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by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Amy Haroldson blogs about classic American cocktails and how to make them at home on her blog, friend Amy Haroldson is a woman of many talents. She is a professional musician and the Oregon Symphony contracts with her to present educational programs in area schools to build the symphony’s next generation of patrons.

She also makes a really great cocktail and recently launched, a blog focused on teaching others how to create top-shelf classic cocktails at home.

“My husband and I came up with the idea for Cocktail Savvy over Christmas,” Amy told me. “I have a very tattered softbound notebook I’ve kept for the last couple of decades with everything I’ve learned about making classic cocktails over the years.”

Amy’s appreciation for classic cocktails goes way back. She credits her grandparents for giving her a discerning palate. Amy’s grandmother provided her with her first martini recipe, which called for “two ounces of the best vodka you can afford and then just glance at the vermouth from across the room.” Amy’s grandfather considered all vodkas to be the same and, in fact, preferred a brand in a plastic bottle, usually stored on the bottom shelf in the liquor store.

“I thought Grandpa was wise, this is probably really good,” said Amy. “But it was awful!”

Amy got on-the-job training while working for an advertising agency in San Francisco.

“I worked with a lot of older guys in the agency. Come 5 o’clock, they would pull the Scotch out from under the desk and have a drink. I learned a lot about alcohol from them; what you are looking for in taste, about glassware, temperatures and rituals,” she said.

Her notebook became filled with recipes, tips and cultural traditions associated with cocktails. She adds to it every opportunity she gets.

“When I have a great drink experience, I study it,” she said. “I ask the bartender questions and get to understand how to produce a good-quality drink and how to serve it.”

Amy is a fan of the traditions of American classic cocktails. She said making a good martini isn’t hard, but intricacies of how you shake it or using incorrect ingredient ratios will reduce one’s success.

To launch her blog, Amy recently held a “Martinis Like Your Grandmother Used to Make” party. At the party, guests sampled vodkas and olives and determined for themselves what they liked and why. There was not an overall winner, which she said was legitimate because everyone has a personal preference. Surprisingly, price was not a factor.

Amy shares with us a recipe for a classic Manhattan, which she said was an exact recipe. She also shared several recipes for retro appetizers.

You just might have to host a cocktail party! Check out and learn a little bit about the lore of classic cocktails.

Bon appetit! Eat something wonderful!

Classic Manhattan

Served on the rocks

Amy says that varying the whiskey, vermouth and cherry brands can change the taste tremendously, but these proportions are very reliable.

Fill a low ball, old fashioned or rocks glass halfway with fresh ice. Pour in two shots of top-shelf blended whiskey (she suggests Pendleton) and one shot of sweet vermouth (like Martini & Rossi). Add two dashes Angostura bitters. Garnish with a cocktail cherry and drizzle with a teaspoon of liquid from the cherry jar. Stir and serve immediately.

Water Chestnuts and Bacon

Can of water chestnuts

Bacon (lean center cut)

Soy sauce


Drain water chestnuts thoroughly. Cut in half if too large. Soak in soy sauce for half an hour or more and drain.

Roll chestnuts in sugar until they are generously coated. Wrap a half-piece of bacon around each water chestnut and roll in sugar again. Secure with a toothpick. Place on a rack over a baking sheet in 400°F oven. After 20 minutes, turn over water chestnuts and drain the bottom of the pan. Remove from oven. When ready to serve, return to a 350ºF oven to reheat for 10 minutes or until crisp.

Olive Cheese Puffs

Makes about 45 bite-size puffs

8 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated

4 tablespoons butter, softened

1 cup all purpose flour

Dash cayenne pepper

1 jar small pimento-stuffed martini olives

Process cheese, butter, flour and cayenne until a smooth dough is formed. Break off a piece of dough slightly bigger than the olive. Roll the dough into a ball and then flatten so it completely wraps around the olive.

Place balls on a baking sheet and bake at 400ºF for 15 minutes.

Caviar Bites

Amy said that if these hadn’t been so tasty and well received she would have been embarrassed to submit this next recipe. She suggests that if the chips are a little too low-brow, you can use any kind of bite-size toast.

1 jar lumpfish black caviar

1/2 cup créme fraiche or sour cream

Fresh chopped chives

1 batch homemade potato chips or a bag of high-quality, lightly salted kettle cooked chips

Spoon 1/2 teaspoon créme fraiche onto each chip. Top with a small amount of caviar, about 1/4 teaspoon. Sprinkle with chives and serve immediately.

Spicy Grilled Shrimp

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/2 cup light olive oil

5 tablespoons Cajun seasoning mix or to taste

1/4 cup oriental sesame oil

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger

2 teaspoons dry mustard

2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco

32 uncooked large shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails intact

Whisk together first eight ingredients in a large bowl. Add shrimp and stir to coat. Let stand 30 minutes. Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Remove shrimp from marinade and grill until pink and cooked through, about two minutes per side. Transfer to platter and serve.

All recipes from Amy Haroldson

Randall welcomes your food questions and research suggestions. She can be reached at 503-636-1281, ext. 100, or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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