Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Mixology Monday, October 2014: Perfect Symmetry

Good evening, lords and ladies. This month's Mixology Monday is upon us once again, and, before it gets any later, I'll turn things over to our host of the month, my Twitter bestie, the ever-dapper birthday gentleman Joel of Southern Ash blog (go visit and wish him well! And try the cassoulet!). He's back leading the charge for a month with the elegant theme Perfect Symmetry.
Perfect symmetry is your theme this month!  A “perfect” drink splits the liquor or liqueur evenly between two related ingredients.  The most common “perfect” drink is a Perfect Manhattan where the vermouth is split between sweet and dry to create an altogether different experience.  A perfect Old Fashioned splits the bourbon and rye are both used to create a singularly distinct experience. When done well, splitting the liquor lets each of the unique flavors and components of the shine through.  Because they share a background, they don’t war with each other but instead you get both the mellow sweetness of the bourbon with the spicy backbone of the rye in that Old Fashioned.  The dry vermouth can accentuate flavors in the Manhattan you might have missed. Why make a choice when you can have it all?!
To see what fearful symmetries (it is October after all!) the other cocktailers have divined, please click here when this link is active.

No matter how simple and straightforward a MxMo theme, there's always a kink to it. Sometimes you run out and get your ingredients only to taste your intended recipe crumble and muddle into fruit punch in your mouth, a victim of too much fruit juice, no matter how tart. Then there are those back-up recipes you kick around: oh what if you split the sloe gin with equally-tart cassis in this apple brandy or scotch duo cocktail? Only those ideas just don't wow and the ingredients seem dangerously close to not highlighting a real distinction, leaving you again back at square one.

But in spite of that, this month's theme has inspired gorgeous visuals, perhaps due to the Symmetry, and you start digging through the ol' cabinet, checking out the bottles you haven't touched in ages and could stand to use up before they go bad, realizing "hey, there's another bottle of red liqueur, and another, and that one's reddish too, oh and that one!". Then you realize you have too many bottles to do a proper BoozeNerds-style round robin investigation into the combinatorics and it's all the papers up in the air again!

But the visuals keep lingering, dancing, twinkling jewel-toned gimlets in the mind's eye, tempting, tantalizing until you jump out over the abyss Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade-like 'cause you just have to know, theme or no theme. Would this recipe WORK?! Why make a choice when I really CAN have it all?!

(later this week I'll share with you one of my other non-perfect non-symmetrical recipes I generated in the process of finding this month's answer to the MxMo challenge)

Now you might look at all the ingredients, and perhaps before your head explodes you might wonder if it references anything. With the amari it's not too far off from a Negroni, for instance, or gin and sloe or gin and Yvette are natural pairings. More than that, it's somewhat of a riff on the classic Parisian cocktail, special to me because it was my first-ever gin cocktail....maybe not the best intro, but I got over that bump in the road. However, besides the two linked Parisian recipes, the cassis does tend to get downplayed in a lot of internet versions of the recipe to a mere few dashes. So this recipe aims to invert, nay explode, that sensibility.

1 oz gin
1 oz dry vermouth
1/4 oz Campari
1/4 oz Nonino
1/4 oz sloe gin (the good stuff)
1/4 oz crème de cassis (the good stuff)
1/4 oz grenadine (the good stuff)
1/4 oz Sorel
1/4 oz Crème Yvette
pomegranate arils or a cocktail cherry* to garnish

Stir. Strain. Up. Garnish.


*consider an unflavored or herbal-seasoned cocktail cherry rather than the regular baking spice notes. I used a cachaça, lime zest, ginger, and peppermint cherry here.

**I know, I know. No sweet vermouth? No ruby port?! Dryness is your friend, cacao-and-menthe little one.

I think the ratios above are probably the break-even point for the drink. With all the liqueurs (yes, nearly 2 ounces), there's inevitably a sugar-in-body sweetness. Whether it's too much for you or not over-the-top enough, that's up to you. My take is it could be a bit more over-the-top. Just say the hell with it, already, and drop down the gin and vermouth so the liqueurs can be explored in all their glory (in which case, shrink the size of the cocktail and do 1/2 oz each gin and vermouth and 1 tsp of each of the liqueurs). If you think it's too much, perhaps hold the gin and vermouth steady while diminishing the liqueurs to 1 tsp or 1 bsp each.

But consider something: apart from the grenadine (which, natch, in this case is pomegranate homemade with hibiscus and orange blossom water thrown in - I just happened to have a very convenient empty bottle) or perhaps the Yvette, none of the liqueurs are really all that sickly-sweet as the catch-phrase tends to get wantonly thrown around. Consider the bitter, sharp, herbal, dry and floral characteristics each brings to the party, and then further how the gin and vermouth act on them. Campari's a big gun, and its bitter lingers on the tongue after each sip, enhanced by the sloe which develops a flinty red berry note through earthy cassis to bold pomegranate-exotic grenadine. Nonino's soft herbs provide a structure on the nose and as the first drops reach your palate. Sorel's spices bring a soft zing on the underside of your tongue and the front roof of your mouth, a respite from the intensity of the other liqueurs. Yvette ties a bow to the proceedings, a bouncy just-so attitude on grenadine's springboard (while nowhere near eclipsing the bitterness).

Aside from all those details, without even having all that much time to play around with the components, to me it somehow matches my concept of what rubies should taste like, just from their visual aspect and perhaps even their smell. And it seems only fitting to keep the jewel theme going after Aquamarine this year, with a similar list of ingredients too!

As for the perfect symmetry? Call it an original recipe, with one really big 1 3/4 oz part split radially into a mystical seven.

Thanks to Joel for hosting a delicious theme - I can't wait to read what everyone else came up with as this one seems like it'll bring out the deep-noodling. Thanks also to cat-herder-in-chief Fred Yarm of cocktail virgin - way to keep coordinating the mojo month after month! It's real joy and honor to be part of this community. 'Night all!