Tiki Time: Zac Overman's Angostura Colada

Break out the lawn torches and rattan, and don a Hawaiian-print shirt: here's an original tiki drink recipe from bartender Zac Overman. You can ask Zac to make you one on Thursdays at Fort Defiance during Sunken Harbor Club, a weekly tiki night. American restaurateurs created this Polynesian-inspired class of cocktails––defined by rum and tropical juices, flowers and cocktail umbrellas––in the 1930s. While many of us have enjoyed an over-sweetened boat of (flaming) booze in a "Chinese" restaurant at some point, bartenders like Zac are reviving and reinventing the genre, and making some really good drinks. 

Photo: Vicky Wasik

Photo: Vicky Wasik

While playing around with different spice notes in 8- or 10-ingredient tropical drinks, I decided to simplify things and make bitters the star in a Piña Colada-esque cocktail. Angostura bitters have all the complexity and warm spice of a great tiki drink on their own! They needed a little rum to round them out––I'm using Smith and Cross, but any good aged Jamaican rum will do (think Appleton or Myers). After that, it's simply a matter of a little freshly squeezed pineapple and lime juice and cream of coconut. The result is a silky smooth, juicy, bittersweet drink that tastes like way more work than it is. 


  • 1 1/2 oz Angostura Bitters
  • 1 1/2 oz Coco Lopez (or Goya) Cream of Coconut
  • 2 oz fresh Pineapple Juice
  • 1 oz fresh Lime Juice
  • 1/2 oz Smith & Cross Navy Strength Jamaican Rum

1. Combine all ingredients with ice in a cocktail shaker.

2. Shake hard for 10 seconds and pour without straining into a snifter or tall glass––not a tiki mug––you'll want people to see the shocking red color. If needed, fill the rest of the glass with more ice.

3. Take a whole nutmeg and grate a little on top. Garnish with a pineapple chunk, a cocktail cherry, an umbrella, whatever you feel like jamming into it. It is a tiki drink, after all. 


You might also like:

The Traveling Daiquiri

Bourbon Peach Smash

Clover Club Cocktail

clover club cocktail

Who would think that a fluffy pink cocktail takes its name form an exclusive turn-of-the-last-century mens’ club? The look of the Clover Club cocktail is froofy, the taste is clear and refreshing, and the history is macho–evoking dark wood paneling, secret handshakes and bawdy laughs. Legend has it that Yeats or Twain could be found sipping one with dinner. And unlike many of the overpowing concoctions popular today, it’s gentle enough (in taste, at least) to enjoy with a meal. The bar in Brooklyn named after this drink/club is a great place to enjoy one, but you can easily make it at home.

Clover Club Cocktail

  • 3/4 ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/3  to 1/2 ounce grenadine or raspberry syrup (depending on sweetness)
  • 1 1/2 ounces London dry gin
  • 1 ounce egg white (yield of one medium egg)

1. Pour the ingredients into a cocktail shaker in the order listed (to avoid currdling the egg). Dry shake (no ice) to whip the egg white into a thick white froth. The spring from a strainer or a few small shards of ice can speed the process. It usually takes at least 60 second of hard shaking.

2. Open the shaker and add very cold ice, filling the shaker it nearly to the brim. Shake with the ice until the shaker is nearly too cold to touch, and strain into a chilled coupe or martini glass.

Hannah's Hint: The bacteria we worry about with eggs are mostly on the shell. To sanitize them before using raw, dip them in a bowl of vinegar water, then rinse. I splash about 1 Tablespoons of white vinegar per 2 cups of luke-warm water. (This is based on folklore and common sense, so do your own reserach if you are really worried).

Homemade Grenadine (it's really easy)

Did you love Shirley Temples too? I thought they were the height of sophistication (those and shrimp cocktails). Neon red cherries in syrupy soda might not seem so appealing now, but homemade grenadine could pave the way to a grown-up version (or something you won't feel bad about serving your kids). It's a key ingredient in a lot of classic cocktails too.

Homemade Grenadine
This grenadine is easy to make and WAAYYYYY better than store-bought.

  • 16 oz bottle POM Wonderful
  • about 1 cup superfine sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon pomegranate molasses (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons vodka (optional)

1. Pour off half the juice so the remainder reaches the waist of the bottle (drink what you’ve poured off or save it for something else).  Fill the bottle to the top of the next bulge, just below the neck, with superfine sugar. Screw the cap back on.

2. Shake fiercely until the sugar dissolves. It’s important to use superfine sugar, or this step will take all day. Once the sugar is dissolved, add the pomegranate molasses and vodka, if using. Shake to combine. Keeps refrigerated for months.

Note: sometimes I add a few drops of rose water too.

Sandy “Schmandy” Shandy

Check out this Sweets & Bitters recipe in the All Hands on Deck cookbook. It's a beautiful collection from Red Hook business, and all proceeds go to Restore Red Hook. Here is my Sandy story, and a cocktail to go with it.

Here is Sandy in a glass. A drink that makes lemonade of lemons, is bittersweet, doused with comforting whiskey, and tinged with salt. There are no measurements because who can find their jiggers in a flooded home or bar? And living through a hurricane has taught us to improvise and not be so hard on ourselves or so judgmental of others. We are doing the best we can, and still finding moments to enjoy–to be together.

I would have never thought that the feeling remaining after losing nearly everything would be gratitude, but here I am feeling more overwhelmed by kindness than devastation. The morning after Sandy, my apartment looked and smelled as though someone had put everything in a blender full of sewage, gasoline and seawater. The refrigerator was on top of the bookshelf on top of my bike–how would I ever find my chef’s knife and my grandmother’s pearls!? Overwhelmed, I retreated to collect my emotions on higher ground. When I returned a few hours later with my brother to bolster me, there was a clean-up crew of 8 people–friends and strangers–standing outside. They had sorted every last thing that might be salvageable into the garage and piled all the trash into the street: the ruined apartment was miraculously empty.

This is the most enormous act of kindness I have ever experienced or witnessed! It was followed by a bottle of whiskey shared with my shaken landlords, and a coat loaned by an also-devastated neighbor who couldn’t stand to see me shiver. As we dug into the next stage of cleaning and sorting a friend stopped by with a hot meal for us, another with wine in a mason jar. Each day I talk with my neighbors and friends and I hear us all saying the same thing, “I’m lucky” and “I’m worried about the people who are worse off.”

It’s not over yet, but here’s a drink to keep us going.

If you want to help with Sandy relief, consider volunteering with or donating to Occupy Sandy, Restore Red Hook, The Red Hook Initiative, Red Cross, or another group helping with aid and recovery efforts.

Sandy “Schmandy” Shandy

  • Beer, a bitter one if you can find it
  • Lemonade, fresh squeezed or not
  • Bourbon, or something like that
  • Black salt (yeah right like you have that around, so kosher salt will do)

Moisten and salt the rim of a pint glass. Put some ice cubes in it. Fill it not quite halfway with lemonade. Add a splash of whiskey, about ¼ cup. Top it with beer, and give it a gentle stir.


The Traveling Daiquiri

Forget about strawberries and blenders, a true daiquiri is a simple cocktail: rum, sugar and lime. The mildly grassy sugarcane notes of a decent rum and the sharp fragrance of fresh lime taste plenty tropical without the addition of slushy fruit. The daiquiri is the signature drink of Ernest Hemingway and John Mariani (I made one for the latter at Cook & Brown). And as I discovered on a recent vacation you can make a great one with an improvised shaker, dissolved sugar packets (intended for coffee), convenience store rum and lime pilfered from a tree outside your hotel window. When you're not relaxing on an Island, let a daiquiri transport you there. There's no excuse not to make one–wherever you are.

Basic Daiquiri

  • 2 oz golden rum
  • 1/2 oz fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 oz simple syrup or 1/3 oz rich demerara syrup

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker, fill it to the brim with ice, seal, and shake hard until nearly too cold to touch. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with lime, if you like.

Sweets & Bitters Cocktail

Sweets & Bitters Cocktial, photo courtesy blush

The weather is heating up here in New York, and so is our kickstarter campaign to print the first issue of Sweets & Bitters Quarterly. Here is a refreshing drink to cool you off. Sip one while you watch our video (we did while making it). Recipe follows.

Sweets & Bitters Cocktail

  • ½ oz fresh lime juice
  • ½ oz Lillet rose
  • ½ oz gin
  • ½ oz Aperol
  • scant ¼ oz maraschino liqueur
  • dash orange bitters
  • cava or other sparkling wine to top

Combine the ingredients (except cava) in a cocktail shaker. Fill it to the brim with very cold ice. Seal, and shake until nearly too cold to touch. Strain into a chilled 5 or 6 oz cocktail glass, and top with sparkling wine.

Lovage Savage, a Spring Aperitif

lovage savage cocktailSometimes the job of a drink (and the bartender) is not to stand out, but to work like a stagehand arranging scenery while the audience imagines they can’t see you. The lights come up and a drink is in their hand before they know they ordered it. It’s delicious, but subtle enough to recede behind good conversation: a backdrop. It creates anticipation, making the mouth water and setting the scene for an exciting meal to come.

This is that kind of drink. Dolin Blanc, a sweet white Vermouth, forms a light foundation for a cocktail that refreshes without intoxicating. A splash of Bittermen’s Citron Savage gently awakens the tastebuds with a hint of bitter herbs and citrus. Slap a sprig of lovage between your hands to release a fragrance like floral celery. And finish the drink’s perfume with a twist of aromatic citrus--bergamot, sweet lime, or meyer lemon.

Lovage Savage Cocktail Recipe

(savage pronounced with a french accent...or should we call it the Savage Lovage?)

  • 2 oz Dolin Blanc
  • 1/2 oz Bittermen's Citron Savage
  • sprig Lovage
  • 1/2 section of peel from aromatic citrus (bergamot, sweet lime, or meyer lemon)

Build the drink in a rocks glass over ice, and stir to chill. Slap the sprig of lovage to release its fragrance, and twist the peel over the glass to mist it with citrus oil.

The Old-Fashioned Old Fashioned

My first Old Fashioned, bourbon muddled with cherries and orange slices, eased me from sipping Shirley Temples toward savoring potent libations. It was a drink I’d heard of. It sounded serious and adult, and earned me approving looks from bartenders and gentlemen.

Now (with a few years of bartending behind me) I make one by stirring a little simple syrup and bitters into whiskey, then garnishing it with a twist of orange peel. The Old Fashioned means many things to many people, but the constants are: a brown spirit, bitters and sugar. Despite lowbrow associations, there’s nothing wrong with the muddled fruit version. In fact, famed cocktailian Gary Reegan is a proponent. In Wisconsin they make them with brandy and top the drink off with sweet soda.

In its purest form, the Old Fashioned is the quintessential cocktail. Its ingredients comprise what was originally called, simply, a cocktail. It was supposed to be medicinal; I take comfort in one after a particularly long day, or at the onset of a cold.

Adding bitters and sugar to a brown spirit is like adding salt and pepper to food. It enhances its inherent flavors. Put a little absinthe in the mix, and you have an improved cocktail. Make your improved cocktail with rye and Peychaud’s, and you have a Sazerac. In any case, a mist of oil from a citrus peel really sends it over the top.

Old Fashioned Cocktail

This recipe is for an old-fashioned Old Fashioned. It’s a good formula for experimenting with combinations of spirits and bitters. You might try different sweeteners too (adjusting the proportion accordingly), like honey, maple, agave, or liqueur.

2 to 2 ½  oz bourbon, or other brown spirit
¼ to ½ oz simple syrup*
a few dashes bitters
lemon or orange twist

Measure into a mixing glass, stir with ice until chilled, and strain over rocks

*equal measures of sugar and hot water dissolved together

Golden Lasso

What shall I serve for the Wonder Women’s art opening? A seventies cocktail named the Wonder Woman calls for neon green Midori and layered tropical juices: not my kind of drink. This heroine deserves better.

I present the Golden Lasso. The rum, like Wonder Woman herself, is from an Island and crafted by a woman. The color and the powers of the drink--of any drink--are like her lasso, golden and truth-inducing. Finally, it too has Aphrodite’s blessing (this time in the form of cocktail bitters). It’s sexy and enticing, but could knock you out if you’re not careful.


Golden Lasso Recipe

1 ½ oz Appleton Rum

1oz tangerine juice

½ oz lime juice½ oz creole shrubb

drop of orange flower water

1 barspoon honey

4 dashes Aphrodite bitters

Measure the ingredients, and stir to disolve honey. Shake. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. If you like, garnish with a twist.

A drink to start the festivities

For  a Thanksgiving cocktail, I had in mind an autumnal aperitif that would  whet the apetite...a spirited libation that could take the edge off both  chilly air and holiday anxiety....yet something light enough in alcohol  not to floor us before our meal (and freely flowing wine and aquavit)  has even begun.

1 ½ oz bourbon or rye

¾ oz cider

½ Carpano Antica*

½ oz fresh lemon juice

⅓ oz Wood’s Boiled Cider**

dash angostura bitters

Pour  all the ingredients into a shaker. Fill it with ice. Shake it hard,  until it’s nearly too cold to touch. Strain the drink into a chilled  cocktail glass. Alternately: make a huge batch, ice it, and serve it as  punch.

*Carpano  Antica, an herbaceous Italian vermouth, isn’t available everywhere. If  you can’t easily find it, use another sweet vermouth and an extra dash of  bitters.

**Wood’s  Boiled Cider is a syrupy cider reduction. You could replace it with a  rich demerara syrup. Gently heat and stir 2 parts demerara (raw) sugar  with one part water until dissolved. Use what you need and keep the rest  in your refrigerator to make yourself an old fashioned when all the  guests are gone.

Toddy Time

It’s getting chilly here in New York. There’s no comfort like a toddy to take the chill from your bones before you nod off under a heap of blankets. And these are recipes that don’t require careful measuring: an important feature when you’re cold and tired.

Whiskey Toddy
This soothes a sore throat as well as cough syrup, and tastes a lot better.

big splash whiskey
half a lemon
generous spoonful honey
(herbal tea, optional)

Squeeze the lemon into a mug, straining the juice through your fingers to catch the seeds. Add the honey and whiskey. Top this with boiling water and stir. Use a teabag if you like. I like to throw the lemon rind right in. Taste it, and add more lemon or honey or whiskey if it needs it.

Variation: Breuckelen Gin makes a limited amount of aged gin, which I’ve been enjoying in my toddies. Ransom Old Tom would also be delicious.

Spiked Cider
Bitters are an easy way to add the flavor of mulling spices to a mug of cider. I favor Angostura, Bitter Truth Aromatic, or Fee’s Old Fashioned. Whiskey or rum could stand in for the apple brandy.

apple cider
apple brandy/applejack

Heat a mug of cider, douse it with booze, stir it, and dash a few drops of bitters on top.

Now cozy up!