Toto cocktail

Our cocktail repertoire has been stabilizing lately, after a flurry of trying dubious new recipes and wishing we’d stuck with tried and true drinks. Mostly we’ve been drinking Negronis, Brooklyns or Manhattans, with the occasional Spring Feeling or a straight Martin Miller martini – and we’ve liked it that way. But when we were at Oliver’s Twist the other day, they had a book on the counter that sent us completely out of our comfort zone.

our latest acquisition

It’s called Left Coast Libations, and it consists of short profiles of bartenders from California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia, along with two original cocktails from each of them. Several of these folks are people we’ve met and who have made us amazing drinks (I was especially pleased to see Casey Robison in here – he and his staff at Barrio have done wonders for our cocktail education – and one of the bartenders at Oliver’s was in there, too). While we sat at the bar, we flipped through the book and immediately began finding recipes we desperately wanted to try. We copied a few down, tried them at home, then bought the book the very next chance we got. It’s just that good.

Not all of the drinks are going to be winners, of course. We tried one with gin and sherry vinegar that, frankly, went straight down the drain. I’m finding that peach bitters taste really disgusting to me and should probably be avoided. And I’m just not going to drink anything that has blueberries and lavender in it. But there are some really, really good possibilities in here.


This cocktail, the Toto, was the first one we tried. It’s the creation of Kelley Swenson, currently running the bar at June, but who until recently was working at the now defunct ten01 in Portland. It makes me really sorry that the only drink I ever had there was a pear concoction with so much cinnamon on top I couldn’t taste the cocktail. I certainly should have given them another try, because the Toto is absolutely wonderful. We’re looking forward to working our way through the rest of this book.


  • 3/4 oz El Jimador or Cazadores reposado tequila (actually we used 1800 and it was just fine)
  • 3/4 oz green Chartreuse
  • 3/4 oz Cynar
  • lemon twist

Combine the tequila, Chartreuse and Cynar with ice and stir. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with the lemon twist. Serve up.

chartreuse & cynar

high plains drifter

High Plains Drifter #1

On the day of our taco expedition, Jon did a little experimentation with tequila drinks, and the High Plains Drifter was the clear winner (the Mexican Firing Squad, despite its ridiculous name, was also very good). It has the familiar flavor combination of tequila and lime juice, but adds in bitters, campari and honey syrup to balance the drink out and make it a bit more elegant. I recommend it.

We generally make honey syrup as needed, simply by mixing equal parts honey and warm water. You can microwave it briefly if, like ours, your honey is old and crystallized and needs a little help dissolving, but you don’t want it too hot when you add it to the shaker, so let it cool a bit first.

High Plains Drifter #1

  • 2 oz tequila
  • ¾ oz lime juice (lemon juice works, too)
  • ¾ oz honey syrup
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters
  • 1 splash Campari

Rinse a cocktail glass with Campari. Shake the tequila, lime juice, honey syrup and bitters with ice and strain into the glass. Garnish with a lime twist.

lime zest

High Plains Drifter #1