Monday, September 17, 2012

Mixology Monday, September 2012: Equal Parts

Did you know? It's Mixology Monday! A venerable institution among cocktail bloggers, MxMo has been the web's premiere rotating monthly cocktail party, now on its 65th iteration. The event, on a hiatus since February but long-helmed by Paul Clarke, has been passed to the great Frederic "Fear the" Yarm of Cocktail Virgin Slut to take up the charge.

Feu de Vie didn't even exist the last time MxMo took place, so it's a thrill to be a part of it this time.

To start things off again, this month's theme is Equal Parts. The challenge, as described on the Mixology Monday site:
For this month, I have chosen the theme of equal part cocktails — those simple drinks where only one jigger is needed despite how many ingredients are added. These recipes have gained a lot of popularity as classics like the Negroni and Last Word have resurfaced, and variations of these equal part wonders have become abundant.
Find or concoct a drink recipe that has an equal parts recipe. Garnishes do not count, and if you want to be a non-purist and include a dash of bitters, that is fine too. 
When active, this link will send you to the summary post of this month's festivities.

This is going to be an odd post, both for the multiple recipes and because the inspiration as linearly-read happens backwards. The Hello Katie and Oh Good, My Dog Found the Chainsaw are a response to the Hell Kitten not being as spirit-centered as this MxMo's "Equal Parts" theme might expect, and a number of their elements derive from the Hell Kitten and not vice versa.

Hello Katie

So I wanted to keep thematic with the Hell Kitten, but with more structure. As far as major Equal Parts formulas go, you have the how'd-they-come-up-with-that? Last Word, the classic class-of-its-own Negroni, the split-spirit-with-vermouth Saratoga, and the split-spirit-Sour Between the Sheets. I decided on a Between the Sheets variation, mainly because it's just so darn comfortable. It's one of the first serious cocktails I ever ordered - mainly as a conversation piece, but without flavored spirits or otherwise over-sweet. Also: I haven't yet gotten to the original Last Word cocktail (and my herbal liqueur collection is lacking); I am Negroni-formula'ed-out at the moment; and if I want to pull elements from the Hell Kitten, I've already done a tequila-vermouth combo. A fruit juice carryover would suggest a Sour at that.

So, I grabbed the tequila, strawberry, and citrus (when it had grapefruit..) from the Hell Kitten, but in doing so wanted to veer to a slightly different set of flavors from El Clavel Rojo. The white Rémy V and red tequila por mi amante, plus Galliano's vanilla and the original cocktail's name, "Hell Kitten", all added up to wanting to name this one "Hello Kitty" - but apparently that name's been grabbed a few times already.

But then I looked at the ingredients again and realized they're a good introduction to my major spiritous loves that I've blogged about thus far, if the relevant tags are anything to go by. If not Hello Kitty, then how about, *waves*, Hello Katie? I do generally do the anonymous act on here and Twitter, but you can call me Katie or Kate. And though I'm sure Feu de Vie has been a bit under the radar so far, I'm glad you stopped by for a visit and do hope you return!

Hello Katie (top),
Oh Good, My Dog Found the Chainsaw (bottom)
Hello! -Katie
3/4 oz tequila por mi amante
3/4 oz Rémy Martin V (eau-de-vie)
3/4 oz Galliano l'autentico liqueur
3/4 oz Meyer lemon juice

Shake, strain, chilled coupe, Meyer lemon twist.
Small crack of Himalayan pink sea salt if desired.

The tequila por mi amante is mellow and laidback in its strawberry flavor, Rémy V harmonizes and balances, Galliano's low anise note best emerges here, followed by a creamy sweetness, and the Meyer lemon's aromatics are a lace shawl over the strawberry and spice while not being overly tart and palate-burning like regular lemon in a Between the Sheets.

The Hello Katie's variant, the Oh Good, My Dog Found the Chainsaw, uses cachaça in place of the Rémy V (and a Meyer lemon twist in the shape of Stitch ears perhaps?). A more "street" cachaça like 51 Pirassununga tends to dominate while a higher grade like Leblon is much gentler like the eau-de-vie and whose grassy notes frolic with Galliano and the Meyer lemon nose - and perhaps bring out the strawberry even more.

Hell Kitten

Think of this as the love-child of Hello Kitty and The Most Interesting Man in the World. That or it's the cocktail version of pink Victoria's Secret sweatpants with "P I N K" arced across the rear.

It all started with the thought that I could showcase some spare hibiscus tea ice cubes as an ingredient. I had made them in my Tovolo 1-inch cube trays, which, interestingly enough, hold a little over 1 oz of liquid per cube if filled to the brim. (a ha! Units for Equal Parts!) Exact 1 oz cubes wouldn't be out of the question. But what then? How about a fast, furious and cute riff on the El Diablo?

Hell Kitten
2 oz habanero-infused blanco tequila
2 oz ginger ale
2 1-oz strawberry juice ice cubes
2 1-oz hibiscus tea ice cubes
Strawberry or strawberry-habanero blossom garnish

To a rocks glass add tequila, then ice, then top with ginger ale. Give a quick stir to get the drink pink. Really PINK.

Garnish with a strawberry, or, if you're really craving heat, a small strawberry inserted inside a seeded/veined habanero, cut with petals to look like a flower, as pictured (drink fast because it will infuse).

  • I used this recipe for habanero tequila. Mind the infusion carefully and taste-test after each hour. Even with a seeded and veined habanero being infused, it picks up plenty of heat by the 2-hour mark (a tiny taste test at that mark gave me a serious capsaicin high). 3 hours was just about right.
  • Please please please please PLEASE practice scrupulous safety techniques when handling these little buggers (the habaneros). Use rubber gloves, protect your eyes, clean anything they touch before anything else touches it. I thankfully avoided it and don't want to know what a stray swipe of 350,000 Scoville units in the eye feels like.
  • As for the structure, usually a highball is a 1:2 ratio mixer:spirit or vice versa. It's a bit overloaded on the mixer side with the ice, if only to manage the heat and to account for the time it takes for the ice to melt (and, 2 ice cubes doesn't make much sense amount-wise - 4 works a lot better).
  • In addition to hibiscus ice, since the Equal Parts part of the theme would make it difficult to double-up on the same mixer, I also made strawberry juice ice cubes. If lacking a juicer: puree fresh berries, double-strain through a fine sieve and cheesecloth. The juice will remain thick, regardless of pulp removed, but that thickness is good for adding body to the drink, which moderates the tequila's harshness. (also, the leftover pulp is gangbusters if added to pancake batter)
  • Ginger ale instead of ginger beer: the sweetness to balance the heat, and why cause confusion where the heat's coming from? The name does include Kitten after all.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Doe's Path

This is her day of peace.  Late afternoon, the sun sending the colors of autumn into her room by way of fluttering brown-speckled butter-colored leaves.  Off into the neighbor's backyard, amidst the heavy shade of the woods is her soul: two streaks of gold kneeling upon a bed of mottled leaves - truth - leading to her paradise.

The Doe's Path
1 oz Dad's Hat rye whiskey
1 oz Vya extra dry vermouth
3/4 oz Cynar
1/4 oz Benedictine
rosemary sprig

Stir with ice. 
Strain into a chilled coupe. 
Roll a sprig of rosemary between your fingers to wake it up and float it or balance it on the coupe's rim.

This is an extraordinarily oddball recipe for me. And by that I mean it fits in with any of the other relatively new renaissance cocktails you've seen buzzing around on the web for the last few years. Honestly, I've tried to stay away from those kinds of recipes because the simple (almost incestuous) combinatorics of a proscribed list of spirits do not favor n00bs coming up with something that hasn't been done before. [Hair-splitting cases in point for this recipe: Teenage RiotBensonhurstA Dry SymphonyPhilabusterLittle ItalyArts District.] It's a lot easier to not step on anyone's else's toes and hard work if you're pulling in little-used ingredients like seville oranges, pear eau-de-vie, Meyer lemons, and Umeshu, or making your own homemade stuff, or toying with techniques like shots with multiple ingredients per layer or flavored & filled ice balls.

Still, despite that complaint, it feels like I am pulling in a unique new ingredient with this one, 'cause I kinda am: Dad's Hat rye whiskey. My initial impression, which we'll swing back around to naturally: "gives me a mental taste-image of a doe in the wild amongst birch trees." It's unlike any other rye I've had thus far (Bulleit, Old Overholt - or even rye-heavy bourbons) for the dominant medium-wood notes of maple and birch. I honestly get more rye grain flavor before I get rye spice (and I worry slightly that my bottle might be a one-off because it's so far off model for what I understand to be rye at this point), though I do detect orchard fruit - more pear than apple - as suggested by this review. All the same, I like different and off model.

The idea for this recipe came when I was trying the rye out in a Manhattan....and, well, it disappointed me there. The Manhattan is my favorite cocktail - there's something magical about it where the whiskey (be it rye or bourbon), vermouth and bitters combine into a new, independent flavor that consistently emerges regardless of spirits. Sure, you get the taste of the individual ingredients around the edges, but something immortal happens in that glass. In the case of the Dad's Hat, those maple and birch notes just weren't playing nice with the Carpano Antica Formula, with the whole idea of red fruit it seems. Well, ok, I thought - bet those woody qualities would dance much more nicely with dry vermouth.

Vya's orris root bitterness successfully reins in the rye's woody tangy sweetness, and its petrichor atmosphere creates a structured road for the doe to run. But the doe must have something on which to run, something earthy, with a canopy of vegetal herbs: Cynar. Altogether this would make for a fine, softer, Cynar-variant Old Pal, but shouldn't the doe have a direction in which to run?

The one word that keeps popping up for me at this juncture is Grace[, a place of]. And no spirit offers that eternal light of grace in taste and meaning better than Benedictine. You never need much of it, but that simple barspoon in a Vieux Carre for instance, it's like a priest made the sign of the cross over your glass. Here, it elevates The Doe's Path with a solemn-yet-joyful glow - perfect for a calm contemplative autumn Sunday.

Finally, the rosemary accentuates the herbaceous qualities in the spirits, gives them a proper sylvan setting, and contrasts with Benedictine's orange and light.

Overall I'm very happy with how this recipe turned out. Dad's Hat clearly has a different rye song to sing and I'm curious to play around with where this doe wants to travel next.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Old Summer

The air fills with gold and the evening is a never-ending twilight.
T-shirts get covered with long sleeves.

The garden's about done for the year:
A few greens left on scraggly vines.

Summer's winding down, falling into rest.
Hints of smoke in the air, the gains soon to be spent.

Everything gets busy again,
Except for these moments.


YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED - the management]

Old Summer
1 oz bourbon (I used Wild Turkey 101)
1 oz Applejack
1/2 tsp demerara sugar
3 dashes Dr. Adam Elmegirab's Dandelion and Burdock bitters
1-2 wedges fresh grilled or pan-fried green tomato

Muddle green tomato wedge(s) with demerara sugar, bitters.
Add bourbon and applejack, stir with ice. Double-strain into a serving glass over large cube.
Garnish with an extra tomato wedge, skewered and lightly drizzled with molasses.

  • The tomato I used was slightly larger than a golfball, so I used a couple quarters. Obviously, your mileage may vary, size-wise. As always with green tomatoes, don't mistake green heirlooms for immature tomatoes: immature greens will be firm and not soft to the touch.
  • Since I don't have a grill or hibachi, I did a simple pan-fry à la this recipe. A bit of sugar/salt should help the flavor better emerge either way you cook them.
  • Beyond that? This is just a simple, down-home recipe. Grab whatever bourbon you like, doesn't have to be fancy. I used D&B bitters because I felt that fit, but any kind of spicy/aromatic/citrus bitters would work here as well.
  • The green tomato's interesting for the "green apple" flavor it imparts. There's a fair amount of tanginess among the ingredients, but they all flow together.
Just a little something for winding down on the stoop, the deck, the fire escape and enjoying the last of the good weather, maybe something to warm you as a bit of chill wends its way into the air.