Friday, February 2, 2018


Happy belated new year. Sometimes taking the next step forward requires a bit of effort and time. It doesn't always fall on pre-scheduled symbolic dates, or as the rosy fingers of Dawn warm the sky.

Case in point, this ditty was meant to be a New Year's Day recipe, full of sunshine as gin spice mimicked the icy clash of cold on skin and tongue. Granted, we've still got the weather about right, even if daylight doesn't herald the near-guilt of back-to-work and champagne hangovers. (though I imagine we may want to check in with a certain groundhog..)

So here I am, at it again, with a new bottle sending out recipe bunnies from first taste. The real reason I picked it up is a little ways down the pike yet, but I promise it shall be both intriguing and astrological. In the meanwhile, let me tell you about it, so the right sensations hit you when you read the recipe.

Within the past few years, the Philly area has seen craft distilleries pop up almost at the rate of craft breweries. We've had Philadelphia Distilling around for awhile (proprietors of Bluecoat gin and Vieux Carre absinthe) and the same with Dad's Hat, and since then I've had a chance to try offerings from Kinsey, Bluebird and now Five Saints (to speak of brands I've enjoyed). Of all things, I happened to be in the market for a gin or other spirit with eucalyptus. You read that right. Five Saints' Savory Tuscan Gin has notes of eucalyptus, in addition to rosemary and other herbs, and classic gin notes of juniper and citrus. It has this creamy, lemon-almost-vanilla nose with the botanicals lingering complexly underneath. The green herbs come to play on the fore-palate, with the creamy lemon playing throughout and eucalyptus emerging on the finish.

One of the things that particularly grabbed me was the spirit base quality. It seems like half of the brews or distills I've tried that have come out of the Philly craft scene have been half-assed where quality is concerned - a lot of "throwing things at the wall to see what sticks", and getting away with it because it was the only game in town. There's too much competition for that now. When tasted neat, this 90-proof gin is surprisingly tame and smooth - almost buttery; it broke the stereotype in my head for the quality I could expect from local distillers. The eucalyptus does bring some fire, but at the same time I appreciate the uniqueness of the flavor note. It all creates some unique spaces for quality cocktail creation, which delights my sensibilities best.

So, while I was tasting and pondering my original idea, this creamy-lemon little bunny hopped into my lap and did a binky dance: since we're trending with these flavor notes, how about a riff on the original (gin) Alexander with limoncello?

1 1/2 oz gin (Five Saints)
3/4 oz cream
1/2 oz limoncello
1/4 oz blood orange liqueur (Solerno)

Shake, strain, garnish with a mint leaf.

What can I say? Creamy/milky citrus and green herbs. A treat, from a different angle.

So why the extra liqueur? The limoncello all on its own was good, but it felt like it needed a little flavor-rounding with a similar note. Hence blood orange liqueur, with a bit of red fruit notes.

And before you point it out, Five Saints also produces a blood orange liqueur - it's very tasty and very bold. The unfortunate thing is that it tends to dominate anything to which it's added very quickly. What drove me to pull out the Solerno here was that between the 90-proof gin and the limoncello, this cocktail was already running hot - and the fire was getting in the way of some of the subtlety expected for an Alexander. Sweet, triple sec-y Solerno tamed things just right but let the lemon stay on top.

As for the Five Saints liqueur? Different spirit, different application. My sense is this one would fare best in a brown, bittered and stirred recipe, or maybe a punch. It'll be worth playing around with especially as we get into warmer months.

Cheers, y'all! Keep trying to move forward, even if life gets in the way.