Friday, April 25, 2014

Grandfather Cocktails

I somehow managed to delete this post!  I'll reconstruct it as best I can...

I recently re-read Jason Wilson's Boozehound - a very entertaining exploration of unusual booze categories.  One of my favorite chapters goes into detail about amaros, the Italian bitter liqueurs best exemplified in this country by Campari.  I've included Cynar (wonderful, bizarre, artichoke-y goodness) in a few recipes, but haven't explored many other amaros on my own before.  A few weeks ago, I decided to splurge and try a couple that I'd never worked with before.

I wound up with bottles of Averna and Zucca.  These share a dark, intense, herbal quality but have very different takes.  Averna is appropriately Sicilian, full of black liquorice, orange peel, and a hint of walnut.  Zucca focuses on jammy red fruit, dark spices, and an interesting astringency (possibly from the inclusion of rhubarb).

Both of these are quite pleasant on their own over ice with a liberal splash of soda water; this makes for a simple, bittersweet apertif.  I've also seen them used in recipes like the Black Manhattan, but thought they might really shine as supplements in a classic old-fashioned.

#1 (Papa Averna)

2 oz aged rum (Plantation 20th Anniversary, because that's how I roll)
1/2 oz Averna
1/4 oz orgeat (homemade)
2 dashes orange bitters (Regan's No. 6)

Stir over ice in a cocktail glass.  Garnish with orange peel, if you want.

#2 (Papa Zucca)

2 oz bourbon (delicious Willett Pot Still Reserve)
1/2 oz Zucca
1/4 oz orgeat (I had a bunch left over from some as-yet-unposted Easter cocktails)
2 dashes aromatic bitters (Angostura)

Stir over ice in a cocktail glass.  Garnish with a cocktail cherry, if you're feeling fancy.

These are both old-fashioned and bitter - hence the term "grandfather cocktails".  Get it?!?  (Sorry, I occasionally fall victim to compulsive punning.)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Improbable Tonic

One of the things about making your own tonic syrup is that you really don't use much for each drink, and the potential uses are admittedly more limited than a straightforward flavored syrup.  So what do you do with a whole ton of tonic syrup, with nary a drop of gin, aquavit, etc. in sight?  You do insane things, that's what.

Before you go judging this recipe on the merits of its appearance, try one.  This is bizarre, unexpected synergy in a glass.

2 oz medium-dry sherry (rainwater madiera might work too)
1 oz white rum (Plantation 3 Star; I wouldn't use anything too dry, i.e. Bacardi)
1/3 oz spiced tonic syrup (up to 1/2 oz depending on your batch)

Combine over ice and stir, then top with 1-2 oz soda water to taste.

I know, I know - that looks like a fucking train wreck.  It was only through the miracle of multiple previous drinks that this combination even occurred to me, and then just as a sort of befuddled curiosity.  I've never been more pleased to be proven wrong.

Spiced Tonic Syrup

Once even the first inkling of warm weather starts cropping up after such a long and vicious winter, my thoughts immediately turn to tonic.  There are some bottled versions that I like (though nothing that comes in plastic will do) but assuming you possess a soda siphon, the real way to roll is making your own.  This also allows for creative license to help deal with things like snow while you're trying to make tonic, by upping the warm, wintery spice profile.

The basic recipe here comes courtesy of Maggie Savarino's Seasonal Cocktail Companion, which is a great source for creative homemade booze-projects.

4 cups water
2 1/2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons cinchona bark
3 tablespoons citric acid
3 tablespoons dried citrus peel (homemade is easy; mine was an equal mix of lemon and orange)
1 tablespoon coriander
1 teaspoon juniper berries
1 teaspoon cracked grains of paradise (use 1/2 teaspoon of white pepper if you can't find these)
1 teaspoon crushed cinnamon

Bring the water to a boil, add the sugar, stir until dissolved, then reduce the heat to low.  Add the remaining ingredients and simmer for 30 minutes.  Let cool, double-strain, and keep refrigerated in an airtight container.

Applications are obvious - gin and vodka would be the most straightforward, but I encourage you to explore others.  Pisco and aquavit are among my favorites.  For any of the above, use about 1/2 oz of tonic syrup to 2 oz spirit, topped off with 3-4 oz of soda water to taste.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Cool Cucumber

Here's a random, tasty, and simple highball.  You're welcome.

2 oz pisco (Capel)
2 oz cryo-cucumber juice
1/2 oz cilontrastic syrup (yum)
1/2 oz lime juice (fresh, duh)

Shake with plentiful ice, then pour unstrained into a pint glass.  Top with 3-4 oz soda water to taste.  Top with a dash of your favorite bitters (I used a homemade spiced-apple bitters).

I love spring!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Tasting #2

In the wake of my first, wildly successful cocktail tasting, I was incredibly pleased to have the chance at another.  This wound up being a much rowdier time, with a surprising amount of yelling and karaoke.  It was also a shitload of fun!  A big thanks to Chris and Bridget for inviting me and hosting.

2 oz gin
½ oz maraschino liqueur
¾ oz lemon juice
To build: Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry.
Other notes: The original recipe adds a dash of violet liqueur (crème de violette) for a pale, light blue color, hence the name. But this simpler version is just as tasty.

2 oz gin
½ oz Dolin blanc vermouth
¼ oz maraschino liqueur
2 dashes Regan's No. 6 orange bitters
2 dashes Bitter Truth celery bitters
To build: Rinse a cocktail glass with absinthe and place in the freezer. Stir with ice and strain into the prepared cocktail glass. Garnish with a strip of lemon peel.
Other notes: The Martinez is an early version of the Martini. This version uses an unusual style of sweetened white vermouth; regular red vermouth works too.

2 oz pisco
½ oz pineapple syrup
¾ oz lime juice
2 large sprigs mint
To build: Strip the mint leaves except for the top of one stalk.  Press the leaves in the bottom of a glass with the syrup; add the pisco, lime juice and ice.  Shake, strain over fresh ice, top with soda water, and insert the mint sprig as garnish.
Other notes: This Cuban classic would normally use white rum, but pisco makes an interesting substitution. If you get lazy and drink this out of the glass you mixed it in, nobody would blame you.

2 oz pisco
1 oz pineapple syrup
½ oz lemon juice
½ oz lime juice
½ egg white
2 dashes Bitter Truth celery bitters
3-4 pineapple cubes
To build: Muddle the pineapple in the pisco and syrup; add the remaining ingredients, shake very well and strain over fresh ice.
Other notes: Nobody quite knows the original recipe for this renowned San Francisco specialty; this is my own tricked-out version.  It’s hard to separate an egg into equal halves, so you’ll just have to make two!

Holy crap did that last one ever take off.  I wound up making at least a couple for everyone present, in addition to the tasting portions and a whole slew of off-the-cuff requests.  Like I said: rowdy.  In the words of one attendee: "You bring such joy to people with kids."  I'll take the compliment, but by the time I left they were doing just fine on their own.

My only problem is that now, I've got a whole bunch of research to do into the legal side of making this a real, grown-up business.  People seem to dig the concept, especially as I focus on the fact that it's really not that difficult, and that anybody can make a good cocktail.  This seems to be not only a viable niche, but something that I really enjoy; there are such incredibly fun moments of engagement and learning that I can't help but look forward to the next event.  But if I want to get paid for this, all the sudden I need to start thinking about contracts and liability and scheduling.  So maybe I'll pull up the reigns for now, do some serious investigation, and keep hosting preview parties at home in preparation.  Someday we'll get there.