DIY Bitters Workshop at Museum of Craft and Design SF

Last Thursday, I hosted a workshop on making cocktail bitters at San Francisco’s Museum of Craft and Design.


We sold out all 60 tickets, the crowd was in high spirits throughout the night, and everyone seemed excited by what they made, so I’m already pondering venues to teach DIY Bitters again.

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Bitters Making Workshop at Batch Made Market

I was invited to present a workshop on how to make cocktail bitters at home during the inaugural Batch Made Market in San Francisco, and it was a big success!

We did a quick overview of bitters’ history and uses, then dug into the tools, processes and testing methods for making bitters. It was a fun event, with close to 50 people attending, despite it being advertised as capped at 15, and it had sold out in a matter of minutes online. Twice as many people were standing crowded into the tent as were seated, but I had thought this might happen and brought enough tasting cups and handouts for fifty students.

The handout has a lot of good info, so I thought I should share it here as well. Click image below for PDF.

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Cranberry Bitters for Thanksgiving and Christmas Cocktails

cran3Problem: too much Beaujolais at family Thanksgiving last year, and too few cocktails.

Solution: homemade cranberry bitters to craft some festive holiday drinks.

The holiday season – and the stress that comes with it – are nearly upon us, so most of the instructions in this recipe involve hitting ingredients with a hammer or jabbing them with a sharp stick. After that you just wait, shake, and blend.

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Drinker’s Dictionary Volume 2 (Your Input Is Needed)



One of my most popular posts (thanks, Reddit) and the best-selling item in my Etsy Store are both based on Ben Franklin’s compendium of words and phrases meaning drunk, The Drinker’s Dictionary.

Now, more than 275 years after he published it, it’s time for an update. so I’m compiling the best contemporary terms for “drunk”.

I will publish it here, and etch it into another decanter, to make a matching set with the original.

Add your favorites in the comments box below, and one randomly selected contribution that makes it into the final piece, will earn the contributor a free set of Drinker’s Dictionary Decanters.

Note: depending on submissions, I may exclude profanity from the final list. After all, we want this to be family-friendly list of terms for getting effed-up. If there are a lot of unique, profane and obscene submissions, that may just necessitate me making a third volume, in which case, one of you shit-faced shit-talkers will also get a free set.

B – Bashed, Basted, Besotted, Blitzed, Blotto, Bombed, Boozed up, Buzzed…

Kerf-Bending Coffee Cup Cuffs

I’ve been so busy developing new gizmos that I haven’t been posting much lately, so here’s a peak at my most recent project. Along with new decanters, including a set with quotes about the spirits they contain, and some DIY cocktail kits with etched bottles, I’ve been working more with wood.

Along with creating woodcut stamps to make fun packaging, I stumbled onto a great new concept. I’m turning rigid sheets of plywood into “koozies” that fit paper coffee cups and pint glasses of beer, to protect your delicate fingers from extreme temperatures. Still testing design and resiliency, but so far results are  impressive. If you’re in SF and want to be an alpha tester, take me out for a cup of coffee and I’ll give you a free cuff.




Note: Kerf-bending or “kerfing” is using the space created by a saw blade (called the kerf) or in this case, a laser, to create flexibility in an otherwise stiff material. The 1/4-inch plywood I am using for this project is remarkably inflexible, and yet once I’ve sliced it up, I can roll the whole thing up like it’s made of paper.

Wisdom of My Father


This is my first Father’s Day as a dad, and my parents just came out to visit from Vermont to meet the baby and spend some time with me in San Francisco.

Along with sound advice on parenting and relationships, my father dropped some cocktail wisdom on me when I took my folks out to Trick Dog for drinks.

I usually assess the cocktailing potential of a new bar by ordering a Blood and Sand (equal parts Scotch, sweet vermouth, OJ and Cherry Heering). Any hesitation or confusion from the bartender, and I would know not to order another cocktail. The tragic flaw is that I am rarely in the mood for such a sweet drink. When this came up in conversation, my old man started to smirk.

My dad, he does it one better. He orders a Perfect Manhattan (“perfect” denotes replacing half of the sweet vermouth with dry vermouth), and if the bartender says something like, “Oh, all the drinks here are excellent,” he says, “You know, I’ve changed my mind. I’ll have a beer.”

An engineer by education, and a craftsman by avocation, I’m really unsurprised that he would devise such an efficient and elegant approach.

Perfect Manhattan

(Dad usually calls for Jameson, technically making this a perfect “Emerald”, a much smoother alternative to the traditional rye)

two ounces whiskey
1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
1/2 ounce dry vermouth
a dash of orange bitters

Stir with ice, strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a cherry.

SpeedRack is Back

If you are in San Francisco this weekend and looking for something to do, check out SpeedRack, the touring female bartender competition that’s raising money for breast cancer research.

The last time I attended SpeedRack was in Portland, and I can vouch that it’s a rowdy, raunchy and a raucous good time. Tickets are only $20 ($25 at the door), so come cheer on your favorite local cocktail-maker. If you aren’t in SF, check their site to see when SpeedRack might be coming to your city.


WHEN:           Sunday, Feb 24, 2013 3– 7pm (website says Feb 24, 2012 in places, but don’t be fooled)
WHERE:       The Chapel, 777 Valencia Street, San Francisco
WHY:       Watch skilled, gorgeous bartenders, imbibe excellent drinks, save some boobs
WHO: a great list of competitors, many of whom are personal friends, so I can’t say who I want to win.

  • Alicia Walton – Elixir, Bloodhound, Momo’s (San Francisco)
  • Allison Webber – Jasper’s Corner Tap & Kitchen (San Francisco)
  • Ashley Curren – Rickhouse (San Francisco)
  • Claire Sprouse – Tradition (San Francisco)
  • Danielle Marchant –Monarch (San Francisco)
  • Jen Ackrill – Rye (San Francisco)
  • Jennifer Colliau – Slanted Door (Berkeley, CA)
  • Julie Thompson – Rye (San Francisco)
  • Kate Bolton – Maven (San Francisco)
  • Keli Rivers – Hotsy Totsy Club (San Francisco)
  • Kim Gooden – Tradition (San Francisco)
  • Kim Rosselle – Flora/ Fauna (Oakland, CA)
  • Lauren Steele – Hook & Ladder, Lowbrau (Sacramento)
  • Leilani Vella – Nopa, Lolinda, Absinthe (San Francisco)
  • Lucia Gonzales – Prizefighter (Oakland, CA)
  • Megan Silsbee – Nopa (San Francisco)
  • Michaela Leah King – Cantina (San Francisco)
  • Rhachel Shaw – Tradition, Local Edition (San Francisco)
  • Victoria George – Rickhouse, AQ Restaurant & Bar (San Francisco)
  • Vita Simone Strauss – Dogwood, The New Easy (Oakland, CA)

Multi-Purpose Bar Tools


I hate single-use kitchen gadgets (hot dog slicers, corn strippers, pizza shears, anything from Skymall), but so many bar tools are limited in what they can do.

I certainly am not advocating a swiss army-style cocktail tool, and yes, that really does exist. There’s nothing useful about ten bulky tools crammed into one with all utility sacrificed for the sake of compactness, like the monstrosity on the right, but there is room for expanded functionality for some standard, single-purpose bar tools.

My new favorite is the Microplane Stainless-Steel Citrus Bar Tool, which combines a speed-key bottle opener format with a grater/zester and channel knife (used for cutting a twist from citrus peel). The only downside is losing the speed-pour pulling ring on the back end, which really only matters to a professional. For home enthusiasts, or if you are throwing a cocktail party for friends, this tool is a fantastic way to to improve efficiency, save space and a few bucks. The item is less than $20 at Williams-Sonoma.

Anyone else have favorite multi-purpose or otherwise innovative bar tools?