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Distilled Rabbit Hole

Perhaps I am starting to sound like a broken record, but I will nonetheless state for the record that I thoroughly love whiskey. The aroma, the bitterness, the sweetness, the way it interacts with the liquids it envelops, and the rest of the accoutrement makes my hair stand on end.

Michael Cecconi also loves whiskey. His admiration of the product makes me look like a mere amateur among professionals and is a true testament to the term mixologist. Acting as a mad scientist of libations, Mr. Cecconi experiments with different blends of liquids to create cocktails that are on the verge of alchemy.

Mr. Cecconi’s trip down the distilled rabbit-hole began in cooking school where he learned that every aspect of delectables for the tongue can be broken apart into individual ingredients.

“(G)oing to cooking school opened up my eyes to an entirely new set of skills of dealing with flavors. It demystified everything. When you have broken down the cow, the pig, the lamb and you’ve gone through Chinese, Italian and Indian cuisine, you realize that it’s all just building blocks. There’s nothing that you can break too much. Don’t be afraid to break something. Try that new idea and if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. Move on” says Cecconi.

He then applied this principle to the creation of cocktails. Everything can be boiled down to a good combination of ingredients and drinks are no exception.

Not wanting to keep his knowledge strictly behind the stick, Mr. Cecconi has become an educator and teaches whiskey cocktail classes in San Francisco at Two Sister’s Bar and Books and a 4-day course that is taught tri-annually in New York City. It’s at these classes where anybody from the Screwdriver Virgin to a Miller Lite Aficionado to the Single-Malt Snob can learn how to produce elixirs that will class-up any occasion.

If you aren’t going to be in the SF or NY area anytime in the near future, you can still delve into the world of Mr. Cecconi’s delicacies with the following cocktail of his creation:

Dark Matter

Photo courtesy of Jeanmarie Theobalds


Wine or rocks glass. 

1 ½ oz Spiced Dark Rhum*
¾ oz Simple Syrup
top w/ a stout beer (2-4 ounces)

Combine rhum, syrup, and ice in mixing tin. Shake and strain into small wine or rocks glass, then top with stout. Sit back and enjoy the rich (dairy-free) creaminess that is fortified stout.

*Spiced Dark Rhum:

  • 1 vanilla bean split length-wise
  • 5-8 cloves
  • 1 750 ml bottle of dark rhum (eg Barbancourt 5 Star)

Place vanilla and cloves in rhum bottle and let sit, shaking periodically, for 2 days.

This beer cocktail continues the tradition set up by the Yerba Buena 75 (a great gin, ginger, pilsner cocktail). Where that one was tall, crisp, refreshing, the Dark Matter is more warming, soothing, and restorative. This is meant to be a tight, short sipping drink, more akin to a martini than a pint of beer. Keep it short, and don’t forget to recycle the vanilla beans! And for a simple winter highball try adding root beer to 2 ounces of the spiced rhum then top with ice.

Dark matter is that 75% of the universe that we can't see but have surmised that it is holding us together. Dark Matter is a radically smaller portion of the universe, but I like to believe that it (and all the cocktails I make) are a gravitational force for good keeping us a bar.

- M. Cecconi


Learn a thing or three in San Francisco. 

Learn a handful in New York. 

Bring Mr. Cecconi's creations to your next event. 


Michael Cecconi | San Francisco, CA

Some historians have claimed that the fall of the Soviet Union was based off of their diminishing respect for vodka. Conspiracy theorists among these historians believe Mr. Cecconi may have had a hand in the comrades change of tastes.

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