Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Grandeur of the Season Punch Royale

Dear readers, with your quiet forbearance of a long and not-productive-as-desired year, permit me a moment of last-minute cleverness. Y'know that bottled cocktail we did last week for Christmas, Grandeur of the Season? There was still a serving left in the bottle, no? Here's what we're going to do with it, for a fuss-free knock-your-socks-off New Year's Eve punch.

(mind you, I've been growing superstitious lately: enjoy the decadent red punch in the evening, but at the stroke of midnight do some clear or golden bubbles. It's a symbolic clean slate and could provide some healing for the he** 2014 has tended to be.)

Grandeur of the Season Punch Royale
5 parts bottled Grandeur of the Season mix
5 parts sparkling shiraz
2-3 parts blood orange juice
blood orange wheel for garnish

Combine bottled mix and blood orange juice and then stir to combine.
Gently add bubbly and stir.
Garnish with blood orange wheel(s).

A tropical punch, but with wine, melancholy, smoking jackets and a dry finish.

Based on your ingredients at hand, you may need to adjust the blood orange juice and bubbles to your desired sweetness levels.

If you can't find sparkling shiraz, substitute bubbles with an "extra-dry" rating: brut can throw off the sweetness and you may need to add a dash of Solerno or cassis to balance.

Thank goodness for David Wondrich: Punch and my favorite port web site were both very instructive in how to create a punch with bubbly AND ruby port. Essentially: equal parts spirits and bubbly, half a part of mixed sharp-sweet (shrub or equivocal citrus (e.g. orange, blood orange, pineapple, passion fruit syrup, etc..)) to round out the punch.

Just watch out: on spec alone this is nearly the equivalent kick of Chatham Artillery Punch, so mind your cups. Sois sage and don't get behind the 8-ball for 2015 by being in the hospital, in jail, dead or hurting anyone else, mmkay? Life's rough enough without bad decisions. (and I kinda want you drinking my new recipes, so there :P)

To 2015: our hearts' desires fulfilled and sustained, our cares lifted, a genuine laugh or smile every hour, and the best of food, drink and friends to drive the evil spirits away. Sláinte!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Grandeur of the Season

Herald trumpets,
Holly berries,
Pine needles,
Spice cake,
Bright Christmas oranges,
And glass jewels for the tree.

Grandeur of the Season
1 oz cognac
1 oz pear eau-de-vie
1 oz ruby port
1 tsp Solerno blood orange liqueur
1 tsp Campari
1 tsp crème de cassis
1 dash Pernod
2 dashes pimento bitters
festive aromatic ice sphere

Rolling ribbons and great globes of grape and orange and berry.
Anise accents.
Gentle emerging pine and spice.
Opulence for jubilant jovial occasions.

Step 1: Festive aromatic ice sphere.

Add water to an ice sphere mold.

Arrange ginger coins, cloves and rosemary sprig (a bit of orange zest and red currants also welcome).

Add top and freeze.

Step 2: Mix the cocktail

Three spirits, three liqueurs, three accents.

Batch and bottle in the fridge days ahead for parties and something even smoother.

Measure 3 1/2 ounces per serving (1/2 cup minus 1 tablespoon).

Pour over ice sphere in large balloon glass.

Swirl, take in the aromas and let dilute for 5-10 minutes.


Step 3: ???

There's still some left in the bottle. What's next? New Year's!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Cranberry Falernum: Red Plaid Flannel Pajamas

There are days like today when the world cries out for you to be checking off an alphabet-sized list of tasks and all you've got in you is an urge to sit with a good cup of coffee, feed the birds and watch the world go by. Welp, world, you can take a hike today after everything you've asked of me this year. The numbness needs a chance to dissipate and the juncos are reenacting Star Wars out on the fire escape*.

*the things they've picked up from Twitter and special editions of Angry Birds..

And what better accoutrement to the day's activities than a good snuggly pair of pajamas?

Quick-eyed readers may have caught wind of this already, or read last week's introduction to cranberry falernum (including falernum recipe) with its reference to a coffee cocktail and put two and two together. Indeed, the first cranberry falernum recipe that struck wasn't Red Plaid Wool Scarf but Red Plaid Flannel Pajamas.

As you might also be able to deduce, the name came first, followed by the ingredients (save the falernum) list writing itself. And yes, the resulting list is perhaps a little questionable on its face, but, somehow, perhaps with the right coffee and the right Scotch, it works especially well.

So, even if you have the misfortune to continue working up until Christmas, consider this a possible early present. The falernum needs between one and three days to infuse, so you have time. Get the ingredients tonight or tomorrow, put the finished syrup to bed Christmas eve and wake up (slowly) to a coffee cocktail with a big red bow on top (and that includes you, dear reader, who may not celebrate the actual holiday but still get a good peaceful day off from work).

Shout-out in the background to Main Line Coffee Roasters and the Head Nut in Ardmore, PA.
A mixologist gal's heaven.

Red Plaid Flannel Pajamas
6 oz coffee
1 oz blended scotch whisky
1/2 oz cranberry falernum
Whipped cream, for garnish
Ground cloves, for garnish

Heat coffee mug briefly with boiling water.
Discard water.
Add Scotch and falernum - stir.
Pour in coffee.
Dollop with whipped cream.
Sprinkle a pinch of cloves over top.
Sigh relief.

It's a coffee cocktail first, so don't expect it to taste like a Martini. Gentle sweetness with sweet cream, bitter chocolate notes, a woody clove nose, playful light spice with a ginger emphasis. The cranberry melds into the coffee and transforms into a coffee-bright red flavor, earthier now and even more Scotch-friendly. And the Scotch LOVES the cranberry. Granted, it may not be as robust as other whiskeys used in coffee cocktails, but the Scotch just feels proper - not quite stately but possessing rectitude not unlike a fresh set of monogrammed light flannel pajamas.

I recommend Kenya AA coffee because of its affinity for citrus and berries in general, including cranberries. Monkey Shoulder whisky is also works well here for its downplayed smoke/peat and heightened cereal and malt notes - think Irish Coffee.

Happy snuggling!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Mixology Monday, December 2014: Apples!

Top of the morning to you MxMoers! (this is what I get for passing out while finishing the copy) This month's Mixology Monday theme comes courtesy of the grandmaster himself, the man with his ear to the drinksprings of Boston and beyond, Fred Yarm of cocktail virgin slut. The topic? The ever-friendly Apple!
Apples have been an American booze staple with Johnny Appleseed as its symbolic hero. John Chapman became that legend by planting apple tree nurseries across the northern Appalachia and the Midwest. He did not choose grafting techniques to reproduce sweet edible ones, but bred them to make sour apples perfect for cider and applejack. Michael Pollan in The Botany of Desire proclaimed, "Really, what Johnny Appleseed was doing and the reason he was welcome in every cabin in Ohio and Indiana was he was bringing the gift of alcohol to the frontier. He was our American Dionysus." Apple products began to enter into the mixed drink literature in the 19th century with the Stone Fence appearing in Jerry Thomas' Bartender Guide and got quite refined by the end of the century such as the Widow's Kiss in George Kappeler's Modern American Drinks. Indeed, apples have found their way into modern cocktails via Calvados, applejack, sparkling and still cider, apple butter, and muddled apple.
When active, go check out this month's round-up post and tell the folks how much you like dem apples!

As you might've noticed, falernum's really caught my fancy lately. Get me started on a homemade ingredient and suddenly I want to adapt its flavor profile all over the map. But the interesting stuff comes later.

This month's entry is pure second-run: the second-run recipe off my second-run falernum flavor profile idea, and a second-run idea for using apples for MxMo at that. So, it should actually be a bit better than the first-run ideas judging by the way I run things around here.

The first-run ideas will all see the light of day in due course - and the second of our feature falernum recipes drops later this week. But, given that one's a coffee cocktail (you read right - and not a flip!), I wanted to showcase the feature ingredient in something a bit closer to its native Tiki. Which is to say, a Sour.

Now, for some odd reason, the scotch is just a natural pairing with oh-so-seasonal cranberry falernum; but then, that it pairs well with lots of red fruit in a Blood and Sand, perhaps it's not so surprising. But a pure whisky cocktail just doesn't seem to highlight the best of what's going on in the syrup - it leaves all those spices out in the cold looking for a way to connect. Enter by a pure "heck, if I use this it turns into a drink for MxMo this month," the perfect ingredient: un esprit delicieux de Normandie, calvados.

Red Plaid Wool Scarf
1 oz blended Scotch (Monkey Shoulder)
1 oz calvados (Boulard VSOP)
1/2 oz cranberry falernum*
1/4 oz orange liqueur (Combier)
1/4 oz lime juice
apple peel horse's neck for garnish
Garnish. Shake. Strain.

On the nose you're going to be greeted prominently by the fresh apple zest, so that's why I recommend a good personable MacIntosh (what better accessory to a proper plaid scarf, neh?) or similar fall apple. The tough flexible skins these types of apples have also make taking the peel easier (as in: a little harder to accidentally cut short with a paring knife). The nose also features mild hints of malty scotch and orange sweetness, tempered by the bottles of whisky and liqueur you use.

And the palate? Well, as you might expect, it's somewhere between a Cosmo and a Sidecar, with a hint of malt and a generous undertone of spice. The Monkey Shoulder in this case brings a mild toffee-vanilla and the faintest hints of smoke (Famous Grouse would also be wonderful here) while the calvados brings an opulent fruitiness that makes the whole drink; when asked to choose between calvados and Applejack (and cognac, which frankly disappears in the drink), use the calvados by all means. At that, it's less jarring than the vanilla notes of gold rum you'd expect to to go well with falernum. To pair with that bright apple fruitiness goes a nudge of proper tart cranberry and shimmering ginger-heavy falernum pie spice. It ends with a clove finish. Depending on your sweetness preference, this cocktail would make an interesting tableaux for playing around with a dash or two of bitters.

Cranberry Falernum
This one's going to have to be purely homemade - it'll be difficult to do a cranberry add-on to pre-bottled falernum.

So, pick your favorite falernum recipe. I use Kaiser Penguin's recipe regularly, though only a quarter batch at a time (it's just li'l ol' me and Boomer here) given how the spices lose their punch after about a month.

Infuse the spices and zest per usual (and add the almond ingredients on this half of the process, or at the very end for almond extract, if including). Strain after desired infusion time.

For the syrup/sweetener half, once the spice/zest infusion is ready, make a hot process syrup. You want to use simmering-level heat only throughout, you're not making candy. Start by dissolving the sugar in the water, and once that's done throw in your fresh or frozen cranberries. Gently simmer the berries until they pop, begin to disintegrate and the syrup turns a cheerful holiday red. Let mostly cool, then fine-strain the liquid into your storage container, pressing all the lovely drops out with a spatula.

Add in your strained spice infusion to the storage container. Seal and shake to combine.

If making a quarter batch of Kaiser Penguin's recipe, use 1 1/4 cups fresh or frozen cranberries. (the 2:1 simple syrup, using 1/2 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water, prior to berries results in approximately 4.5 ounces of syrup) A full batch of the same recipe using 2 cups sugar and 1 cup water will require 5 cups of cranberries.

Big thanks our host, third-degree black belt catherder Frederic! A delicious theme and enjoyable challenge (with very pretty logos, natch!). Cheers and happy holidays everyone!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Falernum and Becherovka: Secret Message

And then, after all the talking yesterday, sometimes it's better to simplify, and then let the drink do the talking. Use this particular bourbon - seriously. Rye spice is overkill when what you want is smooth rippling undercurrent to our feature players. Too sweet? Hardly. A paper-dry finish.

Drink your Ovaltine!

Secret Message
2 oz Four Roses Small Batch bourbon
1/2 oz falernum
1/2 oz Becherovka

Shake. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with super-secret clove-lime decoder wheel.
If you use homemade Kaiser Penguin-style falernum like me, don't forget to add a splash of lime juice (just not too much).

NOTE (after the fact): the glass makes sense for the mix, but I would encourage using something more fluted to capture the glorious nose and ensure it isn't drowned out by ice chill or dissipation. The nose makes the cocktail.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Falernum and Becherovka: Rhythm of the Night

It started innocently enough as a near-end-of-work recipe idea jotted down on a post-it. Something a little on the lighter side with a spirit-mixer inversion. But then the accents? Oh the accents. The almost-too-obvious (or is that redundant?) accents that make it better than you could have considered on-paper. The other ingredients potentially drive the drink too sweet, but you see, this just gives the dry Becherovka room to work its magic. And the voodoo spice of falernum wedded to those bitter baking spices? Here's a combination that makes your cocktail come alive, man!

Furthermore, sometimes you find a magical combination that births a heck of a lot of recipe bunnies (and why haven't more recipes done this besides The Exporter, for that matter?). And then sometimes when you go and test some out again, the moment has already passed and they flop for one reason or another. So, in the spirit of being a muse, I'm going to give you two recipes - one today, one tomorrow - then the bunnies can invade your living room! Better be sure to stock up on alfalfa.

Rhythm of the Night
1 oz reposado tequila (Corralejo)
1 1/2 oz Dubonnet Rouge
1/4 oz (fat) falernum
1/4 oz Becherovka
2 dashes orange bitters (Angostura)
1 sprig thyme for garnish

Strain into a chilled cocktail coupe. 
Garnish with thyme.

Nose: orange, faint berry/herbs and spice background. Agave-spice. Faint hint of celery herb.

Palate: LUSH. Busy, rich, dervish delight, despite the relatively lighter-proof. Big ginger-agave spice from the lowlands Corralejo. Berry undertone. Just dive in and taste it for yourself.

Why the thyme? I can't resist jerk seasoning pairings. And, it's an unexpected note that fits the music of the drink while not under or overemphasizing other notes.

When you're feeling around for a cocktail name, sometimes you gotta go with what hits your mind, no matter the kitsch. Granted, I was googling early 90s dance pop hits at the time and "Spark in the Night" had too many articles and prepositions for my taste (I know, right?). The colors involved, down to Corralejo's brilliant blue bottle, scream Corona's so-named song with its Christmas-light-colored blips and bleeps. But then some merry prankster's liable to come along, point out the tequila pushes it into the Latin rhythms of DeBarge's Rhythm of the Night and come back with some terrible Michelada knock-off to further cement the point, or worse, point out another song or twelve with the exact same name because it really is that generic.

Your move, merry prankster.

And, psst, stick around. There's one more recipe in this mode to come, but it's a Secret.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Not Quite Mixology Monday, November 2014: Shims!

Ah, 2014, what a hell of a year you've been. 2 months of missing the MxMo deadline due to work-related head-numbness, even the very generous one extended by for November's theme of Shims (btw, go read Dinah's work - she literally wrote the book on the subject!).
This month’s topic is near and dear to our hearts as it is our favorite type of lower-proof cocktails: shims! These drinks contain no more than half an ounce of strong spirits (i.e. those containing 40% ABV or above).

Heavy-hitters are fun to drink, sure, but it’s way too easy to over-consume and under-enjoy when you’re playing hardball. Let’s stretch out our evenings and get to sample a bigger variety by lowering the proof without lowering our standards. Shims don’t require giving up on flavor, complexity, or—interestingly enough—even your favorite ingredients. Get a new understanding of your favorite high-proof spirit by using just a half or quarter ounce of it along with a milder leading player. Or take a low-proof character actor that usually supplements the main show and see if it can take the lead.

This is a chance to get back in touch with the full spectrum of drink strength which defined mixed drinks in their first century or so. There’s a reason the Sherry Cobbler was insanely popular, dear friends. Or you can take this opportunity to invent new drinks in the latest style. Low-alcohol cocktails, particularly in restaurants, are still beginning their popularity climb this century. By their nature, lower alcohol drinks, especially those using wine-based main ingredients, are great choices for food pairings. If you’ve got the perfect accompaniment for your chosen cocktail, please share that with us too!

Still, I managed to squeeze in a mild tweet before the original deadline a couple Mondays ago, for an old unpublished standby I enjoy on occasion:

The food pairing in this case was a quick herbaceous dinner of grilled seasoned chicken, leftover chicken & herb couscous and green beans, but the cocktail's also a delicious cold-months aperitif, especially as we roll into winter citrus season and blood oranges become available. So here's the follow-up recipe:

Made with a proper blood orange.
Twitter-shim #1
1 1/2 oz Cynar
juice of a small blood orange
1/2 oz brandy
dash or two aromatic bitters
1 1/2 oz seltzer
full spiral/horse's neck peel of same blood orange for garnish

Cut garnish and wrap around a cocktail ice sphere, place in rocks glass.

Stir Cynar, juice, brandy and optional bitters on light ice.

Add seltzer to rocks glass. Strain cocktail over top.

Simple, bitter-rich, light and frankly nourishing and energizing. With a festive ruby hue taken from the blood orange juice. Amari and citrus will simply put you right with the world.

Usually I'll take it without the added brandy, but as an original recipe it seemed way too close to a simple recipe a spirit company might post on its website, hence a little complication while still retaining shim-itude. The Masson VSOP I used trended a bit too sweet here, so if using a sweet brandy, a touch of non-potable bitters should balance (Boker's would work well the Masson).

Cheers to everyone who participated, here's the round-up post.