Friday, February 27, 2015

Jane's Girdle

Hold onto your hats, ladies & gents, you're about to dive deep into a recipe a good year and a half in the making, minimum. Granted, the darned non-cocktail schedule tends to get obnoxious at times, hence the delayed write-up for this year's Tiki month. As you'll see, some of that obnoxiousness flows over into the recipe, but if you're looking for nice and easy cocktail recipes *points to the What's Bubbling Up section to your left* honey, you're in the wrong place. This is wild-and-crazy-experimentation-because-I-can land. 'Cause someone has to do it, darnit!

With that in mind, I give you an uncanny piece of Tiki triangulation that's a hodgepodge of ingredients painstakingly researched, fought for, preserved for the right day, melted and refrozen, and wrung within the very inch of its life (many times over).

But first, some thanks are in order. To JFL at Rated R Cocktails, for his explorations on Planters Punches, a deeply helpful guide to getting the structure down. To Rumdood for his advice on Brugal rums. To Doug at The Pegu Blog for the right-place-right-time idea of blending then (maybe) straining your Tiki drink. To Elana at Stir & Strain, I basically converted your Bourbon Vanilla Caramel Sauce into an orgeat; as someone who was flailing about how to get started with a caramel, moreover, I'm grateful that I didn't have to look far to find a delicious, easy-to-follow recipe which turns out well; I strongly recommend everyone click through, memorize her technique for making caramel, and follow it to the letter, it's a wonder of kitchen science to behold as the sauce develops. Finally to Doug Ford for a (somewhat) recent post on Planter's Punches, which gave a needed kick in the boot and added perspective to get back on this horse.

This is perhaps the initial cocktail I had in mind when dreaming of a more sophisticated and moody, less economic and office-friendly version of the Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini Punch. Yellow polka dot bikinis themselves are reminiscent of leopard or cheetah-skin one pieces you see on jungle ladies and that got my wheels spinnin', not just on ideas expressed through cocktails, but the use of kicked-up orgeats to take those flavors to new levels. Push it to one extreme and you get the bombastic coffee-macadamia nut orgeat Giganta of DC Comics fame. Pull it much closer to life-size and you have the delicate tisane-almond orgeat mixed with proto-tiki elements of Jane Porter. And in between? The sultry Jane of the Jungle*, taking flavor elements of Jane Porter and exploding them outward while simultaneously sinking them into the earth: the dark depths of vanilla-caramel, rainforest nuts, orange, and gold/aged rums.

*Wait, WHAT?! After over a year of build-up and we're still not getting Jane of the Jungle? Y'know, dear readers, I'm kinda impatient with it too. But after finishing this cocktail recipe last summer, I took a step back to observe it and it doesn't quite fit the moniker. Surely, there's Jungle to be had in spades here, but it's not the missing link I would want to bridge Jane Porter and Giganta. This recipe is somewhat of a tangent in-between a true Jane of the Jungle --as extended into Tiki from Jane Porter-- and Giganta, and, yes, one could split hairs ad infinitum. But, I think it works out. Jane of the Jungle, forthcoming 2032 at the rate I'm going, is meant to be more compact and strong - a fully realized tropical goddess. Whereas this cocktail is still something of a breezy punch, a more exotic companion to Itsy Bitsy. Therefore, I give you...

Flower of Temptation garnish featured above

Jane's Girdle
5 sour cherries
1/2 oz lime juice
1/4 oz passionfruit syrup
2 tsp Rainforest orgeat
1 bsp orange oleo saccharum
1 oz Brugal XV rum
3/4 oz Plantation 5 Barbados rum
3/4 oz armagnac
2 dashes pimento bitters
6 oz weak Earl Grey pellet ice

Combine all in a blender, adding ice last.
Blend for five seconds (count 'em; it's ok to have unpulverized ice).
Pour all into a chimney glass and fill with crushed (plain water) ice.
Garnish with a passionfruit "orchid" or "flower of temptation" (passionfruit end + fresh sour cherry) and lime "vines."

So balancing this particular undergarment had taken a lot of trial and error. There had been an extra 1/4 oz of sweet (passionfruit syrup + Rainforest orgeat), the intention being that the Earl Grey ice would balance -- though in early versions the inconsistency in the melting ice made it at times too sweet and other times too astringent. I excused the extra bit of sweet on the grounds that, in prior Tiki research by others in the mid-to-late 'naughts, when you have a blended-ice cocktail you generally want that extra sweet because it balances the melting ice (counter-intuitive to the craft cocktail mindset up to that point). Sometimes though, as with writing or any other craft, you need some time away from the original formulation in order to see the creation as it is, without any of your earlier prerogatives (in my case the emphasis on Rainforest orgeat) getting in the way of getting it right.

Pulling down the bright-sweet elements into a near-equal parity with the sour elements kept the cocktail consistent throughout its (very drinkable) duration. You have the overall emergent flavor that's a combination of the spirits and oleo saccharum complementing the orgeat, with brightness from the lime and passionfruit (a call-back to Itsy Bitsy), and earthy/spice notes of the cherry, orgeat coffee-nutty butteriness and bitters sneaking through as the drink goes on. (plus, an added bonus as the drink gets down to dregs: blending the cherries and keeping the pulp in keeps even the dregs flavorful)

A breakdown of the ingredients

Take the end off a passionfruit,
remove pulp, cut slits, curl and...
The spirits: the vanillas, caramels, toffees, etc you often find in rum weren't what I was going for here. I wanted the rums to scream "earthy!"
Brugal XV: coffee dark and dry - the foundation.
Plantation 5: robust and bright with a big orange note.
Armagnac: the more rustic, wild cousin to cognac - a good match for the cherries.

Sour cherries: aka, pie cherries (think Morello, Montmorency, etc..). My farmers market only had these for one week two summers ago, and then nothing, but I caught a good quart or more of them and pitted/froze them for precisely this sort of purpose (knowing all the while that very few others would probably do the same). I wouldn't recommend canned pie cherries, in water at least, as a substitute - processing takes the gusto out of them and they need that freshness to provide part of the Sour element. If limited to sweetened options, try using a bit of tart cherry preserves and substituting some strips of orange zest in the brewing tea in place of the oleo saccharum.

Voila! Passionfruit orchid garnish!
Earl Grey tea ice (1/2 cup reg.-brewed tea + 1 1/2 c. water, frozen pellet-size): since this is a punch, there needs to be some kind of Weak element. JFL at Rated R Cocktails has mentioned in his Planters Punch series how "Donn Beach was a smart man, he knew he could add dimension. [...] But the real genius was letting the ice act as his weak, particularly crushed ice for some added dilution." Ok, well, in spite of some of the more moody spirit choices plus the bitters, the early version of this cocktail mainly revolved on a Sweet-Sour axis. Something like tea, particularly Earl Grey with its bergamot to match the other orange-y elements, would add much-needed dimension and a drying astringency that would allow all the ingredients to strut their stuff. So, why not combine the tea Weak element, which was often used in regular punches, with the diluting crushed ice format of Planters Punches?

I opted for pellet ice combined with a good blending here because the integration of the tea was my greatest concern. If not well-incorporated, a sip could could vary wildly between dry tea and over-sweetness. Early tests which involved the cocktail simply being shaken with large tea ice also diluted into something too dry in the end, even if the early sips were just-right. With flavored ice, sometimes you don't want the drink to evolve much over the course of time. Why do tea ice at all then? Economy, mainly. Adding liquid tea, then regular ice to chill and dilute isn't as controllable either, and the subtle cold astringency of the tea ice particles contrasts well with the vivacious punch - enunciating each ingredient more.

Orange oleo saccharum (approx 2-2.5 oz): Using a vegetable peeler, take half the zest (with minimal white pith) of a medium orange. Add the zest and 1/4 cup demerara sugar to a sealable baggie, seal, toss, and gently rub the sugar into the zest, then let rest at room temperature (preferably overnight) until wet and developing a syrup purely with the orange oils. When ready, add 1 oz (2 T) water, reseal and agitate to help dissolve the sugar. Further resting may be needed to help the dissolution. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use, but no longer than 2 days.

The oleo saccharum should be used to moderate the Earl Grey tea ice to your taste and help account for potential variations, somewhere in between a barspoon (3/4 t) and 1/4 oz (1/2 T). A little hint of orange also helps highlight the tea's bergamot and the Plantation.

Rainforest Orgeat (approx. 3 oz):
Long story short: I really liked this Rainforest Nut flavor that Green Mountain Coffee used to do. Initial thought: using a flavored coffee as a water base for orgeat could be intriguing. Consequential thought: aw [fiddlesticks], not even I could make this after my last bag ran out. Ok, well, what about incorporating fresh elements into a rough flavor profile based on what's described on the bag (vanilla, caramel, cashew, Brazil nut)? [caveat: the bag leaves out a major flavor note - amaretto!]

So: a cashew/Brazil nut orgeat with a coffee base....and caramel as the sugar??? ...and the coffee nut milk could function as the dairy in the recipe? Mwahahaha!

1 oz each cashews and Brazil nuts
1/3 cup strong-brewed coffee (rich medium roast desirable here), cooled

Make the nut milk, at least 2 processes/wringings. I've trended towards a Frog Princesse-style orgeat process of late - the cold-processing avoids any gumminess and helps enunciate the flavors. Either pre-chop the nuts or combine with coffee in a blender and blend until loose-but-not-terribly-fine-chopped - it's ok to have some large chunks. Let rest 1-2 hours, then wring liquid through cheesecloth. Re-combine liquid and nuts and repeat for 1-2 processes more. Reserve final nut milk.

1/3 cup vanilla sugar (or regular white sugar + 1 inch of seeds scraped from a vanilla bean pod)
1/2 oz/1 T water or same coffee from the nut milk
5 drops lemon juice
3 drops orange blossom water

Make the caramel (note Elana's recipe above. I'm paraphrasing here, but for more details on process, please refer there). Combine sugar, water and lemon juice in a small pot on the stove and stir to combine. Bring to a gentle boil without stirring (seriously, you'll cause crystallization). Observe it as it progressively darkens/goldens, 10-20 minutes. If you're using coffee, you're going to have to utilize your sense of smell to tell you when you hit your desired caramel "darkness" - it's not too crazy, I've done this, you just need some patience and a non-stuffy nose. Once the desired darkness is reached, add half the nut milk to the caramel, stir to incorporate, then the remainder. Stir another 3-5 minutes (no more) while it thickens - thick enough so that it leaves a coating on a utensil, even if it appears thin. Let cool. Fortify with neutral spirit and add orange blossom water. yeah, there might've been a reason it took awhile to get this recipe out. But bookmark it for this summer when sour cherries are fresh, if you like. It's worth it.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Impromptu: Martine à la Louisiane

Oh, the woes of the impromptu MxMo cocktailer, when hit by an idea from the gods late Monday afternoon only to realize that not only did one not have a key ingredient, but that it wasn't in local stores, there were only 2 bottles total in stores in-state (PA, go fig)...

[*hears a tiny scratching whine sound coming from nearby* 
Boomer, playing the violin: Keep going!]

...on the other side of the state, and it was Presidents Day and the stores were all closed anyway! Argh!

[Boomer: Excellent flourish!]

Eh well, but at least in PA there are such things as online orders from the in-state system (and they actually had the bottle I was looking for - plus a $7 delivery fee and tax).

[Boomer, beret and black Lennon-shades aplace at his red-check-draped bistro table, waves his goblet: More wine please!
MoD: Is that your best 3 Blind Mice impersonation?
Boomer: Zut alors! Ze help at zis bar.. No tip for you!
MoD: You're in France. It comes included, prix-fixe.
Boomer: grumble grumble..]

So anyway, bottle was had Thursday night, and, having tasted it for the first time after seeing years of fine reviews on the Twitters, it made me grin and go "yeah, that'll do just fine." (not always the case with blind buys, even if a bottle seems on-paper perfect for a recipe) Now, back to MxMo (or rather, an entry too late for MxMo).

Our host Dagreb's theme for this past month was That's not a Martini! (recapitulation here) and, with Mardi Gras looming the day after, a cocktailian's mind naturally falls to New Orleans with its triumvirate of Peychaud's-inflected tipples: the Sazerac, Vieux Carré and Cocktail à la Louisiane. At which point the recipe kinda writes itself, though one should always be wary when doing straight-out-the-bottle recipes - there's a very good chance it already exists as a classic pre-Prohibition recipe. Case-in-point, search "gin, vermouth, benedictine" for ingredients on Yeah. Very close to a Vancouver and a Merry Widow(er). In my defense, I plead special gins.

[Boomer, lounging in a cloth folding chair, sun-mirror in place, fur slightly singing: SIMPSONS. DID. IT!
MoD: Malacca! Tiki-spirit-blend Malacca! Begone!
Boomer: *cackles*]

(also a reason this recipe is a mere Impromptu)

Despite the "à" in the name, this drink is more about NOLA flavors in general - that and both the "à" and "de" versions of the Louisiane have a whopping 3/4 oz of Bénédictine, which completely throws off the Martini structure. The Vieux Carré, however...that has the makings of a hatty 2-1 Martini.

Martine à la Louisiane
1 oz St. George dry rye gin
1 oz Tanqueray Malacca gin
1 oz sweet vermouth
1 tsp Bénédictine
2 dashes Peychaud's bitters
2 dashes orange bitters (Angostura)
absinthe rinse
lemon twist for garnish

Rinse and chill. Stir. Strain. Garnish.

Orange, lemon, malt and a hint of anise rise to the nostrils. The caraway and juniper malt have a tendency to dominate, but once you slip under those, it's like a gently-heated pool. A faint pineapple note from the Malacca merges with the dry rye's malt into something richly tropical trending through Peychaud's soft cherry to a slow bitter finish. You forget you're drinking gin. Between all the other herb notes, the absinthe is actually subtle here, a mere frisson.

This could be an exquisite candidate for a barrel-aged cocktail, or, as an extension, aged gins.

The dry rye gin explains itself, whereas, to substitute for cognac, a more melodious gin was needed. My bottle of Hayman's Old Tom itself wasn't quite right for this, the creaminess was nice but the juniper was too sharp. Instead I turned to a quasi-Old Tom/sweeter style, Malacca, whose rolling tropical mellowness sets a lovely rhythm. The absinthe? Granted, the Vieux Carré doesn't have it, but its brethren bevandes Sazerac and Louisiane do -- and it is à la Louisiane.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Mixology Monday, February 2015: That's not a Martini!

Urrrr... *snow MoD lurches back onto the blog* Does it count if I Tiki this month by doing my best Zombie impersonation?

Welcome back dear readers! Back to cocktailing after another mini-hiatus and deeply thrilled to be posting for this month's edition of the Greatest Cocktail Party on the Web, Mixology Monday! This month is hosted by my dear Twitter bestie, cocktail/Tiki/split vermouth/coffee/twangy guitar connoisseur Dagreb of Nihil Utopia, with a theme sure to bring a smile: That's not a Martini!
A Telecaster's not an Esquire. A Melody Maker's not a Les Paul Jr. A Marauder ain't a Crown Vic. A Blue Moon is no Martini… well, almost.

Take away the dash to a quarter ounce of Creme Yvette and we're left with gin (a must!), dry vermouth, and orange bitters. That's a Martini! It's at least one canonical Martini anyway.

This month's Mixology Monday theme is that which is almost, but not quite, a Martini. Perhaps there are dashes (or more) of a liqueur (or two) added to the basic structure. Perhaps a Fino Sherry (or other fortified/aromatized wine) is standing in for vermouth. Maybe there's Oxygene instead of bitters? Gin, certainly!

Use your imagination! Use your library! Make a Martini, that's wearing a hat!
When active, check out the hat parade here.

The tricky part is, you see, I'm not a big gin drinker. It either has to be in the peak of summer or, oddly, the peak of winter - to either beat the heat with a good G&T or become one with the cold with a good junipery G&T. And I'll only cocktail with the stuff if a particular recipe absolutely cries out for gin. To me, gins are the cats of the spirit world - cold, with a self-sufficiency that lets you know you're the add-on in the equation - whereas aged spirits, bourbon especially so, are the dogs - warm, emotionally-available, tried and true after long years of aging.

Then, to go and compound things, it's Tiki Month! And a little cocktail-clatch of us on Twitter got the notion we needed to Tiki the Martini. So here's my stab at the notion.

Kyprian Pirate*
1 1/2 oz French gin (blue Magellan!)
1 oz Plymouth gin
3/4 oz Batavia arrack
3/4 oz bianco vermouth
3 dashes pastis (Pernod)
2 dashes Bittercube Jamaican #2 bitters
1 dash orange bitters (Angostura)
1-2 drops rose water
wedge of pineapple for garnish

Stir. Strain. Garnish.

Your proboscis will discover much herbacity, notes of vanilla-mint with rose, anise and pineapple. And then it hits your tastebuds with a swirling shimmering miasma that jumps up and sucker-kicks your nose again. This cocktail has an herbaceous tongue burn that rivals Chartreuse, and like the best Tiki, leaves you pondering just what's in it that gives it a certain je ne sais quoi, all the while tasting distinctly Martini-esque.

Yes, yes, I know. It's a 4 oz cocktail. That's ok - you get to figure out how to small-size it! Besides, Tiki is known for taller drinks. And rose water-accented orgeat. And Zombies with a teeny-tiny bit of Pernod. And precise mixes of base spirits to create whole new flavors (see: the Winchester). And blue cocktails! (sweartagawed the gin was bright blue in the bottle! I dunno what happened!) And arrack, oh arrack...

And big honkin' pineapple garnishes.

But seriously, [adding this graf a few hours after posting] one thing missed over in the thought process whilst being zany: you wouldn't think Tiki and 'tinis would mix. One focuses on a sweet/sour axis while the other a dry/spiritous/bitter axis. Adding Tiki sweeteners to a Martini without the addendant sour destroys the drink pretty quickly. This take aimed to transfer the flavors and attitude into the structure, without the flavor-neutralizing sugar.

*an epithet of Paris, from Euripides of all things. Google Kypris and avoid the beauty products.

Big thanks to Dagreb for letting me squeak zombie-like well-around the deadline - it's an honor to participate in this one, my friend. Kudos on a stylishly insouciant theme and a fine job hosting! Thanks also to Fred "7th-level Zen Master/cat wrangler" Yarm for pulling together yet another great month! Cheers, all!