The New Optimism: A.J. thru Aberdeen Angus

Since the first few meetings were consumed with getting the dreaded A-1 PICK-ME-UP off the ground, we are tingly with excitement to get started on the first four cocktails after the A-1: the A.J., the ABBEY, the ABBEY COCKTAIL, and the ABERDEEN ANGUS. We will be mixing, and talking, and consuming, and comparing, and contrasting, which is really what we came here to do—not make weird egg and lemon mixtures that rot on the dresser. We feel alive; we feel free of our burdens. It makes sense to spread all of today’s ingredients out on the countertop, like treasure, so that is what we do.

1.5 oz. apple brandy (Laird’s Applejack, although Laird’s Apple Brandy might give it more kick)
1.5 oz. unsweetened grapefruit juice (from Eric’s tree)
A few drops grenadine (Morgenthaler’s DIY)

Combine with ice; shake well. Strain and add ice.

Most modern versions of this recipe leave off the grenadine but Brian has made a whole batch already and besides we have to stick to the Book. The Book also calls for a rocks glass (not a cocktail glass) and no simple syrup, which suggests a much more down-to-earth experience. In the end we have to mix this one twice, because the first A.J. gets watered down in the mixing glass while we are distracted by something unimportant. The second version is much better but still horrible somehow. An F+. Later we discover that readers have given it one star out of five.

Eric: “Here we have two great tastes that taste lousy together. Weird math.”
Brian: “This tastes like two things fighting with each other, but neither is dominant.”
Eric: “Yeah, it’s like a really boring fight.”
Brian: “It’s probably something high school kids put together through process of elimination. Hey, I found some apple brandy in my parents’ liquor cabinet. Let’s try it with Coke! Let’s try it with….uh….grapefruit juice!”

SCORES: Brian gives the A.J. a measly 3. Eric hates it slightly less: 4.

1.5 oz. gin (Bombay Sapphire)
1.5 oz orange juice
1-2 dashes orange bitters

Combine with ice; shake. Strain over ice; top with a cherry!

From “Reminiscent of oranges, this drink is a mixture of juniper and orange flavors on the tongue, with slight other floral notes pulling through thanks to the Lillet Blanc and the inclusion of bitters.” Say what? Wait, their ABBEY has a totally different recipe. The CocktailMusings version calls for kina lillet, half as much orange juice, and angostura bitters, which sounds about fifty times better than ours. Perhaps we should veer off onto this more interesting variation? No, we will stick to the program.

Brian: “Gin and juice, gross.”
Eric: “This is shit. All I can taste is orange.”
Brian: “Really? Because all I can taste is gin.”
Eric: “Wow, our taste receptors are totally different.”

SCORES: Brian 3. Eric 3.

1.5 oz. gin (Bombay Sapphire)
.75 oz. orange juice
.25 oz. sweet vermouth (Punt E Mes)
1-2 dashes of Angostura bitters (Rituals DIY)

Combine with ice; shake. Strain, add ice, top with a cherry!

This sometimes seems to be referred to as an Abbey Martini; it’s also related to the Bronx cocktail, but without dry vermouth and adding angostura bitters. From “An ideal brunch time beverage, the ABBEY COCKTAIL is a refreshing gin based drink that mixes bitters with vermouth.” Man, we feel refreshed already. Bring on the ABBEY COCKTAIL.

Brian: “This is still gin and juice, but with some vermouth in it.
Eric: “This is better because of the Punt e Mes, but it’s still shit.”
Brian: “I don’t know. If somebody bought me this drink in a bar I guess I would drink it.”
Eric: “I vow never try to make this drink on purpose.”

SCORES: Brian 3.5. Eric 4.

2 oz. Scotch (Famous Grouse)
1 oz. Drambuie
1 tbs honey
2 tsp lime juice

Combine the Scotch and the honey; stir until smooth. Add the lime juice. Warm the Drambuie over a low flame, turn out on a ladle; ignite and pour into the mug. Stir and serve immediately.

I have the highest hopes for this drink, which appears to be some kind of sweet and sour Rusty Nail in a huge mug that gets lit on fire. Extra credit also for being named after Kurt Cobain’s hometown of Aberdeen, a logging town in Washington state. Later we will discover that ABERDEEN ANGUS actually refers to a breed of cattle developed in the early part of the 19th century from the polled and predominantly black stock of northeast Scotland, known locally as “doddies” and “hummlies.” But for now, at least, we imagine the Nirvana frontman’s Grandpap sipping one of these on the porch.

Amanda: “Why is there a fire extinguisher there?”
Brian: “That’s because we have to light the next drink on fire!”


Brian: “This mug is fifty times too large for the liquid inside of it.”
Eric: “It tastes like Theraflu. Exactly like it, actually.”
Brian: “What we have here is honey on top of honey on top of Scotch.”
Eric: “I hate this. I predicted this would be the winner and it’s a total failure.”
Brian: “Do you think Kurt Cobain actually drank one of these?”

SCORES: Brian 2. Eric, a disappointed 2.


-Brian’s Place

Session 2 Winner:
-Eric: “The unlikely A.J. But they all deserve to lose.”
-Brian: “All of these drinks are equally horrible.”

Session 2 Loser:
-All of them.

Session 2 Alternate of Actual Quality:
-Brian makes a delicious JACK ROSE out of the Laird’s and his homemade grenadine, rescuing the afternoon.

Homemade/Homegrown Items Used:
-Brian’s homemade grenadine
-Grapefruit from Eric’s tree

-Brian’s homemade grenadine v. Rose’s grenadine
-Punt e Mes v. Martini & Rossi
-Brian’s homemade cherry shrub
-Luxardo maraschino cherries

-Sandwiches from Whole Foods
-Homemade pickle salad

-Overpriced liquor at Whole Foods
-How long would you wait in line for a sandwich?
-Making meat pies from scratch
-Driving pet peeves
-How to shame bad drivers
-Brian’s previous blog failure
-Social Media

On the next Rituals: “The A-1 Pick-Me-Up, Part 3: Red Alert” (in which Brian and Eric meet their first major setback)

Eric D. Anderson


Eric D. Anderson came to appreciate cocktails late in life and is trying to make up for lost time. He finds that crafting drinks involves the same precision, creativity, sociability, and ritual as baking—another passion—and believes that it brings people together in the same way. Eric is the director of Way of the Puck, a feature-length documentary about professional air hockey, and the editor of Stories of Quitting (, an online collection of true stories that celebrate giving up. His writing has appeared in AGNI, Painted Bride Quarterly, Perigee, Giant Robot, and Wild Quarterly, among other publications. In his free time he works as a camera operator on commercials and motion pictures.

Always drink responsibly!