By Michael Cecconi

The Old World never stopped liking bitterness. I don’t know if it stems from having so many wars fought on their soil, or simply being exposed to it through permeable borders and colonialism. Americans appreciation of bitterness is limited at best. The United States is only reinforcing this flavor isolationism. I propose a tasty rebellion: drink bitter, don’t just be bitter.


The Thistlestop is both a pun and a marriage of the U.S. (rye) and Italy (Cynar) with citrus officiating. It is dry, bitter, and yet inspires a desire for another sip. It is also easy to make, and the artichoke derived Cynar is a great guest to have at your home bar.

Let’s make a Thistlestop:

martini glass

2 oz Rittenhouse rye

3/4 Cynar

1/2 oz fresh lemon juice

1 dash cardamom bitters

 Chill martini glass with ice or in freezer. Measure and pour rye, Cynar, lemon juice, and bitters into mixing tin. Add ice, shake & strain into chilled martini glass. Garnish with lemon wheel and embrace the bitter.

As 2018 rushes to the finish line I am turning the space at 1849 Shattuck @ Hearst (downtown Berkeley) into a one-man bar just in time for the holidays. I propose we gather together with good friends and raise a glass of something with a touch of bitter… which is always coupled with a touch of sweet, too.

unnamed-1.jpgAnd who knows, maybe I’ll throw up a classic Italian movie on the wall to commemorate the union of old and new, bitter and sweet. The Thistlestop, and seven other seasonal cocktails will be available plus beer and wine and light snacks in a great place to relax.

51JQHxmrj1L.jpgScreen Shot 2018-11-28 at 5.19.06 PM

This event is underground and relies on word of mouth for publicity. So share this with your friends NOW, and put it in your books if you are a local.

November 29 & 30
December 1, 6, 7, 8, 13, & 14

The Time:
Doors open at 5:30 to 9-ish.

And for those that want to take a more ‘hands-on’ approach to the holidays I am teaching everything you’ll need to know to entertain at The Alembic:

12/17, Monday Night Mixology, 6:30-8:30 – Holidays on Ice

Monday Night Mixology brings the tools and tricks of the professional bar trade to you.

Designed to turn everyone from cocktail connoisseur to bar beginner into the ultimate host, our two hour classes walk you through the technical basics of mixing drinks, with a healthy dose of mixology history and a dash of spirits knowledge. Along the way you will make four full-sized cocktails under the experienced instruction of one of our professional mixologists, and enjoy some light snacks and a bit of conversation in a gorgeous bar.

December: Holidays on Ice

The holidays are a flurry of activity surrounded by friends and family. In the name of hospitality and for the sake of sanity, we find ourselves reaching for more than the occasional tipple with which to enjoy this season. Learn how to stir, shake and batch your way to holiday cocktail bliss.

Monday Night Mixology is the brain-child of Mikha Diaz and Michael Cecconi. With a combined 47 years of hospitality experience, and with a love of creating comfortable, relaxed events in our own homes, Mikha and Michael desire to bring the tricks of the trade to our regulars so that they would have the tools to host and to imbibe with ease in their own homes. A well-constructed cocktail, created by a host at ease in the bartending role, elevates every event!

Each ticket purchases two full hours of instruction with a seasoned industry professional, four full-sized cocktails, light snacks, and a follow up email with recipes and tips for sourcing great spirits and cocktailing tools. Tickets are non-refundable, but may be traded for another class, with 24 hours notice. 21 and over.


Screen Shot 2018-11-28 at 5.33.36 PM.pngMichael Cecconi likes all things drink-related. Michael likes movies. And, in an odd twist of fate, Michael loves words about movies. These three facts combine to make a perfect storm of sensibility, ability, and inebriation needed to fulfill duties at EatDrinkFilms. When not rhapsodizing about film, Michael tends the bar in San Francisco. He teaches mixology in San Francisco and New York. And lately, he’s been trying to capture the magic of what he does in a bottle so he can spread his tasty libations across the land. Michael paired literary works and cocktails for The New Yorker magazine. His “Shaken & Stirred” columns for EatDrinkFilms combine movie reviews with cocktail recipes. They are collected here and here and here and a few more here.

Please feel free to contact him at with all queries.


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