cait +tiff

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T / final draft / the story of an ampersand

Header---AmpersandOne of the funnest, more challenging and just plain cool design projects landed in my lap this summer.  Design an ampersand.  And with John’s impending departure, and the re-branding that’s happening on his site, I wanted to tell the story about how this little dudette came to be.

Our resident mixologist, John (you’ve met him right?), asked me to help him design a new logo for his blog, Alchemy & a Twist. I was delighted and excited in the way that happens when I’ve had too much caffeine (Cait knows this Tiff well).  If there’s one thing I know, it’s typography. So very quickly, I got through the selection of a typeface (Connie) paired with a worn out and crumpled background.  John and his stateside co-blogger, David, approved.

Now about that ampersand; John and David were pretty clear: it should look like a cocktail glass, with a lemon twist wrapped around it.  It should also have a bit of a 1920s speakeasy feel to it.  There was a Pinterest board to make sure we all knew what was being talked about over oceans and continents.

We played around with actually wrapping a lemon twist around a martini glass.  And this is what turned out:

Ampersand-with-a-Lemon-TwistThe little shrimp wasn’t quite what John and David were looking for. We scrapped the lemon twist.  It didn’t quite go well with that vintage Prohibition-era feel they were going for.  And John came back with a great description of what he wanted: clean and soft. Something like this:

I sat on it for a while.  I was stuck.  Like really stuck.  This involved staring really hard at all of these guys. Because, of course there’s an entire tumblr devoted to ampersands.

But after some scribbles, some tries, some re-tries. It all happened.  And it looked a little Edward Gorey.

Ampersand---Almost-thereAnd I started calling it a she. And she got cleaned up.  John suggested adding a cocktail stick and an olive, and what chick doesn’t like a couple of accessories?

Ampersand---Final-ProductSince we started on this road, I think this is one of my favourite projects to date.  And I’m happy that the little martini glass ampersand found a home on Alchemy & a Twist’s new logo too! You’ll have to click on their site to see the whole thing!



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C + T + John’s Fancy Booze, No. 4


I can’t believe Cait had to miss out on this month’s boozy post.  She would usually have a better preamble for John’s concoctions, but all I can say is that on a Sunday afternoon in Phnom Penh, we assembled a tiny group of rum makers and enthusiasts (including the lovely Lin), had both a chemistry and history lesson, and got a little tipsy.  Big ol’ thanks to Daniel and Antonio for letting us invade their space (in the daytime!) and we look forward to some future collabs and photoshoots!

Bottle’s in your court now, John!

The fine folks over at Samai Distillery were kind enough to host us at their amazing distillery and bar for this version of our Fancy Drinks get together. I really can’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

10---Samai-and-Backs-of-John,-Lin-and-DanielSamai is the first and only rum distillery operating in Cambodia. They also open up their distillery on Thursday nights to serve thirsty Phnom Penhers.  While they are still in the process of developing their flagship premium aged rum (along with a number of other varieties), they are definitely on to something great. Samai follows the classic Spanish method for making rum, distilling the alcohol from locally produced molasses (a byproduct of the sugar refining process) in their traditional, handmade 1800s copper stills before aging in sherry casks. Comparable rums – in terms of process – are those made in Venezuela, Cuba, or Nicaragua, such as Bacardi or Flor de Caña.

Rum-in-Bottle-and-BarrellThe pairing with Samai could not have come at a more perfect time. I’ve long remembered a challenge from a C+T reader to incorporate palm sugar into a drink; I would feel a pang of guilt every time I saw a box of Cambodian palm sugar on the counter whenever I would make a drink, left unused day after day. Recently I was perusing a copy of Beachbum Berry’s Potions of the Caribbean and came across a recipe for a drink called Ti Punch, and the seedling for this post was planted; Tiff made the connection with Samai, and here we are.

Samai-SpaceThe original recipe for the Ti Punch calls for sirop de canne. Making sirop de canne, which involves a reduction of fresh sugar juice, is a messy and time consuming process. We’ve done a few labor intensive posts in the past and I wanted to keep things simple this time, so we cheated a tiny bit. Following Beachbum Berry’s advice, I made palm sugar simple syrup instead (see below for details). If you’ve ever made simple syrup with white, processed sugar, you’ll see and taste the difference immediately. The palm syrup has a dark, rich, coffee color with a touch of froth when shaken and a deep, earthy flavor. This is not something you add simply to sweeten a drink – you’re looking to add some heavy flavors, too.

John-at-Work-and-NotesThe original recipe also calls for rum, agricole, rather than the Spanish style rum that Samai makes. Agricole is distilled from fresh sugar cane juice (rather than molasses), so it too has a much earthier flavor profile compared to most rums you may be familiar with. Since the palm juice is not processed before fermentation, you get a lot more of the natural, grassy flavors of the palm as well as the flavors from the soil it was grown in. It is a difference that is readily apparent when tasting side by side with a molasses-based rum, not unlike comparing Scotch whisky and Kentucky bourbon; they are readily distinguishable, though one is not necessarily better than the other and both have their uses.

Lin-and-Ti-PunchWe did a side by side testing of the Ti Punch made with an agricole from Haiti and Samai’s aged rum. Both were smooth and excellent, with the rums contrasting, and complemented by, the lime juice and palm syrup in different ways. The Samai Ti Punch was certainly the sweeter of the two, with notes of honey and fruit readily apparent. If I were to use Samai again, I would experiment with a touch less of the simple syrup.

Regardless of the rum you use it is an excellent drink, the perfect companion for a July evening whiled away on a balcony in Phnom Penh as the summer rains fall on the city.



  • 2 oz rum
  • 5 oz palm sugar simple syrup*
  • One lime
  • 2-3 medium-large ice cubes

Cut the lime in half and squeeze both halves directly into an Old Fashioned glass (pulp, juice and all). Leave one spent half in the glass. Use the other half to rub the rim of the glass with the rind, and then discard. Add the syrup, rum, and ice to the glass and stir to chill.

*Palm Sugar Simple Syrup

  • Three parts Cambodian Palm Sugar
  • Two parts hot water

Heat the water close to a boil then mix with the palm sugar in a clean container, stirring frequently until the sugar is dissolved. Seal and store in the refrigerator, and it should keep for 2-3 weeks.

Thanks for the most excellent post John!  He’ll be back again in August when he brings us not just one but four different cocktails!  In the meantime, check out the rest of John’s fancy pants concoctions here, and his fabulous mixology blog, Alchemy & a Twist.

All photos by Tiffany Tsang. Please request permission for use.  C+T are no liable for any inebriation that follows following the instructions of this post.


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C + T / John’s Fancy Booze

HeaderWe are starting a cocktail series with our awesome friend, John. He works as a development consultant in Phnom Penh, and has lived in all sorts of strange corners of the world. He appreciates a well made cocktail, and since that can be hard to find in random developing countries, he started making his own. Graced with an affinity for pulling together some of the most unlikely ingredients, John makes delicious and beautiful drinks. Last year, he and a friend launched a cocktail blog called Alchemy & A Twist. They use unique and local ingredients in their drinks, along with tributes to classic and seasonal cocktails. (We appreciate the nod to The Dude in a recent White Russian post.)

We will feature a cocktail made by John around this time each month. We encourage you to try his recipes and let us know what you think. Now, without further ado, here is John’s first recipe.

By the way, this is John.


Ingredient-SeriesThe Kampot Fizz

The Recipe
6cl – gin
2cl – lime juice
1.5tsp – ginger-lime simple syrup*
1/4tsp – kampot pepper tincture**
1/2 egg white
soda water to taste

Combine the gin, lime juice, simple syrup, and kampot tincture in a shaker and shake for 5-10 seconds. Add the egg white and shake again for 10-15 seconds, until cold. Strain into a chilled old fashioned glass and top with soda water (ice optional).06---Zest-and-Ginger 08---Juicing-Lime 22a---John-Shaken-GIF

*Ginger-Lime Syrup

Derived from Brad Parsons’ Bitters: in a medium saucepan, combine 1 cup of sugar, 1 cup of water, mature ginger (two 4-inch knobs, peeled and sliced into coins), and the zest of 2 limes. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally.

Note from C+T: This stuff is gold. Save leftovers and put it into soda water, on ice cream, or just straight into your mouth.

**Kampot Pepper Tincture
Soak one cup of black Kampot pepper in two cups of grain alcohol (Everclear is a good option) for one week, shaking vigorously once a day. Strain the peppers out, crush them using a mortar and pestle, and return them to the alcohol for another week (or more to taste), shaking vigorously once a day. Strain using a cheesecloth and store in a glass container.

Note from C+T: If you don’t have Kampot pepper where you are, that sucks. You should probably come to Cambodia.Final-Cocktail-Series

PS – We fell in love with our lime twist and named him Linus.Linus-the-Lime-Series

Recipe from Alchemy & A Twist, smart ass comments by us.

Photos by Tiffany Tsang. Please request permission for use.