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Posted at 11:09 AM ET, 01/28/2011

Cocktails That Complete Me: The Knickerbocker and Blinker

By Jason Wilson
knickerbocker_opt.jpg Knickerbocker (Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post)

One of the most enjoyable parts of drinking my way through The List of 100 must-have cocktails has been using ingredients that I too often overlook. For example, the two recipes this week both call for raspberry syrup.

Now, I've always loved raspberry syrup -- in fact, I wrote a column last summer about the joys and challenges of berry cocktails, and one of my favorite recipes last year was the Rose o Rosato, which called for it. Raspberry syrup can often be a brighter, tarter substitution for grenadine, especially when it's homemade. But for whatever reason, it's an ingredient I often forget about. Both the Blinker and the Knickerbocker will change that.

Recipe Included

The use of raspberry syrup in cocktails dates back to the very origins of bartending. Besides the usual bitters, vermouths and liqueurs, bartenders usually had a choice of sweeteners: simple syrup, grenadine (which, if it's the real thing, is pomegranate syrup) and raspberry syrup. The Knickerbocker, according to David Wondrich, in his cocktail history "Imbibe!" (Perigee Trade, 2007) dates back to at least the 1850s. With its use of rum, liqueurs and syrup, Wondrich calls the Knickerbocker "the spiritual progenitor of the Tiki drink." With the orange liqueur and raspberry syrup, you'd think this drink would be way too sweet, but it's not. There's sweetness there, but if you use a flavorful, high-enough proof rum, it's a wonderfully balanced drink.

blinker_opt.jpg Blinker (Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post)

Even better is the Blinker, a 1930s classic. Why did I not know about this drink? I mean, if you asked me to name three of my favorite ingredients, they might be: rye whiskey, grapefruit juice and raspberry syrup. Shake those three together, and you get this bright, fresh cocktail. It is dangerously delicious, and there's a lot going on -- spicy, tart, bitter and sweet.

Here in The Post test kitchen, we've decided that homemade raspberry syrup is far superior to the usual store-bought stuff, and I've included our recipe below. However, there is a company in San Francisco, Small Hand Foods, that makes really great syrups for bartenders. I used its raspberry syrup for both recipes here, and they were wonderful. Besides raspberry, the company also makes pineapple syrup, orgeat and real pomegranate grenadine.

1 serving

This 1930s' classic originally called for grenadine, until an inspired bartender realized that raspberry syrup made a much better match with the rye and grapefruit juice. Adapted from Paul Clarke, who blogs at

2 ounces rye whiskey
1 ounce freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
1 teaspoon store-bought or homemade raspberry syrup (see NOTE)
Twist of lemon peel, for garnish

Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice. Add the rye, grapefruit juice and raspberry syrup. Shake well, then double strain into a chilled cocktail (martini) glass. Garnish with the twist of lemon peel.

NOTE: You can order a good raspberry syrup from, or make your own: Combine 2 cups fresh raspberries, 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 cup water in a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Cook for about 4 minutes, stirring, until the berries release their juices. Add 1 1/2 cups cold water and 1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice; mix well. Skim any foam that forms on the surface, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Use a cheesecloth-lined strainer to strain the mixture into a bowl, pressing to extract as much liquid as possible. Return the liquid to the saucepan and add 1 1/2 cups of sugar; increase the heat to medium and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Once the liquid bubbles at the edges, cook for 2 minutes to form a syrup. Remove from the heat and cool before serving or refrigerating for up to 3 weeks. This recipe makes about 2 1/2 cups.

1 serving

This cocktail dates from the 1850s. Author David Wondrich calls it "the spiritual progenitor of the Tiki drink." Use a slightly aged rum such as Apple VX, Chairman's Reserve or Flor de Cana 7-year-old. Adapted from Wondrich's "Imbibe!" (Perigee Trade, 2007).

2 ounces aged rum (see headnote)
1 ounce Cointreau or Combier
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
1 teaspoon store-bought or homemade raspberry syrup (see NOTE in previous recipe)
Twist of lime peel, for garnish

Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice. Add the rum, Cointreau or Combier, lime juice and raspberry syrup. Shake well, then double strain into a chilled cocktail (martini) glass. Garnish with the twist of lime peel.

By Jason Wilson  | January 28, 2011; 11:09 AM ET
Categories:  Spirits  | Tags:  Cocktails That Complete Me, Jason Wilson  
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