The Cocktail College Podcast: How to Make the Perfect El Presidente

On this episode of “Cocktail College,” host Tim McKirdy is joined by bar director Orlando Franklin of Night Moves to discuss a unique rum cocktail, El Presidente. The two explore the Prohibition origins of this drink, how it stands out by being a stirred rum cocktail, and why this drink might deserve the title of the airport Martini of cocktails. Tune in to hear more.

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Orlando Franklin’s El Presidente Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ ounces Cuban rum, such as Havana Club 3
  • 1 ounce Chambery vermouth
  • ½ ounce Cointreau
  • ¼ ounce pomegranate molasses
  • A few drops orange blossom water

Directions

  1. Combine ingredients in a mixing glass or tin with ice.
  2. Stir for about one minute.
  3. Strain into chilled Nick and Nora glass.
  4. Garnish with an orange twist.

Check Out the Conversation Here

Tim McKirdy: We’re in the “Cocktail College” studio. We’re joined by Orlando Franklin today. I got him on mic four if you want to get technical there. But Orlando, welcome. Thank you so much for joining us.

Orlando Franklin: Hi. Yeah, of course. Happy to be here.

T: We’re going to chat about El Presidente today. Fantastic cocktail.

O: Sometimes.

T: Sometimes. We’re hoping that many more times after this and after people are listening to it and taking your tips. But before we dive into it, all right, okay, off the top, I recognize that this is not one of those drinks that maybe everyone will be able to remember all of the ingredients for off the top of their mind. Let’s start with that. Let’s call them out. What is this a combination of?

O: It’s a Cuban cocktail. I guess ideally, you’d have a Cuban rum. A light Cuban rum, but I’ll get into why that can be different later, I guess. In Cuban rum, you’d want a blanc vermouth. A lot of people use dry vermouth and it’s kind of interchangeable, but I think it’s supposed to be with a Chambery. Dolin I guess is probably something of the style that they were using originally. grenadine and dry curaçao.

T: Nice, Nice. All right, so we’re going to get into all of those. We’re going to get into the preparation and we’re going to get into the history. But before we do, what’s your own personal relationship with this drink? I understand that this is one that you’ve perfected along the way.

O: I think so. I think I’ve made a better version of it than I’ve made for me. It’s a stirred rum cocktail and I tend not to err towards stirred cocktails anyways, besides a Martini. It’s just sort of an outlier for me just in its build to begin with. The fact that it uses a syrup in it’s a stirred cocktail is kind of what makes it f*ck-up-able. It’s really easy too, because I guess the spectrum of quality that those ingredients could be, is so vast that there’s a lot of errors that can be made.

T: A lot of paths to go down that could end up in a bad cocktail. Do you remember the first time you had this drink?

O: I think the first time that I had it, I actually liked it, which is why it’s easy to identify the ones that I haven’t. There is a bar in Brooklyn called Diamond Lil, which is a really beautiful portrait behind the bar. It’s such a nice, cozy bar. They had it on their menu maybe four or five years ago and it’s kind of an odd drink to see on a menu. It’s kind of a forgotten classic, I guess. I had it there, I really liked it. Then I’ve had it a bunch of times since and have not.

T: It’s so funny, not just because they both begin with the Spanish word for “the,” but we were covering El Diablo recently and I asked a similar thing, which is, is this a drink that you do come across on menus often? Or is it more of a calling card for, “Okay, if this person orders this, either the drink means something to them or they know a lot about cocktails?”

O: You shouldn’t be ordering drinks to challenge people’s skill anyway. Don’t do that. It’s not something that I would order from someone unless I was ordering confidently from them.

T: You know them as a bartender, maybe you’ve had a couple of their drinks before.

O: Or if they, for example, put it on their menu. It’s a weird called drink for sure.

T: Yeah, that’s the concept we get into a lot. It’s like, okay, if one of these slightly more left-field drinks makes it onto a menu, there’s a reason for it. Maybe it’s because it’s slowly trending or maybe it means a lot to the person who devised that menu and therefore you should feel somewhat comfortable with it.

O: Yes, of course. Don’t do the roulette thing. You walk into a bar and you’re like, “Oh, it looks like they make cocktails. Let me order an El Presidente.” Don’t do that.

The History of El Presidente

T: Okay. I won’t be trying that one after the show. Scratch that idea. Let’s get into the history, though. You talk about this Cuban drink, El Presidente. I mean, I don’t think we need to get out DuoLingo to figure out what it means, the name. But what are the roots of this? Is this one that we know? Who do we think this cocktail might be named after?

O: Well, I read a little bit about it before coming in, but I guess it was sort of popularized during Prohibition where a lot of Americans were going to Cuba to drink. It’s named after Mario García Menocal — he was the president from 1913 to 1921 — or a general who became president, General Machado. Yeah, I don’t know, I guess it’s disputed which one of those people it’s named after.

T: That classic kind of tale, there’s always two or three different variations. We’re talking about someone fairly high up in Cuba during the Prohibition era and it makes sense therefore that this would become a drink that might gain popularity because, like you said, Americans can’t legally drink at home.

O: But they will fly. But actually, PanAm was the only airway that was granted access to fly to Cuba during that time I guess. Machado was the president at the time and on their flights, they served a drink called a Clipper, but it’s based on El Presidente.

T: Okay.

O: I mean, maybe if that matters, that story tracks a little bit more. But a Clipper I think omits the vermouth. It’s everything else with-

T: It’s everything else but the vermouth. It tracks therefore that, look at some of those ingredients, grenadine, orange liqueur, probably very prominent at the time. We’ve spoken on this show before as well about how you can improve them, because obviously grenadine specifically has kind of fallen out of favor, not flavor. The flavor probably has changed. We’ll get into that in a little bit. Prohibition-era drink, is there anything else that stands out in the history of this or is this more notable maybe because of the fact that, like you said, it’s a stirred classic rum cocktail, which seems to be few of those?

O: Well, I mean obviously, access to Cuban rum is probably one thing. I mean that’s probably the biggest factor about why you wouldn’t be able to get one at any given time. Obviously, you can find, or if you’re coming back from somewhere, you can pick up a bottle of Havana Club Three at the airport or whatever. But that access is probably what made it go out of style or just sort of maligned or sidelined I guess.

T: Also, I guess on that stirred rum front, are there any others that come to mind immediately that aren’t also maybe “modern classics?”

O: There’s Ti Punch, but that’s not really… It’s more like an Old Fashioned in my mind, just in terms of the build.

T: A rum Old Fashioned, yeah, I guess it is the other one. But again, none of these are classics. So super interesting there. I mean, you start to look down on ingredients and it’s like, “Well, is this a rum Martini? But no, then I’m getting the orange liqueur in there.” It’s a really interesting combination there.

O: Well, also, obviously, there’s a trend of people making their own syrups and I don’t know what grenadine is being used in during Prohibition. I’m not sure if people are making it or if it’s a commercially available thing. My guess is it would be something like Rose’s, which obviously has a way different profile than anything that anyone’s going to be making for their bar.

T: It’s interesting as well, looking through those. I mean, a lot of those ingredients right there, typically, you’d have some kind of citrus or acidity to brighten it.

O: I guess the thing that I feel the most strongly about is that the grenadine is pretty acid-leaning and that you’re using enough of it so that the drink does have acidity. Because it’s just a bunch of sugar.

T: Yeah. Orange liqueur is going to be sweet. That’s what you are using, is the sweet component of your classic Margarita.

O: Anything that’s kind of where at least the person is using a grenadine that they’ve made or I don’t know what a commercially available one is that’s any good, but that has a bit of acidity to it. If you’re leaning into that in the drink build, just for balance’s sake, I think is what makes it good or bad.

T: Beyond the obvious listing of the components, if someone’s like, “That sounds like an interesting drink,” what does that taste like? I don’t know, is that a very tough question? But how would you describe the profile of it?

O: I mean, honestly, I hate it when people ask me that at work, because my brain is just like, “It tastes like the ingredients listed together is what it tastes like.”

T: What should be the most prominent, then?

O: Like I said, just acid from the grenadine coming through because just having a syrupy thing in front of you is… you know?

T: Hard to finish.

O: Yeah, don’t do it, please.

T: This is going to be served up as well, right?

O: You’ve got nowhere to go. As soon as you have it, it gets worse.

T: It’s getting warmer.

O: This is the best-case scenario in front of you right now. Yeah, there’s no growth.

T: You were showing me earlier before we came on air here, I mean, feel free to describe that, but you had a lovely note from someone, a guest, that you had made one of these drinks for. This is while you were working at Maison Premiere, I believe.

O: Yeah.

T: Was that on the menu there or was that just?

O: No, it wasn’t. This was maybe an example of someone just ordering something for the sake of ordering it. But I know this person, so it’s fine. Can I read the note?

T: Go for it.

O: We had these comment cards that came with the check. People sometimes left us nice notes, sometimes they didn’t. But it said, “Orlando made the best Presidente and Sherry Spritz I’ve ever had. Agility plus 10, intelligence plus eight, strength plus four, 80 percent chance of a critical hit.” But that one, I think because we had a rum blend at the time that we used for the Mai Tai there.

T: That sounds about right.

O: There wasn’t a Cuban rum in that one, but I was just leaning towards the flavors. I think now, because even the one that we were making at my bar up until, well I ran out of my Cuban rum, so up until about a week ago. I’m going on a trip soon so I can get some more.

T: Pick some more up?

O: Yeah. But even then, that was a rum blend that did have Havana Seven, I think that’s the second-oldest one. That did have Havana Club Seven in it. But I did a mix with clairin, I don’t know if you’re familiar with it.

T: Mm-hmm.

O: So that in itself is a blend of four rums.

T: The clairin is a-

O: Haitian.

T: Haitian, right, but it’s cane juice based, right?

O: Yeah, yeah. Just fresh cane juice. Whereas the Havana, that’s molasses-based, I think.

T: Yeah, for sure.

O: But yeah, just to throw a Cuban rum in there, because I was given a bottle of the Havana Seven and I hadn’t used it for anything.

T: At that point, though, when you’re making that one at Maison Premiere, did you have your own grenadine on at the time?

O: Yeah, so we made grenadine in house there and it tended to be a bit acidic and not super syrupy either. It lended itself on that drink. I think I was actually working on a cocktail for a competition that also had grenadine in it. I guess I’m just thinking about this for the first time now, I guess in retrospect, I was probably using El Presidente as a template.

T: As the template.

O: Yeah, because it was a Cognac rum grenadine thing. It was like a Julep, but I think I was probably using the El Presidente as a template without thinking about it.

T: Without thinking about it.

O: Yeah.

The Ingredients in Orlando Franklin’s El Presidente

T: It is an interesting template there. Let’s break each of those down, those ingredients, because we talk about what you want this cocktail to taste like or its profile. We’ve spoken about rum a lot before, but maybe you can take us a bit more into Cuban rum specifically because people might be hearing Havana Club. Is there not a story there where there is the Cuban version, but there’s also been the other version and that’s been disputed. So people might be thinking, “Wait, Havana Club, I’ve been able to get this forever.” What’s the story there? Can you tell us about that?

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O: Yeah. I think to my understanding, because the Bacardi family left Cuba to go to Puerto Rico, and they owned Havana Club at the time, and they continued to make Havana Club in Cuba, but obviously, it was maybe not the family’s recipe or I guess it wouldn’t have been. Then recently, or I guess in the last few years, Havana Club’s been being made by Bacardi again in Puerto Rico. There are two, but one’s Cuban and one…

T: Is not.

O: Yeah. Well, yeah, I mean, the family came from Cuba, so presumably, it’s a Cuban recipe in spirit, but made in Puerto Rico.

T: One has the black label and one doesn’t.

O: That’s Bacardi. The black label is Bacardi. Then Havana Three is the yellow label and an amber-colored rum. Excellent Daiquiri rum, one of the better Daiquiri rums, I think.

T: We spoke earlier as well. These are going to be molasses-based, that style. It’s a richer style.

O: Which is true for both of them because Bacardi is molasses-based. So yeah.

T: Yeah. Why that profile specifically? Or in terms of your ideal build for this cocktail, are you maintaining that? You mentioned before that you would’ve had a blend for this. Can you talk us through that and why?

O: Yeah. Well I actually changed a couple of things about it when we made it at my bar. One being that it’s a rum blend. I guess in spirit, I wanted to use a Cuban rum and I happened to have some or enough to use to make a batch of it. But the recipe calls for a lighter rum, so using the Seven is already sort of off. But yeah, I imagine your perfect one, you’d be using Three would probably be a good rum for the cocktail.

T: Seven is the one that’s harder to get a hold of?

O: I don’t think so. I feel like they’re equally available at airports coming to the U.S. But obviously, it just has more age on it. The reason for the blend was because that was the only Cuban rum that I had and I wanted to blend it with a lighter rum because it should be with a lighter rum.

T: Yeah. When you go into those decisions there, what are you thinking? Would you still like to bring in some of that agricole-style or cane juice-style rum character in there?

O: It’s just a nice complement, honestly; if you’re a purist, then make it with Three. I don’t know what to tell you. I mean, ultimately, I think if your goal is to make something that is palatable and good that you enjoy, then what are we talking about? Let’s go.

T: Here’s a more hypothetical question. You have a bar there, and maybe you’re not tiki or tropical, but you do have somewhat of a focus on rum, or maybe you have a background working in bars that have paid close attention to rum. It’s very common, as you say, to make rum blends for maybe specific drinks. We had Will on the show to do the Daiquiri. How many blends would you have or would you be aiming for a kind of one size fits all? Look, this is our house rum blend, but we feel equally as confident about this in a Mai Tai or a Daiquiri or El Presidente, or is that too hard?

O: I am not an advocate for that. Incidentally, I worked at a place where we did a rum blend. Incidentally, for the one that I made at my bar, I made a rum blend. But I think it is just a rabbit hole. I think, especially at my bar now, I sort of want to focus on things that are pretty singular. I tend not to mix things up often because I think that the thing that’s in the bottle is interesting.

T: For the most part, someone’s already blended this almost always.

O: Yeah, it’s done already. It’s a rabbit hole. I’ve been to bars that have multiple rum blends and at that point, you’re just like, “Okay, well we did this one because it’s for our Daiquiri. We did this one because…” You don’t even have a stir cocktail on your menu. I can appreciate the time that other people put into it, but I’m not going to.

T: Also, I think we might have touched on this once before, but the idea that rum gets this treatment and almost no other category of spirits does?

O: I don’t know. I mean, because if you were making a blend of Islay Scotches, that’s heresy. That sounds dumb on paper. I don’t know. I guess historically, just because blended rums, bottled previously, rum blends. So people maybe take that into consideration and they’re just like, “Okay, well if this is a mix of five casks of rum, then why can’t I do it?” It’s like, well, no one can stop you, I guess.

T: Feel free to do it.

O: Yeah, go ahead.

T: But maybe it’s an evolution, maybe it’s a fallout of tiki culture. So many of those original recipes contain multiple rums and then just being like, “All right, we have a license to do this now.”

O: Well, no. That’s it. It’s Don, f*cking yeah. Because he put three rums in a drink, now we have rum blends that people think are obligatory to just have.

T: Now we have some people selling rums specifically. Like “This is our Mai Tai rum,” as a product. You don’t have a normal one? Okay, to bring it back though, that’s what you’ve done before. But if push comes to shove, I’m going out, I’m only wanting to buy one bottle to make this cocktail.

O: Havana Club Three.

T: Havana Club Three?

O: Mm-hmm.

T: Perfect. Dry vermouth or not dry here? Vermouth would be the second component classically dry, but it seems you have a different philosophy.

O: I think the recipe asks for a Chambery vermouth, which I think would refer to something like Dolin Blanc now. But it’s just a matter of preference for your vermouth. There was one being distributed here called La Quintinye, which the base is a Pineau de Charentes. It tends to be a bit acidic on its own, more so than Dolin Blanc is. If that’s what I was looking for in the build for the cocktail. I didn’t use Dolin. At Maison, I used La Quintinye because we had that at the time and I don’t think that we can get it in New York anymore. Now I’m using an Italian dry vermouth. That’s just preference based on the style of grape that’s being thrown in to begin with. Better ingredients, better pizza.

T: But you are talking dry. Sorry though, because when you said blanc, I think where my mind went was bianco, with Carpano Bianco being a completely different beast, which is slightly sweeter than the classic.

O: Not that, not that.

T: Not that.

O: Though the blanc vermouths do tend to be a little bit softer than new extra dry. Which I mean, I think that to the point that if you are having it in a cocktail like that, it just kind of makes it duller. For the sake of having something sort of dynamic happening with the drink, I’m looking for acidic components to throw in because since there’s no citrus, there has to be balance coming from something.

T: Yeah, because otherwise, again look at bianco, not only just sweetness, but start to think about the mouthfeel of this cocktail. We haven’t shaken it. It just feels like it’s going to be very kind of unctuous and heavy and flabby, if we’re talking about wine, we bring that up a lot. It’s interesting that you’re getting those components from vermouth. We mentioned grenadine and we’ll go into that again soon. What about the orange liqueur, though? Is this just kind of a classic Cointreau, we use it for-

O: I use Cointreau, but the original recipe is dry curaçao, so that’d be a Pierre Ferrand or something. I have no idea what they were using during Prohibition.

T: Whatever they had.

O: Yeah, whatever they had. Or what the profile of that might have been. But Cointreau’s a pretty standard ingredient.

T: You don’t need to blend your own orange liqueur.

O: You don’t need to do it, you don’t need to do it.

T: This is what I use for my Mai Tai, whatever. No blends needed. I imagine tasted on its own, it might have some sweetness, but I imagine too, it brings a kind of citrus aspect to it, which is an illusion of acidity as well.

O: Yeah, well so for homemade grenadine, a lot of people will throw citrus peels in that anyway while they’re simmering it. But perceived acidity, perceived citrus notes, definitely. It sounds like a sort of bland cocktail and you are kind of reaching for all of these elements just to make something balanced, as I mentioned before.

T: Yeah. All right. Then grenadine, sounds like it’s possibly one of the most important ingredients or should not be overlooked in terms of importance. Tell us how you’re making that. Tell us what your ideal world is, what you’re doing, what you’re putting in there, and maybe especially if you’re tweaking it for this cocktail specifically.

O: I don’t know if I’m the best advocate for this because the one that we were making at my bar, I also didn’t use grenadine. I have made very good grenadine before based on somebody else’s recipe. But the grenadine that we had at Maison is very good. I hate cooking sh*t, man, I hate it. If I can find something, I’ll just use it.

T: Makes much more sense.

O: It was actually, since I was batching it, there’s a little bit of a blend going on, but I use grape molasses and pomegranate molasses.

T: Oh, man.

O: Yeah.

T: Talk To me about that. That’s a wonderful ingredient right there.

O: It’s a Middle Eastern ingredient. Instead of cooking something down, I’m just using basically a concentrated version of what that would be anyway. We were throwing pomegranate molasses into the grenadine that we were using with pomegranate juice and sugar. But like I said, I tend to just look for acid in this drink somewhere and then I’m going to make it happen. Using the molasses is just an easy way to get that condensed flavor without adding a bunch of liquid to your drink.

T: You reminded me of an ingredient I used to use so often in the kitchen when I was a chef. My chef was from Lyon. But his recipes were often heavily influenced by North African cooking and Algerian, Moroccan cuisine. Molasses? I mean that found its way into so much in our recipes, whether it was dressings or marinades or final sauces.

O: It’s a concentrate. It’s got sugar content, it’s got a lot of acid. It’s just a shortcut. Instead of having to make a syrup, you’re just like, “Okay, well let me use a very small amount of this and we’re good.”

T: If I can get a bit geeky as well, or people may be like, “Nah, you’re going too far,” but I think there’s also a floral aspect to it as well, just some of the notes there. It basically takes it to that next level of complexity that you’re never finding in classic grenadine that you can buy, for example.

O: Of course. For a cooked product… I guess another thing, too, is just because if you’re like, “I’m batching these things and I’m putting them in bottles and I’m putting them in the freezer.” Water content is a thing. If you are making syrups and you’re already talking about the grenadine, that’s three components without even talking about orange peels or maybe orange blossom water, or something like that. This just a lot of liquid that’s going into making this thing that isn’t super concentrated. But it’s the difference between adding half an ounce of liquid component to your cocktail, which is going to be 3 and a quarter ounces, something like that, or less than a bar spoon’s worth and just taking into account the volume of which liquids are going into what. Again, the focus I think should be on the rum, I guess.

T: What is the payoff to putting in that much effort? Unless you have, I don’t know, 10 grenadine cocktails on your menu, which who does these days? But what’s the payoff in making that for one drink where you’re also battling against vermouth with all of its aromatics and with all of its botanical ingredients, whatever. There’s a word that I’m looking for with vermouth, there’s a type of ingredient, I’m forgetting it. Anyway, orange liqueur, rum. There’s a lot of big flavors going on that maybe we’re not picking up the nuances of your housemade grenadine in this cocktail.

O: Yeah. Obviously, it’s getting diluted so some of that stuff gets woken up, I guess. But it’s a lot.

T: I’m glad you mentioned dilution because you talk about this as a drink that you can batch. Obviously, one of the great things or one of the upsides of not having citrus is you can batch this in that and I’m guessing kind of forget about it, right?

O: Yeah.

T: This thing lasts.

O: Yeah. We put everything that we batch in the freezer. If you were questioning stability at that point, it wouldn’t really matter. But yeah, no, it’s totally shelf-stable.

T: Are you pre diluting then?

O: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

T: Yeah? Talk to us about that. I mean, I guess we’re going to get into the recipe in a minute, but just percentage- wise and how that holds up in terms of what state it’s in, solid versus liquid, when it’s in the freezer. What are we thinking here?

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O: I do a five-to-one Martini. What is that? If you’re batching that in a liter bottle, it’s 750 gin. What’s a fifth, 150?

T: Yeah, that sounds right.

O: Then the rest of the bottle is what? You’re only left with 100 milliliters and a little bit of head space. That’s your water.

T: It’s more there in the recipe. But yeah, no, a great candidate for fruity or a drink that’s full of flavor, doesn’t need to be shaken, can be batched.

O: Right out of the bottle.

T: Great bottled cocktail, this one.

O: Mm-hmm.

T: We see a lot of these RTD drinks brands now, everyone’s trying to do the Old Fashioned, everyone’s trying to do all these other ones. Someone needs to do El Presidente.

O: Yeah, we can get into El Presidente. I will do it for you.

T: Do it.

O: Pay me.

How to Make Orlando Franklin’s El Presidente

T: I think we need to bring this out as a brand. All right, though, if you are making this fresh, talk us through. Imagine we’re doing it here in the bar that we’re looking at here in the studio. Talk us through your preparation start to finish and if you can also include quantities as if we’re making this one to serve rather than batching it there.

O: I write everything down the same way that it would be for a single serve or you just blow it up for liters or whatever.

T: Perfect.

O: What I did was I guess three-quarter ounce of the Havana Club Seven, equal part of the Clairin, another three- quarter ounce of that. I didn’t use vermouth, look at that. I used Cap Corse Blanc Mattei, have you had that?

T: No, tell me about that.

O: That’s a Corsican quina.

T: Oh, okay. You’re bringing a bitter component to this cocktail.

O: Yeah. Yeah. I’ve I guess done a few iterations of this, but this is the most recent one, swapping this ingredient specifically for vermouth is something I do kind of often. For the batch, it was a mix of the pomegranate and the grape molasses. I don’t really think that you could do that for a single batch. It’s too small of a thing.

T: No, just go with a pomegranate.

O: Do a bar spoon of the pomegranate molasses, half an ounce of Cointreau, and then a few drops of orange blossom water. Then just make sure that you stir it for long enough.

T: Stir it for long enough.

O: Stir it for long enough.

T: If we’re going down the more classical route there, what? You had 1 and a half ounces of rum there?

O: Yeah, 1 and a half ounces of rum.

T: We’ll go 1 and a half Havana Club Three.

O: I guess an ounce of your Chambery vermouth. I guess Dolin Blanc is probably the closest to a classic recipe.

T: That most folks can find there.

O: Yeah, probably the most easy to find. But if you can get Blanc. Then you would have your grenadine, which you do a heavy quarter-ounce, I guess.

T: I’m going to say we’re sticking with a molasses on this one.

O: Okay, okay. Yeah. It’s better.

T: Because you can still find that, right? You can find that fairly easy? I’m sure you can buy it on Amazon.

O: Yeah, you can go to Kalustyan’s or…

T: Yeah, you can go to Kalustyan’s.

O: Kalustyan’s, yeah. If you are here, you can go to Kalustyan’s, but yeah, you can get pomegranate molasses at most grocery stores. Cointreau and then orange blossom water. If anywhere sells pomegranate molasses, they probably have orange blossom water too.

T: Amazing. You’re stirring that.

O: Yeah. For about a minute.

T: What’s your preference when it comes to ice and stirring? Do you go big and break it down or do you just go cold draft? What are you thinking?

O: We’re doing this thing during a pandemic called the “Tip Your Bartender,” where it was a remote conference call, I guess, but it was a live thing. They would have people make a recipe live on their feed or whatever and then people could donate and then that money would go to the staff of the bar that the person was representing. I actually made a Presidente for my bar during the thing. We served cocktails, usually, for this video. I used a glass just because visually that is much nicer. If I’m at work, I always use a tin because it’s cold. You’re never going to get anything as cold out of a glass as you’re going to get out of a tin.

T: Got it.

O: Period. But generally, I do a few cubes, three or four cubes whole, and then maybe three cubes cracked, and then stir for longer than you’d think you need to.

T: Just keep going.

O: Yeah. Just straw test stuff. I was fortunate to get that perfectly on the video, I’ll mention, because it was usually just one take. It’s live.

T: This is one take. What are you on about?

O: Yeah.

T: No one knows.

O: No edits.

T: Don’t tell people about that.

O: No edits.

T: There are no edits on the show whatsoever. We do one take every time.

O: Every time.

T: All right. Here’s something I was thinking about when you were mentioning that. If we are going down the pomegranate molasses route, batching is maybe different because you might be doing it by weight, I guess.

O: Well, so I actually always batch things by volume.

T: By volume. Okay.

O: I actually think chefs would obviously do…Yeah, chefs don’t do that.

T: There’s two schools of thought, right?

O: Okay. Well, drinking’s a feeling, it’s not a science. That’s my rebuttal to that.

T: I’m just thinking when it comes to this, it’s not quite treacle or actual molasses, but it’s a thick ingredient. My question is, how do we make sure that all of the ingredients that we’re measuring out are making it into the drink?

O: Measure it out first and then use your same measuring cup for the rest of your liquid.

T: Go that first. Yeah, yeah. Go that one first.

O: Kind of rinse out whatever you have in there into the batch. I’m a huge advocate for batching cocktails. I think everything at my bar is batched, everything on the menu anyway, or on draft. It’s batched in some capacity if it’s not bottled. But as sort of an advocate for that style of drink building, I think it’s really important to note that if you are making things in larger quantities, you’re able to dial in ingredients that you use in smaller increments much more accurately. This recipe called for 0.3, so that’s 300 milliliters of the molasses together. That’s 0.25 pomegranate and 0.5 grape. You can’t do that for a single-serving cocktail, right?

T: No.

O: Yeah. I mean, larger batches of drinks are… You can get a lot more dialed in and accurate with your smaller measurements. If there’s any nuance happening, then that happens if you make a bunch of them at once.

T: All right, two things in this respect. First of all, orange blossom water is a pungent thing, it’s a powerful ingredient. A little goes a long way.

O: I think for that recipe, I wrote 50 drops.

T: Is that something you do more at the end or do 25 and then to taste afterwards?

O: Yeah, always do less. I mean, especially for aromatics, like bitters or something like that, if you’re batching Martinis, for example, if you figure that in a liter, that’s 33 ounces. If you have 11 3-ounce Martinis, but I guess it ends up being a 5-ounce drink after you stir it. I don’t know, do that math, that’s six cocktails. But I wouldn’t in the batch do six cocktails worth of orange bitters. Because that’s three per. What is that? That’s 18. I wouldn’t do 18 dashes in the bottle.

T: Basically, hold back on that a little bit, add it to taste.

O: Three-quarter times what you would do, try that.

T: Yeah, then work from there.

O: Yeah.

T: It’s also not an ingredient to my mind that’s commonly used in this cocktail. Why are you going there? What extra dimension is this bringing to your drink?

O: So with that, it was kind of just because I wasn’t using grenadine. Any grenadine that I’ve ever made for bars had orange blossom water in it as well. While omitting that ingredient, sort of still looking towards it as the inspiration for using the molasses.

T: As an extra thing. I definitely think it’s one of those ingredients that can really make a cocktail pop. I mean, where else are you finding it classically? To my mind, the Ramos Gin Fizz. Not sure of anything else

O: No.

T: No?

O: No. I don’t know.

T: All right.

O: But obviously, super floral. Clairin obviously has a lot going on, nose-wise. I wouldn’t say that molasses based rums typically do.

T: No.

O: There is definitely something happening on the nose in this recipe, particularly from the Clairin, but the orange blossom water too.

T: Nice. We’re stirring that up for about a minute. Super cold, nice dilution.

O: Use a tin if you can.

T: Use a tin if you can. Where are you straining this into? What’s your preferred glassware?

O: I mean, it’s served up so people would go for a Nick & Nora, something like that. Oh, I thought this would be funny to mention. At my bar, we have, I think, 14 different types of glassware there. But we don’t use them all. I mean, we use three. The rest are for feeling fancy. It’s a disco. We have nine crystal classic sort of Martini glasses. I don’t give those to people.

T: No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. Definitely not.

O: But just in terms of up cocktails, typically too, we have these nice little hard, strong, stackable water glasses that we serve all of our Martinis in. Anything that’s stirred up, we keep those chilled and we serve anything like that.

T: They’re stemware? They’re stemmed?

O: No, no, no, they’re not stemmed.

T: Interesting.

O: I just recently, or I guess in the last few years, I’ve erred away from stemware for cocktails. Just sort of out of necessity, because like I said, it’s a disco.

T: It’s really, really easy to break those, to knock that over.

O: It never occurred to me that the glassware really changed my experience with the drink. Obviously, it’s fun to hold a Martini glass, but it’s not necessary.

T: But more classically therefore would be thinking a coupe or a Nick & Nora?

O: Yeah, I think a Nick & Nora makes sense. I think a coupe is probably a little too big. Oh no, I guess… I’m thinking about a Champagne coupe. It’s kind of a big, bold thing.

T: Yeah.

O: A coupe like people serve Manhattans in is probably classically what this would be served in, but if you get it from me, you get a rocks glass.

T: You’re going to get it in a Nick & Nora. All right, here’s something that’s come up a few times recently, actually more in our written work there at VinePair than on the podcast here itself. But the Nick & Nora glass apparently keeps your up cocktails colder for longer. Is that true? Is this a phenomenon you’ve come across?

O: I mean, I guess that kind of makes sense because it’s less surface area.

T: Less surface area.

O: The coupe, it’s wider. Yeah. That makes sense to me that that would become warmer over time than something that’s sort of-

T: More, yeah, yeah, yeah.

O: Not condensed, but in a smaller area.

T: Yeah, not as wide open. Yeah, I always found that interesting. I just figured we erred towards the Nick & Nora more because it looks a little bit more elegant. Obviously, it’s better than a Martini glass. But I do those very fine ones that you were on about there. Garnish?

O: You can express an orange oil over it. We just use straight-up oils at my bar.

T: Out of a mister? Atomizer?

O: We just atomize, just a spritz over the top. If you want to use an orange peel, you can do that. Just don’t put it into the drink.

T: Can you still flame that atomizer?

O: Yeah, you can. I mean it’s just cold-pressed orange oil. It’s the exact same thing.

T: All right, then, any final thoughts on this drink, El Presidente, or anything else we’ve covered so far before we move on to our next section there?

O: I mean, I think it’s sort of an airport Martini. I always drink a Martini at the airport because it’s never the same. You never get the same one twice. That’s just sort of adventurous. But I guess maybe in the same spirit, if you see one on a menu, it’s worth trying, because I guarantee you’re not going to have the same one anywhere.

T: Nice. I got my own little philosophy here about the old airport Martini as well. I completely agree with you.

O: Shaken to sh*t, dirty, I don’t give a f*ck. You don’t know what’s going to come out. It’s choose your… It’s not choose your own adventure.

T: It’s you’re in for an adventure regardless.

O: It’s like I’m leaving it in your hands, take me there.

T: I have to say the classic airport Martini, I’ve written this down once before. Sh*tty glassware.

O: Let’s go.

T: Shocking twist garnish.

O: Yep.

T: Lousy vermouth.

O: Love it.

T: Invariably shaken when ordered otherwise.

O: Uh-huh.

T: Always perfect.

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O: Yep. It gets you there.

T: It gets you through enough time, because what’s happening next? You’re getting on the plane, you need to sit down. All right, we’re taking off. Then, it takes a while for them to come out. There’s people in better seats getting served before me. If it’s a night flight too, I want to move on to, “I’m going to have another beverage with my meal and then maybe a little something before I go to sleep.” I need something strong to get me through there.

O: Well, yeah. If you’re killing time anyways, it’s not something that you’re putting away quickly and invariably, it becomes too warm, and you’re sitting there, looking at it, and you’re just like, “I gotta finish this gin.”

T: The other airport Martini, of course, is you take on the little… I don’t know. I don’t know whether this is the territory we want to be getting into on this podcast, but you take on, you’re allowed to take, what? 50 milliliters of liquid?

O: Mm-hmm.

T: You got your little carry-on luggage here.

O: Also, you can carry as many of those on with you as you want.

T: Yeah. I’m taking two of those and I’m taking one 50 milliliter of dry vermouth that I’m packing. I’m ordering a glass of ice.

O: Okay.

T: Just stirring.

O: A Martini on ice.

T: Having a Martini on the rocks on the plane.

O: Okay. I haven’t had that. I can do that. I’ll do that next.

T: Try that or don’t.

O: Thank you.

T: Maybe it’s the worst idea in the world. I’ve done it before. I’ll say I’ve done it once, wasn’t terrible. It was a lower-cost airline as well where I wasn’t convinced that the drinks were going to be very good.

O: I mean, what are you going to end up with on a plane anyway? I mean, they’re never going to have vermouth so you’re already in for it there.

T: Otherwise, if you’re trying to make your own Martini on a plane, you’re just drinking gin on the rocks, or vodka.

O: I mean, do it for the gram at least.

T: Do it for the gram. Hey, maybe we can start this trend. I don’t know. I’m not the classic Brit. Again, this is a complete sidebar here, though, but I’m not the classic Brit that is like, “Okay, it’s my right to drink at the airport, even if we’re getting an 8 a.m. flight.” Or even earlier, it’s a 7 a.m. flight. I’m there at 5, I’m checked in, I’m having a Guinness. I’m not that, but as long as it’s a decent enough time in the afternoon, I’m having a Martini, because I like to think that I had that experience before I got on the plane. I don’t know.

O: See, I don’t think that airports exist within the realm of time and space. It’s its own place, which is my excuse for drinking a Martini if it’s available.

T: Yeah.

O: Doesn’t matter what time it is.

T: All I’m going to say, though, is if it is that 5 a.m. and maybe you just woke up two hours ago, that is tough.

O: No, if it’s 5 a.m., that means I’ve just come in from work, so it’s not tough.

T: Oh right. You’re just rocking straight in there.

O: Yeah, this is prime time.

T: All right then. Well, I forget how exactly we got here. Yeah. You said it’s the airport Martini of the cocktail world.

O: Yeah. If it’s on the menu, try it. If it’s not, well, I don’t know.

T: Maybe.

O: Maybe.

T: Try it at least after listening to this episode.

O: Try it after listening to this episode, but don’t make it a challenge. Do some research on your own. Just be like, “Do they have grenadine?” Okay, this might not be a big ask.

T: Is it Rose’s grenadine? All right, scratch this.

O: Forget about it.

Getting to Know Orlando Franklin

T: Fantastic. All right. Then we are going to move into the next section of the show though. We’re going to get to know yourself a little bit more as a bartender and a drinker. Orlando, we’re going to start with question No. 1.

O: Okay.

T: What style or category of spirit enjoys the most real estate on your back bar?

O: We are not an agave bar, but I counted the other day. We had 72 agave-based things.

T: No way.

O: I mean, that’s just not our focus. It happened. I don’t know how it happened.

T: Speaks to how America’s drinking or how New York is drinking right now for sure.

O: I mean, a lot of portfolios are just kind of blowing up with agave spirits. But also, I have a good friend who I host events with sometimes at the bar. Recently, I was fortunate enough to go to Oaxaca, so we packed a bunch of stuff back. He travels frequently and is always bringing stuff back. I always get a little bit of it.

T: Don’t tell me this is Mezcal Room.

O: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Dan, yeah.

T: Good friend of mine, friend of the show, Dan. Wonderful person. I forget now. Yeah.

O: We just did our third, we call it “Just Fruits.” We’ll do it on a Monday or Tuesday and we’ll use the bar space. I work at Night Moves, by the way. I haven’t mentioned that before. I’m the bar director over there. Yeah, Dan and I have thrown three of these now. It’s kind of like a seasonal fruit pairing with mostly agave spirits. Sometimes he lets me do something else.

T: Yeah.

O: But for this last one-

T: He needs to be esoteric.

O: He prepares some stuff, because obviously, this was the end of summer.

T: We should jump in with some context here. Dan runs an Instagram account. I’m not going to use his surname in case he doesn’t want that out there, in terms of questionable legality. But Dan runs an Instagram account called Eli’s Mezcal Room, which he hosts kind of tasting sessions himself, or he was pre-pandemic. I’m sure he still does some now. But he’s an authority. He just loves incredible, esoteric spirits. He knows a lot about mezcal. You guys do tastings together as well at Night Moves?

O: Yeah. Yeah. We’ve done three so far. Since it varies on seasonality, we probably won’t do another one for a month or two. But they’re really fun.

T: So you guys went traveling down there? Cause I thought when you said in the seventies a year ago-

O: I wasn’t actually with them. It was a separate thing. But incidentally, I was in Oaxaca and he was then also in Oaxaca a few weeks later. Yeah.

T: I thought you were going to be like, “Yeah, so we got our 818 behind the bar, we got our Casa Del Sol.” Just all the celebrity tequilas. But that’s not what you’re talking about here.

O: No, no, no, no.

T: Sorry.

O: But I have alternatives.

T: Clase Azul? No, I’m not sure. I’m not calling anyone out here. I’m just saying there’s a tequila for everyone. There’s a mezcal for everyone.

O: If you’re 80 people, you can come to my party. There’ll be one for you.

T: How many of those are in drinks, though? Cocktails?

O: We’ve had a variation of a Mezcal Negroni on the menu for, I don’t know. No, I think we opened with it, so the whole time. I’m using what we have in our well for that. It’s just your kind of standard espadin, crowd pleaser. That’s for anything else. Everything’s meant to be had as is or in a highball.

T: Perfect.

O: But if you want to pay $60 for a Neta Margarita or something, go for it.

T: Nice. I’ll go for the Jolgorio. All right then, question No. 2: Which ingredient or tool do you believe to be the most undervalued in a bartender’s arsenal?

O: I love my ice tapper.

T: Your ice tapper?

O: Yeah, I have one of the original ones. It’s just a piece of metal with a bolt through it that’s connected to a sort of bendy piece of metal.

T: What is an ice tapper used for?

O: For cracking ice.

T: For cracking ice? Okay.

O: Tapping ice.

T: This replaces the back of a bar spoon?

O: It’s much more effective than the back of a bar spoon.

T: I will tell you, I try to do it with the bar spoon at home and I’m like, “It’s going all over my kitchen.”

O: Well, your freezer too. If you’re pulling your ice directly out of the freezer, it’s much colder than the cold draft that you would be having in a bar with, which is exposed to air.

T: Part of the problem.

O: You’re going to hurt yourself or there’s just kind of an ice explosion everywhere. But the ice tapper is just really, it doesn’t take a lot of effort just because of the weight of the metal piece. That’s how you get perfect cracked ice.

T: That sounds a little baller, a little piece of equipment there that I need to look into.

O: You can find them on eBay. I’ve had three or four of them. Not because I’d broken them, I’ve even given a couple away. Yeah, you can find them. I think I’ve never paid more than $30, $40 for one, but the original ones they made — and Cocktail Kingdom makes them now too — but the original ones, I think maybe from the ’60s, ’50s, yeah.

T: Awesome. Love it. Question No. 3: What’s the most important piece of advice you’ve received while working in this industry?

O: I guess, know your worth. I mean, that’s important for anybody, I guess. Especially when it comes to working events or something. Doing things for people, shoots, yada, yada. Don’t undervalue yourself because, I mean, you’re a professional. You’re being asked to do something professionally, be compensated.

T: Yeah. Makes sense. Penultimate question, if you could only visit one last bar in your life, what would it be?

O: Am I sure I’m going to die after?

T: The only parameters I’d have to say over this question, I feel like I have to clarify every week, but I enjoy doing so. The only thing is you’re not able to go to any other bars.

O: That’s trash.

T: You go to this one.

O: Yeah.

T: Maybe it’s the only bar that exists in the world. Or maybe you go in and you’re never coming out. I don’t know.

O: Okay. Well, I will go to my bar.

T: Yeah, man. Hell yeah, do it.

O: I’d go to my bar, it’s the best, sorry.

T: I mean, why would you not answer that? You create this space that you want to be in.

O: Yep.

T: Amazing.

O: I would go back again.

T: You could just say… Well, because you know that you like everything there is to drink there. Chances are there’s going to be people that you know and you like there as well.

O: Everybody knows I can be found here.

T: Yep. Last question for you today, Orlando. If you knew that the next cocktail you drank was going to be your last-

O: See, am I dead after?

T: No.

O: I’m just sober after?

T: This one, I’m going to say is kind of closer to the final moments.

O: Okay. I mean, that’s better for me, honestly. Okay. Let’s go with a Gin and Tonic.

T: Gin and Tonic?

O: Yeah.

T: Yeah?

O: Yeah. Yeah.

T: Lemon or lime?

O: Lemon.

T: Lemon?

O: Yeah. Old Dry Gin and Tonic with a special lemon.

T: There’s the Maison Premier influences creeping into with the gin preference there, right?

O: Fever-Tree. Fever-Tree tonic.

T: Nice. Highball for your last one.

O: Yeah.

T: Not that I’m questioning here, I’m just making sure we’re…

O: No, I’m going to keep it light.

T: Keep it light.

O: Yeah.

T: Sounds like a nice way to go out. Oftentimes, we go the other way. I’m having a 15-ounce Martini. I don’t know.

O: This way I know my last sip is going to be cold and refreshing. If I’m milking my last Martini because I’m going to die, then my last sip is going to be warmed gin because I’m just sitting there, I’m contemplating right?

T: Yeah.

O: I’m not going to throw it back. No.

T: Amazing. Well that’s been El Presidente. It’s been a wonderful one, Orlando, thanks so much for joining us again.

O: Thank you so much for having me.

T: Yeah. Let’s go stir up some rum cocktails. Cheers.

Okay, that was a lot of info, but here’s the good news. Every single episode of VinePair’s Cocktail College is also published on VinePair.com as a transcript. So you can check it out there all over again.

If you enjoy listening to the show anywhere near as much as we enjoy making it, go ahead and hit subscribe, and please leave a rating or review wherever you get your podcasts — whether that’s Apple, Spotify, or Stitcher. And please tell your friends.

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.

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