Sunday, January 2, 2011

:: fred's picks for the top cocktails of 2010 (in) ::

To finish up the trilogy of my year end wrap ups, I figured that I should revisit all of the recipes we tried at our home bar this year. Our cocktail book library expanded this year with older books like Bottom's Up and The How and When and new releases like Left Coast Libations and Absinthe Cocktails, and with this growth, the wealth of resources I can pull recipes from has increased. While most of the drinks are pre-existing recipes, a few were created for Thursday Drink Nights and other events and a couple of these even found publication in places like the Mutineer Magazine, on menus, or winning a cocktail contest. Just like my summary of the drinks I had out in 2010, I will go month by month and recap the top libations I experienced in my kitchen.

January: The best drink in January did not come by way of new cocktail book or old, but by way of Twitter! The Anvil in Houston tweeted the recipe for The Eulogy, a Last Word variation using Batavia Arrack, Yellow Chartreuse, falernum, and lime. Interestingly, Chuck Taggart of the Gumbo Pages made it down to Houston and reported back that the Anvil makes the drink with Strega instead of Yellow Chartreuse, so either liqueur will work. As a runner up, another WTF recipe from the Rogue Beta Cocktails book proves to be a tasty potation (despite our doubts, no recipe from that book has failed us). The Broken Shoe Shiner created at the Violet Hour impressed us greatly despite the ingredients list giving us pause.

February: February's best drink comes not from Twitter but from a Peruvian cocktail book that our friend Héctor gave to us. The Zambito paired up coffee-infused Pisco with lime to make a surprisingly rich and complex Sour drink. The runner up recipe, the Esmeralda, came via text message after speaking to our St. Germain rep, Kate, who fetched the recipe from Ben Sandrof, the creator. With the St. Germain being balanced by lime and with the cachaça being complemented by a smoky Scotch rinse, this Daisy was a gem.

March: I narrowed March down to two drinks that I found equally as enjoyable. The Madelaine Cocktail from the 1947 Trader Vic was another delightful Daisy with lemon and lime countering Drambuie liqueur. Perhaps it was the Treaty Oak aged white rum that helped to make this drink succeed. The other drink was also a rum one, the Happy Daze from the Café Royal Cocktail Book. Despite the silly name, the light complexity of flavors that Lillet and a touch of Swedish Punsch added to the rum made for an elegant drink.

April: This month's winner came from a copy of Green Street's cocktail book; the Joe's Fashion was crafted by Misty Kalkofen for a James Beard event in 2007 and the combination of Punt e Mes and Chinese 5 Spice syrup really worked well with apple brandy. The runner up came from Stan Jones' Complete Barguide; the Port Antonio was a Tiki drink that, like the Zambito, reminded me how great coffee and lime flavors pair up.

May: We started Julep season off with a bang; the Platonic Julep from Pioneers of Mixing at Elite Bars: 1903-1933 had European stylings as it paired sherry with Yellow Chartreuse as the spirit. Another Julep we had in May should win the year's tastiest virgin cocktail (yes, Cocktail Virgin does have some virgin cocktails) which I presented for the Tom Waits Mixology Monday, namely the Tea Julep from the 1920 What to Drink written by the Jerry Thomas of Temperance drinks, Bertha Stockbridge. The runner up for May was simple but elegant -- the Perfect Lady from Latin Quarter Souvenir Book Of Cocktails & How To Mix Them; the substitution of the Pink Lady's applejack and grenadine for a quality Crème de Pêche was delightful.

June: My picks for June stem from Ted Saucier's Bottom's Up; Saucier's tome was the earliest recipe for the Last Word, and these two are variations of it. The D.J. was created at the Detroit Athletic Club where the Last Word was born; the equal parts number varies from the Last Word by using sweet vermouth and grapefruit in place of Green Chartreuse and lime (oh, and a hazelnut garnish). The Californie Place, however, was created in Cannes, France. While it is not equal parts, the recipe uses dry vermouth's crispness in place of the Last Word's lime to make a great aperitif cocktail.

July: July's winner should have been had a bar, but Eastern Standard lacked the seasonally obtained liqueur, Becherovka. Using our old bottle, we were able to make Bobby McCoy's winning Elixir Alpestre recipe. As a runner up, the equal parts One Way from Café Royal Cocktail Book reminded me of the Perfect Lady with peach and lemon flavors with the addition of Swedish Punsch.

August: The Secret Sherry Society provided us with our top pick, Thomas Waugh's Delores Park Swizzle. Sherry, tequila, citrus, ginger, and other spices made for a superb drink! A solid drink worth mentioning was created here in Boston decades ago; the Parker House Punch from Bottom's Up is not full of razzle-dazzle but succeeds with a strong, classic touch.

September: The Emerson Cocktail from Jacques Straub's 1914 book Drinks was a rather memorable find in September. A Martinez-like drink with the addition of lime is one that I ought to repeat with the Ransom Old Tom Gin we recently purchased. Also of note is that the Emerson appears on Todd Maul's menu at Clio. For a runner up, I went with another modified classic. The Georgetown Club Cocktail from Charles H. Baker, Jr.'s South American Companion: Up & Down the Andes with Jigger, Beaker, & Flask was like a Bacardi Dry supplemented by falernum or a Palmetto with the spiced syrup in place of bitters. I was reminded of this dry aperitif wine plus falernum combination when I had the No. 65 at Hungry Mother a few weeks back.

October: The Secret Sherry Society helped to welcome in Autumn with Erick Castro's French Toast Flip! Maple syrup, malt, smoke, and cinnamon added to the egg to give a remembrance of breakfasts past. As a runner up, Espolón Tequila provided me H. Joseph Ehrmann's Ashes to Ashes as a chocolate, sherry, and cinnamon tribute to Day of the Dead.

November: Andrea chimed in on November and considered Kelley Swenson's Celeriac from Left Coast Libations her favorite at-home drink of the year! The combination of pineapple and celery bitters made this drink a stunner. To offer up my pick, I will go with Martin Cate's Dead Reckoning which I spotted on the TastingTable website and in Beach Bum Berry's Remixed. This Autumnal-themed Tiki drink contained multiple layers of flavor.

December: A pair of interestingly spiced drinks made the top two for December. Kelly Slagle's Port of Funchal spotted on a TastingTable article was a great beer cocktail that contained Madeira, ginger, and lime for a tasty highball. And Evan Zimmerman's Minor Threat from Absinthe Cocktails utilized rose water quite well.

Of all the original cocktails created this year, a few caught attention. A variation on the classic Petion variant, the Petition, and the orange and cinnamon-flavored Peniques appeared in the Mutineer Magazine this year, and the Vieux Carré-like Hasta Manazana will appear in their next issue. The Bean's Necktie champagne cocktail took first place in the Embury Cocktails' competition. Drinks like the Zeeland and Bartender on Acid got served at bars. And a milk punch flavored with Wu Wei tea was a big hit at the party I brought it to (the guests emphatically requested that I published the recipe for it).

There you go. That's the year in summary. May 2011 bring good tidings to all, and may we raise a cup together (or in a virtual sense) soon!

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