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Columbia Cocktail

2 oz Brandy
0.5 oz Sweet Vermouth
0.5 oz Lemon Juice
1 tsp Grenadine
1 dash Angostura Bitters

Add all ingredients to a mixing glass
Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass

Featured glass: Farmhouse Touch Champagne Flute by Villeroy & Boch

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It’s Columbus Day – well, not the holiday, which always conveniently occurs on a Monday, but the day on which that intrepid and somewhat nautically confused explorer first set foot on the New World.  Which, of course, wasn’t a new world at all, if you asked him, but rather the other side of the Old World.  It was a happy accident nevertheless (depending upon your view of colonialism), if only to serve as precedent for all men throughout history to refuse to stop and ask for directions.  You never know what you might find, right?  Moreover, today is one of the few days of the year, outside of a potential World Cup victory or a Rocky Horror celebration, when we can flaunt the Columbia cocktail.

There are a couple of competing recipes for the Columbia out there, with the other prevalent variation calling for light rum and omitting the bitters.  I’ll have to admit that aromatic bitters and grenadine don’t readily sound like the most tasty of bunkmates, but they do appear together in a surprising number of mixed drinks.  And, while the light rum version of this drink is close in structure to one of my all-time favorite summer drinks, the Small Dinger (alas, outside of the 12 Bottle Bar), this quaff, with its brandy base and sweet-sour notes is perfect for these indecisive early Autumn days.  Like a number of our fall favorites, it’s a perfect blend of warmth, sour, sweet, and spice.

Now, rather than going into the entire history of Columbus’ voyages to America – about which I’m sure we’ve all heard enough – I thought I’d dig up some lesser know “facts” that the interwebs have to offer about the man, his trips across the Atlantic, and his legacy:

  • There’s some speculation that Columbus may not have been Italian.
  • He wrote in Spanish, not Italian, for the bulk of his life.
  • Although Columbus was a devout Catholic, his parents may have been Jews who converted to Catholicism.
  • Some say his family tree had Viking roots.
  • By age 10 or 15, Columbus was already a sailor – possibly serving aboard pirate ships.
  • Columbus initially peddled his “sail west to reach the East” plan to the Portuguese, who refused him patronage.  The Portuguese would later go on to become the early leaders in the Eastern spice trade.
  • Columbus kept two journals, one with accurate distances and another with under-reported distances.  The first was kept hidden from the crew, while the second version was available to the crew and served to make them think they were closer to home than they really were.
  • By October 10th, Columbus’ crew was on the verge of mutiny.  Columbus bought himself two additional days of travel by promising that, should the ships not reach land by the 12th, the fleet would return home.
  • All things considered, Columbus’ first voyage was relatively eventful and relatively free of scurvy, which was the greatest peril during the Age of the Sail.
  • Columbus’ official title during his multi-ship voyages was Admiral.
  • The natives who met Columbus upon his first landing were naked.  Columbus described them as having “very handsome bodies”.
  • Whoever first sighted land was awarded a silk doublet by Columbus and 10,000 maravedis (about 10 month’s salary) by the Spanish crown.


Happy Columbus Day, and happy drinking!