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 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

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!

Bourboun Peach Smash

Peaches are ripening from coast to coast, and what could be more summery and American that a peach smash? Ok, maybe apple pie, so look forward to that recipe in the fall! For this recipe I suggest an inexpensive but good bourbon, like Four Roses Yellow Label. Depending how sweet your peaches are, adjust the lemon and simple syrup to taste.

2 oz Bourbon

1/2 peach, cut into a few pieces

1/2 oz simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water disolved together)

1/2 oz fresh lemon juice (seriously, it needs to be no older than a day)

a few mint leaves

(a sprig of mint for garnish)

Combine everything but the garnish in a cocktail shaker (I prefer a pint glass and Boston shaker).* Smash it a few times with a muddler or spoon. Shake it really hard with lots of very cold ice, then dump the whole mess into a glass. Add a bit of fresh ice. Slap the mint to bring out it's scent and use it to garnish.


*check back soon for posts and videos about basic cocktial skills in the "Tools & Techniques" section!