On this episode of “Cocktail College,” host Tim McKirdy discusses the Bamboo — a century-old drink that represents a complex marriage between sherry, vermouth, and bitters. The resulting drink comes out on the lower end of the alcohol content spectrum, making it easy to sip throughout the night.
But how does one make a cocktail with fortified wine as its base? And with countless varieties of Spanish wine available, are there any variations on the Bamboo that can be explored? Joined by Alex Day, bartender and partner at Death & Co., McKirdy tackles these questions and more — and gets pro tips from Day on how to approach the Bamboo.
Tune in to learn more about the Bamboo.
ALEX DAY’S BAMBOO RECIPE
- 1 ½ ounces amontillado sherry
- ¾ ounce blanc vermouth
- ¾ ounce dry vermouth
- 1 dash of orange bitters
- Garnish: lemon twist
- Add all ingredients to a mixing glass filled with ice and stir until chilled.
- Ideally, the sherry and vermouths will be fridge-cold prior to mixing, and stirring should take around two-thirds of the amount used to mix higher-ABV cocktails, such as the Martini.
- Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon twist.
CHECK OUT THE CONVERSATION HERE
Tim McKirdy: Welcome to VinePair’s “Cocktail College.” I’m your host, Tim McKirdy. And today, we are joined by Alex Day. Thank you so much for joining us.
Alex Day: Thank you so much for having me, Tim. I’m excited to be here.
T: I’m excited to have you on the show and very excited to talk about today’s drink, because I think this is one that maybe not everyone will be familiar with. It’s certainly a classic, but also definitely different to anything we’ve covered so far in the show. So that’s exciting. Today, we’re talking about the Bamboo. So tell me, Alex, what is a Bamboo, and what makes it unique or notable?
A: The Bamboo is just perfect. It’s like a holy marriage of sherry and vermouth, rounded out by a little bit of bitters. It has a long, storied history, but also this sort of fetish moment with bartenders in the last decade of unpacking it and really just exploring all of its ingredients. What I love most about it is that it drinks like a much higher-proof cocktail than it actually is. As I’ve gotten older and changed my drinking habits, it’s nice having a cocktail that punches softly. But it also has an incredible amount of complexity, doesn’t have citrus, and is consumed much like a Manhattan or a Martini. To me, it’s just a really, really great opportunity to sit with a drink and explore the characteristics.
T: Some folks listening might be hearing that summation there and saying, “OK, so this is a cocktail without a base spirit.”
A: There’s no base spirit to be found; just wines that have been manipulated. Classically speaking, from the oldest recipes that we can find, you’re talking a large amount of fino sherry, dry vermouth, orange bitters, and Angostura bitters. So it is bone dry, it strips your tongue away a little bit, but it’s very clean in its flavor. So there are no spirits whatsoever. But because of the complexity of those ingredients — the vermouth, the sherry, the bitters — it has the personality of a much more pungent cocktail.
T: Fantastic. Before we dive into those ingredients, do you want to give us any historical context for this drink? That also might relate to sherry, because it’s definitely very popular among a certain set of drinkers these days — notably in cocktails but in wine as well. It’s geeky to like sherry, but it’s steeped in history. Can you give us some context for the drink before we get going?
A: For sure. Sherry may be in the cool kids club now, but there’s a long history of sherry being incredibly popular on a global level — specifically within cocktails. I’m not a historian; I love cocktail history and booze history, but we know that there’s a record of sherry being immensely popular in the mid-1800s. There’s that famous Edgar Allan Poe poem from the 1850s. And on a larger, globalized market, it’s now happening that casks of sherry are just going all over the planet. It’s no mistake that Jerry Thomas called the Sherry Cobbler the most popular cocktail in America. So in the late 1800s, there was sherry in every notable bar. It isn’t much of a surprise, then, that this ingredient that was being consumed a lot started being played with in some different ways. There are a couple of divergent histories here, and one says that this German-born bartender worked in San Francisco around the time of Jerry Thomas and was recruited to come over to Japan and work at this wonderful bar there. And that’s where he created the Bamboo. But other people say he probably invented it in San Francisco before. My personal feelings about cocktail history is that I don’t care. It was invented around then, and everyone was drinking it. But we know it’s really old, and that’s the important part of it. What I love about this is that we’re talking about a time in history when so many iconic cocktails that are still heralded today were formed and created. I think of those less as the actual cocktails. Yes, there are your Manhattans and Martinis and all these variations. Really what they are is humans and bartenders finding balance; these harmonies that make sense and feel really good and that we all agree upon. We like it a lot. Those are the templates by which I’ve spent a lot of time writing. “Cocktail Codex” is each one of those six harmonies and is then expressed in different ways. It shows this weird idea that sherry and vermouth came together during that time too, and essentially faded into nothingness until recently. The parts of history that I really like are the underdog stories.
T: Just listening to you there sums up what we try and do when we make cocktails, or what amazing professionals such as yourself are trying to do. We’re taking two historical ingredients here at a time where they were ubiquitous and people are saying, “OK, how do we mix them together so that they work? What’s the technique? What are some supplementary ingredients that we can add to bring balance and these two incredible ingredients together in a way that they do work?” That’s the same with making any cocktail, and the Bamboo offers us that example.
A: I think it does, and to your point, it is a larger conversation. It’s about what the modern palate is as well as a recognition of what ingredients are now. It’s incredibly valuable to look back at history and be almost a literalist about it. Look at a recipe and say, let’s make that; let’s understand what the intention was behind this. There are so many layers that need to peel off and be like, “Was sherry like the sherry we know now? Was vermouth like that now?” I’m sure you guys talked about it before, but limes, when the Daiquiri was created, were probably not like limes now. What is the intention of this balance and trying to understand it? And I think that’s where traditionalism intersects with evolution and in taking these ideas and understanding the intent. Perfecting to one’s own aesthetic and what they think that idealized version is and then what does the evolution of that look like? To me, that is what modern bartending is. It’s pushing the volume of what some of these forms look like. Within the context of the Bamboo, it’s rife with opportunity, even though it presents itself as so simple. The spectrum that is sherry as a category is vast. It’s the driest wine you’ve ever had, to the sweetest wine. That’s an incredible opportunity. It was only a few years ago when we had a handful of vermouths accessible to us, and now, we have tons of traditional and contemporary styles. Within the written recipe of a Bamboo, there are almost limitless opportunities. That, in itself, is another example of why cocktails and bartending are so magical and so different from other culinary arts.
Breaking Down the Bamboo’s Key Ingredients
T: You mentioned a word before that comes up often and I often like to gravitate towards, and that’s “intent.” That comes up so often in “Cocktail College” with what we’re trying to do here. So let’s start by talking about the Bamboo. Whether you’re making one yourself or whether someone hands one to you, what are you looking for from that perfectly balanced version and iteration of that drink?
A: First and foremost, much like any cocktail, I’m looking for harmony of ingredients — that they interact well together and that they had thought behind their assemblage. In this case of Bamboo, it’s the personality of the sherry and the personality of the vermouth, and the layers of complexity or dynamics that the bitters bring into the equation. That can be many different things. Let’s say it was a summer day, late afternoon. If somebody served me a Bamboo made with a very dry style of sherry, dry vermouth, orange bitters, and a lemon twist, that sounds perfect to me. Conversely, it’s winter now. It’s a little chilly and currently dark outside. I would love an amontillado sherry, which has a little more richness and nuttiness to it along with dried vermouth and maybe a blanc vermouth and a dash of orange butter. You get a little bit more depth. Setting has a lot to do with what I think makes the perfect version of any particular drink. In the context of the Bamboo, it’s dialing it in and finding that perfect version of it in that moment. It’s a pretty complex equation because it requires a lot of knowledge of the ingredients and a depth of awareness of how they interact with one another.
T: And we’re talking about three ingredients with remarkably complex flavors all coming together. You talk about it like a scale of opportunity, but also a scale of complexity within each one. Let’s break those down one by one, obviously starting with sherry. When people fall in love with sherry, everyone has this moment where, “Why isn’t this more popular?” Because it is so phenomenal. One thing that’s often cited is that it’s more difficult to understand than wine. Let’s start with some quick-fire questions about sherry. And then, we’ll look closer at different styles. With sherry, we’re talking about fortified wine. How can we briefly sum it up so that we can win over these people who are perhaps confused?
A: Sherry has a bad reputation or has been kicked into some bad marketing. Its popularity historically died out for a number of reasons, but really only survived through the lens of sweet sherries or cream sherries. It’s understood as something you drink post-meal or stereotypically, that your granny would have a little glass of every night. That really represents one type of sherry. Backing up from there, sherry is a style of wine that’s made in a very specific region of southern Spain in a number of different ways. What’s really interesting about sherry is that it is a byproduct of the geology and biology of the one place on the planet where this can be made. That kind of language is thrown around a lot with spirits, with wine, with beer, and rightfully so. The sense of terroir is a real thing. Sherry represents a more sophisticated understanding of terroir where, if you study wine, it’s a reflection of the land. But if you go deeper than that, it is a reflection of the culture and traditions of a place. And then, an added thing called flor, which is a yeast that exists only in this area that will form as a layer on a finished wine and really protect it from oxidizing. So this wine will sit in barrels, this flor will sit on top of it, and not only protect the wine but also consume the sugars in it. So it will become really, really, really, really dry. That flor will sometimes die out, and it will then start interacting with the oxygen in the barrel. And that then starts to get nuttiness. That becomes something called amontillado sherry, whereas the first dry one is called fino sherry. But what if the flor didn’t interact with that wine at all and you threw the wine in barrels and it would age just in the presence of oxygen, not under the flor? Then you get something like oloroso sherry, which starts getting nuttier, more dense, more intense and almost perceptibly sweeter, even though it can often be very dry. Those are all made from the same type of grape. But what if you had a different grape called Pedro Ximenez that’s really dense and rich? Let’s say you have a lesser-known grape that’s grown in the region where most sherries are made from, Palomino. You’ve got another one called Pedro Ximenez, and it is really rich and full of sugar. You ferment it, add a little fortification, and you have the sweetest wine you’ve ever had. It’s so, so dense and so sweet. We affectionately call it nature’s finest simple syrup for quite some time. As quickly as one could talk about this incredibly complex and fascinating category of wine, sherry is that whole spectrum from the driest to the sweetest. Aside from the characteristics that come with the grape, the influence of the flor, the aging, you also have the influence of the geographic region. You have a lot of the wine that’s made just off the coast. I think it’s 30 kilometers inland if I remember correctly. I was drinking a lot of sherry when I was there. If you age it by the ocean and get all the salinity in, it creates another style called manzanilla. There are layers based upon where it is all aged. It is really complex and can create opportunities for a bartender. So these things can be tools if we want to create a more savory characteristic to our Bamboo. For example, perhaps we’ll go for a manzanilla sherry. Or maybe we want something a little richer and we go towards something that’s a little bit inland. There is just an incredible amount of variety there.
T: That’s wonderful. Thank you for summing that up in a very concise way, but also giving us all of the information that we need right there. When it comes to the Bamboo, which style is most generally reached towards by bartenders? Where do you tend towards yourself? I know you’ve already mentioned that this is a drink that can take on many different personalities. But when you’re making it yourself, traditionally, which of these styles of sherry are people reaching for?
A: I almost always reach for amontillado sherry first. I think that is the perfect intro sherry for most people, and sits very nicely in the middle of the spectrum. As an intro, amontillado smells relatively rich and nutty and complex on the nose, but it’s often quite dry on the palate. So that dryness, to me as a bartender, allows versatility. I can introduce body by way of sweetness or alcohol content to my choosing, so it gives me more control over the situation. Also, right off the bat, it’s delicious. If you’ve ever had a really dry fino sherry for the first time, almost no one likes it.
T: Right, it’s very difficult.
A: “You like this?” is often the question. People enjoy the sweeter end of the spectrum, more the oloroso, Moscatel. Mostly in the context of dessert, less of a consumable thing. So right there in the middle, amontillado presents a great opportunity. By extension of that idea, it’s usually my first stop in working on a cocktail, because it allows versaitility. There are just so many out there that aren’t that expensive. I would say my No. 1 go-to for cocktail making would be Lustau’s “Los Arcos” Amontillado. It’s available almost everywhere on the planet, reliably good, very consistent year over year, and is the benchmark in my mind.
T: Fantastic. Enjoy the added tip there of a bottle to go for, too. Being the cool kids drink, as you said, sherry might not be known by the masses. It’s great to have one bottle to kick things off with and to really dive into the category with. When it comes to a cocktail like this, you need to choose one and build it around that. Like you said at the beginning, there are these different variations that you can go with or maybe different personalities that the drink can take on. Knowing that we have that amontillado as our baseline, where are we moving next when it comes to vermouth? How does that influence your choice of vermouth? And again, what are you typically reaching for when you make this drink?
A: I couldn’t agree more with you; you have to pick a lane. That doesn’t mean that the collaborating ingredients aren’t of a high quality alongside the core focus, which in this case would be the sherry. The Bamboo is this celebration or respect of a really well-made sherry. In considering the vermouth, you’ve got a lot of different things that you could do. You can match the intensity of the sherry and try to build a really complex cocktail flavor. It’s like jostling; I see these spikes and troughs if it’s a really intense vermouth with a really intense sherry. But I also feel like there’s an elegance to stepping them back, too, in picking that lane and pulling back a little bit. In the case of the Bamboo, I tend to start veering away from tradition when we’re talking about vermouth. This was something that I watched some of my fellow bartenders at Death & Co. do in the earlier days. One bartender specifically put in a little teaspoon of cane syrup into his Bamboo just to give it some more body. That started a lot of conversations, like pulling back on the dry vermouth and adding some blanc vermouth or bianco vermouth. That adds a bit more sweetness, but also a different flavor personality. So that started to be a really interesting combination. I think that there are many different options out there that are really interesting and make a delicious cocktail. But both the blanc and the dry by Dolin are a perfect match for an amontillado sherry. They provide just a little bit of sweetness, a lot of similar aromatics and alpine flavors. But they will also take a back seat to the sherry’s personality and not overwhelm the drink.
T: Thinking about texture, when we are using these lower-ABV ingredients together, it’s the body that you worry about losing when you’re talking about a stirred drink. There are methods to stirring that we’ll get into to make sure that we don’t over-dilute or lose too much body. But because we don’t have that alcohol there, we’re losing that body. So it’s interesting to see that you reach for a certain amount of sweetness to make up for that but still achieve balance.
A: Which is what people don’t really think about when they think about alcohol content. Yes, a high-proof spirit brings alcohol, but it also brings a body, which is really difficult to match without the alcohol. There are tricks to do it. In the case of non-alcoholic drinks that have citrus, often the sugar is very high. The richness of the amontillado brings the perception of sweetness, even if it is actually quite dry. But that blanc vermouth also doubles down on that impression and can create that sense of body and complexity. Because without that body, you may have a delicious cocktail, but it’s one that your brain either consciously or unconsciously consumes like water. It’s how I feel about this incredible explosion in non-alcoholic brewing that’s happening right now. There are some really great ones, and I always have some downstairs. But boy, do I consume one of those much quicker than I do, say, a standard beer. That has a lot to do with that body perception. As somebody who’s worked in cocktails for quite some time, it’s pretty easy to get jaded or become a little indifferent, or to lose some of the passion for drinks. When we talked about me coming on and chatting with you, my first thought was, “Oh, they haven’t done the Negroni. I guess I’ll do that.” I absolutely love the Negroni, and I feel like a walking bartender cliché. It’s delicious, but it doesn’t necessarily represent as interesting a conversation as the world of the Bamboo. There is a precursor to the Bamboo called an Adonis cocktail, which is sherry and sweet vermouth. There are a lot of things to play around with in the history books as well as the contemporary camp.
T: For someone like myself who gravitates towards stirred, spirit-forward drinks, if I am looking to go for something lighter in alcohol, that typically means I’m either going for something with citrus — which will often therefore have sugar, as you mentioned — or I’m going for a highball. These can be delicious, but what if I’m in the mood for that stirred cocktail served up, but I don’t want it to be as boozy? Here’s where the Bamboo comes in. Also the complexity, which is something I always look for. Not with every single drink, but that’s something I really do praise when I find it in a cocktail. Very interesting to find that the Bamboo hits all of those different criteria.
A: I would also suggest exploring what the Bamboo can represent as a jumping-off point. What I love about it is that it resets one’s perception of what you have to do in this particular formula. The precursor to this is two part spirit to one part vermouth, if we’re being really simple about a Martini-Manhattan classic combination. We just blew that up a little bit, reformulated it, and found balance. But then you can start creeping back in just a little bit and think about it as a modifier. And you’re not increasing the proof necessarily to a high degree, but you are increasing complexity, and this was a big revelation to me. When we had a bar called the Walker Inn in Los Angeles, I was working on a menu that was an homage to Alice Waters, the famous chef from Berkeley, Calif., who is the mother of American modern cuisine in a lot of ways. Part of that very nerdy menu was an exploration of using every part of an ingredient. In California, we have Meyer lemons in winter that are just beautiful. We were like, “We need to use this whole thing,” and we wanted it to be low-ABV because it was the beginning of the menu. I had been a fan of Bamboos for quite a while, so I was like, “OK, let’s just throw Meyer lemon zest into a batch of Bamboo and throw it in an infusion. That’s cool, but what if we put a teaspoon of pisco in there?” And suddenly, the flavors just bloom out of it. There are a lot of versions of that out there to play with. And the Bamboo is a really good starting place to explore those lower-ABV, but still stirred, very complex, sophisticated, elegant cocktails. Take a dry version with fino sherry and dry vermouth. Pisco would be a great opportunity. An unaged brandy like pear brandy, which is a favorite of mine, any grappas would work. The Bamboo we were talking about earlier could have a little bit of Calvados or maybe a teaspoon of Scotch could be really interesting. Amontillado sherry and Scotch sounds great.
T: They already work together so often, right? Scotch and sherry already have this very intimate relationship. So it stands to reason that bringing a bit of that, but just as a little seasoning, it’s not the dominant part. I think that’s wonderful, that’s a great idea. You’ve given us a number of great tips there. The last ingredient would be bitters. How does that come into your mind when you’re talking about balance of flavor and also texture?
A: So I tend to think about bitters, especially within the format of a stirred cocktail, as being contributions. One is connecting ingredients, the glue that binds the two together. The classic example of this is a Manhattan, making a traditional one with 2 ounces rye or bourbon. Taste it, add a dash of bitters, and taste it again. It doesn’t taste like Angostura bitters, but suddenly, the sum is much greater than the parts. They come together; it helps combine things. The second version is adding flavor or seasoning, if you will. Like salt and pepper, the salt is the first version if you combine these to heighten the flavor. The second is more like adding pepper — adding actual flavor and complexity to the cocktail. It’s not a perfect analogy, but it’s easy enough to understand. Ultimately, bitters can do both of those things for a drink like a Bamboo. I tend to only use orange bitters in my Bamboos. Traditionally, it was with orange and Angostura, as I understand it. To me, the Angostura becomes a little distracting. It does add some texture from a perceived level because of the spices as well as from what bitters are made out of. There’s a lot of high viscosity in there, and that does change the texture. But for me, I like the clarity of the orange that just brings out some of the more citrusy elements of the fortified wine, of the sherry interacting with that and some of the cooked citrus elements of it. That’s where I tend to go. But I would suggest, if people want to explore bitters as most people who are into cocktails tend to do, have some phase of having Mr. Potato Head bitters all over the place just to see what happens. And I totally encourage it, but I would tend to air more towards the citrus or lighter end of the bitters spectrum. I have a friend in L.A. from Miracle Mile Bitters that makes really beautiful yuzu bitters once a year. That checks out, right? The more ephemeral versus the denser, more Angostura-style, aromatic bitters. That whole line is lovely, and there’s a lot of spice complexity. My instincts tell me that would generally be pretty distracting in the context of the Bamboo.
T: Like you said, this is a drink where we’re being given complexity from a base wine, oak aging, maturation over time, oxidation, yeast. On top of that, a base wine for vermouth, wormwood, all the botanicals that go into vermouth. So we’re not lacking complexity in any area. You can maybe highlight the citrus nature of orange or maybe another if people want to explore that. But yeah, that makes a lot of sense to me in terms of just bringing everything together without distracting.
A: As you’re saying that now, I’m worried about the carbon footprint of my Bamboo. That sounds like quite a bit. For me, it’s like the Coco Chanel method for cocktails: “Take one thing off.” Look in the mirror. If you feel good, take one thing off. That almost always produces a more elegant and focused cocktail.
How to Make the Best Bamboo Recipe
T: Fantastic. So before we get into stirring, I also want to talk about ice. Can you give us your preferred recipe? If you were behind the bar right now, what would be your preferred ratios and ingredients?
A: I tend to do 1 and a half ounces of amontillado sherry, three-quarter ounce of both blanc and dry vermouth — usually Dolan. I use one dash of orange bitters, stirred and served straight up in a chilled cocktail glass with a lemon twist. Now, I know I mentioned Lustau amontillado, but if you can find yourself some other stuff, that’s worthy of exploration. You are making this delicious drink. Other recommended bottles of the amontillado sherry: Equipo Navazos is delicious. I’m not sure if they’re being imported any more, but there’s one that started importing in Southern California called Alexander Jules, and they had just some truly special sherries there for a while. You can go at a low price and still be great with the Lustau or Hidalgo. Or you can get really esoteric and you can nerd out with your favorite wine store clerk and find some really complex amontillados to play with.
T: Fantastic; love it. So as we mentioned before, this is a stirred cocktail using relatively low-ABV ingredients overall. Tell me about your approach to stirring and essentially all the things we can do to ensure that we’re not overly diluting and also losing that body that we’ve spoken about?
A: Yeah, it’s a tricky one. On paper, you’ve got things that are lower in alcohol that are pretty easy if you stir in the traditional method that you would to make a Martini or Manhattan. It’s pretty easy to make that overly diluted. This drink does not need to get bone-chillingly cold. In fact, it will be very hard to do so, and I don’t think it benefits from that. It dumbs down aromatics and flavors. Many of us fantasize about getting the coldest possible Martini. This is not that drink. That said, there are a couple things that work in our favor by simply handling our ingredients correctly. Sherry, blanc vermouth, dry vermouth are all pretty fragile. You need to keep them in the fridge. If you have a wine pump, take out the oxygen as much as you can. If you’re making the cocktail, they should be coming out pretty much chilled, which actually helps quite a bit in the process. Second to that is using a chilled mixing glass. Keep it in the freezer, or put it in a freezer about 30 minutes before you make the cocktail, and that will really help. Build your drink and stir as usual while tasting. Let’s explain the trajectory. When the ingredients combine together, they’ll be pretty wound up. That’s how I conceptualize it in my head. Everything feels very tight. And then they start loosening with the presence of water as you stir. In a Martini or Manhattan, that loosening can be pretty graceful and can take a little bit of time — especially with a chilled glass and large cubes of ice. With a Bamboo, your window is a little narrower. So I tend to taste pretty frequently throughout, but it’s almost like a two-thirds stir. That said, ice is really, really important. So I tend to use the equivalent of cold draft cubes, which are 1 inch by 1 inch cubes in a mixing glass. I use the whole ones, which allows a little bit more control. But for anyone who hasn’t worked at a bar or hasn’t had a lot of advanced ice training, just use more ice than you think you should. Fill the mixing glass all the way to the top. If your ice is bobbing in the cocktail, that’s a red flag. So just make sure to use enough ice, taste it, and when you feel it unwind just a little bit, you’re probably gold.
Getting To Know Alex Day
T: Wonderful. That sounds like a foolproof solution right there. Well, Alex, thank you so much for that. Now’s the time to dive into our final questions. How do you feel about that?
A: Let’s do it!
T: Fantastic. Question No. 1: What style or category of spirit typically enjoys the most real estate on one of your back bars?
A: American whiskey, even though I would like to say brandy. I’ve been trying to get people to buy more brandy, and they’re listening to me on our back bars. But I guess I would say American whiskey still continues to maintain and has historically maintained the largest presence.
T: Question No. 2: Which ingredient or tool is the most undervalued in a bartender’s arsenal?
A: A jigger. Even though a lot of bartenders think they’re using a jigger accurately, I feel like there could be a lot more diligence on accuracy. We get really good at it, really fast. It is the difference between making a good cocktail and a great cocktail.
T: Wonderful. Question No. 3: What’s the most important piece of advice you’ve received in this industry?
A: That’s a tough one. I would say, “Think for yourself.” There’s so much dogma out there. We are, as an industry, both benefitted and handcuffed by the fact that we’re taught Socratically. We’re taught by mentors, which is really, really great. But at the same time, we can’t always question why we were taught certain ways. And I had the supreme benefit of working for a few people in the early part of my career that instilled in me asking why and finding the conclusion that you actually believe in.
T: Question No. 4: If you could only visit one last bar in your life, which one would it be? And this can be past or present.
A: Oh, past or present? I’m obliged to say Death & Co. in New York, L.A., and Denver. I would say the original Milk & Honey on the Lower East Side, both as someone who was able to work there for a little bit, and because it’s the place that solidified all the romantic reasons why I love cocktails. It’s why I love the fact that cocktails allow us to connect with people better.
T: Fantastic. One final question for you today: If you knew that the next cocktail you drank was going to be your last, what would you order or make?
A: Damn, that is the toughest question. The stakes are so high.
T: That’s why we save that one for last.
A: I would say that, even though this isn’t a typical order of mine, my first instinct — and therefore I should listen to it — is a Manhattan. But the way Phil Ward used to make them for us back in the early days of Death & Co., before George T. Stagg was as famous and hard to get as it is now. No, I’ll take that back. Wasn’t even George T. Stagg that was delicious, but when Pappy 13 Year was attainable and when we could get bottles of it, the Pappy 13 two-to-one Manhattan with Carpano Antica still lives in my memory as one of the most special, special sips I’ve ever had.
T: That sounds like a good way to go. I’m guessing if it’s your last cocktail, you’d want to go for something big. That sounds amazing. Well, Alex, thank you so much for joining us today. It’s been a pleasure hearing all about the Bamboo. Let’s go grab one together.
A: Oh, I can’t wait. Yes, please.
A: Thanks, Tim.
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Now for the credits. “Cocktail College” is recorded and produced in New York City by myself and Keith Beavers, VinePair’s tastings director and all-around podcast guru. Of course, I want to give a huge shout-out to everyone on the VinePair team. Too many awesome people to mention. They know who they are. I want to give some credit here to Danielle Grinberg, art director at VinePair, for designing the awesome show logo. And listen to that music. That’s a Darbi Cicci original. Finally, thank you, listener, for making it this far and for giving this whole thing a purpose. Until next time.
Ed. note: This episode has been edited for length and clarity.