Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Mixology Monday, October 2014: Perfect Symmetry

Good evening, lords and ladies. This month's Mixology Monday is upon us once again, and, before it gets any later, I'll turn things over to our host of the month, my Twitter bestie, the ever-dapper birthday gentleman Joel of Southern Ash blog (go visit and wish him well! And try the cassoulet!). He's back leading the charge for a month with the elegant theme Perfect Symmetry.
Perfect symmetry is your theme this month!  A “perfect” drink splits the liquor or liqueur evenly between two related ingredients.  The most common “perfect” drink is a Perfect Manhattan where the vermouth is split between sweet and dry to create an altogether different experience.  A perfect Old Fashioned splits the bourbon and rye are both used to create a singularly distinct experience. When done well, splitting the liquor lets each of the unique flavors and components of the shine through.  Because they share a background, they don’t war with each other but instead you get both the mellow sweetness of the bourbon with the spicy backbone of the rye in that Old Fashioned.  The dry vermouth can accentuate flavors in the Manhattan you might have missed. Why make a choice when you can have it all?!
To see what fearful symmetries (it is October after all!) the other cocktailers have divined, please click here when this link is active.

No matter how simple and straightforward a MxMo theme, there's always a kink to it. Sometimes you run out and get your ingredients only to taste your intended recipe crumble and muddle into fruit punch in your mouth, a victim of too much fruit juice, no matter how tart. Then there are those back-up recipes you kick around: oh what if you split the sloe gin with equally-tart cassis in this apple brandy or scotch duo cocktail? Only those ideas just don't wow and the ingredients seem dangerously close to not highlighting a real distinction, leaving you again back at square one.

But in spite of that, this month's theme has inspired gorgeous visuals, perhaps due to the Symmetry, and you start digging through the ol' cabinet, checking out the bottles you haven't touched in ages and could stand to use up before they go bad, realizing "hey, there's another bottle of red liqueur, and another, and that one's reddish too, oh and that one!". Then you realize you have too many bottles to do a proper BoozeNerds-style round robin investigation into the combinatorics and it's all the papers up in the air again!

But the visuals keep lingering, dancing, twinkling jewel-toned gimlets in the mind's eye, tempting, tantalizing until you jump out over the abyss Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade-like 'cause you just have to know, theme or no theme. Would this recipe WORK?! Why make a choice when I really CAN have it all?!

(later this week I'll share with you one of my other non-perfect non-symmetrical recipes I generated in the process of finding this month's answer to the MxMo challenge)

Now you might look at all the ingredients, and perhaps before your head explodes you might wonder if it references anything. With the amari it's not too far off from a Negroni, for instance, or gin and sloe or gin and Yvette are natural pairings. More than that, it's somewhat of a riff on the classic Parisian cocktail, special to me because it was my first-ever gin cocktail....maybe not the best intro, but I got over that bump in the road. However, besides the two linked Parisian recipes, the cassis does tend to get downplayed in a lot of internet versions of the recipe to a mere few dashes. So this recipe aims to invert, nay explode, that sensibility.

1 oz gin
1 oz dry vermouth
1/4 oz Campari
1/4 oz Nonino
1/4 oz sloe gin (the good stuff)
1/4 oz crème de cassis (the good stuff)
1/4 oz grenadine (the good stuff)
1/4 oz Sorel
1/4 oz Crème Yvette
pomegranate arils or a cocktail cherry* to garnish

Stir. Strain. Up. Garnish.


*consider an unflavored or herbal-seasoned cocktail cherry rather than the regular baking spice notes. I used a cachaça, lime zest, ginger, and peppermint cherry here.

**I know, I know. No sweet vermouth? No ruby port?! Dryness is your friend, cacao-and-menthe little one.

I think the ratios above are probably the break-even point for the drink. With all the liqueurs (yes, nearly 2 ounces), there's inevitably a sugar-in-body sweetness. Whether it's too much for you or not over-the-top enough, that's up to you. My take is it could be a bit more over-the-top. Just say the hell with it, already, and drop down the gin and vermouth so the liqueurs can be explored in all their glory (in which case, shrink the size of the cocktail and do 1/2 oz each gin and vermouth and 1 tsp of each of the liqueurs). If you think it's too much, perhaps hold the gin and vermouth steady while diminishing the liqueurs to 1 tsp or 1 bsp each.

But consider something: apart from the grenadine (which, natch, in this case is pomegranate homemade with hibiscus and orange blossom water thrown in - I just happened to have a very convenient empty bottle) or perhaps the Yvette, none of the liqueurs are really all that sickly-sweet as the catch-phrase tends to get wantonly thrown around. Consider the bitter, sharp, herbal, dry and floral characteristics each brings to the party, and then further how the gin and vermouth act on them. Campari's a big gun, and its bitter lingers on the tongue after each sip, enhanced by the sloe which develops a flinty red berry note through earthy cassis to bold pomegranate-exotic grenadine. Nonino's soft herbs provide a structure on the nose and as the first drops reach your palate. Sorel's spices bring a soft zing on the underside of your tongue and the front roof of your mouth, a respite from the intensity of the other liqueurs. Yvette ties a bow to the proceedings, a bouncy just-so attitude on grenadine's springboard (while nowhere near eclipsing the bitterness).

Aside from all those details, without even having all that much time to play around with the components, to me it somehow matches my concept of what rubies should taste like, just from their visual aspect and perhaps even their smell. And it seems only fitting to keep the jewel theme going after Aquamarine this year, with a similar list of ingredients too!

As for the perfect symmetry? Call it an original recipe, with one really big 1 3/4 oz part split radially into a mystical seven.

Thanks to Joel for hosting a delicious theme - I can't wait to read what everyone else came up with as this one seems like it'll bring out the deep-noodling. Thanks also to cat-herder-in-chief Fred Yarm of cocktail virgin - way to keep coordinating the mojo month after month! It's real joy and honor to be part of this community. 'Night all!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Mixology Monday, September 2014: The Unknown

Welcome back, peeps! Mixology Monday has rolled around yet again and it seems like between today's recipe and last week's HAL 9000 Goes South for the Winter in a Pink Tutu, this is the month to Remember the Hell Kitten (you'll see), 2 years from its origin at MxMo 65, the first under the auspices of head kitty wrangler Fred Yarm.

This month our fine host is Chris of A Bar Above, an inexhaustible source for cocktail know-how, with the theme, The Unknown.
(Cue dramatic music)

Ok, ok… It’s not quite as dramatic as I make it out to be.

Basically the idea is to try something new, an ingredient or technique that you’ve never had experience with before and create a cocktail around it.
Here are a few ideas to get the creative juices flowing:
  • Use a spirit that you’ve never used before. It could be a base spirit, modifier or that Belgian Ale that rings in at 15% alcohol.
  • Use an ingredient that has always captured your imagination in the supermarket. Maybe that weird looking fruit that you always walk by at Whole Foods, or that unusual looking vegetable that you can’t even pronounce.
  • Use a new technique that you’ve never tried, but have always wanted to. Have you been dying to make your own vermouth, amaro, or martini glass made completely out of flavored sugar.
Scamper down the rabbit hole when this link is active to know The Unknown. Don't say I didn't warn you!

Friday night, MoD's lair, planning session

MoD: Ok, my little research buddy, what've you got for me?
Boomer: You need to give me more walnuts. And mulled cider, yeah that's the ticket.
..because it's fall, or..?
Lady, have you taken a look at your ingredients rollcall lately? Have you perhaps considered doing tamer recipes for a year instead of something new and adventurous at every turn? Maybe cut down on the special orders of clitoria from Thailand?
Well I have to learn somehow.... Running into difficulties with ideas?
Let me put it this way: I've compiled a short list of things you haven't done yet.
Ok, this ought to be interesting. Shoot.
Not really a fan of shrooms..
Ok. Mustard.
Ooh, that's one I really wanna do. Just don't know if the idea's there yet.
Vodka?! In this house?!
(have you seen the liquor cabinet?) No, potatoes. Fry us up some!
Let's get serious, babe.
Gefilte fish.
Twitter already ruled that one out for MxMo Preserves.
Dish soap.
Uh, honey..
Just making sure you were paying attention. Marmite and/or Vegemite.
That's more for sandwiches.
You're a fruitcake.
Oh I am!? Isn't that marvellous? Studded with candied fruit they could stop-motion CGI me.. I'd like to thank the academy..
You are indeed, little one.
Ok, the piece de resistance, you know this one would kick tail: fish eyeball!
*facepalm* Morimoto-san has a restaurant right in town, hon. It'd steal his thunder.
Well ok then, here. Try seeing things from my perspective.
Your seed mix? I don't think distilled millet would go over. Oh Boomer..

Sunday night, MoD's returned from the grocery store

Boomer: Any luck at the store?
MoD: Eh, nothing really called out to me. We've got cassoulet ingredients,
but I guess I'll have to come up with something around here.
Dang it. Sounds like an all-nighter. Did you at least re-up on salsa?
Alas, no. Selection was weak and the only thing that sounded interesting was a peach-pineapple salsa.
But you don't like peach.
Right, so I got a pomegranate for a red-fruit contrast and some other things: make it fresh and all.
Ooh, n.......
*eyes meet*
I'll get the shaker.

What's that? Salsa? In a cocktail? Wait, what fresh hell is this?

Pineapple-Pomegranate Salsa (inspired by this recipe)
1 cup fine diced plum or cherry tomatoes
1 cup chopped pineapple
3/4 cup pomegranate arils
1/2 cup small dice green bell pepper
2 T minced red onion
1-2 minced serrano peppers
1 t minced fresh spearmint
1 t minced fresh ginger
1/8 t ground cloves
2 T white balsamic vinegar
1 T lime juice
1/8 t sea salt

Combine all, cover, let rest in the fridge overnight.

Ok, right. But how do you put it in a cocktail? Like this!

Maria Dances to Tito Puente
4 oz (liquid) juiced pomegranate-pineapple salsa
1 oz habanero-infused blanco tequila
1 dash orange bitters (Angostura)

Shake all without ice to combine, then pour into a Collins glass with a few cubes of ice. Garnish wildly with salsa ingredients - mint is especially nice.

Despite the smaller ratio of the tomatoes, you still get a good tomato-ey body and flavor, just with lots of other flavors poking through. Bright pineapple to start, with a tinge of citrus, vegetal green to keep things savory, ginger rounding and a fabulous mint nose with delectable heat on the back of your tongue. You can almost taste the corn chips with which you would scoop the salsa. The bitters also add a savory dimension (kinda like Worcestershire sauce) which helps your palate recognize the drink as being in the Bloody Mary family.

Now granted, you could just skip the salsa step and go straight to juicing the ingredients for a large batch, but it is interesting to taste how a fresh salsa could be transmuted into a Bloody Mary style cocktail.

Boomer: Wait wait wait, so what was the new thing? You've done tomatoes before (even if one was ketchup). The tequila's not new. And you know you've done similar compote-y stuff already.

MoD: Right, but one was cooked and and I never put the fruited guacamole in a drink.

Boomer: But what then?

MoD: Pomegranate, salsa, Bloody Mary style. That should be enough for one night.

G'night everyone! Thanks to Chris for hosting a devious devious theme and to Fred for rounding up all the hellcats and hellchillins - mind the spicy tequila - woo doggy!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

HAL 9000 Goes South for the Winter in a Pink Tutu

Hello Dave.

*waits for the collective 72-car pile-up of whiplash to subside*

Yes, here I am with a new recipe and it's not Mixology Monday. I gots me energy back! Woohoo! (Remember kids, get your zinc. Cheeseburgers are good for you and rev your metabolism!)

There's no accounting for cravings. Late last winter/early spring (TwitPic of a later tester version) I had a rough day at work and all I knew was I wanted to throw an impromptu cocktail together that would function as a targeted aerial strike while not thinking too much and maybe getting to throw in a few leftover ingredients to help use them up.

I knew I wanted the rare bite of anise and caraway (and that's how you know something deeper was talking) of Krogstad, the only aquavit I've yet tried. Gin and juniper in this case would be far too mild.

To that -- and this is clearly the craving again -- well, remember the Hell Kitten way back when, with its strawberry and hibiscus ice cubes (each flavor in separate cubes)? A fridge defrost happened between then and previous then, leaving me with refrozen strawberry-hibiscus cubes: all the density and tart-sweetness of homemade strawberry juice with the astringent flavor-rich balancing quality of hibiscus tea.

I suppose (and please pardon the mixed metaphors, my mild synethesia makes me see flavors as colors), as the other ingredients reveal themselves here, you could say that I'm not a fan of easy straight-down-the-line pale-flavored ingredient cocktail recipes. By that I mean those recipes that don't take any chances: white spirits, paired with green tea, a little lemon, cucumber, light herbs, and so on and so forth. Those sorts of recipes just seem sedate, if not downright dour, and leave me cold - the exact opposite remedy for rough days. Ok, so I have a BIG white spirit ingredient and I end up layering that on golden ginger beer: let's make a painting. Potent brown-black down deep, a trickle of green between, all resting on an orange sun. And these soft red ice cubes, fluttering on high off to the right, that round the drink to which they're added? Warms me right up.

But but but...caraway and strawberry? I know, I know. And those do end up being predominant flavors. The rest of the cocktail ends up being a study in bridging elements, starting with the fact that there wasn't nearly enough savory spice in it yet. That led to the clove-heavy bottle of falernum in the fridge and much tinkering into an acceptable degree of drinkability and interest that night, but gee let's just get to the recipe already.

HAL 9000 Goes South for the Winter in a Pink Tutu
1 1/2 oz Krogstad aquavit
3/4 oz Plantation 5 Star rum
3/4 oz falernum*
1/2 oz Benedictine
2 dashes orange bitters (Angostura and Fee's are a good combo)
2 ounce-sized strawberry-hibiscus ice cubes** (plus 2 ounce-sized water ice cubes)
2 oz ginger beer

Ahead of time, add specified ice cubes to your serving glass and set in freezer to chill.

Shake first 5 ingredients on light ice.

Add ginger beer to your serving glass.

Strain shaken drink into your serving glass and stir to get the ingredients combined, the ice beginning to melt and color the cocktail.

Garnish ingrediently and Tiki-ly. For the above garnish: cut the nose off a strawberry and down-skewer it, attaching a thin curlicue of lime zest for arms beneath, then an upside-down hibiscus tutu. Stud strawberry robotically with cloves.

* if like me, you do a Kaiser Penguin-style juiceless falernum, remember to add 1 part fresh lime juice to every 2 parts falernum syrup (so, 1/4 oz lime juice to 1/2 oz falernum syrup for this recipe). Plus, when whipping up the falernum, make sure that your simple syrup is fully cooled before adding to your infusion, lest you nuke the clove notes. Demerara sugar syrup also makes for a great richness if you don't have access to Lemon Hart or similar.

**Strawberry-hibiscus ice cubes: juice a pint of strawberries (give an adequate chance to rest to let air content subside) and combine with an equal amount (liquid-wise) of strong hibiscus tea. Freeze in 1-ounce ice cube molds (Tovolo 1" cube molds work great here).

Give ol' Hal a swirlie to mix the ice. Whee!
(just use a more regular-shaped glass for evenness)
The star anise in the Krogstad facilitates a bridge to the baking spices of the falernum and the cinnamon in the
Benedictine, while the caraway finds an unlikely ally in the particular bitter orange note of the Fee bitters (whose barrel-promoted fruity note makes fast friends with the strawberry) and hibiscus' astringency. Plantation 5 Star rum happens to be from Barbados, so it was a natural support element for the Bajan falernum while its big orange note linked up with Benedictine (the latter introduced some subtler spice to help round the profile); the two remain mostly in the background, but they add a smooth body that stops the seesawing between more intense elements and you can still pick up on the liqueur's bright holy note (have a Vieux Carre, see what I mean). The bitters further amplified these orange notes.

I'm not sure the cocktail is about "flavor" or "flavors" per se. It's bracing, biting, bitter, deeply fruity, fizzy-spicy, and refreshing to the bone. Could be that strawberry and ginger/spice is one of my favorite flavor pairings, a theme previously explored in Acrasia's Bower. (and similar recipes here, here, and here, for instance) You could probably break it down to nutritional details and geographical affinities to explain why your body is getting a 1-2-3 punch in a supremely envivening way. But when you have another rough day at work 5 months later and you're craving the exact same crazy recipe, you know there's something to it. (warning: you may get a buzz from this cocktail, but it might actually keep you up at night too. Mayhaps this calls for the right occasion and a lack of caffeine consumption prior to imbibing.)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Mixology Monday, August 2014: Coconuts!

*bong... bong...* It must be Mixology Monday midnight!

Welcome back, everybody, to the greatest cocktail party on the planet, or at least the blogosphere. We're rockin', we're rollin', and celebrating as the MxMo summer of Pina Colada gets its fitting bookend. In June we had Pineapple, so now we have Coconut. Let our host, JFL of Rated R Cocktails, keeping us Tiki-fied 24/7/365 give us the deets:
Ah the Coconut, so round, so firm, so fully packed…with flavor. You know back in March I seem to remember going on a regular madcap romance with this tropical icon. Infact I think I used coconut in just about every form I could. After all that you’d think I’d have had enough, and you’d be dead wrong. Coconut is versatile, coconut is magical, not only is it edible but it can be made into scores of products. However this month you need only concern yourself with the liquid variety as I unveil MxMo Coconut.

Yes friends it is my sincere belief the coconut does not get the love, nay the respect it so richly deserves. Because this easy going tropical seed had it’s heyday in the Tiki era it’s happily associated with the same fun loving drinks. Infact this ingredient is well within the Tiki wheelhouse yours truly occupies. Despite all the great Tiki drinks coconut appear in most people are down on the humble seed because of the Pina Colada. Friends this need not be so, I say we take this delicious ingredient and show it can yield a tasty, well balanced cocktail. It doesn’t have to be tropical necessarily. I’d really love to see some of my friends more classically minded come up with a cocktail more befitting a pre-prohibition mindset.
Check back in: when this link is active you can see what everyone did with our lovely bunch of coconuts.

Sometimes puns hit you with all the force of an unladen swallow at maximum airspeed velocity.

But then for some reason there can be a serious turn. Back in June I had been looking for some precedents to latch a recipe onto (there's MxMo Maestro Fred's Bikini Atoll, for instance) and then began delving into the history of the Marshall Islands. Maybe I misremembered from history class, or it was post-WW2 material that got rushed, but I had been under the impression that the site of nuclear testing was deserted -- and not that the inhabitants had been relocated. Or that the site remains radioactive and not very inhabitable, though environmental rehabilitation efforts have been and are still under way.

Beyond-words downer, I know. So, instead of a cheeky angle on this recipe, despite the cheeky name, that bit of knowledge made me want to create an atole riff reflective and respectful of Marshall Islands culture and the general region.

For those who haven't heard of atole (ah-TOE-lay) before, it's a popular Mexican hot beverage combining milk and sugar, thickened with masa harina into a creamy custard-like sipper. Basic atole can be flavored with vanilla and cinnamon, though the sky's the limit with a broad range of fruit flavors and of course chocolate. Even on hot summer nights this virgin beverage soothes down deep.

So then, off to the islands of the South Pacific and thereabouts - keep an eye out for Java, Ceylon, Tahiti, and of course, the Marshall Islands, where copra, aka our theme ingredient, Coconut, is a staple and important source of income for the islanders.

Bikini Atole*
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 cup milk
1 strip lime zest (length of lime, 1" wide)
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 T coconut palm sugar
4 t masa harina flour (fine-milled)
1/4 oz passionfruit syrup
1 1/2 oz Batavia Arrack
1/2 oz vanilla-infused cognac liqueur**
toasted coconut and cinnamon dust for garnish

Add Batavia Arrack to your serving mug in preparation.

Add the regular milk, zest, cinnamon stick, and sugar to a small pot on the stove and gently bring to a simmer while stirring, helping the accents infuse, about 10 minutes.

Add the coconut milk and masa harina, bringing to a boil and whisking briskly throughout (boiling brings out masa's thickening magic).

Reduce to a simmer and keep stirring until desired thickness is reached, then whisk in passionfruit syrup and vanilla cognac liqueur.

Strain your atole into your serving mug, whisking to incorporate the arrack (bottom-up incorporates better than top-down).

Garnish with toasted coconut flakes and fresh grated cinnamon.

*no relation to Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini Punch, albeit my apricot brandy and vanilla cognac liqueur are Remy half-bottle brethren.

**vanilla cognac liqueur: 2 vanilla beans in a half-bottle of cognac for 3 days. To this, add 1/2 part 2:1 rich simple syrup.

Nose: coconut, cinnamon, corn.

Sip: a house party. Lime dances with vanilla then switches to brandy. Cinnamon and corn chat cattily from the sidelines. Coconut and arrack swirl underneath it all tilting the cocktail in exotic directions with some additional chocolate notes. But, it remains warm, creamy, comforting atole.

The coconut milk in this recipe made the balance a little difficult to pin down. I had a great version at first, but it was too sweet. When I removed some ingredients, though, it wound up collapsing into indistinct mildness. Adding the passionfruit syrup back in, with its equally sweet and sour nature, similar to orange and pineapple juice, was the key: just a bit of acidity to delineate flavors, without inspiring the milks to curdle. The lime zest, normally too strong and bitter when used as a garnish or otherwise in spirit-forward cocktails, likewise brightens what the dairy would otherwise dampen.

Cheers to JFL for a fab theme and challenge. I'd never worked with coconut milk before and it was a great learning experience. If you're interested in everything you can do with coconut, folks, go check out his site: he's done a full month-long series on all the applications of coconut in cocktails, in addition to other theme months. Thanks also to Fred for keepin' them crazy cats reciting poetry in cafes.

'Night everybody!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Mixology Monday, July 2014: The Smash

Ooga chaka!
Ooga chaka!
Ooga ooga ooga chaka!
Iii-iiii-iii'm mixin' on Monday..

So who here's in a party mood tonight? I hope you are because we're in the last hour of this month's edition of the best cocktail party on the web, Mixology Monday. This time around we're celebrating the Smash, that particular bracing cocktail formula that, well, I'll let the vivacious eponymous-blogging Stacy Markow, our hostess for the month, take it away:
I’m proud to announce that July’s theme is all about the Smash, those ice-laden, refreshing concoctions designed to celebrate my favorite things about life: stiff drinks and warm weather.
It’s no surprise that in 1862 Jerry Thomas was the first to declare that “the Smash is simply a julep on a small plan.” The drink originally gets its name from the way mint was smashed up in the shaking process.
Fast forward twenty-five or so years later and barman Harry Johnson addresses the Smash as a separate cocktail from the julep entirely and expands the components to include “fruits in season.”
What little was originally written about the Smash can lead most to believe it wasn’t a terribly popular beverage, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. According to David Wondrich, the author of Imbibe!
“From it’s first appearance in the mid 1840′s until after the Civil War, the Smash was just about the most popular thing going. In the 1850′s, at the height of the Smash’s popularity, all the “pert young men, ” the Broadway dandies, San Francisco swells, and junior New Orleans grandissimes, seemed to spend the warm months of the year with a Smash glued to one hand and a “segar” to the other. In fact, the Smash rather became an icon of dissipation”
Johnson’s smashes resemble many modern interpretations found on cocktail menus today. With that said, the basic elements of the drink have remained the same over the years: they always include a spirit base, lots of ice, fresh herbs (the most popular being mint), sugar, and seasonal fruit.
Let’s get ultra creative, smash things, and then drown them in alcohol and ice. Allow your creativity take flight and concoct sweet and/or savory combos to remember using any fruit or herbs you can get your hands on.
When active, follow this link to see what everyone smashed together!

So at first I was noodling, maybe going a particular culinary flavor profile direction, make the drink all fancy, but that petered out before it really got started. Instead, it hit me that I had a recipe idea that I've been saving since even before Feu de Vie was incepted. Oh, I had been planing on starting up the blog since perhaps autumn 2011 and was slowly coming up with ideas for posts, but coming up with the blog's name took forever (and most services won't let you even start without the name in place).

This recipe was born out of my torrid love affair with cachaca that summer, the kind of magic that was made in a simple Caipirinha, and my own (wry) observations on the cocktail blog/tweetsphere and their own torrid love affair with rye whiskey (not a lot's changed, I know).

But, as I got into the swing of things, the plot bunnies of recipe ideas took off and this particular recipe got shelved until perhaps a more seasonally appropriate time during the summer. Then I ran out of an ingredient and couldn't find it again. So the recipe got shelved right next to the Ark of the Covenant, Jimmy Hoffa, and that book I'll be writing til I die in the burbling volcanic Doom Caverns of Developing Ideas.

But, no more! Here, finally, was the perfect time to bring it out into the light! Except it wasn't quite a Smash. It had spirit, sugar, citrus..but it lacked an herb.

Oh, hey, peppermint you say? ...that could work.

Who says brown spirits are for the cold months? In the spirit of the Improved Whiskey Cocktail, I give you..

The Gussied-Up Rye-pirinha
3 oz rye whiskey
1/2 tablespoon demerara sugar
1/4 lemon, cut into muddling pieces
6-8 blueberries
1 sprig peppermint, for muddling
2-3 dashes Angostura bitters
1 sprig peppermint, for garnish

As in a Caipirinha, muddle the blueberries, lemon and Angostura in your serving glass (rocks/double old-fashioned) with the demerara sugar; the sugar crystals will provide great friction for muddling in general and for abrading the lemon peel to help extract its oils.

Add in the mint sprig for muddling, pressing gently on the stem where most of the plant's oils are kept while otherwise going easy on the leaves.

Add in the rye and medium-size serving ice. Seal a shaker tin over top of the glass, invert, and give a few good shakes to thoroughly mix, chill, and start the ice dilution.

Invert again so the mixed drink sits in the serving glass and remove the shaker. Garnish with another sprig of peppermint.


The spirit greets you on the nose with faint sugar and berry lingering under the garnish's icy menthol. Further nosing reveals an orange/lemon note. Tasting, spice tickles across your tongue from the rye, mint and bitters. As the drink dilutes, lemon's astringency steps up while not completely overpowering a sugary berry note. A bit earthy and moody for a Smash, a cocktail structure that generally implies brightness and a lift from even dark spirits.

Make sure to use a good punchy rye - the always-potent peppermint needs a worthy match (and, I tend to think: spearmint with bourbon and peppermint with rye). For this Gussied-Up version, I used Dad's Hat Vermouth Barrel-Aged Rye, which threw me for a wallop the first time I tried it. It was off the charts in menthol and spice that I'm sure it picked up in the barrel-aging process and a certain "red" quasi-berry attribute in color and taste as well -- beyond their basic aged expression profile, which was also notable on the palate.

The Rye-pirinha (original) circa early 2012:
omit the peppermint and garnish with
Also, demerara, demerara, demerara. It may seem counter-intuitive when you consider how white sugar perks up the blueberry, lemon and peppermint, but the rye (and Ango) loves how the smoky brown sugar brings everything together with depth. White sugar's brightness just wouldn't be the thing here, and in fact, lack of demerara is what made me push off this recipe for years until I finally found it again.

Finally, special thanks to the folks at Herrcastle Farms in Holtwood, PA, who have a stand at the Lancaster County Farmer's Market - one of my fave ingredient hot spots. I was able to request a bunch of peppermint this past Friday afternoon (just as they were staging for the next's day's shipment, natch) for the next day - no mean feat since peppermint tends to be infrequently purchased and the market is only open Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. My blueberries for the recipe also came from them.

Big thanks to Stacy for an ideal theme for the season and to Fred for the cat-wrangling - I can only imagine the mischief and mayhem they're getting up to with a theme like this.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Mixology Monday, June 2014: Pineapple!

Greetings one and all, it's Mixology Monday time (which, as you might've figured out by now in my twisted timeframes is always too close to the deadlines for any comfort whatsoever). Thiago of Bartending Notes is our host this month, with a theme perfect for the summer months or for dreams of the summer months: Pineapple!
Let’s bring the king of fruits back! After being canned, mixed with all sorts of sugary liquids and blended into guilty pleasures not to be named some 80s dreadful cocktails, the pineapple needs more respect!

Once a symbol of hospitality, the King of fruits might be know misunderstood. One of the greatest non-citrus souring agents, used for crazy garnish ideas, infusions, old gum syrup flavoring, the pineapple is a fruit to be reckoned.

Be in a tiki cocktails, an old school classic like the Algonquin, a crazy flavor pairing or just mixed in a delicious Verdita, get creative and make a cocktail using any part of this delicious, juicy fruit or share you favorite pineapple cocktail with us!
When active, follow this link to see what pineappley goodness everyone concocted!

So what pairs with pineapple? Besides the usual rum, coconut, vanilla, baking spices, lime?


I know, I know, let's not let the suspense linger any further.

Island Laurel
1 1/2 oz dry white rum (Brugal Extra Dry)
3/4 oz fresh pineapple juice
1 tsp Becherovka liqueur
2-3 sprigs fresh oregano + oregano garland for garnish

In a rocks glass, lightly press the sprigs of oregano in the rum.

Add pineapple juice, Becherovka and ice (crushed would be nice here).

Stir briefly to chill and dilute.

Garnish with an oregano garland for fresh aroma.

Yes, fresh oregano in a cocktail, and it's not meant to smell/taste like pizza. The thing I really like about this herb when fresh is its almost-floral-yet-resinous quality. You just don't get that from a shaker of dried leaves.

I picked up my bottle of Brugal Extra Dry recently on clearance, since I needed a white rum in stock. Excellent bottle and very cocktail-friendly. When I first opened, nosed, tasted, with a partial mind to this month's pineapple theme, the first thing that cried out at me was fresh oregano of all things (yes, in combination with the rum and pineapple). Probably some kind of unholy vanilla, passionfruit, dry vermouth flavor association going on.

So, after melodramatically throwing up my hands and giving up one too many times with too many other ideas -- and struggling with pineapple's sour yet also quite sweet aspect throwing off the balance of sweeter-oriented cocktails -- I turned back to the original dry-oriented flavor combination. Yeah, it's an odd way to use pineapple, but I like its understated yet very present turn in this drink. A lilting floral quality on the tongue, like a slightly-sweet Martini.

The Becherovka I threw in just to balance the sweetness, and it's a great pairing with pineapple in general, like I found out with Giganta. Though, yes, I was trepidatious about pairing its baking spice goodness with the oregano. Turns out oregano pairs well with cinnamon, however -- whoda thunk?

Mega thanks to our host Thiago for offering to accept this way past due. Pineapple sure was beguiling as a theme, but surprising too. Can't wait to see what everyone else came up with.

Big thanks to Fred Yarm of cocktail virgin slut for lifting the MxMo torch high so we herd of cats know which direction to look.

Thanks also to Mixology Monday founder Paul Clarke for starting one of the best institutions on the web.

Saúde & cin cin!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Mixology Monday, May 2014: Aw, Nuts!

*sigh* Hi there, everybody. Boomer here. I suppose MoD does this whenever MxMo threatens to get a but nutty, but she's had issues of late (I'll let her do that talk at some point) and I guess that's why I'm being brought out again.

*scampers up the grandfather clock* Anyway, to start things off in the right position..

It's Mixology Monday time!!! This month's host is the vivacious Elana of Stir and Strain, with the daring, politically incorrect, non-hypoallergenic theme: Aw, Nuts! (we're a bunch of rebels, sister, I tell ya -- and I like it! *shows off pouches distorted and stuffed with walnut halves*)
Nuts? Yes! A few months back I tried, and was wowed by, a peanut-y take on an Old Fashioned at a bar here in L.A. They had infused peanuts in bourbon and with a touch of honey had made magic. Nuts of all sorts make it into cocktails now. Some black walnut bitters here, the sweet almond flavor of orgeat there… circus peanuts. Your challenge is to utilize nuts (and since we’re NOT adhering to the strict rules of what are nuts, peanuts and walnuts both count) in any way you see fit to create a cocktail. Infusions, bitters, almond tinctures are all game. Amaretto, homemade nocino, Frangelico too. Go nuts! (…sorry)
When active, this link will point you to the round-up of nutty funstuffs.

Now to the story of the real nut of the party, MoD for deciding to take on the magic of hickory nuts of all things. (why God, why? why did you make such precious delicious nuts so hard? I have no teeth left!)

The idea was certainly a late-breaking one, yet it happened with just enough time to spare to put in for a special order of rum, picked up this evening (ain't no dickorying around in the system, that's for sure). The hickories had actually been for another idea, possibly with RC Cola, but development's moved slow of late. With some additional research the basic orgeat blossomed into 3 different recipes to try (one on loan). You may hear about the others soon enough, but tonight's cocktail eschews the basic orgeat (with rose water) for the loaner Hickory Syrup, as linked but with some cocktailian-minded mods.

But hickory nuts? Honey, buy them pre-shelled because they iz a bitch. The fortunate thing is that the frustration of shelling them is balanced by the joy of hitting things with hammers! Hickory nuts are closely related to the pecan, same squiggly brain-shape you find with them or walnuts, but so very intractable to remove from the adamantium-like shell.

A few tips that we picked up along the way, gleaned from practice and various spots around the web that I can't quite find (so don't go praising for flights of genius or anything):

1) Pre-soak your nuts for half an hour in room-temp water. As much as it might be a concern that the nut oils might leach before you can make a syrup with them, the shells are so thick that the water doesn't come close to those precious-precious oils. Instead, the shell becomes more shock-absorbent, making hammer blows that much more likely to hit the mark.

2) I read on an historical site that hickory nuts used to be quite a staple of some Native American tribes, and to crack the issue of mass-processing, the entire nut, shell and all, was pounded into a nut-flour using a mortar and pestle, about the size of a butter churn, thereabouts. Well, no butter churn at home, but we did have a marble mortar and pestle for spice grinding. It wound up being perfect for positioning a single nut in the mortar, balancing the pestle on a pressure point, then hitting the pestle with my blunt hammer (rubber and plastic ends instead of a regular metal hammer head). Even with the gentler hammer, the pestle did chip slightly against the nut shells.

3) No need to hammer incessantly on a nut. There's a small seam that runs from the nut-end to the stem-end. Position your pestle on the seam perhaps 1/3rd of the way from the nut-end and hit the pestle until you hear a distinct shell-crack. It may not cleave the nut in two, but at that point you only need gentle taps to complete the cleaving - no need to have the nut explode on you. The same aural technique is also helpful when breaking down the nut further (because the nut meat tends to squiggle into the shell in narrow passageways that grow wider again, hence much more whacking).

4) I've also heard that vises may be useful for these nuts, so kudos if you have one!

But now then: have you heard the one about Bugs Bunny the Bartender explaining to a patron the substitution made on his regular rum-hazelnut cocktail? "Eh...it's a hickory daiquiri, doc!" I'm somehow disturbed that I can't find anyone who's made this cocktail before. Really people, it's 2014 already.

Hickory Daiquiri
2 oz dark/aged rum (Prichard's)
3/4 oz lime juice
1/2 oz hickory syrup
Lime and/or hickory nuts for garnish

Shake. Double-strain. Garnish with lime and/or hickory nuts as is your wont. Waft off to NeverNeverLand as you sip.

To make a Hickory Daiquiri D.O.C., use a mildly-aged rhum agricole and speak Italian instead of French while you make it. :)

Warm sugar and toffee on the nose with a hickory je ne sais quoi and lime notes from the garnish. The rum brings a potent depth on the tongue, the lime's acid rising as it nears the throat, with a creamy/musky hickory overlay that demands slow sipping and exploration.

Though never having tried the rum before, Prichard's seemed the perfect choice, simply for having been produced in the old New England way -- in Tennessee, natch. (seriously, how many hickory trees do you find in the Caribbean?) The rum's aged qualities defeated the regular hickory orgeat: there's a warm, buttery toffee Mother's Milk quality to the orgeat, and it was drowned out by similar notes in the rum. The dark spirit needed something more potent to match (evidently the orgeat needs a white spirit; a light whisky may serve for the smoked orgeat).

Hickory Syrup - follow the recipe for Hickory Syrup here, but:
1) Change the sugar from brown to demerara for a finer taste.
2) Let the nuts steep as you like, adding more water if you feel it reduces too fast or too much.
3) Measure the final liquid quantity at the end of steeping and alter the amount of sugar from 3/4 part of the nuts to equal amounts with the final liquid to create a cocktail-friendly 1:1 syrup.
4) Avoid the corn starch, you don't need it in your drink and once the syrup is cooled it'll be a fine consistency for mixing as-is.

Stay tuned for more hickory and otherwise nutty goodness in the coming days and weeks: MoD didn't spend whole weekends shelling nuts and making syrups just to have them go to waste!

Many thanks to Elana for hosting and yet another brilliant theme [JotJ will be coming 'round the mountain soon, just slow-paced], and to Fred for a brilliant job coordinating some great themes month after month after month.

*bong!* *the clock strikes one* G'night folks! *climbs down the clock*

Hickory Dickory Dock.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Mixology Monday, April 2014: Temperance

....ain't it gorgeous out? We should do something about that.

Welcome to April's edition of Mixology Monday. Scott of Shake, Strain & Sip is back again as our host (last spring he also hosted the From Crass to Craft theme). Spring Fever must be going around because he throws MxMo a real curveball: Temperance!
While many of us today think of overly sweet and unimaginative uses of fruit juice combinations when we hear of nonalcoholic beverages, there is a growing resurgence and movement of creating real craft “mocktails” in cocktail bars around the world.  With there being more exotic and unique ingredients available to us then ever before, there are an abundance of innovative spiritless libations being developed today.  Believe it or not, there’s actually a company that produces non-alcoholic versions of rum, vodka, brandy, and a number of other faux spirits and liqueurs.

As such, this month’s theme challenges you to create unique craft “mocktails” only limited by your imagination.  Perhaps you have an abundance of that homemade lavender syrup sitting in your fridge?  Maybe you’ve been thinking about creating a non-alcoholic version of your favorite cocktail.  Or maybe you just wanted an excuse to mix up an Angostura Phosphate you saw in Imbibe.  Oh yes, non-potable bitters are fair game here since they are legally classified as nonalcoholic in the states.  However, if the Teetotalist inside of you won’t allow it, you can go without them.  Cheers!
As always, follow this link to the round-up post when active.

The lady in white tights, did you see?
The lass with violets on her hat? A rose in her hand?
My, she was a dainty thing, strolling out from Mass on her way to tea.
I hear all the boy's'chewin mint, the only way they can get fresh with'er.
Har! Those white legs always come round in the end.

Combining the tastes of the Victorian Era, by way of France and the Mediterranean, with the best of the month of May and the Run for the Roses, here's the prettiest Arnold Palmer you ever did see.

Miss May
4 oz triple-brewed violet tea, chilled
2 tsp orgeat
1/2 oz Fentiman's rose lemonade
mint and a candied violet, and mini-rosebuds if you're lucky

Brew the tea ahead of time, with half a pod of black cardamom granules per quart; permitting to rest and chill in the fridge for a day will help bring out that subtle spice.

When ready to mix, combine tea, orgeat and rose lemonade in a mixing glass, no ice, and stir to dissolve the syrup.

Layer pebbled ice and spanked/chopped mint in a rocks glass to 3/4 full (a few mini-rosebuds would also be pretty here). Pour your mixture into the glass. Garnish with a mint sprig and a candied violet.

Hints of rose and mint perk up the predominant violet, with lemon putting a shine on the tea's astringency. Cardamom punctuates a sweet tea fade and creamy legs of almond come 'round on the finish.

A virgin tea-based spin on the rose julab and the May classic Mint Julep, with some complimentary flavors thrown in for good measure.

Cheers to Scott for hosting a lovely theme and hard-working Fred for keeping the best cocktail party on the 'net alive and thriving!

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.
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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.
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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!