Cheers to the First!

While celebrating the upcoming nuptials of Ira and his wife Kara, the Bittercube guys took a stroll down memory lane, talking about their first and most important cocktails.

Nick’s Cocktail: Jackson Pollock

This cocktail is the first that I was proud of and it came to fruition because the chef at Talk Town Diner had been using basil oil as a garnish on his fish plate. We were always focusing on what we could bring to the bar from the kitchen and this was one of those aha moments.

The formula as you see it now is very different than the original as I had pretty poor technical skills and classic cocktail methodology at the age of 26. It wasn’t until meeting Ira that I found out why a jigger was important and that powdered sugar shouldn’t go in drinks all the time. To this day, the Jackson Pollock is a staple in our Bittercube repertoire 9 years later.

I created this cocktail for the 2nd Bombay Sapphire Cocktail Competition in Minneapolis circa 2007. Although the cocktail is a winner, I lost.

The Recipe

Jackson Pollock x250
12 oz Grapefruit juice
14 oz Lime juice
12 oz Simple syrup
1 12 oz Bombay Sapphire Gin
12 oz Sparkling Wine
1 dash (1 eye dropper) Bittercube Jamaican #2 Bitters

Garnish: Paprika & Basil Oil

Combine all ingredients except sparkling wine in cocktail shaker. Fill with ice and short shake. Add sparkling wine to shaker and give it a quick stir. Place Hawthorne strainer on top of shaker tin and strain cocktail through tea strainer into glass. Garnish with a few drops of each oil.

Ira’s Cocktail: Six Corner Sling

The Six Corner Sling was the first cocktail that I was really proud of. I worked on it for quite a while and once I felt it was getting close, I made it for my partners in crime at The Violet Hour in Chicago, Stephen Cole, Kyle Davidson and Michael Rubel. The first guest that tasted it was a regular at the time, and now friend and huge Bittercube supporter, Karl Davis. I could always count on his honest feedback.

This drink was a riff on the Bittered Gin Sling found in Eric Felton’s How’s Your Drink and is still a Bittercube favorite. The spirit is Old Overholt Rye (much to the chagrin of Rubel), with Punt e Mes, lemon and Green Chartreuse.

The Recipe

Six Corner Sling
¾ oz Lemon juice
¾ oz Simple syrup
1 12 oz Old Overholdt Rye
¾ oz Punt e Mes

1 eye dropper Washington Island Bitters
1 eye dropper Bittercube Orange Bitters

 18 oz Green Chartreuse
Top: 1 oz Seltzer

Glass: Collins with ice
Garnish: Orange and Lemon Peels expressed and inserted

Combine ingredients in cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake. Fill Collins glass with ice and pour Chartreuse over ice. Add seltzer to cocktail shaker. Place Hawthorne strainer on top of shaker tin and strain cocktail through tea strainer into the glass. Express orange and lemon peels and insert in glass.

Marco’s Cocktail: Daiquiri

I don’t think I’ve mastered any of them but I do remember the first cocktail I butchered was a Daiquiri.

I was making it for Nick & Ira and shaking terribly. I was a ripe nineteen year old, my first time holding a tin set, and the first day of training for the upcoming Eat Street Social in Minneapolis. Those two staring at me from the other side of the bar was the most terrifying thing I had experienced.

After finishing (I wince at using that word, I’m pretty sure they gave me pity and let me go) I went and smoked as many cigarettes as I possibly could, took a nip, then walked back in deciding that I wanted to be better at this. I hadn’t been around individuals that held such conviction & passion in a long time, and at that moment I was hooked. Haven’t looked back since.

The Recipe

¾ oz Lime juice
¾ oz Simple syrup
2 oz Plantation 3-Star Rum
1 dash (1 eye dropper) Bittercube Jamaican #1

These days I drop the 3-star to 1 oz and do a half oz of two more rums –one that has some French hogo and one aged that is more Spanish/English colonial.

Glass: Coupe
Garnish: Lime Wheel

Combine all ingredients in cocktail shaker. Fill with ice and shake. Place Hawthorne strainer on top of shaker tin and strain cocktail through tea strainer into glass. Garnish with lime wheel.

Brandon’s Cocktail: 5th Ward Gimlet

I don’t remember my first cocktail but my favorite cocktail when I first started with Bittercube at the age of 26 was the 5th Ward Gimlet at Blue Jacket in Milwaukee. I made this drink for Nick, Ira, Marco and the entire front of house staff.

Our training involved timed trials where we made multiple cocktails at a time from the menu. This was one of the most nerve wracking experiences in my initial bartending training. We were all given a set of different cocktails to make for the training. I remember my hands not shaking as much as during the Seven Pillars training, which gave me the tiniest bit of relief, but then I was asked to make two stirred cocktails and two shaken simultaneously. When the clock starts, I begin building my drinks and sweating as all my coworkers stared into my soul. I clearly remember Marco telling me to look up. When he showed me how to stir and shake he said “Look up at your guest, smile and wink”. I thought to myself, I will never be as sexy as him.

The Recipe

5th Ward Gimlet
¾ oz Lime juice
1 oz Lavender syrup
2 oz North Shore Mighty Gin
1 dropper Bittercube Door County Hops Bitters

Glass: Coupe
Garnish: Lime Wheel

Combine all ingredients in cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake. Place Hawthorne strainer on top of shaker tin and strain cocktail through tea strainer into glass. Garnish with lime wheel.


12 Days of Cocktails: The Chocolate Martini

Chocolate Martini

1/4 oz Heavy Cream
1/4 oz Dutch Chocolate Syrup*
1 oz Modest Vodka
1 oz Chocolate Liqueur
1 Dasher Bittercube Trinity Bitters

Glass: Martini or Coupe
Garnish: Chocolate pearls or shavings


Put all ingredients into cocktail shaker. Add ice. Shake and double strain into glass. Garnish. Enjoy!

Dutch Chocolate Syrup

12 c Water
5 tsp Vanilla Bean Paste
20 g Cocoa Nibs
2 g Salt
600 g Dutch Baking Cocoa Powder
8 c Granulated Sugar
3/4 c Corn Syrup

Bring water, vanilla and cocoa nibs to a boil over medium high heat. Remove from heat and steep for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, combine salt, cocoa powder and granulated sugar and set aside. Strain out cocoa nibs when they have finished steeping. Whisk in dry ingredients until combined. Whisk in corn syrup. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

12 Days of Cocktails: The Buzz Words

Buzz Words

¼ oz Demerara Syrup
1 oz Black Bottle Scotch
½ oz Old Forester Bourbon
½ oz Amaro Sfumato Rabarbaro 
1 Dash Bittercube Corazon Bitters

Glass: Rocks
Garnish: Cocktail Cedar smoked glass; lemon peel, expressed and inserted

Smoke the glass.* Meanwhile, add all ingredients into cocktail mixing glass. Add ice and stir until appropriately diluted. Strain into smoked glass. Express lemon peel and insert into glass. Enjoy!

*To smoke the glass, light the cocktail cedar and invert the glass. Hold the inverted glass over the lit cedar and let it fill with smoke momentarily (5-10 seconds). Leaving the glass inverted, place on a coaster. Put the flame out and tuck away the cedar for future use. Build cocktail.