Tuesday, November 25, 2008

polly's special

2 oz Famous Grouse Scotch
1/2 oz Marie Brizard Orange Curacao
1/2 oz Pink Grapefruit Juice

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

Last night after dinner, Andrea and I decided to get an after dinner drink at Green Street. As I perused their large cocktail menu for a drink that both called out to me and that I have not had before, I spotted the Polly's Special and asked Bice to make me one. Part of the allure is an attempt to teach myself to like Scotch. At a Scotch tasting several months ago, the only one that I remotely enjoyed enough to consider buying a bottle was a Dalwhinnie 15 Year. The Dalwhinnie was the least peaty and smoky of all the Scotches I have tasted and I am guessing that it is why I enjoyed it most. When I told a Scotch fanatic a few weeks later which Scotch I enjoyed, his response was "Ah Dalwhinnie -- a lady's Scotch". He then realized how what he said might have come across and apologized, to which I countered that I enjoyed drinking 145 proof Bourbon, Fernet-Branca, and other liquors so I was not offended by his comment. Since then, I have enjoyed Scotch in the Avery's Arrack-ari's the Talisker rinse and in the Chancellor Cocktail I made at home this weekend (1 3/4 oz Scotch, 1/2 oz dry vermouth, 1/2 oz port (I used ruby), 1 dash Peychaud's Bitters). And in the process of acclimating myself to Scotches, I went with Polly's Special.

Over all, the cocktail was a touch sweet with a good mix of tart and smoky. Andrea commented that "it's a nice cocktail... the flavors work well with the Scotch". A similar cocktail I have had at Green Street is The Blinker which is rye, grapefruit, and raspberry syrup. Interestingly, grapefruit juice works better for my tastes with Scotch than the Old Overholt did in the Blinker. Perhaps a sharper rye like Rittenhouse or Sazerac might give a more comparable end product or maybe it is something about Scotch itself.

Monday, November 24, 2008

lawhill cocktail

2 oz Old Overholt Rye
1/2 oz Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth
1/2 oz Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
2 barspoons St. George's Absinthe
1 dash Angostura Bitters

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

For my second cocktail at Drink last night, Misty stayed with the rye and brought out her version of the Lawhill Cocktail, a drink that appears in the 1930's version of the Savoy. The Savoy's version is 2/3 Canadian Club Whiskey, 1/3 French vermouth, 1 dash each of absinthe, Maraschino, and Angostura bitters. Misty shifted the drink away from the Scotch-like flavors associated with Canadian whiskey by using the less aggressive Old Overholt Rye. Her other modifications included upping the Maraschino and absinthe, although dashes of liqueurs historically have been more vague a volume and more sizable than dashes of bitters (which still have a bit of variance depending on the size and fill-level of the bottle and heaviness of the hand, but not to the same degree as with liqueurs).

The St. George's Absinthe cut the sweetness of the Luxardo Maraschino quite well; often, Maraschino-laden cocktails can be too sweet for my palate which was not the case with the Lawhill. The absinthe might have also been assisted by the dry vermouth in this regard. Overall, the cocktail was nicely balanced. The St. George was not as dominant as the previous cocktail I had made with it perhaps due to sherry in that one not being as robust a component as Maraschino.

1919 cocktail

3/4 oz Rittenhouse Rye
3/4 oz Old Monk Rum
1 oz Punt e Mes
1/2 oz Benedictine
1 dash Bittermen's Xocolatl Mole Bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

Last night, Andrea and I came back from a day of shopping in Kittery, Maine, followed by the requisite stops in New Hampshire at the Portsmouth Brewery for dinner (their bar also look well stocked and there's a lounge downstairs, but alas, we have not sampled anything besides their beer and ciders) and the state-run liquor stores (we stuck to the two-hand rule and only bought 209 Gin and Booker's Bourbon, although Saturday's two-hand rule was ruby port and JM Rhum Blanc ($20/liter at Kappy's!)). Since shopping is hard, we decided to treat ourselves to cocktails at Drink.

We grabbed seats at Misty's bar who was tending at the ice station. This means the drinks she was making used ice from 1 foot cubes from a pond in Gloucester which she picked, chipped, and smashed into the proper sized pieces. To our left was The Boston Shaker himself, Adam, who runs a cocktail supply store of various bitters, syrups, and mixing hardware. When Misty asked what I was thinking about drink-wise, I said that I could go either way with rye or rum. Instead of choosing, she did both!

The drink she made me was the 1919, a drink that Ben Sandrof taught her named in reference to what I assumed was the start of Prohibition. Bartender Aaron Butler later commented on this post, "The 1919 is in reference to the Great Molasses Flood of the North End on Jan. 15th, 1919 - the day before the 18th Amendment was ratified. The drink celebrates the molasses notes of Old Monk Rum." I was not wrong in my assumptions for the molasses flood was tied into scaled up production before Prohibition enforcement began. The first note of the beverage was the chocolate scent. The Bittermen's Mole bitters worked better in this cocktail smell-wise than they have in others for me where they were stronger taste-wise. The Rittenhouse Rye gave the drink a very pleasing spiciness, and the vanilla from the rum and the botanicals from the Punt e Mes and Benedictine filled in the gaps. Overall, the 1919 was rather rich, flavorful, and pleasing to the nose and mouth similar to say a Vieux Carre cocktail.

Friday, November 21, 2008

the bentley

2 oz Dubonnet Rouge
2 oz Laird's Applejack
1 dash Fee's Orange Bitters

Shaken with ice and strained into a cocktail glass.

Last night, Andrea and I were in Union Square in Somerville to satisfy her hunger for Indian food. Afterwards, we went over to the Independent for an after dinner drink. New on the menu was the Bentley, a simple 50-50 Dubonnet-applejack cocktail. I was able to find the recipe in three 1930's cocktail books: Savoy, Boothby's, and Cafe Royal. Generally, the cocktail is shaken for some reason instead of stirred and no garnish is given; often, it is made with Calvados. More modern re-tellings of this cocktail include a lemon or orange twist or orange bitters such as was the case with the cocktail Liam made me. A column that Gary Regan wrote for SfGate hints that the drink came into existence shortly after a Bentley automobile won the Le Mans in 1927 and the first reference in print was the 1930 version of the Savoy. The end product was a more red winy and less sweet version of the Marconi Wireless, and more aperitif (with a boozy kick) than a cocktail proper.

corpse reviver #2

1 oz. Hendrick's gin
1 oz. Cointreau
1 oz. Lillet Blanc
3/4 oz. lemon juice
1 dash Pernod

Shake with ice. Service in a cocktail glass

Where: The Independent
When: 20 November, 2008
Who: Liam

Purpose: To give the Indo some love.

Ordinal: First of one
Nose: Nose still a little bit stuffed from eating Indian food. Aroma very subtle, mostly lemony. Only sensed the Pernod faintly at the end on the glass.
Taste: Fresh lemon with a floral aftertaste. Only tasted the Pernod faintly at the end.

Summary: Very refreshing and lemony. The Hendrick's is such a subtle gin that I hesitate to really call this a corpse reviver. Still, a very pleasant beverage that just about anyone (who likes lemon) would enjoy.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

the brother cadfael

Yea, at long last, the fourth voice of cocktailvirginslut issues forth.
(I am the one who rides the Pale Horse, and yadda yadda...)

     I was added to this illustrious page back in the printemps before I headed out on my epic drive from Boston to Santa Cruz, CA. Dubbed "The West Coast Correspondent," I might have perished in all the firing of wilds that has been going on in these parts for all you readers know...

Alas... I mean, "Hurrah!" such was not my fate, and today I finally add a wee bit of NorCal cocktailiana to this (were it papered and bound) tome.

     That all being said, I'm going to start my entries with a drink made for me on my brief trip to Boston one month back. 

You see, for all that San Francisco holds, what with their Rye's, and Alembic's, and Bourbon & Branch's, and Absinthe's... (I can, and will, go on), Santa Cruz has...
well, not much.

There are two places one could conceivably get a good cocktail, but in reality only one:
515 Kitchen and Cocktails has a decent selection of spirits behind the bar, and the bartendrixes have a pretty good idea of what to do with them. 
However, though they've been wonderfully lovely in putting up with my whims and requests (most know now to give me an Old Fashioned consisting of ice, simple, bitters, rye and none else) it's not quite up to the level of what we would consider "craft cocktails."

The second "conceivable" place is The Red. What I mean is that one could look at their stocked bar and conceive of the varied and wondrous libations to issue forth from such a supplied wall of shelves. Unfortunately, the staff has barely a clue in making drinks, let alone anything one might consider a "classic cocktail."

Oh, and then there's The Crepe Place, which I mention, not because they can shake a sour any better than the previous two, but, simply, because they have Michters 6.

      Drinking like this for almost six months, you can't even begin to imagine my glee when Tim, Jess and I piled into the Vdub to head on down to the Standard.
I had many lovely and lustrous libations, but I wanted to end the night in a special way.

Having just learned that ES was in possession of Frederic's bitters, I asked my favorite Kevin for "something with one of 'em in it." In fact, I may not have been as articulate as all that.

The result was pretty dam... darn nice, I must say light, semi-sweet (but not cloying!!) with an interesting amount of fruit.
I asked Kevin what this was.
He shrugged and said "you name it."

Well, gentle readers, this was truly a first for me. And, as is only right, I executed the great honor with great-er diligence. (As Jess and Tim can attest).

When I produced my chef d'oeuvre to Kevin, he shook his head, laughed, and proceed to write it down.

Thus, I give you:

The Brother Cadfael*

1.5 oz           Old Monk Rum
.75 oz           Stock Maraschino
.75 oz           Pimms
4-5 drops    Fred's grapefruits bitters

stir well over ice and serve straight up with a lemon twist.

*"Brother Cadfael" is the fictitious creation of Ellis Peters, played by Derek Jacobi on the PBS series "Mystery."

Cadfael is a mystery-solving monk during the reign of King Stephen in England (covering Old Monk Rum, and Pimms). Among several duties he is an herbalist and tends the orchards of the monastery (covers the bitters and the Maraschino... although that is a stretch, as I highly doubt a 12th cen. English monastery had a cherry orchard, or grapefruit... well sue me, I made it fit as best I could!!!)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


1 part Old Tom gin
1 part cognac (Hine was used)
1 part sweet vermouth (Martini & Rossi was used)
1 dash orange bitters

Stir with ice and strain. Serve up in an old fashioned glass.

Where: Eastern Standard
When: 17 November, 2008
Who: Hugh Fiore

Purpose: To make me forget the snowy midwest, the bumpy flight from South Bend to Chicago, having to run to make my connection, and my lack of food for the past 10 hours.

Ordinal: First of three, accompanied by the charcuterie plate
Nose: Almost apple-scented, due to the cognac most likely
Taste: Rich flavor, to the extent that I almost thought the sweet vermouth to be homemade

Summary: The Old Tom really classes up the M&R vermouth. This went extremely well with the rabbit terrine and pâté. One sip, and the trials of the day melted away.

[christmas flip]

1 oz. brandy (I think Hine cognac was used)
1 oz. green chartreuse
1/2 oz. vanilla infused rock candy syrup
1/2 barspoon fernet branca
whole egg

Shake all ingredients first without ice to emulsify the egg, then add ice and shake again. Pour into a cocktail glass and garnish with a mint leaf.

Where: Eastern Standard
When: 17 November, 2008
Who: Hugh Fiore

Purpose: To make a flip based on a recipe from Gary Regan's recent sfgate.com column, using green chartreuse instead of yellow chartreuse.

Ordinal: Third drink of three, no accompaniment
Nose: No trace of egg smell, mint and vanilla aroma
Taste: Subtle taste of mint from the Fernet and green chartreuse, only a tiny trace of bitterness

Summary: This is a wonderful Christmas-y flip (Jess, Hugh said he wanted to make you one next time you see him). Hugh liked it enough to add it to his lil black book. Very clever, using that vanilla rock candy syrup - the original called only for simple.

[little celery]

1 1/2 oz Sazerac Rye
1/2 oz Luli Chinato
1/2 oz Cynar
1/2 oz Aperol
1 dash The Bitter Truth's Celery Bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Or 3 cordial glasses.

Since Andrea had been at Eastern Standard for a while before I got there, it was time to go not too long after I got there. But still leaving enough time for Hugh to mix up a nightcap for us. He had been scanning the shelves for other things that would complement the Bitter Truth's Celery Bitters after making the rhum cocktail for me. He had spotted the Cynar and thought that the artichoke-herbal funkiness of it would work rather well with the celery bitters.

Hugh designed the cocktail similar to the Little Italy, with rye (this one was with the Jackson Cannon barrel that the distillery made up for Eastern Standard), Cynar, and a chinato instead of a sweet vermouth. And he also added in some Aperol and the bitters. Chinatos are vermouths that use quinine (China in Italian). Most chinatos use a lusty and full-bodied Barolo red wine as the base, but the Luli uses a white moscato as a base. One blog described it as, "less intense and a touch sweeter than more traditional Chinatos but still has incredible floral aromatics, lots of kaffir lime, peaches, kumquat, ginger, thyme flowers, basil, jasmine, and hibiscus flavors."

The end product was very vegetal and made for a good nightcap and digestif. Interesting how after not having had a Cynar cocktail in almost a year (I gave Mike at Highland Kitchen the recipe for a Little Italy since he did not know what to do with "that stuff") that I have had two Cynar cocktails chosen for me in consecutive nights. To me, that is a good omen!

[celery stalking hugh]

1 1/2 oz Clement Premiere Canne White Rhum Agricole
1/2 oz Bauchant Orange Liqueur
1/2 oz Martini & Rossi Bianco Vermouth
2 dashes The Bitter Truth's Celery Bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. No garnish.

Last night while leaving my jiu jitsu class, I noticed that I had a phone message from Andrea. Her flight landed and she was at Eastern Standard and hoping that I would swing by after class to meet her there. And oh yeah, Hugh misses me.

Once I got to Eastern and ordered some food at the bar, I spied a bottle of the Bitter Truth's Celery Bitters! I had waited for so long to taste them that I had given up and designed my own in the way that I imagined that they should be (historically, not what I read about tBT's version). I based mine on a robust celery seed flavor which was supported by some funky greens and roots such as dandelion, burdock, barberry, and spearmint. When I smelled the Bitter Truth's version, it was very citrussy -- I could neither smell nor taste the celery itself. Andrea said that it smelled like lemon verbena, and Hugh commented that it was not as celery as mine as "yours are extreme celery!"

Still, I was intrigued and so was Hugh. We brain stormed and came up with this drink. The rhum agricole that Hugh chose was a very grassy white from Clement. I figured that a lighter liqueur like Bauchant orange liqueur would work well (Hugh was thinking apricot). And a bianco vermouth rounded out the lineup. The end result was a rather intriguing bitter and earthy concoction. Hugh was pleased enough with the taste that the receipe went into his black book of recipes.

Monday, November 17, 2008

[grandpa choker]

1 1/2 oz Ron Abuelo 7 Year Rum
1/2 oz Cynar
1/2 oz Aperol
3/4 oz Punt e Mes
1 dash Bittermens Xocolatl Mole Bitters

Stir on ice and strain into a rocks glass. Lemon twist dropped in.
For my last drink at Craigie on Main, I asked Tommy to go off menu and suggest something. After asking whether I wanted to stick more with the gin or the rye from my first two drinks, I replied that I had no preference what the base spirit was. He took my enthusiasm about his suggestion of rum and the concept of bitters as a green light and set off to create this nameless beverage (save for my black humored idea in the title above).

The rum he chose was an aged one from Panama. My interests were piqued once I saw Tommy picking up the Cynar, a lesser used bitter liqueur made by the Campari group which features artichoke and a dozen other botanicals. The only other Cynar cocktail I have had out is the Little Italy (2 oz rye, 1/2 oz Cynar, 3/4 oz sweet vermouth) and I have made a few at home such as the Cin-Cyn (1 oz gin, 1 oz Cynar, 1 oz sweet vermouth, dash Angostura, orange twist). However, it is a liqueur that deserves greater attention. Finally, aperol, Punt e Mes vermouth, and Bittermen's Mole bitters rounded out the rest of the ingredients. The wave of lemon oil over the rocks glass was indeed a nice touch as a prelude to my first sip, and once tasted, I knew the cocktail would make for a good nightcap.

martinez cocktail

1 1/2 oz Hayman's Old Tom Gin
1 1/2 oz Craigie's Antica Vermouth Replica
1 barspoon Maraschino Liqueur
1 dash Angostura Bitters
1 dash Orange Bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Twist orange peel over drink and drop in.

For my second drink at Craigie on Main, I took the recommendation I got on Facebook from Tina who had been there the night before, and went with the Martinez. I have written about a few of the Martinezes I have at home and around town, but I felt the need to write about this one as well. While I have had a Martinez made with the Old Tom Gin, a sweeter old school style of gin that was reintroduced to market, Tom's housemade vermouth cinched the experience. He did his own take on Carpano Antica Formula Vermouth. The cinnamon was most notable in the botanicals and Tom mentioned cherry bark as well; it was vermouth taken in a very opposite direction from his more subtle amber recipe (described in the Camino Cocktail entry). When I spoke to him about his take on the drink, Tom mentioned that the idea he had was more aperitif driven which is why he chose to cut down on the gin and Maraschino liqueur ratios relative to the vermouth.

camino cocktail

1 1/2 oz Rittenhouse Rye
1 oz Craigie's Amber Vermouth
1/2 oz Mirto
1 dash Regan's Orange Bitters
1 dash Angostura Bitters

Stir on ice and strain into a rocks glass. Flame orange peel over drink and drop in.

Last night, I made it out to Craigie on Main to check out the bar program Tom Schlesinger-Guidelli is heading up. Andrea was away this weekend and I needed to get out of the house, so checking the bar out on an off night became the plan. Others must have had the same idea since the restaurant and bar were pretty filled when I got there. Sitting at Tommy's 12 seat bar were 3 of the bartenders we have written about here on CocktailVirgin -- Bice from Green Street, Ben from Drink, and Evan from The Independent, and several of the others were assorted industry folk.

Having tasted the wonders of mirto, a somewhat bitter Sardinian liqueur made from myrtle berries and leaves, at Eastern Standard last month, I was very much game to try some more which lead me to choosing the Camino Cocktail. What really balanced this drink out was the housemade amber vermouth - a sweet but light creation. I tasted notes of vanilla in it and asked Tommy what else was in it. He confirmed the vanilla and mentioned bay leaf and chamomile. Later in the evening, Tommy offered me a small glass of the vermouth alone. To me it also had notes of cherry and seemed less aggressively herbal than a sweet vermouth (although this could be relative to how my tongue's baseline was reset by the mirto et al.). While another one of Tommy's vermouths has cherry bark in it, this one did not although he stated how he could see a cherry pit smell in it. Considering that Tom is a major fan of vermouths including drinking them straight up, I was not surprised at all by the efforts he put in to designing the at least 2 housemade vermouths on the menu.

Friday, November 14, 2008

phipp's fizz

2 oz Old Overholt Rye
1/2 oz Lemon Juice
1 dash Angostura Bitters
Shake with ice in an old fashioned glass. Top with 3-5 oz ginger beer and garnish with a lemon wedge.

For my second drink at Green Street, I was served by Bice, a Deep Ellum and B-Side alum but new-to-me at to Green Street. For some reason, the Phipp's Fizz called to me again. Perhaps the last drink was too sweet and I needed the sharp spicyness of Green Street's choice of ginger beer, Fall River's AJStephans, to cleanse my palate.

The Phipp's Fizz belongs to a classic group of highball drinks, including the Gin Buck, Moscow Mule, and Mamie Taylor, that has booze, citrus, and ginger beer as its cast of characters, all with similar proportions. I believe that Andrea will have something to say shortly about the Mamie Taylor, a drink she had recently at both Rendezvous and Drink (edit: simultaneously typing it in, see below). Otherwise, the Phipp's Fizz is a standard Rye and Ginger with the addition of a dash of Angostura; however, the century plus proven history of this simple combination remains.

mamie taylor

2 oz. blended scotch (Famous Grouse was used)
1/2 oz. lime juice

Stir in a collins glass with ice (4 KD cubes, if you have 'em). Top with ginger beer (about 3 oz.). If feeling artistic, garnish with a lime curlie-Q.

Last Saturday (11/8) evening, Fred and I went for dinner and drinks in Central Square Cambridge. We arrived at Rendezvous to find a sizable group of people packed into the lounge area. Miraculously, our two favorite seats at the bar opened up and we snatched them after ascertaining that the group preferred to stand and socialize. Since it was so incredibly crowded, I opted to order from the cocktail menu. My second drink was one I had read about in boston.com's Barcode column - the Mamie Taylor. I'm a latecomer to the whole scotch experience - blame my father, whose taste for cheap scotch really turned me off the spirit. My brother has better taste, and after giving me a sample of The Glenlivet 12-year a couple of winters ago, I decided that not all scotch tastes like diesel fuel. And this drink is both sweet, sour, and a touch smokey - not so much as to overwhelm. Scott stated that my drink choice was very healthy, and perhaps it was partially responsible for helping me ward off the cold that seems to have circulated among my friends. Santé, indeed.

A couple of nights later, Fred and I met up at Drink. John asked me what I was in the mood for, and I wanted something made with ginger beer. I sampled the drink - and said it was interesting, why, what is it. John's brow furrowed at that comment, and he said it was a Mamie Taylor. John makes his version with White Horse - a blended scotch dominated by Lagavulin. The peatiness of this Islay scotch rather overwhelmed the sweet/tart flavor of the ginger beer, and the result I liked a bit less than Scott's version. I wish I had asked for a small glass of John's ginger beer - a mixture of clove, ginger, allspice, and white pepper sweetened with demerara sugar. I have sampled Rendezvous' straight ginger beer, and it is magical, perfectly sweet and gingery. It's made in a "messy, multi-step, multi-day process" that truly must be a labor of love (or something).

mary pickford

2 oz. rum (Cruzan 2-year Estate Light Rum was used)
1 oz. pineapple juice
1/4 oz. grenadine (homemade)
1/4 oz. maraschino liqueur

"Shake wantonly with ample ice, strain into a cocktail glass." Mine was garnished with a cloven cherry.

This is Rendezvous' cocktail offering for LUPEC's This One's for the Ladies November fundraiser. It's a tasty concoction that's readily accessible to any palate, and I highly recommend stopping by to drink for the cause. Scott sent me the following description (provided to the Rendezvous staff) for the history of the Mary Pickford:
Named for the original "America's Sweetheart", the cocktail incarnation of Mary Pickford was created in the 1920's by a bartender at the Hotel Sevilla in Havana while Pickford was filming a movie there. The drink became so popular that Douglas Fairbanks (man's man and swashbuckling star of such films as The Black Pirate, The Mark of Zorro and Robin Hood as well as future husband of Ms. Pickford) asked a Cuban bartender to create a drink named for him. While there are at least two Fairbanks cocktails, they are largely forgotten. It seems that while men in tights might always get the girl, the true glory of cocktail immortality is reserved for those who tempt rather than taunt the bartender.
I don't think I need to add anything more to that.

deauville cocktail

3/4 oz Germain-Robin Brandy
3/4 oz Lecompte Calvados
3/4 oz Cointreau
3/4 oz Lemon Juice
Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a long lemon twist. Recipe from Savoy/Trader Vics/Duffy.

Last night, Tim and Jess invited me out to go to the opening night of Craigie on Main to see what sort of bar Tommy had set up. Between the chaos of trying to coordinate Tim coming from commuter rail from the North Shore and Jess en route from Pittsburgh, I arrived first at Craigie to discover a note that they were indeed open but closed that night for a private party. Plans changed to one of the other 3 {!} fine cocktail establishments in Central Square, Green Street.

While looking over Green Street's food menu, the Deauville stood out again, a drink that is not on their short or long cocktail lists but resides right next to the desserts with three other cocktails. I asked Andy McNees to make it my first drink. I did not watch him make the first half of the drink so I nicked the recipe from a variety of cocktail books this morning. All had the same recipe save for Boothsby's The World's Drinks and How to Mix Them which had it as a Calvados, Chartreuse, raspberry syrup, and lemon juice cocktail. The best my research could do was to trace the drink's history back to the 1930's in New Orleans.

The Deauville was a tad sweet for my tastes as of late but it was well balanced with the sourness of the lemon juice. Overall, the drink was not too different from an old favorite of mine, the Hoop La (and the other cocktail names with the same recipe) which is the same equal parts recipe with Lillet Blanc subbing in for the Deauville's apple brandy.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

brandy rum sangaree

1 Sugar Cube
1/2 oz Water
2 oz Brandy (Pierre Ferrand Ambre Cognac)
1 oz Rum (Barbancourt 8 Year Rhum)
~1/4 oz Red Wine (OG Syrah)
Muddle sugar cube in water. Add ice, stir, and strain into a cocktail glass. Float wine on top.

For my second beverage at Drink, John Gertsen stuck with the brandy theme and kept it even more old school by suggesting a sangaree, a drink that pre-dates the cocktail. Sangarees are something I have read about in many cocktail books in the section after the cocktail, highball, and punch chapters and right before the index, but are a class of drink I have neither made nor had. Some of the older styles of sangarees use port or sherry and add sugar, ice, and a sprinkling of ground nutmeg but later varieties branched out to ale, gin, and brandy. Jerry Thomas' recipe for the brandy sangaree is as follows:
Brandy Sangaree
(Use medium bar-glass.)
Take 1/2 teaspoonful of fine white sugar dissolved in
a little water.
1 wine-glass of brandy.
Fill the glass one-third full of shaved ice, shake up well, strain into a small glass and dash a little Port wine on top. Serve with a little grated nutmeg.
John adapted the recipe by swapping out some of the brandy for rum, using wine instead of port as a float, and omitting the nutmeg entirely. The wine John used was one from the Languedoc region and his float had issues. Regardless of his float technique using the back of a barspoon and a gentle hand pouring a small mixing cup of wine, a good percentage of the wine sank. Not sure what aspect of the densities was off in the drink, but the issue seemed to bother John more than it did me. The brandy rum sangaree tasted very much like a strong punch. Very simple and to the point, the drink was well balanced and did not need to venture into the realm of bitters which would distract from the drinker from its innate beauty.


2 oz Cognac (Pierre Ferrand's Ambre)
1 oz Dry Vermouth (Boissiere)
1 oz Ruby Port (Noval)

Stirred with ice and strained into a cocktail glass. A knotted lemon rind used as garnish a la devil horns.

Last night, I was in Boston for a biotech networking night and I coordinated to meet up with Andrea at Drink. We both got there around the same time (she was driving and I was walking from the South End) and luckily found seats at John Gertsen's bar after a kind gentleman agreed to shift down a seat. Andrea announced that I had a head start which I denied since the bar the networking night was held at was pretty crowded and the drinks on their cocktail list were a bit uninspiring. John knew the place and jokingly asked if I had the frozen drinks there (dispensed from a slushy machine) and then asked if I wanted him to make me one old school style by shaving ice off of one of Drink's big blocks of ice. While I did not take him up on it, the old school style theme was adopted for my two cocktails.

Since I had made gin cocktails at home the night before while making gnocchi, I asked John for something other than gin. We agreed on brandy as a good starting point, and John mentioned the Montana which is a drink I was familiar with. In fact, I had made one at home a little over a year ago (my LiveJournal has a brief entry about it). I had made mine with Sandeman Founder's Reserve Port since I did not have any ruby ports at home and had noted that the drink reminded me of a spiced wine due to the vermouth mixing with the port. John's Noval Ruby Port gave the drink a different flavor entirely; ruby ports are younger and fruitier than many other port varietals. In fact, Andrea thought the cocktail tasted vaguely like cherries.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

blonde on blonde

3/4 oz Yellow Chartreuse
3/4 oz Pisco
3/4 oz Lemon Juice
3/4 oz White Port
Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

Andrea and I went to Rendezvous Saturday night after getting Tibetan food in Central Square. Scott Holliday was at the bar and busier than we have ever seen him. We usually go in during the week or late on the weekend, but this was during the restaurant's peak. I asked if he had been working on anything new, and he seemed a bit overwhelmed by the work flow at that moment and could not think of anything, so I went with a Half Sinner Half Saint. After I finished that drink, this stunning number appeared in front of me with an apology that things were too frantic for him to think of his latest experiments.

The drink, which I am guessing that he named after a Bob Dylan song, highlights the white to yellow end of the spectrum of bar reagents. The Chartreuse provided a pleasing level of complexity in addition to some necessary sweetness to balance the lemon juice. The port added some body and the pisco some punch to the drink. Hopefully this cocktail makes it on to the menu like the Nehru did. The Nehru was a drink he let us taste as he was working out the recipe, and last night indicated how much of a hit it has become as he made more than a dozen of them last night while we were there.

[rye something-or-other]

Michter's Rye
Angostura bitters
Orange garnish

An un-rye-like rye drink -- just what I didn't know I needed to finish me off. Hugh put this together on the spot, and it was rather interesting indeed: light and airy in the same vein as my previous drinks. As this was scrawled on my nearly-illegible napkin, I have no other information aside from my now-vague memory. :)


sherry Gustav
house-infused pumpkin/fall spice vodka
rock candy syrup
egg white

Check it out, I had a drink containing vodka -- how unlike me! But I now rarely question anything Hugh puts in front of me, and am even more rarely disappointed. I'm not usually a pumpkin girl, but the spices and Benedictine really took center stage in this drink. Nice and warm and confection-like, without being too damn sweet.

By this point I was taking even-less-complete notes on a napkin! You see how hard I work for you?

heather in queue

1 1/2oz Plymouth gin
3/4 oz Martini&Rossi Bianco vermouth
1/2 oz Bauchant orange liqueur
1/4 oz Fernet-Branca

Stir thoroughly, garnish with a flamed lemon peel.

Apparently named for a ES regular (who ends up waiting in line often?) this was a lovely, light, and wintery-chill sort of flavor to start off my evening with. My note-taking was worse than usual, this drink being scrawled on a small piece of paper from the receipt printer behind the bar.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

sweet vermouth

The theme for this month's Mixology Monday (MxMo XXXIII) is "Made from Scratch" as chosen by Doug Winship of the Pegu Club blog (read the wrap up with the other MxMo entries here). Doug writes, "Please mix up a drink which is produced with one or more ingredients that you make yourself, be it bitters, infused liquors, liqueurs, syrups, or even the garnish! Heck, you can go all Hawkeye and Trapper and distill your own Gin if you like. Extra points are awarded for scratch ingredients that replace a specific commercial product. The point is to show how (or if) all that extra work improves your cocktail." This MxMo challenge inspired me to finally getting around to making my own vermouth. It was an idea that I have had for a while which has intensified with my growing botanical collection from my bitters projects.

As a starting point, I had conversations with a few Boston bartenders, including Ben of Drink and Tom of Craigie on Main (formerly of Eastern Standard) and with Eric Seed of Haus Alpenz about Dolan Vermouths (see notes here), in addition to a few online sources (see the bibliography below).

There seems to be about 4 ways to make vermouth which vary in temperature, time, and method for extracting the herbal components and oxidizing the wine. The first is to briefly boil all the wine with the botanicals. The second is to take about a quarter of the volume and simmer it with the herbs for a short time. The third is a longer, unheated extraction. And the fourth is to extract the botanicals separately in high proof alcohol and add them drop-wise to the wine to reach the desired effect; this fourth way is apparently how many of the larger commercial houses make it these days. The only common botanical in recipes is wormwood which is how the beverage was named after the German word for it, Wermut(h). Some recipes have only a few while others have twenty-something ingredients.

Most vermouths are made from white wine -- even the sweet vermouths, save for Punt e Mes, Carpano Antica, Barolo Chinatos, and a few others. The dark color in most sweet vermouths is not imparted from the grape skins but from caramelized sugar and the botanicals. A common wine to start from is Trebbiano.

Two last components to discuss before I launch into how I did my batch are brandy and sugar. Vermouths are fortified wines so a high proof alcohol such as brandy (although I have seen recipes that use vodka) is used to bring the alcohol content up to 15-18%. The higher alcohol content helps to stabilize the contents better over time. Vermouths are also sweetened. Dry vermouths often have under 7% residual sugar left and sweet vermouths are up to 15%. For other information about vermouth, including their history and other alternative recipes, please consult the links below.
I placed the following herbs into a pot:

• 1 tsp of each: wormwood
• 1/2 tsp of each: gentian, elder flower, chamomile, anise seed, tansy, dried orange peel
• 2 pinch of each: angelica root, fennel seed, peach leaf
• 1 pinch of each: lavender flower, betel nut, dandalion leaf, sassafras root bark, burdock root, thyme, oregano, basil, centaury
• 1/2 pinch of each: licorice root
• 1 whole clove, 1/2 small cinnamon stick

Added 200 mL of wine to the pot. The wine I used was a 750mL bottle of 2007 Cavit Pinot Grigio since I did not see any Trebbiano wines where I was shopping that day.

I brought the wine-botanical mix up to a boil and simmered it covered for 10 minutes.

I let it cool for 75 minutes, and filtered through a strainer over a coffee filter.

For the caramelized sugar, I heated up 2 oz sugar (by volume) until medium-dark brown. I added 2 oz of boiling water to the molten sugar to make a caramelized simple syrup.

To the wine bottle, I poured out some into a glass (besides the 200 mL from before) to be added later. I added 4 oz of 80° brandy (to bring the alcohol up to approximately 16%), the caramelized simple syrup, and the filtered aromatized wine concentrate. I topped off the bottle with the wine I poured off.

Lastly, I added sugar to taste: 1/2 oz by volume seemed sufficient.
Upon tasting the vermouth straight, Andrea and I found it extremely drinkable. Andrea liked the "more-than-cinnamon" taste, whereas the botanical that stood out for me was the lavender flower. Nothing seemed out of balance and overpowering. I found myself drinking it unmixed in ways that I never find myself doing with store bought brands. Appearance-wise, I was a little disappointed with the color; I should have either caramelized the sugar longer to a darker color or added more to the mix. The end result was not as dark as a sweet vermouth but not as light as a bianco (a sweet white vermouth). And finally, instead of an hour of post-simmer extraction (many recipes do not even include that much of a cooling period), I might consider letting it go over night to bring out more flavor. However, while mine was no Vya, it did turn out comparable to Noilly Prat in intensity.

With the vermouth, we made 3 cocktails:
Fourth Degree (from the Old Waldorf Bar Days book as well as Imbibe!)
• 1 oz Sweet Vermouth
• 2 oz Plymouth Gin
• 1 dash Absinthe (Le Pastis d'Autrefois)
Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Twist a lemon peel over the top and discard.
This cocktail while delightful was not the best way to appreciate the vermouth since my dash of pastis was a bit too heavy handed and its flavors masked that of the vermouth's. So a few nights later we made another:

Marconi Wireless
• 2 oz Calvados or Applejack
• 1 oz Sweet Vermouth
• 1 dash Orange Bitters
Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.
We made it once with Calvados and once with applejack. While it was pleasing using either base spirit, the winner was the third recipe we made yet another night:
San Martin (from the Boothby's World Drinks and How to Mix Them book)
• 1/2 oz Gin (Jonge Genever)
• 1/2 oz Sweet Vermouth
• 1 barspoon Yellow Chartreuse
Stir with ice and strain into a small cocktail glass. Twist a lemon peel over the top and discard.
The combination of the malty genever gin and the sweet herbalness of the yellow Chartreuse complemented my vermouth in ways that brought out different botanicals well. The San Martin and drinking the vermouth alone on ice made this MxMo project all worthwhile for me. The idea of making a 2:1 rye Manhattan with a Luxardo maraschino cherry was one of my original ideas to show case this vermouth before I got distracted by gins. Fear-you-not, it is on my agenda.


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

[new orleans style rye-madeira cocktail]

2 1/4 oz Rittenhouse Rye
3/4 oz Madeira (Blandy's 5 year)
2 dashes Bittermen's No. 9 Orange Bitters
Stirred with ice and strained into a rocks glass pre-rinsed with St. George's Absinthe. Orange peel twisted over the top of drink and then discarded.

For my last cocktail at Drink, I asked John what he could do with sherry, and he replied by asking what I thought of a Madeira and whiskey drink. I told him to go ahead without telling me any more. The drink he made me was tasty, but a little different from what I was expecting given the original two ingredients. The extra aspect was the St. George's absinthe, a new brandy-based absinthe weighing in at 60% alcohol. New turns out to mean "To be released December 21st"... and it will be the first domestic absinthe produced in almost a century. The packaging said to me "your drink needs more cowbell!" St. George is rather herbal and spicy without being killer on the anise flavor. The absinthe did dominate the flavor of this particular drink although not in a bad way. It took it from my primordial preconception to a rather New Orleans-style cocktail. Andrea thought that a Scotch rinse might have taken it more in the former direction bringing more emphasis to the base spirits but she too was happy with the drink as it was.

[rhum agricot]

1 1/2 oz J.M. Rhum Blanc
3/4 oz Boissiere Dry Vermouth
3/4 oz Rothman & Winter Orchard Apricot Liqueur
Stirred with ice and strained into a cocktail glass. Garnished with a mint leaf.

For my second beverage at Drink, John Gertsen suggested keeping with the lighter colored spirits but switching to a white rhum agricole which was something I wanted to try. He suggested a lime, sugar, and ice direction which did not excite me as much. I countered with the idea of rhum, dry vermouth, and a liqueur of his choosing (as well as proportions of his choosing) direction. Dry vermouth with sweeter alcohols seems to strike a balance that makes my palate happy.

The cocktail John came back with was delightful. While apricot liqueur is often overbearing in many drinks (even in small proportions), this one was well balanced. The J.M. blanc had an earthiness to it that connected it well with the choice of Boissiere vermouth. Andrea thought my drink had a mango taste to it which might be attributed to the rhum playing with the apricot liqueur.

Monday, November 3, 2008

[autumnal junipero cocktail]

2 oz Junipero Gin
3/4 oz Carpano Antica
1/4 oz Nux Alpina Walnut Liqueur
Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Twist lemon peel over drink and discard.

Last night, Andrea and I went to Drink since they were finally open on Sunday nights. Going on an off night really works well with Drink's menuless format as it lets the bartenders take the time to discuss the drink direction before mixing and the opinions after tasting. When John asked what I wanted to start with, I said that I had been drinking lots of darker spirits lately, like whiskeys and dark rums, and that I wanted to return to the world of gins again. He said that he had been playing around with a gin beverage with Carpano Antica sweet vermouth and walnut liqueur using Beefeater gin, and he thought it would work rather well Anchor Steam's Junipero gin. I was game after having his delightful walnut cocktail of last fall, Foglia Noce, at No. 9 Park.

My first sip pleased me as the lemon oil wave subsided and immediately I was hit by the walnut flavor as a I swallowed. Further into the drink, the lemon oils on the surface were mainly gone and my palate was getting immune to the walnut taste such that the cocktail morphed more into a late 1800's style martini. It was almost like scoring two drinks in one.


2 oz. dark rum (Myer's was used)
1/4 oz. almond syrup
3/4 oz. lime juice

I could swear he also put a few drops of orange blossom water in there.

This was my second drink of the evening at Drink. The subtitle of the drink could be "and now for something completely different" because that is what I requested from John. "Astringent?" he asked. Yes - lime! "Bourbon?" No... I furrowed my brow. He: "Rum!" "Dark," I nodded. Then we started talking about a cocktail that Fred made the other night from Chuck Taggart's Gumbo Pages. It was made with Falernum, which they do not have at Drink. But this got John to thinking about a sort-of deconstructed tiki-style drink, with almond syrup representing the falernum. They make their own almond syrup by combining slivered almonds and sugar with water and letting it sit. They add crushed almonds after the infusing is done, and during the filtration step they dump in a bunch of brandy to rinse down the infusion vessel. The resulting syrup has a lot of nut fats suspended, giving it a cloudy appearance. Cocktails utilizing it need to be shaken vigorously, since the almond oil is only grudgingly soluble in alcohol.

The cocktail he made was a brownish-greenish opaque color that might have put off a less dedicated tippler than I. It was pleasingly lime-scented. The almond flavor comes in after the lime in the first sip, and then it dominated. The rum offers a nice, solid backbone. I made the curious observation that I often confuse the flavors of cherry and almond liqueurs, and concluded that these flavors must reside very close together in my brain.

[chaud lapin]

2 oz. bourbon (Old Fitzgerald was used)
1/2 oz. gomme syrup
1/4 oz. pimento dram

Stir with a mixture of cracked and whole ice in a mixing glass, and decant into a cocktail glass. Squeeze a generous amount of lemon peel over the top and discard.

Last night (11/2) marked the first time that Drink was open on a Sunday. Fred and I hopped on the Red Line last night after dinner in Davis Square and we arrived there to find the same cast of bartending characters as last time - Sam, John, and Ben. There were maybe a dozen patrons all clustered at the central bar. We chose the right-hand edge, and John asked us what we were in the mood to drink. I was leaning towards bourbon, and then I spotted the dram on the counter. John said he would make me a simple drink utilizing both, and I clapped in anticipation.

I don't know if there is any cinnamon in the pimento dram, but that's certainly what I tasted. The heat of the Old Fitz was dulled only slightly by the gomme, and the result was like an old fashioned candy with just enough bite. In the scale of trick or treat, this was certainly a treat.

Neither John nor Sam enjoy naming drinks. And since many of the cocktails at Drink are made up on the fly, I suppose naming each and every one would be quite an undertaking, and ultimately unhelpful. That's all well and good, but it leaves me in a bit of quandary as a blogger, since I'd like the titles of the posts to immediately evoke in my memory what the drink was like. So, I'm adopting the following convention: if a drink is unnamed, I'm simply going to make a name up and enclose it in brackets. Hopefully the name will evoke something, and provide a degree of entertainment value.

And if there isn't already a cocktail that's actually named "chaud lapin", well, there should be.