Don Raphael

Don Raphael. © Le Lion - Swetlana Holz.

A dessert for the grown-up man made of Spanish brandy, Pedro Ximénez sherry and oranges – that is the Don Raphael. A highly recommended digestif by Mario Kappes.

50 ml Cardenal Mendoza brandy
25 ml Don Zoilo Pedro Ximénez sherry 12 years
3 orange zests
1 dash Scrappy’s orange bitters
1 orange zest as garnish


50 ml Milenario Solera Gran Reserva brandy
25 ml Lustau San Emilio PX sherry
3 orange zests
1 dash Scrappy’s orange bitters
1 orange zest as garnish

Preparation: Stir with 3 orange zests. Strain into the glass and sprinkle with an orange zest and decorate.

As you can see from the following post, the alternative is actually not correct, because the component that gives it its name is missing. Nevertheless, it is a tasty variant that also has its charms.

The “Don Raphael” is a drink to be had after a good meal. For Mario Kappes, it is “a dessert for the grown-up man. It’s a digestif. It’s got punch, it’s got sweetness, but it’s also got some playful flavours behind it.” – „ein Nachtisch für den erwachsenen Mann. Das ist ein Digestif. Der hat Wums, der hat Süße, aber auch ein paar verspielte Aromen dahinter“. [1] It was created in October 2003, when Mario was bar manager at the Sofitel Hamburg Alter Wall. [3] [4]

Those who know the genesis of the drink know that it has to be prepared with Cardenal Mendoza as the brandy. To this is added a Pedro Ximénez sherry with its sultana aromas, while the binding element is orange bitters and orange zest stirred in. [1]

As the name suggests, the drink has to do with a person. The cellar master Raphael, after whom it is named, made a lasting impression on Mario Kappes in Jerez de la Frontera. [1]

Mario Kappes had long been a lover of the Spanish brandy “Cardenal Mendoza” and, during a holiday in Andalusia, took the opportunity to visit the Bodega Romate, where he comes from. There, the brandy is stored in the solera system, but distilled elsewhere, where the wines grow. [1]

Cardenal Mendoza.
Cardenal Mendoza. [5]

He was accompanied on this holiday by his own wife, his best friend, his wife and their daughter. So Mario went to Bodega Romate full of enthusiasm, with the understanding that it would be exactly the same there as at other bodegas: with busloads of visitors, olive stations, all kinds of offers, visitors leaving the bodega packed with bags. But once there, the picture was different: there was nothing there, not even a car park for buses. No gate, no olives, no bags. Just a small house with a white front and hidden lettering. [1]

Cardenal Mendoza.
Cardenal Mendoza. [5]

Mario was not deterred, found a door, entered, and stood in front of a gatehouse. He made his request to be allowed to visit the house and see how the brandy was made. He was not understood at first, but was finally told in broken English that they did not do such things. Mario replied that this was a pity, especially as he had come all the way from Germany for this. He was successful and a lady came down from her office who spoke German and had previously lived and worked in Frankfurt. She listened again to what Mario wanted and conducted an interview with him. There were countless questions to answer and Mario felt as if it was a job interview. How did he come into contact with brandy, where did he know it, what did he do for a living, where did he come from, what was the bar like where he worked, what did he do there? [1]

Cardenal Mendoza.
Cardenal Mendoza. [5]

The lady was so kind and after all these questions offered to ask the cellar master if he had time and would like to receive Mario. As far as she knew, there was not much to do at the moment and so it was quite possible that he would take the time to meet Mario. Mario was lucky and the cellar master came. He didn’t speak a word of English or German, only Spanish, and the lady agreed to accompany them on the tour as an interpreter. So the tour began and Mario had the opportunity to taste everything from raw brandy to brandy aged for 50 years. Along the way, they also tasted all the sherry qualities of the house. The interpreter translated for the first 20 minutes, but then – according to Mario – translation was no longer necessary, as they understood each other perfectly thanks to the alcohol they had consumed in the meantime. At the end of the tour, Mario was given a bottle of the “Non Plus Ultra”, bottled directly from the barrel by the cellar master. That was very unusual, because at that time it was only bottled by hand, and it was only given to 200 people or gourmet restaurants or bars. The first bottle always went to the Spanish royal family. You could not order or buy the “Non Plus Ultra”, but you got it. Today, however, it is produced in larger quantities and you can buy it. [1]

Cardenal Mendoza.
Cardenal Mendoza. [5]

Leaving the bodega with such a bottle was a great feeling. Neither his best friend nor his wife understood at first what this really meant. Mario, on the other hand, was almost on the verge of tears. A short time later, however, his companion realised that it must be something very special. They went together around the corner to a recommended tapas bar. There they sat on the terrace and ordered their meal. The first thing that happened was that the young man who ran the tapas bar looked at the package, his eyes widened, went back to his bar and came out with an original Cardenal-Mendoza swill from the 1940s and placed it in front of Mario. [1]

Mario, still not speaking Spanish, now tried to make it clear that he did not want to open the bottle, drink from it or distribute it, but that it should remain closed for a special occasion. The young man probably did not understand Mario correctly, and he went to his bar again and came back with a second glass of this kind. Mario explained that drinking with him was also out of the question. Apparently they still didn’t understand each other and the bar owner went into his bar again. He returned this time with newspaper and wrapped both glasses. He wanted to give the glasses as a gift so that Mario could drink the brandy from the right glasses at home. [1]

A group of local construction workers, as one imagines them in a picture book, in vests, smeared, sweaty, and one of them still with a helmet in his arms, took their lunch at the next table, looked over, stood up, shook Mario’s hand and went back to their table. Now, at the latest, it was clear to Mario’s companions that it must be something very special indeed to be allowed to have this bottle at all. [1]

Mario had then briefly thought about when he should open the bottle and told himself that this would be when his wife said at some point that she was pregnant. Then he would open the bottle and the last sip was to be drunk at the birth of the child. And that is exactly how it happened. Both the first and the last sip were drunk together with Jörg Meyer. During the last sip, he had taken the opportunity to make it clear to his then boss that he would need five weeks paid leave from 30 November. [1]

Don Raphael. © Le Lion - Swetlana Holz.
Don Raphael. © Le Lion – Swetlana Holz.

About the origin of the drink, Mario Kappes reports that, back in Hamburg, he wanted to capture this special moment for himself and make a drink with the spirit that had impressed him so much before, but also there in the bodega, and so invented the Don Raphael. The idea of the recipe is to bring Pedro Ximénez sherry and Cardenal Mendoza brandy together again, because the barrels of the solera system are permanently aromatised by PX sherry and thus the brandy matured in them also clearly has the aromas of the same. So he has brought the two aromas of the PX sherry and the brandy together again and used orange peel and orange bitters as a link. The whole thing is stirred and served without ice. [1]

A later experience was also nice – according to Mario Kappes – when he had prepared the drink at a bar event and Stefan Gábanyi, a person Mario holds in high esteem and a bartender he has admired for a very long time and still admires for what he does and how he does it, told him that he would have included the Don Raphael on his first menu at Bar Gabányi in Munich after it opened in 2012. [1] [2]

  1. https://bildungstrinken.com/3-mario-kappes-don-raphael-professor-langnickel-cus-damato/: Mario Kappes: Don Raphael, Professor Langnickel, Cus D’Amato.
  2. http://mixology.eu/bars/gabanyi-bar-muenchen/: Eleganter Underground. Gabányi Bar eröffnet in München. By Helmut Adam, 14. August 2012.
  3. Michaela Bavandi: Stars in Bars – Passioniert am nächtlichen Regiepult. In: Mixology 2/2014, page 30.
  4. Note from Mario Kappes dated 16 August 2017: The Don Raphael was created in October 2003.
  5. The photos were kindly provided by Henkell & Co. Sektkellerei KG.


2008 http://bitters-blog.blogspot.de/2008/01/geschichten-der-bar-oder-wie-ein-drink.html. Don Raphael.4 cl Cardenal Mendoza Reserve 42%, 2 cl Pedro Ximénez Monteagudo Sherry, 1 Dash Orange Bitter, Stir, strain, Orange Peel.

2011 Mixology 6/2011, Seite 33. Don Raphael. 5 cl Cardenal Mendoza Brandy, 2,5 cl Williams & Humbert PX Sherry, 1 Dash Orange Bitters, 3 Orangenzesten. Rühren, eine Orangenzeste als Garnitur.

2016 http://mixology.eu/drinks/don-raphael-cocktail/. Don Raphael. 5 cl Cardenal Mendoza Gran Reserva, 2 cl PX Sherry Don Zoilo, 1 Dash Orange Bitters, 3-4 Orangenzesten. Alles Rühren, abseihen, mit zusätzlicher Orangenzeste abspritzen.

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Hi, I'm Armin and in my spare time I want to promote bar culture as a blogger, freelance journalist and Bildungstrinker (you want to know what the latter is? Then check out "About us"). My focus is on researching the history of mixed drinks. If I have ever left out a source you know of, and you think it should be considered, I look forward to hearing about it from you to learn something new. English is not my first language, but I hope that the translated texts are easy to understand. If there is any incomprehensibility, please let me know so that I can improve it.

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