Recipe Comparison: Between the Sheets

Between the Sheets

My trip to Portland last year included several visits to Powell’s book store. For those who don’t know of it, imagine a used book store that stocked 5-10 new used cocktail guides nearly every day. Seriously. Cocktails for Two caught my eye, and unsurprisingly so. The cover features a Manhattan poised in front of ruby red lips that suggestively await their liquor. I quickly flipped through this 1982 volume and was assaulted by the 70s and 80s. A sexy soothsayer, old men in plaid suits, cowboys, space women, a drunken ship captain, and even Mona Lisa holding a cocktail with quite the grin. The pages oozed with cheese. Oh… just hold on now… I was flipping back through the book and found a picture of a grandma wearing the most horrible flower-patterned nightgown, with hair in curlers, mop in one hand and frothy cocktail in the other. She couldn’t look happier.

Turning to the drinks, I expected sickly sweet concoctions, vodka dripping from every recipe, and little did I expect that I’d buy it. Punt e Mes, rye, Swedish punsch, orange bitters, Chartreuse, and other ingredients we love filled the pages. I took a step back, eyes widening.

Don’t get me wrong, the guide has its share of blue horrors, creme de cacao, and other scary ingredients, but for every “interesting” recipe, there are three solid ones that entice. So it may come as no surprise that I chose Between the Sheets as this recipe comparison. Let’s begin!

Cocktails for Two

  • 1oz brandy (used Chalfonte)
  • 1oz white rum (used Brugal white)
  • 1oz Cointreau (used Harlequin)
  • 1 dash lemon juice

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass

Cocktails for Two, Helen Spence

The aroma is really nice on this one. Hints of each ingredient come through, with even the lemon juice playing a role. I was surprised by my first sip. The cognac and Harlequin are foremost on the palette while the rum and lemon juice work to bring everything together for a fine, and surprisingly quaffable potion.

The Joy of Mixology

  • 1oz brandy
  • 1oz white rum
  • 1oz Cointreau
  • 3/4oz lemon juice

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass

The Joy of Mixology, Gary Regan

Very similar recipe to the previous, but upping the lemon juice significantly. The aroma is similar, yet the balance is somehow put off. The same follows with the taste. It’s not bad by any means, don’t get me wrong. It is just too much like a sidecar.

The Craft of the Cocktail

  • 1 1/2oz brandy
  • 1/2oz Cointreau
  • 1/2oz Benedictine
  • 3/4oz lemon juice
  • orange peel, for garnish

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass, rimmed with sugar. Flame the orange peel.

The Craft of the Cocktail, Dale DeGroff

I expected the flamed orange peel to enhance the aroma of the previous recipes that I enjoyed, but instead it overpowered it. For a drink that is already pretty sweet, the sugared rim can definitely be left out. The Benedictine adds an interesting herbal complexity, but the balance of other ingredients takes this too far from what I wanted in my sheets.

Difford’s Guide Volume 5

  • 1oz brandy
  • 1oz white rum
  • 1/2oz Cointreau
  • 3/4oz lemon juice
  • 1/2oz simple syrup
  • 1/2oz chilled water

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Difford’s Guide Volume 5, Simon Difford

One complaint I tend to have with cocktails from the Difford’s Guide is that they are watered down. Unfortunately, that 1/2oz of water manages to confirm what I expected. I could actually see this balance being really good if not for the water…

The Gentleman’s Companion

  • 1oz brandy
  • 1oz gin (used Plymouth)
  • 1oz Cointreau
  • 3/4oz lemon juice

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass

From: The Gentleman’s Companion Volume II: The Exotic Drinking Book, Charles H. Baker, Jr.

Well, this sure tastes like lemon juice. It’s also the first in the group to replace the light Puerto Rican rum with gin. This doesn’t taste too far off from the version with rum, but I bet a more assertive gin would change the drink entirely. Overall, it’s just too tart. Baker suggests cutting down on the Cointreau for a “dry” taste. I think it definitely fills the bill without the adjustment.

Trader Vic’s Revised Bar Guide

  • 1oz brandy
  • 1oz light Puerto Rican rum
  • 1oz Cointreau
  • lemon peel, for garnish

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Twist the lemon peel over the top

From: Trader Vic’s Revised Bar Guide, Trader Vic

The aroma on this one is great, and the cognac and Cointreau really come through. The cocktail itself, however, is just too sweet.


We’ve had everything from a twist of lemon peel to a full ounce. I’m leaning toward the first recipe, which only had a dash of lemon juice, but I think I may up it to a 1/4oz. The brand and quality of the ingredients seem to matter more than ever in this comparison. I have a feeling a whole new batch of bottles would result in much different results. Let’s see what some modifications to the lemon juice do.

Kasier Penguin Attempt #1

  • 1oz brandy
  • 1oz light Puerto Rican rum
  • 1oz Cointreau
  • 1/4oz lemon juice

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

From: Kaiser Penguin, Rick Stutz

This is so surprisingly balanced that not enough of the individual ingredients are showing their faces. But in this case, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Erik, from over at the Underhill Lounge, whipped out his intense cocktail knowledge yet again. This recipe is very close to the original, which appears in the pages of the Savoy Cocktail Book. 1/3 brandy, 1/3 Cointreau, 1/3 light rum, 1 dash lemon juice. “From what I can tell, Savoy Cocktails were based on a 1/2 gill measure. So a little more than 2 oz total.” That puts each at around 3/4oz, which is right on for this ratio. I bet using a darker rum would make this beyond tasty … but would that change the recipe too much? Let’s see.

Kasier Penguin Attempt #2

  • 1oz brandy
  • 1oz gold Puerto Rican rum
  • 1oz Cointreau
  • 1/4oz lemon juice

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

From: Kaiser Penguin, Rick Stutz

This was a big failure. I’ll leave it at that.

KP Questions

  1. Do you like Harlequin as a Cointreau substitute or are there better ones?
  2. What are you favorite mixing cognacs?

11 Responses to “Recipe Comparison: Between the Sheets”

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11 Comments to “ Recipe Comparison: Between the Sheets”
  1. RowenNo Gravatar says:

    I’ve been using Courvoisier Napoleon for Sidecar lately. Very lush. Now I’ll have to try it in Between the Sheets.

  2. DoodNo Gravatar says:

    Courvoisier Napoleon is what I’ve been using for brandy drinks lately too.

    BTW, if you want a great white rum to use for a BTS, I recommend going with Oronoco from Brazil. It’s not a Puerto Rican style rum, but it is (in my humble opinion) the greatest white rum available in the States today.

  3. KristinNo Gravatar says:

    I’m going to try the BTS. I just got Napoleon brandy, Jacques Cardin. I’m sure you won’t be interested in my results!!

  4. I’m not allowed to mix Cognac; it’s the Boy’s favorite sipping drink.

    I love how minor tweaks changed the flavor profile so much; this comparison was such a fascinating read!

  5. BoozemonkeyNo Gravatar says:

    I’ve become a pretty big fan of Rhum Clement Creole Shrub as a Cointreau substitute, and I’ll second the recomendation for Oronoco. That is some seriously tasty stuff.

  6. ScomorokhNo Gravatar says:

    I dont now what the thing is Harlequin and use only Cointreau (not triple sec or white curacao).

    I explore Between the Sheets cocktail some times ago – http://www.scienceofdrink.com/2008/02/04/between-the-sheets/

    I use Havana Club Anejo 7 Anos (as rum ;) and one of my favorite ex-USSR (armenian) brandy ArArAt 5* (now both brand owner is Pernod Ricard Group… hm-m-m-m…). The taste of my BTS like very good (perfect) Sidecar (I use 1:1:1:1 ratio) Some times ago I prepared my BTS from Bacardi Cartablanca and found the taste so wrong…

    About Brandy section of my bar you can read here – http://www.scienceofdrink.com/2008/01/13/back-in-the-ussr-or-sidecar-for-soviet-veterans/


  7. I’ve just never liked this drink and have never made one I liked, though at first glance it seems like something I would like. I’ll have to try the 1st version. The Zig Zag frequently has this on their menu, though I’ve never ordered one. If it’s good enough for them….

  8. RickNo Gravatar says:

    Rowen, Dood, Kristen, All of those cognacs are over $50! Though Chalfonte (around $20), is “acceptable,” I really wish there was a reasonably priced cognac that was excellent for mixing. There has to be something.

    Lady Amalthea, Thanks! Any suggestions for future recipe comparisons?

    Boozemonkey, Isn’t the Creole Shrub wonderful? It looks like I can special order both it and the Oronoco in PA. I’ll have to report back when I do.

    Keith, If you end up giving it a try, let me know what you think. What about the BTS turns you off?

  9. yeah, i’ll give it a whirl this weekend. I’m not sure what turns me off so much… the sweetness maybe, or more specifically the type of sweetness… i dunno, if i remember i also thought it was kind of boring, i guess, but that was a while back ago….i’ll give it another shot, because it can’t suck if it’s such an iconic drink and has been reprinted in so many wonderful recipe books, maybe i either haven’t made it correctly or gave up on it too soon. we’ll see.

    btw, did the corpse reviver comparison and found Ted Haigh’s to be my favorite. i like that the pernod plays around the peripherary, whispering that it’s somewhere in that wonderful symphony of flavors.

    maybe doug at pegu blog should do this one, but i’d love to see a comparison of pegu clubs since some include orange bitters and some do not… would also be curious about which gin is preferable as i have my opinion but am curious what others think…

  10. BoozemonkeyNo Gravatar says:


    I’m definitely having a bit of a love affair with the Shrub. My doctor said something about attachment disorder, but what does he know?

    Not too long ago a friend and I did a side by side tasting of Shrub, Cointreau, and Grand Marnier. Other than the rapid onset of diabetes, it was quite an interesting comparison.

    I’d love to hear what you do with Oronoco when you get it, I have a propensity to start out mixing it and getting said tracked by just having it on the rocks.

  11. The Between the Sheets seems to me to be one of those many cocktails concocted solely with the idea of making a cocktail of nothing but booze acceptable to (what men imagine is) the girly female palate. No disrespect intended on my part, however I believe getting the object of your desire drunk is the intent of this cocktail. If you follow the older recipes, and use Cointreau, you are talking over 2 oz of pure, full strength, 80 proof booze. It’s as potent as any super extra dry martini, but tastes like candy.

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Kaiser Penguin is a cocktail blog featuring original recipes, homemade ingredients, classic cocktails, and tiki drinks.

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It is a well-known fact that penguins are members of high society and enjoy fine cocktails. Our very own kaiser penguin would like me to mention that he also enjoys various treats from the sea.

Contact: rick@kaiserpenguin.com