Saturday, July 14, 2012

Ombudsman's Report 1

In the spirit of Bastille Day, and circumventing lack of accountability before it gets to the guillotine stage (I hope..), Feu de Vie brings you its first Ombudsman Report. [This report is going to be an occasional feature on the blog, simply as a means of housekeeping/commenting on dangling threads due to changed expectations, etc..]

Ombudsman: Did you know the PLCB has completely discontinued sales of Rosangel in the state?

MoD: Oops. Welp, there goes Everything's Coming Up Roses and The Rose. Or, well, the recipes can still be done, Rosangel is still sold elsewhere, but it'll be tough for PA denizens unless they go to another state.

Of all the timing, however, there may be a workaround emerging (and hopefully going wider soon). I plan to play around on this issue, both with the above-mentioned item and with a straight jamaica-tequila infusion (dried hibiscus blossoms, that is). Sorel could potentially be an improvement on the Rosangel/sloe gin combo in The Rose and I want to see if a Sorel spin on Everything's Coming Up Roses works out, as I think @TheLiquortarian may like that one, though I can't commit until I have actual results for either.

Ombudsman: Which brings us to that commitment you made in The Rose..

MoD: About the Rose Margaritas? Yeah, a few things on that:
  1. Doing a little research on the cocktail name, if you want Rose Margaritas may I suggest the Roses Margarita at Tequilas in Philadelphia? [for posterity, in case the menu/link changes: Siembra Azul Blanco infused with roses, Fresh Lime, Rose Petals, and St. Germain] That deserves the name way more than one with Rosangel. Thus, were I to do a simple fun 'rita with Rosangel, I'd call it an Hibiscus Margarita.
  2. [Ombudsman: And this Hibiscus Margarita was where on Cinco de Mayo 2012?] Flopping. I tested 2 versions, 1 with Rosangel and 1 with regular tequila and those edible hibiscus-flowers-in-juice garnishes. Neither quite turned out the way I wanted, and with my sole bottle of Rosangel down to dregs, I couldn't fine-tune. With Sorel coming out, maybe that's something I can revisit next year.

Ombudsman: And that other commitment in the Old City, New Game in Town, about a "trip downwards with the White Rabbit, just in time for Easter"?

MoD: The Advocaat special order was painfully late. But hey, I've got a full liter that'll last unopened until next year! Believe me, I have plans. For any kind of cute and fluffy newborn, it will have a cocktail next spring.

Ombudsman: You realize you managed to annoy 2 halves of your audience with one under-the-picture caption in MoD's Cachaça Old Fashioned?

MoD: I try to be equal-opportunity in many things. Having a bit of awareness about reader reaction isn't a bad thing, is it? And I'm not above tweaking if it comes from truth.

Ombudsman: AHEM Sleeping Beauty AHEM.

MoD: June was an awful awful month at work and if you were in my position you'd have a coffee IV drip too. I'd say it was poor timing on my part and a bit overbearing, except the same old pattern has emerged - so we've got a joyful running gag on Twitter again. I just wanna know how absurd we can make it now. [or, y'know, someone get @AdamsBitters an assistant, stat]

Ombudsman: Do you see yourself going that far off the deep end with the "art" portion of a post again?

MoD: The sky's the limit. Seriously, I try not to set limitations. The room to fail is an important part of growth - it teaches restraint, natch. (and as far as creative endeavors go, I expect about a 90% failure rate for this first year - I might be a little bit ahead of that..) At any rate, Art in the Age had the good sense to include the entire recipe in the description when they pinned it on Pinterest, minimizing click-through to that mess.

Ombudsman: You're on Pinterest? Why don't I know this?

MoD: Because I need to update the On Feu de Vie section - for a lot of different reasons. Upcoming, naturally.

Ombudsman: Do you have any plans to make drink recipes that are not undrinkable? Or at least can be concocted at home by people who aren't inclined to spend a mint just on out-of-state bitters orders?

MoD: *gasp* NEVER! Don't you know these drinks are ART?! You're not suppose to actually drink them, you're supposed to stare at the pictures and recipes and go "why can't I have nice things?" [I hear it's a trend..]

Ombudsman: Why don't you say such things only after you stock both basic Chartreuses and a mezcal?

MoD: You, you, meanie! Don't you know I'm saving myself for Stellina?! *storms off*

Ombudsman: That about does it for now. Readers, if you think I have missed any glaring issues, on any matter whatsoever, please feel free to add them in the comments. MoD - don't disappoint, please..

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


Smokemont's not just a convenient portmanteau of Smoky Mountains - it's also a ghost town in the mountains. Some songs meander and branch away from a full river, and there's just too much for a single structure to encompass meaningfully. So here, take these images and this recipe and let them sing their stories to you. And enjoy!

Inspired by the Courting Rachel. (yea, I must hie to Seattle, post-haste!)

2 oz rye-emphasis bourbon or rye whiskey (I used Bulleit 95 Rye)
1/2 tsp huckleberry preserves
3-4 dashes Fee Bros. Black Walnut bitters
Maple-candied thick-cut hickory-smoked bacon*
hickory wood chips**

Stir together huckleberry preserves and black walnut bitters in a mixing glass.

Add ice and whiskey, then stir until chilled.

Strain into a chilled and hickory-smoked old-fashioned glass over ice and garnish with a maple-candied bacon twist.

* Prep 1 Wrap a raw slice of bacon around a tubular or conical oven-safe object and bake in the oven on a cookie sheet until set and the fat is no longer squishy/chewy (only just-so). (40 minutes at 350° F worked for my oven, but ymmv) The main point is to create a non-static-shaped bacon slice so it looks pretty in the glass and is firm enough to hold up while soaking in liquid, so if you've got a better idea, by all means..

Once the bacon is ready, remove from the oven, remove the shaping-object and pat dry with paper towels, and wipe the grease from the cookie sheet. Once cool enough to handle, coat the bacon in maple syrup and return to the oven on the cookie sheet to bake at a low temp (250° for 20 or so minutes), turning halfway through and re-coating for evenness. Remove from the oven when the coating ceases to be liquid and let cool - this will let the candy shell set-up. 

** Prep 2 As you're prepping the bacon, chill your serving old-fashioned glass in the freezer. Once the bacon comes out of the oven to let the candy coat set, now is the time to smoke your serving glass. In a fire/ash-safe dish (ash trays from thrift shops are handy like that), add some thin smolder-ready hickory chips and set them alight so they produce smoke but not fire. (since the dry chips I used were so small, I poured a little water on them for a moment, poured it off, then stuck their dish in the oven with the bacon to dry enough to catch fire) If you have another source of hickory smoke like a BBQ or a Smoking Gun, more power to you. Invert your serving glass over the smoke and let it gather the aroma while you're mixing.

  • I used Smoky Mountain Farms Huckleberry Jam since it's difficult to come by fresh huckleberries in the Philadelphia area. If you have a chance to get fresh huckleberries, try muddling them with a bit of sugar for an even better taste. The jam I used was very bright with sugar (ingredients: huckleberries, sugar, pectin, citric acid), so while it didn't differ too much from straight sugar, the berry flavor did add a touch of earthiness which integrated well with the other flavors and better than would sugar alone.
  • The bacon's fat blends into the black walnut bitters and enhances them. Sugar, fat, salt, smoke - the drink hits all those primal food needs and rye's spice, wood notes and alcohol grand slams them out of the park. Seriously, don't eat the garnish separate from the drink - it creates loop.
  • The hickory smoke isn't too overt on the nose - the bacon dominates - but it does tie the drink together and make the bacon fit with everything else going on. A subtle resonance, really.
  • Not only does the maple syrup add to the woody quality of the drink and give the garnish an added (delightful) crunch, it preserves the bacon from getting soggy as you sip.
[Edit: (07-11-12, 10:43AM ET) In all the hubbub working up this post, I forgot to even mention part of recipe idea's source. I had had a pretty strong idea for the recipe already back in February when I noticed @VAScofflaw did something very similar when trying out his new Smoking Gun. I bounced the idea off of him and I think it helped crystallize the final recipe, including garnish. So thanks for the musing-help, Marshall! Go give Scofflaw's Den@VAScofflaw and @highwaystar some love, folks.]

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Virginia Sakura

[Update, 03-20-2013: Call it a rookie mistake, explicitly naming a cocktail with a brand name (without so much as asking). I was delving into my love of bourbon by exploring the different brands available --including Jefferson's-- and, as you might expect, with love comes inspiration. With this particular bourbon I noticed an interesting swiss chocolate note that truly reminded me of cherry blossom trees for some reason, so I wanted to play that up in a cocktail, deliberately skirting actual cherry flavor in favor of the "everything else" of the tree. When it came time to name the cocktail, well, if you google, you'll see scads of recipes with "cherry blossom" in their name (which miffs me because they tend to have a straight cherry flavor: cherry blossoms don't taste like cherries, cherries do!). Given my focus on Jefferson's Bourbon, all other potential names tended to fall short of "Jefferson's Cherry Blossom", noodle on this though I did.

I've stuck with this name for about 9 months now (not so comfortably), and I think it's overdue for a fix for the longer term. Recently I've received some feedback on the recipe using a different bourbon (Bowman's), and it sounds like it turned out quite well with the substitution: "etherealized bourbon" summed up the impression. I imagine any classic/not-too-spicy profile bourbon would also work well in the cocktail. This recipe/post's link has to remain "Jefferson's Cherry Blossom" due to Blogger's set-up (all previous links will continue to function, natch), but given the cocktail seems to hold up with substitutions and I still have on my mind the third president and the Washington D.C. cherry blossoms of my youth, it shall henceforth be called Virginia Sakura.]

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. ..." 
Declaration of Independence, authored by Thomas Jefferson

Virginia Sakura
2 1/4 oz  Bourbon (Jefferson's)
1/2 oz Umeshu (plum sake - I used Choya)
1 tsp Maraschino liqueur
5 drops Bittercube cherry bark vanilla bitters
Cherry-Mint blossom garnish

Stir liquid ingredients on ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass in which the garnish is already placed.

To prepare the garnish:
  1. Take a preserved cherry (ideally a Luxardo or homemade maraschino cherry, or a homemade bourbon cherry), remove the stem, and with a paring knife cut 5 roughly equal-sized "petals" while being careful not to cut all the way through the base - it needs to hold together.
  2. Select a mint sprig with tiny just-starting leaves at the very top and second-level leaves just larger than your cherry - break off the sprig just under those second-level leaves. With your cut cherry, gently roll and poke the baby leaves through the hole at the cherry base, leaving the second-level leaves to flutter prettily in the breeze behind the cherry.
  3. If the garnish is a tad bit juicy, that's perfectly all right. A few cherry-flavored drops will round the drink out nicely.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Sleeping Beauty


Time for a story...
(aka, me, for the last 3 and a half weeks)

[cuts are funny things on Blogger. Please scroll ahead to the end to see the recipe.]

"Gather round now kids. Have your cookies and milk? Blankets ok? Okey-doke, let's begin. Once upon a time, in a faraway land, there lived a king and qu--"

"We already watched the movie last week!"

"But what's wrong with having the story again? The movie doesn't include everything that was in the book."

"Is Thor in it?"

"Thor? I think he's a different universe.."

"But Thor can cross dimensions! He just fought Mephisto, a Spider-Man villain."

"Well...theoretically, it's possible.."

"Tell us Thor's part!"

"...ok. But we'll have to get to that, in turn."


"... If Thor's gonna be in this story, he's gotta fight someone, right?"

"Yeah!" "No kissy stuff!"

"Then we gotta know who he's fighting. How good's the fight gonna be otherwise?"


*grabs a gingersnap* "mmm, tasty.. Now, you know there was a king and queen, and they finally had a baby daughter, right?"


"And they were so happy they threw a big party and invited everyone in the kingdom, including the great fairies."

"Except for one!"

"(There can be only one!) But those who did come each had a special gift for the princess."

"What was the princessesesesses name again?"


"It better not be Vesper!"

"Adam! Not this again. And what's so wrong with Vesper? She died for queen and country in the end."


"Ok, what do you think the princess should be named?"

"Princess LuLu who goes Woo Woo!"

"Yeah!" "Yeah!" "That's 'er name!" "I like Aurora.." "4-1, Gracie, sorry.." "..ok."

"arr...well, just so long as she doesn't go wee-wee...  So then, *cookie bite* mm, each of the fairies in turn graced the princess" "LuLu who goes Woo Woo." "with a gift."


"Ah, but here's something the movie left out, namely because it wasn't made in smell-o-vision. Each of the fairies, and there were more than three, had a different-smelling spell."

"Frogs!" "Dog bath!" "Brussels sprouts!"

"Not quite.. You could tell a good fairy from a bad one by her spell-smells, and the good ones all had good-smelling spells, though that doesn't mean they had to be good-for-you smells."


"Good one, Gracie! Strawberries were one, but also (hm..) chocolate and zest, herbs, spices and sugar."

"And the evil one?"

"Bitter, menthol and bitter. Maybe even a bit of chocolate and citrus..I could see that working..."

"You need to go Woo Woo!"

"I WHAT?! maybe later.."

"So the good fairies were all giving their gifts when the evil fairy showed up.."

"And said 'No, my Princess Vesper, I expect you to die!'"


"Which fairy was saved for last, though?"

"The Sugar Plum Fairy!" 

"...sure. Why not? heyyy...yeah.. And though she could not break the evil fairy's curse, she could soften it. The princess would only sleep until woken by a prince's kiss of true love."

"Get to Thor!"

"Ok, so years pass, Princess LuLu" "who goes Woo Woo!" "grows up, yadda yadda, she pricks her finger on a spindle of fresh-spun golden wool and falls into a deep sleep. The good fairies make the entire land fall asleep along with her, but the evil fairy raised a wall of bitter thorns all over the castle to prevent suitors from breaking the spell."

"And Thor's a prince!"

"Actually, Thor was one of the princes who didn't get in."


"Not buying that are you?"


"We would have words with thee."

"Or smitest thou with wet noodles!"

*eyebrow raise that would put Spock to shame* "Yeeaaayyyyy.. Thor, hearing the kerfuffle about the entire kingdom that had slept for decades, descended on the Bifrost to see what was the matter. There he encountered a great castle draped in faded and tattered raiment barely visible underneath bramble grown thicker and more tangled with each passing year, the thorns as large as his arm. Seeing the castle as distressed as it was, Thor raised his mighty hammer Mjolnir and began breaking the bramble hither and thither.

But that disturbance summoned the attention of the Evil Fairy and she appeared suddenly before him in all her bitter acrid glory, rising up up up into a black behemoth of a dragon, greater than even the frost giants! (frosty mug..)"

*GASPs* *hushed whispers*

"We approve of a behemoth dragon." "Please continue."

"With a roar that shook the edges of the earth, she went straight for Thor's liver! The battle was intense, fire bursts traded with hammer blows. Back and forth they volleyed, until a quick blow of the dragon's head dashed Thor to the ground. All seemed lost in the brief seconds the dragon coiled to pounce--"

"When Power Girl swooped in, knocked the dragon's lights out and called 'You're all clear, kid! You go kiss the princess then get home!'"

*WHIPLASH* ("ow..")


"('Atta girl..) Sounds like fair play to me."

"Power Girl isn't even from the Marvel Universe!"

"Power Girl has always been a bit alternate reality-lost."

"You said there'd be no kissy stuff!"

"Is Princess LuLu who goes Woo Woo supposed to sleep forever? How's the story supposed to end?"

"With the hero walking away from a big explosion! C'mon guys, let's do the story how it's supposed to be done.." 

*the four boys, exeunt*

*blink blink* "Sounds like we did the story right."

"Boys are weird.. Better make sure they're not looking for the sledgehammer again."

"Aye.. Goodnight, Gracie?"

"Goodnight, Gracie!"

Sleeping Beauty
1.5 oz SNAP
1 oz Dubonnet Rouge
1 tsp Fernet Branca
2 dashes Fee Bros. plum bitters
1 long channel-cut lemon twist

Stir first four ingredients with ice. 
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. 
Garnish with a long lemon twist wrapped into a skein around a spindle/cocktail spear.

My fairy tale's in a glass.

Because we had a National Gingerbread Day not too long ago (June 5th).