We’re learning a new language — that of morse code — at Cocktail College today, all told through the lens of a classic, if slightly lesser-known tiki drink, the Three Dots and a Dash cocktail. Anton Kinloch, owner of New Paltz’s Fuchsia Tiki Bar is taking class, enlightening us on the irrefutable delights of allspice dram, Velvet Falernum, and this drink’s merits as a cocktail template. Similar to the Zombie, this tropical libation pulls off the impossible, being both heavily spirit-forward and surprisingly refreshing. Listen on (or read below) to learn Kinloch’s Three Dots and a Dash recipe — and don’t forget to like, review, and subscribe!
Anton Kinloch’s Three Dots and a Dash Recipe
- 1 ½ ounces of Rhum Agricole, such as Rhum J.M. Blanc
- ½ ounce of Guyana rum, such as Hamilton 86
- ½ ounce of Jamaican rum, like Appleton Estate 8 Year
- ½ ounce of Velvet Falernum (¼ ounce John Taylor and ¼ ounce Maggie’s Farm)
- ¼ ounce of St. Elizabeth allspice dram
- 1 ounce fresh orange juice
- ¾ ounce fresh lime juice
- ½ ounce of Wildfire honey syrup (2:1)
- 2 dashes of Angostura bitters
- Garnish: pineapple frond, three maraschino cherries, and a straw
- Add Angostura bitters and honey syrup to a shaker tin.
- Add allspice dram, Falernum, lime juice, orange juice, and all three rums, in that order, to tin.
- Add pebble ice and shake until cold.
- “Dirty Dump” the contents into a chilled pilsner glass, ice and all.
- Garnish with a pineapple frond, three maraschino cherries, and a straw.
Check Out the Conversation Here
Tim McKirdy: It’s V for victory here in the Cocktail College studio today. We’re joined by Anton Kinloch. Anton, welcome. Thank you for joining us. I hope that the reference that I have there at the beginning does make sense for this cocktail. I believe it might. Possibly you can shed more light on that one for us, but thanks for joining us.
Anton Kinloch: Thank you. Yes, absolutely. The V definitely stands for Victory in Europe, V-E Day. The cocktail itself came from Don the Beachcomber originally. He was a serviceman himself from 1942 to 1945 in the Air Force. This cocktail was pretty much a culmination of his skills. Then the garnish is really what makes it stand out so much. The three dots were three cherries. In his case, originally it was a chunk of pineapple as the dash, although now it’s a little bit more open to interpretation.
T: Definitely something we’ll get into there. I should tie the direct link. Three Dots and a Dash is the name of the cocktail. That is the Morse code there for V, which in many cases up until a movie came out recently, was more associated with victory than vendetta, but who knows these days? I wonder if anyone’s done that riff. Look, this is, as we’ll soon find out, this is a tiki cocktail. This is definitely one of those where I think some people will be coming to this episode knowing nothing about it, perhaps even never having heard of it before. Others will be like, heard of it, maybe never tried it. I’d love for us to start by, can you tell us what type of drink this is, and where it lands within the tiki and tropical sphere?
A: In the tiki and tropical sphere, definitely be more on the dryer, a little bit sour, also a little bit spicy. It goes pretty much with everything that Don the Beachcomber has stood for, which is a combination of juices, a combination of sweeteners, a combination of rums, because what one rum can do, three or four can.
T: The classic.
A: I would say this is almost as attributable to the Zombie except for, I would almost say slightly more complex. It’s definitely one of those cocktails that don’t get enough recognition on menus or really in the world for that matter.
T: Classically tiki, and just looking at this list of ingredients in front of me, a ton of ingredients in there. Ultimately the challenge that always arises is how do you find balance, and how much should each ingredient be allowed to shine, or which ingredients should shine more than others? Look forward to getting into that. As you mentioned up top there, Don the Beachcomber, this is another classic there. The guy has so many to his name. Can you tell us a little bit more about the history of this drink?
The History of Three Dots and a Dash
A: You know what’s funny actually, there’s not a ton of history published about this particular cocktail. Don basically kept a lot of his recipes hidden. We have Beachbum Berry to thank for actually pulling these recipes out from bartenders that worked for Don for many, many years. As a result of him being so secretive with everything, we don’t know whether this is the exact recipe, but we know that it’s somewhat close. The history itself was pretty much also very much shrouded, unlike that of the Mai Tai or the QB Cooler, or other drinks that were so popular. This one is one that not a lot of people have really dug into. Unfortunately, beyond what we know the inspiration was, which was Churchill’s V for Victory, that’s pretty much where the story tapers off. I would say that this cocktail probably had some influence from the Zombie itself right around the same time, 1940s, just because you see a ton of ingredients, you see a ton of rums. The format is very, very much similar. I would say that perhaps that’s really where this came from. The one ingredient that really stands out though is the allspice. That’s one thing that you don’t see in a ton of tiki cocktails or in a lot of cocktails for that matter. I would say that’s the one unique piece of this cocktail, the one unique piece of history where we start to see that particular ingredient start to shine more in other drinks.
T: You mentioned the close ties to the Zombie or shared similarities here. Why do you think, just purely hypothetical, why do you think the Zombie has done a better job of, I want to say breaking into the mainstream, I’ll say relatively mainstream when it comes to cocktails and people drinking? Is it that, I don’t know, that evocative name, or I think we spoke about with Shannon actually on the show about the Zombie, where we’re talking about this marketing around the two-drink maximum. Those kind of things build to the myth of a drink. Do you think it’s that or do you think there’s any other reason there?
A: No. I think, yes, a lot of people saw that drink as nefarious, and that two-drink limit definitely got people excited and thinking, oh my God, this must be really potent. Naturally, people are curious about that, but then something like the Three Dots and a Dash, as I said, is overlooked because it doesn’t look as potent on paper, but once you get it in front of you, that’s a whole another story. We’ve attempted ourselves at our bar to even put a limit on that one. However, we’ve not really put it on the menu because there’s so many other great cocktails that we have, and then this is just a classic that we could hammer out at any time.
T: That’s something I wanted to ask you too. We’ll get into the reason why you want to cover this drink yourself here beyond the fact that you run a tiki bar, which of course is a natural tie-in there. This isn’t a question I ask everyone that comes into the studio that works in your industry, but I do find it fascinating when we’re talking about tiki and tropical drinks. There seems to be something that captures people’s imaginations more about this style of cocktails than maybe others. It’s not for everyone, but yes, what was it about, I don’t know, tiki that really fascinates you?
A: For me, it’s almost not that there’s no rules per se, but when we go back to the early 2000s and we saw the cocktail renaissance, and we started people really digging deep into the older recipes, tiki was overlooked by a lot of people. For me it’s been an absolutely fascinating category because it breaks all those traditional rules that we’ve come to learn and appreciate. It’s like more is more, while modern cocktails, we see more often than not, are more restrained. I’ve always had a thing about coming out and doing something a little bit different. Really pushing the boundaries and throwing some shock value out there. Tiki was the perfect vehicle for that. I think this cocktail’s pretty much the perfect vehicle for that because it’s got so many incredible flavors all working together in harmony. Tiki is very much the same way. It’s not just a combination of juices. It’s actually about bringing balance and really doing so much, and pushing the boundaries, and creating something that’s greater than the sum of its parts.
T: This is a question perhaps that might appeal more to folks that are in the industry that listen to this show, but I imagine there maybe being pros and cons of running a tiki bar. On the one hand, you have a captive audience. People that come to tiki bars, you can expect tiki drinks, but then does that maybe alienate yourselves to others who maybe perhaps have this vision of what that category is and they don’t realize the history and just some of the incredible skills required to make these, and the additional knowledge needed? Also, do you ever get instances where people come in and are like, “Can you make me a Martini?” Because obviously you’re a bar professional, you have all of these other drinks covered too. Just curious what that experience is like for you.
A: It’s a lot of fun. Especially in my particular position, we do a fair amount of education with guests, so we actually will spend the time to have a dialogue and find out what their flavor profiles are, what their spirit preferences are, and try to steer them in the direction of something that’s on our menu that might be cohesive with what they like. Similarly, if I get somebody who comes in, “I don’t like tiki drinks, I don’t like rum,” that’s okay. Let’s find something that you do like. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a sugar cane spirit. It could be a bourbon, it could be another whiskey, it could be a gin, and we’ll put it into a tiki application. We might create something for you that’s unique and just expose you to something different. Ultimately, we still take as much pride and care into the balance of every cocktail as any other spirits person would.
T: To your point, too, the easiest form of education is putting one of these drinks on the menu so that it prompts guests to ask you, what is a Three Dots and a Dash? Maybe, by the way, also if you’re running a speakeasy-style, dimly lit bar in Manhattan, and it’s known for classic cocktails, chances are you probably don’t have the opportunity to put something like that on the menu.
A: Precisely. Knowing the time and place, could you necessarily get a Mai Tai or a Three Dots and a Dash with a speakeasy? Possibly, but you obviously have to look at the venue and what they offer, and what they specialize in, and it’s all attributable. With us, tiki and tropical serves have always been our thing, but that doesn’t mean that we’ll shy away from the classics.
The Ingredients Used in Anton Kinloch’s Three Dots and a Dash
T: There are some rare occasions as well where you have had a blending of those two. I think of a mutual friend of ours here, Brian Miller during his time at Death & Co., a drink he had. The Winchester, for example, that making it on the menu. Maybe that doesn’t make it onto the menu if Brian isn’t working there at that time or whatever. We have had some modern tiki classics pop up in those bars but we’re looking exclusively today. The Three Dots and a Dash. We’ve spoken about this style of the drink. Let’s just get into it here and look at these ingredients, because there’s a long list. Something that’s very interesting, too, is that few of these will have been the first we’ve covered. We’re going to look at rum first, though, as it tends to really be the case when it comes to tiki. Am I right in thinking the main component or the main proportion of rum in this drink is going to be cane-based or maybe even should exclusively be a Martinique agricole rhum? Tell us about that.
A: During the time, actually, grand arome-style Martinique rhum, which is a bit more flavorful, or in this case, what we have available to most people is the classic Martinique fresh cane juice rhum. It’s wonderful, it’s light, it’s grassy, it really does cut through a lot of those more potent ingredients. I think it’s almost essential to have that as the main component, but it shouldn’t be the only component. What I love about this cocktail is that you can really Mr. Potatohead the rums to do not just a Martinique or a Guadeloupe fresh cane juice rhum. If you want to get wacky and weird, you could do cachaça. You could always break it up a little bit differently, maybe do an aged agricole. There’s definitely some ways to finesse it. At the end of the day, yes, I would say fresh cane juice rhum is almost absolutely necessary when doing this drink.
T: You’ve spoken there about some might officially be an agricole, some won’t. We don’t really need to get into appellations and laws, and things like that now. I was wondering if you can maybe provide some more pointers when it comes to profile of the rum. You talk about grassy, they’re generally all going to be like that, or maybe ABV. What are you thinking about if someone’s going out and being like, not looking for a specific brand but what are some of the things you’re considering from this rum when you’re using it as the anchor for this drink?
A: If you’re going to be using this particular- style rum either exclusively or as a part, you definitely want to do something that’s 50 percent ABV or higher. You definitely want it to come in strong and punchy. Again, as I mentioned before, having it stand up and not be bullied around by some of the other potent ingredients is really key in this whole equation.
T: I guess it goes without saying, too, if this is for a bar, you want it to also hopefully have some use in another one of your cocktails, too, or be a versatile player. Maybe not a good idea to have a specific brand exclusively dialed in for this drink, but maybe it doesn’t work for any other drinks you have in the menu.
A: You could definitely use — What we do at our bar, actually, we use Rhum JM Blanc.
A: Comes in right at 50 percent ABV. That’s actually our quintessential rum that we use in a lot of our serves actually. It’s also used in Mai Tai, so there’s crossover there. That’s the nice thing about this rum is that it is versatile in other applications. Whether using a little bit or a lot, it’s going to be used up.
T: Nice. Final thought I had here on this particular style of rum, too, I think this cane juice-based rum, as well as I’d say mezcal, too, those are two unaged spirits that I generally really enjoy just drinking neat. I think they are probably two of the best spirits to drink neat. You could argue maybe tequila or adjacent stuff. How do you feel about that as well, just like this notion that maybe a lot of people think you don’t sip unaged spirits?
A: No, you totally can sip unaged spirits. I think that’s another aspect that a lot of people overlook. There’s this stigma that only brown spirits, only aged spirits should be enjoyed neat or over one big cube, and that’s not the case. You can enjoy whatever you want. I think that having it in its raw form in an unaged application neat or over one big rock, you get so much more out of that spirit. You’re not getting bothered down by the barrel, you’re actually enjoying all the terroir of that particular spirit with fresh cane juice, especially that is pressed down. It is fermented fairly quickly, and it’s a relatively short fermentation time. Whatever is going on around that cane varietal is going to be in your glass. That’s why it’s so important to not only enjoy your spirits neat but also enjoy them in cocktails like this where it’s really going to shine through.
T: They do a phenomenal job of holding their own there. Sometimes people flip that on its head and be like, I don’t want to use an expensive aged whatever, whether it’s whiskey or rum, or whatever in a cocktail. Because I’m going to lose the nuance. Here we have this whole category of spirits that said I can do both. I think that should be celebrated. There is typically, I believe, an aged component to this drink as well.
A: There is.
T: Tell us about that, please.
A: The other component is our blended aged rum. Now this is where things can really go many different directions. What we like to do is actually split that base up even smaller. We’ll do actually a Guyana-based heavy molasses-style rum along with a very pungent Jamaican rum. We’ll pretty much use a trifecta of rums per se for this particular cocktail, just because we like to elevate the nuance. If you have just say a Barbados rum like a Mount Gay, totally acceptable. It’s got great flavor. It’s going to also highlight some of the nice characteristics of this cocktail. Again, it’s not going to dominate over the rum agricole.
T: I’m interested to hear that you’ll use something yet there will be a funky Jamaican component to this drink too. Even though we’re getting that from the cane-based, this is something as well, you feel like, it’s not going to overpower there. As you said, they can work in unison.
A: Yes. You have a nice contrast. You have this nice, bright, grassy vegetable component, and you have this underlying hogo without getting too deep into Jamaican rum. You have this nice very aromatic component as well. Then the last, but not least, you have this for us, this nice creamy caramel flavoring in the very backbone, which is the Guyana rum.
T: Very nice there. Interesting to highlight, too, that while we do talk about this idea of funk. It’s coming from a different place in Jamaican rum that it isn’t cane-based. They can seem similar but they’re also maybe two different profiles.
T: Very minor differences in the grand scheme of things. I don’t know, I just see them as all these different blending components that you think about when you’re making cocktails, but also master blenders think when they’re pulling together spirits. Do you use that same blend of aged rum? Is that a standard for your bar there or is that for this particular drink, or do you pull together that blend and you’re like, this is our aged blend component?
A: Actually that’s exactly what we do. It’s our age component. We pretty much use that as the quintessential Three Dots and a Dash mix. That is our Mai Tai mix. We’ve pretty much found the perfect vehicle for a lot of classic applications. It really streamlines things for us because now my staff are not pulling three separate bottles individually, they’re just pulling one.
A: There’s that really nice level of consistency as a result because now you’re not overpouring one or another. That’s it. It’s just a standardized pour.
T: Again, I guess another thing to consider when we talk about why does the tiki bar exist? I would imagine one of the main reasons there that this exists is this single style of drinks– “single,” I’m saying in air quotes here because it’s very wild, but you know what I mean. In focusing on that alone in one type of bar, because again, if I run a classic cocktail program but I want to have two or three of these different drinks on my menu, suddenly I probably have way too many bottles of rum. Not that you would ever say that there’s such a thing. Maybe it’s just very difficult to do that in an all-rounder cocktail bar.
A: Absolutely. For other applications, other bars, I can definitely understand not wanting to take on additional inventory. That’s where some of these merchant bottlings really come in very, very handy. I think this is something that is also applicable to the Three Dots and a Dash. Denizen, for example, makes a phenomenal product that is aged for eight years and it’s actually a blend of grand arôme rums. It could basically be a wonderful single-bottle pour for this cocktail. You could do the same thing with a Mai Tai. Again, that’s the nice thing for bar programs as well. Like, you don’t want to carry a ton of inventory, just grab this product. It fits all of the boxes.
T: Exactly. If that’s not your focus, but then if it is your focus note you’re allowed to be able to say, “You know what, actually we want our blended aged component, we want it to be this. We like this profile.” Next component here that I’m looking at, and I’m pretty sure this is the first time we’ve covered this is Velvet Falernum.
A: Ah, yes.
T: Apologies to everyone listening. It’s definitely not one that comes up every episode for sure. What can you tell us about what that is, for example, and what you’re looking for from that ingredient, but also what it brings to the drink?
A: John Taylor Falernum actually is a Barbadian product. It is made, actually, with a rum distillate. Then it is hit with lime zest, ginger, clove, even a little bit of almond. This particular brand actually has been made by John Taylor for many, many years. For a while it was basically not able to be found, especially in the late ’90s and early 2000s. It only started getting into this country only within the last two decades, roughly. It’s super exciting to see because this particular brand brings a really nice kind of ginger and clove, and lime backbone as well as a little bit of residual sweetness in the particular ABV. It can be used in a lot of tiki cocktails. I think it’s, again, one of those ingredients that people overlook in their programs because you can use it as a sugar substitute. Instead of using, say, simple syrup or Demerara, pull the John Taylor Falernum. It adds a little bit of ABV, but it adds this really nice mouthfeel to a cocktail.
T: What kind of ABV are we talking there roughly? I always like to hit people with this one.
A: You would think I would know this by now. I think it’s, yes, 11 percent.
T: 11 percent. Really in the grander scheme of things as an ingredient, not something that’s going to impact the final ABV of the cocktail too much. Is this a category of one, i.e., like Velvet Falernum equals John D. Taylor, or is that just the most prominent, or is that just one that you particularly like to highlight?
A: That is the most prominent one that most bartenders know. However, there is another company out in Pittsburgh, Maggie’s Farm, who produced their own. They do a coffee liqueur, they do a falernum, they do several kinds of rums. Their particular falernum is actually a higher ABV, I believe it’s 20 or 22 percent. It is actually more lime-forward and more clove-forward than this. It has a different application for our bar. We carry both products and we use them in different applications, but it’s nice to put them down side by side and try them both. Whenever guests say, “Oh, what is falernum?” Or they’ll pronounce it wrong, that’s fine. Hey, tell you what, it’s easier if you try it instead of me sitting there and explaining it to you. That first sip, people’s eyes just light up like, “Oh my God, what is this? This is delicious.”
T: Nice. Wait to be the worst tiki guest ever in the world if you want to start going to your bar and just being like, “What’s your Velvet Falernum program look like?” Or maybe you want to start a bar prize themselves on the “I don’t know. I do like getting granular, though. Ain’t going back to Maggie’s Farm no more.” I don’t know, maybe Bob Dylan wants to reconsider that one because that sounds like a wonderful product there. This one’s definitely a first for us, though. Allspice rum, you mentioned it up top. That’s perhaps maybe one of the calling cards of this drink where it sets itself apart, differentiates itself. Again, tell us what allspice dram is as an ingredient and how it fits into this drink.
A: That is, again, another essentially neutral grain distillate that is steeped with allspice berries. Prominent in Jamaica and very prominent in a lot of tiki applications. For us, we started off actually with the St. Elizabeth’s, which is, through, I’m already forgetting the distributors, Haus Alpenz. Haus Alpenz got us that very early on and it’s been a very, very fun flavor. Because it’s a little bit black peppery and then also you get toasted nutmeg. It’s very hard to explain flavor to people until you actually do pour it out. It is very pungent, you don’t often use more than about a quarter-ounce. I think I have seen maybe a heavy quarter, but that’s pretty much it. A little does go a very, very long way. I consider it to be the salt and pepper of a cocktail.
T: When we’re just speaking about those two components, those two ingredients side by side, in a way, it sounds like Velvet Falernum’s maybe aiming toward that brighter side of some of the components here with lime. You talk about maybe ginger or things that maybe really are lighter than perhaps the heavy spices that you mentioned for the allspice dram there and just those two working, again, in harmony, and just tiki going extra. I love it
A: It’s all about contrast. Falernum and allspice, really, those are two sides of a coin. It’s really fun to put them together in a cocktail because then you have different points on your tongue when you’re sipping it, that you’re getting all these flavors popping out at you.
T: When you’re composing original drinks for your bar, how often does it come up where you’re like, what would completely round us out or just add the finishing touch whether it’s an allspice or falernum, like, how often does that come up, or how front of mind is it for you as an ingredient? Because like other ones, I don’t know, maybe orgeat’s another great example if you’re thinking about Mai Tai that is a tool that you have in your arsenal as a tiki bartender.
A: Absolutely. We use allspice and we use falernum basically like we use our bitters. It is like a finishing component. It is something that we pretty much will use as the last minute. We’ll do a ton of R&D, we’ll try different specs for a cocktail, and then at the very last moment, “Hey, you know what this needs? X.” Sometimes it’ll be a little bit of falernum, either teaspoon or maybe a quarter-ounce might go a long way and just round out the whole thing, or we need something a little bit spicy to help ground this down. That’s where the allspice comes in. Different applications naturally but it’s fun to keep them in the back of our mind of like, “What else can we do? Let’s drive it off a cliff.”
T: Less has never been more in this style of drink, right?
T: It sounds like what you’re saying there, too, if my understanding is correct, these are things that you can introduce to a cocktail when you think it’s almost there. They don’t need to be in the equation from the moment you have this new concept that you’re trying to build this drink. You can bring them in later to finish.
A: Absolutely. We like to compare them side by side, sometimes with falernum, sometimes with allspice, sometimes with both, sometimes with neither. We just blind taste the staff and we all talk it through and figure out, does this have the right components? Does this have the right balance of flavors? Is this cocktail evolving over time? Is it getting better, or is it getting more watered down?
T: Fantastic. Generally speaking, when we’re looking at this type of drink as well, there’s going to be a sweetening component and a fresh juice component too because again, we don’t want to just leave things there and say that’s it, done, they’re going to help provide balance, but also let’s just bring some more stuff to the party. Let’s look at that sweetening ingredient first. What does that typically or classically look like for this drink, and what’s your approach to it yourself?
A: The sweetening component would be honey, and most bars have a honey syrup. For us, we actually use Wildfire honey. We like those nice aromatic components to really come through. The way we do ours actually is essentially a rich honey syrup, so it’s a two to one. That really does give and build on top of the texture of the falernum because you’ve already got some of the residual sugar in that but now you’re just bumping that up a little bit more. Again, it really does help grind things down a little bit and smooth out those edges.
T: When it comes to using as a honey syrup rather than pure honey, is that pure ease of use when it comes to this is going to release into your jigger easy and come out of the jigger, too, you’re not going to have too much residual left in there, is that what we’re thinking there?
A: Very much so. I’ve also tinkered around with different ratios. A one-to-one honey syrup has always come out to me a little thin. You lose some of that nuance. A rich syrup definitely takes a little bit longer to come out of the jigger but it’s still loose enough where it’s not going to cake onto the ice when you’re shaking it. It’s going to blend in, it’s going to incorporate very, very nicely and easily.
T: It still allows you to have that consistency right there. What about juices then, as we move on to the next part of the drink?
A: Always fresh.
T: Always fresh. Again, what are we calling for classically in this drink, and what’s your approach?
A: Classically it’s going to be orange juice, and then you’re going to get lime juice. Those are two citrus components. We juice all of our juices daily. Fresh orange juice is going to taste so much better than something that’s store-bought, or worse yet something that you left from the night before. It oxidizes so quickly, it’s so fragile. In this particular cocktail, fresh orange juice really is going to come through very, very strong. Naturally the same with lime juice. It oxidizes within a couple of hours. Using it at its peak is really best because these two components are going to help brighten up everything and really cut through some of those heavier flavors, especially that allspice. Even though it’s a small component, like I said, a little goes a long way. This is where your lime and your orange are really going to help make this whole cocktail pop and feel more cohesive.
T: Of course we talk regularly about lime juice or lemon being a way to incorporate acidity, which is one of the main factors we want to consider when we’re trying to balance a drink. Of course orange juice is going to bring acidity too but on a lesser scale. Where do you feel like that falls into this? Why is that a vital component of this and not one that we can maybe skip or overlook?
A: I think orange juice also, when we juice ours, we also do have some of the orange oils go through into the fresh juice. You’re getting that extra level of complexity. Now, I know some bartenders like to even acidify their orange juice and skip out on the lemon or the lime component, but I feel like that detracts. If we’re going to be classic, I am pretty certain that Don the Beachcomber did not use powdered acids to mess with his juices.
T: Oh, I’d love for him to have those things available, though, and to consider it, to see his reaction to the concept. It’s very true.
A: You’re working with what you have back then. I think it’s absolutely incredible how this cocktail is so complex. Like I mentioned earlier, Beachbum Berry has really done an amazing job recreating these recipes to the best of his understanding, and basically saving them from being lost to time after Donn died back in 1989. That man held on to all these recipes for so long. For us to have something like this that is this complex, it borders on insanity.
T: It really does there. Incredible to just also hypothesize how close these modern versions get. Again, this is something that comes up so often too, even if we land upon the correct recipes, all of the other ingredients have changed so much as well. We’re maybe trying to work towards just the philosophy of what a drink was or what the drink was trying to achieve, I guess. Final ingredient for this drink I have down here, beyond garnish, is Angostura bitters. Would that be correct, and what’s your thinking there?
A: Angostura bitters, you see that fairly often in tiki cocktails. It is the last dash, the last component, that last little finishing salt on a dish. I’m a big proponent of using bitters. More is definitely not more in this case because allspice is really your predominant flavor profile. The nice notes of the cinnamon and the black pepper that you get from Angostura bitters definitely do help also finish this whole cocktail up on a very positive, very spice-forward note.
T: It always fascinates me as well that a lot of these ingredients, especially that we’ve spoken about today, the allspice in this and the spiced, maybe it’s just culturally, but we’ve always or oftentimes associate them more with colder months. Whereas tropical drinks culture completely throws that off in its hair where it’s like, no, we’re using these specifically for escapism and warm-weather drinking, whether that is the case or not,
A: I would agree. I think that’s the fun part of this whole category of cocktails is that we are taking ingredients that are not normally seen in a summer application and putting it on its head for good reason, because we should be challenging the norms. Given everything that had gone on during Don the Beachcomber’s time between the Spanish flu, the Great Depression, all of these things weighed down on the people and weighed down on the soldiers. Naturally, people had a fascination with escapism. They wanted to forget what was going on in their regular lives, and this was the perfect vehicle for it. I think this cocktail really encompasses all of that.
T: It’s such a great example to look at that name again there, Three Dots and a Dash. I’m assuming this didn’t drive the drink when it came to creation, but it’s referenced specifically in the classic garnish as you mentioned up top. Do you want to cover that again? You said that maybe this is how it was done traditionally, but now that may be not the case.
A: As far as we know, Donn was using fresh juices and he was not a wasteful man by any means. He made sure to utilize as much as possible. Fresh pineapple was very much garnish in his wheelhouse. From what we know historically was that it was a chunk of fresh pineapple as the dash and then the three dots were referenced by three maraschino cherries.
T: These days, is that what you would go with yourself or are you looking maybe to something different?
A: The only way we changed it a little bit differently is we actually mirror what they do over at Smuggler’s Cove, which is using a pineapple frond. That’s only because we basically don’t hold onto our pineapples long enough. Everything is juiced fresh. We actually keep them, we dehydrate them, we keep the leaves so this way pretty much no part of the plant goes to waste.
T: That fresh juice I’m sure is going into drinks like the Jungle Bird or other classics, Blue Hawaii we had recently.
A: Oh, Blue Hawaii is a good one.
T: Makes real sense, though. Also, there’s nothing as sad as a wedge of pineapple that’s been sitting out for a couple of hours or whatnot. Just thinking about hotel breakfast buffets right now, to be honest with you. Those things start to look old quite quickly.
A: For us, we wanted to take a very similar approach to what Donn was doing for so many years, which is trying to figure out how to save money and utilize as much as possible, because he had grown up during that time, so he understood the importance of saving up everything so he could open his first tiki bar. That’s what we’re doing as well. We’re dehydrating our garnishes, we’re trying to utilize everything we possibly can. We’re trying to get creative with our blends of rums so that way we can not only save some money, but also create something unique and special.
How to Make Anton Kinloch’s Three Dots and a Dash
T: Fantastic. All right then, how about you talk us through the preparation of this drink now as if you’re making it for us in the bar and also just with units or measurements there, quantities for us. Feel free to reference any notes you have. It’s a big list. I’m sure you probably have your spec down, but no one’s going to look down on you here in this studio here, if you’re checking out the spec in the build for that one.
A: The way I’ve always taught my staff actually is we start off with the smallest ingredients first. We’ll start off with a couple of dashes of bitters into the jigger or into the tin, and then thereafter it’ll be a quarter- ounce of allspice, half-ounce of falernum. In our case we’ll do a 50-50 of John Taylor and Maggie’s Farm. We just like the way the two play together. Then, I actually do three-quarter lime, full ounce of orange juice. Then we’re going into a trifecta of rums. We’re doing a half-ounce of Guyana rum, specifically Hamilton 86. Then we’ll do a Jamaican rum. Generally it’s going to be something like Appleton. That’s probably going to be the signature or the eight year, something in that category. Then a full one and a half ounce of Rhum JM Blanc.
T: Sorry, is that a 50-50 split of the half-ounce of the aged rums there, or half-ounce each?
A: Half ounce each.
T: Half-ounce each. Your 2 and a half ounce is total base spirit there.
A: Yes. It’s a little heavier. Thereafter we just shake that with some pebble ice and then dump it right in, as we call dirty dump, into a tall pilsner. Garnish it with your pineapple frond, your three cherries, and a nice straw. Sip away and enjoy.
T: Good to go. Any preference for yourself? This is one that we haven’t spoken about for a while, I do always enjoy. Any preference when it comes to shaker tins style? Do you lean Boston or otherwise, for yourself? I was just thinking there, you probably shake a lot of drinks, maybe more than other bars. Keen to hear any tips you have there or preferences.
A: My personal preference has always been tin on tin. Those are just way easier. The Curaçaos have always been a fan favorite of mine. Anything that is weighted. Anytime I get a new tin, I just bend it and roll it around on the table just to get it a little bit more malleable. We usually keep about six on our bar at any given time just because of the volume of cocktails that we’re doing. Those are pretty much for me and my team, those are the easiest. You don’t really see a ton of people working with glass that much anymore because it’s just so prone to breaking. I’m sure we’ve all, anybody listening to this, has cut themselves at least once on one of those and it’s just a mess.
T: That’s a rough one. Tin on tin there, that’s a good style. Fantastic. Before we move into the final section of the show, I wanted to hear if you have any final thoughts for us today on this drink, Three Dots and a Dash.
A: I honestly think that people should be really trying to make this or ordering it at more bars, because if you have the ingredients available to you, it is a game changer. I think the use of falernum and allspice is so underrated. It should really be seen in more cocktail programs, not just in tiki applications, but any program should be happy to have those two ingredients in their arsenal because they’re so versatile and they bring so much unique flavor to a cocktail.
T: The answer might be obvious to us here because we’ve covered it, but purely when it comes down to recommending this drink, if someone says they like X cocktail, this is the one you’re going to recommend, what would that cocktail be? Would it be the Zombie?
A: It would be the Zombie. I would say this is like a very close cousin to the Zombie. Nearly as potent, and I think in many cases even a little bit more complex.
T: If you’re going to take it back one more from there, what’s the drink someone’s having that’s leading you to recommend them a Zombie or perhaps this just skipping one step of the way there.
A: I’ve had people who have asked me for something very complex. They’ll ask me for a Long Island Iced Tea and they want it dressed up a little bit. For the average drinker, I usually say, “Do you like something refreshing and spirit-forward at the same time?” That usually catches them off guard because it’s either people who drink Manhattans, Old Fashioneds and they’re looking for something more spirit-forward. Then you get people who are more into Daiquiris and Cosmos, and the sour style cocktails, and I’m like this is a hybrid of the two. I think it’s great because it reads very, very well with either side of the room.
T: You know what? I find myself often in that camp in the middle there, so I’m so glad that you say that. Where I want something refreshing but boozy. Heavy on the spirits but also, yes again, maybe that I want to be sipping in warmer weather if I’m outside, which just the Martini doesn’t quite — it’s maybe the one scenario for me where I’m questioning whether I will pull the trigger on a Martini there.
Getting to Know Anton Kinloch
T: Fantastic. Now we get to learn more about yourself as a drinker and a bartender as we head into our final section of the show here. Do you feel ready for the quick hit questions?
A: Oh boy, let’s do it.
T: Let’s do it, Anton. All right, starting with question number one, what style or category — I’m laughing, you probably know why — of spirit typically enjoys the most real estate on your back bar?
A: That would be rum
T: That would be rum. Any type of rum in particular that you’re may — touching wood here because we don’t want this to happen but say there’s a fire at a property and you’re only able to save a couple of bottles, which style of rum are you going to first. Forget money, money is no object or whatever. Which are the ones purely that you’re running to where you’re like, I have to have one more drink of this before it goes?
A: Oh, that would definitely be anything from Jamaica. Anything high-proof, anything high-ester from Jamaica. That’s my soft spot.
T: Nice. Question number two here for you. Which ingredient or tool do you believe to be the most undervalued in a bartender’s arsenal?
A: Oh that is a great question, and I know other people have said strainers and such. I’m just going to go out and say the Hamilton Beach stick blenders. I think that is probably one of the greatest tools to have. Even if you’re not doing frozen cocktails, it’s got its own unique applications. More specifically if you’ve got an egg white cocktail, great thing to use. You’re not going to kill your arm doing a Ramos Gin Fizz, you’re not going to kill your arm. It’s a hack that I learned years ago and it’s one that I promised I would put in every single bar that I ever open. We just have to have it.
T: Very nice there. Iconic. Iconic tool there, but you said, maybe has more uses than people realized. Question number three, what’s the most important piece of advice you’ve received while working in this industry?
A: The best advice actually I got was from our mutual friend, Brian Miller, which is take the ego off of the menu. Which really resonated with me because I realized that when we as spirits professionals are making drinks, we’re not just not just making drinks for ourselves, we’re making drinks for other people. At the end of the day the drinks are really a very small component of a much bigger experience. The way we conduct ourselves is really what’s going to drive their memory of us and their memory of the evening, and how the night turned out. I think that’s really important for a lot of younger bartenders to realize that it’s not about you, it’s about the guests, it’s about how we make them feel. They’re not going to remember you but they’re going to remember how they felt.
T: I think you’ve done a great job there of speaking about exactly what that concept looks like. I’m wondering what an application might be for that when it comes to maybe the menu specifically. Is that not trying to go overly complex and go down a direction that maybe people don’t feel comfortable ordering, or people don’t feel familiar with? I’m not asking you to call anyone out here of course, but what does ego look like for you if you see it on a menu. What’s something that you might — so we can highlight that here. What might that look like?
A: For me, it’s pretension is generally compounded by super-complex drinks and staff who basically will not acknowledge or worse yet on a menu, if you have all these crazy ingredients but you don’t have a flavor profile underneath them, because your guests might not be familiar with 70 percent of the menu. If you have a flavor profile underneath that describes what they can expect, that’s really going to help bring down the ego and really get them down to your level, and you’re going to be able to have a dialogue with them.
T: Really there’s a sweet spot. I think it’s probably different for every bar but there’s a sweet spot when it comes to information on the menu. There can be an overload and therefore people who are not in the industry just become confused understandably so, but then there can maybe be not enough info where even if you walk into a bar you’re like, I’m not sure what’s going on with this drink. Also, I can see how it would work if it’s stirred, but what if it’s shaken, or how are they serving it? I don’t know. Sometimes I feel we could all do a better job of highlighting those things, or a lot of places could.
A: Adjectives are incredibly important. What’s funny is that we have the tools in our lexicons to describe things, but we are terrible at actually describing what we like.
T: That’s so true. Just to that point earlier where you’re like, how do you recommend drinks to people? It’s so funny where whenever you’re asked that question, “What do you like?” it’s like you’ve never had a cocktail before. You’re like, what am I saying here? If you’re not using the actual cocktail as an example, I don’t know.
A: I mean, our approach has actually been even to go beyond that and say, what kind of food do you like? What kind of cuisine, or better yet what kind of flavors? Because it helps us gear in our guests into what is going to be appropriate for them.
T: I think also there’s a way where this can start to become tacky too. Some wine bars here in the city have started doing things as well where they ask you completely different questions, but to hopefully land in a place where you get the drink you want because that’s the goal, but in questions that you feel comfortable with as well.
T: I don’t know, there’s a balance to everything. Question number four here for you. If you could only visit one last bar in your life, what would it be?
A: If it was still around, I would probably go to the Polynesian and have a drink. Have the Double Barrel Winchester served to me by Brian. I had that drink only once when I was there a couple times and it blew my mind. I tried to recreate it at home. I found the recipe and I couldn’t get it. I just could not get it, even though I had the same exact ingredients. That’s really what tiki is all about, is that you can come close, just like we have with Donn’s recipes. We can come close to what the intention was, but it’s not going to be quite the same because you are not in that particular environment. You’re not being served by that particular bartender.
T: Phenomenal drink there. One that definitely deserves a lot more recognition. I don’t know what season of this show we’ll need to be till we get there. Definitely want to have Brian on back sometime soon, though. Maybe that’s the next one. Final question for today’s episode. If you knew that the next cocktail you drank was going to be your last, what would you order or make?
A: Oddly enough, I would go for a Last Word just because, last cocktail, my final breaths. I think it’s only fitting.
T: Nice to have the Last Word there. Always good. Such a great template too. We’ve spoken about it on that episode, but a really good template for a drink, or an interesting template that works surprisingly well. We’re competing against tiki here where we’re talking about six to eight ingredients in one drink, but four components, equal proportions. It’s one of those ones to me that’s a miracle that it works in so many different ways.
A: Absolutely. I think that’s something that more bartenders should look to as a template. Because again, you could take the Three Dots and use that as a template in swapping out different rums, swapping out different base ingredients. Maybe you want to make this cocktail with a Cognac and Armagnac. Why not? This is what our whole industry is about, is finding these cocktails, using them as a template, and using them as a vehicle to create new iterations that are hopefully going to become iconic and talked about in future years.
T: Very nice. Anton, thank you so much for joining us today. Good to be in the studio with you here. Thanks for making the trip and appearing with us on Cocktail College.
A: Thank you.
T: Hope to have you back soon.
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