Wednesday, April 23, 2014

persephone

1 oz Buffalo Trace Bourbon (3/4 oz Four Roses)
1 oz Gran Classico (3/4 oz Campari)
1 oz Cointreau (3/4 oz)
1 oz Lemon Juice (3/4 oz)

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail coupe. Top with 1 oz Prosecco (3/4 oz Gruet Blanc de Blanc) and garnish with an orange twist.

Two Saturdays ago, I decided to make a recipe I spotted on the ShakeStir website called the Persphone. The drink, named after the Greek goddess of Spring, was crafted by Meaghan Montagano at Extra Fancy in New York City as her ode to the season. The combination of Gran Classico or Campari with orange liqueur was quite alluring here for it works rather well in drinks like the Lucien Gaudin and Caricature cocktails.
Once strained into a glass, the Persephone offered an orange oil aroma that complemented the Cointreau, and hints of Campari and Bourbon peeked through underneath. A crisp orange, lemon, and white wine sip led into a Bourbon swallow that ended with Campari flavors and a tart citrus finish. With the Bourbon, bitters, bubbles, and orange notes, the Persephone reminded me of a Seelbach.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

dizzy

1/3 Whiskey (1 1/4 oz Four Roses Bourbon)
1/3 Sherry (1 1/4 oz Lustau East India Solera)
1/3 Pineapple Juice (1 1/4 oz)
2 dash Lemon Juice (1/4 oz)

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.
Two Thursdays ago, I opened up our 1940 edition of The How and When by Hyman Gale and Gerald F. Marco and spotted the Dizzy Cocktail, a tropical-feeling Algonquin-like number. For the whiskey, I initially thought that a blended Scotch might work well, but sweetness won out over smoke and I opted for a Bourbon. Once mixed, the Dizzy shared a grape and malt aroma. A bright and crisp pineapple and lemon sip gave way to a sherry and Bourbon combination on the swallow. Overall, the sherry and lemon juice donated a bit more complexity than dry vermouth does in the classic Algonquin.

Monday, April 21, 2014

el profesor

1 oz Pisco (Encanto)
1/2 oz Punt e Mes
1/2 oz Benedictine
2 dash Fee's Aromatic Bitters (Fee's Whiskey Barrel Bitters)

Stir with ice and strain into a rocks glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.
Two Sundays ago, I opened up my copy of the 75th anniversary edition of the Mr. Boston Official Bartender's Guide and spotted the El Profesor. This pisco drink was crafted by Enrique Sanchez, a Peruvian-born bartender working in San Francisco. The recipe appeared much like a pisco Fort Point, so it seemed like a winner. Once prepared, it offered a lemon oil aroma over herbal grape undertones. The grape notes continued on into the sip, and the swallow began with floral and earthy pisco flavors and ended with a herbal, bitter, and cinnamon finish. Over time, the El Profesor gained chocolate notes from the Benedictine on the swallow as the drink approached room temperature.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

strawberry lemon froth

The theme for this month's Mixology Monday (MxMo LXXXIV) was picked by Scott of the Shake, Strain, & Sip blog. The theme he chose was "Temperance" which is a novel one for Mixology Monday as a whole, but one well worth investigating seriously. Scott elaborated on the theme with his description of, "While many of us today think of overly sweet and unimaginative uses of fruit juice combinations when we hear of nonalcoholic beverages, there is a growing resurgence and movement of creating real craft 'mocktails' in cocktail bars around the world... As such, this month's theme challenges you to create unique craft 'mocktails' only limited by your imagination. Perhaps you have an abundance of that homemade lavender syrup sitting in your fridge? Maybe you've been thinking about creating a non-alcoholic version of your favorite cocktail. Or maybe you just wanted an excuse to mix up an Angostura Phosphate you saw in Imbibe. Oh yes, non-potable bitters are fair game here since they are legally classified as nonalcoholic in the states. However, if the Teetotalist inside of you won't allow it, you can go without them. Cheers!"

Technically, the subject of Temperance drinks is not a new one for my Mixology Monday posts, for I did a Tea Julep for MxMo 49: Tom Waits. In thinking about what sort of libation I would make Tom if he were to stop by, I realized that all the whiskey and Manhattans that he sung about would be poor choices now. Tom has been sober for over two decades, and I set forth to figure out a nonalcoholic beverage to make for him as I have done for friends who did not drink or were the designated driver that night. That post led to me writing a guest spot on the Four Pounds Flour blog as part of a blog post exchange three years ago. Since I am on my one day off between working 6 shifts in 5 days last week and looking at 7 shifts in 6 days starting tomorrow, I figured that I would recycle and post that work here:


When Prohibition rolled around in 1919, the growing art of American drink making that had gained steam in the mid-19th century came to a screeching halt. Alcohol was banned which did not stop its consumption, but the true craftsmen of the trade either fled the country to pursue their livelihood elsewhere or they changed fields entirely. The quality of alcohol dropped and the drinks made from it were less artful in their design and became more a crafty way to cover over harsh off flavors and stings. Well, it should be said that the growing art in alcoholic drink making in American came to a stop, but those in the Temperance movement seized the opportunity to provide guidance to hosts and hostesses on how to entertain. One of these individuals was Bertha E. L. Stockbridge. Her seminal 1920 book, What to Drink: The Blue Book of Beverages; Recipes and Directions for Making and Serving Non-alcoholic Drinks for all Occasions turned out to be just as valuable and intricate as the liquor-soaked ones of Jerry Thomas and Harry Johnson.

Bertha's first book, the 1918 treatise The Liberty Cook Book: A Guide to Good Living Combined with Economy, with a Comprehensive Section on Up-to-date Canning, Preserving, Pickling, Jelly Making and Drying, showcased her culinary strengths from making breakfast cereals to cooking organ meats. While the section on non-alcoholic beverages in the book was rather short, her cookbook did provide the basis for her drink book by working out how to make a variety of flavored and fruit syrups that would become the key components in What to Drink. When Prohibition rolled around a year later, she soon saw the necessity to expound on this topic.

Bertha explained, "The hostess of to-day will be called upon to serve drinks in her home more than formerly, I imagine, and it were well to go back to the habits and customs of our grandmothers and be prepared to serve a refreshing drink in an attractive manner at a moment's notice." To prepare for guests, Bertha recommended having a stock of homemade or commercial syrups and vinegar-based shrubs ready to create satisfying beverages for guests. Since making these ingredients can be time consuming, Bertha offered up recipes to make all of that labor worth the while. One of the great differences between the alcoholic cocktail and the Temperance drink is that the latter often requires more effort to prepare, and time in the kitchen was almost a necessity. If the hostess is entertaining in a Dry way, Bertha offered advice on how to be popular despite eschewing spirits, and these pointers are reminiscent of Harry Johnson's tips in his Bartender's Manual on how to run a bar. On a more spiritual side, the book's forward presented a parody of the Persian poet Omar Khayyám that read, "A Box of Chocolate underneath a bough,/An Ice Cream Cone, some Lemonade and Thou/Beside me singing in the Wilderness/Make Prohibition Paradise enow." With a bit of time and effort, non-alcoholic drinks could perhaps be part of even a modern day Paradise, too.

In this day and age when alcohol is allowed again, nonalcoholic drinks still play a large role in entertaining guests. Between designated drivers, religious abstainers, pregnant women, people on medication, recovering alcoholics, and children, there are numerous reasons to prepare this sort of drink even at a Wet party. A good host or hostess should respect these guests and try to provide something more than a bottle of soda as the rest are served intricate and exotic alcohol-laden beverages. After my first dabbling with Bertha's recipes in making the Tea Julep I was intrigued at the craftsmanship of the recipes and how well the flavor combinations held up today. While some of the recipes are quick to prepare, others require longer periods of steeping and infusing not to mention a variety of pre-made syrups; however, the efforts are worth it. Here are two more drinks from Bertha Stockbridge's What to Drink:
Georgia Mint Julep
• 1 tsp Lemon Juice
• 1 tsp Powdered Sugar
• 1/4 cup Peach Syrup (*)
• 3/4 cup White Grape Juice
• 3 sprays Mint
In a tall goblet, crush a spray of mint at the bottom of the glass. Add sugar, a little water, and lemon juice; stir until sugar is dissolved. Add peach syrup and grape juice, and stir. Fill with crushed ice and garnish with the rest of the mint sprays. Note: we made this drink 3/4 scale to fit our Julep cups.
(*) Peach syrup: While Bertha Stockbridge provided a more complicated peach syrup recipe, I followed my old standby. I used one package of frozen (10 oz) peach slices and added it to 8 oz water and 8 oz sugar in a pot. Bring to a boil with stirring. Cover, turn down the heat, and simmer for 30 minutes. Let cool (overnight is fine), and squeeze and strain through a tea towel. The syrup will keep for a few weeks in the refrigerator. Fresh peaches can be used, but once you simmer them, the extra value in this freshness is lost.
While the traditional Georgia Mint Julep was Bourbon based with muddled peach and sugar syrup, Bertha's Temperance version captures the essence of it save for some of the Bourbon notes. The grape and peach make a nice flavor combination that works rather well with the mint. Unlike the alcoholic version, this Julep cup was not able to acquire the beautiful frost on the outside of our silver Julep cups. What is lost in the strength of the spirit in terms of drinking satisfaction is gained in the larger volume of this sweet drink.
Strawberry-Lemon Froth
• 1 Egg White
• Juice 1/2 Lemon (1 oz)
• 3/4 cup Water
• 2 tsp Sugar
• 1/2 dozen Strawberries
Muddle all the strawberries (save for one) with sugar in the bottom of a cocktail shaker. Add lemon juice, water, and ice, shake, and double strain (use a fine strainer) into a tall glass. Separately, beat an egg white into a meringue and stir stiffly into the drink. Garnish with a strawberry. Note: strawberries back in the 1920's were a lot smaller than the large ones commonly found today; therefore, I muddled 3 medium-large strawberries instead of the 5 in the recipe.
I am not sure what precise drink recipe Bertha was trying to replicate, but there were gin and egg white-based Froth (or Froth Blower) drinks in the cocktail literature and a number of other drinks with strawberry and lemon juice. While the egg white might seem a little scary, it produces a light, creamy topping that can be stirred into the body of the drink. My egg whites were rather stiffly beaten which made it difficult to stir in especially with our glasses being rather full. Regardless, the drink started with a delightful strawberry aroma. The creamy meringue gave way to a slightly tart lemon sip and a strawberry swallow. Over successive sips, the strawberry notes increased in intensity. The only change I would make would be to drop the water to 3-4 ounces for the drink seemed a little thin; perhaps, this is my bias toward more potent and shorter alcohol based drinks.

The value of Bertha Stockbridge’s recipes, even in these days post-Prohibition, is that there will always be people who do not drink alcohol. Moreover, these guests deserve to be pampered just as much as the drinkers in the group do. True, many of Bertha's recipes in What to Drink are rather labor intensive, but many of them scale up rather well, and the extra effort will definitely be appreciated. Lastly, even if you are in the mood for a stiffer drink, these recipes can be useful. The back cover of our reprint reads, "However, if one were to add a drop or two of Bathtub Gin to these already tasty drinks, they would only be that much more ‘authentic’ to the period. Wouldn't you agree?" Cheers!

Thanks to Scott for getting me to reflect back on some of my past experiments with Temperance drinks (although I make plenty at work for the restaurant staff, pregnant ladies, and other guests who choose not to drink), and thanks to the other Mixology Monday-ers who played along with this theme to keep the event alive!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

poppin' tags

1 oz Beefeater Gin
1 oz Campari
1 oz Kronan Swedish Punsch
1 oz Orange Juice

Shake with ice and strain into a Collins glass. Top with ice and ~3 oz soda water, and garnish with an orange twist.

One of the new drinks on the Russell House Tavern is the Poppin' Tags created by Caleb Linton. In his beta testing days, he was dubbing this "Negroni Juice" as an easy drinking variation on an Americano or Negroni. The Swedish Punsch provides the extra botanicals, sweetness, and depth that sweet vermouth would otherwise provide, and orange juice along with the soda water help to smooth out the Campari to make this even more refreshing. There is the possibility that Caleb was also influenced by State Park where he has requested Campari Highballs with orange soda off of the soda gun. Bar manager Sam Gabrielli loved the recipe but switch the name for the menu; Sam paid tribute to how Caleb's resemblance to Macklemore has been mentioned by various people, and he named it the Poppin' Tags after Macklemore's Thrift Store song. Caleb may violently glare at you if you mention the resemblance though.
The Poppin' Tags began with an orange oil nose that was accented by the Campari. A carbonated orange juice sip led into gin, Campari, and the Punsch's tea flavors on the swallow. Overall, this is an Americano variation perfect for the upcoming warm weather patio season.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

apparition

3/4 oz Cold River Gin
1/2 oz Amaro Nonino
1/2 oz Earl Grey Tea Syrup
1/4 oz Lemon Juice

Shake with ice and strain into a flute glass. Top with ~3 oz Lambise Belgian Lambic.
A few Tuesdays ago, Andrea and I were in Central Square, and we headed over to Craigie on Main for a nightcap where bartenders Ann Thompson and Jack Styczynski were behind the bar. For a drink, I asked Ann for the Apparition, a beer cocktail created by beverage director Jared Sadoian. Once prepared, it offered juniper and bergamot aromas from the gin and Earl Grey tea syrup, respectively; over time, the nose gained funk notes from the beer that worked rather well with the orangy ones from the tea. Next, the sip shared carbonated caramel and malty flavors with a lot of body and mouthfeel, and the swallow began with gin followed by herbal notes and a bergamot finish.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

[queen's slipper]

1 oz Smith & Cross Rum
1 oz Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth
1/2 oz Nux Alpina Walnut Liqueur
1/2 oz Averna

Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Twist an orange peel over the top.
For a second drink at the Baldwin Bar in Woburn's Sichuan Garden II, Ran asked if I wanted "something weird" that he had been working on. While it lacked a name, I dubbed it the "Queen's Slipper," a name of an Australian playing card brand as a follow up to the Pair of Queens drink (and because the Smith & Cross does add some funk). Once mixed, it offered an orange oil, grape, and Jamaican rum funk to the nose. Next, the sip was mostly about the Carpano Antica's robust grape notes, and the swallow's flavor highlight was how well the Smith & Cross funk melded with the Averna and walnut for an earthy finish.

Monday, April 14, 2014

pair of queens

1 1/2 oz Bulleit Rye
3/4 oz Ramazzotti Amaro
1/2 oz Lustau Amontillado Sherry
1/4 oz Fraise de Bois

Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist-cherry flag.

A few Sundays ago, we made the trek up to Woburn to have dinner at Sichuan Garden II. There, bartenders Ran Duan and Vannaluck Hongthong welcomed us and found us a pair of seats at the end of the bar. When I spotted the Pair of Queens on the drink menu, I figured that if it was good enough to propel Ran into the Northeast regional finals for Diageo's World Class competition, it would be a good enough place to start. Wish Ran good luck for the next stage of the competition is April 23!
Once Ran made his drink, it greeted me with a orange oil aroma that brightened the darker notes from the Ramazzotti and Luxardo cherry. Next, the sherry and amaro provided a grape and caramel sip, and finally, the swallow shared the rye flavors, the sherry's nuttiness, and a dark fruit note from a combination of the sherry, Ramazzotti, and wild strawberry liqueur.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

:: twelve buzz-worthy boston bartenders ::

MC Slim JB bestowed a great honor by including me in his article Pouring Reign: Twelve Buzz-worthy Boston Bartenders Spill All in the Improper Bostonian. The magazine itself comes out Monday but the online version came out last night! Check out the link for the interviews and the photos of myself and 11 other Boston bartenders who Slim picked out, but here are some of the interview questions that ended up on the cutting room floor (or were greatly abridged):

Measure or free-pour?
I originally thought I was only going to jigger everything, but after working a few busy brunches, I got tired of the amount of washing it took to get all traces of serrano pepper-infused mezcal that we use in our Mezcal Mary out of a jigger. I tested out my free pour, and my count is pretty solid for a 2 ounce pour. I will not free pour for anything other than simple drinks like Highballs and Bloody Marys though.

Most annoying customer behavior?
Impatience, feelings of entitlement, and lack of sense of humor when things get busy. If guests want a more perfect experience, they should go on the off hours and slower nights. Then again, that suggestion would fall on deaf ears to those types.

What’s the best day of the week and time of day for a customer to engage you in a leisurely, educational five-minute conversation about drinks?
Lately, I work mostly day shifts during the week that only can get busy during the lunch burst and the pre-dinner rush. Still, I can generally find time to talk to guests at length save for some Fridays, holidays, and brunch shifts, especially if they are fine with interruptions as I attend to drink tickets and other guests. (Postnote: since I did the interview, I gained a semi-regular Wednesday night 6-10pm shift -- check the OnTheBar app for confirmation.)

What’s your typical end-of-shift drink?
When I have worked nights, it has been Fernet Branca and/or a shift beer from our bottle and cans collection. During the day, my shift drinks have to be done elsewhere. Often, I just wait until I get home, but on a bad day, it's often stopping in somewhere close by or on the way home for a beer unless I can think of an out of the way place that has a new cocktail on their menu to check out for the blog.

Dr. Bartender, what’s the best cure for my hangover?
For settling the stomach, ginger beer or Angostura Bitters works well, as does dried candied ginger. For the headache, Advil and coffee will be your friend. Getting fluids is key, but water alone will not provide the lost electrolytes. I am a fan of toughing it out, but if the malaise cannot be shaken by mid-afternoon, sometimes a single drink can even things out.

What bartender or bar manager, currently working or retired, is your first-ballot lock for entry into Boston’s Bartending Hall of Fame?
John Gertsen for having a vision and enacting on it to elevate Boston’s stature in the cocktail world, and Josh Childs for showing that keeping it simple and focusing on warmth and hospitality is just as important as what is in the glass if not more so.

Offer a sentence or two of advice to aspiring bartenders:
Two sayings that stick in my head are Sam Treadway's "Bartending is about watering down spirits and babysitting adults" and John Gertsen’s "If you know where everything lives and know how to smile, you'll be a great bartender." Both of those sayings remove the ego-driven ideals that plague a lot of bartenders, for a great bartender is one that makes the guests feel special and not one that reinforces the idea that the bartender is the star. And lastly, always keep learning. Read, taste, discuss. And know when guests just want a drink instead of even a hint of pleasantries much less a lecture.

Say a few words about your most influential bartending mentor; name them if you like, too:
I would be remiss if I did not name Sam Gabrielli who helped shape me from a restaurant industry newbie into a bartender. I am also thankful for fellow bartender Adam Hockman; when I have complained about certain situations, instead of just giving me a "that sucks" reply, he offers solid advice gathered from his years of experience behind the stick.

What's the most surprisingly useful life skill that bartending has taught you?
Always be closing. Bartending is a job that relies on salesmanship, and less about glorified ideals. Success at previous jobs meant completing projects by a deadline, but that was not tied to my salary which was pretty much fixed. One of the barbacks agreed that learning to close is an important life skill, whether for money or for romance, that should be learned as early in life as possible. Indeed, the movie Glengarry Glen Ross has taught me that coffee’s for closers.