Saturday, April 14, 2012

MoD's Cachaça Old Fashioned


Yes it's pink. How un-manly, I know. But watch it get 20 repins on Pinterest in 5 minutes!

A simple one for this week. It just so happens to turn sugar-plum-colored thanks to a stray drop or two of cherry juice, which really makes it a perfect birthday treat.

I want to do a cute equation line here involving 51 cachaça and me turning 31, but, math major that I am, I'm drawing a blank. Heh...if only it could help me score..

MoD's Cachaça Old Fashioned

2 oz cachaça (Pirassununga 51)
3/4 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp water
2 dashes cherry bitters (Fee Bros.)
1 dash orange bitters (Fee Bros.)
Cherry garnish (I used Bada Bing, but anything other than maraschino should do well, particularly fresh)

Stir/muddle sugar and water in your serving glass until dissolved. Add bitters either during or after this, depending on if the sugar-dissolution needs some help. Add 2-3 regular-sized ice cubes that you'd make at home, or equivalent. Add cachaça. Stir until ice is dissolved and drink chilled. Add King Cube and cherry garnish.


For a cocktail like the Old Fashioned, your mileage may vary (as well as your taste), so please, freestyle at will. I find, for every 1/4 tsp sugar, a dash of bitters balances well - you may want more.

My overall intent was to use the flavor (not just the sweetness) of the sugar, plus the cherry bitters and the minimalist style, to bring out that dark chocolate note in the cachaça*. The cherry bitters, in my opinion, are non-negotiable. Party-in-your-mouth Regan's No. 6 could be a fun orange bitters sub, but it depends on how dominant you want that flavor to be. I find Fee's orange bitters add a faint bitter orange glace - emphasis on the bitter - while preserving the underlying flavors. Old Fashioned/Angostura bitters would also work nicely here with the cherry and/or orange.

*I would go so far as to cite Costa Rican dark chocolate. Find a single-source bar and see what I mean.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

La Primavera Nella Campagna

It's the little things that inspire. Case in point. Then there's also.. [alack, not very spirit-forward] And then there's also.. (hm!) Ok, why not?

I love Galliano. First going out to bars for after-work happy hours, I'd see that tall bottle reaching above all the other bottles on the backbar, announcing its presence, and think "I gotta see what that's like." And granted, I'm something of an intentional oddball: when everyone else is doing beer, wine or vodka, I'm the one ordering the Harvey Wallbanger (and this in the '00s when Cosmos were all the rage - alas, I wasn't born in time for the '70s). It's something of a conversation piece - it gets people pulling out their phones to google the recipe, and I like to think it pushes their boundaries.

I also like to think I had an insta-bond with Galliano, something I never came close to having with a flavored vodka or even my dear darling tequila. When I bought my first bottle this past January, at the start of my Great Cabinet Buildup (ABC should really make a show out of that..) I felt like I had finally arrived and simple dabbling was now behind me.

So Galliano became my starting point for this "ultimate spring-themed drink." Now, unfortunately, while it is a beautiful spirit, there aren't a lot of cocktails that use it. My impression: it has this prim/proper way of reeling in the flavor notes of other, lesser, ingredients under its apron, mainly due to its sweetness. However, it's this very prim/proper mannerliness which served as inspiration.

Of all things, for me, it evokes images of the French countryside, bright spring greens, roses, subtle scents of wildflowers and herbs. Tidy acres just sown with crops, small groves of trees, orderly pastoral dirt roads with slender wood fencing. A lot of that could well apply to countryside in general, but my overall first impression (because evidently we swerve back around to Italy) suggested French instead of Italian because temperate France seems more overtly mannerly with colors popping avec précision (et c'est tout!), whereas sun-drenched Italy seems a touch more languorous. And the colors get me every time: rose, soft yellow, spring green.

There was a lot of development on this drink. The brief version of it goes:

Version 1: Remy Martin V, Galliano, St. Germain, Meyer lemon (muddled, through all versions) and plum bitters. The one nagging problem with this recipe started at the very beginning: too sweet.

Version 2: Swap in Pisco as the base spirit, because that seemed like something fresh and spring-like (from what I had read). I realized I wanted a more dry aromatic thrust, so I chucked St. Germain and, head-still-firmly-in-France, added tarragon - based on research I figured it would further enhance Galliano's anise note. Also, rhubarb (rhubarb simple syrup in this version) for plum because at this point I had read plenty about how it's such a spring flavor (and it completed my aforementioned color trifecta).

I had never used Pisco, tarragon or rhubarb before, ever. The tarragon was lovely, rhubarb had a nice flavor but syrup made things too sweet, and ye gods, Pisco! The South Americans do this wild petrol-note to their spirits that makes me imagine cold-steel Transformers rising from the Andes with slanted top hats and voices like crushing garbage cans, and I love it! But in a more delicate cocktail like this...your mouth goes numb.

Version 3 is largely what you see below. Fixing the Pisco problem...I'm not a big fan of pears as fruit or flavor, so when I saw this tweet in my feed awhile back, it stuck in my mental mixology toolbox.

Version 4: still dealing with the sweetness problem, I came across this blog post from Chuck Taggart - exactly what I needed. Testing at my office suggested the add of San Pellegrino balanced the drink just right (over straight and diet tonic water versions).

In short, kudos to all the gents who helped in the development. I'm much obliged. Without further adieu, the final version:

La Primavera nella Campagna

1 oz pear eau-de-vie
1 oz vodka
1/2 oz Galliano l'autentico liqueur
1/2 Meyer lemon, quartered
1 inch of rhubarb, cut into muddling pieces
1 moderately frilly sprig tarragon, picked into smaller sprigs
3 dashes rhubarb bitters
San Pellegrino or club soda

1 Meyer lemon twist for garnish (hold off cutting until indicated)

Muddle the rhubarb, lemon, and bitters in a shaker until broken down. Given the small amount of rhubarb, you may want to muddle it alone first before adding the lemon. Sprinkle a Tinkerbell-sized amount of sugar on the lemon to help abrade.

Spank the tarragon like the naughty-but-shy vixen it is. Add. Lightly muddle/stir in.

Add a few lumps of ice, vodka, eau-de-vie, and Galliano. Shake 15-20 seconds.

At this point, put the shaker down and cut the lemon twist garnish (and twirl 'round a chopstick or similar for a tight spiral). It's probably more efficient to do this as prep beforehand, but it wouldn't hurt for the drink to sit a moment to further draw out the flavors from the fresh ingredients and encourage melding.

Once the garnish is prepped, half-fill a Collins glass with ice (I'm using large 1"+ cubes here). Shake the drink an additional 5-10 seconds to wake it up, then pour all into the glass. Finish adding ice to the glass, then top with San Pellegrino. Use a straw to stir and help anchor the lemon twist in the drink.

Final notes:
  • The flavor is light but intense for what it is, and while you can identify where different pieces originate, they all meld into something emergent.
  • As you might notice, the predominance of Italian ingredients (Galliano, San Pellegrino) pushed the name to Italian. Italians also aren't strangers to either rhubarb (Nardini makes Rabarbaro, a rhubarb amaro, and there are a handful of restaurants named "Rabarbaro" in Tuscany) or tarragon (a notable herb in Tuscan cooking).

    Theoretically, pear eau-de-vie may not be a stranger to Northern Italy, with its culture and climate closer to middle-Europe, but I can't find find an example after googling (Poire Williams is more native to Switzerland and France, and I used Schladerer's Williams Birne in testing). Meyer lemons, while native to California, do pop up in plenty of Italian-style recipes, per Google.
  • After the fact, I half-wonder what dry vermouth (or maybe Lillet) would do in place of the vodka. But, for another time - I'm done tested out.
  • Do be cautious with this one. You don't taste the alcohol, but it does sneak up on you pretty quick.