Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Mixology Monday, March 2014: Preserves, part 2

[Insert picture here when taken - this particular composition needs natural, morning light, and a very specific prop. It'll be up Wednesday morning. moving real slow this week -- The Management]

Welcome back to Mixology Monday here at Feu de Vie! We've got a second, much more classically-hewing recipe for this month's theme: Preserves. (Head on over to Craig Umpleby's A World of Drinks, where there will soon be a round-up post of all the delightful concoctions.)

One of the best things about being a cocktailian and someone who late-bloomed from being a picky eater is discovering the wide range of flavors and foods in the world at an age where it can best be appreciated. Even better, so many new fruit flavors and more can be explored within the relatively "safe" medium of a preserve. Heck, as soon as I moved out from home it was a bottle of currant jelly and a bottle of apricot preserves, and it was all downhill from there (with maybe a little tequila thrown in for good measure).

Following up on that initial impulse, visits to HomeGoods and other stores with obscure offerings are a regular occurrence now. And, despite the gigantic brand name (literally, just look at the lettering on any of the blue-and-yellow buildings), IKEA has been home to some can't-find-anywhere-else ingredients: gooseberry preserves, pear soda, the best price anywhere on lingonberries, and then, the very-new-to-me pièce de resistance: cloudberry jam.

Ethereal, floral, much like honey but fruitier and more floral again.

JAM SOUR. Full stop.

But before getting to the recipe to showcase these show-stoppers, first a little background on these rare delicacies. A drupe like raspberries and blackberries but bright golden orange with rosy undertones, cloudberries tend to grow at mostly northern latitudes comprising Scandinavia and the British Isles, Russia, Canada and Alaska, and go by other names like salmonberry and bakeapple. In Sweden, they are Hjortron (ready-made for a Jeff Bridges-meets-Dr. Seuss mash-up - and I'm not talking White Russians). In Finland, they are Lakka.

So to show off these little gems, a nice dry white spirit was in order. Having used tequila and rum of late, and gin being a bit of a flavor show-off itself, grape-spirited pisco with brandy's affinity for fruit flavors seemed the right way to go. Further, the honeyed aspect of the jam put in mind a number of other honey-sweetened sours like the Brown Derby, the Airmail, the Bee's Knees, etc.. The Brown Derby's grapefruit led me to the Seventh Heaven and the El Floridita, and then finally searching Kindred Cocktails for "pisco" and "grapefruit juice." A number of Pisco Sour riffs popped up, most hewing rather closely to the style of the Miraflores, the direct model I used here.

Ah, so the cloud-berries of Scandinavia and the towering heights of the Andes. Sounds like a recipe for climbing a beanstalk to the whimsical heights of the Mushroom Kingdom.

2 oz pisco
3/4 oz ruby red grapefruit juice
1/4 oz lime juice
(fat) 1/2 oz cloudberry jam
1 egg white
1 dash Teapot bitters
2 dashes Boker's bitters
garnishes: dropper of dark-colored (pimento) bitters for egg white art, 
unshelled lychee nuts or rambutan

Dry shake, wet shake, double-strain into a chilled coupe.
Garnish like you're 7 years old on summer vacation in the mid-'80s.

So it's not lychee or rambutan season, apparently, let alone would fresh cloudberries be available. *sigh* [the final pic will be worth it -- that is to say, substitute a fresh lychee or rambutan for the dried jujube hanging off the glass, and fresh cloudberries instead of raspberries for the Spinies]

A simple, happy sour, with or without garnish. The cloudberry features strongly, supported by the grapefruit juice (I also tried both white and pink grapefruit here - the bitterness of both detracted and stood out like a sore thumb), the hint of lime keeping the recipe bright and shapely. To mimic Miraflores' dual bitters, I selected a pair from Dr. Adam Elmegirab's collection (their rum base harmonizes well here): the strong/spicy Boker's to weight and whimsical Teapot to match the Nintendo attitude and further decorate the cloudberry. The pimento bitters for decoration also mimics the Peychaud's bitters' anise, while providing handy colorant for a certain image.

Cheers to Craig for a wonderful hosting job and a fun theme, and to Fred, as always for the cat wrangling - may you never be turned into a wolf and have to hunt down 20 cats in an abandoned one-street western town, just for a measly piece of heart.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Mixology Monday, March 2014: Preserves, part 1

It's not easy, bein' green..

Ahh...see? I told ya (you? Someone. I told someone..) I'd be back in good form, posting in-time for Mixology Monday once the vernal equinox had passed. And frankly it feels quite good to be back in the swing of things, the creativity engine done rested and ready to get back to regular recipe-making. Many thanks to my dear Boomer for getting last month's post out, even if too late to the party; he does me proud -- though there are those rare times where I see him eying the Scorpion bowl while unstuffing his snorkel set from his pouch.. It's a good thing hamsters have oversized livers.

But anyways...

We've got a great theme this month. Craig of A World of Drinks, who blogs all the way over in China and offers an intriguing perspective on shaking the good shake in an ingredient/resource landscape a bit different than what you might find elsewhere, is our host this month. He brings us a theme that hits both the Easy and/or Crafty buttons simultaneously: Preserves.
For this month's challenge I would like to take us back to the humble beginnings of the cocktail bar, the days when bartenders didn't have the luxury of daily deliveries of ingredients from around the world. In these times bartenders would have been uncertain when they would again have the privilege to work with special ingredients so would naturally try to make the most of them. As a result of this restrictive access to many ingredients we today take for granted many methods used in home kitchens for years began to find their ways in to bars. Such methods of preservation such as syrups and preserves have been staple ingredients behind the bar ever since, while others such as shrubs and sherbets were relatively short lived.

The aim of the challenge is to go back to the days of the preserve, pick an ingredient, seasonal or not and treat it as if you won’t be seeing it again for quite some time. Syrups, sorbets, jam, shrubs and the like are all fair game, anything that will preserve the integral character of your favourite ingredient.
As always, dear reader, when active, this link will point you to the summary post of this month's festivities.

As seems usual anymore, it takes a little bit to get the old wheels a'spinnin when it comes to MxMo themes. But one morning as I was waking up and deciding to get down to brass tacks, running the ideas of jams, jellies, shrubs and all through my head...the lightning bolt (savory in flavor), of course, struck: PICKLE PUNCH!

There are plenty of preserved items out there, not all of them automatically considered cocktail ingredients, but if used in the right way, well, why not? And on that note, to add a personal meander, genuine musings and unintentional links galore: like I mentioned on the Aquamarine, spring perhaps brings me back around to a certain set of ingredients like Meyer lemon juice or Skinos or Hendrick's, moreso than any other season. Not only that, but it seems my mental palette with this recipe has expanded beyond mere flavors to MxMo themes and recipes: unlikely ingredients, condiments and even Bein' Green. Not much of a point to the list, but I figure it's good artistic practice to step back and note idea sources where it fits, my ideas or others'.

The aside aside, Pickle Punch brought up a recipe idea or two I was tinkering with for the last couple of years, but more for summer, dealing with lily-pad-like garnishes: one branching off into something tranquil and Monet-like, then another becoming much more funky, with the working name Frog Pond*.

*note: there's actually already a cocktail called Frog Pond by our/MxMo's own Fred Yarm and it is creatively OFF-THE-HOOK from the funky flavors to the perfect visuals. *bows down*

This one tastes like someone should be plucking a mouth harp in the muggy background while others shoot skeet - but in the best way possible!

The Squeaky Frog aka Pickle Punch
1 part homemade pickle brine
1 part Skinos mastiha liqueur 
2 parts Meyer lemon juice
2 parts Hendrick's gin
2 parts blanco tequila
4 parts strong green tea
homemade pickles or a delicate froggy gherkin tip resting on a thin slice of fresh cucumber

Shake all on light ice to chill, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass or punch cup. Garnish.**

**the above-pictured garnish may have been a cuke fluke. Having attempted to recreate later with an actual pickle and more fresh cuke slices, it appears that the one above may have floated due to being a slightly-dry end piece. Pre-dried slices (of the thin-but-still-sturdy category) might be the answer. Maybe dry the pickles like banana chips?

The Hendrick's and pickles' English cucumber come to the fore immediately, undergirded by a weird vegetal aspect from all the other ingredients. Pickle spice dances throughout, but isn't overwhelming. I like it for what it is: it does have a refreshing quality and a punch-like balance, all while creating this specific vibe of tepid, algae-covered bayou - yes I just described my own cocktail that way. Manhattan or even G&T perfection it ain't, but it might be worth trying (or batching) for a lark, just to experience a very precise achievement of flavor - which might then give you new ideas of your own!

Stay tuned for one more MxMo recipe, 1-UPs for your patience.

Quick homemade bread & butter refrigerator pickles
1 cup 1/4" sliced English cucumber rounds
3/4 cup rice vinegar
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 T mustard seeds
1/2 T coriander seeds
1 t allspice berries
tiny pinch tumeric
even tinier pinch red chili flake

Add your cucumber slices to a colander and lightly toss with salt to coat. Set the colander over a bowl and cover, letting rest an hour or more. Once the slices are adequately drained of excess water, rinse away the salt, pat dry, and add to an adequately-sized sterile mason jar (not too big, you want the brine to cover the slices).

Meanwhile, in a pot on the stove, add the remaining ingredients. Bring the ingredients to a boil, dissolving the sugar, then turn the heat off and let cool. Once cool, add to the mason jar and cover the slices. Put the lid on tight and set in the fridge to work its magic for at least four hours, preferably overnight. Eat within 2 weeks - they might be lucky to see Day 2.

I basically combined these two recipes into a happy medium, wanting to keep the sugar and vinegar equally-balanced as you would do in a shrub.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Impromptu: The Blade Hopper

The Blade Hopper
1 cup chocolate milk
1 shot Fernet Branca

Shake chocolate milk (or component parts) plus Fernet Branca with a cube of ice or two. Strain over large cube(s) in a rocks glass.

(as you might notice, I added a generous pinch of cocoa powder to ramp up the chocolate in mine and keep the sweetness from the chocolate syrup better balanced)

Rich chocolate and bitter menthol go together in a refreshing dream.

Quite possibly the world's best post-workout/hangover cure/I-ate-too-much-but-still-want-a-bit-of-dolce/grown-up Grasshopper/helluvalot-easier-than that-other-St.-Paddy's-Day-cocktail-I-posted-today drink.


1 1/2 oz Irish whiskey
3/4 oz bianco vermouth
1/2 oz rhum agricole blanc
1/2 oz green chartreuse
1/4 oz tequila blanco
1 bsp pear eau-de-vie
1 bsp blue curacao
2 dashes rhubarb bitters
2 dashes Bittercube Jamaican #2 bitters

Stir. Strain. No garnish.

For all the March birthdays out there, especially the Pisces. Still, I'm sorry: somehow, it tastes like a more-richly-vegetal-but-clear Shamrock Shake. Yes, I'm telling you you'll taste mint and cream, despite (because of?) the ingredients. And it's both delicious and complex!

For a long while I'd had a draft post with only the title, Aquamarine. Similarly, I've wanted to devise an Irish whiskey/cachaça recipe because the high school percussionist in me adores how Brazilian rosewood marimbas often accent Irish folk music - though that's a recipe better realized at another time. Given how I generally prefer a good rhum agricole blanc to something like Leblon, I figured I give that combo a whirl while pulling in some of my favorite early spring cocktail ingredients (fast become a trend for me): bianco vermouth, pear eau-de-vie and rhubarb bitters (in addition to Irish whiskey and rhum agricole being stars of some Ti(n)sanity posts from this time last year). Plus, some elements simply demanded inclusion, if only because of the name and that St. Paddy's Day draws nigh.

Now, I'm sure you're looking at all the ingredients above and shaking your head, because it is an obnoxious list (which would probably run you close to $200 plus a week's time for potential mail-order if you wanted to collect-bottles-from-scratch). But, I have tasted the recipe if you broke it down to base parts of whiskey, vermouth, rhum, chartreuse and rhubarb bitters - and it's only 66% there. The other small ingredients truly give a proper rounding and depth - the tequila, eau-de-vie and curacao (yes, the curacao has a flavor, it ain't vodka) add extra vegetal and fruity notes with their sweetness taming the heat from both the chartreuse and rhum, while the bitters balance out the added sweetness. And...well, there's more, but it's better developed at the next Ombudsman session.

Suffice it to say, to hell with current attitudes: elegance rocks and generally produces greatness (and the Manhattan is a supreme muse-rich cocktail, despite it being untrendy in some quarters), but a muse has gotta do what a muse has gotta do, whether it's neophyte (or even cognoscenti)-friendly or not.

For those brazen hearts who wish to take up the challenge of this drink, some notes on ingredients:
  • Tullamore Dew 12 years - a dry Irish whiskey like this sets the cocktail up for success.
  • Martini & Rossi - aggressive vegetality is a plus.
  • Neisson - the rough, funky 100pf doesn't get lost.
  • Azul - a blanco with vegetal notes is again what's best.
  • Schladerer - it's an eau-de-vie we're after, not a brandy or a liqueur. Dry, but so flavor-intense it becomes sweet. Anyone else using an eau-de-vie like this for a rounding accent? I'd be happy to give a shout-out.
  • Eyeball the curacao - you know what an aquamarine gem look like, so use that as your final color target.


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Not Quite Mixology Monday, February 2014: Sours

Hi everybody! Boomer here. MoD's been seriously hibernating after having one too many cups of Punchatawney Phil (a thing for another year, methinks. I told her to go easy on the nutmeg..) and I figured she'd want me to get this latest post up for her. Sorry for the lateness, it's not truly a Mixology Monday post since it's way past deadline, but these little paws of mine can only hit keys so fast (fortunately, I am a wireless mouse, so there is that).

Andrea over at the delightful and inventive Ginhound is this month's host with the "how did something this supremely classic get overlooked?" theme: Sours.
Some of the most iconic cocktails are Sours. Of David Embury's core six cocktails two are sours: The Daiquiri and the Sidecar.

There is a reason for this: A perfectly balanced sour is a work of art. What has happened to the Margarita shows exactly what is at stake when mixes replace bartender skill.

For this month's MxMo I suggest that we test the sour to the limit: Are there citrus besides lemon, lime and grapefruit that works in a Sour? Is citrus the only possible souring ingredient? Could vinegar or other tart fruits or vegetables be used? Let's also include the Daisies and the Fizzes - that widens the playing field with eggs and whatever makes you fizz to play with.
When active, this link will point you to the round-up of all the contributions entered in time.

Hummm....sour, sour sour... Everyone seems to be going on about Sours in their posts, so here's something MoD wrote about them awhile back:
[...] Bitter wouldn't be an appropriate direction so Sour stepped in and offered the courtly Sidecar structure: like a lady in her ballgown, the spirit is the woman herself, with the right of her voluminous skirt decorated in Sweet balanced by the left of her skirt decorated in Sour.
She really didn't have a good idea to start. Thought she was going to do something related to HAL 9000 for a little bit, the way she was mumbling something about Daisies and bicycles built for two (you don't want to know the lyrics she was murmuring in her sleep!). Besides, as her research assistant, I pointed out to her that a vodka/Tang combination was already called the Buzz Aldrin - though it could count as a Sour because Tang has a rough pH of 2.70, not too far off from lemon or lime.

With that idea shot down, I moved in for the kill, subliminally implanting a surefire ingredient idea I couldn't wait to taste: peanut butter! (hey, with some of the cocktails she comes up with, sometimes it's nice to throw the taster a bone - and if you're throwing bone luges at me, nothing larger than a chicken bone, 'k?) Granted, it's a slightly difficult ingredient to incorporate into a drink but it's so nummy and I can just see a PB&J Whiskey Sour an' I wannascarfanmminmmmmm....mm? Oh. Laura over at Sass & Gin already did that scarfalicious cocktail. Wait, what're you doing then, MoD?

Aw, ma, savory?! In a Sour?! Do I hafta?

Peanut Mirage
2 oz mezcal
1/2 oz lime juice
1/2 oz nocino
1/4 oz peanut syrup
2 dashes mole bitters
5 drops soy sauce
1 egg white
1/2 oz/splash ginger ale
equal parts ground cumin/coriander spice mix for garnish

Dry shake all but ginger ale, then add ice and shake to chill/dilute.
Double strain into a chilled cocktail glass containing the ginger ale.
Garnish with a small pinch of spice mix over the foam.

Peanut syrup: equal parts hot water, peanut butter.
Whisk until smooth.

  • Nose: rich, sweet peanut butter (with underlying milky/roasted senses) and savory mezcal smoke dancing to coppery ginger; citrusy cumin and coriander.
  • Between the peanut butter and egg white, the sip comes off remarkably creamy, but without the attendant sweetness you might expect; the rhythm section provided by the nocino, bitters and soy sauce pulls it in a dark savory direction away from sweetness. In fact, if you increase your splash of ginger ale beyond the 1/2 oz, I can see this cocktail rising to an aperitif: the underlying acidity, herbal notes and subtle bitterness remind me a lot of dry vermouth. Otherwise, the drink remains heavier, emphasizing the savory/spicy notes.
  • This is the second cocktail MoD's done combining agave spirits and nocino, and I haven't seen this combo much elsewhere. Kinda surprised: their earthy qualities reinforce and contrast one another well.
  • Mezcal: fitting with the peanut butter, tamed by the big flavor. Lime: not overkill but still bright at 1/2 oz. Nocino: enhances the nuttiness, and brought to mind by some homemade peanut butter/walnut fudge. Peanut syrup: thins out the peanut butter so it can mix, keeps the drink lighter than expected; added salt a plus, no need to further sweeten. Mole bitters: enhances the dark notes and bridges. Soy sauce: umami, baby. Egg white: appropriate in a sour, but also adds emulsification to prevent fine peanut sediment. Ginger ale: gingery nod to mezcal and other savory spice notes, Daisy-esque touch which prevents heavy compressed flavors. Spice mix: final bit of savory; nods to Thai, Mexican and African flavor profiles.

Cheers to all the MxMoers who had their game together this month, to Andrea for an awesome theme, and to Fred for the cat-wrangling (just not towards me, ok? Or I may have to hit them with my super-sonic death ray...or, y'know, run away..).

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Mixology Monday, January 2014: Highballs


Really. Makes me quite happy to get back to blogging along with this rambunctious collection of crazy cats for the best cocktail party on the web. Even better? This month's hosted by one of my fave Tweeps, the Renaissance Man Joel of Southern Ash blog, where you'll find cocktail and fine dining recipes to cigar reviews to examinations of sartorial goodness. He brings us the perfect thematic answer to the post-holiday rush: Highballs!
“You need three ingredients for a cocktail. Vodka and Mountain Dew is an emergency.”
-Peggy Olson, Mad Men, The Summer Man (2010)
Highball – n. 1. a long iced drink consisting of a spirit base with water, soda water, etc
-Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition.

For this month’s theme, I thought we could strip away the complexities of cocktails and relax with a nice highball. As Ms. Olson so eloquently put it, most cocktails are at least three ingredients with the highball relegated to emergency or last resort status but in those highballs we will seek refuge. The end of the day is sometimes better served by a simple liquor plus mixer combination than an artfully measured Corpse Reviver No. 2 This month, tell us what you’ll do with a liquor and a mixer (with maybe a wee bit of garnish) to ease into the new year.
When active, this link will send you to the summary post of this month's festivities.

So highballs, huh? Short, sweet.. Base anna mixer. Let's see how weird we can make this.

"The Eskimo boy, after a brief period of time as an Alaskan crabber, became a Goth." -

Pinky Carruthers
3 dashes Dr. Adam's Dandelion & Burdock bitters
1 part Monkey Shoulder blended scotch
3 parts Bundaberg guava soda
blood orange wheel

Build over ice in a highball glass. Gently stir and garnish with the blood orange wheel.

There's a very distinct "I know I've tasted this flavor note before, but where?" emergent flavor. I wanna say it's a type of "strawberries and cream" from the sweet-tart guava and scotch barrel notes. It's both bright and earthy, and the soda isn't as sweet as you might expect - a little weightier too, but I like that added oomph during the winter, and it's still refreshing.

And in all technicality, it fits the criteria for a Wonder Twins highball, a concept I've bounced back and forth with our dear host on the Twitters from time to time. (form of...a monkey! form of...guava soda!).

Cheers and congrats to Joel for hosting a blessed and refreshing theme and to Fred, whose lasso-wrangling skills would outmatch New Jersey any day.

Remember: No matter where you go, there you are.

See you, space cowboy..

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Mixology Monday, December 2013: Anise!

*glides in on ice skates* Christmastime is heeeeeeer--wuh wo WAOH!! *crash*

*gets covered in snow from the branches above*

Par for the course this month.

It's was Mixology Monday again! Nick over at the très très snazzy The Straight Up is our gracious host for the month with a theme for the soft spot in any mixologist's heart, that particular flavor we all probably didn't like when growing up but now adore after having our first Sazerac: Anise!
Although great any time of year, there is something about colder weather and the holidays that really sets my anise fetish into overdrive. While past MxMos have seen a few specific sources of anise, such as pastis and absinthe, I wanted to open things up to anything anise flavored, the more unique the better.

Most folks have something with anise notes laying around, whether it’s Absinthe or Pastis, Ouzo, Genepy, even Green Chartreuse, Peychaud’s, Raki, etc.

Maybe get creative and make something tasty with some star anise, like a syrup, infusion or tincture.  Show us that riff on a Sazerac or Improved Holland Gin Cocktail that you love, or create something entirely new.  If you’re feeling frisky, see if you can work in a few anise ingredients. Either way throw something together and share it with us all.
When active, this link will send you to the summary post of this month's festivities.

If anything, this theme needs only one question: which anise-flavored spirit do you use?!? Or, in my case, do you have a work-in-progress which would fit? Answer: Yes!

It was one of those Twitter-challenge types of recipes:
[hat-tip, Mr. Dietsch!]

So, where to start? Golden Glider, aka Lisa Snart, is the younger sister of Flash archvillain Captain Cold. Now, despite said affiliation, she was on the straight-and-narrow with a career as a figure skater, but when her lover and coach, Roscoe Dillon - aka The Top, perished due to speed-related illness, she laced up her razor-sharp skates and swore mighty vengeance against the Flash. Equipped not just with her skates (which borrowed technology from her brother's cold guns that could project aerial ice) but with a range of jewel-themed weapons (nicely keeping in the "ice" theme) she pursued her vendetta up until the Flash/Barry Allen died in the conflict known as Crisis on Infinite Earths. With her foe dead, for a time she went quasi-straight and teamed up with her brother as the Golden Snowball Recovery Company, a duo of bounty hunters. As these things go, though, soon enough she was lacing up her skates once again, bigger and badder than before.

Where does that leave the cocktail? Well, for starters it needs to be golden. Given Lisa's heyday was in the 70s and early 80s, it only seems fitting to turn to that swingin' cat of the period: Galliano (and there's our anise!). Also, there is a known cocktail called the Snowball (advocaat, lime cordial & lemonade) - I'll drop the advocaat here, but steal the lemon. Ah, we've got a Sour cocktail in the making. Now for a base spirit, also golden. Something premium, sippable and glides smooth down the throat, a bit sweet: 10 Cane Rum. And heck, why not make it luxe and bubbly with a splash of golden champagne (and steer it away from being a Yellow Bird)? But of course, a healthy dash of bitter would truly match Lisa's personality. Finally, because I really can't help myself where fancy ice is concerned, just like I can't resist the idea of jewel-themed gadgets with which to wreak havoc, a little something special in that department, no need for a garnish.

These recipes are dedicated to the world's foremost Golden Glider fangirl, Lia Brown, from an old Rogues fangirl acquaintance from LiveJournal.

Flash v2 #19, Writer: William Messner-Loebs, Pencils: Jim Mooney

Golden Glider
2 oz 10 Cane Rum
1/2 oz Galliano
1/2 oz lemon juice
1 dash Fee Bros gin-barrel-aged orange bitters
1 oz champagne (dry, please)

orange blossom jewel-shaped ice*

Shake the first four ingredients with light ice.

Add the champagne to a chilled Collins glass over 4 or 5 jewel-shaped orange blossom water-infused ice cubes.

Top with your shaken mixture.

Jostle to blend if you feel like it.

You'd think the rum and Galliano would be more forward in this drink, but it's ultimately much more orange-oriented. Instead of the straight sweetness you'd expect to find in a syrupy liqueur like Galliano, you first get a low bitter note immistakeable of Fee Bros. Orange across your tongue (where it'll linger on the finish), which then literally blossoms as the ice melts and releases a metric centiliter-ton of orange blossom water anchored and fused to Galliano's deep anise. It's not Orange Crush, though it might prove challenging to your palate depending on how sensitive it is, but I like it for how different a profile it is. The floral and rarefied orange make you slow down...it feels like a special occasion. As you drink down the long thin glass, you get wonderful bursts of aromatics as well. Rum/Galliano vanilla and lemon pick up on the tail end, and the champagne dries just enough to a wonderful balance overall.

Of course, comic book characters tend to go through many permutations: What-If? storylines, situations and extremities to be undone by the end of the story, and failed attempts to keep up with the times. Like the above-pictured story where the washed out Flash Rogues gather to reminisce after the death of Barry Allen, one of my favorite issues of The Flash is Annual #5 from 1992, one of the early stories from the Eclipso: The Darkness Within crossover event. In addition to much witty banter and inside baseball from a great trio of Rogues (Captain Boomerang, Weather Wizard and The Trickster) and some very pretty Image-esque art which fits the story though is perhaps a bit out of place in the greater Flash universe, the story features Golden Glider gradually revealing her compulsion to steal Eclipso's black diamond, finally being taken over by the archaic Spirit of Vengeance and raising hell on Central City. Of course, this lends itself to a variation with a black (Sambuca - also anise! Yay!) diamond.

Flash Annual #5
Writers: Mark Waid & Craig Boldman
Pencils: Travis Charest
Golden Glider (Eclipso)
2 oz Smith & Cross rum
1/2 oz Galliano
1/2 oz lemon juice
1 dash absinthe
1 dash bitter orange amaro like Campari or Gran Classico

orange blossom jewel-shaped ice + 1 black Sambuca diamond ice cube*

It seems the same Golden Glider, but without bubbles and stronger and...there's a funkiness to it, but loads of vanilla too. Makes me wish I had Malört on hand. The quick-melting black Sambuca ice gives a nice "contamination" effect.

But for a being on a cosmic power level with The Spectre, you could probably get away meaning-wise by using all Lemon Hart 151, but that's not recommendable (and I can't, just on a practical level, because PA effectively makes you buy a lifetime supply if you're going to buy any of that bottle - hence no LH151 pour moi). The absinthe and bitter orange liqueur also rachet up the evil level while enhancing the already-existing flavors.

* For orange blossom water ice cubes, use 1/2 tsp orange blossom water for every ounce water.
For black Sambuca ice, use 1 teaspoon Black Sambuca and fill the remainder with water.
[2013-12-25 00:40, Edited to add, for want of totally-organized thoughts earlier: lack of time and resources prevented this, but if you wanted to be thoroughly geeky about the original Golden Glider recipe, use a different hydrosol for each ice cube to play up the different functionality in each of Lisa's jewel-weapons. The likes of rose water, or homemade violet, mint, and almond hydrosols would be quite an arsenal.]

Now quick, someone make a Spectre cocktail or set, distinguishing between Ostrander, DeMatteis and Rucka incarnations!

Cheers to Nick for hosting a delicious MxMo and to Fred for wrangling the cats into their Santa suits yet again. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Impromptu: Falling Sun Manhattan

I might as well face it: I'll always be trying to remake the Manhattan.

The Manhattan itself a dark seasons classic, I wanted to add some autumnal/festive-seasons richness with a brooding quality to the mix. The cassis and nocino had been calling out to me, so I chanced it:

Falling Sun Manhattan
2 oz Buffalo Trace bourbon
1/4 oz crème de cassis
1/4 oz nocino
1/4 oz sweet vermouth (Vya)
1 dash Bittercube Bolivar bitters
1 dash Regan's orange bitters
orange twist

Stir, strain, large ice cube, rocks.
Express and garnish.

It's a bit sweet, but it rises to blog-worthy status based on its well-illuminated complexity; the tart and bitter turns of each liqueur opens up the cocktail well beyond the standard Manhattan. (oddly enough, I tried subbing in Rittenhouse rye for half the bourbon for balance only to find the flavors collapsed) Buffalo Trace's structure and....I wanna say flavor clarity, it interweaves so well...does some heavy lifting, bringing not only its own wood notes as a foundation but enunciating the cassis and the bitter herbs underneath. Not every bourbon will be as successful, either; I know of several in my cabinet which would just be too blunt and inarticulate here. 

Also, keep the orange away from the cassis, lest you find them on honeymoon in your mouth! As if it weren't bad enough already with the bitters adding a degree of spice...

This would be perfect to drink while enjoying a Sagittarian sunset (which, come to think, start today). The dark hours grow earlier and the landscapes bleaker, but those sunsets... Royal blue and shaded gold melded into a full jewel-toned rainbow. The weariness in body and soul comes easier now, but the world and the year show us they are still pregnant as currant berries with unspent meaning. And that satisfies.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Mixology Monday, November 2013: Resin, part 2

As I was working on my first recipe for for this Mixology Monday, it came to me that I had another resinous ingredient that had been sitting on my shelf a long while for just such an occasion: Skinos Mastiha liqueur, a not-too-sweet Greek spirit from the island of Chios centered around the flavor of mastic resin. To my palate, its most prominent notes are of sweet limes and celery, but it's not one to overwhelm in cocktails, offering a slight resinous edge and lift on the tongue.

While the resin is harvested in the summertime, as I went about finding a spirit match for the Mastiha with whisky, it got me to wondering how the bleak wintertime moors of Scotland would translate to the wintertime seas of the Mediterranean. There's a certain mood about November, the quiet austerity before the month of Holidays proper sets in, as the leaves finish falling and the cold begins to truly set in. This is what I aimed for with this cocktail.

Grey Seas, Grey Skies
1 1/2 oz blended Scotch whisky
3/4 oz dry vermouth
1/2 oz Skinos Mastiha liqueur
1/4 oz white grapefruit juice
2 dashes grapefruit bitters
tiny pinch salt
thyme braid for garnish

Shake all, double-strain into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish with thyme braid.

A quiet sipper, with predominant bitter notes though weakly sweet. Smoke notes hover like mist. A whiff of the thyme (slightly resinous in itself, or at least the type I buy with somewhat woody stems) pulls up grapefruit notes on the palate, and through that mastic subtlety.

There's still beauty left in the world. You simply must be still to pick up on it.

Notes: this recipe could be said to be a take-off on the Woodward or the Miami Beach. And if you have Bittermens' Hopped Grapefruit bitters, more power to you! That'll only add to the overall resin-ance.

Cheers to Shaun and Christa for hosting a delightfully pensive topic, and to Fred for continued fine wrangling (may your lasso never wear)!

The round-up post is here.

Mixology Monday, November 2013: Resin, part 1

Greetings once again, this late Mixology Monday night! I've been more fatigable than usual of late, so let's be pithy. Shaun and Christa, the Booze Nerds, have teased out a theme for us this month, the sort that makes you go "Ohhhhh! Now there's an idea with deeper resonance for the season." Or Resin-ance, as the case may be:
We thought hard about a theme that would work well for this time of year, and after contemplating the food, booze, and decor we like for the holidays, we settled on “Resin”. From savory rosemary in a stuffing, to a delicious juniper-y gin in a martini, to a fragrant fir ornament or garnish, our friends the evergreens have a lot to offer. The challenge: come up with an ingenious creation using the resin-y ingredient of your choice. Zirbenz, retsina, hoppy IPA, pine-nut puree, even? Sure! Spirit, garnish, aroma, all are fair game. Whatever resin means to you, we want to hear it.
When active, this link will send you to the summary post of this month's festivities.

Being an Aries, I've read that frankincense is an especially good spice for the sign, and the stress-relieving cinnamon-frankincense candles I've had over the years give that theory much credit. So the scent being close to my heart, how can I not want to cocktail with it? Its exoticism makes me think of a fortune teller, rings and jewels and layers of variegated-patterned frocks, a little of this and a little of that but never quite one thing -- perhaps the reason her senses are so attuned to the other side.

So sit back, breathe deep as the frankincense soothes you, and drink deep of the underlying interconnectedness. And beyond this recipe, stay tuned in a few seconds for another resinous cocktail, which would only clutter this post.

The Shew Stone
2 oz Gewürztraminer
1/2 oz Becherovka
1/4 oz grappa
1/4 oz blanco mezcal
absinthe ice sphere
frankincense-smoked glass

Smoke your rocks serving glass with frankincense, about 1-2 minutes.*
Stir liquid ingredients on light ice to combine.
Add absinthe ice sphere to serving glass and strain cocktail over top.
Sniff and savor.

*Frankincense requires indirect heat, either via a lit specialty charcoal briquet or an aluminum pie plate over a low-heat stove or hot plate. Rest serving glass over the smoke on minimally-conductive lifts made from wood or porcelain (I used a pie plate on the stove with a spare wooden chopstick broken in two to protect the glass from heat damage).

The delicacy of frankincense hits your nose first, all ginger and pine and smoke and white citrus. This leads into the hearth fire of the mezcal (El Buho, here) and then subtle sweetness and rose petals (reinforced by the grappa -- Alexander, di Cabernet in my case) on the tongue. Dryness follows as well as a subtle complexity - a mix of the frankincense and Becherovka. After some time when the ice sphere begins to melt, your fortune (or maybe just intoxication) begins to emerge in notes of anise and fennel - not sore thumbs in the least, but further complexity that play up the frankincense.

As you might notice, there's no base spirit to this cocktail. Sure, there's grappa and mezcal around the edges, but no anchor beyond the gewurtz. Very much intended. Whoever might be telling fortunes would likely be a nomad or gypsy, picking up a wide variety of spirits in her travels, as the recipe demonstrates. This one cocktail I admire, the Against All Odds from PDT, started my thoughts off down this direction.

  1. I'm not a wine expert, so selecting a precise Gewürztraminer is something I can't do, particularly with the limitations of the PLCB. Overall, the ideal gewurtz for this cocktail would emphasize ginger, rose and lychee notes, while being about midway between sweet and dry - sweet to integrate the other ingredients and dry/acidic to define them so they're not swimming beneath the surface. The two wines I used for testing proved to be on either end of the spectrum (Domaine Paul Buecher 2011 - sweet & Firestone 2009 - dry), so 1 oz of each ended up about right.
  2. Also important is selecting a food grade frankincense. Frankincense has multiple grades, some only fit for burning as incense. While you don't have to go all the way to "superior" (très très cher), the paler and more translucent the better. I found this frankincense online, which is marketed as a "tea" (always an excellent signifier for obscure herbs and spices, imo) - it proves quite ethereal when smoked and also functions well as a chewing gum.
  3. To make an absinthe ice sphere, fill your spherical ice mold (mine's a Tovolo) with water and let freeze for a few hours until a frozen outer shell has developed, somewhere between 1/4 to 1/2" thick. At that point, drill a small hole in the shell and drain the water out. Replace said water with a chilled mix of 1/2 oz absinthe to 3 oz or more of water. Dilution and chilling are key, because otherwise the absinthe's high proof will melt a hole straight through the sphere and wreck it upon addition. It is possible to just do an ice sphere of diluted absinthe, but the outer rough texture leaves something to be desired aesthetically. Plain water ice will give you a glossy clear exterior like that of a crystal ball, while the absinthe adds a cloudiness and mystique which suggests there's magic happening inside. More pointers on complex/filled ice spheres here.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Ti(n)sanity!: Jane Porter

As I mentioned way back in August, I'm working on more (and advanced) ideas for this Ti(n)sanity! series, my look at all the various ways you can use tea in a cocktail; for grins and flavor-tracking consistency, Celestial Seasonings Tension Tamer herbal tea/tisane serves as my Macguffin. *points downwards to the Disclaimer*.

This particular iteration backtracks a little bit, back to the syrup-level found in the Lullaby Sangaree and Insufferable Creole Minx (linked below) and is the second part of a "fancy orgeat" exploration that started with Giganta. Tea syrups, be it Earl Grey or Chai or Lapsang Souchong, are quite common anymore amongst the cocktail set. But what prevents them from being more complex entities beyond tea + sweetener? In my experience cocktailing, something herbal like a tisane lends itself quite well as an accent note or flavor enhancer -- so why not enhance a single ingredient as well as its cocktail?

But why orgeat? At first glance, orgeat, a sweetened nut milk syrup with hydrosol accents, already seems to have a lot of complexity going for it. The nut oils lend a pearly opacity to a cocktail, as well as an evanescent rich sweetness enhanced by the traditional rose and/or orange blossom water hydrosols. Really, you could play around with the nuts, the sugars and the hydrosols (why not lavender or mint or any other herbal flavor you can dream up?) to your hearts' content and leave scads of combinations on the table. But if those three components are customizable, then how about the final, most innocuous ingredient, the water?

Enter the tisane, whose delicacy functions much as the hydrosols do, by not overpowering the nuts' subtlety*. Flavoring the water produces more of a shade or tone to the syrup, though, bringing notes which can make themselves felt even while using scant amounts of orgeat in a cocktail.

*conversely, if using a coffee, it's the nuts' richness which gets paired with the water flavoring, as countless international coffee cocktail recipes attest.

Now, to the featured cocktail itself. The initial dreaming was for a more Jane-of-the-Jungle variation on my Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini Punch, which, with the intersection of this orgeat idea blossomed into 3 recipes. You'll have to wait to see JotJ until I can get my rums in order (which'll be soon enough), but for now let's take this other side street back onto Ti(n)sanity Ave. for a look at the lady before she met the jungle (and her Lord Greystroke): Jane Porter.

Jane Porter
1 1/2 oz Tanqueray Malacca
1/2 oz ruby port
1/2 oz lime juice
1/4 oz Tension Tamer orgeat, recipe below
2 dashes Abbott's bitters
3/4 oz egg white
lime zest for garnish

Give all the ingredients a good dry shake (sans ice - I find adding the spring from a Hawthorne strainer to the shaker helps things froth well).

Add ice and shake to chill and dilute.

Double-strain into a chilled cocktail coupe.

Garnish with fine-grated lime zest if desired.

Gin-herbal and bright with almond-berry sweetness, but also dry on the tongue with port/lime acidity and egg white. Regular almond orgeat would stick out like a sore thumb with its brightness, but the herbal-vanilla quality of the Tension Tamer folds that flavor into the Malacca to produce something much more seamless. Abbott's bitters, native to Baltimore as Jane herself was, offer an understated taming note that meshes invisibly with the other ingredients. At first glance, it's a frilly pink drink for a proper young woman, replete with gin and tea and a youthful energetic fortified wine -- but there's Tiki around the edges and in its very soul, right to the tropical notes in the Malacca.

This recipe development was a trial. The ratios settled themselves out easily enough, and I found out that this recipe is quite similar to the Crimson cocktail (not sure if it's named for the color and/or the Harvard newspaper, though it seems classic-styled enough to fit) and the much more modern Anne Bonny (like-minded gal-badass-themed kudos, Rafa!).

[Edited to add, 01-24-2014: Just found on one of my favorite port cocktail recipe pages, natch, the ratios bear much similarity to the Saint Valentine]
[Edited to add, 01-29-2014: And another! The funky Dr. Phibes from Rated R Cocktails.]
[Edited to add, 02-23-2014: The Tiki-compliant Queen's Park Hotel Super Cocktail. Is this the foundational cocktail for the spirit/lime juice/red fortified wine/syrup-or-liqueur model?]
[Edited to add, 03-08-2014: Salvatore Daiquiri, with Cherry Heering and Averna]

But to the point: this cocktail needs the freshest lime and port possible. I'm sure you know how quickly both ingredients can fade and go "off", even when refrigerated, dear reader. Doubly so since they provide "sharp" notes, as they say in punch parlance.

Stay tuned! Many more ideas yet to come!

Regular tea and almond-creamed tea.
Tea/tisane-based orgeat
1 tea bag
1 cup boiling water
2 oz chopped almonds
1/3 cup sugar
3 drops rose water or other hydrosol

  1. Brew a strong cup of tea with the tea and water (until the tea is cooled). 
  2. Reheat the tea until quite hot, then pour 1/3 cup over the chopped almonds in a mug or other heat-safe container. Cover and let sit for 4 hours.
  3. Strain the almond milk-tea through a cheesecloth-lined strainer and use the cheesecloth to wring out every last drop from the nuts.
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 with the same nuts and liquid to further extract the almond oils. 
  5. Add sugar to finished liquid and stir/shake to dissolve. Finish with rose water.
  6. Store in the refrigerator and let rest before using. Makes about 1/2 cup, upsize as desired.
I tend to avoid a third "process" (steps 2 & 3) because you start getting a cooked-almond flavor from the applied hot liquid. So long as you give the nuts an adequate soak, you'll get plenty of flavorful almond oil.

Previous Ti(n)sanity recipes:

Wind Whisperer (gin and ouzo)
Eire Light (irish whiskey)
Hit the Road to Dreamland (rum)
Lullaby Sangaree (madeira) and Insufferable Creole Minx (bourbon, gin, madeira)
T. T. Punch (rhum agricole)
Me-tea-orite (single malt scotch)
Introduction and eThéreal Toddy (grappa)

Disclaimer: this is a non-sponsored post. Also, I'm not looking to do sponsored posts. I just really like this tea, is all, and have a policy of happily and independently buying all my ingredients.

Thursday, October 24, 2013


The portals fly open:
Ruffled sleeves and legerdemain
Seize the essences
      occulted in dark woods.
A flow of claret velvet,
A splash of unctuous green,
Zaps of black to quicken,
Receive the sacred transfigurer.
Made new substance.

Just a quick nip before dinner.

2 oz armagnac
3/4 oz ruby port
1/4 oz green chartreuse
1 bsp nocino
1 dash pimento bitters
1 dash vanilla bitters
flamed orange zest

Stir all on ice.
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Flame an orange zest over top, anoint the glass's rim, and discard.

The armagnac is a knowing armchair of vanilla and dark dried fruit -- rustic where cognac would be mannered -- and ruby port (Noval Black) rounds with fresh berry. The Chartreuse dominates, as is its wont, a geste of spicy herbs and deep magic. The nocino, along with the pimento bitters, takes those herbs down a deep and rich path. The vanilla bitters (Vanilla Lace or otherwise) and orange zest are all finesse.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Mixology Monday, October 2013: Intercontinental

*crawls back from the world of Westeros with a very repaired liver and a creative drive at loose ends* HI!

So not only is it Mixology Monday, but we've got a real doozy of a challenge this time: Intercontinental, courtesy Stewart of Putney Farm:
Everywhere we travel these days we see cocktails on the menu. And not just here in the USA, but all around the world. And that’s not only the drinks, but the ingredients as well. Nowadays when we look behind most bars we see spirits, liqueurs, aromatic wines, bitters, herbs, spices, tools and glassware from all corners of the globe. So let’s celebrate the global reach of cocktails with an “Intercontinental” Mixology Monday challenge. Create a cocktail with “ingredients” from at least 3, but preferably 4, 5 or 6 continents. And if you can include Antarctica, then you get a Gold Star. And remember, sometimes the tools used, glassware, names or back stories of cocktails are important “ingredients”. Creativity and a bit of narrative exploration are encouraged. So if you have been waiting on buying that bottle of Japanese Scotch, Bundaberg rum from Australia, Pisco or Cachaca from South America or Madagascar vanilla, now may be the time to try them out….except for the Bundy…trust us on that. Have fun.
When active, this link will send you to the summary post of this month's festivities.

This recipe is very much indebted to Tiare's Coffee Barrel from A Mountain of Crushed Ice. Her love of the coffee-pineapple flavor combo caught my eye, and then got me wondering: if you've got coffee syrup and orgeat, why not combine the two? And frankly, if you're splitting the atom of orgeat like that, what next?

This is a little cart-before-the-horse: I've been noodling recipes that utilize tea over coffee and then a blend of nuts to expand upon my Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini Punch. We'll get to those in due course, maybe a slower than in previous times.

But in the meantime, I've envisioned an out-growth of those two cocktails, taking Jane Porter and Jane of the Jungle to great -- nay, GIGANTIC -- heights with another jungle lady of pulp: Giganta, Doris Zeul, DC Comics supervillainess, Wonder Woman rogue and 50-foot (and beyond) woman who classically became dumber the bigger she grew (you can imagine how that works with rum). All that mixed in with mad scientist and gorilla roots from the 50s/60s -- I'm slightly surprised I'm not referencing To Russia With Love.

[insert Comic Books Cocktails Badge here, once designed]

Wonder Woman v2. #3, Heinberg & Dodsons
Blue Beetle v3. #19, Rogers, Baldeon, Bird
As Paco, lower-right, says:
3/4 oz Smith & Cross rum
3/4 oz white cachaça (51)
1/2 oz spiced rum
1/2 oz lime juice
1/2 oz pineapple juice
1/2 oz coffee-macadamia orgeat
1/4 oz banana liqueur
1/4 oz Becherovka
banana and macadamia nuts for garnish

Shake all but the garnish in a shaker full of ice. Pour all into a chilled Hurricane glass. Garnish with banana and macadamia nuts as you like. Note: the more overproof the spirits, the better.

For those keeping score at home: cachaça (South America), lime juice (Persian limes as the labels say, albeit from Mexico - Asia), rums and banana liqueur (North America), Becherovka and Tiare's (Sweden) recipe (Europe). And coffee-macadamia orgeat counts for both Africa (Fair Trade Rwanda Wild Mountain Gorilla Fund coffee) and Australia (indigenous macadamia nuts). As far as I know, Giganta hasn't teamed up with The Penguin or joined Justice League: Antarctica, so the seventh continent remains elusive.

The resulting cocktail is a tad sweet, though quite rounded in flavor, particularly due to the sweet ingredients (especially the banana liqueur). You get a nice coffee undernote, enhanced by macadamia's earthiness (would be much different if it were almond). The citruses add bite. I'm still new to the art of Tiki rum-mixing, but the rough 51 cachaça enhances the bite (the petrol note blends seamlessly with the coffee), while Smith & Cross adds needed oomph and hogo, and the spiced rum (Sailor Jerry) brought some vanilla notes which complimented the sweet elements. [Kraken might be nice here as well: a black element would always be favorable in a villain cocktail.] Becherovka restrains some of the sweet elements too, while adding a touch more depth.

Coffee-Macadamia Orgeat
2 oz roasted, crushed macadamia nuts
1/3 cup water
1/2 T coffee
1/3 cup turbinado sugar
  1. Crush your macadamia nuts with a rolling pin in a baggie of some kind. You want the nuts well-crushed but not powdered, all the better to quickly extract the oils. If not roasted, roast on a baking sheet in the oven 4 minutes at 400F.
  2. Add nuts and water to a small sauce pot and simmer for 5 minutes on the stove. Remove from heat and let rest 30 minutes. (Do not apply too much heat. If you smell cooked nuts/oatmeal, you've overdone it). Pour mixture through a sieve covered in a few layers of cheesecloth into a cup. Thoroughly wring out excess liquid from the nuts.
  3. Add liquid back to the sauce pot, bring to simmer, add the same nuts, and repeat step 2.
  4. Repeat step 3, but add the coffee along with the nuts this time and omit resting. After sauce pot has been emptied, rinse out any stray particles, then add liquid back along with the sugar. Gently heat and stir to dissolve. Let cool and store in the fridge.
  5. No hydrosol necessary due to the use of coffee.
I think I've done enough orgeat at this point that I can really comment on the process. You want to make your nut milk first with as minimal cooking as possible prior to adding any sweetenings and flavorings. The more heat you apply, the more you get a cooked nut flavor -- but that also doesn't mean you have to take a full day or two to make the stuff. A few good wringings and you'll have extracted the bulk of the nuts' oils into your base liquid, to be modified as your wont.

Cheers to Stewart for hosting and Fred of Cocktail Virgin Slut for wrangling!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Mixology Monday, September 2013: SMOKE

Rock on! It's Mixology Monday! [cue the theme song!]

This month's edition is hosted by Elana of the très très chic Stir and Strain (seriously, it's like My Little Ponies dancing on your eyeballs in the best way possible - do go check out her marvelous and beautiful creations!). The theme? Ideal-for-the-season (and a great companion piece to last month's theme) SMOKE.

From the announcement post:
They say where there’s smoke, there’s fire– it isn’t necessarily true if we’re down to the smoldering embers, but, well, they say it anyway. In our case, where there was fire, now there’s smoke, and it’s time to stoke your enthusiasm for the next challenge.

Smoke has been everywhere this past year, from liquors to lemonades, to the hills here in Southern California(!); smoke in its many forms has been front page news.

For me, smoke is also a transitional element: it symbolizes the last summer bonfires, sitting around the fire pit making s’mores, and the start of the fragrant crackles from the fireplace announcing that fall is coming.

For September’s theme, I’d like to see how you interpret smoke. With your liquor or ingredients? Your glassware? Will you whip out a chemistry set to transform your cocktail into ghostly vapors? Do you own a home smoker, still in the box, that’s never been used? Well then, you’re welcome. Unpack those ideas and let’s set off a couple smoke alarms this month for MxMo.
When active, this link will send you to the summary post of this month's festivities.

This is a recipe I've had in the back of my mind since about May or so, when I first discovered fresh oregano. I quickly learned the herb is generally better-used dried - you won't get as much flavor as you might like if you muddle it fresh in a drink. So, with that little ditty on the backburner, when the Smoke theme came up the idea and image of oregano smoke sparked renewed interest ('cause dried oregano infused into spirits seemed more spaghetti western than straight western, knowwhatImean?).

But why stop at oregano smoke? I had also considered doing another western-y sage smoke cocktail, but the ingredients for that one are still out of sight in the ether... Oregano's all well and good, but what about some sage too? And maybe some homemade dried bitter orange zest for balance? And some wormwood while we're at it.. And and and...

How about Vermouth Smoke?

Originally dubbed The Melancholy Heart of the Ancient Desert, maybe something a touch less dramatic was in order for all the mixed herbals involved. Elana's one to post a song of the day on Twitter, and I've started doing a once-monthly #FridayMuse series beginning with MxMo hosting duties last month, so a song seemed in order. I had thought to perhaps name the sage smoke cocktail after a similar-themed song, Horse with No Name by America, but that name was already claimed. Second best, The Distance by Live, off one of my favorite albums The Distance to Here, also worked well. The transformative smoke fit just right with the message.

Let's go to the recipe:

The Distance
1 oz Buffalo Trace bourbon
1 oz añejo tequila
3/4 oz tawny port
vermouth smoke (recipe below)
1 small sprig oregano planted in a bourbon cherry for garnish

Gathering smoke..

Stir the first 3 ingredients on ice.

On the lightest heat possible, gently heat the vermouth smoke tea in a tin pie plate or similar on the stove or hot plate. Collect vermouth tea fumes (even lighter than regular smoke - you want to avoid char scent and flavor in favor of the vaporized essences of the herbs you use) in a jar for several minutes. AVOID IMPATIENCE, YOU'LL MESS IT UP.

Strain the cocktail into your smoke container, swirling for 15 seconds or so.

Immediately pour into chilled cocktail glass.

Add garnish.

  • This is one of those cocktails that turned out almost-right the first go-around (a 1/4oz less port and it was just right). The original mix prior to the smoke is pretty good itself: buttery toffee, agave and warm bourbon, with port's depth. The Distance starts a little jumbled as the smoke integrates itself, but as you get into your sips, the alchemy takes over. It's difficult to say when you get beyond the initial nose, but shortly after you find a sip on your palate you swear was either vermouth or a cocktail made with vermouth. The vanillas in the barrel-aged spirits and the bit of cherry from the garnish add to the impression, but so do the herbs and the orange zest too. It seems a deeper sort of flavor melding than even, say, the emergent-unique-flavor of a Manhattan, probably because of how the smoke binds it all together into something new. As a bonus, the nature of smoke itself dries the cocktail out, and the slight bitterness of the herbs negates a need for a dash of bitters. (any herbals would get in the way of the smoke effect, frankly)
  • I would avoid a Smoking Gun here because that would require actually burning the tea - it's great for various types of wood smoke, but would blunt more delicate aromatics.
  • There's something wonderfully westernly world-weary about Buffalo Trace - it's like bourbon imbued with the dry dust on the hooves of its mascot. If you've got a bourbon like that, by all means, but otherwise I recommend this particular one. I used Don Julio añejo and Sandeman tawny port, but use as your preferences and availability allow (though a nice black pepper note on the port would be quite good here).

Vermouth Smoke Tea
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp dried sage
1/4 tsp coriander seeds
10 dried rosemary needles
1 petal star anise
1 nickel-sized (1.5 cm diameter) piece of dried bitter/sour/Seville orange zest, chopped
1 small pinch dried wormwood
1 small pinch dried centaury

Grind all into a tea with a mortar and pestle.
By all means, omit wormwood if wary of it.

Cheers to Elana for a delicious theme and for hosting, and to Fred of cocktail virgin slut for the cat (and possibly marsupial)-herding!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Sunset of September Seventh

Back last summer while prepping for the Smokemont, I made a delightful purchase of rare/offbeat fruit preserves from Smoky Mountain Farms. In addition to Smokemont's huckleberry, I also picked up bottles of mayhaw and scuppernong jellies. Leaving aside the mayhaw for now, the state fruit of North Carolina is a whiter, muskier form of muscadine grape, whose earliest cultivar may be the "Mother Vine" from Roanoke Island. The scuppernong had this mild wine-like early-autumnal taste perfect for this moment in the season.

My thoughts instantly drifted to some form of Sour cocktail, a natural when using jellies or other preserves, possibly with cognac to match or maybe woody and orchard-fruited Dad's Hat* rye whiskey. I couldn't decide, so I split the spirits, noodled around the edges, and came up with something just right for this very moment.

* any other rye whiskey is going to be a step away from tthe intended result, Dad's Hat being quite distinct in its own way.

Sunset of September Seventh
3/4 oz Dad's Hat rye whiskey
3/4 oz cognac (Ferrand Ambre)
1/2 oz reposado tequila (Cazadores)
1/2 oz lemon juice
1/2 oz scuppernong jelly
1/4 oz Drambuie
5 drops Fee Bros. black walnut bitters

Shake all on ice - hard.

Double-strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

No garnish.

I first should note that the honor of doing a scuppernong jelly Sour goes first to B. T. Parsons for his Scuppernong Sour, from his Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All (itself a riff on Jamie Boudreau's Marmalade Sour). The germ of SoS7 was already in my mind when I got the book last fall, but it fell off for awhile until I checked on a misremembering and found his version used bourbon and egg white. That was great motivation to keep going and add in some tweaks to help this drink further stand on its own (though I did borrow the extra 1/4 oz sweet from his structure - I think the jelly's pectin negates some of its sweetness, or at least my jar's did. YMMV.).

I had started with a classic 2 : 1 : 1 structure for this sour with rye and cognac, but the base spirits seemed a bit overwhelmed by the sweet and sour elements. So I pulled both of those elements back while adding a third base, buttery highlands reposado tequila to help dry it further (but not overmuch that the agave note would stick out like a sore thumb). And these mods pretty much made the cocktail.

The overall flavor is an emergent one, but depending on the sip you get those hints of agave, or a wash on palate and nose of maple syrup and birch wood from the rye and bitters, or perhaps a view down to the copper horn of cognac on which everything rests. The egg white seemed like so much gilding with everything else going on, so I omitted it - but the jelly's pectin adds a lovely body. The scuppernong flavor itself is mild and mellow, but it dominates in its own way. I added the Drambuie instead of simple syrup to help keep with the overall "golden" aesthetic, and it helps round edges with faint herbs and scotch-smoke where they would otherwise be flat.

You get a little bit of summer in the glass from the lemon and tequila, while slowly moving into autumnal flavors with the cognac and rye. Shake up a glass for yourself today and toast the rays of gold falling on you and the ever-darkening shadows. This is the best time of year.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Impromptu - Bourbon and Aperol

Last night, I had a hankering for Bourbon and Aperol. Well, I've had an unsated hankering for whiskey all week, but rather than doing the Rumdood-suggested Sherman Cocktail, (which was my idea the night prior), I wanted bourbon and the Orange Crush-y notes of Aperol. But how to flesh out that drink?

There were a fair number of Bourbon-Aperol drinks on Kindred Cocktails to start*, but none quite met the picture in my head (A Clockwork Orange and The Lemony Pabla weren't too far-off, though). I was seeking something with the red and floral of Peychaud's bitters, which seemed like an interesting contrast to the Aperol. And some kind of wine to lengthen seemed appropriate. When all of a sudden, a new post came through from Bartending Notes on an Earl Grey MarTEAni.

*(the research always tends to take about an hour before I get a solid recipe in mind)

*ping!* Earl Grey-infused madeira. Verdelho for dryness, and a bit more body than Sercial (and exactly what I had on my counter that needed using up). 1 tea bag in 1/2 cup for 10 minutes (tops - keep tasting drops) works quite well. Make sure to wring out all the bergamot-y goodness.

Impromptu Bourbon & Aperol (& Earl Grey)
1 1/2 oz overproof Bourbon (Wild Turkey 101)
1 oz earl grey-infused verdelho madeira
1/2 oz dry vermouth
1/2 oz Aperol
3 dashes Peychaud's bitters
3 drops orange blossom water
orange zest

Stir all but the zest on ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Express an orange zest over the drink, rub around the rim, and discard.

The floral soft qualities are what you encounter first with a whiff of cherry and almost a lemon or citron edge on the palate, followed by a touch of sweetness and then drying bitterness from the tea and other bitter ingredients. You seriously need at least a 100-proof bourbon for this one. 90-proof Bulleit didn't quite hold up, but Wild Turkey 101 did the trick.

I added the dry vermouth for an extra herbal quality and some lengthening to better taste all the ingredients. The orange blossom water I stole from A Clockwork Orange: the more pronounced florals, the less the cocktail resembles a Boulevardier or Old Pal -- and it's a nice augmentation to the Peychaud's and bergamot.

As always with these impromptus, dear reader, if a name strikes you I'm all ears!

Impromptus - Gin and Tonics

I've realized of late that I've gotten to a point where I can rattle off ingredients off the top of my head and turn them into pretty decent cocktails. It doesn't always work out, but I would say my hit rate is still 50% or so. And I've also realized I don't document these recipes beyond TwitPic at times, to the detriment of the blog, purely because they weren't "planned" and fought-for ideas.

But some weekends or evenings, you just want to mix a few tasty ingredients with no deeper meaning. So this will be the start of a quick-and-dirty series of those impromptu recipes successful (enough) to merit spent words. ('cause the last time I wrote up an impromptu, it took me a fiddle-faddlin' month, just for the extra stuff! No more!)

Given these recipes are so off-the-cuff, I haven't given them formal names. And the first recipe here may not warrant it, unless you think it's distinct the way a Martini and a Gibson are distinct. If you have any ideas, I'm plenty open to them!

So, for this first set of impromptus, a couple months back on a hot lazy summer Saturday (July 5th to be exact) I was playing around with the light crispness of gin & tonics. I can never leave well enough alone: there always needs to be variety, and the chance to mold a drink in different ways. To that end, two rather dissimilar G&T's, whittling down a small bottle of tonic:

Impromptu G&T #1
2 oz Tanqueray
3 oz tonic water
1 tsp absinthe (Vieux Carré)
lemon twist

Gently stir all on ice in a rocks glass. Twist lemon over top and add. Enjoy.

A bracing and heightened-herbal G&T with my favorite gin. Bone-deep refreshing. Somehow I bet this mod is the least of what the Spanish have done with their Gin Tonicas.

Impromptu G&T #2
2 oz honeydew-infused Hendrick's gin
3 oz tonic water
2 dashes amaretto
1 dash rose water
3 dashes Teapot bitters
lemon twist & honeydew melon ball for garnish

Gently stir all on ice in a rocks glass. Skewer a zest-encased melon ball as garnish.

Kitten-y soft, as my notes go. A very happy balance.

I had a small bottle of honeydew-infused Hendrick's gin for another recipe I was working on (delayed until next summer). Hendrick's doesn't take the best to infusion, probably because of the way the rose and cucumber essences are added post-distillation (they stick to the melon pieces, not the gin). Still, there were some mild ginny notes remaining and a light pale mint cotton candy-like flavor to the gin. The tonic's bitterness could prove balance to that sweetness. A few dashes of friendly notes here and there pushed it into cotton-y soft, but a bit less candy.

And, for a bonus, as I was snacking on guacamole while enjoying #2, I noticed how friendly rose water was to avocado. Not too long after, I had an impromptu recipe down for Fruited Guacamole (to which I've received raves from family & friends):

3 small avocados, diced
1 small yellow tomato (plum or otherwise), 1 shallot, 2 black plums* - broiled/grilled and diced
1/2 small cucumber, seeded & chopped
2 dates, seeded and chopped
2 packed tablespoons chopped spearmint
juice of 1 lemon
3 dashes rose water
pinch of salt

In a bowl, drizzle juice of 1/2 lemon over the diced avocado before heating/chopping the rest. Add rest of ingredients to the bowl and stir/mash to desired consistency. SCARF!

*apricots or pluots may also work nicely here