Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Meyer Lemon Falernum: Telesto

Let's do some housekeeping here before I consider posting anything for July's Mixology Monday. First off, some love to Putney Farm, whose MxMo event, Hometown Hooch, I missed last month, even though I had the recipe and the pics cobbled together and everything (go check out the round-up showing off all manner of locally-made spirit/beverage cocktails). I fizzled out, and no matter how often I sat down to write, the words weren't coming. Afterwards, I realized that I couldn't give proper due or focus to a spirit producer while touting a new (potentially daring) falernum recipe I'd developed last winter-into-spring in the same post, and I was torn because the spirit in question added something interesting to the related cocktail recipe.

Secondly, and more to the point, this is less one of those throw-down-the-gauntlet/best-this challenges than it is: oh Tiki cognoscenti far and wide, please have a look at the below Meyer lemon falernum recipe. This isn't a proper falernum as you might know it, only with Meyer lemon zests added instead of lime. This has a spice blend keyed to the nuances of the zest in question (and notably lacks nut oils). Does it still fit within the confines of what you consider to be "falernum"? What say you?

I'd be very intrigued to know your thoughts, and perhaps to develop a discussion on nomenclature as relates to extending traditional syrup structures such as falernum or orgeat into different flavor profiles. Do different flavor profiles break currently existing models - if you made the below syrup recipe, would you like it better than original lime falernum in a Saturn or a Zombie? What about, dare I ask, a Corn 'n Oil?

Meyer Lemon Falernum (small batch)
zest of 1 Meyer lemon
9 cloves
8 pink peppercorns, crushed lightly
3 petals star anise
3/4 pod black cardamom
1/8 tsp coriander, crushed
1/8 tsp allspice
1 T fresh Hawaiian ginger (julienned)
1 1/2 oz overproof white rum
1/4 cup turbinado sugar
1 oz water
Lightly toast and crush all dried spices.
Add dry spices to rum in a mason jar or other infusion vessel, let infuse half a day.
Add Meyer lemon zest and ginger to mixture, let infuse additional 1-3 days**.
Make cold process simple syrup with sugar and water. Add to infusion mixture and shake to blend.
Let infuse one more day then strain, bottle, refrigerate. Let rest one week.
Yields about half a cup of syrup.

**avoid overlong infusion. More than one day will help the spices cement and last longer. Longer than 3 days and the soapier qualities of the peppercorn and cardamom start coming through.

But now then, as of last week, I'm suddenly glad that this post was delayed - for cocktail virgin slut introduced me to the Golden Wave, a late 60's era Tiki ditty. For a cocktail recipe to take the new falernum recipe on a spin, I thought I had been riffing on the Saturn, with a little bit of Fogcutter spirit-mix influence (someone untrain my head please - I've got it fixed in there that "it's not really Tiki unless it has 3 spirits in it", when that just ain't so). No, with that mix of pineapple (subbed for Saturn's passionfruit syrup), lemon, falernum, and secondary sweetener, the Golden Wave is a close ringer for our falernum's featured cocktail recipe - albeit the blending instructions and the fact that it won a bartending association competition put it not that far off from the Saturn, either.

The thing that strikes me about Meyer lemon zest's oils in particular is a free-floating floral-yet-herbaceous quality. It's offbeat and seems to me to need similar counterparts in a cocktail recipe. To that end, gin seemed a natural, and strong funky cane-spirits counter-intuitive but agreeable all the same. Just be sure to use regular lemon juice instead of Meyer lemon juice here - Meyers have close to the acidity needed, but have a bit of sugar also, which throws off the balance. With the tiki Saturn as the prototype, one of the planet's moons, an ocean goddess, seemed only fitting to offer a name.

A suitably cosmic glass, no?
1 oz Barrel Reserve Bluecoat gin*
1/2 oz Wray & Nephew overproof rum*
1/2 oz Batavia arrack
1/2 oz lemon juice
1/2 oz pineapple juice
(fat) 1/4 oz Meyer lemon falernum
1/4 oz pistachio orgeat
mint + extras for garnish

Blend with 6 oz crushed ice for 5 seconds. Pour into serving vessel and garnish with fresh mint, spent lemon shell, pineapple fronds, Meyer lemon zest, orchids, whatever floats your boat.

*if lacking the aged Bluecoat and W&N, try aging-swapping in regular Bluecoat or Bombay Sapphire gin and then Smith & Cross rum. It's a touch sweeter, but it is Smith & Cross and all..

Spearmint on the nose, followed by soft nut-creamy citrus and faint juniper. On the tongue, the cocktail starts with juniper and pineapple flowing into Meyer lemon with pink peppercorn edges, and sinks into rum funk. As opposed to regular falernum, you get softer more floral/exotic edges with more indiscernible spice warmth and complexity, which elevates the gin and rum grass and funk here.

Depending on which version you enjoy, the Barrel-Aged Bluecoat variation trends towards leaner grassier tastes, pronouncing juniper, mint and pineapple - and late in the drink, the aromas warm up to an almondy meringue founded in Bluecoat's spirit base and citrus, the orgeat and the mint. The Smith & Cross version pronounces this spirit on the initial nose and trends a smidge warmer with pink peppercorn, ginger, cardamom and coriander emphasized.

For those interested in knowing a little more about the on-trend innovation that is barrel-aged gin, Bluecoat in particular, I haven't had the original unaged Bluecoat in years now, but tasting the aged version brings immediate recollection of the citrusy and juniper-forward original. As regards the wood influence on the spirit, I want to say there's a malty quality to it but that might just be the collision of the juniper and the vanilla/toffee aging notes.

Pistachio Orgeat
2 oz pistachio nuts
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup demerara sugar
2 dashes rose water

Cold process: Blend pistachios and water, let rest 2 hours. Wring only once because it's a very rich nut milk. Add sugar and cold process-shake until dissolved. Add rose water and a bit of vodka to preserve.

This may be what almond orgeat aspires to be, the exotic qualities running on all cylinders. A perfect match for the Meyer lemon zest notes.

Finally, stay tuned later on (aka, after I get back from some super-secret spywork) for another recipe (tequila-based) utilizing the Meyer lemon falernum. It proved in testing to be, perhaps, an even stronger/simpler recipe - provided I don't go mucking it up with even more wacky ingredients. We shall see.