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marty mccabe

Let's talk dashes...

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So, I've often stuggled with dashes. A little too big of a dash of Pernod in your Corpse Reviver #2, and it's all you taste.

Stumbling around on cocktaildb.com, I came upon "1 tsp = 4 dashes" in the midst of a drink recipe. So, back it out, and you're left with 1/4 tsp = 1 dash.

In the Corpse Reviver #2, it worked amazingly.

My question: is this a universal definition? Can I use it in every recipe that calls for a dash or two?

And if not, how do you measure dashes?


Marty McCabe

Boston, MA

Acme Cocktail Company

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The problem with dashes in many recipes, is that the recipes are based on proportions, and dashes are a volume measure.

So, unless you know the ultimate size the cocktail is intended to be, it's tough to know how big the dash should be.

For example, as far as I can tell, most cocktails in the Savoy Cocktail Book are intended to be about 2 oz total liquid before chilling. I've seen some in other old cocktail books where the drinks are even smaller.

No one is going to make a cocktail that small these days. So you need to adjust the size of the dash for a larger cocktail.

I also always maintain that a dash from a bottle with a speed pourer and a dash of bitters from a bottle, really are not the same thing.

I usually use about a half teaspoon per 2 Savoy Dashes in a 3 oz cocktail. Usually works out well for me.

But, yeah, on the dash scale there are ingredients that always must be measured more carefully. Pastis, Absinthe, Violette, etc. These are ingredients where it is critical to measure accurately and test the recipe before making it for guests.

There's more wiggle room with dashes of things like bitters, lemon juice, and less strongly flavored liqueurs like Curacao and Cointreau.


---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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I do make cocktails that small, thank you :-P

When a recipe says add x dashes of Y, it's really telling you add Y to taste, with a sort of a guideline for how much. The difference between some recipes, especially Savoy-era ones, can be that one has one dash of bitters and the other has two, and this can actually make a difference sometimes. I find with some things like Absinthe, Violette, etc, the best way is to just rinse out an empty Peychauds or Regans bottle and fill, then use as bitters. I also have some with different syrups for ease of measuring. For the record, I find that the average amount dispensed from a typical bitters bottle is about 8 dashes to a teaspoon, meaning 1 dash = 1/8 tsp, though of course the bottle will give more if its half empty and less if completely full, but thats a pretty good rule to go by I think. If measuring out liqueurs like Cointreau or Maraschino, yeah I think 1/2 tsp for a 'dash' is fine. Once you have experience making the drinks you'll have a pretty good idea how sweet different liqueurs are and you'll know more or less how much you want to add.

-Andy


Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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I do make cocktails that small, thank you :-P

[...]

Chuckle, well me too, sometimes.

To echo thirtyoneknots points, especially with bitters, I think it comes down to the type of bitters, the spirits involved, and personal taste.

For example, if you are using the Fee Bros. Orange bitters, whose bitter kick is fairly mild, a larger dose might be appropriate than if you are using Regan's.

Or if you are using a particularly nice whiskey in an old-fashioned, you might use a smaller amount of bitters than if you were using old overholt or jim beam.

Lastly, some people like bitter flavors more than others. Where a Campari and soda or a heavily bittered old-fashioned might appeal to me, others have a low tolerance for bitter flavors and might want that to be a raspberry syrup and soda or just the smallest dash of bitters in their cocktail.


---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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Two things:

First, I totally agree that when you're speaking of bitters, a dash is not a dash is not a dash.

Second--and I might be totally derailing my own thread here--but my qualm with "to taste" is that I think there is an underlying vision to a drink, and I know that while food recipes often use the "to taste" instruction, with a cocktail, "to taste" affects a greater portion of sum.

Am I making too much of this?


Marty McCabe

Boston, MA

Acme Cocktail Company

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Couldn't agree more. the amount that comes out of an Ang bottle changes vastly as the bottle empties. I have all my bitters at The Violet Hour in old school "eyedrop bottles" from the container store. I decided that three drops is a dash, because every three drops changes the flavor of a cocktail drastically. Obviously using a heavy bitters, orange flower/rose/lavender water, or absinthe changes the flavor profile more than other things so when experimenting, clinically (for which our insurance carriers heartily dislike us), I start by using one drop, and then three, then five, then seven, then nine then 11...(thus the dislike). I also change the way I use the dashes. Some times they should be incorporated into the cocktail, like seasoning in food, sometimes they are floated on top to create a layered effect, or if they are in a rinse depending on what I'm (Mrs's) dashing I will use crushed ice, Montee au Booze, or Bellringer it.

Edited because I need sleep like a desert needs the rain. Wondriching as well.


Edited by Alchemist (log)

A DUSTY SHAKER LEADS TO A THIRSTY LIFE

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Second--and I might be totally derailing my own thread here--but my qualm with "to taste" is that I think there is an underlying vision to a drink, and I know that while food recipes often use the "to taste" instruction, with a cocktail, "to taste" affects a greater portion of sum.

Am I making too much of this?

That is true, and I have absent-mindedly added far too much of an ingredient that needed only dashes, but an extra drop of Angostura or grenadine is not going to ruin a drink. A dash is an imprecise measurement, and so it is not (normally) meant to be applied with precision (apologies to Alchemist). And don't forget that how you dash affects the amount dispensed as well. There are ingredients, in both food and drink, that will ruin a recipe if used too much, and there are some that just make a dish different (and it depends a lot on personal preferences). For my girlfriend, it would scarcely be possible to put too much garlic or cilantro in a dish. For me, I don't think I can put too much blue cheese or mushrooms. But as for drinks, well...while thinking on this I was reminded of the time the dasher top came off of the Regans' bottle and I ended up with more than 1/2 oz of orange bitters in my old fashioned. Didn't dump it though, just added a touch more sugar and a lot more ice, and soldiered on. Not something I ever repeated on purpose, but not bad at all. In hindsight though, that might have something to do with why I more or less stopped using Regans' for a while there (a little burned out on the flavor perhaps?).

So back to the point, there's as much a vision in a drink recipe as in a food recipe, but instructions like "to taste" are your permission to put a little of your own take on it. When I first started into cooking, seasoning or adding herbs 'to taste' was such a frustrating thing to see. Now that I have more experience with how different herbs and spices work in food and kind of know where to go (but still learning). Of course the biggest learning impacts in that area are made when you add way too much of something. I sort of equate the first time I added 6 dashes of bitters to a Manhattan and the first time I used too much bay in something. Very valuable lessons in 'to taste'. Luckily the bay was just in ginger beer and the Manhattan, well, I'm pretty sure I drank it like a champ anyway.

Not sure if any of that made sense or if I'm just rambling, but there you have it.

-Andy


Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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I would agree with andy on all points. I have shot an oz of Angostura after a gluttonous meal when no Fernet or Unicum was avaliable, and it was not an altogather unpleasent experiance. But I love bitters. My point that three drops won't RUIN a drink but changes it substantially. And the more intense the modifier the more gently it should be used to create a harmonious, balanced libation. If you had drooped half a bottle of Orange Flower Water in your Ramos, unless you consider Chanell #5 a tipple, the drink would have been ruined.


A DUSTY SHAKER LEADS TO A THIRSTY LIFE

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I like the dropper idea. But can you get bigger droppers that will dispense a larger volume with each drop?

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moderator note: merged from Mixology Monday XIX.

OK, this is where the dash measurement really starts to bug me. Four dashes? Really? It would've killed them to actually specify 1/4 oz. or 1/2 oz. or whatever that works out to? When people argue that a dash is a "to-taste" measurement, I can accept that as long as it's one dash. Two dashes start to get to me. But four? Yeesh.

Actually, If you use dashes a fair amount, they become pretty easy. Even four dashes isn't really enough to measure with a spoon, I don't think. I should qualify this thusly: Dashes are easy with most bitters, which usually have the same tops as Lea and Perrins. An easy shake, and you have a dash. I'm pretty much with you if a recipe asks for a dash of something like Pastis that doesn't come bottled that way.

Still, dash away! The more you dash, the easier it is! This is easy enough for me to say, of course, since my favorite cocktail, as well as my entry for this MxMo both require dashes....

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OK, this is where the dash measurement really starts to bug me. Four dashes? Really? It would've killed them to actually specify 1/4 oz. or 1/2 oz. or whatever that works out to? When people argue that a dash is a "to-taste" measurement, I can accept that as long as it's one dash. Two dashes start to get to me. But four? Yeesh.

Just a thought, but I'm assuming that they would've stored some ingredients in 'dasher' bottles (like bitter bottles). Do we have any idea what sort of bottles these would have been? :wacko:


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OK, this is where the dash measurement really starts to bug me. Four dashes? Really? It would've killed them to actually specify 1/4 oz. or 1/2 oz. or whatever that works out to? When people argue that a dash is a "to-taste" measurement, I can accept that as long as it's one dash. Two dashes start to get to me. But four? Yeesh.

Just a thought, but I'm assuming that they would've stored some ingredients in 'dasher' bottles (like bitter bottles). Do we have any idea what sort of bottles these would have been? :wacko:

Actually, I don't believe this was the case. I believe that, if one is looking at an old recipe, a dash from a bitters bottle would have been significantly smaller than a dash from a maraschino bottle or curaçao bottle, which I assume came directly from the bottle. My going-in assumption is that two dashes of liquor or juice comes in at somewhere between a teaspoon on the light side and a quarter-ounce on the heavy side -- which is significantly more volume than you'd get from two dashes out of a bitters bottle. This becomes fairly apparent when you try out some of the older recipes. Plenty of old recipes call for, say, 2 ounces of gin, 1/2 ounce of maraschino and two dashes of lemon juice. Well, if those lemon juice dashes are bitters bottle dashes, you might as well not include them at all because they won't make any difference. On the other hand, a quarter-ounce of lemon juice would make a difference in that drink.


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Actually, I don't believe this was the case.  I believe that, if one is looking at an old recipe, a dash from a bitters bottle would have been significantly smaller than a dash from a maraschino bottle or curaçao bottle, which I assume came directly from the bottle.  My going-in assumption is that two dashes of liquor or juice comes in at somewhere between a teaspoon on the light side and a quarter-ounce on the heavy side -- which is significantly more volume than you'd get from two dashes out of a bitters bottle.  This becomes fairly apparent when you try out some of the older recipes.  Plenty of old recipes call for, say, 2 ounces of gin, 1/2 ounce of maraschino and two dashes of lemon juice.  Well, if those lemon juice dashes are bitters bottle dashes, you might as well not include them at all because they won't make any difference.  On the other hand, a quarter-ounce of lemon juice would make a difference in that drink.

We should probably be having this discussion over in the "Let's talk dashes" thread, but anyway...

This point is exactly why it bugs me so much with a greater number of dashes. With one dash of lemon juice, the difference in sourness between the smallest and the largest dash isn't going to be that great, but with four dashes, you're talking anywhere from, say, 1/2 oz. to a full ounce. It seems to me that, with some cocktails, that kind of difference would warrant a whole new name... and be a completely different drink.

Edited to add: "Dash" really just seems to be the classic cocktailian's way of saying "freepour." :biggrin:


Edited by mkayahara (log)

Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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I've been reading Robert Vermeire's 1922 book, "Cocktails How to Mix Them" and it contains a rather extensive section at the beginning about necessary supplies for home and professional bars.

Now, I've always maintained that a dash from a bitters bottle is not really the same as a dash from a bottle with a pour spout on an Orange Curacao bottle.

However, when discussing the necessary "Utensils" Mr. Vermeire requires the following.

Five decanter bottles with stoppers filled with: Orange Bitters, Angostura Bitters, Brown Curacao, Absinthe, and Plain or Gum Syrup.  Sometimes a sixth Bitter decanter is filled with Grenadine or Raspberry according to necessity.

I stand corrected, a dash is a dash from a Bitter Decanter, period.

Also, for the record, most of Mr. Vermeire's cocktails are a little more than 1/2 gill* or around 2 1/2 oz pre-shake.

*In the US a gill is 4 oz. An Imperial Gill (U.K.) is 5 oz.


---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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I stand corrected, a dash is a dash from a Bitter Decanter, period.

Not so fast. There is nothing so variable as a dash. Cf. E. Ricket & C. Thomas, The Gentleman's Table Guide (London: 1871), p. 40:

"Dashes" are half a teaspoonful.

Some bartender/mixographers may have kept everything in an array of dasher-top bitters bottles, but it's clear that others did not. But this is why interpreting old recipes is an art (albeit a minor one), rather than a science.


aka David Wondrich

There are, according to recent statistics, 147 female bartenders in the United States. In the United Kingdom the barmaid is a feature of the wayside inn, and is a young woman of intelligence and rare sagacity. --The Syracuse Standard, 1895

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Idle cocktail nerd question, is there a volume difference between a dash from an antique bitters bottle and the dash from a modern plastic topped bitters bottle?

Going with a full half teaspoon of bitters for each dash called for would be quite a shock for the modern drinker, I expect! I'll have to give it a try.


---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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In my experience there are wide differences in dash amounts between modern Angostura, Peychaud's, Fee and other brands of bitter -- and even wide differences in the same bottle depending on how full it is. As the owner of a few antique dasher bottles, I'd say that they dash within the expected range.


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In my experience there are wide differences in dash amounts between modern Angostura, Peychaud's, Fee and other brands of bitter -- and even wide differences in the same bottle depending on how full it is.  As the owner of a few antique dasher bottles, I'd say that they dash within the expected range.

I have also taken note of all this, including comparison with some antique bottles, but I find that for my purposes 1/8 tsp is a useful way to quantify a dash from any of these bottles, and it makes measuring easier (8 dashes of rich syrup instead of measuring out a tsp for your Old Fashioned)

-Andy


Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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I just got out the four different bitters bottles I have (Angostura, Regan's, Fee's screw-top and flip-top), all about 3/4 full. Each took between 16-22 dashes to hit 1/4 oz.

So, depending on which 3/4 full bottle you grab, each dash is about 1/88-1/64 oz, or more like 1/14-1/10 tsp -- all smaller than 1/8 tsp and pretty varied. Two light dashes from the stingier, 1/14 tsp bottles would be about the same as one dash from a more generous 1/10 tsp bottle.

I didn't count drops. Halftime only lasts so long.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Thank you so much for doing the legwork and coming up with empirical evidance of just how geeky we cocktail nerds are. I can just see peoples eyes glaze over when I bring up that little nugget.

"Wow" I say, "Did you see how the bartender pulled back on that dash of Chocolate bitters as garnish. That makes it, like, 1/44th of an ounce of orange bitters and 1/176th of an ounce of the Chocolate in that cocktail."

"ZZZZZZZ" replies my friend.


A DUSTY SHAKER LEADS TO A THIRSTY LIFE

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I gotta say though that this will vary from person to person even still; I for one tend to dash pretty hard with the bottle, trying, a lot of the time, to get as much as the bottle will give. I haven't measured it in a while, but I still feel pretty comfortable with my 8 dashes/tsp measurement for the way I dash.


Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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Right. Dash technique makes a difference, as does the fullness of the bottle. It's also the case that different dasher bottles have a different dash volume.

I've found my Hazel Atlas bitters bottles have a consistent dash volume so long as the bottle is not filled into the neck. Angostura, in my experience, can have an especially large dash volume if it is aggressively dashed "ketchup bottle style" (as opposed to the "quick tip" dashing technique).


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