Friday, February 27, 2015

Let's get both crazy and tropically enchanting...

Hold onto your hats, ladies & gents, you're about to dive deep into a recipe a good year and a half in the making, minimum. Granted, the darned non-cocktail schedule tends to get obnoxious at times, hence the delayed write-up for this year's Tiki month. As you'll see, some of that obnoxiousness flows over into the recipe, but if you're looking for nice and easy cocktail recipes *points to the What's Bubbling Up section to your left* honey, you're in the wrong place. This is wild-and-crazy-experimentation-because-I-can land. 'Cause someone has to do it, darnit!

With that in mind, I give you an uncanny piece of Tiki triangulation that's a hodgepodge of ingredients painstakingly researched, fought for, preserved for the right day, melted and refrozen, and wrung within the very inch of its life (many times over).

But first, some thanks are in order. To JFL at Rated R Cocktails, for his explorations on Planters Punches, a deeply helpful guide to getting the structure down. To Rumdood for his advice on Brugal rums. To Doug at The Pegu Blog for the right-place-right-time idea of blending then (maybe) straining your Tiki drink. To Elana at Stir & Strain, I basically converted your Bourbon Vanilla Caramel Sauce into an orgeat; as someone who was flailing about how to get started with a caramel, moreover, I'm grateful that I didn't have to look far to find a delicious, easy-to-follow recipe which turns out well; I strongly recommend everyone click through, memorize her technique for making caramel, and follow it to the letter, it's a wonder of kitchen science to behold as the sauce develops. Finally to Doug Ford for a (somewhat) recent post on Planter's Punches, which gave a needed kick in the boot and added perspective to get back on this horse.

This is perhaps the initial cocktail I had in mind when dreaming of a more sophisticated and moody, less economic and office-friendly version of the Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini Punch. Yellow polka dot bikinis themselves are reminiscent of leopard or cheetah-skin one pieces you see on jungle ladies and that got my wheels spinnin', not just on ideas expressed through cocktails, but the use of kicked-up orgeats to take those flavors to new levels. Push it to one extreme and you get the bombastic coffee-macadamia nut orgeat Giganta of DC Comics fame. Pull it much closer to life-size and you have the delicate tisane-almond orgeat mixed with proto-tiki elements of Jane Porter. And in between? The sultry Jane of the Jungle*, taking flavor elements of Jane Porter and exploding them outward while simultaneously sinking them into the earth: the dark depths of vanilla-caramel, rainforest nuts, orange, and gold/aged rums.

*Wait, WHAT?! After over a year of build-up and we're still not getting Jane of the Jungle? Y'know, dear readers, I'm kinda impatient with it too. But after finishing this cocktail recipe last summer, I took a step back to observe it and it doesn't quite fit the moniker. Surely, there's Jungle to be had in spades here, but it's not the missing link I would want to bridge Jane Porter and Giganta. This recipe is somewhat of a tangent in-between a true Jane of the Jungle --as extended into Tiki from Jane Porter-- and Giganta, and, yes, one could split hairs ad infinitum. But, I think it works out. Jane of the Jungle, forthcoming 2032 at the rate I'm going, is meant to be more compact and strong - a fully realized tropical goddess. Whereas this cocktail is still something of a breezy punch, a more exotic companion to Itsy Bitsy. Therefore, I give you...


Flower of Temptation garnish featured above
Jane's Girdle
5 sour cherries
1/2 oz lime juice
1/4 oz passionfruit syrup
2 tsp Rainforest orgeat
1 bsp orange oleo saccharum
1 oz Brugal XV rum
3/4 oz Plantation 5 Barbados rum
3/4 oz armagnac
2 dashes pimento bitters
6 oz weak Earl Grey pellet ice

Combine all in a blender, adding ice last.
Blend for five seconds (count 'em; it's ok to have unpulverized ice).
Pour all into a chimney glass and fill with crushed (plain water) ice.
Garnish with a passionfruit "orchid" or "flower of temptation" (passionfruit end + fresh sour cherry) and lime "vines."

So balancing this particular undergarment had taken a lot of trial and error. There had been an extra 1/4 oz of sweet (passionfruit syrup + Rainforest orgeat), the intention being that the Earl Grey ice would balance -- though in early versions the inconsistency in the melting ice made it at times too sweet and other times too astringent. I excused the extra bit of sweet on the grounds that, in prior Tiki research by others in the mid-to-late 'naughts, when you have a blended-ice cocktail you generally want that extra sweet because it balances the melting ice (counter-intuitive to the craft cocktail mindset up to that point). Sometimes though, as with writing or any other craft, you need some time away from the original formulation in order to see the creation as it is, without any of your earlier prerogatives (in my case the emphasis on Rainforest orgeat) getting in the way of getting it right.

Pulling down the bright-sweet elements into a near-equal parity with the sour elements kept the cocktail consistent throughout its (very drinkable) duration. You have the overall emergent flavor that's a combination of the spirits and oleo saccharum complementing the orgeat, with brightness from the lime and passionfruit (a call-back to Itsy Bitsy), and earthy/spice notes of the cherry, orgeat coffee-nutty butteriness and bitters sneaking through as the drink goes on. (plus, an added bonus as the drink gets down to dregs: blending the cherries and keeping the pulp in keeps even the dregs flavorful)


A breakdown of the ingredients

Take the end off a passionfruit,
remove pulp, cut slits, curl and...
The spirits: the vanillas, caramels, toffees, etc you often find in rum weren't what I was going for here. I wanted the rums to scream "earthy!"
Brugal XV: coffee dark and dry - the foundation.
Plantation 5: robust and bright with a big orange note.
Armagnac: the more rustic, wild cousin to cognac - a good match for the cherries.

Sour cherries: aka, pie cherries (think Morello, Montmorency, etc..). My farmers market only had these for one week two summers ago, and then nothing, but I caught a good quart or more of them and pitted/froze them for precisely this sort of purpose (knowing all the while that very few others would probably do the same). I wouldn't recommend canned pie cherries, in water at least, as a substitute - processing takes the gusto out of them and they need that freshness to provide part of the Sour element. If limited to sweetened options, try using a bit of tart cherry preserves and substituting some strips of orange zest in the brewing tea in place of the oleo saccharum.

Voila! Passionfruit orchid garnish!
Earl Grey tea ice (1/2 cup reg.-brewed tea + 1 1/2 c. water, frozen pellet-size): since this is a punch, there needs to be some kind of Weak element. JFL at Rated R Cocktails has mentioned in his Planters Punch series how "Donn Beach was a smart man, he knew he could add dimension. [...] But the real genius was letting the ice act as his weak, particularly crushed ice for some added dilution." Ok, well, in spite of some of the more moody spirit choices plus the bitters, the early version of this cocktail mainly revolved on a Sweet-Sour axis. Something like tea, particularly Earl Grey with its bergamot to match the other orange-y elements, would add much-needed dimension and a drying astringency that would allow all the ingredients to strut their stuff. So, why not combine the tea Weak element, which was often used in regular punches, with the diluting crushed ice format of Planters Punches?

I opted for pellet ice combined with a good blending here because the integration of the tea was my greatest concern. If not well-incorporated, a sip could could vary wildly between dry tea and over-sweetness. Early tests which involved the cocktail simply being shaken with large tea ice also diluted into something too dry in the end, even if the early sips were just-right. With flavored ice, sometimes you don't want the drink to evolve much over the course of time. Why do tea ice at all then? Economy, mainly. Adding liquid tea, then regular ice to chill and dilute isn't as controllable either, and the subtle cold astringency of the tea ice particles contrasts well with the vivacious punch - enunciating each ingredient more.

Orange oleo saccharum (approx 2-2.5 oz): Using a vegetable peeler, take half the zest (with minimal white pith) of a medium orange. Add the zest and 1/4 cup demerara sugar to a sealable baggie, seal, toss, and gently rub the sugar into the zest, then let rest at room temperature (preferably overnight) until wet and developing a syrup purely with the orange oils. When ready, add 1 oz (2 T) water, reseal and agitate to help dissolve the sugar. Further resting may be needed to help the dissolution. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use, but no longer than 2 days.

The oleo saccharum should be used to moderate the Earl Grey tea ice to your taste and help account for potential variations, somewhere in between a barspoon (3/4 t) and 1/4 oz (1/2 T). A little hint of orange also helps highlight the tea's bergamot and the Plantation.

Rainforest Orgeat (approx. 3 oz):
Long story short: I really liked this Rainforest Nut flavor that Green Mountain Coffee used to do. Initial thought: using a flavored coffee as a water base for orgeat could be intriguing. Consequential thought: aw [fiddlesticks], not even I could make this after my last bag ran out. Ok, well, what about incorporating fresh elements into a rough flavor profile based on what's described on the bag (vanilla, caramel, cashew, Brazil nut)? [caveat: the bag leaves out a major flavor note - amaretto!]

So: a cashew/Brazil nut orgeat with a coffee base....and caramel as the sugar??? ...and the coffee nut milk could function as the dairy in the recipe? Mwahahaha!

1 oz each cashews and Brazil nuts
1/3 cup strong-brewed coffee (rich medium roast desirable here), cooled

Make the nut milk, at least 2 processes/wringings. I've trended towards a Frog Princesse-style orgeat process of late - the cold-processing avoids any gumminess and helps enunciate the flavors. Either pre-chop the nuts or combine with coffee in a blender and blend until loose-but-not-terribly-fine-chopped - it's ok to have some large chunks. Let rest 1-2 hours, then wring liquid through cheesecloth. Re-combine liquid and nuts and repeat for 1-2 processes more. Reserve final nut milk.

1/3 cup vanilla sugar (or regular white sugar + 1 inch of seeds scraped from a vanilla bean pod)
1/2 oz/1 T water or same coffee from the nut milk
5 drops lemon juice
3 drops orange blossom water

Make the caramel (note Elana's recipe above. I'm paraphrasing here, but for more details on process, please refer there). Combine sugar, water and lemon juice in a small pot on the stove and stir to combine. Bring to a gentle boil without stirring (seriously, you'll cause crystallization). Observe it as it progressively darkens/goldens, 10-20 minutes. If you're using coffee, you're going to have to utilize your sense of smell to tell you when you hit your desired caramel "darkness" - it's not too crazy, I've done this, you just need some patience and a non-stuffy nose. Once the desired darkness is reached, add half the nut milk to the caramel, stir to incorporate, then the remainder. Stir another 3-5 minutes (no more) while it thickens - thick enough so that it leaves a coating on a utensil, even if it appears thin. Let cool. Fortify with neutral spirit and add orange blossom water.


....aggghh...so yeah, there might've been a reason it took awhile to get this recipe out. But bookmark it for this summer when sour cherries are fresh, if you like. It's worth it.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Impromptu: Martine à la Louisiane

Oh, the woes of the impromptu MxMo cocktailer, when hit by an idea from the gods late Monday afternoon only to realize that not only did one not have a key ingredient, but that it wasn't in local stores, there were only 2 bottles total in stores in-state (PA, go fig)...

[*hears a tiny scratching whine sound coming from nearby* 
Boomer, playing the violin: Keep going!]

...on the other side of the state, and it was Presidents Day and the stores were all closed anyway! Argh!

[Boomer: Excellent flourish!]

Eh well, but at least in PA there are such things as online orders from the in-state system (and they actually had the bottle I was looking for - plus a $7 delivery fee and tax).

[Boomer, beret and black Lennon-shades aplace at his red-check-draped bistro table, waves his goblet: More wine please!
MoD: Is that your best 3 Blind Mice impersonation?
Boomer: Zut alors! Ze help at zis bar.. No tip for you!
MoD: You're in France. It comes included, prix-fixe.
Boomer: grumble grumble..]

So anyway, bottle was had Thursday night, and, having tasted it for the first time after seeing years of fine reviews on the Twitters, it made me grin and go "yeah, that'll do just fine." (not always the case with blind buys, even if a bottle seems on-paper perfect for a recipe) Now, back to MxMo (or rather, an entry too late for MxMo).

Our host Dagreb's theme for this past month was That's not a Martini! (recapitulation here) and, with Mardi Gras looming the day after, a cocktailian's mind naturally falls to New Orleans with its triumvirate of Peychaud's-inflected tipples: the Sazerac, Vieux Carré and Cocktail à la Louisiane. At which point the recipe kinda writes itself, though one should always be wary when doing straight-out-the-bottle recipes - there's a very good chance it already exists as a classic pre-Prohibition recipe. Case-in-point, search "gin, vermouth, benedictine" for ingredients on cocktaildb.com. Yeah. Very close to a Vancouver and a Merry Widow(er). In my defense, I plead special gins.

[Boomer, lounging in a cloth folding chair, sun-mirror in place, fur slightly singing: SIMPSONS. DID. IT!
MoD: Malacca! Tiki-spirit-blend Malacca! Begone!
Boomer: *cackles*]

(also a reason this recipe is a mere Impromptu)

Despite the "à" in the name, this drink is more about NOLA flavors in general - that and both the "à" and "de" versions of the Louisiane have a whopping 3/4 oz of Bénédictine, which completely throws off the Martini structure. The Vieux Carré, however...that has the makings of a hatty 2-1 Martini.



Martine à la Louisiane
1 oz St. George dry rye gin
1 oz Tanqueray Malacca gin
1 oz sweet vermouth
1 tsp Bénédictine
2 dashes Peychaud's bitters
2 dashes orange bitters (Angostura)
absinthe rinse
lemon twist for garnish

Rinse and chill. Stir. Strain. Garnish.

Orange, lemon, malt and a hint of anise rise to the nostrils. The caraway and juniper malt have a tendency to dominate, but once you slip under those, it's like a gently-heated pool. A faint pineapple note from the Malacca merges with the dry rye's malt into something richly tropical trending through Peychaud's soft cherry to a slow bitter finish. You forget you're drinking gin. Between all the other herb notes, the absinthe is actually subtle here, a mere frisson.

This could be an exquisite candidate for a barrel-aged cocktail, or, as an extension, aged gins.

The dry rye gin explains itself, whereas, to substitute for cognac, a more melodious gin was needed. My bottle of Hayman's Old Tom itself wasn't quite right for this, the creaminess was nice but the juniper was too sharp. Instead I turned to a quasi-Old Tom/sweeter style, Malacca, whose rolling tropical mellowness sets a lovely rhythm. The absinthe? Granted, the Vieux Carré doesn't have it, but its brethren bevandes Sazerac and Louisiane do -- and it is à la Louisiane.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Mixology Monday, February 2015: That's not a Martini!

Urrrr... *snow MoD lurches back onto the blog* Does it count if I Tiki this month by doing my best Zombie impersonation?

Welcome back dear readers! Back to cocktailing after another mini-hiatus and deeply thrilled to be posting for this month's edition of the Greatest Cocktail Party on the Web, Mixology Monday! This month is hosted by my dear Twitter bestie, cocktail/Tiki/split vermouth/coffee/twangy guitar connoisseur Dagreb of Nihil Utopia, with a theme sure to bring a smile: That's not a Martini!
A Telecaster's not an Esquire. A Melody Maker's not a Les Paul Jr. A Marauder ain't a Crown Vic. A Blue Moon is no Martini… well, almost.

Take away the dash to a quarter ounce of Creme Yvette and we're left with gin (a must!), dry vermouth, and orange bitters. That's a Martini! It's at least one canonical Martini anyway.

This month's Mixology Monday theme is that which is almost, but not quite, a Martini. Perhaps there are dashes (or more) of a liqueur (or two) added to the basic structure. Perhaps a Fino Sherry (or other fortified/aromatized wine) is standing in for vermouth. Maybe there's Oxygene instead of bitters? Gin, certainly!

Use your imagination! Use your library! Make a Martini, that's wearing a hat!
When active, check out the hat parade here.

The tricky part is, you see, I'm not a big gin drinker. It either has to be in the peak of summer or, oddly, the peak of winter - to either beat the heat with a good G&T or become one with the cold with a good junipery G&T. And I'll only cocktail with the stuff if a particular recipe absolutely cries out for gin. To me, gins are the cats of the spirit world - cold, with a self-sufficiency that lets you know you're the add-on in the equation - whereas aged spirits, bourbon especially so, are the dogs - warm, emotionally-available, tried and true after long years of aging.

Then, to go and compound things, it's Tiki Month! And a little cocktail-clatch of us on Twitter got the notion we needed to Tiki the Martini. So here's my stab at the notion.


Kyprian Pirate*
1 1/2 oz French gin (blue Magellan!)
1 oz Plymouth gin
3/4 oz Batavia arrack
3/4 oz bianco vermouth
3 dashes pastis (Pernod)
2 dashes Bittercube Jamaican #2 bitters
1 dash orange bitters (Angostura)
1-2 drops rose water
wedge of pineapple for garnish

Stir. Strain. Garnish.

Your proboscis will discover much herbacity, notes of vanilla-mint with rose, anise and pineapple. And then it hits your tastebuds with a swirling shimmering miasma that jumps up and sucker-kicks your nose again. This cocktail has an herbaceous tongue burn that rivals Chartreuse, and like the best Tiki, leaves you pondering just what's in it that gives it a certain je ne sais quoi, all the while tasting distinctly Martini-esque.

Yes, yes, I know. It's a 4 oz cocktail. That's ok - you get to figure out how to small-size it! Besides, Tiki is known for taller drinks. And rose water-accented orgeat. And Zombies with a teeny-tiny bit of Pernod. And precise mixes of base spirits to create whole new flavors (see: the Winchester). And blue cocktails! (sweartagawed the gin was bright blue in the bottle! I dunno what happened!) And arrack, oh arrack...

And big honkin' pineapple garnishes.

But seriously, [adding this graf a few hours after posting] one thing missed over in the thought process whilst being zany: you wouldn't think Tiki and 'tinis would mix. One focuses on a sweet/sour axis while the other a dry/spiritous/bitter axis. Adding Tiki sweeteners to a Martini without the addendant sour destroys the drink pretty quickly. This take aimed to transfer the flavors and attitude into the structure, without the flavor-neutralizing sugar.

*an epithet of Paris, from Euripides of all things. Google Kypris and avoid the beauty products.


Big thanks to Dagreb for letting me squeak zombie-like well-around the deadline - it's an honor to participate in this one, my friend. Kudos on a stylishly insouciant theme and a fine job hosting! Thanks also to Fred "7th-level Zen Master/cat wrangler" Yarm for pulling together yet another great month! Cheers, all!

Friday, January 30, 2015

Punchatawny Phil

Pellet, who much resembles one of Boomer's fore-hamsters, Philo.
On to #101 and the weekend! And all I have to say is, really David Wondrich - I can grok pun-avoidage but this one is square in your wheelhouse and virtually writes itself!

Folks, I give you a little ditty over a year in the making [Boomer: G'night! (again)]. With all your prep for the Super Bowl this weekend, don't forget about Groundhog's Day Monday morning. You may need an eye-opener. Or, y'know, given the line-up this year you may skip the festivities entirely and go straight toasting the rodent [Boomer: yay!] the night before.

Punchatawny Phil
1/4 oz lemon juice
1/4 oz hickory syrup
1/2 oz cinnamon-infused Pennsylvania rye whiskey
1 1/2 oz tawny port (Sandeman)
1 1/2 oz hard cider (Woodchuck "Amber")
1 oz boiling water
nutmeg or orange slices for garnish

Ideally, fill a thermos with boiling water ahead of time, mix all your ingredients (save the boiling water) in a pot on the stove for a quick heating, then empty the thermos and add your punch mix plus the boiling water called for in the recipe. Twist on the lid and head off to Gobbler's Knob with the family to enjoy the festivities, sipping from little thermos cups.

If for some reason you're planning a viewing party spread at home, set out orange slices and nutmegs to grate for garnish - your guests can make their own prognostications! Orange slices for bright sunny spring around the corner, sleepy punch-y nutmeg for 6 more weeks of winter. Let the punch rest in a crock-pot set to Low for an hour or two before serving.

You get warm hickory and cinnamon on the nose with a dance of citrus. For such a small amount, the hickory grabs your tastebuds from the get-go and provides a lovely body to the sip. Afterwards you pick up the cider-y tang undergirded by the lemon juice, and then a rolling creaminess from the port - the apple and grape dance well together. A hint of menthol and spice from the rye comes through last, but is not so overt that it throws all the other ingredients off - in fact it pairs nicely with the hickory. Wonderful dry finish from the cider. It's not Chatham Artillery by any means, but it works.

On the ingredients: despite the name, I would avoid Rittenhouse rye here: too potent and not rough-spicy enough. Local PA distillers Dad's Hat and super-new reboot Kinsey, or even Old Overholt fit the punch. If without hickory syrup, maple will do in a pinch, though it has a wonderful quality all its own; you don't have to make it either do a quick search for local providers such as Razz's. The port? I like Sandeman for its black pepper note - it makes me think of the Pittsburgh area for some reason.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Impromptu: Wabe Gimble

So the day before National Hot Toddy Day I made french toast. Don't be surprised, it was a Saturday and I often use French toast to try out different flavor combinations in the toppings. ("Ohhhh.." you're now saying) And this one time I used some Bual madeira because I was out of milk plus some spices in the batter, then topped it with a schmear of guava jelly. It was a little on the acidic side but still quite tasty. So immediately after I threw together a cocktail based on the flavors. Because I didn't know the day after was National Hot Toddy Day (after reading through my blog feed that morning) and because it was still before noon, I made a toddy.

It was nommy, like fruitcake. Turns out it's a simplified toddified West Indies Punch (and when I saw this use of guava last year, I thought it utter brillig). And I had a heckuva time coming up with a name.

Perhaps not a full-on Jabbertoddy (that sounds brutal), nor even a Snarktoddy. It needed to be soft, flowing, travelling.

Wabe Gimble
5 oz chai green tea
2 oz bual madeira
1/2 T guava jelly
Lemon twist

In your serving mug, brew a hearty 5 oz of chai green tea (1 teabag). Brew it dense and spicy.

As you're brewing that, add the guava jelly and a small splash of boiling water to a mixing vessel and stir to dissolve.

Add the madeira to the guava syrup and blend.

When the tea reaches desired strength, remove and wring out teabag and add in madeira mix with a quick stir.

Garnish with lemon twist.

Bright raisiny fruitcake, lemon and earthy guava, sweet but drying. A pinch of mace would be over the top, but just-so. Nor would a shot of cognac.


Why I've taken so long to post this since National Hot Toddy Day was nigh on 3 weeks ago? Recipe bunnies. Much like plot bunnies but with the ability to shut down your liver in their multitudes (note: my liver has not shut down). But the tricky thing is managing them into a blog posting scheme. Do I include the other little bunny related to this recipe in this post or do I shift it over to this more relevant ingredient-themed post? It's been driving me mad, I tell you.

Ah! But here's the post anyway! And it's Feu de Vie's 100th post! Oh frabjuous day! Callooh, callay! (finally! Got that one out of the way) After the Rhythm of the Night naming debacle of last month I promise you a year of minimally-prepositioned cocktails (Jane of the Jungle notwithstanding), starting with this one -- not "Gimble in the Wabe" but "Wabe Gimble". Short, sweet, incomprehensible to everyone except those who can both get the reference and twist it around again. You're going to be seeing a lot of that this year on the blog, so stay tuned and keep your eyes peeled because the next month or two will be quasi-incestuous with reference and interminglings. What fun, yes?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Mixology Monday, January 2015: Blue

Shoo-blue, shoo-be-doo.
Shoo-blue, shoo-bley-waaaahh..
In the still...of the niiiiiight.
I-ey was, kinda tiight..

Ahem.

Good evenin' everyone. We're finally back for the new year with a little ditty for January's MxMo, hosted this month by the ever-inventive Andrea of Ginhound. Our theme? BLUE.
January needs a bit of color - or perhaps the month after all the holiday mania makes you feel.....blue?

Either way this months Mixology Monday is a chance to live those emotions out.

You can dazzle us with a brilliant blue drink or you can share that blue feeling with a melancholic drink?

Blue has been predicted as a new cocktail trend several times in recent years, and I have seen it on several menus, but more as a ironic statement than wholeheartedly love. I will say however that the Shark I had this October at PDT tasted like love to me.

But any mixer of blue drinks is faced with a bit of a dilemma as there is nothing “natural” about E133 - the most common of blue food colors: Do I really want to mix chemicals into my prefect mixture of fresh juices and good booze.

Feel free to interpret blue as freely as you wish - if natural is the way you want to go blueberries, violets, cornflower or red cabbage could be good ingredients to work with.

Me? I just started my homemade blue curacao - as seen in the photo above. And I am prepared to go all in with E133.
When active, click this link to see what blue into the round-up post.


A wintry cocktail accented by Spanish bitters had been on my mental to-do list for some time, something light and fluffy-white or perhaps clear. So, this seemed a perfect opportunity to whip one up. How I connected that to blue cocktails? Not entirely sure. My head tends to work too fast for me to keep up so I just let it do its thing and take notes, however incomprehensible at times.

But, to extend onto the Blue theme, I figured first that a lovely Alexander-type cocktail would meet that mental image (and be perfect for later in the week, January 31st being National Brandy Alexander Day) -- and a scrumptious buttery 100% blue agave reposado tequila (preferably from the highlands) would be a good anchor (ciao, Dagreb!). Granted, a reposado tequila Alexander isn't a new idea (see the Feisty Alexander, Stardust Cocktail), but something within that scheme that side-steps the cacao has its possibilities.

To that, while Galliano is a fave, would be an interesting tweak on the normal creme de cacao and would pair decently with the reposado, it just didn't calmly intone "cerulean blue" and give me the mental push to go further. It was a tad too sweet, to be honest. Instead I ended up going with something much more thematic: homemade blueberry liqueur last seen at a much earlier MxMo (yes, it's held up with a rich blueberry flavor all this time). Still sweet, but much less treacly.

To finally take it over-the-top, I pulled out a buried ace: butterfly pea tea for a real blue color (no curacao needed! your mileage may vary) first employed on a dare way back when.

The berries, violet and citrus of the Spanish bitters suddenly started making lots of sense. And a fresh grating of cinnamon over top brought out the blueberries like brown eyeliner for blue eyes.

Blue Light Special (thanks Mr. DiPippa)

Azulandro
1 1/2 oz butterfly pea tea-infused reposado tequila
1 oz half 'n half
1 oz blueberry liqueur
1 dash Spanish bitters
light dusting of cinnamon for garnish

Shake the liquids on light ice until quite frothy.

Pour into chilled serving glass.

Grate fresh cinnamon over top.


On the nose you get cinnamon-agave-cream and blueberries like fresh-baked blueberry bread.

On the palate, earthy blueberry roundness, cream and buttery agave, lace-like flavor intrigue from the bitters, and a cinnamon finish.



Sooo... while I was aiming for a nice pastel blue color here, I ended up with something a bit more gray-purple. Like most blue food-related items, butterfly pea tea has a litmus-like quality in that exposure to acids will shift its color towards red. I thought I had enough base with the half 'n half, but apparently the reddish blueberry liqueur had enough pull. And, it kinda depends on the lighting - this particular drink pictured could trend towards a pale cornflower blue in the right light. Chalk it up to melancholy-blue then?


Huge thanks to Andrea for an evocative theme and for shouldering hosting duties for the third time in a year! Big cheers also to Fred for fighting to keep everyone's favorite internet cocktail party going yet another month. Getting close to MxMo C!

Cyan-ara everyone!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Grandeur of the Season Punch Royale

Dear readers, with your quiet forbearance of a long and not-productive-as-desired year, permit me a moment of last-minute cleverness. Y'know that bottled cocktail we did last week for Christmas, Grandeur of the Season? There was still a serving left in the bottle, no? Here's what we're going to do with it, for a fuss-free knock-your-socks-off New Year's Eve punch.

(mind you, I've been growing superstitious lately: enjoy the decadent red punch in the evening, but at the stroke of midnight do some clear or golden bubbles. It's a symbolic clean slate and could provide some healing for the he** 2014 has tended to be.)



Grandeur of the Season Punch Royale
5 parts bottled Grandeur of the Season mix
5 parts sparkling shiraz
2-3 parts blood orange juice
blood orange wheel for garnish

Combine bottled mix and blood orange juice and then stir to combine.
Gently add bubbly and stir.
Garnish with blood orange wheel(s).

A tropical punch, but with wine, melancholy, smoking jackets and a dry finish.

Based on your ingredients at hand, you may need to adjust the blood orange juice and bubbles to your desired sweetness levels.

If you can't find sparkling shiraz, substitute bubbles with an "extra-dry" rating: brut can throw off the sweetness and you may need to add a dash of Solerno or cassis to balance.

Thank goodness for David Wondrich: Punch and my favorite port web site were both very instructive in how to create a punch with bubbly AND ruby port. Essentially: equal parts spirits and bubbly, half a part of mixed sharp-sweet (shrub or equivocal citrus (e.g. orange, blood orange, pineapple, passion fruit syrup, etc..)) to round out the punch.

Just watch out: on spec alone this is nearly the equivalent kick of Chatham Artillery Punch, so mind your cups. Sois sage and don't get behind the 8-ball for 2015 by being in the hospital, in jail, dead or hurting anyone else, mmkay? Life's rough enough without bad decisions. (and I kinda want you drinking my new recipes, so there :P)

To 2015: our hearts' desires fulfilled and sustained, our cares lifted, a genuine laugh or smile every hour, and the best of food, drink and friends to drive the evil spirits away. Sláinte!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Grandeur of the Season


Herald trumpets,
Holly berries,
Pine needles,
Spice cake,
Bright Christmas oranges,
And glass jewels for the tree.


Grandeur of the Season
1 oz cognac
1 oz pear eau-de-vie
1 oz ruby port
1 tsp Solerno blood orange liqueur
1 tsp Campari
1 tsp crème de cassis
1 dash Pernod
2 dashes pimento bitters
festive aromatic ice sphere

Rolling ribbons and great globes of grape and orange and berry.
Anise accents.
Gentle emerging pine and spice.
Opulence for jubilant jovial occasions.





Step 1: Festive aromatic ice sphere.


Add water to an ice sphere mold.

Arrange ginger coins, cloves and rosemary sprig (a bit of orange zest and red currants also welcome).

Add top and freeze.








Step 2: Mix the cocktail


Three spirits, three liqueurs, three accents.

Batch and bottle in the fridge days ahead for parties and something even smoother.

Measure 3 1/2 ounces per serving (1/2 cup minus 1 tablespoon).

Pour over ice sphere in large balloon glass.

Swirl, take in the aromas and let dilute for 5-10 minutes.

Sip!



Step 3: ???

There's still some left in the bottle. What's next? New Year's!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Cranberry Falernum: Red Plaid Flannel Pajamas

There are days like today when the world cries out for you to be checking off an alphabet-sized list of tasks and all you've got in you is an urge to sit with a good cup of coffee, feed the birds and watch the world go by. Welp, world, you can take a hike today after everything you've asked of me this year. The numbness needs a chance to dissipate and the juncos are reenacting Star Wars out on the fire escape*.

*the things they've picked up from Twitter and special editions of Angry Birds..

And what better accoutrement to the day's activities than a good snuggly pair of pajamas?

Quick-eyed readers may have caught wind of this already, or read last week's introduction to cranberry falernum (including falernum recipe) with its reference to a coffee cocktail and put two and two together. Indeed, the first cranberry falernum recipe that struck wasn't Red Plaid Wool Scarf but Red Plaid Flannel Pajamas.

As you might also be able to deduce, the name came first, followed by the ingredients (save the falernum) list writing itself. And yes, the resulting list is perhaps a little questionable on its face, but, somehow, perhaps with the right coffee and the right Scotch, it works especially well.

So, even if you have the misfortune to continue working up until Christmas, consider this a possible early present. The falernum needs between one and three days to infuse, so you have time. Get the ingredients tonight or tomorrow, put the finished syrup to bed Christmas eve and wake up (slowly) to a coffee cocktail with a big red bow on top (and that includes you, dear reader, who may not celebrate the actual holiday but still get a good peaceful day off from work).

Shout-out in the background to Main Line Coffee Roasters and the Head Nut in Ardmore, PA.
A mixologist gal's heaven.

Red Plaid Flannel Pajamas
6 oz coffee
1 oz blended scotch whisky
1/2 oz cranberry falernum
Whipped cream, for garnish
Ground cloves, for garnish

Heat coffee mug briefly with boiling water.
Discard water.
Add Scotch and falernum - stir.
Pour in coffee.
Dollop with whipped cream.
Sprinkle a pinch of cloves over top.
Sigh relief.

It's a coffee cocktail first, so don't expect it to taste like a Martini. Gentle sweetness with sweet cream, bitter chocolate notes, a woody clove nose, playful light spice with a ginger emphasis. The cranberry melds into the coffee and transforms into a coffee-bright red flavor, earthier now and even more Scotch-friendly. And the Scotch LOVES the cranberry. Granted, it may not be as robust as other whiskeys used in coffee cocktails, but the Scotch just feels proper - not quite stately but possessing rectitude not unlike a fresh set of monogrammed light flannel pajamas.

I recommend Kenya AA coffee because of its affinity for citrus and berries in general, including cranberries. Monkey Shoulder whisky is also works well here for its downplayed smoke/peat and heightened cereal and malt notes - think Irish Coffee.

Happy snuggling!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Mixology Monday, December 2014: Apples!

Top of the morning to you MxMoers! (this is what I get for passing out while finishing the copy) This month's Mixology Monday theme comes courtesy of the grandmaster himself, the man with his ear to the drinksprings of Boston and beyond, Fred Yarm of cocktail virgin slut. The topic? The ever-friendly Apple!
Apples have been an American booze staple with Johnny Appleseed as its symbolic hero. John Chapman became that legend by planting apple tree nurseries across the northern Appalachia and the Midwest. He did not choose grafting techniques to reproduce sweet edible ones, but bred them to make sour apples perfect for cider and applejack. Michael Pollan in The Botany of Desire proclaimed, "Really, what Johnny Appleseed was doing and the reason he was welcome in every cabin in Ohio and Indiana was he was bringing the gift of alcohol to the frontier. He was our American Dionysus." Apple products began to enter into the mixed drink literature in the 19th century with the Stone Fence appearing in Jerry Thomas' Bartender Guide and got quite refined by the end of the century such as the Widow's Kiss in George Kappeler's Modern American Drinks. Indeed, apples have found their way into modern cocktails via Calvados, applejack, sparkling and still cider, apple butter, and muddled apple.
When active, go check out this month's round-up post and tell the folks how much you like dem apples!


As you might've noticed, falernum's really caught my fancy lately. Get me started on a homemade ingredient and suddenly I want to adapt its flavor profile all over the map. But the interesting stuff comes later.

This month's entry is pure second-run: the second-run recipe off my second-run falernum flavor profile idea, and a second-run idea for using apples for MxMo at that. So, it should actually be a bit better than the first-run ideas judging by the way I run things around here.

The first-run ideas will all see the light of day in due course - and the second of our feature falernum recipes drops later this week. But, given that one's a coffee cocktail (you read right - and not a flip!), I wanted to showcase the feature ingredient in something a bit closer to its native Tiki. Which is to say, a Sour.

Now, for some odd reason, the scotch is just a natural pairing with oh-so-seasonal cranberry falernum; but then, that it pairs well with lots of red fruit in a Blood and Sand, perhaps it's not so surprising. But a pure whisky cocktail just doesn't seem to highlight the best of what's going on in the syrup - it leaves all those spices out in the cold looking for a way to connect. Enter by a pure "heck, if I use this it turns into a drink for MxMo this month," the perfect ingredient: un esprit delicieux de Normandie, calvados.



Red Plaid Wool Scarf
1 oz blended Scotch (Monkey Shoulder)
1 oz calvados (Boulard VSOP)
1/2 oz cranberry falernum*
1/4 oz orange liqueur (Combier)
1/4 oz lime juice
apple peel horse's neck for garnish
Garnish. Shake. Strain.


On the nose you're going to be greeted prominently by the fresh apple zest, so that's why I recommend a good personable MacIntosh (what better accessory to a proper plaid scarf, neh?) or similar fall apple. The tough flexible skins these types of apples have also make taking the peel easier (as in: a little harder to accidentally cut short with a paring knife). The nose also features mild hints of malty scotch and orange sweetness, tempered by the bottles of whisky and liqeuer you use.

And the palate? Well, as you might expect, it's somewhere between a Cosmo and a Sidecar, with a hint of malt and a generous undertone of spice. The Monkey Shoulder in this case brings a mild toffee-vanilla and the faintest hints of smoke (Famous Grouse would also be wonderful here) while the calvados brings an opulent fruitiness that makes the whole drink; when asked to choose between calvados and Applejack (and cognac, which frankly disappears in the drink), use the calvados by all means. At that, it's less jarring than the vanilla notes of gold rum you'd expect to to go well with falernum. To pair with that bright apple fruitiness goes a nudge of proper tart cranberry and shimmering ginger-heavy falernum pie spice. It ends with a clove finish. Depending on your sweetness preference, this cocktail would make an interesting tableaux for playing around with a dash or two of bitters.


Cranberry Falernum
This one's going to have to be purely homemade - it'll be difficult to do a cranberry add-on to pre-bottled falernum.

So, pick your favorite falernum recipe. I use Kaiser Penguin's recipe regularly, though only a quarter batch at a time (it's just li'l ol' me and Boomer here) given how the spices lose their punch after about a month.

Infuse the spices and zest per usual (and add the almond ingredients on this half of the process, or at the very end for almond extract, if including). Strain after desired infusion time.

For the syrup/sweetener half, once the spice/zest infusion is ready, make a hot process syrup. You want to use simmering-level heat only throughout, you're not making candy. Start by dissolving the sugar in the water, and once that's done throw in your fresh or frozen cranberries. Gently simmer the berries until they pop, begin to disintegrate and the syrup turns a cheerful holiday red. Let mostly cool, then fine-strain the liquid into your storage container, pressing all the lovely drops out with a spatula.

Add in your strained spice infusion to the storage container. Seal and shake to combine.

If making a quarter batch of Kaiser Penguin's recipe, use 1 1/4 cups fresh or frozen cranberries. (the 2:1 simple syrup, using 1/2 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water, prior to berries results in approximately 4.5 ounces of syrup) A full batch of the same recipe using 2 cups sugar and 1 cup water will require 5 cups of cranberries.




Big thanks our host, third-degree black belt catherder Frederic! A delicious theme and enjoyable challenge (with very pretty logos, natch!). Cheers and happy holidays everyone!