What’s this all about?

Understanding Cocktails is for those of you who want to know a little bit more about what's going into that $15 drink you ordered last night. Perhaps you'd like to know what all the fussing behind the bar is about or maybe you'd like to be able to say something other than; "it's nice" when someone makes you a drink. Still not sure? Check the about section out for more details.

Cosmopolitan – Drink #4

The darling of Hollywood and girls on the town everywhere , The Cosmopolitan features as our fourth drink. Unwittingly, we’ve found ourselves defending this on more than one occasion recently. We hope you take the time  read about this classic cocktail in the  the full Cosmopolitan feature.

If Candice Bushnell can spare some time, we might get round to writing a story some time.

The start of a spirited adventure

So I kind of took a break from cocktails. Not because I stopped drinking them or making them, but mostly about writing about them. Tales does that to people. But enough of the past, let’s talk about where spirits come from. No, not the bottle store.

Seriously, I thought I knew. Turns out you don’t know much until you start making your own spirits. And that’s what I’ve been doing.

Lots of work has gone in to whiskey/whisky making and it’s getting pretty respectable. But I thought I’d chronicle my rum making. This is my third attempt, and while it’s much more forgiving than whiskey, it’s not without a few challenges either. Watch and learn. There will be plenty of mistakes along the way.

What Cocktail? turns one today

It’s hard to believe it’s already been a year since we unleashed What Cocktail? on the world. There’s been some exciting triumphs (very briefly displacing Gordon Ramsey and Jamie Oliver for example) as well as being Gizmodo and TUWA‘s app of the day. Of course the very gracious Beautiful Pixels was one of the first to give us some serious support.

Handing out cards at Tales of the Cocktail was pretty fun too

Thanks everyone!

Download it for free today 

Mixology Monday – Pisco Sour and the Niche Spirits

Filip at Adventures in Cocktails was good enough to host this month’s Mixology Monday and so we thought we’d play along. In the category of niche spirits, we bring you the Pisco Sour.

One could accuse us of not being adventurous enough with our Mixology Mondays, but we’ve long-held the view that appreciating craft cocktails is esoteric enough for most folks and we should concentrate on doing a few things right. The thing we like to do right is describe the drinking experience for cocktails you actually have a chance of ordering at your local good bar. Coupled with the strong likelihood of inadvertently fanning the flames of a South American grudge match we thought we were challenged plenty.

Those of who follow us will know that we like our drinks sour. We’ve written about other members of the sour family before, but to be honest, our favorite is still the Pisco variety. It’s a drink that showcases the unique, musky, grappa like flavors of pisco. If you are new to this spirit, it’s from South American. The provenance is hotly contested by Chile and Peru where the manufacturing process differs somewhat . A debate that for the won’t be drawn into, except to say, we’ve had some lovely pisco from Chile and were very thankful that our friends brought it back for us.

The pisco sour cocktail itself is made with some lemon juice for the sour,  a bit of simple syrup, a lot of pisco, and a dollop of egg white for the proper foam. Garnish with bitters. Here’s how we made ours:

2 ounces pisco
juice of 1 lemon
half ounce of simple syrup
2 teaspoons of egg white

Shake over ice and strain into a champagne flute. Rather than garnish with the usual drop of angostura bitters we used Fey Brothers’ west indian orange bitters.


Sounds simple, but what does it taste like? More sophisticated and gentle than a whiskey sour. Maybe it’s the champagne flute we serve it in, but there’s something elegant about how it tastes. At the risk of sounding crass, for the amount of alcohol involved (our pisco is 40%) and the small amount of sweetness, this drink is deceptively smooth. The hints of grape are unmistakable but not too dominant.

If you are fortunate to have g00d quality pisco, then your night is set. We’re run out of ice, lemons, and egg whites before we get bored of the Pisco Sour. Sadly, if the spirit is second rate then we tend to move along after one or two. A sharp contrast to Margaritas where less than stellar tequila doesn’t dampen our enthusiasm.

Being a classic drink, the Pisco Sour can be found in What Cocktail? for your iphone. It’s been known to show up at the most opportune occasions.

Mixology Monday – the Aviation as a Floral Cocktail


An Aviation waiting to happen

When The Barman Cometh‘s Mixology Monday topic was declared ‘Flores de Mayo‘, for a brief second we thought of the Ramos Gin Fizz and orange blossom water, but then we came to our senses and realised that we should write about something we know and  that our dear readers might have a chance of ordering. So we went with our old friend the Aviation, made the original way, with crème de violette.


Where to begin? Undoubtedly, the Aviation is our favorite cocktail, so forgive us if we stray into misty-eyed autobiographical territory. We love it and return time and time again. Doug has his Pegu, Gazza has his Manhattan, but for us it’s the Aviation. The sad thing is, we rarely order it, preferring to make it ourselves – not a path we’d necessarily recommend for everyone, especially now with such great ingredients being available.

Way back when we first heard of it, maraschino liqueur was near impossible to find so it was a good thing the recipe we were working of didn’t call for violette because, as it turns out, it’s even more mysterious. So for a decade we made ours without. Then the wonderful purple coloured stuff came into our lives. Perhaps one day we’ll develop a sufficiently cultured nose to tell the difference between brands and  insist on a particular kind (like we do with maraschino).

When we make our Aviations we use just a splash of crème de violette for fear of floral notes being over powering (and recalling our dreadful first attempt with a Ramos Gin Fizz). All good things in moderation after all and going for just small hint of violet preserves the delicate balance. Combined with the juniper of the gin, the freshness of lemon, and the crazy-hard-to-define cherry taste of the maraschino the whole drink becomes more layered and complex. Here’s how we made it:

1.5 oz of  gin (we’re using a New Zealand variety called Lighthouse at the moment)
1/2 oz of maraschino liqueur
3/4 oz of lemon juice
a dash of crème de violette (slightly more if the maraschino is Maraska)

Shake over ice and serve in a cocktail glass and garnish with maraschino cherry if we are feeling particularly rambunctious.


Friends seem recall days spent with grandmother and those less charitable make some comment about it smelling old-fashioned (and not in a good Old Fashioned cocktail kind of a way either), but everyone seems fit to comment about an Aviation made with crème de violette.

No one will be surprised that the Aviation is included as one the classic drinks in the iphone app What Cocktail? but what is interesting is that it’s ranked number 7 by people who use the app. Well above such big names as the Cosmopolitan and the Lemon Drop. Clearly a discerning lot.

A big thanks to Dave at The Barman Cometh for hosting MxMo LVII.

Mixology Monday – Our Best – The Flightless Cocktail

This month’s Mixology Monday finds Chris at Spirited Remix asking us to put our humility aside and put forward our best drink. Sort of the opposite of cocktail  guilty pleasures. It should be an honest and original attempt to make a good drink – no hiding behind irony or kitsch.

What’s surprised us was that we even had such a drink. You see, we’ve long held the view that, like typography, there’s so many excellent specimens created by some insanely talented people over the years that it would take a life time just to appreciate them much less meaningfully add to the pantheon. Strangely enough though, we do indeed have such a drink. It’s been our little secret and occasionally is it made and foisted upon unsuspecting friends. Most of the time we’ve just tinkered away and tried to make it better when we felt the urge.

We’ve found that the best time to drink one is when you are feeling a little cheeky. Or maybe you’d just like a reason to be a little cheeky. Perhaps something to help you tell more jokes or become a little more chatty?

We’ve named this drink The Flightless Cocktail in thanks to our good friends at Flightless with whom we created the What Cocktail? iPhone app. They’d politely asked if we could make it blue. A request we promptly ignored.

This is a drink you smell first. Mint, lime, and passion fruit are all very exciting, and we think quite sympathetic to the nose. There’s a lightness and playfulness between the almond and lime tastes too. It’s important that the sweetness of the Amaretto and the tartness of the lime should complement. A strong sour taste is essential but it shouldn’t be too forward either. This balance is much the way that maraschino and violet work with lemon in an Aviation –  perhaps another justification for the name.

Here’s how we make The Flightless Cocktail.

  • 1.5 ounces of vodka (a premium like Grey Goose if we’re feeling silly)
  • 1 ounce lime juice
  • 0.5 ounce of Amaretto
  • 0.25 ounce of 42 Below Passion fruit vodka (a splash really because it very fragrant and can easily overpower)
  • a splash of cranberry juice

Add the ingredients to cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake and strain into chilled cocktail glass, garnish with mint.

We’ve experimented using fresh passion fruits (like the ones from our garden) and this can be quite tricky to get right and it’s very easy to go off into a whole world of sourness.

We’ve also tried a few variations, tearing up the mint, using more Amaretto (not advised), using more passionfruit vodka (not advised), not using cranberry juice (looks muddy), and turning it into a fizz (acceptable, but a bit of waste). We’ve also expended considerable effort trying to find a spirit other than vodka that would give us the results we wanted. Gin, nope. Rum, even Havana Club is too heavy. Tequila, interesting, but that’s a whole other drink.

Traditionalists, will tell you this is just a Cosmopolitan with Amaretto instead of Cointreau and some passion fruit flavouring thrown in. And they may have a point, but we like to think this little number is better mannered and will help people side step the unfair backlash of the Cosmo haters. We’re happy drinking our own creation in private, like it’s our little secret.

If nothing else it provides an opportunity to compare and contrast and quite frankly a little passion with about drinking has got to be a good thing.

We had planned on sneaking this drink into What Cocktail? with a super low probability of showing up. It was going to be a bit of inside joke and a nod to the team involved but ultimately it seemed a little too self-indulgent. Even for us.

We’d love to hear what you  think of The Flightless Cocktail.

Edit: If you are curious, you can read about what other people created for MxMo.

Honouring National Margarita Day

Plain and simple: we love Margaritas. Everyone has their a-ha drink and for us it’s the Margarita. Who knew lime, cointreau, tequila, and a salt rim could provide a transcendental experience?

Anyhow, apparently the 22nd of February is National Margarita Day. Like most things involving tequila the details are a little hazy: it seems self-declared rather than official and it’s all a bit confusing as to whose nation is having it. Personally, we are raising our cocktails glasses high in toast of what we consider “International Day of the Margarita”. Given that it’s Kim’s birthday as well (a happy coincidence if ever there was one) we suspect that the 23rd will be observed as International Day of the Hangover.

What Cocktail? special offer

To keep the fiesta going, we’ve also arranged for a special price drop for the What Cocktail? iphone app. For the duration of the festivities you can get the critically acclaimed, and much loved, app for USD$0.99 – the lowest Apple will let us sell it for. Get the What Cocktail? now.

Mixology Monday: You like that? You’ll love a Whiskey Sour

Once again we find ourselves intrigued by the topic of Mixology Monday. This time it is “Like that. You’ll love this” hosted at the eGullet spirits forum. As the keen reader will know, drink recomendation is near and dear to our heart. We even cooked up an iPhone app to help with that, but this topic is intriguing from both a taste and an academic point of view.

If you like a Lemon Drop (and we do!), then you’ll love a Whiskey Sour. In many ways the only change is spirit, but what a difference that makes. Some other details change too, like the garnish. And the glass. And the fact that it’s served on the rocks.

If we are playing compare and contrast, it may seem like crazy talk to try and move a Lemon Drop vodka drinker to a whiskey. Sure, one normally, one goes through all the clear spirits before playing with the aged rums, tequilas, and finally the whiskeys. But with this a great drink for people to get over their fear of brown spirits.

The Whiskey Sour, often mocked for being an old man’s drink, has lots going for it. It’s a bit manly, but also well behaved. It can be sipped slowly while waiting for friends to show up. The sweetness can be varied without disastrous effects (it’s certainly more forgiving than a Lemon Drop), the lemon helps excite the taste, and the whiskey immediately shows what a difference a spirit can make to a drinks character.

And that’s kind of the point of the whole exercise. Gaining an interest in spirits and their unique tastes go a long way to encouraging some cocktail exploration.

For the record, a Whiskey Sour is:

2 ounces of blended whiskey or rye
2 ounces of lemon juice (sometimes less if we are feeling surly)
half ounce of simple syrup.

Shaken and served in an ice filled tumbler or strained into a sour glass.

We made tonight’s drink from rye. Why? It must be a phase we are going through – a lack-of-blended-whiskey-at-home phase, perhaps. We were never going to use bourbon though. As Mark Kingswell said in Cocktail Culture:

It’s too sweet, it’s made from corn mash, it’s from the South: three sterling reasons to stay clear.

Truth be told, these are reason we cite about our Manhattans. Which we hope we can eventually encourage our would-be vodka drinker will enjoy. After they’ve had an Old Fashioned of course. Which would be the next step on from a Whiskey Sour. Maybe our reputation as a “cocktail pusher” is well deserved after all…

Big thanks to Chris at  eGullet’s Spirits & Cocktails Forum for hosting. What a great theme.

As for recommendations, have a look at What Cocktail? for the iPhone. It’s all about helping people explore different drinks based moods, time of day, and season. Some times it’s nice not having to choose.

What Cocktail? – News and Reviews

It’s been a busy time for our little app What Cocktail? so you’ll forgive us for not posting more often.

A few minor tweaks have been made to the app and new version has been sent to Apple. Look out for version 1.1

In case you are curious, here’s some of the write ups we’ve received.

Beautiful Pixels completely got it.

The app “What Cocktail?”, developed by flightless productions, helps you to find your perfect liquid companion within seconds, in a simple, mouth-watering interface and beautiful design.

This made our week and their loyal readers have rewarded us with a few sales. Thanks again guys, you rock.

We were very excited when Drink Gal ran a little review of What Cocktail? the other day. This was the first of the cocktail blogs to comment. They had some nice things to say about the design but no surprises they wanted more drinks. We suggest selecting a different mood or trying at another time of day. But we have some sympathy, reviewing an app is different from using it and we doubt they were ordering every drink that was recommended…:)

Some local media did a bit of spot on What Cocktail? and Flightless, which always nice to see.

We even got a mention in the “Things we Love” section of the Dominion Post. (see attached).

If you are a Facebook-y type person, then have a wander over to the What Cocktail page there and give it the old thumbs up!

What Cocktail? – Now For Sale

It’s finally out there! After all the hard work and all waiting for Apple to approve (which really only felt like a long time), What Cocktail? can now be purchased for your iPhone. Based around the drinks discussed here (and few more for good measure) it recommends a drink based on mood, time of day, and season.

Flightless did an outstanding job. You can see why they win awards for their interactive work. The images look fantastic and it all works just the way it should.

Love to hear what you all think.