The Friday Tipple: The Boxcar

We’re lucky bastards, Boozers. The nice folks at Catoctin Creek Distilling Company blessed us with an early sample of their 1757 Virginia Brandy — still young and not quite ready for prime time — and we’ve been contemplating it for several weeks.  Richly mellow and lightly fruity, brandy can truly elevate winter cocktails to a new level of warm delight.

There are several cocktails that feature brandy, such as the Brandy Alexander and the Vieux Carré, but we weren’t inspired until we decided to check out the Boxcar Tavern, a new establishment in our area. As always, we eagerly examined the signature cocktail menu, and, while we were intrigued by the nutmeg syrup used in the whiskey-based Warm Winter Night, we were surprised that a place called the Boxcar wouldn’t have a signature Sidecar. Just seems like a natural fit.

So we’ve created it ourselves: the Boxcar. A classic Sidecar features brandy (or cognac, and we’re sure you know that all cognac is brandy but not all brandy is cognac), Cointreau, and lemon juice. But that nutmeg syrup just begs for brandy, and, with images of boxcars trundling north through the swamps of central Florida piled high with citrus, we felt that fresh oranges were a natural complement. The result is a gorgeous little burst of winter spice with subtle notes of spring break sunshine. Santé!


As you know, we hate to see dusty bottles of so-called “seasonal” liquors languish in the cupboard, so we eschewed the Cointreau, generally used in a traditional Sidecar, in favor of triple sec. You may only think of triple sec as used in summer margaritas, but its softly bitter orange flavor works just as well as Cointreau in this application.

3/4 ounce freshly-squeezed orange juice (we used a couple of clementines; mandarins and tangerines would also work quite well)

3/4 ounce triple sec

1.5 ounces brandy or cognac

Scant teaspoon nutmeg syrup (basically, just add a 1/4 teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg to 1/4 cup of simple syrup)

Sugar and lemon, for coating the rim of the glass

Run a slice of lemon around the edge of a martini or cosmopolitan glass and dip in sugar. Put the orange juice, triple sec, brandy, and nutmeg syrup into a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into glass and enjoy.


The Friday Tipple: Pitcher’s Revenge

Boozers, it’s tough being a pitcher in the post-season. Sluggers are lining up left and right to hit another ball out of the park, meaning that starting pitchers are rarely making it past the fifth inning and the bullpens are worn out. But St. Louis starter Chris Carpenter managed to pull off a win through six full innings during game 1 of the World Series this week, with poor beleaguered Jaime Garcia actually getting in seven innings in game 2. We thought that deserved a little tip of the ballcap, hence, the Pitcher’s Revenge.

It turns out that St. Louis has rather an illustrious heritage when it comes to the cocktail, besides being the birthplace of famous tipplers such as Josephine Baker and Tennessee Williams. It is widely thought to be the city where the official “cocktail party” first originated, thrown by Julius and Clara Walsh in 1917, who were already known for an earlier “baby party” at the St. Louis Country Club, where the party-goers drank out of baby bottles while sporting frilled baby bonnets. The Walshes may have developed their love for cocktails at that same country club, where the bar was ruled by an African-American bartender named Tom Bullock, widely known across the midwest and beyond for his skills and who published his popular book “The Ideal Bartender” the same year, dedicated “to those who enjoy snug club rooms, that they may learn for themselves the art of preparing what is good”.

This week’s tipple honors some popular cocktails from 1917, The Bronx Cocktail and the Cooperstown Cocktail, which we also felt seemed fitting for the World Series (oh, sorry, Yankees fans, but at least you can suck down a drink from the Bronx while you watch the Cards). We were also inspired by those bags of darling little Clementine oranges that are selling cheap at the grocery store now that fall has set in— they make a nice fresh juice that takes on a color very close to Gatorade. The pitchers might want to sneak this tipple into those big orange jugs in the dugout, and it should be just enough to get the opposing hitters to swing a little wide of the fences. Batter up!

Pitcher’s Revenge

The Cooperstown Cocktail calls for fresh mint, but we substituted basil because it imparts a slightly grassy flavor which is just about perfect when enjoying a rousing game of baseball.

3 or 4 Clementine oranges

Gin (we like Catoctin Creek’s Organic Watershed Gin)

French vermouth (dry)

Italian vermouth (sweet)

2 fresh basil leaves

dash bitters (Bittermens’ Boston Bittahs adds the right note)

Juice the Clementines. Lightly bruise the basil leaves in the bottom of a cocktail shaker and add ice. Pour 3 ounces of juice, 1.5 ounces of gin, and a slight splash of each vermouth into the shaker. Shake vigorously and pour the contents into a large wineglass. Add a dash of bitters and garnish with a slice of Clementine.