The Jasmine cocktail

The other day, I watched nuclear warheads being rolled into place. I was in New York and saw the news on a television at the gym, as people did their reps and stomped away on the treadmills around me. I looked around and realized that I was the only one watching, standing transfixed in front of the television, with my mouth slightly agape, because it’s something I never thought I’d see in my lifetime.

Like everybody else there, I went back to what I was doing and headed toward the exercise room. But couldn’t get it out of my head that that’s our new normal. We’re not shocked anymore, even though this might very well be it for us. I’ve never thought of anyone as “our enemy,” possibly because I look at the world through the lens of food. (And drink.)

I have been watching The Americans, a suddenly relevant program about a time when our relationship with others was especially contentious. It shows how far we’ve come because it seems so pointless now to have enemies, with globalism making diplomacy easier, and our cultures being more integrated. But I guess it’s harder than I thought, and things have gotten touchy again.

So I decided that I needed (another) cocktail. I’d bookmarked the Jasmine from The Canon Cocktail Book, and returned to it because I finally got my hands on a bottle of Bruto Americano from St. George Spirits. A while back I had posted a Negroni Sbagliato Spritz recipe that called for Campari, and a number of people chimed in that they didn’t want to drink a liquor with artificial coloring in it.

I was excited to see that St. George Spirits was infusing a bouquet of botanicals to make this Italian-style bitters with cochineal used as a natural colorant. It’s made from bugs and provides a scarlet color to bitters and liqueurs, including this American-made aperitif.

I had seen a bottle of St. George gin (made in Alameda, California) behind the bar at a restaurant in Paris, and the staff was surprised that I knew of the company. I posted a picture on Instagram and someone from St. George sent me a message, and we chatted a bit, and I mentioned that I knew the founder of the company, Jörg Rupf, who pioneered the American distillery movement in 1982 by making eau-de-vie that rivaled bottles found in Europe.

Americans weren’t all that interested in liqueurs and distillations back them, but things have changed since Jörg started putting away barrels of heirloom apples in oak for years to make brandy, and forgetting about them, or distilling everything from kiwifruit to holly berries. I was excited to taste their bitter apéritif, Bruto Americano, which they sent me to try. It isn’t subtle, but balanced enough so you can taste the complexity of botanicals that are used in it, which include bitter oranges and gentian root.

This Jasmine cocktail that I used it in, isn’t named after the flower, but by the bartender that invented it, Paul Harrington, who shook it up for a friend, named Matt Jasmine. Although it has a good squeeze of lemon juice, it resembles – and tastes like – a drink made with grapefruit juice. Think of it as a next-generation Cosmopolitan, but with a little more sophistication, and definitely more of a kick.

The instructions to make it said you could add a strip of lemon zest as a garnish, which I tried, but preferred it without. Not everything has to be taken to the next level and this cocktail is one of them. It’s just the kind of cocktail that I like; a few ingredients that make a drink that turns standard bar ingredients into something with a new flavor profile. This drink isn’t lacking for anything. It’s strong, without knocking you off your bar stool (or treadmill, or wherever you like the drink), but refreshing enough to cool you down on a warm spring or summer day. As for me, I’m drinking one as a toast to good international relationships, and hope for peace.

The Jasmine cocktail
Print Recipe
1 cocktail
Adapted from The Canon Cocktail Book by Jamie Boudreau They say that your cocktail is only as good as the quality of the liquor that you put into it. The original recipe said to use a gin that's heavy on botanicals (Tanqueray), but find one that fits your bill and is to your liking. While I did use Bruto Americano, you could use another bitter aperitif, such as Campari, (I linked to a few others in an article, after the recipe), although I think if you add a bottle of this to your bar, you'll find yourself drinking it on the rocks, maybe with some sparkling water as a refreshing, low-octane drink, or using it in other cocktails in your repertoire, as I've been doing.
1 1/2 ounces gin
3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 ounce Triple Sec
1/4 ounce bitter red aperitif, such as Bruto Americano, or Campari
1 wide strip lemon zest, optional
1. Add the gin, lemon juice, Triple Sec, and bitter aperitif to a cocktail shaker.
2. Fill the shaker halfway with ice. Shake for 15 to 20 seconds, then strain until a chilled coupe class. Garnish with a strip of lemon zest, if desired.

Related Links and Recipes

Bitter is Better: Three Alternatives to Campari (Crave Local)



A Guide to the Best American Amari and Aperitivi (Punch)

The Hanky Panky

Bruto Americano, a Campari cousin, is anything but ugly (Chicago Tribune)

Can America Make Great Italian-Style Bitters? (Punch)

Two Campari Challengers (Washington Post)

Cocktails Featuring Bruto Americano (St. George Spirits)





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  • Val
    April 18, 2017 7:52pm

    For my fellow Americans who eschew red # whatever, Leopold Bros of Colorado also make a similar beverage called Aperitivo. I look forward to making this drink and NOT thinking about anything.

  • Karine Le Bail
    April 18, 2017 8:19pm

    David, I just wanted to say thank you for this post. It feels good to read someone who seems to have lived this episode the same way as I did. Thank you for making me feel like I am not alone.


  • Gail
    April 18, 2017 8:41pm

    We use Cappelletti rather than Campari. Look forward to trying The Jasmine this week!

  • Sandra H
    April 18, 2017 8:49pm

    Hi David, thank you for this thoughtful post. As a Canadian and just plain fellow human being, I’d like to join you in your toast to peace and good international relations. While I don’t have the aperitif mentioned, I do have some lovely gin, tonic and a slice of lime, so cheers to all!

  • Sue Chiverton
    April 18, 2017 8:50pm

    Great sounding cocktail and right on with your words. I live in a very rural place in New Mexico and, at this time, am very thankful to not be in the mainstream all that is going on, keeping my head down and trying to live a quiet life. Yes, peace, please!!!!

    Your writing is delightful and your recipes always interesting and tantalizing. Finding you in my email is always a bright in the day. Keep it all coming!!!

  • witloof
    April 18, 2017 9:17pm

    I have been doing as many small acts of resistance as I possibly can – calling my senators and congressman, sending postcards, phone banking for out of state democrat candidates for congress, storming my elected officials’ offices, marching, donating. I am frightened at what the world is becoming, and France seems to be following suit.

  • Sharon
    April 18, 2017 9:17pm

    Hubby’s been making this for us in summer for years, but we never had a name for it. Thanks. And chill.

    • The alchemist
      April 19, 2017 2:24am

      Your hubby must be hiding something from you :) cheers paul

  • Parisbreakfast
    April 18, 2017 9:18pm

    I loved that picture of Bruto Americano after yr comment things are getting touchy again. I surely hope things are not taken up to the next level. Such a pretty translucent drink. Reminds me of all the cherry blossoms around Paris a week or so ago. Makes me wish I drank…

  • Meryl
    April 18, 2017 9:33pm

    Are there choices that contain neither bugs nor red dye #?
    My objection is purely emotional. But the cochineal makes it not kosher, which is a concern for some.

    • April 18, 2017 9:48pm
      David Lebovitz

      I don’t know if there are or not. (I just learned that Campari discontinued using it in 2006.)I linked to some articles about similar aperitifs and bitters that are naturally dyed, but not sure if there are any that use anything else. But I would check those.

      • Rebecca Cervantes
        May 10, 2017 5:09pm

        David, i couldn’t add a new message but I would be curious what you think of a cocktail called Ward 8. The back story recalls a political time much like ours today. It is both delicious and appropriate for our political time! I’d love your opinion of this.

  • April 18, 2017 9:37pm

    ANY drink we can lift to our lips and drinking to PEACE is welcome – but I do admit to have sighed deeply reading that it has got nothing to do with Jasmine (I’m totally allergic to its perfume). I read on because the first photo was so über-cool, I had to…. this souns amazing, simple, and refreshing. AND I went to school with a cool dude called Jörg Rupp!! I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if it was ‘my’ Jörg who went to the US of A to make great drinks :) Oh the fun!!
    Thank you for a magnificent moment – and now I finish my mug of tea.

  • Jacqueline DeWolf
    April 18, 2017 9:39pm

    We will try this cocktail. It sounds great. Even more appalled that at a banquet for the Chinese President there were huge flat tv’s all around. 45 tapped the Chinese President and pointed to the tv’s where it showed US cruise missiles bombing Syria. So appalling.

  • Camellia
    April 18, 2017 10:13pm

    This is almost exactly what I went through on Saturday: sitting in a cafe with friends and suddenly I said, “Guys, are we at war with North Korea?” and they poo-pooed the idea, saying things like don’t worry, this time of year North Korea always ends up in the news(?!) and then I realized that I’m the only one paying attention to the news.

  • MJ
    April 18, 2017 10:19pm

    Funny, I just started drinking these. I use 1 oz gin, 3/4 oz Cointreau, 1/2 oz Campari and I eyeball about an ounce of lemon juice. Shake over ice and strain. It’s delicious and not at all sweet — my usual complaint about cocktails is that they are too sweet.

  • Erika Munro
    April 18, 2017 11:21pm

    Glad to see you are back! Believe you me many of us at unspecified gym do see the TV screens everywhere with the rotting of democracy upon us and if you came to the ladies locker room you would get an earful!
    I plan on finding this liquor asap! Truly no time like the present. That is also why the 3 loaves of marzipan challah I made last week are gone.

  • kdj
    April 18, 2017 11:21pm

    Perfectly blended post, just as the cocktail. Thank you.

  • Charlotte K
    April 19, 2017 12:41am

    “May you live in interesting times” — I never wanted to, but I guess I have no choice. Hoping that in upcoming French elections it will not go the way ours did.

    I’m trying to keep a handle on the indulgence as coping mechanism but it isn’t always easy.

  • Sharon
    April 19, 2017 1:33am

    Always happy to find your very sane (and delicious!) newsletter in my inbox, David. You remind us that civilized life is still possible (so far) in this very odd world we live in now. Bless you.

  • April 19, 2017 2:01am

    I love the idea of having a cocktail that tastes like grapefruit, without the grapefruit. My husband cannot eat grapefruit, and all the martinis made with grapefruit call out my name. It is always nice to share a delicious cocktail with the ones we love, especially during these crazy and uncertain times. I will give this recipe a try.

  • Johanna Kratz
    April 19, 2017 2:38am

    Wonderful sentiment. Thank you.

  • April 19, 2017 5:11am

    Thanks for the cocktail, which looks lovely! But thanks even more for your honesty about your reaction to world events — so often food media feels utterly disconnected from the ‘real world’, and it’s grounding to see you acknowledging what so many of us are feeling. Santé.

  • Gavrielle
    April 19, 2017 6:42am

    While I know what you mean when you call The Americans suddenly relevant, I’ve considered it relevant throughout the entirety of its run, because those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.

    • April 19, 2017 6:40pm
      David Lebovitz

      It’s a great show and started a few years back, but disconcerting how suddenly relevant (and no longer seems so far-fetched) as it’s become.

      • Marisa
        May 16, 2017 7:13pm

        I also think about just how relevant it is with every episode, right along with this documentary I watch called House of Cards.

  • Stu Borken
    April 19, 2017 9:08am

    In order to make Zuppa Inglese you need the liquor make red with the bodies of those bugs, cochineal, which need to be hand picked off cactus plants. They make the dye, carmine red, which is used in lipstick. I thought this liquor was not available…nice to know it’s available today in the USA. I’ll scout out a bottle of Bruto Americano.

  • April 19, 2017 9:13am

    Hah, I totally expected to read something about Jasmine! Maybe because one of my favourite discoveries last year, via a rather ‘out there’ caterer at work, was just how good a jasmine-scented simple syrup is drizzled over a fruit salad heavy on fruit from warmer climes (watermelon, passion fruit, melon, papaya etc. but also things like raspberries or pomegranates). Temps are still too frigid where I live (grey Brussels) to fully enjoy a fruit salad but I cannot wait for the summer months to make this again.

    My sister just told me I really need to start watching The Americans. I am still deep in the Designated Survivor rabbit hole but shall start this once that is done.

  • April 19, 2017 12:03pm

    My kid described a terrorism lockdown drill at school (in France) just before the Easter break. I was simultaneously shocked that kids have to deal with this and also glad the school had its act together. Then I remembered the bomb drills when I was in school during the Cold War. Huddling under our desks, or being traipsed to a basement hallway. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même choses.
    Loving pamplemousse (especially the French name), I will raise a glass of Jasmine in your honor.

  • Bricktop
    April 19, 2017 4:09pm

    It’s a good idea to post cocktail recipes. It’s always been a world where we have enemies. That didn’t start on 1/20/17, folks. So if there is to be an Armageddon, what better way to go that with a glass in one’s hand. Sante!

  • April 19, 2017 6:23pm

    This is Paul Harrington’s (AKA The Alchemist) signature drink – should be noted somewhere!

    • April 19, 2017 6:34pm
      David Lebovitz

      I did note that in the post (in the 8th paragraph), and it’s credited to him in the book, too.

  • Sandy B
    April 19, 2017 7:19pm

    Hi David:

    Would creame de cassis work as well for color or would it be too much! Thanks, :)

  • BeinPortland
    April 19, 2017 7:54pm

    Do you have a new book? A few weeks ago someone commented here that s/he had ordered your “new book.” Am I missing out? I have all your others, most on Kindle as well as hard copy.

    I wake up in the morning these days wondering if we’ve gone to war. It isn’t a great way to start the day.

  • Samantha
    April 19, 2017 9:30pm

    Thank you, David once again for saying exactly the right thing at exactly the right time. The world needs more people like you. Hoping for peace all around.

  • sharon mumby
    April 19, 2017 10:28pm

    Thank you yet again for your posting, I too stared at the whole Nth Korea & PT muscle flexing.. in shock asking the same question as others have.. are we ..err what?
    Cocktails are needed.!
    Ladies should not be too surprised about cochineal, it used to be in lipstick… thankfully no longer.

  • Ken H
    April 19, 2017 11:52pm

    I rather like the concept of this drink, but keeping in the red tinged spirit, I’m tempted to try it with Solerno instead of the Triple Sec.

    I’ll have to try both ways this weekend.

  • Jade
    April 20, 2017 11:49pm

    I also saw the news while at the gym. I couldn’t tell if others were affected, but I was fighting back tears. It just seems like the wrong thing, a horrible thing, a thing I can’t believe happens so non-chalantly.

    On the bright side, I love St. George’s spirits, and will keep my eye out for their new product.



  • Janet
    April 21, 2017 1:24pm

    The positioning of nuclear warheads barely merits a look-see, but hey, I’m taking a stand against the artificial coloring in Campari! (…of which you will be ingesting an infinitesimal amount that would not even harm a paramecium…)

    The perfect metaphor for our times.

    I may polish off my bottle of Campari this evening as I toast the demise of common sense and intelligence in general.

    • Karen Brown
      April 23, 2017 1:48pm

      Couldn’t have put it better myself! And I’ll second you on a Campari and soda tonight.

  • Amanda
    April 24, 2017 12:33am

    Thank you for the thoughtful post David the drink looks wonderful and I am quite a fan of St. George’s gin.

    I too was moved by that news and images. Of all the terrible things that have happened in recent years this felt like a tipping point. I’ve been thinking more and more about the book 1984.

    Tonight I will be toasting you and hoping for more peace and love with the drink of my choice – Bourbon, neat. Cheers.

  • Amy
    April 24, 2017 2:08am

    Thanks, David. Ending the weekend with this cocktail and toasting peace for this crazy world in which we live.

  • Brian
    April 25, 2017 4:19am


  • Kate
    April 26, 2017 7:30pm

    David, thank you so much for posting this. The Jasmine is definitely my new favorite summer cocktail. Not sure what it is called if you use lime juice, but we made a version with lime and it’s delicious! :) Santé!

  • May 3, 2017 10:12am

    What a great post and recipe, David! This looks like such a great cocktail for spring and summer!! We’ve got some friends coming over next weekend and I think I’ll actually give this a try. :-)