Monday, December 26, 2011

The Blazing Fireplace

Here's a spontaneous Christmas drink.  Enjoy and have a very merry one.

1 oz rye whiskey
1 oz cognac
3/4 oz cranberry-apple syrup
3 dashes orange bitters

Shake lightly and strain into a chilled cocktail glass; add about 1 oz chilled brut champagne.  Grate nutmeg on top and smile.

Thursday, December 15, 2011


Especially with the last couple of recipes, I hope that I've impressed on you that this is intended to be more than a rote list of cocktails.  After all, there are many books that fill that niche far more effectively than I could ever hope to.  My intent here is to include recipes for other goodies that require more patience and practice than skill: punches, cordials, bitters, and so on.  For now, let's start with something more basic: syrups.  Syrups are an integral part of many older cocktails and a solid bartender's tool, so I like to keep a couple on hand.  Simple syrup, true to its name, is as easy as it gets to make at home, and flavoring is a breeze.

A simple syrup is nothing more than one part sugar and one part water, heated until the sugar dissolves.  Easy, right?  It appears as a sweetener in many early cocktail recipes because at the time, the word cocktail referred specifically to a base liquor with the addition of sugar, water, and bitters.  Working bartenders soon realized that simple syrup easily replaced two of those ingredients readily.  In later years when cocktail referred to a much broader range of drinks, they applied the potential for adding new flavors.  Raspberry and pineapple syrups both appear in a number of recipes from the years before Prohibition, and both are very simple to make, requiring only a bit of patience.

Honestly, syrups are amenable to endless variation, and since I know of only two syrups that can readily be purchased (and not even good ones at that) you'll likely have to make them on your own.  Rather than giving an exact recipe, here's my standard procedure for just about any syrup.

First, start with 1 1/2 parts sugar to 1 part water.  Quantity is unimportant; you can make a half-cup or a gallon, so long as you start out with this basic ratio.  Yes, I know I said that simple syrup is composed of equal parts water and sugar, but there's good reason for this choice.  Before Prohibition, most spirits were bottled at whatever proof they dripped out of the still at, commonly around 100 (50% alcohol by volume) or higher.  Nowadays, producers typically blend the finished spirit with some water to arrive at a final 80 proof (40% alcohol by volume).  If you're staying true to classic cocktail recipes, you don't need the extra water; in fact, you don't need it if you're making up a new drink either.  Some cocktail writers (such as the esteemed David Wondrich) go with a "rich syrup" with twice as much sugar as water, but I think that's just a bit much.  For one, boiling the syrup will drive off some water anyway; for two, if there are any tiny particles floating around in there, excess sugar can recrystalize around them and leave you with big clumps (basically, wet rock candy).

Add the water and sugar to a pot and apply medium heat, stirring with a whisk or spoon until the sugar is fully dissolved.  Let the mixture come to a simmer (i.e. bubbles just barely breaking the surface) and turn off the heat.  Let the syrup cool until it's warm (i.e. until you can touch the side of the pot without burning yourself) and pour into whatever container you want.  Remember that the final volume of this solution will be roughly the volume of water plus half the volume of sugar; thus, 1 1/2 cups of sugar dissolved in 1 cup of water will make about 1 3/4 cups of syrup.  Easy, right?

For a flavored syrup, pour this while still warm over your ingredient of choice.  The list of available options is endless:

  • fresh raspberries
  • pineapple
  • tart apples (such as Granny Smith)
  • roasted squash (as we've covered in previous recipes)
  • cucumber

Etcetera, etcetera.  After pouring on the syrup, let this stand for about 8 hours, or approximately overnight.  Whether it's finished at that point depends on many factors, so let taste be your guide.  If it's not strong enough, let it stand for another 4 hours, then another 4, and so on.

I can guarantee that the very best tool for this process is a French-style coffee press.  Place the ingredient in the pitcher, pour the syrup over it, and then place the top on with the plunger out.  In the morning you can simply push down and pour off the now-cooled syrup into your container of choice.  If you notice some lingering cloudiness or any small particles in the result, do yourself a favor and run it through a coffee filter (preferably when the syrup is still slightly warm).  This will take some time, but will prevent your syrup from re-crystalizing and forming big, nasty clumps.

The leftovers are usually good for a quick-infused cordial; you can pour in a few ounces of vodka (or brandy, or whatever you've got) to cover and leave it for another 24 hours.  Again, the coffee press is your friend.  This is a strictly optional step, but it seems a shame to let valuable flavors go to waste.  Depending on the specific ingredient, there may be other recycling methods available.  Thinly sliced coins of ginger, for example, make an excellent garnish if candied by tossing in extra sugar and laying them out on a cooling rack to dry.

Now, there are a handful of exceptions to the process above.  Fresh herbs, for instance, work very nicely in syrups (thyme syrup is perhaps my all-time favorite) but get bitter if steeped too long, and they really do need some heat to extract their essence.  These, I simmer (not boil) in the syrup for 20-30 minutes, tasting occasionally (remembering that it's very hot, and that the flavor will sweeten as it cools).  Strain this into a heatproof vessel and let cool.

I'll also blatantly contradict myself by stating that you may want to vary the starting ratio of sugar to water depending on how much water your flavoring agent will contribute.  Pineapple, for instance, is very juicy, and will dilute your syrup as it steeps.  In order to arrive at the target ratio of 3:2, you'll need to reduce the water slightly to compensate.  Likewise, if you're making an herb syrup you may want to add slightly more water to account for evaporation during that half-hour simmer.

Another consideration is what kind of sugar you'll use, as not all are created equally.  The blindingly white, fine variety most commonly found in today's supermarkets is fine, if a bit vanilla: it will contribute sweetness, and not much else.  Natural sugars (turbinado is easy to find) tend to have a more robust flavor which is what you want with, say, pineapple or squash syrups.  But I wouldn't use it with subtle flavors like cucumber, melon, or pear; in these cases the white stuff is perfect because it won't walk over the flavoring agent.  As always, let taste and experience be your guides.

Once you've got the final syrup, bottle and refrigerate it.  If kept tightly sealed this should keep for about a month.  If you're looking for longer storage, take a tip from David Wondrich as I do and spike the syrup with a dash of 151-proof spirits (vodka is preferable because it's neutral, but rum will work too).

Well, now that we've covered that, I won't feel as obligated to write out a full recipe whenever I reference a home-made sweetener.  Yeah, I didn't think you'd mind.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Yuletide Milk Punch

Here's something slightly different for the holidays: a large-bore recipe, suitable for making in bulk.  I'm both giving these as gifts and setting some away for later consumption.  The recipe is largely swiped from David Wondrich's Punch (full of other marvelous tipples too) although I have downsized it and added my own flavors. The result is something like a dessert wine, although more unctuous, and certainly a good deal stiffer.

Again: this is a recipe that you make in bulk, mostly because it's a pain and hardly worth making in miniature.  For the adventurous, it's well worth the journey.

You'll need 2 liters of brandy - preferably something decent, although it's not worth using top-tier cognac.  A reasonable French brandy such as Raynal VSOP is fine.  If you use domestic brandy, pick at least a VSOP (though remember that use of the grading system is unregulated outside of France).  Alternatively, pick out a 1.75L bottle and make up for the missing amount with a nice, rich dark rum such as Gosling's Black Seal.  Interesting results might also be achieved with a good slug of bourbon or rye whiskey.

Peel 4 lemons and 1 orange using a vegetable peeler, avoiding as much of the white pith as possible, and steep them in the liquor for at least 24 hours.  Squeeze as much of the citrus juice as possible into a one-quart jar, fill to the top with water, cover and refrigerate.

When the brandy is ready, pour it into a large pot and add 1 lb of dark natural sugar (such as turbinado).  Pour in the citrus-water blend, refill the jar with cool water, add it, and heat until warm.  Then, add a one-quart container of whole milk and continue heating until the milk curdles.  Grate in one whole nutmeg and half of a cinnamon stick and let infuse for an hour, stirring about every fifteen minutes.  Finally, add one teaspoon of vanilla extract and stir one last time.

Pour this through a fine sieve (a very clean dish towel, pillowcase, t-shirt, etc.) into your storage vessel of choice, squeezing to extract as much liquid as possible.  Discard the resulting curd; technically the stuff is edible, but I don't think the term "delicious" applies, certainly not without careful preparation for a deep-fry. Refrigerate the punch for a couple of days, letting what must settle do its business, then carefully pour off into clean bottles.  Use a coffee filter and a funnel to avoid both impurities and waste.

You can refrigerate the bottles or store them at cellar temperature (i.e. cool, but not cold).  The final product can be served many ways.  Pour it over ice and you have a lovely digestif; add soda water with a dash of bitters, and you have an apertif.  Add even more soda water (bitters optional) for a cooling long drink, or add hot water instead for a warming one (a little extra sugar and grating of nutmeg are welcome).

Best of all, Milk Punch makes a wonderful gift.  Slap on labels if you want, ribbons if you like, bows if you must, and hand the bottles out at your Annual Winter Holiday Celebration of Choice.  Most of all, please do enjoy.

Friday, December 9, 2011

NAFTA Cooler

I'm mostly recording this on the basis of its name, which emerged spontaneously from what I had at hand.

3/4 oz bourbon (mmmmm, Buffalo Trace)
3/4 oz añejo tequila
3/4 oz aged rum (I used Pusser's, which has both a fascinating history and a wonderful funk)
1/2 oz rich ginger syrup (use Turbinado or other natural sugar, with a sugar-to-water ratio of about 1.5:1)
Juice of 1/2 lime

Pour over ice in a Collins glass, stir well, and fill with soda water.

I love long drinks.  Amazingly, this remains refreshing despite the cold weather where I live.  The result is something like a deep and complex Long Island Iced Tea.  Alternate name: the Panama Canal Iced Tea.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Uppercut

I don't know why it's named this, other than the punch it packs.

1 1/2 oz aquavit (use the aged Norwegian varietyLinie is a good go-to brand)
1/2 oz maraschino liqueur (Luxardo, as always)
1/2 oz Cynar (everyone's favorite artichoke apertif! yes, really.)
1/4 oz lime juice
1 dash absinthe

Stir vigorously and strain into a chilled cocktail glass; spear a brandied cherry and stir into the drink as garnish.

This is a rather incisive drink, filled with bitter orange, cherry, dark spices, and rich herbs.  I'd also be happy to try this with brandy (something fairly young, 3 years or less) or a rye whiskey in place of the aquavit, but would bet it wouldn't be quite as interesting.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Pirate

Like the Cougar Bite, this is an older drink of mine, one that found its way onto the list of the restaurant where I sporadically tend bar.  Unlike the Cougar Bite, though, it never did sell particularly well and fell victim to the seasonality of its main sweetening agent.  I honestly don't give a damn, though - this is still one of my absolute favorite cocktails.

I think of this as very much a bartender's drink rather than a mixologist's.  For one, it was conceived as a way to use up some extra bottles of E&J brandy that had been accidentally ordered by our manager.  For two, it's a relatively simple drink, and quick to turn out.  For three, it's very amenable to substitution and adjustment, making it really more a class of drinks (like the Collins) than a single recipe.

Here's the original form, the so-called Colonial Pirate:

1 1/2 oz brandy (E&J, as noted above, but any will do, though VSOP-grade or better is preferable)
3/4 oz rich pineapple syrup*
1 large dash Fee's Aztec Chocolate bitters
1 large dash Fee's Aromatic bitters**

Shake the above lightly, strain into a cocktail glass, and top off with about 1oz of dry sparkling wine to taste (Champagne, Cava, California bubbly, whatever you've got).

*This one actually is easy, unlike that damned squash syrup.  Bring a syrup of two cups turbinado or other natural sugar and one cup water to a simmer, then pour over a peeled and cored pineapple sliced into 1/2 inch cubes.  Let stand for 24 hours and pour through a fine strainer, making sure to reserve the pineapple cubes, as they make a very nice garnish if rolled in additional fine sugar and dried on a cooling rack.

**We used to use a ras el hanout bitters in the restaurant, but this makes a reasonable substitute.

Again, this is a drink with endless potential for variation.  Ran out of brandy and need to use rum?  No problem - you'll have a Caribbean Pirate (I sometimes name them specifically after the island from whence the rum hails, resulting in the "Barbados Pirate", "Cuban Pirate", etc.)  The Dutch Pirate is made with genever in place of the brandy; the Scandinavian Pirate uses aquavit, which results in perhaps my favorite variation.  And so on.  Vary the fruit, if you like - just stick with a medium-dark natural sugar.  Mango makes an excellent alternative, though you should add a dash of lime juice to compensate for the missing tartness.  For any of these, vary the amount of bubbly to taste; add slowly, stir and taste frequently.  You want to add crispness without overwhelming the drink's spicy, rich texture.  I'm gonna go make another one.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Three Passionfruit Drinks

Had some Passionfruit Juice sitting around and decided to play around with it.  Here are three satisfactory resulting recipes, all built upon the same basic formula:

2 oz bourbon
3/4 oz red vermouth
2 dashes Angostura bitters
3 oz passionfruit juice
(if using a particularly fragrant vermouth like Carpano Antica, as I did, the bitters can and should be omitted)

2 oz 5-year rum (I used the El Dorado from Guyana)
3/4 oz Benedictine
2 dashes spare mint tincture*
3 oz passionfruit juice
*(this is incredibly easy to make, if time-intensive: next time you make a few Mojitos, save the mint stems, break them up into 1-inch lengths, and steep in vodka for around 4-6 months, shaking every week or so, then strain off)

2 oz gin (any style, from Old Tom to London Dry to oude genever, would be appropriate here)
3/4 maraschino liqueur (again the Luxardo, obviously)
2 dashes Fee's Cranberry Bitters
3 oz passionfruit juice

For all of the above, fill a double old-fashioned glass (or something around 10-12 oz) with cracked ice and add the ingredients; slap on a shaker tin, agitate, and pour unstrained back into the mixing glass.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Squashed Sour

Hooray for judicious experimentation.

1 1/2 oz aquavit (try the North Shore if you can, it's awesome)
1/2 oz vodka (for weight)
1 oz squash syrup (yes, homemade - it's relatively easy*)
1 oz orange juice
1/2 oz lemon juice
1 egg white

Shake well and strain into an old-fashioned over fresh rocks.  This is a surprisingly refreshing drink, slightly savory and vegetal yet snappy, with a creamy texture.  Again, hooray for experimentation.

*Slice a butternut, acorn, or kombucha squash in half, scoop out the seeds/goo, and place cut side up in a pan.  Roast in a 350°F oven for about 15 minutes, then let cool and cut away from the skin into 1/2 inch cubes (more or less).  Place 3 cups sugar (light and natural is good) and 2 cups water in a pan and bring to a simmer, then pour over the squash cubes in a large heatproof vessel.  Toss in 5 cloves, 5 decently-sized coins of freshly sliced ginger, and 1 cinnamon stick, stir, and let stand for at least 8 hours, or overnight.  Strain well, bottle, and refrigerate; this will make about a liter of syrup.  For longer preservation, dash in 1-2 oz of 151-proof spirits.

Okay, so it's not exactly easy.  But it is tasty and oddly versatile.  For a pleasing non-alcoholic variation, try one part syrup to two parts orange juice and three parts soda water.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Shotgun Wedding

I seriously appreciate the Honeymoon Cocktail.  Here is a riff on that delight, cobbled together from ingredients at hand.

2 oz bourbon (I used Buffalo Trace)
1/2 oz Benedictine
1/2 oz lemon juice
1/2 oz orange juice
3 dashes Fee's Peach Bitters

Shake and strain over fresh rocks in an old-fashioned glass.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Collins Variations

Three cheers for the classic long drink: the Collins!  One of my favorites, especially for lazy weekend afternoons.  Here are two straightforward riffs on the basic recipe:

San Domingo Collins
2 oz gold rum (I used an El Dorado 5 Year Demerara, but Barbados 5 Year would be even better)
1 oz pineapple syrup
Juice of 1/2 lime

Pour into a tall glass filled with ice and stir generously.  Fill with soda water, give another good stir, and sip.

Picard Collins
2 oz London Dry gin (Boodles, of course)
1 oz Dubonnet Rouge
1 dash rich simple syrup
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Same procedure as the previous recipe.

Yes, the second is named after Jean-Luc, hence revealing my nerd heritage.  As a kid, I used to love ST:TNG; as an adult, I've found it wonderful that Patrick Steward (as stalwart an English actor as could be) played a Frenchman for seven seasons.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Peacoat

Invented on a whim, surprisingly delicious!  What more can you ask for?

1 oz London Dry gin (again, the lovely Boodles)
1/2 oz Noilly Prat dry vermouth
1/2 oz chai-infused red vermouth (this one, you must make... I like the recipe from Speakeasy)
1/2 oz Tuaca
1 oz Prometheus Springs Spicy Pear Elixir (I found this at my local co-op... yum)
1 dash demerara simple syrup
1 dash orange bitters

Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass; garnish with an orange wheel.

Spices from all over the spectrum in this one, from the bright juniper notes of gin to dark cardamom and black pepper.  Just the right amount of sweetness and a touch of lingering spice.  I would be proud to serve this anywhere I go.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Gondolier

Just in case I'm not procrastinating enough, here's an after-dinner cocktail recipe that came in a little booklet around the neck of my new bottle of Luxardo maraschino liqueur.  You could make it with another brand, but why would you buy anything other than Luxardo?

Please note that I'm in no way sponsored by or affiliated with the fine folks at Luxardo (though I certainly wouldn't mind an offer...)

2 oz scotch whiskey (no need to waste a single malt here, I used JW Black)
1 oz maraschino liqueur

Pour over rocks in an old-fashioned glass and stir.  Yes, it's that simple.  Add a maraschino cherry if you must garnish.

I didn't expect these two ingredients to get along as well as they do.  The mixture reminds me of Drambuie - mellow, honeyish sweetness; faint spiciness; smoky, scotch-y depth; and a distinct anisette note thanks to the Luxardo (yet another reason to use the right brand).

Also, note that the spelling of scotch "whisky" is a silly modern invention that I refuse to follow.  Live with it.

The First Frost

Okay, so the first frost of the season happened a little while ago (at least where I live) but this drink was conceived in the spirit of cleaning out the garden.  In this case, the "garden" is my collection of one-off infusions.  It's an odd one, I warn you.

3/4 oz rosemary-infused vodka
3/4 oz butternut squash-bourbon liqueur
3/4 oz Tuaca
1/4 oz lime juice
1 dash Fee's Aromatic bitters (optional, but nice)

Shake and strain into a cocktail glass, then garnish with a lime wheel.

Yes, there is a lot here that you have to make at home.  I'm no retailer, but there are approximately zero squash-infused liqueurs on the market.  We'll get into such things at a later date.  To me, this drink is entirely worth the effort, with a bizarre balance between the sharp rosemary flavor and the nutty, buttery squash liqueur mediated by Tuaca's rounded vanilla thing.  The lime juice is just here to keep things from cloying, tone it up or down per your preference.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Red-Eye

Here's a variation on one of my favorite classic cocktails, the Aviation, with an appropriate color adjustment.  Time to break out some very precise measurements:

1 1/2 oz London dry gin (I used the wonderful Boodles, which first got me hooked on gin)
2/3 oz maraschino liqueur (always Luxardo)
1/4 oz Campari (or Aperol)
1/4 oz lemon juice
1/4 oz orange juice (just to round the acidity off a little)

Shake and strain into a cocktail glass, then garnish with a maraschino cherry dropped right into the center.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Back in business

Aaaannnd we're back.  I guess I could apologize for a month's absence, but nobody's really reading so why bother?  It's been a busy month, let's say no more about it.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Scarlett

Beer seems to be the beverage of choice tonight, so let's go with another from the old tasting notes:

1 3/4 oz Old Tom gin (I like Hayman's, mostly because it's all I can find...)
1 oz Dubonnet Rouge (yum)
1/2 oz lemon juice
1 tsp rose-hibiscus syrup (I use this stuff)
2-3 dashes Fee's Cranberry Bitters

Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with a fat twist of lemon.

I wish I were classy enough to name this after Gone With the Wind.  Nope.  I first made it while watching The Prestige.

Dubonnet, by the way, is a fabulous aromatized wine, close cousin to vermouth.  It's a wonderful apertif on its own but also plays nicely with a wide range of liquors.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Turkish Market

Just playing around at home:

1 1/2 oz French brandy (VSOP at least, XO if possible)
1/2 oz apricot liqueur (only the superb Rothman & Winter, please)
1/2 oz chai-spiced red vermouth (I'll link later... Speakeasy provides a good recipe meanwhile)
1/2 oz passionfruit juice

Stir over rocks in a cocktail glass.

A nice, spicy cocktail with a good backdrop of tropical fruit.  Could certainly add a dash of dark rum if using a lighter brandy.  The name is derived from a drink we used to serve at the restaurant where I work, the Turkish Sunrise - a kind of Tequila Sunrise with pomegranate liqueur.  This is a darker, dustier interpretation.

Passionfruit juice is an astoundingly flexible ingredient, although it can be tough to find.  Check your local co-op for now and we'll discuss it later.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Trondheim Cocktail

The second of two Manhattan variations, born from the need to use an old(ish) bottle of Linie.

1 ½ oz aquavit
1 oz dry vermouth (Noilly Prat, please)
1 tsp thyme syrup (an easy and useful simple syrup)
3 dashes Angostura bitters

Again - stir and strain, rocks optional.

Some writers (such as Jason Moore) say that aquavit is difficult to mix with, but I disagree.  It has a predominant caraway flavor with plenty of oaky, herbal tones, which can be built up and accentuated to balance the whole.  I think this cocktail in particular accomplishes that task, squeezing itself into the space between a Dry Manhattan and a Martinez (the Martini's sweeter supposed ancestor).  Thyme syrup is easy to make at home and plays nicely with a whole range of ingredients.

Memphis Cocktail

One of two riffs on the Manhattan:

2 oz Dickel’s Tennessee whiskey
1 oz blanc vermouth (Dolin is excellent)
3 dashes orange bitters (Fee's in this case; would also use their cherry or rhubarb)

Stir well and strain into a... well, a glass.  Rocks are optional with this one, as with the Manhattan.

I'm not a big fan of Jack Daniels, but I do like the only other Tennessee whiskey I've been able to find, which goes by the wonderful name of Dickel's.  It's a lighter, sweeter, and more fragrant whiskey than bourbon, but without the overt spiciness of rye.  You could make a standard Manhattan with it, but I think this is a great opportunity to show off the Dolin Blanc, which pairs the light and floral character of dry vermouth with the mouthfeel and sweetness of red vermouth.

Catching up

Hah - see!  Any of my writings beginning with a manifesto almost immediately fails to meet its stated goal.  No matter, let's just make up for some lost time.

I spent a significant chunk of this weekend behind a bar, and as usual when we're overstaffed, we had some time for experimentation.  We set a goal of utilizing scotch, which we don't sell much of.  What little we do sell is primarily single malt, and served neat, so the poor sad bottle of Johnny Walker Black sits lonely among its fellows on the shelf.  Why not let him have a little fun?

Blended scotch was all the rage about a hundred years ago, and grew to popularity out of marketing genius, capitalizing on the American invasion of a uniquely Scottish phenomenon: golf.  It's a key component in a very classic Manhattan variation, the Rob Roy, which is a damned good drink if made properly.  Dave Wondrich (via Imbibe!) gives a recipe from 1902 made with equal parts scotch and red vermouth, plus a few dashes of orange bitters and lemon peel.  Another favorite of mine is the Marie Taylor, a drink rescued from oblivion by Dr. Cocktail himself (I got the recipe from Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, but the linked recipe is almost identical).  Why the Mamie Taylor ever went out of fashion is beyond me, as it's basically a richer, more interesting Moscow Mule that appeals even to non-scotch-drinkers.

Anyway, scotch doesn't appear in a great number of cocktails, mostly because it's notoriously hard to mix with, but it can be quite effective if well-used.  My first attempt was a rather simple Rob Roy variation made with Johnny Walker Black, Cynar, and Licor 43: easy, tasty, but nothing too far off the beaten path.  Coworker David immediately surprised me by grabbing a handful of fresh strawberries and muddling them with the Johnny Walker and a bit of Grand Marnier to tie things together.  A dash of orange juice completed his attempt, but the result fell flat until I grabbed some Fee's Aztec Chocolate Bitters in a fit of inspiration.  The result had a surprising balance between scotch-chocolate richness and strawberry-orange tartness, although I would love to swap the Marnier for a liqueur with some vanilla character like Tuaca, plus maybe an egg for texture...

Having passed these two around to the staff, we started deviating from our original mission.  David took aim at the row of amaros that have been steadily accumulating on the back shelf of the bar, while I reached for a recent addition: St. George absinthe.  I was slightly nervous about tequila as a base, but a resposado (in this case, Aguavales Gold, which is very good for the price) worked wonderfully when paired again with Licor 43.  The herbs and spices in all three teamed up wonderfully, although I would have loved to try an añejo if we carried one.

We'll squeeze recipes out of these yet; for now, they're still just ideas.  I hope you don't mind the banter.  I'll make up the missing recipes with some oldies from my tasting notebook.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Cougar Bite

Just to establish some credentials, this is my best-selling contribution to the drink list at the restaurant where I work.  The others will be revealed later.

1 1/2 oz bourbon (a good spicy bourbon is best, proof-strength even better)
1 oz red vermouth (I like a good bittersweet version, say Cinzano Rosso or Punt e Mes)
3/4-1 oz green Chartreuse (I prefer more to less, but I like the stuff; if it's too much for you, the yellow version is an acceptable substitute)

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

I just love this drink.  It's dark, old-school, and wonderfully layered.  The idea was sparked by a conversation about the equally lovely Tipperary Cocktail, but the name is derived from one of my favorites, the Widow's Kiss.  This version is somewhat more... intense.

3rd-Floor-Patio Punch

We're moving soon, and I'm going to miss our patio.  Where I live, the weather has been wonderful as summer fades into fall, and I wanted a drink that would suit.  Plus, I've gotta clean out the fridge, right?

1 oz pisco (I used Capel, whih is easy to find)
3/4 oz elderflower liqueur (homemade, but you could use St. Germain)
3/4 oz pear-infused cognac (I used an inexpensive apertif brand made by L'Heraud, which seems to be tough to find online, although others are available)
1/4 oz fresh lime juice
1 dash absinthe

Muddle the pisco with about 1/4 medium cucumber, seeded (or seedless) and then add the remaining ingredients.  Shake well with ice to pulverize the vegetation, then double-strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with a half cucumber wheel.  If you want, you can get fancy and "season" the glass with the absinthe; I'm convinced it doesn't affect the flavor, but it's a traditional flourish for those what wants.

Equally good, as it turned out, was the obviously-named Patty Collins:

Take the above ingredients, then double the lime juice and cut the absinthe entirely.  Pour over rocks in a Collins glass, then add soda water to taste; about 2 oz was perfect for me.  Garnish with a cucumber wheel or two.

Maybe a bit late for the season, but tasty, both of em.

Take 1

I've started dozens of journals and blogs and writings with a manifesto, only to completely forget about my grand ideas the next day.  So fuck that, here is a short and carefully cultivated statement:

This is, basically, a public drink journal.  I've kept one for a while, but when away from my home and computer I wind up scribbling notes and recipes on a piece of paper, which usually winds up in the wash.  So goes a lush's lifestyle.  An online "notebook" gives me somewhat more flexibility; if it means I can also share these things with whoever happens upon them, then hooray!  I love the 21st century.

Whoever reads this is likely to know me, so I'll explain only my background on the subject matter.  I'm relatively new to mixology and still working my way around, which doesn't mean that I haven't sampled a fair number of items.  I've worked behind a bar making drinks but have never formally held a position as a bar-tender.  I've read a few books on the topic (inserts kudos to David Wondrich and Ted Haigh, whose books have spurred my own writing) and am eager to put my own thoughts down.  I'm still developing my own style of drinks and I like to test my palate frequently.

Hence, the Main Idea: a drink per weekday, banter optional.