Thursday, October 11, 2012

Frau Totenkinder

Well, Oktoberfest 2012 ended this prior weekend, but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy a fitting tipple as autumn continues to develop (particularly if there are spooky Black Forest overtones - have something different for Halloween!). As you might notice, this is another of my fairy tale-inspired recipes using SNAP (seriously, is it just me that automatically associates gingerbread with Grimm's Fairy Tales?). And nope, no wild and crazy stories today -- Sleeping Beauty's'll last all year and then some.

Fables created/words by Bill Willingham, Pencils by Mark Buckingham,
Inks by Steve Leialoha and Andrew Pepoy.
Page 43 of Fables vol 7: Arabian Nights (and Days) trade paperback,
originally published in Fables #43
Instead, for the "art" portion of this post, I'd like to give a shout-out to one of the enduring pleasures in my life. Who's this Frau Totenkinder, you ask? Ah, grasshopper, we must indoctrinate you in the way of Fables, one of the long-running gems and great works in the world of comics. Fables is very much in the mythic fiction, fairy-tales-updated-to-the-modern-age vein of ABC's Once Upon a Time, but predating that show by about a decade. Its story is a smart tapestry which weaves and dances among a large cast of beloved characters (human, animal, utensil) who change and grow, wending through various genres (whodunit, thriller, epic quest, spy drama, WWII flashback, and many more) and always leaving you hungry for more. You'd do well to pick up the first trade paperback or two and dive in, is what I'm saying. (I should caution here: sex, joy-gaping violence, beautiful use of the English language in a primarily non-vulgar manner. i.e. Fairy tales for grown-ups)

As for the star of this recipe, Frau Totenkinder isn't only the Black Forest witch in the story of Hansel and Gretel as that gingerbread house icon in the picture might imply, she is the Evil Witch. And....well, I don't want to say any more: spoilers, twists, crowning moments of awesome and all. But know: all Fables characters extend well beyond their fairy tale origins, especially so for Totenkinder. Simply put: you don't want to mess with her. Now on with the cocktail!

Hansel, Frau Totenkinder, Gretel

Frau Totenkinder
1 1/2 oz kirschwasser
1 oz SNAP
3/4 oz Schwartzhog
1 barspoon white crème de cacao

Stir all ingredients on ice to dilute and strain into a brandy snifter.
Garnish with skewered brandied cherries and other confections you might find on Frau Totenkinder's gingerbread house. (I also used cut squares of candied ginger, as pictured).

The kirsch serves as the base here - as a spirit it's a bit understated so it needs a larger proportion in order to come through. The more chances I have to taste new spirits, the more I find there's a certain way types of alcohol express themselves, regardless of flavor notes. In the case of kirsch, other fruit eau-de-vies including grape, and cognacs and brandies in addition, when allowed to open up these spirits have a sweet taste that rises in a U-form from the middle of the tongue -- not just a taste but an interaction with space. In essence, the flavor is a bowl for the other ingredients.

German/Pennsylvania Dutch Lebkuchen flavored SNAP makes good use of this bowl: its vanilla, molasses, and spice, especially nutmeg, rollick in a kirsch bath, bringing definition. Undergirding the SNAP's high notes, Schwartzhog of the Black Forest (and yes, clearly I was going for a little Black Forest Cake with this recipe) extends the spice into herbs and a tinge of bitter gentian, with cola and citrus notes that reach out to kirsch's cherry. A German herbal liqueur similar to Jägermeister and Italian amari, and an oddly delicate spirit to mix with, Schwartzhog's herbs hover in the cocktail like vermouth, deepening the experience. As for the cacao, more than anything it imparts a smoothness that ties everything together - it could be my particular brand but there's a cocoa butter creaminess to it, helping the drier ingredients play nice.

Overall, there were so many interesting things happening aromatically that the cocktail cried out to be served in a snifter (and ol' Frau just wouldn't feel right in a dainty princess-like coupe). So, sit back in a darkened room, swirl your witch's cauldron in your hand, let it warm up, and breathe deep of the complex vapors.

And then, as I was mulling whether or not to add a splash of cream to the Frau Totenkinder the other morning, it hit me that I could have my Black Forest Cake and eat it too: break the drink down into shots for Hansel and Gretel, riffing on the Godfather family structure of cocktails: the parent cocktail is what it is, the children cocktails add cream (in a 2:1:1 structure). Since Frau is a little more complex than the Godfather, I took a separate element for each shot while retaining fairytale gingerbread SNAP as the base:

Hansel: 2 parts SNAP, 1 part cherry brandy, 1 part cream. Shake with ice and pour into a shot glass.
Since eau-de-vie kirsch is such a dry spirit, I swapped it out for sweeter cherry brandy, Cherry Heering in this case. Heering's brio does tend to dominate, but it draws out the nutmeg/vanilla aspects of SNAP for a happy marriage with the cream.

Gretel: 2 parts SNAP, 1 part white crème de cacao, 1 part cream. Shake with ice and pour into a shot glass.
The cacao's sweet softens SNAP's spice into something gentle, but with just enough pep left on the tongue to push an old biddy into the oven.