Sunday, March 17, 2013

Mixology Monday, March 2013: From Crass to Craft

Once again it's Mixology Monday! (on a Sunday. Yeah, um.. it'll still be here on Monday.)

Our host this month is Scott Diaz of the quite snazzy Shake, Strain & Sip blog, who gives us the theme From Crass to Craft:

"The evolution of the cocktail has been a wondrous, and sometimes, frightful journey.  From its humble beginning, to the "Dark Ages" of most of the later 20th century, to the now herald "Platinum Age" of the cocktail,  master mixologists and enthusiasts alike have elevated its grandeur using the best skills, freshest ingredients and craft spirits & liqueurs available.  But with all this focus on "craft" ingredients and classic tools & form, it seems we have become somewhat pretentious.  The focus on bitter Italian amari, revived and lost ingredients such as Batavia Arrack or Creme de Violette, the snickering at a guest ordering a Cosmopolitan or a Midori Sour; has propelled us into the dark realm of snobbery. Many scratch bars and Speakeasies have gone as far as to remove all vodka and most flavored liqueurs from their shelves.  Some even go as far as to post "rules" that may alienate most potential imbibers.  Remember, the bar was created with pleasing one particular group in mind: the guest.  As such, this month's MxMo LXXI theme, From Crass to Craft,  will focus on concocting a craft cocktail worthy of not only MxMo but any trendy bar, using dubious and otherwise shunned ingredients to sprout forth a craft cocktail that no one could deny is anything less.  There are a plethora of spirits, liqueurs and non-alcoholic libations that are just waiting for someone to showcase that they too are worthy of being featured on our home and bar shelves.  So grab that bottle of flavored vodka, Jagermeister, cranberry juice, soda, neon colored liqueur, sour mix or anything else deemed unworthy of a craft cocktail, and get mixin'!
When active, this link will send you to the summary post of this month's festivities.

Uh....fellas? (ladies?) I never got the memo on prohibited ingredients. Granted, I understand how high quality ingredients simply taste better and produce more interesting harmonies and contrasts between themselves, but if I need a precise certain ingredient for a recipe I've never seen why I shouldn't use it. It's why I've never considered myself "Craft" to begin with. Cocktailian, yes; Craft, no.

For instance, I've worked with Rumple Minze, and Black Haus and Cask & Cream liqueur before (and have a healthy love of Galliano). Given all that, I figure I ought to pull out one of the lesser schnapps in my girly-girl cabinet and go to work. Buttershots, you're up!

I first tried the Buttershots out in a Scotch sour, but that seemed a bit too on the nose as far as obviousness. However, fresh off of making the T. T. Punch in the past week with a new fascination for the form, plus staring at a cooling mug of Tension Tamer tea as I was making the sour, a punch seemed like a more interesting drink. At that, a punch would need less Sharp citrus and instead use its hefty Weak part to keep the Sweet Buttershots in check.

May David Wondrich have mercy on my soul.

Butterscotch Punch
1/2 oz lemon juice
1/2 oz Buttershots schnapps
1/4 oz simple syrup
2 oz blended scotch (Famous Grouse)
1 oz Tension Tamer tea
1 oz ginger beer (Fever Tree)
fresh ground black pepper

Shake the first four ingredients then double strain into a chilled serving glass.

Top with ginger beer.

Garnish with a faint grind of black pepper.

Quite frankly, this works AMAZEBALLS. The schnapps has an over-eager puppy way of being out front wherever it's used (typically). But here you get the butterscotch flavor without a dominant sweetness, as all the other ingredients do an excellent job of drying the punch out and achieving a balance (the simple syrup was a late addition: it helps with the body and balance while managing the combined astringency of some of the other ingredients). The schnapps is still prominent, but there's a lot of interesting flavors happening around it. The Scotch holds its own and (of course) works with the schnapps. The Tension Tamer tea is a good flavor complement, and including it works better than an all-ginger beer Weak component, as 1 oz ginger beer is pretty spicy already. The black pepper seems a natural fit, better even than the darkest baking spices (clove, cardamom) or punch-traditional nutmeg.

The sour cocktail worked rather nicely as well, so here's the recipe for those interested:

Butters' Sour
1 1/2 oz blended scotch (Famous Grouse)
1/2 oz Buttershots schnapps
1/2 oz lemon juice
1 tsp Averna
orange twist

Shake on ice and double strain into Professor Chaos' chilled chalice of choice. Twist an orange zest over top and drop in. Mwa ha ha ha ha ha!