Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Mocktail Month: Provisionally Accepted

Another recent notion of mine is trying to replicate serious cocktails in a non-alcoholic format. I recognize this as a losing battle in a lot of cases; without the burn of proper whiskey, there's no way you're going to successfully produce a booze-free Manhattan, for example. Just about anything with citrus is almost too easy. Perhaps there's a middle way; something more challenging, a way to mimic a stirred drink, but one within the realm of possibility.

A Negroni isn't necessarily the most logical of options, and to be honest this isn't quite there. Another edition found online is probably strictly a closer match, but this one doesn't mess around with non-alcoholic wine (because fuck that nonsense, although they did have the bright idea to toast the spices, which I'll have to try next time around) nor does it require that you purchase Sanbitter. Instead, um, you only have to make a few different things at home.

Fine. It's not any more convenient and it's not particularly close. One thing it does manage is a lot of flavor in a compact format, with the balance of bitterness, spice, and sweetness to be found in a good Negroni. It's a step in the right direction. Too bad Mocktail Month is just about over and we can get back to the real deal before long.

2 1/2 oz over-steeped tea (a mix of green and black here; essentially, just simmer 6 oz of water per teabag in a saucepan until it reduces by about half, then squeeze out all the resulting liquid and allow to cool)
1/3 oz "red vermouth" syrup (recipe to come)
1/3 oz gin syrup (like the G&T syrup I've shared before, but with the tonic part stripped out)
2 dashes Regan's No. 6 Orange Bitters
2 dashes Fee Brothers Gin Barrel Aged Orange Bitters
2 dashes Bitter Truth Tonic Bitters

Stir and strain over fresh ice; garnish with a wide strip of grapefruit peel to make it feel a little more like the real thing.

It's really much closer to the Teagroni from Craft Cocktails at Home, but whatever, it's still tasty. Further renditions of this one to come, I think. Oh, and I deliberately chose not to include a picture of this one. In its current form, it ain't pretty; not much chance of mistaking it for a Negroni by sight. Ah well, let's accept what progress we can.

Pithy Reply

I've been trying a technique lately in an effort to recycle, wherein after juicing a bunch of citrus, I'll take the spent shells and pour some inexpensive spirit over them in a Mason jar. I'll let this stand for a while, infuse a bit, then strain off to produce a slightly bitter cordial. It's a simple, cheap way to wring a little more flavor out of what would otherwise be waste.

The result is also an easy way to put a twist on an otherwise basic cocktail. Like this one, which became a straightforward response to an unspecified request for "just a drink" (in which case you're getting whatever I have to use up). It was named (terribly) for its various citrus content, combined with a self-referential pun. Fucking meta, man.

2 oz grapefruit-infused white rum
3/4 oz lemon/orange syrup
1/2 oz lime juice

Shake and strain over a fresh large ice cube. Hurl disdainfully at the freeloader who begged it from you. (Or, like, drink it.)

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Mocktail Month: Mocha-fucca-chino

Remember how we talked about coffee-based cocktails? And I mentioned how I had a couple of ideas in the works? Well: here's a trial run. A good one, too!

Granted, it's no Five Watt Coffee, but baby steps...

5 oz cold-press coffee (a medium-dark roast* made with a 5:1 water-to-coffee ratio; )
2 oz hazelnut milk (I'll have to try making my own sometime soon)
3/4 oz lemon/orange oleo-saccharum**
4-5 dashes Angostura bitters

Shake like crazy to combine (necessary to get the hazelnut milk suspended; otherwise it can be a bit grainy) and pour unstrained into your glass of choice. Or, whatever, you could strain it over fresh ice, but you only need to if the little ice chips bother you.

* I can't quite remember, but I think it was a Kickapoo blend, maybe Driftless Dark? The flavor profile sounds about right.

** Full disclosure: I also initially tried a version with blackberry shrub instead, and... no. Just don't.


Another backlog item for you today, created a couple weeks ago when experimenting with Byrrh in a Negroni-type formulation. I heartily approve of the result; it's a bit sweeter and richer than a classic Negroni, but I really like the way the licorice-and-orange notes of the Averna play with the berry notes from the Byrrh.

1 1/4 oz London Dry gin (Botanist here obviously, but Tanqueray, Boodles, or another solid brand would be fine)
1 oz Byrrh
3/4 oz Averna
3 dashes Regan's No. 6 Orange Bitters

Stir very well and strain into an old-fashioned glass over a fresh large ice cube. Garnish with a large strip of orange peel - I don't see one in the picture but I recall using one. Must have either added it after or it's hiding behind the cube.

I like the origin of the name on this one, too. One of the first public appearances of the Negroni in print is in a quote from none other than Orson Welles, who at the time was shooting his film Black Magic, in which he plays... Count Cagliostro. Fitting, given that the Negroni was also supposedly named for Count Camillo Negroni.

Bonus drink: this was also very pleasant as a pseudo-Boulevardier variation, with the gin replaced by Irish whiskey and bumped up to about 2 oz or so.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Mocktail Month: Gunpowder Fizz

Now that we're burned out on sodas, we must find alternatives. While seeking inspiration, I found an article on Imbibe's blog about Five Watt Coffee, a local shop that features a changing selection of coffee-based drinks. I love this as a concept. Good baristas and bartenders both have a common obsession with fine, finicky detail, and it's fascinating to cross the boundaries a bit.

This is not a coffee drink, although I have a couple ideas in the works. Tea is also a great non-alcoholic base, aided by the fact that there are a huge range of varieties. I picked a few different types up and thought that putting them through their paces would be fun. Thus we wind up with this.

4 oz brewed, chilled gunpowder tea (a jasmine variety here)
1 oz lemon/orange oleo-saccharum
3/4 oz half-and-half (you could use whole milk if you prefer, but I wanted a heavier foam and texture)
1/4 oz lemon juice
3 dashes Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas' Own Decanter bitters

Shake well and strain into a Collins glass over large ice cubes. Top with a couple more dashes of bitters as garnish (I also thought about a smoked sugar, but that's an entirely different post).

More tea-based drinks to come! I have a couple others brewed that I'm itching to try out. It'll likely be a busy last week of Mocktail Month, to end on a high note.

Broken Spring

A spring drink! Made on an unexpectedly nice spring afternoon! I'm being appropriately seasonal, for once.

2 oz cucumber vodka (homemade)
3/4 oz gin & tonic syrup
4 lime wedges
1 dash maraschino liqueur (Luxardo)

Squeeze the lime wedges into a shaker tin and drop in (which should produce about 3/4 oz of juice, but you want the oils from the peel as well). Shake like mad and double-strain over fresh ice in an old-fashioned glass. Garnish with a large mint leaf (or a smallish bunch) slapped to express the oils.

Hey, I said it was appropriately seasonal, not that it was easy. I'll break another one of my habits by calling the garnish non-optional on this one; it really does transform and lighten the drink.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Mocktail Month: Berry Patch

Now, sodas aren't always that exciting, but sometimes you nail it. Enough said.

3/4 oz strawberry-lemon syrup
3/4 oz blackberry shrub
3/4 oz lime juice
3 dashes Regan's No. 6 Orange Bitters

Shake briefly to combine and pour into a Collins glass; top off with about 6-8 oz soda water to taste.

I'll let this stand as one of the better examples of the prototypical soda. Really, there's no need to post more, so we'll attempt to be a little more inventive with this final leg of the month.

Easter Special

Did I forget to post this one? I forgot to post it. But that's okay - a little backlog helps make up for the terribly unproductive Mocktail Month so far. Honestly, it's been a lot of the same, and it's hard to get excited enough about a basic soda to throw a post together, even if it is handmade.

I have ideas in the works, though! I'm convinced that there has to be a way to make a substitute Negroni, or at least an Americano, probably involving Sanbitter but preferably something I can make at home. Maybe a tea concentrate and a heavily spiced syrup?

Until then: this. One of the signals that I'm getting fairly decent at this stuff is that when I ask my mother what I can bring for brunch, her response these days is as likely to be "How about you make something?" as the old standby bottle of wine. I made this low-caliber punch-type thing for Easter. The name wrote itself.

For ease of transport, the end product was a scaled-up bottled cocktail. The proportions given in the picture aren't the final version; I just needed an illustration for the post. A couple trial runs produced the following end proportions.

This makes roughly two liters of finished cocktail.

12 oz light white wine (I used a cheap gruner veltliner, but a mild pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc would do fine too)
9 oz gin (nothing fancy; New Amsterdam here)
6 oz Byrrh
3 oz Aperol
3 oz cinnamon syrup
1 1/2 oz orange juice
1 1/2 oz lemon juice

Mix this together and bottle until ready to serve. When ready, combine with an equal proportion of soda water and serve in wine glasses.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Mocktail Month: Short Shrift

Well, we're off to a slow start with Mocktail Month. Like my stretches of hiatus, there has been plenty of effort but nothing I quite dig enough to share.

This, however, I cranked out because after wrestling with some cod in a very not-nonstick pan, I really wanted a concentrated, potent drink. However, I also didn't want to provide my wife with any ammunition (and, you know, let's at least pretend that I have some god-damn willpower) so we had a concentrated, potent mocktail instead.

2 oz cryo-cucumber juice
3/4 oz blackberry shrub
1/2 oz gin & tonic syrup
2 dashes Bitter Truth Celery Bitters
2 dashes Bitter Truth Tonic Bitters

Shake like a madman and strain over fresh ice in a short glass. Top with a (short) splash of soda and stir.

This one would have worked very well with a bit of ginger beer instead of soda, maybe with a little extra acid for balance. But it was pretty damn satisfying as-is.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Fairweather Friend

Random days off taken on a whim are pretty much the best kind. Perhaps the only thing better, as I discovered today, is knuckling down and plowing through the to-do list that you expected to take pretty much all day. Suddenly you've a free couple of hours, the sun's come out, and you have nothing better to do than hang out on the porch with a book and the very first proper drink you've had for four full days. God damn - can things get any better? I doubt it.

Given the circumstance, I figured I'd better ease back into things a bit. I've been building up some ideas, though, so rest assured - you'll probably see a couple pop up here later tonight.

1 3/4 oz cucumber vodka (homemade, preferably, but you could cheat and buy one)
3/4 oz gin & tonic syrup (this was a slightly tweaked and simplified version)
3 dashes Bitter Truth Tonic Bitters

Build over large ice cubes in a large collins glass and fill with soda. Stir gently to combine and garnish with a cucumber wheel if you've got one.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Mocktail Month: Kitchen Counter

Well folks, it's gotta happen now and again. I obviously love a good drink, but there can be too much of a good thing. My wife and I are therefore embarking on a new, extended edition of Mocktail Week, because obviously we still need something to drink, and I'll be recording our favorites as we go.

Now, fear not - this won't be as stringent as the original Mocktail Week. We're still allowing ourselves the weekends, and I'll pop in with an occasional proper cocktail here and there, but we might mostly towards the comforting simplicity of beer and whiskey. Besides which, we'll probably still be at least somewhat moderate. One of the better things about an extended booze-free period is its ability to reset your tolerance, which is great! It'd be nice to go out sometimes and not suffer regrets when the bill arrives.

So: an initial entry for our inaugural day. This one was kind of a kitchen-sink approach, but then I named it after where most of the first attempt wound up.

3/4 oz cinnamon syrup
3/4 cranberry tonic syrup (I'll provide the recipe later)
1/2 oz orange juice
1/2 oz lemon juice

Shake and strain over fresh ice, then top with 5-6 oz soda water and stir.

A good start, but I'd like to amp up the bitterness quotient a bit, maybe with a black tea concentrate or something; the tonic, while tasty, didn't have quite enough bite. We might see a revised version of this one. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Right Thuir

I found a bottle of Byrrh Grand Quinquina today! I've seen it listed on blogs, but never found a bottle locally until now. Intriguing stuff - not quite sure if it'll join the regular rotation yet, but this drink was a good first crack at cocktail use.

2 oz Temperance Trader Chinato Barrel Aged Bourbon (remember this stuff?)
1/2 oz Byrrh Grand Quinquina
1/2 oz sweet vermouth (Carpano Antica, because only the best!)
1 (small) dash cinnamon syrup
2 dashes Peychaud's bitters
2 dashes Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas' Own Decanter bitters

Stir and strain into a rocks glass; garnish with an orange peel, if you must.

The name of this one comes from the town at the southern tip of France where Byrrh was invented.

April Fool's

I was driving to work this morning when I realized "Hey, it's April Fool's day! I should write a joke post for the blog! Maybe something like... I'm giving up drinking! Yeah!"

My next consecutive thought was "There's no way that's even vaguely believable."

True story.