Friday, April 19, 2013

Kore and Kore-dial

Hail maiden of Spring, plucky girl, ye of the delicate ankles,
You course through meadows whose many buds reach to your delighted hands.
Yet innocent are ye of the Host of Many,
Knowing only the gloomless heights of Olympus, the perfume of blossoms, and the taste of ambrosia.

1 1/2 oz Metaxa 5 Star brandy
3/4 oz Lillet Rose
1/4 oz Skinos Mastiha liqueur
1 small dash rhubarb bitters
rinse crème de violette
half spring of mint for garnish

Shake all on ice and double strain into a chilled and crème de violette-rinsed cocktail coupe.
Garnish with a half sprig of mint. 

Kore comes together far better than I was expecting, harmonizing into a new emergent flavor that is both confident and well-rounded. Here the violette and Skinos' celery and sweet lime notes dance with the mint and botanicals from the Metaxa, or there the apricot leap-frogs to the palate via Lillet's acidity on top of the Metaxa's oak-derived notes.

To break them down individually just a bit:
  • Metaxa: how do you not make a recipe for a Greek goddess without using rose-infused Metaxa 5 Star? The tricky part is that it's a bit on the sweet side, so balancing ingredients become essential.
  • Lillet Rose: and how do you not use ladylike fresh-for-spring Lillet Rose? Lady Lillet is perhaps under-noticed here amid all the other aromatic delights happening, but none of them would be able to take off without this flavor-right lengthener.
  • Apricot-Meyer Lemon Shrub: would you believe, way back when, I concocted this shrub expressly for this particular cocktail? The fruits offer flowery, innocent and girlish aspects, perfect for the theme, which open up in the drink despite the small amount. The original batch still holds up, I should add, especially having had time to rest and meld. You could say this speaks to the essence of Kore herself: soft spring-like flavors preserved through the frigid winter to re-emerge as youthful as ever as the world reawakens.
  • Skinos Mastiha liqueur: the hard part of this drink was how to finish it after starting with the above three ingredients. The wine and shrub took it in a tart direction and I wanted to encourage the apricot notes further, but after some difficulty obtaining a fruit-fly-free apricot liqueur I wound up swinging wildly for the fences by special-ordering this spirit (and for something this unique, how could I not want it in my cabinet?). At 80 proof, it's in roughly the same boat as the Metaxa for being a sweetened-but-not-oversweet liquor -- which is actually just-right here. The shrub couldn't be used overmuch because of its vinegar base, but the Skinos balances it without making things candy-sweet, plus adds an intriguing exotic flavor. Going back to something more conventional after testing with this ingredient was not an option.
  • Rhubarb bitters: these add a nice berry note which compliments everything, especially the Lillet, while taming the apparent sweetness. I would urge no more than a single heavy dash if you like things drier/bitterer, since it's easy to destroy the other flavors while you're at it. Besides, some sweetness is itself thematic.
  • Crème de violette: as difficult as this liqueur can be for some palates, its aromatics enhance the drink's floral aspects while blending in well as a rinse. And, it's a natural for "violet-garlanded Kore."
  • Mint: originally I was planning to use the floral aromatics of Meyer lemon zest, but, with the addition of the Skinos on top of the Metaxa, using mint, a classic Greek herb, seemed both adventurous and fitting. The mint is a bit less overwhelming on the nose and it surprised me for merging so well into the other ingredients. A foreshadowing of who Kore would become.

I should note: there were a lot of earlier permutations as I tried different ways to bring together flavors. One of the more successful ended up being a homemade cordial, or should I say, Kore-dial. Essentially: de-stone and quarter 2 ripe white peaches and add to a mason jar along with the zest of one clementine, covering with Metaxa 5 Star. Shake and let rest in a cool dark place. Remove the zest after 3 hours, the peaches after 3 days. Coffee filter-strain and store in the fridge. Delightful as a sipper.

Yiamas! [pace @BitterBooze]