Thursday, January 3, 2013

La Dame de Chantilly

Vanilla: shy, coquette, courtesan?

What's that just behind her lace?
La Dame de Chantilly

2 oz Remy Martin V

1/2 oz simple syrup

1/2 tsp LACTART

3/4 - 1 oz egg white

Shake (hard) all the ingredients dry and then with ice.

Garnish with a further spritz or two of Vanilla Lace Bitters and possibly a marzipan flower or candied violet.

While definitely borrowing from the White Lady for general structure, I wanted to create a cocktail purely to showcase the Vanilla Lace Bitters. Gin seemed a bit too intricate and aromatic in its own right to use as a base spirit, though something white would be appropriate so there would be no overlap with vanillin from barrel-aging. In focusing on the "Lace" part of the bitters, my thoughts went straight to the Big Bopper. And given Chantilly is one of oodles of famed lace-making villages in France, my favorite white brandy seemed appropriate here.

The base out of the way, I also wanted to minimize other flavors in the drink, the sweet and the sour that is. Easy simple syrup fit for the sweet, but I took time to seek out something more flavorless than any citrus: namely one of the food acids championed by Mr. Fix the Pumps himself, Lactart (the acid, not Darcy O'Neil). The Lactart surprised me: maybe I just needed to practice with it, but in my 2 testers of this recipe it proved enough acidity to get the egg whites foaming without crazy-hard shaking while being mild enough to, well, minimize spit-curdling (an issue I've had with lemon juice in a number of cocktails).

Now, I always get confuzzled about egg white measurements given in amount of what's in the egg (half a white, a whole white..). No doubt we all buy different sizes of eggs and even within a carton there can be noticeable variation (case in point while testing: one egg from my carton yielded 1 oz egg whites while another yielded 1 1/4 oz). The 3/4 - 1 oz indicated above seems to be about right for adding body to a cocktail and then a nice thin lacy layer of steady foam on top (without it being wet dog aromatic overkill). I wouldn't go lower than 3/4 oz: 1/2 oz seems too little to get the foam going properly, at least with this amount of acid.

Perhaps it's because of the egg white's body or the robust grape spirit flavor of the Remy V, but this recipe needs about 2 tsp (plus the spritzes on top) to properly taste the Vanilla Lace Bitters. Because they're rather bitter, that touch of bitterness can serve as a good hallmark for telling when the drink is balanced. You might want slightly more or less depending on your palate.

I'd be curious to know your thoughts on this minimalist cocktail. You could probably use it in numerous ways to highlight various bitters ("La Dame de...") and for its structure...also very like the Pegu Club now that I think of it...the rare triad of sweet, sour and bitter cohere like (because I've got them on the brain) Led Zeppelin getting back together (there, I said it).

Stay tuned in a day or so, I've got one other recipe using the bitters!