Saturday, July 27, 2013

Malaccan Madness

I was thrilled to hunt down a couple bottles of Tanqueray Malacca today - I'd bought a couple before, recently after the news of its reissue, but the supply in my local market seems to be drying up and I found only one store with remaining stock.  I might have to invest in a couple more, or exercise more willpower in using the stuff.  It's really a very lovely gin, and I hope that its current limited run gets extended.

Anyway, should you have an open bottle of your own, here's a nice way to sling it around (although Malacca seems to work well in just about any pre-Prohibition gin cocktail).  What with this name, it's entirely brand-specific (sorry about that) but you could use another relatively soft, Old Tom style gin.  Seek out the real deal if you can.

2 oz Tanqueray Malacca gin
1/2 oz Licor 43
1/3 oz lemon juice
1 dash creme de violette
1 dash aromatic bitters
1 dash Bittercube Bolivar bitters

Shake briefly and strain over a large ice cube.  Garnish with a twist of lemon if you feel.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Notebook Cocktail #9

Somewhere in here I had a rather unhealthy fixation on double-base cocktails, meaning those that combine two different liquors in equal proportion.  Classic examples such as the Vieux Carre are among my favorite drinks (you may have noticed a couple variations) and I like trying to get spirits playing off one another.  It's a damned difficult trick to pull off; out of maybe a half-dozen cocktails that I vaguely recall, this was the only one enjoyable enough to deserve recording.

1 oz rye (Wild Turkey here)
1 oz Bak's Bison Grass vodka
3/4 oz Cynar
1/4 oz Licor 43
2 dashes aromatic bitters

Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass; garnish with a wide swath of orange peel.

And that, my friends, concludes the run of Notebook Cocktails (representing maybe 10% at most of my output during this latest hiatus).  I'll try to spread these out a little in future.  In the meantime, I wish all of you a very pleasant July 4th weekend (those of you reading from the U.S., anyway).

Notebook Cocktail #8

This was just born out of playing with a range of liqueurs taking up space in my cabinet.

1 oz London Dry gin (you could bump this up to 1 1/2 oz if using a less-assertive gin)
1/2 oz triple sec (Luxardo's version has become my favorite, but any will do)
1/2 oz Pimm's Cup No. 1
1/2 oz Aperol
1 oz lime juice

Shake well and strain over fresh ice.  Garnish with an orange wheel if you're feeling fancy.

Notebook Cocktail #7

Basically a French 75 variant using some of the ingredients on hand.  We tried a couple different versions with one citrus or another before splitting the difference.

2 oz London Dry gin (really any gin would do fine here; cheap gin would be suitably authentic)
3/4 oz rhubarb syrup (the same lightly-spiced version from N.C. #6)
3/4 oz lime juice
3/4 oz grapefruit juice (I used a nice sweet Ruby Red variety)

Shake and strain over fresh ice, then top with about 2 oz rose cava or champagne (I think we actually used a Baron de Seillac Brut Rose, which is from Provence and therefore technically neither, but that's irrelevant; anything pink and bubbly and dry will do fine).

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Notebook Cocktail #6

This one actually comes with a proper name ("The Greenway Sour") but it's in the same notepad as the others, so it counts as a Notebook Cocktail.  It may be one of my favorites.

1 oz white rum (Plantation 3 Star, duh)
1 oz London Dry gin (Beefeater in this case, but my love of Boodles is well known)
3/4 oz rhubarb syrup (a slightly spiced version with nutmeg and lemon peel)
3/4 oz lime juice

Shake briefly and strain over ice, then top with about 1 1/2 oz charged cucumber water (an excellent mixer and a fine use for those left-over cucumber solids).

Notebook Cocktail #5

This one should look like a recombination of some of the ingredients from the last few Notebook Cocktails, mostly because it's exactly that.

2 oz white rum (Plantation 3 Star again)
1 1/4 oz cryo-cucumber juice (for which see N.C. #4)
3/4 oz mango shrub (nearly identical to the cranberry version from N.C. #1)
1 large dash Bittercube Bolivar bitters*

Stir well over ice and top with about 1 oz soda water.

*Troublesome brand specifications again, I know.  The problem in this case is that I really don't know anything that is quite like these particular bitters.  You could maybe try a dash each of Peychaud's and orange, but it won't be nearly the same thing.

Notebook Cocktail #4

This one surprised me enough to write down.  I don't usually care much for coconut water; nor apparently does my wife, who bought a small carton only to take a small sip and immediately declare her disgust.  Using the remainder immediately became my challenge of the evening.

2 oz Bak's Bison Grass vodka (other brands would presumably be fine)
3/4 oz thyme syrup (fairly rich with a small touch of honey in my version)
1 1/2 oz coconut water
1 1/2 oz "cryo-juiced" cucumber juice*
1 oz lemon juice

Stir vigorously over ice and add a quick charge of soda water.  Alternatively, combine the above in the appropriate proportions and charge the whole thing in your soda siphon.

*This stuff is amazing.  I found the recipe (or method, really) in Kevin Liu's excellent new book (the companion blog reprints occasional sections for those of you who want a representative sample) and have been making it every week since then.  It's delicious and couldn't be easier.  Just slice a cucumber or two into very thin wheels (a mandolin is nice for this) then pop them into a resealable plastic bag and chuck into the freezer.  Once frozen, pull the bag out, let the cucumbers thaw completely (I recommend a drip tray from personal experience) and then return to the freezer for a second go.  Once fully frozen and thawed again, pop the bag's top and pour off the resulting juice, squeezing the cucumbers through the bag to extract every drop you can.  One reasonably sized cucumber seems to yield about 4-5 oz of bright green juice.  Don't toss the drained wheels, either - you can drop them back into a pitcher to make cucumber water.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Notebook Cocktail #3

This one is a bit of a dick move.  I'm sorry.

1 1/2 oz oak-aged St. George Dry Rye gin
3/4 oz green Chartreuse
3/4 oz red vermouth
1 large dash Jerry Thomas' Own Decanter bitters

Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass; flame a large swath of orange peel over the top.

The problem with this drink is that it's so brand-specific.  Personally, I love St. George Dry Rye for being so crazy unique; aging it for a month is just icing on the cake.  If I were to even attempt substitution, it would probably be with equal parts good bourbon, Bols genever (the barrel-aged version would be best), and Plymouth gin.  Does that sound insane or delicious?  That will probably determine your reaction to this oaky version of a Bijou Cocktail.

Notebook Cocktail #2

Here's a sort of vaguely julep-style concoction, created largely because I had a huge bundle of mint to use up.  Also, Armagnac, which I love deeply.

1 oz Armagnac brandy
1 oz rye whiskey
1/2 oz passionfruit juice
1/4 oz mango shrub
1 dash aromatic bitters (Angostura in this case)
1 large bunch mint (about 20 leaves)
1 Demerara sugar cube

Muddle the mint and sugar in a mixing glass (add a small dash of water if needed).  Add ice, shake briefly, and strain over fresh finely cracked ice.  Garnish with a fresh bunch of mint.

Notebook Cocktail #1

I've been making a lot of shrubs lately - they're easy and tasty and flexible.  Here is a simple and straightforward way to use them:

1 1/2 oz rye whiskey (I can't remember what brand, but 100-proof is recommended)
3/4 oz Cocchi Americano
3/4 oz cranberry shrub* (see below)

Shake and strain over one large cube in a double old-fashioned glass.

I also wrote down a variation using Plantation Three Star (my new go-to white rum) which turned out nicely.

*Lightly muddle 1 cup of fresh cranberries in a large mason jar, then add 1/2 cup each of apple cider vinegar and white wine vinegar.  Let this infuse in the refrigerator for a week, shaking every other day, then add 1 1/2 cups raw sugar.  Let this infuse for another week, shaking daily, then fine-strain into a clean container.  Add about 1/2 oz 100-proof (or higher) neutral grain spirit and keep refrigerated.

Return Redux

Whooo, sudden absences and apologetic returns!  It's becoming something of a regular event.

Chalk this one up to equal parts intimidation and laziness.  Over the last few months, I've been doing a lot less original mixing, and much more of two alternatives: easy long drinks, and carefully sampled classics.  The former includes endless, mindless riffs on the Collins or Gin & Tonic or a quick sangria; a tall, inoffensive, easily assembled drink is about all you need sometimes.  The latter involves mixing the same thing over and over again with small variations in recipe and proportion.  I see this as a really helpful exercise to compare different brand, test the effects of small changes on a known recipe, and hone my palate, but it doesn't exactly make for interesting reading.  I write here when I think there's something worth writing, and that has been recently lacking.

I'm quite impressed at the number of really good cocktail books and blogs floating around these days, and when I read them it's hard to feel especially creative.  When I try an original recipe, the result is often a bit disappointing in comparison to those culled from other sources.  That doesn't exactly stop me from trying again, but it does discourage me from writing down my recipes.  Which has to change, I think, for two main reasons.  First, these are people who have spent much more time experimenting and refining than I have, and it's crazy to expect that every one of my own drinks should rival theirs.  Second, the whole point of a log is to remember and refine, and I'm doing so only in fragments.

So, in the spirit of getting back on track, allow me to present a whole slew of recipes that deserved to be recorded (or at least I thought so at the time).  I'm transcribing these from a notepad usually reserved for writing down phone numbers or sketching ideas.  They're a bit all over the place and none of them have names, but they are finally here.  Enjoy.