Monday, August 31, 2009

skid row

2 oz Genever (Bols)
1/2 oz Apricot Liqueur (Rothman & Winter)
1/2 oz Ramazzotti Amaro
1 dash Orange Bitters (Fee Brothers)

Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Flame an orange peel over the top of the drink and drop in.
A combination of receiving the new copy of Imbibe magazine and spotting a bottle of Ramazzotti for rather cheap at Atlas Liquors in Medford led us to making the Skid Row last night. The drink was created by Eric Alperin of The Varnish in Los Angeles for a Genever-based cocktail competition, and we got to see him in action at another cocktail competition at this past Tales of the Cocktail. Andrea picked this particular set of glassware for the etching visible at the back of the glass reminded her of the mohawk Eric sported for the latter competition. The Skid Row started with a toasty orange oil nose but not of sulfur like many flamed garnishes for we opted to use a lighter instead of matches. The apricot and the maltiness of the Genever seemed to reinforce each other, and the caramel taste in the Ramazzotti also played well with the malt flavors. The Ramazzotti brought some bitter complexity to the drink that was apparent in the swallow. And as the drink warmed up, there was a tingling or numbing sensation on the tongue which must have been due to the secret botanical that Piet Van Leijenhorst, the master distiller at Bols, alluded to at the Bols Genever release event.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

nineteen twenty cocktail

1 1/2 oz Gin (North Shore Distillers #6)
1/2 oz Dry Vermouth (Dolin)
1/2 oz Kirsch (Trimbach)
1 dash Sirop de Groseille (1 barspoon, homemade)
1 dash Orange Bitters (Regan's)

Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

While at the Bols Genever release party, Christine of the Bostonist gifted me an aliquot of the Sirop de Groseille batch that she had just made. This syrup is a red currant one that is rather difficult to find outside of France so making it is practically a necessity (although many take the short cut of substituting grenadine). I am not sure of what recipe she used but CocktailDB provides this one; I do remember that she mentioned a few boiling steps in hers (Jerry Thomas' book provides one with a single boiling step). David Wondrich was in earshot of our conversation and it piqued his interest, and as a result, he was lucky enough to return home with a bottle as well.
While flipping through the Stan Jones Complete Bar Guide (which has been getting a lot of press lately), I spotted a tempting use of the Sirop de Groseille, the Nineteen Twenty Cocktail, which seemed fitting after having had the 1820 at the Bols Genever release party. Interesting was how some recipes in Jones' book, like the Artist's Special Cocktail, were listed as grenadine drinks instead of currant syrup ones, yet the Nineteen Twenty Cocktail remained as a Groseille one. The end product of this recipe was a dry Martini with hints of fruit from the Kirsch, orange bitters, and Groseille. The syrup took some of the edge off of the drink by providing a slight bit of sugar to the nearly bone dry recipe. There was a pleasantly intriguing mint-like flavor at the end of the swallow that we deduced was the lavender in the North Shore #6 gin's botanical blend. Overall, the Nineteen Twenty made for a great aperitif cocktail.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

trellis

3/4 oz Sloe Gin (Plymouth)
3/4 oz Dry Sherry (Lustau don Nuño Dry Oloroso)
3/4 oz Lillet Blanc
1/2 oz Lemon Juice
1/4 oz Galliano
1 dash Orange Bitters (Regan's)

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a nasturtium flower or lemon twist.
For Mixoloseum's Thursday Drink Night (TDN), the theme was sherry cocktails. For the cocktail I created, I wanted to balance the sweetness of sloe gin with a dry sherry. To the mix, I added Lillet, orange bitters, and Galliano for some complexity, but alas, the drink was too sweet for me. Therefore, I cut the sweetness with some lemon juice and achieved a drink similar to a sweeter and more botanical-rich Barbara West cocktail. For a garnish, the nasturtium was not only attractive but its spicy floral aroma complemented the Galliano and Lillet. The response to the Trellis in the TDN chat room was rather positive although some people thought it was a little dry for their palates and recommended a 1/4 oz of simple syrup to make the drink more to their tastes. Perhaps a sweeter sherry would achieve the same end point. However, fans of the Barbara West and other bone dry drinks might find this drink a little too sweet, and for me, it seemed just about right.

japalac

1 1/2 oz Whiskey (Rittenhouse Rye)
1 1/2 oz Dry Vermouth (Noilly Prat)
1/4 Orange, Juiced (approx 1 1/2 oz)
1 dash Raspberry Syrup (1 tsp Strawberry Shrub)

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist.
A few days ago, I was flipping through the Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book and found the Japalac with the description, "So styled in compliment to a salesman who sold a product of that name; not because it would enamel a digestive apparatus." While pondering this cocktail, I remembered that it was in Ted Haigh's Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails. Haigh gives a less cryptic history of the name: a quick drying gloss stain that used a Japanese drier base to achieve this effect. Ted's recipe specifies rye whiskey and interestingly he keeps the orange juice and raspberry syrup levels the same but only adds half as much whiskey or vermouth. Thus, his pre-Prohibition styling of the recipe shifted the recipe to be much more juice oriented. Haigh's recipe calls for an orange twist which we added to the Old Waldorf recipe. I swapped strawberry shrub for the raspberry syrup to make the drink more Andrea-friendly. Overall, the Japalac had a very old fashioned flavor to it, and it reminded me of a dry whiskey Orange Blossom (equal parts gin, orange juice, sweet vermouth) cocktail.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

revival

2 oz Rye Whiskey (Rittenhouse 100)
1/2 oz Benedictine
1/2 oz Maraschino Liqueur
3/4 oz Lemon Juice
2 dash Absinthe/Pernod (1/8 oz Pernod)

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.
A few days before the Bols Genever event, Andrea was flipping through the Food & Wine: Cocktails 2008 book and spotted the Revival Cocktail. The drink was created at the Monarch bar in St. Louis, and the description read: "The Revival is bar manager Ted Kilgore's homage to the first golden age of cocktails (from the late 1800s until Prohibition) -- and "a celebration of the new golden age" he says." The first sensation of this drink is the nose full of lemon oil, fennel, and aniseseed. Upon sipping the drink, the Benedictine herbalness was the first taste to hit followed by the Maraschino cherry notes and lastly the Pernod at the end of the swallow. The Revival was not horribly sweet despite there being 2 liqueurs in the mix, most likely due to the half jigger of lemon juice to balance things out. Our choice of the spicier Rittenhouse Rye seemed to stand up to the other components well and added a nice backbone to the drink.

Monday, August 24, 2009

the 1820

1 3/4 oz Bols Genever
1/2 oz Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Lavender Simple Syrup (*)
1/4 oz Galliano l'Autentico
1 barspoon Del Maguey Minero Mezcal
1 dash Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel Aged Bitters

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

Besides the historical recipes served at the Bols event, one new one was showcased. It was the 1820 created by Misty Kalkofen in homage to the year that the current Bols Genever recipe was invented. The 1820 made a lot of news in the late spring when Misty served it for guests at the prestigious James Beard Awards event. The recipe mocked us at home for we lacked not only a bottle of mezcal but the specific one she used as well (not to mention the newer Galliano formulation). Alas, at this event we had the opportunity to both taste the cocktail and have it made by Misty and her colleagues at Drink. The 1820 was a little astringent with some malty sweetness to it. The aftertaste had a weird but not unpleasant rubber note to it which we surmised was from the Del Maguey Minero Mezcal. Some review's tasting notes seem to support that assumption.

(*) To make the lavender simple syrup, see this post. Misty recommends twice the lavender (or follow my recipe but use 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup sugar). I am not sure if fresh lavender translates to the lesser amount that I used and dried lavender to the greater amount that Misty must have used in the off season to develop this drink.

holland house

1 3/4 oz Bols Genever
3/4 oz Dolin Dry Vermouth
1/2 oz Lemon Juice
1/4 oz Maraschino Liquor

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Twist a lemon over the top and rim the edge.

One of the other cocktails they served at the Bols Genever release party at Drink last week was the Holland House. This drink was the house cocktail at the Holland House Hotel's bar on Fifth Avenue and 30th in Manhattan. Harry Craddock was the head bartender there before Prohibition forced his departure to the Savoy Hotel in London. The drink itself is rather sharp and dry, and it is very much like a malty version of an Aviation cocktail.

Friday, August 21, 2009

the original collins

2 oz Bols Genever
1 oz Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Rich Simple Syrup (2:1)

Build on ice in a Collins glass. Top with soda water, and garnish with a lemon wedge and straw. Note: the measurements were scaled back by a third from the printed recipe to more closely represent what we were served in a 10 oz Collins glass.

Shortly after walking into Drink for the Bols Genever release party, we were presented with a Collins which was much appreciated after walking through the 90+ degree air. The drink in the Bols' recipes was listed as "The Original Collins". Wondrich in his talk describes how the Genever was served in the Collins and how Genever as a spirit fell part way in between the British gin style and whiskey in taste. The Collins began to use different liquors as British-style gin and whiskey became more abundant, and the drinks were renamed Tom and John Collins, respectively. The origins of the Tom part of the name is a bit controversial. Some theories suggest that it stemmed from the sweeter Old Tom Gin style that was frequently utilized for this drink in the later part of the 1800s. Other theories suggest that the Tom Collins drink was originally made with Genever gin which was more abundant during the mid 1800s. Jerry Thomas referred to all of them in 1876 as Tom Collins whether they be Tom Collins Gin, Tom Collins Whiskey, or Tom Collins Brandy drinks.

The Bols' literature describes Genever as "the predecessor of Gin" and I was emailed about my previous post that Genever is not gin (specifically, "a separate category from Gin"). It gets confusing since historically, bartenders such as Jerry Thomas referred to the Genever spirit as "gin" in their recipes, and nomenclature such as British and Holland Gin were used on Wednesday to describe the two products. Genever received an Appellation d'Origine Controlée (AOC) status in 2007 declaring that Genever can only be made in Holland (and a few neighboring areas). Anchor Steam makes a similar style of malt wine-juniper berry liquor, Genevieve, which might get confusing if it is neither a gin nor a Genever by some people's distinction. The term "proto-gin" was bandied about by some colleagues I asked today (see the previous post about how the British stole the concept of Genever and made their own version of the juniper-infused spirit). And one loyal CocktailVirgin reader had inquired whether we would divide all the gin-tagged posts into Gin and Genever especially since their uses are often distinct.

Indeed, one sure way to appreciate the spirits is the Collins for it can provide tasty evidence of the differences between Genever, British-style gin, and whiskey by using a similar recipe.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

improved holland gin cocktail

3 oz Bols Genever Gin
2 barspoon Maraschino Liqueur
1 1/2 barspoon Rich Simple Syrup (2:1)
1/2 barspoon Absinthe
2 dash Angostura Bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Twist lemon rind over the glass, rim edge, and drop in.
Yesterday, Andrea and I went to the Bols Genever Gin release party held at Drink here in Boston. Besides presentations by the Bols master distiller with the original 1820 recipe book in hand and by other Bols folk who spoke specifically about their product, we were privileged to hear from David Wondrich (author of Imbibe!) about how Genever played a major role in classic cocktails.

Gin was originally created in Holland as Genever, a malty liquor infused with juniper berries. During this time, the Dutch harbors received a wide variety of botanicals and grains which filtered their way into their liquors and liqueurs. The Dutch gin used barley and rye from the Baltics and they malted the grains to produce a product akin to a juniper whiskey. The English ripped off the concept of gin but made a product that was less grain flavored by using unmalted barley and miscellaneous grains. The spirit was highly rectified through distillations and filtrations to be less like a flavored whiskey and more like a flavored vodka. In the United States during the early and mid nineteenth century, English gin was not that prevalent relative to Holland gin. Much of the spirit was coming through New York which was heavily settled by the Dutch. As a result, many of the recipes from that era such as Jerry Thomas' required the proper gin of the day, namely Genever, to achieve the proper end result although some could work with the English-styled spirit as well. According to import records, the Dutch vs. English gin balance began to equilibrate around 1894 and flipped at the end of the century with 1899 seeing more bottles of British gin in bars and liquor shops than the Dutch variety.

Tasting the Bols Genever straight, it was indeed malty and very unlike English gin such as Bombay or Plymouth. The liquor is a combination of malt wine, grain neutral spirits, and a botanical infusion. Besides juniper berries, the Bols product is flavored with hops, angelica, licorice, and a secret ingredient that provides a tingling on the tongue at the end of the swallow. Max Toste of Deep Ellum guessed that it could be wormwood since he has noted similar tasting effects with his bitters infusions.

The Improved Holland Gin Cocktail was one cocktail they served to demonstrate their product. The absinthe and maraschino notes played well together like they do in the Lawhill Cocktail. Instead of the Lawhill's rye whiskey, the Improved Holland Gin Cocktail had a lighter but still malty base which demonstrated how Genever could serve as a good intermediary between English gin and whiskey. Wondrich's comment about the drink was, "rich, fragrant, and delightful... [like] a New York Sazerac!"

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

belle de jour

1/2 oz Benedictine
1/2 oz Cognac (Courvoisier VS)
1/2 oz Grenadine (Homemade)
1/2 oz Lemon Juice
3 oz Champagne (a dry cava)

Shake all but the champagne with ice and strain into a champagne flute. Top with champagne and garnish with a lemon twist.

Last night, Andrea decided to make use of our opened bottle of cava to whip up an Eastern Standard classic, the Belle de Jour, using the recipe published in the Food & Wine: Cocktails 2008 book. Andrea has enjoyed them in the past at Eastern Standard's bar but the drink had never made it onto CocktailVirgin. The richness of the brandy-based spirits, the herbalness of the Benedictine, and the sweetness of the grenadine meet the crispness of the lemon juice and champagne. We went with the lemon peel garnish instead of the harder to acquire Catherine Deneuve option.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

[pasion de oaxaca]

3/4 oz Milagro Blanco Tequila
3/4 oz Mezcal
3/4 oz Martini & Rossi Sweet Vermouth
1/2 oz Passion Fruit Juice
1/2 oz Simple Syrup
1 dash Peychaud's Bitters

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

Last night after my DJ set, Andrea and I went up the street to Eastern Standard for dinner and a drink. After acquiring a pair of seats at the bar, I asked bartender Hugh Fiore what he had been making off the menu recently that I might like. He immediately thought of a drink and said he could adapt the proportions more to my tastes. When he mentioned the combination of tequila, mezcal, and passion fruit juice, I gave him the thumbs up. While preparing the drink, Hugh straw tasted it and declared that he was much happier with this recipe than the previous one's. The nose of this cocktail led off with tequila and passion fruit aromas. Surprisingly, the drink did not taste overly of tequila as the passion fruit juice, simple syrup, and vermouth did a good job of smoothing over the flavor profile. Noteworthy was how the mezcal's smokiness and the passion fruit paired up delightfully well.

Friday, August 14, 2009

seventh heaven

1 3/4 oz Gin (Bershire Mountain Distillers' Ethereal)
1/2 oz Maraschino Liqueur (Luxardo)
1/4 oz Grapefruit Juice

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a sprig of mint.
Last night, Andrea was making a grapefruit juice-based salad dressing and used some of the extra juice to make me a drink as motivation to start cooking dinner. The drink she chose was the Seventh Heaven from Ted Haigh's Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails which he describes as essentially an Aviation with the lemon juice swapped out for grapefruit. One aspect that was noteworthy was how incredibly well the botanicals in the Ethereal gin worked with the Luxardo Maraschino liqueur.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

frog pond

3/4 oz Rhum Agricol Blanc (JM Rhum)
1/2 oz Maraschino Liqueur (Luxardo)
1/4 oz Green Chartreuse
1 dash Celery Bitters (can substitute w/ Orange)

Stir with ice and strain into a champagne flute. Add 1 tsp of pre-swelled and strained Thai basil seed. Top off with champagne or cava.

A few weeks ago, I was introduced to the Asian beverage called "Basil Seed Drink" at the Green Goddess Restaurant in New Orleans and knew that I needed some for cocktail purposes. The sweetened beverage came in a can and contained what looked like tapioca pearls a la bubble tea. Except these had a black center that made them look like frog eggs, due to the presence of the basil seed in the center.

Once back home, I tried to find the canned beverage to no avail. Through the internet, I learned that it was simple to make the beverage or prep the seeds in one's kitchen. Turns out that the seeds rapidly swell up with a jelly-like coat on their own and do not need to be encapsulated in any sort of gelatin droplet or other. The seed is not the standard Italian basil but a special Thai varietal that is used in desserts and drinks from Thailand to India. Once I learned that it was also called tukmaria, sabja, or falooda seed, I was able to locate some at a nearby Indian spice shop.
I placed about a half teaspoon of seeds into a few ounces of water and returned back within 10 minutes to the surprise that the seeds had formed a swelled up coat! By 15-20 minutes, the coat was full sized. To play upon the amphibian egg look, I created the Frog Pond champagne cocktail.

The Chartreuse worked with the celery bitters to give some intriguing herbal notes to the drink and the Chartreuse donated a green pond-like hue as well. The rhum agricole added a little funkiness to the mix and the Maraschino liqueur added some sweetness and fruitiness to round out the drink. The basil seeds mainly floated but a few sank only to catch enough champagne bubbles to rise to the surface again. The seeds added an interesting visual and textural garnish component to the drink without adding that much flavor-wise. I am not sure if swelling the seeds in something other than water would change that aspect.

Cross-posted to the Mixoloseum Blog.

mountain

1 1/2 oz Rye (Jim Beam)
3/4 oz Dry Vermouth (Noilly Prat)
3/4 oz Lemon Juice
3 dash Angostura Bitters
1 Egg White

Shake once without ice and once with. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a cherry (Luxardo Maraschino). I opted for a lemon twist (discarded, not dropped) as well.
On Sunday night after hiking around all day at Dogtown in Gloucester, it was time for a cocktail. Flipping through Cocktails by Jimmy of Ciro's 1930 reprint, I found the perfect transition from the pink and sweet egg drinks I had been having. The Mountain was a rather dry and orange-brown looking recipe which seemed like it had a refreshing balance to it. Indeed, the drink was tartly lemon and rather dry. The rye whiskey flavors appeared on the swallow and the egg smoothed out its rough edges. Anticipating this effect, I opted for the slightly rougher Jim Beam Rye for the recipe over some of the smoother or more expensive ryes in our collection. The oils from the lemon twist I appended on to the recipe added a great citrus nose over the thick layer of foam on the Mountain. Other recipes for the Mountain exist including ones that add a bit of sweetness through the use of some sweet vermouth (although a splash of simple syrup could sweeten the above recipe up if need be) as well as others that bear no resemblance the one in Ciro's recipe book at all.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

sputnik

The theme for this month's Mixology Monday (MxMo XLI) is "Vodka is Your Friend" as chosen by Amelia at Felicia's Speakeasy blog. Amelia described the impetus behind her theme as, "The recent high profile bashings of vodka interspersed with a few weak 'yeah, buts...' left me wondering, is vodka the axis of evil, our most dangerous enemy? While it may not be the life of the party, experts agree: Vodka's obituary does not have to be written just yet."

When I first read this theme back in April or so, one drink immediately sprung into my head and over the next 4 months I had to wait patiently. This drink was the Sputnik named after the world's first manmade satellite launched by Russia in the 1950's. With the heated space race then, the "axis of evil, our most dangerous enemy" question of the Amelia's theme shown through. The Sputnik was a drink that I had made a few years prior where the choice of vodka not only matches the Russian concept but plays a role to temper this drink. Over those months, I schemed everything from the garnish to the proper country of origin of the vodka. The last time we made the drink, I used Ketel One but Dutch vodka seemed a little wrong for this. However, at Tales of the Cocktail this year, we met one of the reps for Russian Standard whose enthusiasm for the product was contagious and its country of origin was indeed right.

Ketel One and Russian Standard are both wheat vodkas in the same price range. While we are no vodka connoisseurs, Andrea and I tasted them side by side (we left the Ruble vodka from the Local Flavor MxMo out of the comparison). While Ketel One was sweeter, Russian Standard seemed to be more interesting with a more pronounced wheaty aftertaste and a fuller mouthfeel. The burn level of both going down were comparable.


The recipe from the Sputnik derives from CocktailDB and we are unsure of the original source. I believe we originally found it while looking for Fernet Branca containing recipes.
Sputnik
• 1 1/2 oz Vodka
• 1/2 oz Fernet Branca
• 1/2 oz Lemon (or Lime) Juice
• 1/2 tsp Sugar
Add juice and sugar and stir. Add rest of ingredients and ice, shake, and strain into a cocktail glass.
The Sputnik contains a healthy slug of the potent bitter amaro Fernet Branca which can often dominate a drink's flavor profile. The vodka did a good job of diluting down the Fernet Branca and the lemon-sugar combination tempered its potency. Andrea really liked this presentation of Fernet Branca as certain notes such as the mint and menthol were still noticeable and others were greatly softened. While the recipe did not include a garnish, it seemed like it could use one. A lemon twist would have been delightful, but a melon ball with toothpicks model of Sputnik 1 orbiting the rim of the glass seemed the way to go. Davai!

Thank you to Amelia for hosting this month's theme! And please visit her blog post to see the Mixology Monday wrap up with the rest of the vodka friendly submissions.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

boulevardier

1 oz Cognac (Courvoisier VS)
3/4 oz Applejack (Laird's Bonded)
1/2 oz Averna
1/4 oz Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur

Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange peel.

Last night, Andrea was flipping through this year's Tales of the Cocktail recipe book and spotted the Boulevardier created by New Orleans bartender Chris Hannah. The Boulevardier started with a vibrant orange nose that led into the Averna bitter liqueur flavors followed by the ginger on the swallow. The swallow was also rich in orange notes from the Averna accented by the orange oils from the twist. The Cognac and apple brandy flavors were more subtle at first and only donating a fuller mouthfeel. As the drink warmed up, the brandy flavors became more apparent. Apparently, Chris Hannah has also made this drink as a rye instead of a Cognac drink. In this variation, a spicy rye might indeed work rather well with the botanical and ginger notes in the liqueurs.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

blueberry shrub

While reading Eric Felten's How's Your Drink?, I became reacquainted with the concept of fruit shrubs. I first became fascinated last August after reading the "local flavor" Mixology Monday where several of the contributers made these concoctions from their native berries. Shrubs date back to colonial times when refrigeration was lacking and pickling fruit for later use provided refreshing beverages in the off season. While some shrubs use rum or other spirits to preserve the produce, the type I was interested in uses vinegar. Vinegar serves not only as a good preservative but it provides a tartness from the acetic acid that is similar to that of citric acid in lemons and limes. With the proper balance of sugar, the shrub syrup becomes an old school prepared sour mix of sorts.

So last week, I headed down to one of the local farmers' markets to see what local fruit was in season. While raspberries were in season, I know that Andrea is not a fan of them (fresh yes, processed no) so I opted for blueberries and bought 2 pints from one of the organic farm stands there. When I got home, I set to work preparing the berries for pickling. The recipe I chose was an old Southern one that I found on the web that I slightly modified:
4 cups fresh berries, about 16 ounces
2 cups cider vinegar
2 cups sugar

• Place berries in a non-metal bowl or pitcher; add vinegar; use a potato ricer to mash the berries.
• Cover with plastic wrap or lid; refrigerate for 3 to 4 days.
• Squeeze berry and vinegar through a tea towel into a pot to extract all liquid; discard pressed solids.

• Stir in sugar; boil with lid on 2-3 minutes; let cool.
• Store in a tightly covered jar or bottle. Makes approx 36 fluid ounces.
I bottled my shrub on Saturday in time to take up a small sample to Jess (of this blog) and Tim's 11th wedding anniversary cocktail party. The recipe I made up on the spot for them was:
Rockport Cocktail
• 1 1/2 oz Rittenhouse Rye
• 3/4 oz Blueberry Shrub
• 1/2 oz Aperol
• 1 dash Fee's Aromatic Bitters
Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.
The Rockport Cocktail was rather pleasing. Jess who dislikes citrus in her cocktails had no problem with the vinegar-based mix. The blueberry shrub worked rather well with the rhubarb and other flavors in Aperol, and both were balanced by the spicy rye whiskey. While the drink was well balanced, it did not highlight the blueberry as much as I would have liked so I created this at home a day or two later:
Veruca Salt
• 1 1/2 oz Hendrick's Gin
• 3/4 oz Blueberry Shrub
• 1/2 oz Lillet Blanc
• 1 dash Homemade Grapefruit Bitters (or Orange Bitters)
Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.
The Veruca Salt was a lot more blueberry tasting due to the other ingredients being more subtly flavored. The Lillet and bitters worked with the vinegar to make an almost citrus-like taste to the drink. Instead of Lillet Blanc, I was considering using Dolin Blanc vermouth which would most likely make a great variation to this recipe.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

english cobbler

2 oz Rum (Appleton 12 Year)
1 oz Strong Tea (Black Tea)
1/2 oz Lemon Juice
1/2 tsp Sugar

Shake with ice and strain into a highball glass filled with crushed ice. Add straw and garnish with a berry or lemon twist.

On Friday night, we had some drinks at home to celebrate my birthday. One of the drinks we had was a cobbler, an old style of drink consisting of liquor or fortified wine such as port or sherry combined with citrus, sugar, and fresh fruit. The English Cobbler has the addition of tea and is lighter on the fresh fruit aspect. Some of the recipes I saw for this drink specified Jamaican rum so I chose our trusty Appleton 12 Year which donated some delightful vanilla notes to the flavor profile. The drink was dry and slightly tart from the black tea and lemon juice, respectively, and the tea functioned well to tie together the rum and lemon flavors. We wondered whether the drink could benefit from a tea that was more exciting than the black one we chose or from a more complex rum such as Zacapa 23. Indeed, the English Cobbler proved to be a refreshing and somewhat sophisticated rum iced tea drink.

Monday, August 3, 2009

cachaca tasting at the grand

Last Thursday night, I attended a cachaça tasting at the Grand co-hosted by the Boston Shaker and Leblon Cachaça. While the Leblon rep Tara did speak about her product, strangely the session seemed to be more about how exciting the spirit can be as evidenced by her presenting two top end cachaças for us to taste that were admittedly better than Leblon in her opinion. More on that in a moment. While waiting for the event to start, Adam from the Boston Shaker whipped up caipirinhas for everyone in attendance.
Caipirinha
• 2 oz Cachaça (Leblon)
• 1/2 Lime (cut into ~4 pieces)
• 2 tsp Sugar
Muddle lime and sugar in a mixing glass. Add cachaça and ice, shake, and pour into a rocks glass. Garnish with a fresh lime wedge.
Initially, Tara focused on some of the facts and history about the spirit. First, while cachaça is labeled "rum", it differs historically and stylistically from rum proper even though both are made from the sugar cane. After a decade or two of cane juice being fermented into wine in Brazil, cachaça was invented around 1550 after the wine was distilled. Rum, on the other hand, was invented in Barbados nearly a century later in 1640. What's the difference? Cachaça is made from the juice of freshly pressed sugar canes whereas rum is generally made form refined sugar and molasses. There are other differences which include the variety of barrels and different yeast strains that are often used in making cachaça. A lot of cachaça's history is riled with conflict with the Portuguese government who sought to stifle and/or tax the liquor especially since it cut into the sales of their grappa to Brazil. We were also pointed towards Jared McDaniel Brown's book The Soul of Brazil for a more detailed history of the spirit and the Brazil's struggles with Portugal.

After the definitions and history segment, it was time to taste some cachaças straight. The first one we sampled was GRM which is a small batched cachaça that sells for about $75/bottle. One thing that made the product so distinctive was that it is aged in three different wood barrels -- oak, jequitiba rosa, and umbarana -- for 2 years and then blended to get the desired flavor. GRM was definitely a crowd favorite with its cinnamon, Christmassy, dried fruit, caramel, and grassy notes. Later, I stepped behind the bar and made a caipirinha to pass around with this one and it was rather stunning; and apparently, if you go to Toro in Boston, you too can have one or drink the spirit straight for they are one of the few local bars or restaurants to carry this product. The second cachaça was Rochinha which apparently is more easy to get than GRM in this country and sells for around $85/bottle. Aged for 12 years in oak barrels, this cachaça appeals to Scotch drinkers for it contains some peaty notes in the nose. Besides the caramel notes, it also had some sharp chemical burn notes often associated with the industrial cachaça despite it being artesanal (it was suggested that it was more of a planned than accidental note).

For a Leblon-sponsored event, I was surprised that Leblon was batting third. Perhaps it was to say that while there are some amazing cachaças out there, their product is a lot more affordable than those and still much better than the industrial ones flooding the U.S. market. And perhaps the tasting of the other brands was to instigate a fervor for the spirit in general. Leblon is aged in used Remy Cognac barrels for 6 months and the product retails for $25-30/bottle. Besides the grassy notes, Leblon was much sweeter than the other two we tasted. Moreover, it was rather reminiscent of a blanco tequila. The last one we tasted was the Industrial Brand X, a label-less bottle to represent the Pitu, 51, or other large scale brands. These brands are rougher on the sugar cane processing and can also involve burning of the husks which imparts a smoky note to the product. Between the shorter aging and less careful distillation practices, Brand X was short on spice flavors and richness but higher in chemical burn notes. Many of these brands sell for $15-20 here in the U.S. and apparently around $1 in Brazil.

Overall, the crowd seemed excited by the cachaças we tasted and left with a greater understanding of not only the spirit in general but of the range in quality and variety of styles available in the U.S. market today. Many seemed surprised that some cachaças could be appreciated like single malt Scotches and other fine spirits without the need for all of the lime and sugar to mask the spirit's flaws. And after receiving all of the Leblon swag, at least one of us left wondering what to do with yet another muddler for the collection...

Sunday, August 2, 2009

shanghai sling

1 1/2 oz Gin
1 oz Lime Juice
1/2 oz Cherry Heering
1/2 oz Five Spice Simple Syrup (*)
1 dash Angostura Bitters
1 dash Orange Bitters

Shake with ice and strain into a highball glass filled with fresh ice cubes. Garnish with a lime wheel and a straw.
Last week I needed to go to get my license renewed which found me in Boston's Chinatown district. After spending an hour and a half at the RMV, I decided to treat myself and go spice shopping. In one store, I spotted a large bag of five spice powder for a whopping 79 cents and it was too tempting to pass up. While there is some regional variation as to what the 5 spices are, this one was aniseed, fennel, cinnamon, ginger, and pepper.

When I got home, I started on making a simple syrup out of the powder (see instructions below). As I was preparing dinner after Andrea got home, I decided we could use a tall drink to deal with this heat and figured that a Singapore Sling variant would make good use of the freshly bottled syrup. In this sling, the five spice simple syrup flavors worked well with the gin botanicals and with the Angostura bitters especially the cinnamon. These spice notes came through at the end of the swallow after the wave of fruit from the cherry liqueur and lime juice. Indeed, the Shanghai Sling was quite refreshing for the hot weather -- I believe it was still 85°F inside at 8:30pm. This would still be considered cool compared to the temperatures that the Raffles Hotel in Singapore would have reached when the Singapore Sling was invented cerca 1910.
(*) Five Spice Simple Syrup
1 cup Water
1 cup Sugar
1 tbsp (1/2 oz) 5 Spice Powder

Bring to a boil while stirring to dissolve the sugar. Cover and let simmer for 30 minutes. Let cool and strain through a tea towel. Store in a sealable container in the refrigerator.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

principe eduardo

2 oz El Tesoro Reposado Tequila
3/4 oz Lillet Blanc
1/4 oz Drambuie
1 dash Angostura Bitters
1 dash Angostura Orange Bitters

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

For my second drink, the Batavia Arrack made me want tequila, and tequila is a spirit that I do not frequently crave. Knowing that I could trust Misty on this one, she went for a tequila variation of a Prince Edward which is a Scotch cocktail. She once made me something very similar with Dubonnet instead of Lillet back in the spring. In this drink, the citrus notes from the Lillet, orange bitters, and lemon twist were pleasant highlights over the healthy swig of tequila.

[indonesian beachcomber]

1 oz Batavia Arrack
3/4 oz Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
3/4 oz Dolin Dry Vermouth
1/4 oz Galliano
1/2 oz Lemon Juice
1 dash Angostura Bitters

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

On Monday night, Andrea and I ventured down to Drink in Boston. We found a pair of seats at the ice bar across from some of the bodacious broads of Boston LUPEC. And tending the big ice block in the middle was Misty Kalkofen. When I asked her what she had been making lately that I might like, she mentioned this drink and I was sold upon hearing Batavia Arrack as part of the ingredients list. The drink was spicy from the Arrack but muted from the Maraschino's sweetness. The botanicals from the vermouth, Galliano, and bitters blent in with the spicy Arrack notes quite well.