Sunday, July 26, 2015

Mixology Monday, July 2015: Ice, Ice Baby, part 1

Er, yeah, kinda small..
All the better to see the pineappley bits inside.
Hello folks! For those just joining, Feu de Vie is hosting Mixology Monday this month, with a theme of Ice, Ice Baby. Anything frozen or ice-prominent goes.

So here's a quick little appetizer of a cocktail poptail while I finish up something a bit more proper-cocktail-y for Monday.

I'm a sucker for any kind of fuzzy little animal, but hedgehogs in particular because one time I did this spirit meditation thingy and these fuzz-bumpkins showed up. And then I saw these at a few kitchen stores in the mall ->

So I asked myself, if I licked a hedgehog, what would I taste?

The diminutive, woodsy hazelnut seemed like a good start. Pair it with a warm hickory-nut-noted Prichard's rum, or heck, any gold rum. And why not add in some pineapple (because, have you seen what pineapples look like these days?)? Naturally, a popsicle needs a non-alcoholic base in order to ensure freezing, and with this hodgepodge of ingredients coconut water seemed the right fit. Finally, some tiki-ish bitters and lime balance out all the sweetness going on.

Hedgehog Pops (makes 3-4 Zoku-sized (1.5-2oz) pops)
6 oz coconut water
3/4 oz gold rum (Prichard's)
1/4 oz hazelnut orgeat
1/4 oz lime juice
1 1/2 T small-chopped pineapple (thorn-like pieces)
3 dashes Bittercube Jamaican #1 bitters
popsicle molds

Your mileage may vary according to the size and type of your ice pop molds, so trust in their requirements first and scale up the recipe as needed.

Combine liquids, including bitters, and stir until well-incorporated.

Divide pineapple bits and then liquid cocktail equally amongst your popsicle molds.

Freeze/add popsicle sticks according to your mold's requirements.

An overnight freezing duration works ok here, the Zoku molds may only need 4 hours or so.

Unleash the popiscles and enjoy!

Nose: banana cream and deeper fruity notes, rum and spice

Palate: banana cream, rich rum brown sugar graham cracker pineapple tang, pineapple vanilla spice, wonderful lime-cinnamon accent on the finish.

Using rum named after a Pearl Jam song? That's your own bidness, tyvm.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Meyer Lemon Falernum: Telesto

Let's do some housekeeping here before I consider posting anything for July's Mixology Monday. First off, some love to Putney Farm, whose MxMo event, Hometown Hooch, I missed last month, even though I had the recipe and the pics cobbled together and everything (go check out the round-up showing off all manner of locally-made spirit/beverage cocktails). I fizzled out, and no matter how often I sat down to write, the words weren't coming. Afterwards, I realized that I couldn't give proper due or focus to a spirit producer while touting a new (potentially daring) falernum recipe I'd developed last winter-into-spring in the same post, and I was torn because the spirit in question added something interesting to the related cocktail recipe.

Secondly, and more to the point, this is less one of those throw-down-the-gauntlet/best-this challenges than it is: oh Tiki cognoscenti far and wide, please have a look at the below Meyer lemon falernum recipe. This isn't a proper falernum as you might know it, only with Meyer lemon zests added instead of lime. This has a spice blend keyed to the nuances of the zest in question (and notably lacks nut oils). Does it still fit within the confines of what you consider to be "falernum"? What say you?

I'd be very intrigued to know your thoughts, and perhaps to develop a discussion on nomenclature as relates to extending traditional syrup structures such as falernum or orgeat into different flavor profiles. Do different flavor profiles break currently existing models - if you made the below syrup recipe, would you like it better than original lime falernum in a Saturn or a Zombie? What about, dare I ask, a Corn 'n Oil?

Meyer Lemon Falernum (small batch)
zest of 1 Meyer lemon
9 cloves
8 pink peppercorns, crushed lightly
3 petals star anise
3/4 pod black cardamom
1/8 tsp coriander, crushed
1/8 tsp allspice
1 T fresh Hawaiian ginger (julienned)
1 1/2 oz overproof white rum
1/4 cup turbinado sugar
1 oz water
Lightly toast and crush all dried spices.
Add dry spices to rum in a mason jar or other infusion vessel, let infuse half a day.
Add Meyer lemon zest and ginger to mixture, let infuse additional 1-3 days**.
Make cold process simple syrup with sugar and water. Add to infusion mixture and shake to blend.
Let infuse one more day then strain, bottle, refrigerate. Let rest one week.
Yields about half a cup of syrup.

**avoid overlong infusion. More than one day will help the spices cement and last longer. Longer than 3 days and the soapier qualities of the peppercorn and cardamom start coming through.

But now then, as of last week, I'm suddenly glad that this post was delayed - for cocktail virgin slut introduced me to the Golden Wave, a late 60's era Tiki ditty. For a cocktail recipe to take the new falernum recipe on a spin, I thought I had been riffing on the Saturn, with a little bit of Fogcutter spirit-mix influence (someone untrain my head please - I've got it fixed in there that "it's not really Tiki unless it has 3 spirits in it", when that just ain't so). No, with that mix of pineapple (subbed for Saturn's passionfruit syrup), lemon, falernum, and secondary sweetener, the Golden Wave is a close ringer for our falernum's featured cocktail recipe - albeit the blending instructions and the fact that it won a bartending association competition put it not that far off from the Saturn, either.

The thing that strikes me about Meyer lemon zest's oils in particular is a free-floating floral-yet-herbaceous quality. It's offbeat and seems to me to need similar counterparts in a cocktail recipe. To that end, gin seemed a natural, and strong funky cane-spirits counter-intuitive but agreeable all the same. Just be sure to use regular lemon juice instead of Meyer lemon juice here - Meyers have close to the acidity needed, but have a bit of sugar also, which throws off the balance. With the tiki Saturn as the prototype, one of the planet's moons, an ocean goddess, seemed only fitting to offer a name.

A suitably cosmic glass, no?

1 oz Barrel Reserve Bluecoat gin*
1/2 oz Wray & Nephew overproof rum*
1/2 oz Batavia arrack
1/2 oz lemon juice
1/2 oz pineapple juice
(fat) 1/4 oz Meyer lemon falernum
1/4 oz pistachio orgeat
mint + extras for garnish

Blend with 6 oz crushed ice for 5 seconds. Pour into serving vessel and garnish with fresh mint, spent lemon shell, pineapple fronds, Meyer lemon zest, orchids, whatever floats your boat.

*if lacking the aged Bluecoat and W&N, try aging-swapping in regular Bluecoat or Bombay Sapphire gin and then Smith & Cross rum. It's a touch sweeter, but it is Smith & Cross and all..

Spearmint on the nose, followed by soft nut-creamy citrus and faint juniper. On the tongue, the cocktail starts with juniper and pineapple flowing into Meyer lemon with pink peppercorn edges, and sinks into rum funk. As opposed to regular falernum, you get softer more floral/exotic edges with more indiscernible spice warmth and complexity, which elevates the gin and rum grass and funk here.

Depending on which version you enjoy, the Barrel-Aged Bluecoat variation trends towards leaner grassier tastes, pronouncing juniper, mint and pineapple - and late in the drink, the aromas warm up to an almondy meringue founded in Bluecoat's spirit base and citrus, the orgeat and the mint. The Smith & Cross version pronounces this spirit on the initial nose and trends a smidge warmer with pink peppercorn, ginger, cardamom and coriander emphasized.

For those interested in knowing a little more about the on-trend innovation that is barrel-aged gin, Bluecoat in particular, I haven't had the original unaged Bluecoat in years now, but tasting the aged version brings immediate recollection of the citrusy and juniper-forward original. As regards the wood influence on the spirit, I want to say there's a malty quality to it but that might just be the collision of the juniper and the vanilla/toffee aging notes.

Pistachio Orgeat
2 oz pistachio nuts
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup demerara sugar
2 dashes rose water

Cold process: Blend pistachios and water, let rest 2 hours. Wring only once because it's a very rich nut milk. Add sugar and cold process-shake until dissolved. Add rose water and a bit of vodka to preserve.

This may be what almond orgeat aspires to be, the exotic qualities running on all cylinders. A perfect match for the Meyer lemon zest notes.

Finally, stay tuned later on (aka, after I get back from some super-secret spywork) for another recipe (tequila-based) utilizing the Meyer lemon falernum. It proved in testing to be, perhaps, an even stronger/simpler recipe - provided I don't go mucking it up with even more wacky ingredients. We shall see.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Mixology Monday XCIX: Ice, Ice Baby

It's that time again... Can you believe we're up to Mixology Monday 99, folks? And in all this time there hasn't once been a theme dedicated to that undersung-yet-essential part of nearly any cocktail: ICE.

The word says it all. Big ice cubes for Old Fashioneds, pellet ice for juleps and cobblers, shaved ice for adult snowcones, crushed ice molded into a cone for a classic Navy Grog. The art of the blender. Tell us why your selected or invented cocktail needs this particular ice usage. Show us how to make perfectly clear ice at home or what you get to work with as a professional drink-slinger.

It doesn't even have to be pure H2O, either. Flavor it up! Teas, juices, liqueurs, bitters, other frozen edible objects serving as ice. Tell us the nuances of a properly-made Il Palio. Show us why a decorative approach takes your recipe to the next level. Whatever tickles your tastebuds and refreshes you this summer.

As you can tell, scaffas are right out the window this time around. Spirits named Van Winkle, Larceny, or actual vanilla ice cubes are pure bonus.

Here's are the specs:
  • Pick or develop a cocktail that shows off the ice usage, then post the recipe, including a photo and your remarks, on your blog or on eGullet's Spirits and Cocktails forum.
  • Include the MxMo logo in your post, plus links back to the Mixology Monday site, Feu de Vie, and the round-up post when that goes up.
  • Post a link to your submission in the comment section of this post, tweet me @MuseOfDoom, or send an email to muse at museofdoom dot com with "MxMo" in the subject.
  • Entries should be submitted by the end of Monday, July 27th, though I'll keep an eye out for stragglers 'til August starts (afterwards, it's best just to let it go). We be chill like that.
  Many thanks again to Fred at Cocktail Virgin Slut for keeping MxMo alive, and to founder Paul Clarke!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

From Rio with Love and Cachaça Cherries

Squeaking this one in on a Sunday to officially have a Cachaça Week here on Feu de Vie (check out Tuesday's rye-cachaça Chimaera for the other entry in the festivities). This was a recipe I originally developed last summer and it was good enough that it was worth publishing for this year's cherry season.

Is it just me or have you dear reader also had difficulty finding a good, simple DIY cocktail cherry recipe? Don't get me wrong, there are several good recipes out there - I've tried Dr. Adam's recipe with good results, for instance - but many have a level of culinary process involved that can daunt one from even starting. And sometimes you really need cocktail cherries, STAT.

So with the criteria in mind of good-but-simple I came across this recipe from Michael Dietsch over at Serious Eats, with a notable openness to variation. (and seriously, go check out the crew over at Serious Eats in general if you haven't already. In particular, Mr. Dietsch is a master of Shrubs and Marcia Simmons has a slew of great DIY cocktail anything recipes)

3 jars of cocktail cherries (brandied, sherried - yes, sherry cherries - and cachaça) and an hour or so later, I was a happy camper. Sherried cherries I may write-up at another point, but I noticed recently the more-unique cachaça cherries have been cropping up in my recipes, so deserved a decent write-up.

Ever come across a white spirit cocktail recipe that calls for a cherry garnish? Kinda rare, to be honest -  red cherry juice could spoil an otherwise clean-pure cocktail, and who wants baking spice flavors coupling with grass notes or green herbs for that matter? But what if the latter weren't necessarily so, and you didn't have to rely on cherries' seasonality to get a fresh flavor?

Enter cachaça cherries, bursting with a fresh bite and brio, perfect for white bases such as tequila, cane spirits, and even gin.

Cachaça Cherries  

(adapted from a recipe for 1lb cherries, down to 6oz (weight) cherries, then scaled back to up to 1lb cherries)
1 pound cherries
1/2 cup turbinado sugar
1/2 cup cherry juice or water
1 cup white cachaça*
pinch salt
1 1/2 to 2 sprigs fresh or 1 1/2 tsp dried peppermint
3 T julienned ginger
zest of half a large lime (strips)

*if lacking cachaça proper, try using a white rhum agricole or even Batavia arrack.

The instructions are effectively the same as the original brandied cherries recipe I used (gently heat sugar, juice/water, salt until dissolved; add spirit; bathe cherries in warm spirit-syrup and bottle).

Because fresh ingredients are being used, I wouldn't add these when preparing the syrup itself, as heat will diminish the flavor. Instead, layer these in the jar amid the cherries and pour the warm spirit-syrup over top. Then seal the jar and shake to ensure thorough syrup-coverage over the cherries.

I strongly urge using fresh peppermint (maybe half a sprig per 8-12oz jar). It's less messy and profoundly more robust/green a flavor than dried. Dried will work though, if you don't have access to fresh; this you would want to infuse in the syrup as you're cooking it, but be sure to strain it out prior to adding to the cherries.

The brandied cherries recipe indicates that the cherries will be ready for use after an overnight in the fridge, and it's true that the flavor transfer does happen in that short a time frame. But I encourage longer resting (perhaps a week, initially) for deeper balanced flavors (peppermint + cherry + cachaça = dark chocolate) and a more thorough curing. How long do they last? I'm still working through my summer 2014 batch, and they're still pretty decent.

The above seasonings are good for a fresher, brighter take on the cocktail cherry, though if you're looking for some darker notes to anchor, a fresh chopped rosemary needle or two (literally, needles, not a whole sprig - it's way too powerful infusing over the long term otherwise) or a small bit of sage leaf or cacao nib might not be untoward.

To take these cherries for a spin, try out this little ditty, that not only treats you to three juicy flavorful cachaça cherries, but a bit of the jar syrup as well.

From Rio with Love
1 1/2 oz white cachaça (Pitu)
1 oz dry vermouth
1/2 oz Strega
1/2 oz lime juice
1 dash lemon bitters
dash or two of cachaça cherry syrup
3 skewered cachaça cherries for garnish

Shake. Strain. Garnish. 
Turn in the appropriate directions and salute Brazil; Campania, Italy; 
and NOLA where the maestro of Strega cocktails plies his trade.

Briny citrus with a hint of herbs, saffron and spirit-swiss chocolate funk on the nose.
Cachaça brine, lime-activated sweetness influenced by peppermint-juniper then chocolate, but still crisp on the tongue. A bite of cherry warms and fills the mouth, spiced by mint.

A sweetheart of a cocktail

Tuesday, July 7, 2015


This little ditty was a work-in-progress ever since I got my first bottle of Dubonnet Rouge for Bucentaure development back in 2012. The thought-process behind this one was simple, but tricky: pick a spirit from random locales around the world that wouldn't automatically be thought-of together -- then make them work. Is it a Manhattan? A Caipirinha? A genetic freak? Something more? A Man-pirin-tan? A Cai-hat-ha? A Cai-Ma-rinha?

3/4 oz rye whiskey (Rittenhouse)
3/4 oz cachaça (51)
3/4 oz Dubonnet Rouge
1/4 oz Drambuie
1/4 oz lime juice (fat)
3 dashes Fernet Branca
kumquat garnish

Shake. Strain. Garnish.

Golden herbs, bitter zesty roots, fresh cherries, and perhaps a touch of grass/petrol or chocolate waft from the glass.

On the tongue, one finds rye spice and cachaça petrol in equal measure, fruitiness with lime and Dubonnet, and swirling smoke underneath menthol-like grass. A golden Caipi, with undercurrents of Manhattan.

One thing I discovered while developing Secret Agent Manhattan is that Rittenhouse Rye (100pf) is its own unique beast, and it's tricky to do substitutions for it. Chimaera was developed with Rittenhouse but in coming back to it this year (inspired by MxMo Manhattan, at that) I wanted to bolster the recipe by seeing what different ryes would do. In this drink's case, say you swap in High West Double Rye (92pf) - you'll want to add an extra quarter ounce plus an extra quarter ounce of cachaça to keep the spiritous balance. I imagine this would be the same for any sub-100pf rye you swap in. As for the cachaça? My own preference is for the rough industrial kind like 51 or Pitu, the darker petrol notes add to the randomness yet work all the same (probably transmute to dark chocolate thanks to the lime and pair with the Fernet). Something sweet-bodied like Leblon would throw the wheels off, methinks.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

For Negroni Week: Rosso Doré

So in case you haven't been following on Twitter for the past 6 days, it's the third annual Negroni Week! The Negroni: Campari, sweet vermouth and gin. Simple, classic, the bitter progenitor of dozens of Renaissance cocktails (including my own The Doe's Path). And I've got a fresh little riff-ditty (maybe two, we'll see how tomorrow goes) to say about that. (I'm thinking yes, I could use several Negronis the way work's been this week)

Originally an impromptu from before there were Impromptus here, this recipe's now refined with a little help from my new Burlesque bitters. The Negroni itself is a marvel of 3 herbaceous ingredients each working at different levels to create an energetic whole. When working with less-than-herbaceous ingredients, it's not a bad idea to yet find ways to introduce texture with the ingredients, such as a spicy rye whiskey or grassy agricole rhum or bitters with different bittering agents and flavor notes, to keep that energy moving.

Rosso Doré
3/4 oz cognac (Remy Martin VSOP)
3/4 oz rhum agricole blanc (Neisson)
3/4 oz Dubonnet Rouge
1/2 oz Campari
1/4 oz Crème Yvette
2 dashes Peychaud's or Burlesque bitters
1 Meyer lemon twist

Stir, strain, garnish.

With a floral-thyme Meyer and grassy agricole nose to start, you find yourself on steep descent into velvet violet-lush bitterness. Grape spirits round the body, and the combination of cognac and rhum agricole is a somewhat rare one which reminds me of a refined gilded quality (maybe it's the Neisson bottle cap talking?). Finishes with grape and bitter.

The 1/2 oz of Campari is a high-water-mark: use that much if both base spirits you're using are overproof otherwise dial down to as low as 1/4 oz. (2 tsp is about right using the brands in the recipe)

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Mixology Monday, May 2015: I'll Take Manhattan!

I've got to stop being fashionably late. It's a character flaw. Eh well, better than last month (aka, yesterday). Welcome back to the awesomest cocktail jamboree on the planet, bar none, Mixology Monday! May's host is beloved ringleader Fred of cocktail virgin slut, continuing the year's classic cocktail riff theme with "I'll Take Manhattan!" Take it away, sir!
While there have been a variety of Manhattan variations through the years such as the Preakness and the Brooklyn, most of the twentieth century saw this drink unchanged, in theory that is. I know that I have gotten a cocktail glass full of frothy Bourbon and ice shards at a place that I should have stuck to beer; indeed, both the vermouth and the bitters have fallen out of fashion to some degree at average bars. Other Manhattan experiences used only a splash of vermouth; when I complained, one bartender declared that he did not put too much in. I countered that it was not enough and repeated that I wanted a 2:1 Manhattan. That bartender would not let himself add more and handed me the vermouth bottle so he could be relieved of responsibility in the matter. However, the last decade or so has seen a renewal in the drink begin made correctly. Moreover, I would point to New York City cerca 2005 as the re-birth of the Manhattan variation with drinks like the Red Hook being born.

For this theme, actuate it any way you'd like as long as the drink resembles a Manhattan. Want to take 19th century Manhattan recipes or variations to the test? Want to figure out what the best whiskey to vermouth pairings and ratios are? Or perhaps subbing out the whiskey or vermouth for another ingredient or adding in a liqueur or other modifier or so to the mix? Awesome, you're right on track! There are plenty of Manhattan and Manhattan variations out there in the literature, and there's plenty of room to explore and tinker if that's your thing, too.
Go see what the fuss is about and how everyone else chose to gussy up this perfect cocktail.

Oh, the Manhattan. My Ur-cocktail. How do I love thee? Let me count the myriad ways (including my first-ever recipe posted - how did I luck out with that given my skill-level at the time?). Though, oddly enough, I haven't done a riff since late 2013, the most direct riff of all: Falling Sun Manhattan. A friend once asked me if I'd ever tried bourbon; within weeks I had leapfrogged over the Old Fashioned straight to what, to me, seemed the pinnacle of sophisticated substantial cocktail class. The Manhattan is the sort of cocktail I fancied being enjoyed in shaded sumptuous wood-paneled offices or velvet-draped restaurant alcoves by decidedly old school movers, shakers and tough dealmakers, all plying their trade on the island betwixt the two rivers. The Martini's glamour by contrast was spoiled for me by the hundreds of plasma-colored knockoffs of the 90s and early 2000s. I never watched Mad Men, but the mystique of just what was in Don Draper's glass probably piqued a lot of other folk in the exact same way. Some things are just better left hidden.

Flash-forward to 2 Sundays ago: Unca Jim's (no relation) doing one of his Sunday night TNT sessions on Twitter, mentions armagnac, and with Avengers still fresh in mind I was off to the races! Suddenly I'm googling, getting visions of eyepatches, Aston-Martins, Contessas and Whisky à Go-Go dancers - and one great glorious pun.

The armagnac was ultimately edited out due to a bugaboo of mine about Manhattans, though: grape spirit on grape wine is too soft. The cocktail's magic lies in the clash, intrigue and spice of fundamentally different ingredients. Masculine, rough whiskey, mediated by bitters and a good twist of orange, leads the dance with feminine sweet wine made intricate with herbs. The Manhattan is the perfect melding of northern and southern European drinking cultures - the essence of Americana at the time of its birth. This in turn inspires another magic: an emergent flavor greater than the sum of its parts that is distinctly "Manhattan," regardless of brands used. It seems a rare few cocktail obtain that level of greatness.

So here's a little something Maxwell Smart might drink.

Secret Agent Manhattan
2 oz Rye whiskey
3/4 oz Lillet Rouge
1/4 oz Benedictine
1 tsp Campari
2 dashes Angostura bitters
lime twist

Stir. Strain. Garnish.

The lime hits you first - no someone isn't trying mask the smell of a rotting corpse, but lime zest tends to be so aggressive it's used, erm, "judiciously." [Boomer: Or maybe extra-judicially?] Here, it fills the mouth upon breath with fresh citrus, like you're going to dive into a daiquiri - not apropos for the mileau, but it gets more...sanguine, from here, as suggested by the undertinge of grape that follows.

Rye spice slinks down your tongue as a holy grapetty aura enters your mouth. It's got the Manhattan emergence, if but a tad bit softer due to the wine, but also with a Campari bitter edge lurking underneath and that lantern-like Benedictine glow that's like a soft cinnamon puffball as the drink warms, the citrus undercurrents with notes of gingerbread also rising to the fore. The Benedictine itself references the Monte Carlo - another Manhattan riff - synonymous with spycraft, while Campari is its glam worldly self. The lime zest adds a sharp edge that reminds of the danger in this otherwise luxurious world (and helps tame some of the sweeter elements).

Now, granted, I've never ever tasted Lillet Rouge before, but I know exactly what it tastes like. [Boomer: *facepaw*] And, if you're subbing Dubonnet Rouge in like I've done here, may I suggest a small bit of grapefruit zest in your mixing glass to help mutate those strawberry notes into less delicate/cloying red fruit? (hey, if lemon and Campari fuse to form grapefruit, why not an extension of that?) Lillet Rouge is known for notes of raspberry and cherry, suggesting a slightly "harder"/more robust second billing, even if, potentially like its sister expressions, it's a bit sweeter than many other aromatized/fortified wine substitutes. I found out too late for the deadline that Lillet Rouge can be ordered in PA (3 bottle min special order), but it seems like a worthwhile investment (especially since I still have handy one of a 3-bottle allotment of Lillet Rose from 2012). So, I'll end up annotating the post with any modifications at some point, but otherwise consider the above recipe subbing Dubonnet Rouge as "The Queen's Secret Agent Manhattan", given her majesty's affinity for the Zaza/Dubonnet Cocktail. As for the Lillet fixation to begin with? Need I spell everything out?

And furthermore, I know this is Manhattan heresy, but avoid Rittenhouse and perhaps overproof rye altogether unless it's extremely dry. Mixing this with Rittenhouse last night turned the recipe into a mess of dark caramelly syrup with the accent flavors buried (adjustments may be needed if you go overproof?). Tonight I mixed with new PA-local revival brand Kinsey (the red label, 86 pf) and the ingredients were much happier together. Kinsey's a bit paler than the Rittenhouse, and a blend as the crew behind Bluecoat gin and Vieux Carré absinthe get the brand established, but very sippable neat and not a complete showboat when mixing.

Many thanks to Mr. Yarm, our outstanding host and president and CEO of Frédéric's Chateau d'Herbe-au-Chats aux Pyrénées - I hope this recipe was worth the extension!

Until next time, folks! Cheers!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Not Quite Mixology Monday, April 2015: Drink of Shame

Hi everybody! The grand catch-up continues with my entry for last month's Mixology Monday event (gotta get it out before today's deadline for May's event, natch!).

For the month of April, our host was Whitney of Tipicular Fixins, a lass with a creative bent and sensibility for far-ranging ingredients after my own heart - go check her out (especially the Ikea lingonberry post)! She brings us a theme that's a recipe for searching out the deep dark parts of our cocktail psyche (bring Q-tips!): Drink of Shame!
So, you’re a certified, mixologist, craft-tender, bar chef or fine spirit

But, there was a time when you only ordered Long Island Iced Tea. Or, maybe you always made the Jello shots for your frat? Perhaps you’re the reason that your local had an Island Oasis machine for so long? Rye & Ginger? Vodka Seven? Someone was ordering these things. Your street cred would be ruined if you ordered or (gasp) served one now, but don’t you miss it, just a little?

Wouldn't you love to have one more Jolly Rancher? A chance to drink a mudslide without shame? We all made questionable drink choices in our past, the popular drinks from 1970 to the year 2000 were a cheap, sugary mess. Now is the time to resurrect your favourite drink from the time before modern Mixology. Give a new life to the drink you had to put down after you had your first real cocktail.

This is the remix.

Maybe you need to use fresh ingredients, or you can try elevating the spirits. Make everything from scratch or remove an offending ingredient. Do whatever you can to bring back and legitimize a drink you used to love.
Check out last month's round-up post here, along with the transformative magic at work from all the participants!

Our drink, nearly finished, with my old
Incredible Hulk/Chuck Norris recipe card.
Y'know? For the life of me, I struggled to even remember a trashy recipe I had more than once (and that's not just because of the blackouts they induced). No, I remember the Cerebral Hemorrhage and the What She's Having and (ha!) the Angel's Tit (the crusty old bartender at the brewpub went wild, swinging his towel around when he heard that order - that was actually in a recipe book they had, natch). But my motto back then was (and largely still is except for certain classics) "never have the same drink twice." And with all the recipes I was finding on (don't click, avoid the potential viruses) and writing down on business cards I'd never otherwise use so I could have them at the ready for bartenders, I had too big a world to explore not to.

But there is one recipe I do remember quite well and maybe even had a couple of times, both at home and out when I could find a place that kept Hpnotiq in-house (yes, we're going there, today): the Incredible Hulk. Real simple: drizzle an equal part bright sky-blue Hpnotiq over cognac on ice, letting the drink morph into a radioactive green mess - bing! There's your Hulk. (although if you add a shot of Johnnie Walker Red from there, the Incredible Hulk gets angry and morphs into Chuck Norris! I never had a Chuck Norris.)

The Hpnotiq was good while it lasted, both for the Hulk and other brand-proprietary recipes (and my own bright violet Fairy Princess made with pink Kinky liqueur and vanilla vodka - see what my early editorial discretion saved you folks?). But I finished that bottle off in my early days of getting serious and haven't looked back. Until now.

Looking at the recipe, the cognac was never the issue, just the crayon-colored industrial sugar and acid bomb that was Hpnotiq. How much actual cognac they used and what their definition of "premium" is, we'll never know. Nor do we know the exact flavor profile other than "vaguely tropical with a heaping helping of passionfruit esters" according to its brand competition with blue Alize (don't get me started on the Alizes..). Ahhh...but tropical, that's something we can work with, especially if it involves approximating a flavor with a stack of ingredients.

Bruce Banner's ditched his plane somewhere in Fiji and taken up with a hula maid down in a little tiki hut by the sea. I give you the Tiki-fied...

The Beachcomber Hulk
1 1/2 oz cognac
3/4 oz Batavia arrack
3/8 oz passionfruit syrup
1/4 oz blue curaçao
1/4 oz lemon juice
1 dash orgeat
1 dash vanilla bitters
1 slice starfruit
Mint and cherry for garnish

Fill a rocks glass with pellet or slightly-larger-than-pellet ice.

Muddle the starfruit in a shaker along with everything but the cognac and garnish. Shake with 1 small ice cube to agitate with minimal dilution.

Add the cognac to the rocks glass and then drizzle the blue mixture over top, letting it sink down to turn the drink green.

Give a little stir and garnish.

Secret of the Ooze
Passionfruit and blue flavors, anchored by the wondrous funk of arrack, a light lemon acid edge not generated by a dumptruck of sugar, based on able illuminous cognac. Avec un certain je ne sais quoi.

So I gave the blue mix a good initial eyeball for ingredients -- how was I supposed to know it'd smell exactly like Hpnotiq? Incroyable! Who says you have to stick to the model of a cognac/vodka base? Batavia arrack is infinitely more interesting, and at 100 proof a lot more Hulk-like. The starfruit extends the tropical flavors and brings some good mild freshness as well, though you might want to play around with other tropical fruits too.

I know the pics show one large rock instead of small ice - that was a misstep for the initial version, however much the flavor was spot-on. You want something that will bring a good dilution and balance without also over-diluting. Otherwise, go to town!

Thanks to Whitney for hosting a fun theme and to Fred for wrangling as ever.

Stay tuned, dear reader - this very eve is another Mixology Monday - and this time I've got the time, the recipe and the name already in place.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Bull with a Barette

Welcome back dear reader! Now, in the next step of getting caught-up on posting, here's a recipe whose initial testing dates back to 2012 or 2013 (and whose quality merits a weekday post while we're still in the month of Taurus). Those with sparkling memories might remember a promise about a White Bull recipe made in 2013 from the Bucentaure recipe - take a few moments and catch up, we're working the thematicness here. The White Bull itself is closer than you think, but this recipe is an offshoot from Bucentaure development (back when I didn't know a thing about structure and was just throwing things in a glass hoping it would taste good) that was just too darn good to let slip away.

As I mention at the end of the Bucentaure post, "I started with a taste-image combo of Fernet Branca and violet liqueur to match the season, though I had tried neither, and it all grew from there." Literally, one day the idea hit me and that night I had picked up my first bottles of Fernet Branca and Rothman & Winter Crème de Violette, entranced at the idea of loamy/minty earth* --or perhaps by its symbolic counterpart, the zodiac's Earth-sign bull-- covered over by tiny violets and enjoying the sun-heated ground, crisp breeze, and very fresh grass of this time of year.

*many thanks to all the internet Fernet reviewers out there - I actually wasn't very surprised/shocked by the time I finally tried Fernet!

You might be wrinkling your nose right about now - Fernet and violette are not natural partners as I quickly came to realize. (hence frantic searching for a newfangled revival of Crème Yvette just getting rolled out in state stores at the time) However, HOWEVER... When moderated by the lightness of lemon (and a gradient of aged spirits, wine and bitters)? Hmm...

I forget the exact circumstance of the limonata here: either I tried veering Bucentaure in a less-heavy/Sour direction (so I could work in an egg white) or I mixed in some leftover soda when exasperated by the heaviness of the recipe. Either way, the sour and added dilution lift the drink just-so. And the addition of very-recent find, black mission fig bitters, is a perfect bridge, making up for lost dark dried fruit notes from Bucentaure's armagnac when switching to a more standard brandy (and losing some of the wild tang that might interfere with violette's integration). You might try the fig bitters in place of the plum bitters in Bucentaure as well, to fab results.

So anyway, as if I haven't already given you enough, here's a whole lotta Bull.

Bull with a Barrette
2 tsp Fernet Branca
10 drops Brooklyn Hemispherical black mission fig bitters
10 drops Xocolotl Molé bitters
2 oz San Pellegrino limonata
1 oz Smith & Cross naval rum
1 oz tawny port (Sandeman)
1 oz brandy (Masson VSOP)
1/4 oz crème de violette, divided
Mint & fresh violets for garnish

Build in a rocks or highball glass on ice, giving small stirs after the limonata and first half (1 bsp) of the violette. Drizzle the remaining violette (1 bsp) over top for aromatics and garnish with mint & violets.

Let the drink rest a few minutes, let it dilute properly: the melody arises in the dilution.

Heavy for a long drink but it melds luxuriously. Mint and faint citrus lift the nose, followed by earthy aged grape and bitter herbs. Violet mellows and balances. You could almost say this is a very boozy version of Miss May.

The violette enunciates the port first (undergirded by brandy) and underneath that is a subtle rum funk. And finally underneath all that you get Fernet's chocolatey herbs. All this is evidenced by limonata's pectiny savory oh-so-sippable edge. Despite the name and my grander cocktail plans, this taste fits the perfect flavor idea of a bull in my mouth.

This isn't a fierce bull that's going to become infuriated at the drop of a red waiving cloth. This is a bull that's perfectly happy to lie in a flowery meadow and be kissed on the ear by butterflies. Bucentaure was the Id, and here we have the Ego. Stay tuned for Super Ego!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Impromptu: Remember the Aries Dream

Getting back on track here - let's retake the blog from the Russian referrer spam. This year has been brutal for having not just one thing after another, but loads of things on top of things after the other. The universe might be offering a respite now that Iris v2.0 is back up, though.

First up here is a little one-off born of seasonal noodling. I wanted to find a white tea with big red fruit notes for the month of Aries, my birth month (colors include diamond and red - bear with me, it's all one big sensorium here). Lo and behold, Teavana provides with their Snow Geisha blend: a light taste that's heavy on the aromatics, which include cherry, rose and cranberry among others.

Mixing partner? Sake, naturally. And of all names: Snow Maiden, a fruity nigori (unfiltered) named after a very long-lived koi.

How to mix? A cobbler sangaree (? it's been awhile..) with fancy ice seemed the best bet.

Accents? A little of this, a little of that. What I lucked out on having in the fridge: blood orange and fresh mint. As chance would have it, I whipped this up a month ago for my birthday, so to hark back to an earlier birthday recipe, I threw in a bit of cachaça, then rounded/sweetened it all off with some Aperol.

Yes, that's a rosebud from the tea on top there.

Remember the Aries Dream
2 1/2 oz Snow Maiden nigori sake
1 oz 51 cachaça
1 tsp Aperol
2 thin blood orange wheels
6-7 smallish mint leaves
1 cup Teavana Snow Geisha pellet ice (include tea leaves for decoration)

Quick shake all including ice and pour into goblet or other appropriate cobbler glass.

Snow geisha and rose on the nose with rice cream.
On the palate: creamy, tea-dried sake body, mint brightness around the edge, blood orange zest in sip, with a bittered cachaça-inflected finish.

Snow Geisha ice: the recommended brewing time is only about 2 minutes, but blow past that until the tea is cool to promote the most forward flavor. Freeze in pellet ice tray along with tea leaves/aromatics for prettiness in the glass.

Cheers, self.

May the shoe always fit and your waiters always look like Jason Momoa.