Thursday, May 31, 2012

Chattanooga Cooler

I know this drink is in no way representative of the city of Chattanooga (apologies if you live in Tennessee) but I just like the name.  It just kinda rolls off the tongue, and the drink turned out quite well too.

1 1/4 oz white whiskey
3/4 oz rose petal liqueur
3/4 oz peach shrub

Pour over plentiful ice in a Collins glass and add 2-3 oz of soda water to taste.  Stir well and garnish with a lemon wheel.

I know, I know - you'll have to make two of these ingredients yourself.  Neither is too hard, really.  For the liqueur, combine 1 tablespoon dried rose petals with 1 cup 100-proof vodka and 1/2 cup of regular simple syrup (a 1:1 ratio of water to sugar) then let infuse for a week or so.  The shrub is even more flexible, if a bit more difficult, although you can make as much or as little as desired.  Just take 1 part chopped and pitted fresh peach, and add 1 part apple cider vinegar or champagne vinegar.  Let this infuse in the refrigerator for a week, then strain and add 1 part sugar.  Keep this in the fridge, shaking every day for a week or so until the sugar has all dissolved, then use wherever - non-alcoholic sodas, cocktails such as the one above, or on top of pancakes.  Seriously, that last one is worth a shot.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Soda Siphon Experiments

With the approach of warmer weather, I've been spending a lot more time perched on our patio, drink in one hand, book in the other.  That drink is usually a long one, something thirst-quenching and relatively low in alcohol - a caress rather than a punch.  Most recently, I've been experimenting with my beloved soda siphon, using it to construct pre-made carbonated cocktails.

Once you've got a decent set of bar tools and glassware, a soda siphon is a logical step in specialized equipment.  Sure, they cost a little bit, and the chargers aren't free either, although you can find them cheap in bulk online.  Yet a splash of soda water adds life and lightness to many drinks, and opens up a whole world of easy homemade sodas when you want (or need) something non-alcoholic.  You can buy acrid, overly sharp soda water in bottles that go flat within hours of opening, or you can bite the bullet and invest in the tools to make your own on demand.  I think it's obvious which route I recommend.

Not included in the manufacturer's directions (which you should obviously read) is the possibility for adding more than just water to your siphon.  It's best not to use anything very acidic or thick, since you don't want to corrode or gum up the inner workings, but that still leaves a lot of room to maneuver.  For example, I poured in a somewhat boring bottle of sweet rhubarb wine, augmented with a splash of crisp Sauvignon Blanc and topped off with water.  After charging and letting rest in the fridge (which helps hold the carbonation better for some reason) I had a light and refreshing sparkling wine spritzer enjoyed by all.

Below is an example of a general formula I've hashed out over time.  The proportions make for a light and refreshingly bitter highball, best served in a tall glass with plentiful ice.  You can serve as much or as little as desired, and substitute ingredients to your whim.

This particular recipe is a riff on the Americano, the father of the Negroni, with a couple of well-placed accents.  The weirdo total volume is because a 1-liter soda siphon holds slightly less than that when you account for a small amount of necessary airspace.

200 ml Aperol (or Campari)
100 ml gin (London Dry, Old Tom, or Hendrick's are all welcome)
50 ml maraschino liqueur (Luxardo, duh)
600 ml cucumber water

Pour into a 1-liter soda siphon, charge, and let chill for at least 2 hours.  Pour slowly over plentiful ice and garnish with cucumber slices.

If you're not using a siphon, use the following proportions per serving.

1 1/3 oz Aperol; 2/3 oz gin; 1/3 oz Luxardo; 2 oz soda water; 2 oz cucumber water

Again, this is a formula highly amenable to substitution.  Try the following combinations in the same proportions as above.

Cynar - silver tequila - St. Germain - cantaloupe water

Punt e Mes - blended scotch - Cointreau - lemon water

I have a few tonic recipes around and may try a precharged version soon.  It's getting close to G&T season. In the meantime, any of these do very nicely.

Saturday, May 26, 2012


More playing around with mezcal.

3/4 oz Sombra mezcal
1 1/4 oz pineapple-tequila-sage liqueur (you'll have to make this one yourself, although I may very well provide a recipe soon)
1/2 oz Cocchi Americano

Stir well over ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with a lime coin squeezed on both sides to express the oil and juice and drop in.

This one was experimental but worked out very nicely indeed.

Sunday, May 20, 2012


I was absolutely delighted to receive an order of exotic spirits this week, which had been hunted down specifically because I'd never seen their ilk in any of my local liquor stores.  Among them was a bottle of Sombra mezcal, a spirit I'd been itching to experiment with.  I popped it open almost immediately.  "Whoa!" I called to my wife, "this smells like somebody chucked a pineapple into a campfire."  To which she wrinkled her nose and agreed.

Turns out, I wasn't far off.  The process of making mezcal, a cousin of tequila, consists of digging a large pit, filling it with hot rocks, then tossing in a bunch of agave piƱa (also the Spanish for "pineapple", which it closely resembles).  After roasting for days, these are mashed and left to ferment, finally resulting in a powerful spirit that tastes something like tequila infused with cigar smoke.  The silver Sombra mezcal that I received is particularly intense, and it took some taming.  Still, it holds its flavor very well in cocktails, and lends a resounding smoky flavor.

This particular drink was just me playing around, and is named after the place where Sombra is made: Oaxaca, Mexico.  Silver jewelry shops are a major component of the tourist trade there.

1 oz Sombra mezcal
1 oz pineapple-infused tequila (I used resposado
1/2 oz Cynar
1/2 oz kumquat syrup
1 dash lime juice

Shake with plentiful ice and pour into an old-fashioned glass; garnish with a caramelized pineapple slice if you're feeling fancy, or nothing if you're feeling lazy.

Peach Pit II

This is a simple rework of the Peach Pit with a more assertive peachiness.  I liked the original, but I regard this as an improvement.

1 1/2 oz peach-infused Laird's Applejack
3/4 oz Bols genever
3/4 oz Lillet Rose (Cocchi Americano would be appropriate, but reduce to 1/2 oz)
2 dashes peach bitters
2 dashes aromatic bitters

Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass; garnish with a slice of dried peach.

This has a lingering peach sweetness backed up by some malty spice, but it's not quite as rich as the original.  That makes the whole cocktail much fresher, akin to biting into a sour peach rather than a sweet peach.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Jimador's Fortune

My wife told me to use up a few things in the fridge, so I did - with very successful results.  The name is a mash-up of the Spanish term for those who harvest the blue agave that makes tequila and the genus of the kumquat family.  Turns out that the two play very nicely together.

2 oz resposado tequila
1/3 oz (2 barspoons) raw agave nectar
7 kumquats
2 fresh sage leaves
2 dashes aleppo chili tincture

Cut the kumquats in half, setting one half aside for garnish; muddle the others with the sage and tequila, then add the agave and aleppo tincture.  Shake well with ice and double-strain (through a fine filter) into a chilled double old-fashioned glass.  Top off with a squirt or two of soda water to taste and drop in the final kumquat half (or wrap it in a sage leaf on a pick) as garnish.

I for one love aleppo - the restaurant where I work uses it in a variety of spice blends.  It's a relatively mild and fruity chili that adapts very well to mixology.  I use this tincture all over the place to add a little heat and a nice sweet-smoky character.  It's very easy to make; all you need do is combine a heaping tablespoon of ground aleppo (pretty much the only way you'll find it) with a cup or so of high-proof vodka (Everclear, if you can find it, if not a 100-plus proof at least).  Let that sit for a week or so, shaking daily, and pour through a fine strainer.  I bottle the finished product in a dropper for precise application, or you can use a bitters-style cruet to add small dashes.

Black & Blue

One final Sazerac version, this one with a strong dark fruit focus.

1 1/2 Clear Creek Blue Plum Brandy (yum; one of the best digestifs I can imagine)
1/2 oz rye whiskey
1 barspoon blueberry-blackberry-black pepper syrup

Rinse a rocks glass with absinthe and set in the freezer.  Pour listed ingredients over ice and stir, then strain into the prepared glass.  Squeeze a lemon coin over the drink; drop in if you're feeling straightforward, discard it and add a blueberry instead if you're feeling fancy.

I admit that this one doesn't work perfectly with the standard Sazerac preparation - I'd rather see it in classic, straight-up Cocktail form with a nice dash of bitters to round out the unaged brandy and rounded fruit flavors.  Not that this is entirely unsuccessful, or I wouldn't post it here.


Another Sazerac rendition, this one using rhum agricole.  This name comes from the original colonial name of Haiti, where Rhum Barbancourt is made.

1 1/2 oz Rhum Barbancourt (I used the 8-year-old Five Star, but the slightly younger Three Star would be fine too)
1/2 rye whiskey
1 barspoon pineapple syrup

Rinse a rocks glass with absinthe and set in the freezer.  Pour listed ingredients over ice and stir, then strain into the prepared glass.  Squeeze an orange peel coin over the drink and drop in for garnish.

I like the way the absinthe here reinforces the herbal character of the Barbancourt while the rye gives it a little bit of characteristic Sazerac edge.  This makes me want to try a half-and-half blend in Improved Cocktail format (a fancified Jerry Thomas rendition with dashes of maraschino and absinthe).  Might pop up here before too long...

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Dutch Quarter

I had a taste for genever and a taste for a Sazerac at the same time, so I made this.  It became one of a couple variations, which will be chronicled next.

2 oz genever (must be an oude, and I like Bols)
1 barspoon (1/6 oz) blackberry syrup
2 dashes Peychaud's bitters
2 dashes aromatic bitters

Rinse a rocks glass with absinthe (I use an atomizer, which coats the inside of a glass with little waste) and set in the freezer.  Pour listed ingredients over ice and stir, then strain into the prepared glass.  Squeeze a lemon coin over the drink; drop in if you're feeling straightforward, discard it and add a blackberry instead if you're feeling fancy.

Genever and blackberry have a pleasant synthesis, sort of like bourbon and peaches.  Genever also responds to the Sazerac treatment very well with its nice maltiness and juniper spice.  The name here is a double homage to the origin of the Sazerac (New Orleans) and the origin of genever.  This recipe would not unduly suffer from substituting 1/2 oz of the genever for cognac, just to smooth things out a little bit.  I might try adding black pepper somehow, either in the syrup or by infusing a small amount of absinthe.