Monday, June 24, 2013

Disco Buffalo

If ever a cocktail needed a pimp hat garnish, it would be this one.

This ain't no disco...wait a sec, yes it is!

In homage to the late lamented Disco Duck, Feu de Vie is pleased to bring you this little number. Get on down to the dance floor, stomp your hooves and raise your glass (and watch out for sharpshooters!). You'll be feeling fine and more than a bit worldly.

Disco Buffalo
2 oz blueberry-infused Buffalo Trace
1 oz Martini & Rossi bianco
1/4 oz Ramazzotti
2 dashes Fee Bros orange bitters
1 dash Stirrings blood orange bitters
lemon twist

Stir the first five ingredients on ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Luscious. The blueberry comes through especially well here, with the bianco supporting that rather than being overkill. All the bitters and garnish glam things up nicely.

Click for larger

More on the blueberry-infused Buffalo Trace to come! Go make your own in the meanwhile: the above-linked is the best technique I've seen online*. And check out the rest of the snazzy and classy Post Prohibition while you're at it.
* if you don't mind giving the berries a quick double-boil to get them dark and glossy (without breaking them). Like Josh mentions, it brings their sugar to the fore. Berries seem to need some application of heat to bring out their best flavors.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Mixology Monday, June 2013: Cherry, part 2

And here's a second recipe for this month's Mixology Monday with the theme of Cherry (details for this month in the first post).

It's kind of convoluted how I got to this recipe. The ingredients on their faces are natural fits and there are already similar recipes out there. But since last year my summer cocktail muse, the smoky backwoods with elements of barbecue and southern Appalachia (see here for earlier muse-madness), has been compelling me to make a cocktail called the Smoky Mountain Salamander. God knows if this moonshine-hot cherry pepper infusion will work out -- maybe I'll just do a post about it pointing out what not to do, depending.

But one of the compulsions about this potential cocktail was the use of sour cherries -- pin (or "fire" or "bird") cherries to be precise, given how they thrive in the Smoky Mountains. Perfect for this month's theme, ne? For the past couple of weeks I've been keeping an eye and ear out for news that any kind of sour cherry might be in season -- they go so fast too -- but we're not quite there yet. Having my doubts about the SMS in the meanwhile should it not turn out, for lack of quality or fresh sour cherries, I was also brainstorming on the side for a variation. I think this recipe, with numerous elements from my original SMS idea, just hit me out of the blue and made me go 1) I wanna drink this (note to self: focus on this more when creating cocktails) and 2) why shouldn't this replace the original plans for the SMS?

The purist/optimist part of me is having none of #2, so, this recipe will just have to stand on its own, thematically:

Thin cinnamon sticks also make good cherry-picks here.

So We're Havin' a BBQ, huh?
2 oz Jack Daniels
1/2 oz ROOT
1/4 oz Schwartzhog liqueur
shot glass full of (pitted) sour cherries
1 big dash (8-9 drops) Bitter End Memphis BBQ bitters
rinse Islay whisky
sour cherries for garnish

Rinse a chilled rocks glass with the whisky (discard the excess), add a large ice cube and set aside.
In a shaker muddle cherries and bitters, then add the JD, ROOT, and Schwartzhog.
Shake all on ice then double-strain into your prepared glass.
Garnish with more sour cherries on a pick or a nice juicy 1" cube of grilled steak.

  • ROOT can be pretty dominant in any cocktail, but here it plays well with everything else, the cherry notes especially helping to moderate it. You can get a small taste of everything around the edges, but largely the cocktail melds into something cherry-herbal, comfy and easy-drinking, with bits of smoke and spice (them bitters is spicy!) to create atmosphere. Though I haven't tried it with the steak garnish, I think it would be immensely satisfying.
  • I chose Schwartzhog because, while somewhat slight, it would provide some bitter herbal notes for depth, with its cherry cola note matching well with the other ingredients. If lacking Schwartzhog, Ramazzotti or Cynar would do in a pinch.
  • Fresh sour cherries like Montmorency or Morello would be ideal (or pin cherries if you happen to have some forageable trees nearby). Being it's still a little early in the season for sour cherries, I made do with some jarred Amish brandied tart cherries I've had in my fridge since Frau Totenkinder (still quite good, if lacking the rich mouth-punch you would get from fresh). Wos-Wit's a bit more of a regional brand, but they're very comparable to these water-packed pie cherries (syrup-packed will be too sweet), which you should be able to find at your local supermarket. [last year was heavy on the cherry explorations, clearly]

Thanks to Andrea for hosting and Fred for coordinating another great round of Mixology Monday! Here are the round-up posts of all the great cherry recipes!

[Update (06-29-2013): Ohh yes yes yes yes yes. Sour cherry season has hit and there is no better fruit for this cocktail. Fresh sour cherries, while sharing a note with the brandied tart cherries, just make this drink come ALIVE. And while not as intensely sour as I had been led to believe, they make the cocktail quite refreshing and less sweet than the brandied cherry version -- a great aperitif! Try using a not-quite-full shot glass, so they don't dominate all the other wonderful flavors going on.]

Mixology Monday, June 2013: Cherry, part 1

Rise and shine, early birds! It's Mixology Monday!

Andrea of Gin Hound is our host for the month, with the theme Cherry.
Singapore Gin Sling, Blood and Sand and the Aviation wouldn't be the same without them. They are brilliant in pies, go great with pork dishes and may even be a super food able to combat insomnia.

But cherries in cocktails are also horribly abused, few things taste worse than artificial cherry aroma and the description of how most maraschino cherries are made can make you sick to your stomach.

So it's my pleasure as the host of Mixology Monday number 74 to challenge you to honor the humble cherry.

However you choose to do that, is entirely up to you. You could use Maraschino Liqueur, Cherry Heering, Kirchwasser, Belgian Kriek Beer, cherry wine or any spectacular infusions invented by you in a cocktail. Or make your own maraschino cherries for a spectacular garnish.
When active, these 2 links will send you to the summary posts of this month's festivities.

I'm going to divide this post in twain, if only because I'm only allowed 200 characters of labels per post.

My first offering came about after noting the interesting flavor combination of Solerno and marzipan (or orgeat, as one would have to translate to cocktails). Some noodling and taste-association led to a classic-styled wine-based cocktail featuring kirschwasser, the cherry-and-pomace eau-de-vie. I think the name sums it up quite nice:

Sweetness and Light
1 1/2 oz Lillet Blanc
3/4 oz kirschwasser
1 bsp* Solerno blood orange liqueur
1 bsp orgeat
3 dashes Bokers bitters
lemon twist

*I use 3/4 tsp as my barspoon measurement, precision being important here for how easily this could be oversweet vs. the bitters taking over.

Shake and strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with a lemon twist.


For as intriguing a combo as Solerno and orgeat are, they're also highly sweet cocktail elements, limiting their usage in a balanced drink: proper spirit bases would be needed. Kirschwasser seemed a natural start, particularly with orgeat's almond. But given how intense kirsch could be, only so much could be used of it too. And I didn't want to make this too heavy a drink, so, eschewing a natural fit like gin, a wine base seemed a good final component. Dry vermouth's herbals were ok but didn't mesh the best, so I opened my first bottle of Lillet Blanc and hit paydirt. With each of the elements being sweet in body or sweet in taste, and the combined drink reading like something out of a classic cocktail book (kinda similar to this one, in fact), a few dashes of Bokers and a lemon twist turned in elegant finishing stylings.

The kirsch dominates on the nose and palate. Lemon joins on the nose in a lemonade-like way, while Solerno and orgeat pull the kirsch in two different directions. Solerno volcanically undergirds the cherry in the kirsch, while orgeat grabs hold of the pomace and seduces it away in waves of satin. Undersung base Lillet serves as a canvas, with gentian notes pairing with Bokers to keep everything in line.

And please look to the following post for an additional MxMo recipe, this time with Jack Daniels.

Saturday, June 8, 2013


Odd things happen as you pursue the cocktail behind a given name. For instance, the recipe you were so certain would be the best representation of the concept, ends up needing to be flipped on its head only after it's finalized.

Case in point: the idea of Taurus. The Bull is arguably the most sensual of the Zodiac, gathering to itself an assortment of all that is richest and most pleasing. Unlike Aries, which has sunshine but is still bound by cold wild winds as spring begins to break, surging rainshowers imbuing the world with life anew, Taurus is the promise of Aries realized: May flowers, spring greens deepened to lush jungle, azaleas and rhododendrons bursting as bold color is no longer limited to solitary tulip cups but whole landscapes decked out for weeks in the kirtle of the Spring Queen. Even the sunlight becomes a richer gold as the chill fades in late April. Whereas Aries held the first signs, the individual spurts of new life here and there, in Taurus the entire Earth rises up in its full potency, stamps its hooves, snorts a humid and fecund breath and lets you know just how little you are.

[*feels a tap on her shoulder* Yes, I know it's Gemini. You don't wake up from a coma without first asking what day it is, just in case. *the giant alligator-man shrugs and walks away*]

The trouble with naming this cocktail "Taurus" is that it doesn't fully encapsulate all the Bull's various aspects, namely, the symbolism and then the rich deep spring weather. I think this cocktail well-encapsulates the earthy "bull" half, but it's too heavy for the "white bull"/spring cocktail half: just on the specs, it drinks like something for the winter months. Using the word "bull" is also tricky, because most such existing cocktails involve tequila, so the assumed lineage would mislead. But there's a downright earthy quality to the drink, with the idea of time and slowness deriving from its aged spirits, that makes me not want to stray far from the concept.

So what to do? Due diligence.

When hitting upon a flavor combination that really works, you need to be humble and think "Golly, surely someone's come up with something along these lines already." [yes, use the word Golly, go on, use it! I'll wait.]-- particularly if they're spirits or wines in existence prior to the 20th century, or you're effectively making minor tweaks to a classic cocktail like the Vieux Carré. And then there's the googling. Rum and brandy, rum and my surprise, I've only found a couple of rum-armagnac-port combinations, both on the same page. If I'm following in the footsteps of David Wondrich, I must be doing something right.

Trafalgar Punch as a name itself is pretty brilliant, what with the convergence of British, French and Spanish influences. The Battle of Trafalgar, itself, seems plenty ripe for concepts and names too. And "Lo!" thanks be to Wikipedia: Bucentaure. A French flagship in the battle, from the Greek bou-centaur: roughly ox-man as centaur is a horse-man; that is, a mythical being with the body of an ox and the torso-on-up of a man. The flagship even had such a creature as a figurehead.

I'm happy with that. And it even retains the taur of Taurus to boot.

So, while you're lounging around in the bowers of emergent spring and summer, have something to go with. Imagine you're an ox luxuriating in a meadow: your hooves have stirred up the earth and you breathe deep of intoxicating violet patches tended by dancing bees.

1 tsp Crème Yvette
4 1-oz Fernet Branca ice cubes
1 dash Bittermens Xocolatl Mole bitters
3 drops Fee Bros. plum bitters
1 oz tawny port
1 oz armagnac
1 oz Smith & Cross naval rum (or other powerful/dark/aged Jamaican rum)
1 lime twist

Start by making your Fernet Branca ice cubes: the earth and loam vibrant with minty life.

Rinse a chilled rocks glass with the Crème Yvette, but don't discard: the smell of flowers heavy in the humid air.

Add the Fernet Branca ice cubes and build the remaining ingredients: spicy heat of the earth, dancing flowers, fruit of the vine, the vine kissed by the burning sun, and the lush island forests where the bull roams.

Stir for 10-15 seconds at the end and garnish with a lime twist, loosely knotted to make a Taurus sigil (♉).

Fernet Branca ice cubes

Depending on your tolerance for bitterness/sweetness, use 1/2 tsp-3/4 tsp Fernet Branca per 1 oz water/cube.

I like the Tovolo 1" cube molds because they hold just over 1 oz water and you get some nice showy rocks as a result.

These ice cubes work brilliantly, particularly in a rich cocktail such as this: as the ice melts the bitterness and other notes develop within the drink, preventing a diluted flavor and permitting one's digestion to keep up with the cocktail.


It took me awhile to work this one out, over a year in fact. I had started with bourbon and Dubonnet Rouge instead of the rum and port (I had little fortified wine knowledge a year ago), but the drink blurred together. The Dubonnet overlapped with the Yvette and no matter the burly proof, the bourbon liked to hide. But soon enough I discovered what a good hogo would bring to the concept, and then the raisin notes of tawny port. The armagnac I had from the start: the wilder cousin of cognac seemed just the thing. But really, I started with a taste-image combo of Fernet Branca and violet liqueur to match the season, though I had tried neither, and it all grew from there. Sometimes taste descriptions on the internet really do paint the perfect picture on the tongue.

The White Bull arrives next year.