Tuesday, March 31, 2009

voyager

2 oz Rum (Zacapa 23)
1/2 oz Lime Juice
1/2 oz Benedictine
1/2 oz Falernum (Velvet)
2 dash Angostura Bitters

Shake with ice and strain into an ice filled rocks glass. Garnish with a lime wedge (here we used a lime twist and crushed ice)
On Saturday night, Andrea and I stayed in and made dinner. While dinner was cooking, I flipped through Robert Hess' The Essential Bartenders Guide, a recent purchase from the Boston Shaker's store, and spotted the Voyager. The Voyager is one of Hess' own creations and he describes how Polynesian-inspired restaurants are like mini-vacations (hence, the name) and how this drink is his take on the classic Tiki drink. One thing we liked about the cocktail was that for a Tiki drink, it was relatively dry. The Voyager was very richly flavored in part from our rum choice of the spicy Zacapa 23 Year Old rum and in part from the Benedictine pairing well with the falernum and lime. Also, we opted for a lime twist instead of a lime wedge since the drink had plenty of lime juice already and I wanted to try out my new channel knife (3rd one works like a charm -- finally one that works great!).

Also, please watch Robert Hess make his own drink here.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

abbey cocktail

2 oz Hayman's Old Tom Gin
1/2 oz Orange Juice
1/2 oz Lillet Blanc
1 dash Angostura Bitters

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

Shortly after Andrea showed up, two seat opened up at Sam Treadway's station at Drink and we moved our base of operations over to the ice bar. For my second cocktail, I asked Sam what he would recommend with Old Tom gin and he rambled off a few but steered me towards the Abbey which I approved of as a good next step from the Refined Speech. While I am not sure of the origin of the cocktail, the recipe appears in the Savoy Cocktail Book from 1930 with a 2:1:1 ratio instead of the more modern 4:1:1 gin-forward version Sam chose. This recipe and overall flavor effect were very similar to the D.O.M. Cocktail I had at Green Street where the D.O.M. used Benedictine and orange bitters instead of Lillet and Angostura bitters.

The Abbey was very gin and ethereal orange flavored on the first part of the sip and rather orange juicy and Angostura bittery at the swallow. The orange peel flavors in the Lillet worked rather well with the orange juice in the drink and functioned in an analogous way as Benedictine did in the D.O.M. (I noted that the Benedictine "formed a faint wisp of flavor complexity behind the orange juice and gin.")

refined speech (variant)

3/4 oz Old Overholt Rye
3/4 oz Yellow Chartreuse
3/4 oz Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
3/4 oz Lemon Juice

Shake with ice and strain into a coupe.

On Tuesday, I was at a networking event near the aquarium, so I met up with Andrea afterwards at Drink. We had been wanting to go there on a Tuesday since we had heard that Josey Packard often works then and we had never had the chance to be served by her. I was rather surprised at how crowded Drink can be on a Tuesday especially after getting spoiled on Sunday nights. I found a single open seat, luckily at Josey's station, and ordered a drink while waiting for Andrea to show up. I asked Josey for a rye and bitters cocktail and after she recommended a few drinks like a Vieux Carre, I specified the bitters to Chartreuse. Immediately, Josey recommended the Refined Speech which is a variation of the Last Word cocktail. While the Last Word is equal parts gin, green Chartreuse, maraschino, and lemon, the Refined Speech variant she made me used a different base spirit, rye, similar to the Final Ward and with yellow instead of green Chartreuse, and lemon instead of lime. I believe that the Refined Speech is a gin and green Chartreuse drink with non-equal part proportions as DrinkDogma reports (1 1/2 oz gin, 3/4 oz green Chartreuse, 3/4 oz Maraschino liqueur, 1/2 oz lemon juice); however, the variation and the fact that I had never had the combination made it a great suggestion.

Derivations and variations aside, the drink had a very nice balance even more so than a Last Word. Indeed, the lemon juice and yellow Chartreuse proved to be a more gentle combination than the Last Word's lime juice and green Chartreuse. Perhaps this gentleness allowed for the Maraschino liqueur to weigh in more than it does in a Last Word. The Refined Speech was complex enough to be interesting without being difficult at all to drink. I am curious to try the gin recipe sometime to see how the base spirit choice plays into the mix.

Friday, March 27, 2009

firpo's balloon cocktail

1 jigger Rye (1 oz Sazerac 6 Year Rye)
1 jigger Sweet Vermouth (1 oz Noilly Prat)
1 jigger Absinthe or Pernod (1 oz Pernod)
2 dash Orange or Angostura Bitters (2 dash Angostura Orange, 1 dash Angostura)
1 1/2 - 2 tsp Egg White (1/2 Egg White from a Small Egg))

Shake ingredients once without and once with ice. Strain into a champagne saucer.

Last night while Andrea was making dinner, I was flipping through my recent purchase of Charles H. Baker, Jr.'s Jigger, Beaker, & Glass: Drinking Around the World (*). The drink recipe that caught my eye was Firpo's Balloon Cocktail, the Calcutta Classic. The story Baker gives for this cocktail relates to Firpo's nightspot in Calcutta, India, where Firpo claimed that the fifth one of these 'balloons' would cause the imbiber to be "bobbing about up under the ceiling." I acknowledged Firpo's understanding of how strong his drinks were and modified the recipe by cutting the jigger down to an ounce and used the ingredients as specified above. The egg I used came from one of Andrea's co-workers who has a small farm in Southborough, MA. It is surprising how different farm fresh eggs are compared to the ones bought at stores from factory farms, even the organic cage-free ones. The egg white was yellow with beta carotene and thick, not runny.
The drink itself was very anisey but that flavor dissipated with the swallow. The egg white did a decent job of reducing the intensity of the Pernod; however, the Pernod and the egg's muting effects did overwhelm the rye and vermouth. The rye was somewhat detectable especially on the nose and, as the drink warmed up, also on the taste, whereas the vermouth's effect was rather hobbled throughout. The rye and sweet vermouth did play an important role in the beautiful apricot color of the cocktail. One of my notes on the recipe was a complaint that the absinthe(Pernod) ratio was very skewed and needed to be toned down by a factor of 3 or so. While browsing the web today about this cocktail, I found an interview of St. John Frizell (bartender at Pegu Club in Manhattan and the Good Fork in Brooklyn) by Paul Clarke from Tales of the Cocktail blog last year where Frizell mentions this drink and mirrors my assessment:
The first drink I mixed from Baker's books is Firpo's Balloon Cocktail from Gentleman's Companion ... With Baker, you should have no qualms about adjusting recipes—ingredients have changed, and so have tastes. It seems like a quarter of Baker's recipes call for a big slug of 120-proof Pernod; try serving that at a bar today, and see how many you sell. Besides, Baker was a poet, not a chemist -- I imagine many of the notes he took while traveling were pretty hard to read the morning after.
While Andrea and I seemed to enjoy the flavor of anise seed more that Frizell does, we do agree about the recipe's balance. And indeed, it may be the case that Baker's books are better read as literary or historical works rather than recipe resources.

(*) The New York Times has a great article on Baker's cocktail tour of the world.

arrack peppercorn old fashioned

3 oz Batavia Arrack
1 heaping barspoon Szechuan Peppercorns
1 heaping barspoon Sugar
4 dash Grapefruit Bitters
2 dash Mole Bitters
Ardbeg Scotch

Muddle peppercorns, sugar, and bitters. Add Batavia Arrack and let steep for 5 minutes. Strain into a rocks glass pre-rinsed with Scotch and containing a large ice cube. Twist a grapefruit peel over the top and discard.

On Sunday night, to follow up my Indian-spiced Scotch flip, John Gertsen suggested another smoky cocktail but one based on the Indonesian rum Batavia Arrack instead of whiskey. I was game although the concept of muddled Szechuan peppercorns sounded a bit intense especially when magnified by alcohol as the solvent.

The peppercorns in the drink itself were at just the right level. They provided a tingle on the lips but no notable discomfort at least for my palate. Surprisingly, the peppercorns paired up rather well with the grapefruit flavors from the bitters and the twist. The other major component of the drink was the smoke flavor. The Arrack's smokiness is on a different level and character from the previous drink's Laphroaig peat notes, and in the drink, it was complemented by the Ardbeg rinse. Spicy, smoky, intense. I could not get any tasting notes from Andrea since our two drink paths that night had diverged so greatly that her sip was like a foreign world compared to her cocktail. However, following my last drink, this old fashioned was right on the money.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

[scotch indian flip]

2 oz Laphroaig Cask Strength Scotch
3/4 oz Demerara-Katira Gum Spiced Syrup
1 Egg

Shake ingredients once without ice and once with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with grated nutmeg.

On Sunday night, Andrea and I went over to Drink. John Gertsen was tending at the station we sat down at, and I asked him what he had been making lately that he thought I would enjoy. Out of the two or three drinks he mentioned, the Indian-spiced Scotch flip seemed unique enough to warrant a try. The simple syrup was made from demerara sugar and spiced with cardamom and clove. Moreover, the syrup contained katira gum (sometimes called tragacanth) which is a thickener that provides a full-mouthed feel similar to gum arabic and hails from a plant that grows in the Middle East. The drink itself was very smoky even over the soothing properties of the gum and the egg. The clove and cardamom came through quite nicely on the swallow. Andrea was pretty surprised when she tasted it as to how "super peaty" it was.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

armada

2 oz Landy VSOP Cognac
1 oz Tawny Port
1/2 oz Demerara Sugar Syrup
1/4 oz St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram
3-4 drop Bittermen's Tiki Bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a rocks glass.

For my full-sized drink at No. 9 Park last night, I asked Matt to make me an Armada off of their Restaurant Week cocktail menu (a supplement to their regular cocktail menu, and just as long). Matt told me that the drink was designed to be paired with the foie gras preparation on the Restaurant Week menu. He inquired whether the name Armada was inappropriate, and I replied that it was fine especially since port has such a rich naval history since the fortification process of the wine with brandy made it more stable and long lasting during sea travel. Furthermore, I commented how I had just had a drink called the Crusade, so Armada seemed rather tame in comparison. As for the drink itself, the richness of the port wine worked well with the depth of spice in the allspice dram and Tiki bitters. I cannot comment on how well it would work with foie gras (*), but I trust that it was a good match with the Cognac acting as a good cleanser for a fatty pate.

(*) My neighbor, Richard, served as a good drinking companion. Well, he was mainly eating, but he was shocked when he heard I was a vegetarian. Regardless, he had some good stories including one from his childhood where he accompanied his dad on a raid on a bootlegging operation in Milton, MA. His description of the beauty of a 3-story copper still stashed away in a barn and how sad it was to see it destroyed made for a highlight of the evening.

[kidney stone]

1/2 oz. Rittenhouse 100 rye
3/4 oz. Caol Ila
1/2 oz. green chartreuse
1 1/4 oz. Cinzano sweet vermouth
2 dashes Fee's orange bitters
1 dash Peychaud's bitters

Stir all of the above together with ice, strain (heh).

To end our weekend, we decided to eschew Sweatband Sunday at Drink (Fred had just been there mid-week) to catch Scott over at Rendezvous. Apparently the place had been a madhouse on Saturday night, so Scott was probably feeling a little bit punchy from sleep deprivation. I chose my drinking strategy to accommodate this, asking for a Family Jewels if he couldn't come up with something more obscure to make using rye. I glanced at the shaker Scott was filling with ingredients, and when he added green chartreuse after the Rittenhouse, I knew he'd decided to serve me the Jewels. After he added a dash of Fee's orange, I became distracted by something Fred said. Then I noticed Scott pondering which scotch to put into Fred's scotch-based Hearst. He chose the Caol Ila I had tried a couple of weeks ago in a toddy, then added the sweet vermouth and Fee's orange. Spotting a bottle of Redbreast Irish whiskey on the shelf, I mused aloud about how I've always wanted to try it, when suddenly Scott's eyes widened and he laughed incredulously. Was it something I said, I thought to myself. No, he'd just realized that he'd mixed the two drinks in the same shaker. He shrugged, strained the drink into 3 small cordial glasses, and offered for us to try it anyway. Even as tired as he was, he wasn't at a loss for a name: "I don't know what it would be, say, a Kidney Stone."

It really wasn't bad at all, and certainly much more pleasant than its namesake. I liked the rye/scotch combo, but a quick internet search yielded no other cocktails that would dare to use such a combination. The scotch was definitely dominant to Fred's palate, but he thought it brought out the flavor of the chartreuse. Apparently, that combination isn't so bizarre. "Recipes for Mixed Drinks," (1916) written by Hugo R. Ensslin contains a recipe for equal parts Irish whiskey, sweet vermouth, and green chartreuse; it's called a Tipperary. The Tipperary makes an appearance frequently on cocktail blogs right around St. Patrick's Day, so perhaps Scott's subconscious was playing tricks on his fatigued brain.

gingivere

Domaine De Canton Ginger Liqueur
Lemon Juice
Amer Picon
Fernet-Branca

Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a long orange twist.

Last night before I was meeting friends for an event at the Roxy, I stopped in to No. 9 Park. I was rather surprised at how crowded it was at 6pm which at first surprised me since it did not seem like a big St. Patty's Day destination. However, it dawned on me that we were in the beginning of Restaurant Week (well, technically two weeks). Luckily, there was a seat at the bar for I feared that it was a diner's companion who had stepped out for a second. While looking over the menu, I remarked to Matt the bartender when I saw the Gigivere on the menu that I was surprised that they still had Amer Picon (it has not been imported for over 10 years and only a year and a half ago did a few cases turn up in a warehouse). Matt replied that they had 3 bottles left and they were not afraid to use it (up), although he did remark that this recipe uses the liqueur somewhat sparingly. Besides the new cocktails on their menu, Matt made the choice even more difficult when he told me there was just as many brand-spanking new cocktails on the Restaurant Week menu as there were on the regular cocktail menu. Oh man. While pondering it all, Matt made a little extra of a Gingivere and gave me a cordial glass with an ounce and a half or so.

The Gingivere is 3 liqueurs riding on a base of lemon juice with some orange oil to round out the drink. Overall, it was rather balanced although the lemon oil started to gain a little bit more dominance as I sipped away. My first observation was how the lemon and the ginger in the Domain de Canton made a fine pairing. Moreover, the Amer Picon, which is an orange-based amaro although very different from Cointreau or Gran Marnier, was nicely accented by the fresh orange oils. And lastly, and most surprisingly, was how the Fernet danced with the ginger flavors. The three liqueurs made more of a chord of flavor instead of the liqueurs standing out as separate notes. This is not that easy of a feat especially with Fernet-Branca.

[clovey rum]

2 oz Zacapa 23 Year Rum
1/2 oz Becherovka
1/4 oz Benedictine
2 dashes Bittermens Mole Bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Twist a lemon peel over the top, rim the edge, and discard the peel.

For my second cocktail at Eastern Standard on Monday, I asked bartender Kevin Martin to stick with rum and gave him the freedom to create something new for me. To Kevin's choice of the rich and spicy Zacapa 23 rum, he added Becherovka and Benedictine liqueurs to make an intensely flavored rum old fashioned sort of drink. Kevin said his concept was a drink "warm with fall spice" and the clove and other botanicals in the Becherovka worked for this purpose quite well. I think the Becherovka overwhelmed the Benedictine and perhaps switching their volumes might have given the Benedictine more equal footing in this cocktail. But otherwise, this drink did serve as a good digestif to follow up my dinner.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

ponce de leon

2 oz Ragged Mountain Rum
1 oz Lustau East India Solera Sherry
1/2 oz Licor 43
1 dash Housemade Orange Bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a rocks glass. Flame an orange peel and drop into the glass.

Last night after my DJ set down the street, Andrea and I stopped at Eastern Standard to get a late dinner and some drinks. We were very pleasantly surprised to see Kevin "Kodiak" Martin tending in front of a pair of open seats. Our drinking and his work schedules have sadly not overlapped in quite a long time. When I spotted a new drink on the menu, the Ponce de Léon, I asked Kevin about it. He replied that it was one of Bobby McCoy's originals which featured the complex and vanilla-y Spanish liqueur, Licor 43. I assume that the liqueur's (and the sherry's) country of origin led him to the name choice, or perhaps the cocktail is the fountain of youth Ponce was searching for (or at least cocktailgoggles in reverse). Rum also makes sense since Ponce's journeys took him around the Caribbean; although for this beverage, Bobby went the local route and selected a rum from western Massachusetts' Berkshire Mountain Distillers.

As for the drink itself, the sherry work surprisingly well with the Licor 43 flavors. The combination brings out some pleasant complexity and sharp notes which are soothed to some degree by the richness of the pot-stilled rum. Overall, a good drink both on its own and while eating my tasty dinner of a rye-bread grilled cheese sandwich. And it was also rather intriguing to see Licor 43 being served in drinks other than at Dalí in Somerville (and besides what we have made at home).

madeira flip

1 oz Larressingle VSOP Armagnac
2 oz Blandy 15 Year Old Malmsey Madeira
1 Egg
1 1/2 - 2 oz Champagne

Shake Armagnac, Madeira, and egg with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Top with Champagne.

For my last drink at Rendezvous, I asked Scott Holliday for ideas on a Champagne cocktail and was wondering what he could do with Madeira. Scott said that Madeira made him more think of flips, but he then merged the two concepts into a royal flip (whole egg, whereas silver and golden flips are just egg white and yolk, respectively). Scott bolstered the alcohol content of the drink with an ounce of Armagnac to give the drink 3 distinct grape products.

Wow, the drink was indeed creamy and fizzy at the same time. Very rich with some of the Madeira's sharpness poking through the egg's smoothness. The Armagnac flavors were present but a little overwhelmed by the flavor dominance of the double volume of the Madeira. Thinking of other fortified wines, port would have proffered a smoother drink and perhaps sherry would have been an intermediary (although sherries run a wide gamut); however, those did not have the flavor profile I was originally inquiring about, and I was quite pleased with my choice after tasting the end result.

scotch hearst cocktail

1 1/2 oz Caol Ila 12 Year Scotch
1 1/2 oz Cinzano Sweet Vermouth
1 dash Fee's Orange Bitters
1 dash Peychaud's Bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a rocks glass. Twist a lemon rind over the top, rim the edge with the oils, and discard.

On Sunday night, Andrea and I went to Rendezvous to visit Scott Holliday. When I asked if Scott had any ideas for my first cocktail, he said that he was curious to try out a Scotch variant of the Hearst, for the gin version has been one of his favorites lately. The Scotch that Scott selected was a 12 year old Caol Ila, one that reviewer Michael Jackson described as juniper on the nose with a bit of spice on the finish. With a description like that it is no wonder the whiskey choice worked rather well as a gin alternative.

The lemon oil in the drink served as a nice lead in to a smooth first sip. The smokiness of the Scotch came on after the first few minutes but was not overwhelming, and this was followed by the next wave of flavor dominance which was the sweetness. The sweet vermouth yielded just the right amount of sugar content to the drink to make it a pleasure to drink. The large share of vermouth makes the drink different than the often drier Rob Roy (although I have seen some recipes that are 2 to 1), although I found a few on CocktailDB that are equal parts. Scott could not come up with the proper Scottish dignitary to rename the drink, so I will just keep the drink named after the newspaper mogul until otherwise alerted. Feel free to suggest away if anything comes to mind...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

manhattan-to-little italy

2 1/4 oz Old Overholt Rye
3/4 oz Martini & Rossi Sweet Vermouth
1 dash Angostura Bitters
4 Ice Cubes with Cynar centers

Stir with normal ice cubes and strain into a rocks glass containing 4 Cynar ice cubes.

After my foray with the Trinidad Sour at Drink last night, Sam Treadway came by to make me my third drink. There was a pause in both of our thinkings of where oh god do we go from here. Until Sam remembered his cache of Cynar ice cubes. Not pure Cynar since that would have problems freezing due to the alcohol content, but an ice shell with Cynar in the middle. The idea came to him when he saw some imperfect Kold Draft ice cubes that had a divot from where it was filled in the machine. And from there, he sought out these ice cubes, perhaps expanded the flaw, filled the center with Cynar (approximately 1/4 oz or so), chilled, and carefully layered water over the top to seal the Cynar in during the cubes final trip to the freezer.
Sam had previously used these cubes in a tall drink, but we bandied about ideas until he decided he wanted to make me a Manhattan that turns into a Little Italy (see recipe below). The Manhattan he made for me was delicious -- and I was glad to discover that my taste receptors were still able to enjoy Angostura bitters after having had the Trinidad Sour. I think that Sam overchilled (well, properly chilled) the Manhattan before adding it to the Cynar ice cubes in the rocks glass, for the ice shell took a while to melt. I nursed the drink while reading and tasted it every page or so. And then one sip by surprise, my mouth realized that one of the cubes had been breached and released its quanta of Cynar goodness. The drink was now more bitter and complex like a Little Italy. Each cube lysed at their own rates with the partially exposed ones going slower than the submerged ones. Towards the end of the cocktail, the drink entered a third stage of being mainly Cynar on ice as the last Cynar time bomb exploded. With perhaps only a partial stir on regular ice (if any initial cooling at all), this drink could have been enjoyed without the wait. No complaints since it was my last cocktail and stretching it out was not such a bad thing; moreover, the end result was very much worth experiencing.
Little Italy
• 2 oz Rye
• 1/2 oz Cynar
• 3/4 oz Sweet Vermouth
Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with two cocktail cherries skewered on a pick.

trinidad sour

1 1/2 oz Angostura Bitters
1 1/2 oz Ferrara Orgeat
1 oz Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Rittenhouse Rye

Shake with ice and strain into a coupe glass. And yes, those are the correct volumes.

For my second cocktail at Drink last night, the honorable Ben Sandrof came by to chat. We began speaking about how much bitters you could drink straight without getting sick and then how much you could put in a cocktail and still have it work. Excluding some of the sweeter bitters out there like Fee's or Stirrings, the most I have ever seen was in the Woodpecker, a drink I left off of our menu at the International Migratory Bird Day cocktail party where we served bird-inspired cocktails, due what seemed like an absurd recipe:
Woodpecker
• 2 oz Vodka
• 15 dashes Angostura (or Peychaud's) Bitters
Serve with 4 ice cubes or with crushed ice in a rocks glass.
Ben countered that he had two cocktails that he thought I might like to change or at least challenge my mind. The one I went with was a sour created by Giuseppe Gonzales of the Clover Club in Brooklyn and brought to Ben by way of Daniel Eun. Well not just a sour, but an inversion of a standard sour recipe such that the rye, which you would assume is the base spirit, becomes the flavor enhancer, and the bitters instead of being the accent become the drink's base. One of the pleasures of Ben's bartending is that while he can conjure up and serve perfectly regular drinks, he will gladly throw in a level of perversity if you are game, and accepting the perversity gauntlet often pays off grandly. For example, one of the most memorable drinks I had at No. 9 Park was a 1794 cocktail that Ben made for me with some xanthum gum-thickened Campari (almost a jelly) that yielded a cocktail with a rather fun and full mouthfeel to it. I figured that this would be a drink bold enough to match the Scotch Sazerac I had just finished.
I was in utter awe when the drink appeared in front of me. It was rather red with a thick froth on top. On the nose of the drink, there was a great deal of cinnamon, spice, and almond/orgeat aromatics. Upon the first sip, it was surprisingly very citrusy with more of a lime taste to it due to something in the bitters modifying the lemon's flavor. The ounce and a half of Angostura bitters a priori sounds like a disaster and my mind had a preconceived opinion of the flavor profile. However, it worked in a very delicious way, and not only that but the cherry wood in the Angostura's botanical mix brought out a great cherry-fruit flavor. Lauren Clark of DrinkBoston was at the ice bar behind me and Ben made her one as well. Lauren said she initially attributed the cherry flavor to her mind tricking her into thinking the drink was cherryish due to its incredible red color a la cherry juice. Over all, I was quite pleased with this drink both as an experience and as a drink itself. It was indeed an intense cocktail but very different type of intense from my Ardbeg Sazerac.

scotch sazerac

2 1/2 oz Ardbeg Scotch
1/4 oz Water
Sugar Cube
2 dashes Peychaud's Bitters
1 dash Tiki Bitters
1 dash Mole Bitters
Benedictine (Rinse)

Muddle the sugar cube, bitters, and water until the sugar is mostly dissolved. Add Scotch and ice, stir, and strain into a rocks glass pre-rinsed with Benedictine. Twist an orange peel over the drink and discard the peel.

Last night I went solo to Drink and I found a seat at the center bar. When Sam Treadway made his way over to take my order, I asked what new drinks he had been making. He replied that he was pretty excited by a drink he made during a recent garnish challenge (apparently a regular occurrence where a few patrons show up with a garnish such as circus peanuts and see what the maestros at Drink can do) where the goal was to match a drink to beef jerky. Luckily for me he was all out of jerky, so I went with this Scotch drink sans garnish.

The cocktail was a take on the traditional Sazerac where the Peychaud's were complemented by a pair of the Bittermen's bitters and the Herbsaint was replaced by Benedictine. Those two changes were not as great as the swapping of the traditional Cognac or rye for Scotch. And not just any Scotch, but a bold one: Ardbeg. The drink itself started with a wondrous orange oils on the nose which led into the smoke flavors at the beginning of the sip. The Scotch somewhat overwhelmed the bitters and Benedictine, but they were indeed there in the swallow. And they were there with just enough force to make the drink complex enough to keep me captivated until my glass was drained.

In terms of the Sazeracs I have had, which include rye, Bourbon, Cognac, and gin, the Scotch Sazerac was one of the bigger departures due to the dominance of the base spirit. However, it was just as balanced and easy to drink as its more standard siblings. I could see how the smokiness of this drink would stand up rather well to some beef or other jerky with all of its smoke and spice; however, if you would like that experience at Drink, just remember to BYOJ.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

[sin-gin-cyn]

1 3/4 oz. cynar
3/4 oz. gin
1 oz. sweet vermouth

Build in a rocks glass, add ice, stir, garnish with a lemon twist.

Last Sunday (3/8/09), I finally managed to drag Fred to Chez Henri. Beyond that, I had one primary mission on this most recent trip: to try a cuban sandwich. Fred and I walked into a mostly empty bar, and found seats at the far end nearest the kitchen. When I mentioned that I had only ever been to Chez Henri once, and that I'd never had the cuban sandwich, Rob (Other Rob) astounded me by remembering my name. I barely even needed to look at the menu - once I spotted the Rhum Cocktail Marilene, my mind was made up. I asked Rob (Other Rob), what the cocktail's origin was, and I got a bit of a cagey answer. They used to serve this cocktail at the B-Side, but it was called something else, so I'm still in the dark about who actually named the cocktail. I couldn't taste any Angostura in Rob (Other Rob)'s version, which shouldn't surprise me since he'd said the cocktail was a Haitian rhum version of a caipirinha.

While I ate my cuban sandwich, I glanced at the Duke-Maryland women's ACC basketball game on the television (it was an excellent game, and Maryland won in OT). Below the television sat an almost empty bottle of Cynar; it mocked me. So for my second cocktail, I told Rob (Other Rob) to empty it into my glass. He measured out 1 oz. of the Cynar, shook the bottle a little, and I had to encourage him to dump the remaining 3/4 oz. in (though he shook his head dubiously at that). He kept the sweet vermouth to 1 oz., as per Imbibe's Cin-Cyn recipe, but backed the gin off to 3/4 oz. He shook his head again and said he didn't think there would be any point in adding bitters. The lemon garnish was his attempt to add back in a little bit of the astringency that the normal proportion of gin would have provided. The resulting drink reminded me strongly of a straight swig of Autocrat coffee syrup (or at least my childhood memory of such). The artichoke flavor came in on the swallow. Overall I liked it very much. I don't know if Rob (Other Rob) was pleased with it, but I'm glad he was game for my little Cynar experiment.

p.s. Fred made me aware of the fact that numerous Chowhounds cruise our blog for ideas of what drinks to order at a bar (Drink here in Boston, in particular). That's great! However, our naming conventions for cocktails might not be so obvious, so I'll re-state them here. If a cocktail name is enclosed in brackets [], that means it is an extempore creation, and hence un-named by the drink's creator. I wish we had some way of similarly marking a bartender's specific creation in the title (meaning, expect to only get that particular drink at that particular bar), however we have gotten better at describing a drink's provenance in our write-ups. Hope you enjoy reading!

post post script 3/17/09: On my most recent trip to Rendezvous, Scott informed me (in no uncertain terms, in fact I think he said this shortly after saying "Hello") that the Rhum Cocktail Marilene is *his* invention, though I'm uncertain if it dates from his days at Chez Henri or not. Alas, the cocktail that Rob (Other Rob) made me was not a Rhum Cocktail Marilene, since it did not have any Angostura bitters in it; it was just a haitian rhum caipirinha.

Monday, March 9, 2009

jasmine

1 1/2 oz Gin
3/4 oz Cointreau
1/2 oz Lemon Juice
1/4 oz Campari

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange wedge. This was the recipe Rob used with two other recipes provided below.

For my second drink at Chez Henri last night, I asked Rob not-Kraemer to go off the menu with a gin drink. After he rambled off a few, I went with one I had not had before, the Jasmine, which sounded very similar to the Pegu Club he initially wanted to make for me. Indeed, it also tasted very similar to the Pegu. The lemon and Campari in the Jasmine functioned very similarly to the lime and Angostura bitters in the Pegu Club -- they worked with the gin and Cointreau to generate a very similar phantom grapefruit juice flavor. In a way, it was a continuation of the Shiver with the grapefruit, Campari, and piny flavors. The version Rob made for me was a variation of both the original that Paul Harrington created in the 1990's and the one Robert Hess recommends:
Harrington's Jasmine
1 1/2 oz Gin, 1/4 ounce Cointreau, 3/4 oz Lemon Juice, 1/4 oz Campari. Garnish with a lemon twist.
Hess' Jasmine
1 1/2 oz Gin, 1 oz Cointreau, 1/2 oz Lemon Juice, 3/4 oz Campari. Garnish with a lemon wedge.

shiver

1 1/2 oz Campari
1 1/2 oz Grapefruit Juice
1/2 oz Eau de Vie of Douglas Fir

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange slice.

On Sunday, Andrea and I went to Chez Henri to try their Cuban sandwich (veggie Cuban for me) and have a drink or two. We sat at the bar where B-Side alum Rob not-Kraemer was presiding. I picked my first drink, a Chez Henri original -- the Shiver, off of their cocktail list. I have noted before how well Campari and grapefruit work with each other and in the Shiver, it was no exception. The Eau de Vie of Douglas Fir added some rather gin-like accents to the drink and this added to the bite of the grapefruit juice and the complexity of the Campari. The Shiver not only served as a rather good apertif but held up to the food once the sandwiches arrived.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

hoop la

The theme for this month's Mixology Monday (MxMo XXXVII) is "First Time" as chosen by the wonderful ladies of LUPEC Boston. The concept was not to re-create your own possibly awkward stumblings into the world of cocktails but to initiate someone else properly with style and grace. LUPEC's Pink Lady writes, "What drink do you suggest for the delicate palate of the cocktail neophyte? Something boozy and balanced, sure - but one wrong suggestion could relegate the newbie to a beer-drinker's life. To which go-to cocktails do you turn to when faced with the challenge?"

Looking back at the beginning entries of my journal of all the drinks I have made at home, one of the ones that stood out was the Hoop La, the first drink we made with our then newly purchased bottle of brandy. The Hoop La is very similar to the other drink I thought of as a starting point, the Side Car -- one of the first brandy drinks I had out at a bar, except the Hoop La has an extra ingredient of Lillet Blanc in the mix to make it more sublime. Lillet with its rich bouquet of citrus peel and other fruit notes aids in softening the drink while also adding a depth of flavor relative to its cousin the Side Car.
Hoop La
• 3/4 oz Brandy
• 3/4 oz Cointreau
• 3/4 oz Lillet Blanc
• 3/4 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.
I am not sure of the history of the cocktail other than it first appeared in print in the 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book, but the combination must have been a very popular one for there are three other drinks I have found with the same ingredients and proportions: the Frank Sullivan, the Hey Hey, and the Odd McIntyre cocktails. I remember how I was fooled into making what I thought was a new to me cocktail recipe, a Frank Sullivan, and then discovering that it was the same cocktail as the Hoop La I had a few months prior.
There are several reasons why the Hoop La stands out as a good gateway cocktail. First, the base spirit is brandy. Brandy, unlike vodka, has a flavor; however, it is not as initially objectionable to a novice drinker as gin, tequila, or whiskey, so it is a good way to teach someone that boozes themselves can taste good and are not something that they should try to mask with various mixers. Second, the drink falls into the pleasing class of "sours" but is well balanced enough to be not puckery from the lemon juice and not overly sweet from the sugar source, here mainly the Cointreau, in this recipe. Third, the Lillet Blanc is an aromatized wine and this can teach drinkers that similar products, namely vermouths, can make drinks taste better and not worse (although perhaps not in the vodka martinis cocktails they might have encountered in the past).

And lastly, the recipe is easy to learn (equal parts) and can easily be switched around to broaden one's drinking experience. For example, the Lillet can be swapped for rum or Calvados to make it a Between the Sheets or Deauville Cocktail, respectively. Or the recipe can serve as a gateway to gin by swapping the brandy for gin and adding two drops of pastis to make a Corpse Reviver No. 2 (which turns out to be the cocktail Paul Clarke chose for this MxMo). And to avoid the complications of the sometimes challenging anise flavors in the pastis, another gin possibility is to switch out both the brandy and Cointreau for gin and light crème de cacao (although double the gin proportion) to make the rather pleasing Twentieth Century Cocktail.

And to tie in the concept of making a drink for a cocktail virgin and Jess' original name of the blog (before she invited the rest of us on board), I went back in to her early entries and saw another drink that I thought of but passed on in favor of the Hoop La, Elephants Sometimes Forget, a very delicious sour cherry cocktail that can serve as a tasty introduction to gin, vermouth, and bitters. While not her first cocktail, it was one of the first few that she made for herself, and one I would enthusiastically encourage others to try:
Elephants Sometimes Forget
• 1 oz Gin
• 3/4 oz Cherry Heering
• 3/4 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
• 1/4 oz Dry Vermouth
• 1 dash Orange Bitters
Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

Friday, March 6, 2009

toddy week

Last week was hopefully the last extended period of cold-cold weather this winter. I guess it is fitting that I decided to drink hot toddies whenever we went out. At its most basic, a hot toddy is composed of 1-2 oz. of the liquor of choice, 1 tsp. - 1 Tbsp. of sweetener, 4 oz. hot water, and some sort of spice-infused citrus as garnish.

My first toddy of the week was a smoky-peaty scotch hot toddy, served at Rendezvous (2/26/09). Scott shocked us by grabbing the Caol Ila 12 year (instead of Famous Grouse) off the shelf to pair with a dash of Fee's orange bitters and a generous dollop of honey. I'd never tasted it except vicariously through reading about it in one of my favorite science fiction books - Diamond Mask by Julian May. The protagonist's family comes from Islay, and in the book they tour one of the distilleries.

Since it had warmed me up so nicely, I asked for another toddy variant. Scott came back with a version of the classic bourbon-based hot toddy. He sweetened this one with maple syrup, and added Fred's new Smoking Ban Bitters. This drink was an excellent showcase for the bitters, starting off very vanilla-y (from the bourbon and the generous amount of vanilla in the bitters reinforcing each other) and tobacco-y (maybe from the bourbon's charred oak combining with the tobacco leaf in the bitters), and finishing with a complex tartness. Both toddies were garnished with twisted-together orange and lemon peels studded with cloves.

On Sunday (3/1/09), a snowstorm was brewing, so we headed over to Drink to keep Sam, Misty, and John company. The bar was surprisingly crowded and a boisterous party was keeping Sam busy at the ice bar. Misty made me a hot toddy with 1 oz. of cognac, 1/2 oz. of yellow chartreuse, and 1/2 oz. of cinnamon simple syrup. The tingle of the cinnamon played off the syrupy-sweet chartreuse, and the cognac didn't get in the way like bourbon might have.

Today's weather in the Boston area is in the 50's, making us all feel that spring is imminent. Most of us who've lived here a while know better, so I'm hopeful that I might get one last opportunity to have a hot beverage before the daffodils pop up.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

crusade

1 1/2 oz Pousse-Rapiere Orange Armagnac Liqueur
Mumm Napa Champagne

Add liqueur to a Champagne flute and top off with sparkling wine.

Eventually Andrea arrived from her hair appointment and we ordered a flatbread pizza and a pair of drinks off of the Beehive's Champagne cocktail list. Last time I ordered the yellow Chartreuse and St. Germain-laden Yellow Jacket, and this time I went with the Crusade. I was surprised when Russ only poured from one bottle before topping the drink off with sparkling wine since the menu read that it was "Armagnac & Orange Liqueur". He then showed us the bottle that the two were combined in one. My later research tells me that the drink originates from Gascony in France and is often called a Pousse-Rapiere (rapier-sword thrust). Often the drink is made with equal parts of Armagnac and orange liqueur, and at least one Armagnac house has combined the two in one, a liqueur d'orange a l'Armagnac, which suggests how popular this cocktail is in France. The end result was a pretty intense orange flavor unlike most other orange liqueurs (perhaps Grand Marnier as an exception) with a sweetness wave on top of the sparkling wine's crispness. Normally this drink would be had as an apertif, but it worked rather well with the food.

vieux carre

1 oz Old Overholt Rye
1 oz Brandy
1 oz Martini & Rossi Sweet Vermouth
1 barspoon Benedictine
1 dash Angostura Bitters
1 dash Peychaud's Bitters

Stir on ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

For my second drink, I went off of their menu (seven cocktails and seven Champagne cocktails) and asked Russ what he could do rye. From the plethora of rye cocktails in his drink vocabulary, I later asked where he had bartended before. It all made sense once he replied that he was a B-Side alum. For the drink, I was thinking of something New Orleans-like akin to a Cocktail a la Louisiane, so when he mentioned the Vieux Carre, that seemed close enough to my original idea. For this recipe, he stopped his free pouring and picked up a shot glass as a make-shift jigger (I am still surprised at how some places not only do not use but do not have proper jiggers) to get the equal proportions just right. His extra care did pay off from the lemon oils in the nose to the bitters in the swallow. I would have drank this one quicker, but Andrea was going to be a bit later from her hair appointment than expected so I settled into my book and savored this one with an extended leisure.

cold turkey

1 1/2 oz Wild Turkey American Honey Liqueur
1/2 oz Calvados
1 dash Monin Cinnamon Syrup
2 oz Sidre Doux Sparkling Cider

Shake all but the cider with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Top off with cider.

On Tuesday, I went down to the Beehive to wait for Andrea to be done with her hair appointment. I sat down at the bar with my friend Bukowski (Portions from a Wine Stained Notebook) and picked out the Cold Turkey off of their cocktail list for Russ the bartender to make for me. I was a little surprised when I saw him top off the drink with sparkling cider when the menu stated that it contained Champagne; however, the cider probably worked a lot better with the Calvados and cinnamon flavors than Champagne might have. The cider did impart a nice crispness to the drink similar to a sparkling wine's effect so it was indeed a good substitution. In the end, it was a decent autumnal-themed cocktail albeit a little on the sweet side of things but not overly so.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

[dubonnet tequila]

2 oz El Tesoro Tequila
3/4 oz Dubonnet Rouge
1/4 oz Drambuie
1 drop Xocolatl Mole Bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a rocks glass. Twist orange rind over the top and discard peel.

For my last cocktail at Drink on Sunday, I asked Misty for a Dubonnet and gin drink. When Misty re-tasted the Dubonnet, she asked if she could go with tequila instead. Since her tequila-fu is rather strong (as evidenced by Andrea's tequila drink requests in the past), I told her that I trusted her. What surprised me more than her base spirit choice was when she pulled out a bottle of Drambuie, a honey-laden Scotch liqueur that I have never had in a cocktail or on its own. When she saw my surprise, Misty commented that Charlotte Voisey, bartender and brand ambassador for Hendricks and other products, had taught her how Drambuie and tequila mix rather well together.

First, the tequila and the Dubonnet made for a nice flavor combination with the Dubonnet riding on the first part of the sip before the tequila flavors kicked in. Next, the wonders of the Drambuie and tequila pairing became apparent with the honey matching up well with the tequila and with the smokiness of the Scotch meshing with the tequila. Andrea, who is a lot better versed in tequila than I, thought that the mix gave it the complex combination of flavors she has tasted in good tequilas.

[rumaro]

3/4 oz Averna
1/2 oz Nux Alpina
1 1/2 oz Rhum JM Blanc
1/4 oz Old Monk Rum

Stir with ice and strain into a rocks glass. Twist an orange peel over the top and discard.

For my second cocktail at Drink, I diverged momentarily from aromatized wine and requested that Misty make me a drink with some sort of amaro. She ended up choosing two: Averna, a full-bodied Italian Alpine herbal and floral liqueur, and Nux Alpina, a rich liqueur flavored with walnut from a nearby region in Italy. While Misty knew that she wanted to pair it with the white rhum agricole, she hesitated on the fourth ingredient for a while. She ended up picking Old Monk, a dark rum spiked with vanilla, which added a nice contrast to the Rhum JM Blanc. The drink itself was full of rich and funky flavors with a grassy-nutty one predominating. The richness of the drink's darker components gave a delightful smoothness that was punctuated with a sharp and bitter finish.

[laird's lillet love]

1 1/2 oz Lillet Blanc
1 oz Laird's Apple Brandy
1/2 oz Famous Grouse Scotch
1/2 oz Sorgum Syrup
1 dash Smoking Ban Bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a rocks glass. Twist an orange peel over the top and discard.

For my first drink on Sunday at Drink, I asked Misty for either a Lillet Blanc or a Dubonnet Rouge drink since I wanted to give the other aromatized wines (i.e.: non-sweet or dry vermouth) some love. Misty chose Lillet, although we returned later to the theme at the end to do a Dubonnet drink.

The first mouthful of this cocktail yielded a bit of sweetness, but after that the sensation subsided. What remained was a smoky honey fruity bitter flavor which flexed one aspect over the other depending on what part of the swallow it was. If only they taught people to appreciate the layout of the tongue with cocktails instead of swabs dipped in chemical solutions to map the sweet, salty, bitter, and sour receptors... Andrea thought the drink tasted like dried apricots which was probably due to the Lillet Blanc interacting with the apple brandy. I picked up a dried fruit taste as well but it was more raisiny to my mouth. Andrea also commented that the drink had a muddled finish that was hard to identify. I assume that was due to the Scotch and the complexity of the tobacco bitters. Overall, I must say that this drink intrigued me through out especially with the multitude of notes that were singing to senses.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

nonantum cocktail

2 parts Old Overholt Rye
1 part Punt e Mes
1 part Strega
1 dash Angostura Bitters
1 dash Regan's Orange Bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a Marasca cherry.

Yesterday, the Grand in Somerville (home of the Boston Shaker's shop) was holding its monthly Sip & Shop sale event. The guest bartender was Evan Harrison of the Independent who was making one of his newer creations, the Nonantum cocktail (please read the DrinkBoston post about Evan and his cocktail). The drink is a modification of a Green Point using a little less rye and swapping Strega liqueur for the yellow Chartreuse. Cheers to Evan for being the first to make a cocktail I have tasted with Strega, a liqueur I have only seen while browsing the shelves of certain liquor stores. Although historically others must use it since there are 23 recipes on CocktailDB.com in case any of you purchase a bottle and wonder what else to do with it besides making tasty Nonantums with it (although please have Evan and the others at the Indo make them for you if you are in the area!).

The drink was indeed reminiscent of the Green Point, although with the more sweet Strega and lower rye proportion, the cocktail was a bit more syrupy smooth in comparison. While the Strega is more intense of a bitter flavor than yellow Chartreuse, the overall profile was less sharp which might be due to the fact that I am used to Green Points with spicy Rittenhouse 100 and not the Nonantum's softer Old Overholt. Regardless of the differences between the two, the Nonantum was just as addicting of a taste as I find Green Points to be.

el scotch presidente

(1 1/2 oz) Famous Grouse Scotch
(1/2 oz) Dolin Dry Vermouth
(1/2 oz) Mathilde XO Orange Liqueur
(1 bar spoon) Grenadine
1 dash Smoking Ban Bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Measurements in parenthesis are based on a possible recipe for this drink (not based on visually observed or inquired data, but based on taste and splitting the difference between the 6:1:1 and 2:1:1 recipes I found).

For my after dinner drink at Rendezvous, I asked Scott to make me a Scotch cocktail. Mr. Holiday decided to make an intriguing Scotch variation of the otherwise rum-based El Presidente using the rather floral Dolin dry vermouth and an exquisite orange liqueur made from aged Cognac. The end result was a splendid combination of melony and smoky flavors. The latter was due to the Scotch and perhaps the bitters, while the former was from the interplay of the grenadine and orange liqueur. Scott thought that the floral notes in the Dolin could have also intensified the melon tastes I was experiencing.

crown of thorns

Rye
Cynar
Lemon Juice
(Simple Syrup?)
Smoking Ban Bitters

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

Last Thursday, I had a hankering for Rendezvous' Bolito Miso, a hearty vegetable stew on top of a mound of polenta, so Andrea and I made the trip over there. For my before dinner drink, Scott Holliday wanted me to try out one of his creations in the works (hence no proportions in the recipe above). He had named the drink the Crown of Thorns in part for the holiday approaching and for its use of the artichoke liqueur Cynar.

The bitters provided hints of vanilla on the nose, as well as allspice and clove flavors which worked rather well with and intensified parts of the Cynar. The drink had a nice sharpness to it from the rye and lemon juice so the thorns of the drink were not just in the artichoke spines. Overall, the drink made for a good aperitif that also worked well with the food once it arrived.