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John’s Fancy Booze, No. 7

Remember John?  That super hip global mixology loving pal of ours?  He may have left us for South Africa but he’s still sharing his amazing concoctions with us from the other side of the world.  This time, he’s corralled his pal Dawn Greensides for photo duties and some of his new buddies in Pretoria for tasting duties (we’re more than a little jealous). Thanks John! We miss you!

John's-Fancy-Booze-HeaderCocktails have a way of bringing – and keeping – people together.  Sure, there are the obvious ways; as Dorothy Parker famously said, “I like to have a martini, two at the very most. After three I’m under the table, and after four I’m under my host.” But beyond serving as a social lubricant, they can provide a common ground, a point of interest over which to bond and connect. Case in point, here I am again, all the way from Pretoria, re-connecting with wonderful friends from the Penh. All thanks to cocktails. It’s a beautiful thing. Plus, they’re tasty and make you feel good.

Following the themes of connections and delectability, I submit to C+T’s readers the Dawa. A popular Kenyan beverage – “dawa” is Swahili for “medicine” or “magic potion” – its lineage can be traced back to the Caipirinha and Caipiroska, with a slight nod to the estimable Mint Julep. I was introduced to the Dawa by a long lost family friend, Jeremy, who happened to be in Pretoria a little while back and requested the drink at a braii. And now he’s showing up on this blog. See, connections!Dawn-Greensides---Jeremy-in-Red-Shirt-with-Drink

Dawn-Greensides---Bring-people-togetherTraditionally the Dawa is comprised of vodka, lime wedges, brown sugar, honey, and crushed ice, with a dawa stick thrown into the mix (think combination honey dipper and swizzle stick). Instructions seem to vary, but it appears that the traditional way to make the drink is to build the limes, sugar, vodka and ice in an old fashioned glass, dip the dawa stick in honey and then stir it into the drink, further muddling the limes while you’re at it. The drink can be a little sweet, but a touch of soda water helps mellow it out while adding a little effervescence, and you can always add more lime or vodka to taste.

John's-Drinks-27-April-2016-10Not one to be beholden to tradition, I couldn’t help but tinker, and the end result is what I like to call the Dark Dawa. In place of honey and brown sugar I substituted honey syrup and a simple syrup made with unrefined muscovado sugar. This serves to cut down on the sweetness a skosh, adds a deep molasses flavor to the mix, and helps ensure the drink blends properly. While the dawa stick and associated ritual adds a wonderful aesthetic, I have two issues with it. First, I don’t have a dawa stick, and my muddler is way to big to serve as a garnish. Second, honey is difficult to mix well in cocktails, especially in a drink that is built in the glass rather than shaken. Muddling the limes directly with the honey syrup and muscovado simple syrup prior to adding the ice goes a long way towards resolving both issues.

Dark dawa and John! We miss you!

Dark dawa and John! We miss you!

The biggest change in the Dark Dawa, though, is the move away from vodka in favor of a dark rum. Vodka has its uses, but in cocktails I find it disappears too easily behind whatever other ingredients are incorporated. If you like to taste your booze, try the Dawa with some dark rum and you’ll be pleasantly surprised how well the rum, limes, honey and muscovado sugar blend together.  And in a way it brings the drink back a little closer to its origins in the Caipirinha. See, more connections!



2 oz vodka
2-4 lime wedges
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1-2 teaspoons honey
crushed ice

In an old fashioned glass, add the lime wedges (enough to fill the bottom of the glass) and brown sugar and muddle lightly. Fill the glass with crushed ice, add vodka and stir. Dip your dawa stick in honey and stir into the glass, muddling limes further. If you don’t have a dawa stick or a suitable stand-in, add the honey at the same time as the sugar. Fill glass with more ice or with soda water, if desired.

Dark Dawa and Friends

Dark Dawa and Friends

Dark Dawa

2 oz dark rum
2-4 lime wedges
.5 oz honey syrup*
.25 oz muscovado simple syrup**
crushed ice

In an old fashioned glass, add the lime wedges (see above), honey syrup, and muscovado simple syrup, and muddle.  Add the rum, stir, fill with crushed ice and stir again.  Top off with ice to fill the glass, or add soda water.

*Honey Syrup

.75 cup honey
.25 cup hot water

In a tea kettle bring water to a near boil, then measure out required amount and pour into a mixing bowl. Add honey, then stir with a whisk until fully mixed then store in a sealed container. Makes about 1 cup, and should last indefinitely.

**Muscovado Simple Syrup

1 cup water
1 cup muscovado sugar

In a sealed container add the water and sugar and shake vigorously until mixed. If you’re feeling a little lazy, you can use hot water to help speed up the process.

Thanks for yet another delicious post, John!  We can’t wait to see what you cook up next.  In the meantime, you can check out the rest of John’s tasty things he’s made for us here, or at his blog, Alchemy & a Twist!

All photos by Dawn Greensides. Please request permission for use.  We are not liable for the extreme thirst that results from this blogpost.


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Happy Hour at Deco

Deco---The-Happiest-HourLast Thursday night, we attended the inaugural Happy Hour at Deco in Phnom Penh. If you live in Cambodia, and you do not know about Deco, you are doing it wrong. It’s a fantastic restaurant, run by wonderful people and one of the most consistently delicious places in the city. You should go there right now.

01---Cait-and-MenuJohn, our resident booze guru, joined Deco’s owner, Rob, behind the bar to mix, shake and stir a range of creative, and crazy delicious cocktails. On the menu were classics, like the Dark and Stormy, and what might be the best Old Fashioned in the city. But they also put in a few twists, with John’s signature Kampot Fizz and the Riverside Reviver, which should probably be consumed daily. The crowd kept them busy throughout the evening, and it was wonderful to see so many of our favorite people in one place to support these guys. The night was a huge success, and Deco will now be hosting Happy Hour, every weekday, from 5-7pm.

Deco---I'll-Have-What-He's-MakingDeco---Men-at-Work Deco---Lin-and-Riverside-Reviver Deco - Funny Funny Ha HaFor more information on Deco, visit their website and Facebook page

To see more of John and his cocktail adventures, visit Alchemy & a Twist, and click here.

Oh right, and here’s a GIF.Men-at-Work-GIF

All photos by Tiffany Tsang.  Please request permission for use. C+T are not liable for profound devotion to the Kampot Fizz.

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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, No. 2

HeaderSo I don’t remember if we mentioned that it is hot here yet. In case we forgot to complain, it’s SO HOT WAAAAAAAAAAAA. The only upside of unreasonably high temperatures is that cold cocktails taste even better. Enter John’s Fancy Booze! This week, he made us The Avenue, a throwback cocktail that is simple and clean but full of flavor (and booze).

John is a pro and makes everything from scratch, which makes The Avenue stand out. That being said, some of the steps are pretty labor intensive. You can use store-bought simple syrup, grenadine, and passion fruit juice, but it won’t taste as fresh and amazing. We are very lucky to have John around to keep us classy. That being said, I am tempted to take about four of these out of their pretty little glasses and throw them in a Super Gulp cup with some ice and have a nice little afternoon.


The Avenue

I pulled this recipe from Ted Haigh’s “Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails.” The recipe was originally published in 1937 in the “Cafe Royal Cocktail Book”, which was written/utilized by the United Kingdom Bartenders’ Guild (UKBG). The UKBG was an important source of innovation in mixology during prohibition, when the art form was significantly hindered in the US. That also explains why this calls for calvados (French apple brandy) instead of American apple jack.

1oz Makers Mark Straight Bourbon

1oz Pére Magliore Fine Calvados (this will add a bite; for a smoother finish you can try VSOP, but it will cost you)

1oz Passion Fruit Juice*

3/4 teaspoon grenadine**

1/4 teaspoon orange flower water (careful with this, it is highly concentrated can very quickly over power the other ingredients)

Combine the ingredients, add ice, and shake until cold. Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a chilled, stemmed cocktail glass.

John's-Fancy-Booze---The-2-Faces-of-JohnThis is one drink where sticking to the proportions is critical, because each of the ingredients has a very distinct flavor. Measured correctly they complement each other nicely, but if its unbalanced you end up with a hot mess. Further to that point, when I started experimenting with this I was using Buffalo Trace Bourbon (because Cait+Tiff’s readers deserve the best), but it just didn’t taste right. I ultimately switched to the Maker’s Mark, which has a heavier flavor and stood up better to the calvados, in particular.08---Pouring

John's-Fancy-Booze---Passionfruit*Passion Fruit Juice (PFJ):

  1. Carefully cut a passion fruit in half and scoop the innards (seed, pulp, juice and all) into a blender. 2 passion fruits will yield about 1/3 cup.
  2. For one part passion fruit juice, add 3 parts water to the blender. If you have 1/3 cup passion fruit, add 1 cup of water.
  3. Blend for up to one minute to mix the water and juice and to separate the seeds. You don’t want to break the seeds, so if you notice bits of seed start to appear then stop blending.
  4. Strain through a fine mesh sieve into a container. You can also add 2-4 layers of cheese cloth to the straining process. This will help make the cocktail more clear/translucent, but whenever you strain you also diminish the flavor of the juice.
  5. Add 2-3 times more water (in this scenario, that would be 2-3 cups). As with the straining, the more water you add the more the flavor of the juice will be reduced but the cocktail will be clearer and have a lighter density/mouthfeel. I tend to lean more towards the latter, especially since PFJ can be pretty potent and can over power the other ingredients if not properly accounted for.
  6. Add sugar to taste. For the volume we used (1/3 cup passion fruit juice and 3 cups water), start with 1 tablespoon and then go from there.
  7. Note: This is homemade juice, so it will settle and separate quickly. Make sure to shake before use.


I borrowed the recipe (pom juice to simple syrup ratio) from Gary Regan’s The Joy of Mixology; the juicing and simple syrup methods came from various sources.

  1. Juice two pomegranates (yields about 7 oz):
    1. Cut off the nub on top and a small sliver at the base. Then make shallow cuts (through the skin) along the ridges, roughly corresponding to quarters. Peel off the skin to reveal the seeds.
    2. Over a large bowl, break the pomegranate up and, as best as possible, separate the seeds from the surrounding white membrane, and discard the membrane. If need be, once you’re finished breaking the pomegranate up you can fill the bowl with water; the seeds will sink and the membrane will float to the top where you can fish it out and discard.
    3. Dump the pomegranate seeds into a blender and blend for a minute or so, until liquified and pulpy.
    4. Strain the blended seeds into a bowl using a large, fine mesh sieve (same one you used for the PFJ; no cheese cloth necessary). Push around the pulp with a spoon to release as much juice as possible.
  2. Make simple syrup
    1. Unlike last time, when we were infusing the simple syrup with ginger and lime zest, there is no need to heat the simple syrup this time. Sugar is really soluble, so all you have to do is mix it with water and eventually it will dissolve on its own. You’ll also end up with a richer syrup since you aren’t breaking the sugar down with heat.
    2. In a plastic water bottle mix 1 part sugar to 1 part water. If you want a richer, thicker syrup, add more sugar. Keep in mind you will be adding the pom juice to this, so if you want a thicker syrup increase the sugar.
    3. You can speed up the mixing time by shaking, but you should just let the mixture sit for a bit so the sugar fully dissolves.
  3. Make the grenadine
    1. Mix 1 part simple syrup to 3 parts pom juice. If you stop here, this will only keep for 1-3 weeks (definitely refrigerate it to extend shelf life), so don’t make toooooo much.
    2. You can extend the shelf life further (a month or more) by adding some vodka. If you do this, start with 1 part simple syrup, 3 parts pom juice, and 1/2 part vodka and then taste. You don’t want the vodka changing the flavor too much.

Thank you, John, for making another delicious cocktail!

Photos by Tiffany Tsang.  Please request permission for use.