet or alcoholic tasting. Paired perfectly with the cheese that we had, and you could sip on this for a long time without getting tired, or it turning saccharine. A very fine ruby port. (See what I did there?)

It seems to retail for around $14.99, and a bottle would last you a fair amount of time (you wouldn’t want to drink it all in one sitting).


125. Port Wine Sangaree


My first thought upon seeing this particular recipe was that it was going to be like a sangria, due to the name. But it turns out that a) it’s not, and b) Sangaree is an older term for a rather vague set of cocktails from either the Antilles or Spain. Apparently, and this makes sense and I can’t imagine why I didn’t notice it before, it’s because they are usually reddish, and therefore look like blood (sangre in Spanish). Yay for etymology!

Anyways, I don’t really like port, but I thought that this might be a good start for good old Jerry, to see if he knows what he’s talking about. And he does! Though simple, this recipe brings out some good flavors and makes it easy to drink the spirit.

And, today, during a demonstration held in support of migrants, a number of protestors illegally boarded a ferry in the PORT of Calais, suspending operations. Just another event in a series caused by more and more migrants streaming into Europe from the Middle East. Luckily, this one does not appear to have been a bloody interchange. So, as the Spanish would say, no SANGRIENTA.

I’m both hilarious and informative.

This, and all recipes will be copied verbatim from the 1862 edition, with comments in italics.


Port Wine Sangaree

(Use small bar glass.)

  • 1½ wine-glass of port wine [A wine-glass is equal to 2 oz., ish, so this is 3 oz.]
  • 1 teaspoonful of sugar.
  • Fill tumbler two-thirds with ice.
  • Shake well and grate nutmeg on top.

I’ve encountered this problem where he doesn’t really specify between a mixing glass (I think that’s what he means by tumbler) and the final delivery vessel. Perhaps I’ll figure it out soon, but for now I combined ingredients and shook in a Boston shaker, then poured into ice in the glasses, adding the nutmeg after.

Port Prep

Tasting Notes:

BN: I liked this — it didn’t taste medicine-y like a lot of port I’ve had (which, generally, I hate), and the sugar somehow made me like it better, even though port is usually too sweet for me. I couldn’t really taste the nutmeg, but maybe I didn’t put enough in.

PiC: I liked this. I don’t know much about port, but I could taste the nutmeg at the end of the sip. It’s good!