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 aƱejo 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.