...New Years...Eve? What indeed? Feel free to pass along your pre or post party specs in the comments section.
For my own year-end festivities, I'll be spending it (and the four days what follow) 'down the shore as we so stereotypically say here in 'Jersey. Specifically Ocean City, NJ. In a lovely guest house, behind a well-stocked bar, with a semi-rotating cast of forty-odd good friends of the SCA persuasion...
I've been laying down all manner of syrups for the past three days - everything from fresh batches of my usual standbys (Simple syrup(s), Hibiscus Grenadine, Cardamom 'Ale, Jamaica, Orgeat &c.) to new experiments in variation (Pistachio Orgeat; 3:1 Jaggery, Bird's Eye Chili-Tamarind, Gomme syrups, etc.). I've bottled up a batch of Ginger Ale soda syrup, a Tangerine-spiked twist on Jeffrey Morgenthaler's Tonic syrup, a wintertime variation on Kaiserpenguin's latest Falernum and a few other goodies. Liquor's all procured & packed, gear and glassware is cleaned and packed. Produce gets bought in the morning and...I'm off. I'm sure I'm forgetting a bunch of stuff...
Anyway, I'll be sure to post some highlights of the event here as I'm able - hopefully a video or three.
Cheers & Happy New Years!
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
...New Years...Eve? What indeed? Feel free to pass along your pre or post party specs in the comments section.
Friday, December 19, 2008
...I've sampled in my time, or at least those what claim to be, have been...numerous. Needless to say, when the marketing pitch for a particular spirit cites its' primary flavor component as one such substance, I'm at once intensely skeptical & mildly interested...
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
It’s no secret that I (and many of my fellow cocktail bloggers) am wont to toss syrups, bitters, infusions and all manner of other feats of mixoloical cleverness with almost reckless abandon into our recipes. The most frequent comments we seem to get on posts including such things are questions about ingredients: “Sounds great, but where do I find X, Y & Z?” And while the Tiki Cult™ is guiltier than most, I’m right there with them…
To be honest we’ve all been in that boat at one point or another – it’s not like we grow Gentian, Sugarcane or Allspice in our backyards after all (well, most of us), and to boot, many of the components of these ingredients can be expensive to purchase. So, what follows is a handy little guide to sourcing some of the more esoteric ingredients you may encounter here, at the Mixoloseum, or any of our member’s (or other) pages:
A phenomenal resource, accessible from the comfort of one’s own home no less! It bears mentioning that some of the sites you’ll find listed here fall within categories listed further down, except they also offer their products online. Here are a number of websites from which you might source all manner of interesting or rare ingredients without getting out of your bathrobe, or breaking the bank:
- Mountain Rose Herbs - Based out of Eugene, OR, this company carries almost every herb, root or spice a cocktailian could ever need, in a number of quantities & most are organic/wild-harvested. An invaluable resource for rare or hard-to-find bitters, tincture, infusion or syrup ingredients, they also offer a variety of house tea blends. If some prices seem a touch high, it’s due to quantity – even their smaller sizes tend to be far more than the average hobbyist could use at once.
- Spices Etc. - Based out of Savannah, GA, a good resource for standard (and some more exotic) spices and herbs, with a great selection of interesting items like dried fruits, citric acid & flavored sugars. Their best value lies in a variety of dried citrus peels - available in large strips rather than ground – which makes them a good source for bitters-making.
- Tenzing Momo - An apothecary shop based out of the Pike Place market in Seattle, WA, this simple webpage conceals a great resource for some especially rare ingredients – one of the only vendors I know to carry Cinchona (for Tonic) or Camphor, for example. Prices will appear especially low – be warned that this is due to quantities - as near as I can tell, each herbal item is sold in 1-ounce increments.
- Auntie Arwen’s - An apothecary & herbalist (as well a regular merchant at the Pennsic Wars), Arwen’s carries a large selection of herbs, roots, flora, spices & extracts equal to any listed above. Check out their flavored sugars while you're at it; they are incredible. Their true specialty, however, lies in crafting specialized blends of these – often on a custom/to-order basis; need a ‘mango-white pepper-grains of paradise’ blend? Arwen’s got you covered…
- Sweet Vanilla Products USA - The wonderfully-resourceful Tiare of A Mountain of Crushed Ice discovered this little gem – an eBay store devoted almost exclusively to the sale of Vanilla beans and their byproducts. Ordinarily commanding a king’s ransom for miniscule quantities, sourcing this delicious orchid byproduct is now both easy & incredibly inexpensive.
- Fee Brother’s - If the homemade route isn’t your thing, Fee’s, based out of Rochester, NY is a wonderful resource for commercial syrups, bitters & flavorings. The company has been operating since the early-1800’s & orders are on 60-day net, so bulk purchases are the way to go - though their products are also sold elsewhere at a slight markup.
- Kegworks.com - A great resource for just about everything & anything cocktail-related, both for equipment as well as commercial mixers, bitters, syrups and other interesting products. Especially useful for those of you who’d rather not take the homemade route, though some of the crazier ingredients many mixologists use just aren’t produced commercially.
- Forgotten Flavors - A German company (with a German webpage) who commercially produces a pair of hard-to-find cocktail ingredients – Falernum syrup and Swedish Punsch. Quality seems to be their main concern, and if you’d rather not make either ingredient yourself, give theirs a go.
These are among my favorite places to shop - and not just for cocktail supplies! Various world cultures often utilize flavors, whether through spices or other ingredients which are often unknown or unpopular in the more mainstream culinary culture; these stores cater to these flavors and the individuals who enjoy them. I highly recommend investigating your area for ethnic stores of all sorts – anywhere there is a significant community of immigrants or individuals with strong cultural backgrounds one can find businesses like these.
Forming ‘working’ relationships with the employees or proprietors (many times one & the same) of such establishments is also recommended – you’ll often get deals of the sort generally only offered to members of the communities they serve, not to mention it often helps to have someone who can read the foreign languages used on the packages. Even without such arrangements, one will often find ingredients at fairly unheard-of prices when compared to those at your average grocery store. Here are just a few examples of stores like this:
- Middle Eastern - Spices, often expensive ones like Green Cardamom, Ras al Hanout or Saffron are atypically-cheap staples of places like these. Likewise, teas, coffees and interestingly-flavored beverages of all kinds are often easy to find. As many Middle Eastern cultures utilize complex & unusual sweeteners or flavorings in aspects of their cuisine – especially beverages - one can find commercially-bottled syrups (Almond with Orange-flower water (i.e. Orgeat), Tamarind, Date, Rose & Honey to name a few). High-quality Rose or Orange-flower waters, as well as flavored or artisanal Vinegars are also on offer.
- Hispanic & Caribbean - That tiny corner bodega often conceals a treasure trove of flavorful ingredients. Chiles, dried or fresh, fruit Nectars & Juices, Sodas (often sweetened with sugar; like Mexican Coke, Malta, Barritt’s, Jarritos or Ting), dried Hibiscus (called Sorrel or Jamaica). Whole spices like Allspice, Anise or Achiote seeds and produce like Passionfruit, Sugarsop, Mango, Coconut, whole Sugarcane & Ginger are available quite inexpensively.
- Asian - Rare & often strange (from a Western standpoint) ingredients are the watchwords in these establishments. Hard-to-find ingredients like Yuzu juice, Lemongrass, (high-quality) Coconut milk, unusual waters, tinctures and extracts like Jasmine, Rose, or Ginger are common. Teas of just about every stripe – particularly high-grade green & white varieties like Macha or Gunpowder will also be fairly common. Finally, many establishments like these will either have an in-house herbalist or will be able to recommend one in your area – another helpful resource.
- Indian - Here it’s all about the spices: items like Cardamom, Clove, Coriander, Mace, Allspice & Cinnamon are often available at unthinkably-low prices & in large quantities. Likewise, dried fruits such as Dates, Figs and Oranges, as well as dozens of varieties of nuts & seeds (whole, blanched, chopped &c.) are often offered. Similar to Middle Eastern shops, unusual flavorings and sweeteners like Gur or Jaggery (date palm sugar), commercial beverage syrups like Thandai (a spicy Orgeat variant) and hard-to-find fruit Nectars (Passionfruit or Pomegranate) abound.
As anyone from California will attest, this is the best way to get fresh fruit, vegetables and often herbs too – often for fantastic prices. Once you’ve found a good farmer’ market you’ll never want to go back to the supermarket again - so be warned. Offerings at this sort of establishment vary wildly with season, location and suppliers. Look for a market which (ideally) knows exactly where & from what farm(s) their produce is harvested – even better a market run by the individuals who grow the produce themselves - and stocks particularly-seasonal items only within the appropriate period. As with the ethnic/cultural spots listed above, forming a ‘working relationship’ with the folks in charge can be extremely beneficial.
Health & Nutrition/”Alternate Lifestyle”
If you can stomach the overwhelming scent of patchouli for a bit, checking out the local ‘hippy shop’ or health-nut haven can result in some impressive finds, both equipment & ingredients-wise. Handy tools like juicers, mortar & pestles, blender balls and pollen presses can be found in locations like these. Also, extracts, whole herbs and spice/tea blends, interesting Honeys, Agave nectar and other items are often for sale; especially in “New Age”-type shops. Just be careful with extracts – be certain what you’re buying is both pure & of ‘food-grade’. Many shops like this maintain listings of their offerings & will sometimes ship via mail even if they’re not represented online, so requesting a catalog or ordering one through phone or mail can be helpful.
Have a favorite source or way of procuring for hard-to-find or unusual ingredients? Be sure to let me know about it in the Comments section.
I have no affiliation, stake or ties to any sources specifically mentioned by name or link (save as a satisfied customer). This article has been cross-posted over at the Mixoloseum - whomever authorized this has undoubtedly been sacked...
Monday, December 8, 2008
As I drove up to see some old friends this weekend past, the lightly-falling snow - the first of any consequence around here - got me thinking. I'm not big on being cold myself, so the change of the seasons from chilly and windy to windy, cold and wet has brought about the need for something that will send the chill packing & bring thoughts of warmer days to the forefront.
Peaches are among my favorite summertime produces; their flavor, in fact, exerts a very strong memory-association with warm summer afternoons for me. But for a December drink, why Peaches - haven't they been out of season for months, you ask? Indeed, but bear with me a moment. What really got me onto this whole notion was a bottle of the often-maligned 100° Southern Comfort which I knew my friends to possess; a higher-proof variation on the usual fruit & spice liqueur of the south. Said spirit, likely due to the increased alcohol content, asserts an even stronger suggestion of Peach flavor than it's lower-proofed cousin, making it an ideal base for the next step:
The Blue Blazer
is a classic concoction of impressive presentation, excellent flavor and marvelous warming properties. Consisting of a healthy measure of cask-strength spirit, boiling water, lemon peel and sugar which is then set alight & flung between two mugs, it's mere creation will warm the room by a few degrees. But the usual 'Blazer is prepared with Scotch - which while an excellent addition to a winter warmer - might be difficult to blend into my peachy idea. Watery peaches didn't sound so appealing either, so the hot water would have to go...sort of:
is a delicious Japanese green tea which contains a bit of toasted brown rice. This feature takes the soft, grassy flavors of the tea in a whole new direction - adding a smoky, bittersweet aromatic element which is quite unique. Indeed, after playing with it here I have a number of plans for utilizing it in a Rhum or Cognac Punch in the future, but more on that some other time. Sampling the Genmaicha with SoCo yielded some favorable, if one-sided results - not quite the peach emphasis I desired.
Into the mix then came the next ingredient, an organic Peach nectar, gently warmed & added to the prepared tea. As said nectar is already sweetened, I tipped a heavy dash of Angostura bitters into the mixture to add a little complexity & reign-in the sugar. The final ingredients went into the glasses arrayed before me - a long twist of Orange peel paired with a heavy dash of Fernet Branca - a very tasty Italian amaro of great complexity. Now that the ingredients are all sorted out, what came next, you ask? Just this savory, if poorly-photographed, drink - redolent of warm peaches, caramel, spice & a discernable absence of the cold (©):
6 oz. 100° Southern Comfort
2½ oz. Genmaicha tea
2½ oz. Peach nectar
2 dashes: Angostura bitters
In each Glass (makes 4):
1 long twist: fresh Orange peel
1 Teaspoon: Fernet Branca
1 Teaspoon: Nectar-Tea mixture, hot
Preparation: Brew Tea, pour into a small saucepan & combine with Nectar and bitters. Warm to a gentle simmer over gentle heat, stirring frequently. Meanwhile, warm four toddy glasses, mugs or whatever you've got on hand by rinsing them with boiling water. Add Orange peel, Fernet & hot Nectar-Tea mixture to prepared glasses. Warm a pair of well-insulated mugs with a rinse of boiling water & get ready for the show (I typically invoke the late J. Thomas for luck).
Execution: Add the hot five-ounce mixture of Tea, Nectar & bitters to one warmed mug. Pour the Southern Comfort on top of this, dim the lights & set aflame with a long match. Taking up your empty mug, carefully pour the flaming liquid from cup to cup approximately six times before extinguishing. Pour hot liquid into prepared glasses and stir briefly. Look cool, enjoy the applause (and the drink).
Cheers & Enjoy!
If you o' gentle reader would like to attempt a Blue Blazer of any ilk, I must stress that both a pair of good insulated mugs and, most importantly, practice are essential. Practice the pour first with cold water, then move up to hot water - being extremely careful when you finally move to the flaming stuff. Setting up a metal tray with a little water, or at least a layer of wet towels, underneath the area you intend to make the drink is a fantastic idea. By-the-by, I take no responsibility for any injuries or property damage sustained attempting this feat...
Monday, December 1, 2008
On November 20th, Thursday Drink Night at the Mixoloseum took on an air of near-respectability with the generous sponsorship of Leblon Cachaça. Company founder & President Steve Luttmann, alongside founding Partner and COO Gerry Schweitzer joined in the discssions, answering all manner of questions about the spirit they produce.
Naturally, the theme of the night was this lovely artisanal example of Brazil's native spirit; and a record-setting thirty-one cocktails were originated throughout the evening utilizing it - some of them on-location by our team at Trader Vic's in Las Vegas.
Cachaça is a great spirit - the third most-produced liquor in the world - and is similar in production to Rum, while containing a number of the grassy, vegetal flavor characteristics that many people associate with Tequila. Leblon is the end product of a ferment of pressed sugarcane juice, which is then distilled in copper alembique stills, rather than the column stills utilized by other 'industrial' cachaças. The head and tail of the distillate is discarded, and the young spirit is rested for several months in used XO Cognac casks to soften & enrich its flavors before being blended by master distiller Gilles Merlet & filtered for bottling.
The resulting artisanal spirit weighs in at 40% ABV and has a wonderful, almost floral, aroma of grassy sugarcane coupled with a fairly soft mouthfeel & a mild, if flavorful, taste. These characteristics make it an excellent introductory spirit into the world of Cachaças and makes for a fantastic Caipirinha - the national drink of Brazil. Give it whirl in one of the many drinks originated at TDN, or in one of these delightful libations (©):
1¼ oz. Leblon Cachaça
¾ oz. Blackstrap Rum (Cruzan)
½ oz. Orange Curaçao (Marie Brizard)
¾ oz. fresh Orange juice
¼ oz. fresh Lime juice
½ oz. Orgeat syrup
Combine ingredients in a mixing glass & shake well with plenty of cracked ice. Strain into a double Old-Fashioned glass half-filled with cracked ice & garnish with a sprig of fresh Spearmint.
2 oz. Leblon Cachaça
1 whole fresh Clementine
1 wedge (⅙): fresh Lime
1½ Teaspoons: Demerara sugar
Remove the ends from the Clementine & slice into quarters, being sure to remove any of the white pith in the center of the segments. In a mixing glass, muddle the Lime & Clementine wedges with the sugar. Add Cachaça with plenty of cracked ice & shake well. Pour unstrained into a double Old-Fashioned glass, top with fresh cracked ice & serve with a wide straw.
Cheers & Enjoy!
*In the interest of full disclosure, samples of Leblon were provided for this TDN event*
Sunday, November 16, 2008
"Bring forth unto us a beverage! Thy beverage shall depend upon one
or more ingredients that thou makest yourself. Beyond that decree, you may
voyage to the edge of the Earth or beyond."
- Barring a few of the stronger spices, tinctures are generally prepared in a 5 or 4:1 ratio of Spirit:Spice.
- Tinctures take a while to make, generally-speaking about two weeks of maceration, though certain spices & herbs require more time, even in high-test spirit. Color is a good indicator - when the color of the liquid has deepened to match that of the herbs & grows no darker in hue, you're likely good to go.
- Scent is also a good indicator - when you can detect no alcohol fumes overpowering the aroma of whatever you've infused, the tincture is more or less ready. Taste can be used here too, but be sure to only sample the tiniest of tiny amounts to avoid blowing a fuse in your taste buds. Bitter or spicy tinctures are recommended against sampling undiluted.
- If you'd like your tinctures at a milder final proof, feel free to dilute them with water. However, to avoid diluting the flavor, you'll want to allow said water to infuse in the washed spices for about a week before you strain & add it to your original alcohol base.
To get started, here are handful of tinctures which are much-valued in my kitchen & bar (for a full list of the tinctures I've currently got on hand, check out the "Behind the Bar: Tinctures & Bitters" sidebar on the right):
Tincture of Iranian Saffron
4 oz. Neutral Grain Spirits
1 Teaspoon: Iranian Saffron threads
Combine ingredients in an airtight container for eighteen days, agitating gently each day. Should be a delicate, clear reddish-pink in color. When ready, fine-strain to remove all solids & bottle. Give 1 drop of this a try in a Pisco Sour, or two drops in a Silver Fizz.
Tincture of Black Cardamom
2 oz. Black Cardamom, seeds only
8 oz. Neutral Grain Spirits
Combine ingredients in an airtight container for three weeks, agitating gently each day. Should be a slightly opaque, smoke-hued color. When ready, fine-strain to remove all solids & bottle. Give 2 drops of this a try in a Sidecar or Tom Collins.
Tincture of Wormwood
2 oz. Wormwood
8 oz. Neutral Grain Spirits
Combine ingredients in an airtight container for three weeks, agitating gently each day. Should be an opaque, deep dark green in color. When ready, fine-strain to remove all solids & bottle. Give this a try in Darcy O'Neil's researched reproduction of the infamous Green Swizzle or the handful of other antique recipes what call for "Wormwood bitters".
Tincture of Scotch Bonnet
7 oz. Neutral Grain Spirits
2 whole Scotch Bonnet peppers, seeds only
1 Tablespoon: Scotch Bonnet pepper, julienned
Please be extremely cautious when working with these peppers, wearing gloves & being careful to avoid contact with your eyes or mouth. Combine ingredients in an airtight container for sixteen days, agitating gently each day. Should be clear with a very slight, almost ominous, oily orange tint. When ready, fine-strain to remove all solids & bottle. Give this a (careful) try as the spicy element in a wicked Bloody Mary - sub 2 drops in for your favorite hot sauce.
Cheers, enjoy & sorry again Doug!
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Before I get into this weeks' cocktailian post, I want to take a moment to get all sentimental on you. As I briefly mentioned in my most recent article, I've noticed something of a (massive) spike in visitor traffic to the humble little blog you now find yourself reading. That so many of you from such wide and varied locales consider my ramblings worth your time is really inspiring, so thank you kindly for stopping by. Similar thanks to the wonderful online communities of cocktailian writers, bloggers and foodies for their generous advice, encouragement, linkage & overall good-will...
Among these wonderful groups is the shiny-new foodie community Foodbuzz.com, which has just recently gone live & whose lovely badge you may have noticed gracing my site. Simply put, it is a veritable hub of inspirational activity - with featured publishers and contributing members churning out brilliant articles and recipes in just about every conceivable area of food & drink. For the official press release & explanation of what Foodbuzz is about, check here. Alternately you can just get a (visually-stunning) glance at some of their finest contributors with their inaugural 24, 24, 24 video. Barring those, just leap right into the fray with a visit to the main site...
Similarly, a huge thanks to our friends at Liqurious.com (formerly the well-missed Tastespotting.com) for showcasing photos of not only my, but dozens of my favorite bloggers' drinks! Especial thanks to the mysterious individual ( ? ) who keeps adding me to the queue there!
A final thanks to Gabriel from Cocktailnerd.com and Rick of Kaiserpenguin.com for their tireless work in establishing the Mixoloseum - a fantastic chat forum where cocktailians from all over might gather to discuss our favorite mixological projects & plans in authentic "nineties-style". This friendly forum (home of the fantastically-entertaining weekly TDN) also plays host to themed panel discussions, often visited by venerable names in the mixological multiverse, where it is a truly-inspirational venue. This was certainly the case during the most recent panel on garnishing cocktails:
Led by Tiare of A Mountain of Crushed Ice & Rick, with a gracious (& insightful) appearance by Jeff "Beachbum" Berry of Exotic/Tiki-drink fame, this discussion was a showcase of some of the most beautiful (& functional) examples of garnish I've ever seen, paired with historical information on the topic by the 'Bum and lots of banter on how to accomplish such artistry at home. As a fitting conclusion to this panel, Tiare has proposed a Garnish Contest open to all. So, as a conclusion to my (not-so-brief) lapse into thankful sentimentality, here are my entries - delicious cocktails both - which showcase the effects a particular garnish can have on a libation's enjoyment (©):
Blood & Brandy
1½ oz. VSOP Brandy (Raynal)
½ oz. Rhum Agricole Blanc (La Favorite)
1 Teaspoon: Campari
1 oz. fresh Blood Orange juice
1 oz. Simple syrup
1x fresh Egg white
2 dashes: Peychaud's bitters
Combine ingredients, except bitters, in a mixing glass and dry shake to incorporate & emulsify. Add ice and shake well before straining into a chilled cocktail glass. Dash bitters on top of foam & swirl into a pattern with a toothpick before adding a flamed twist of Blood Orange.
1½ oz. Rhum Agricole Blanc (La Favorite)
½ oz. Lillet Blonde
2 oz. Karkade (Hibiscus tisane, Jaimaica also works fine)
3-4 dashes: Hibiscus Grenadine
Combine ingredients in a mixing glass & stir well with plenty of ice. Strain into a double-rocks glass, half-filled with ice. Garnish with a twist of Lime, sprig of fresh Peppermint & an organic Rose petal.
Both cocktails make visually-appealing (IMHO) use of aromatic garnishes - ones which contribute primarily to the olfactory aspects of the libations in question. The Peychaud's used in the Blood & Brandy sits delicately atop the foam created by the egg white, while the flamed Blood Orange peel adds both flavor & aroma to said foam (and through it, the liquid slumbering beneath). As the Sudanese Rose is a composition in subtle floral & botanical flavors, the addition of the acidic citrus oil provides a nice contrasting element to these tastes - helping to keep them in line, as it were. The aromas of the peppermint and rose provide a refreshing olfactory experience to match & enhance the tart flavors of the Hibiscus tisane in the cocktail. Neither beverage, like so many other (equally dolled-up) libations would be even remotely the same, were they to go out sans garnish...
Cheers & Thanks again!
Saturday, October 18, 2008
As the autumn season continues & more of my favorite examples of seasonal produce become prevalent, I was reminded of an experiment I had been contemplating for some months. Now before you start frantically searching for the back button (it's on the left), a few brief words. If you've been reading here for a while (or are one of the many new readers who have been trickling in from all corners of the earth - thanks by the way!), you've doubtlessly noted three things in or about my rambling articles:
1. I tend to wax poetic at times...alright all the time.
1 Teaspoon fresh Lemon juice
For my part, I'll be carting a bottle over to Jonathan Pogash's Elements of Mixology class tomorrow at the Astor Center in NYC to try & formulate some more uses for this delicious seasonal syrup. Then perhaps a quick jaunt over to Pegu to see what those clever lads can make of it...
Sunday, October 12, 2008
This (only nominally) guilt-ridden installment of Mixology Monday is being hosted by Stevi over at Two at the Most. Her chosen theme? Guilty pleasures of course, or those 'cocktails' which are well-loved or enjoyed even though we know, or are just constantly told, are no good for us. This theme, undoubtedly chosen for just such a purpose, will almost assuredly result in no small amount of mockery across any number of cocktailian blogs, to say nothing of the already snarky dialogue peculiar to the Mixoloseum. Bring it on I say & we'll exchange remarks over a round (or five) of Irish Carbombs...
I don't quite know how guilty I am about enjoying this particular beverage, however politically-incorrect or tactless its' name & method of consumption may be. I love a good pint of heavy, as they say, and Guinness is a fine example. Likewise, I enjoy a drop of Whiskey, particularly the Irish varieties. As for the cream liqueur (Bailey's in this case), well maybe I'm a little guilty about that, but nobody's perfect.
The recipe, merely a variation on the venerable boilermaker, is outrageously simple. This, above all else, makes this beverage an especially easy choice when out on the town in an establishment of...questionable virtue. Incidentally, despite its universally Irish components, due to its' name this drink might not be the best thing to order in a "real" Irish bar (much like a "Black & Tan") - a bloody shame since the Guinness is always better in that sort of place:
The Irish Carbomb
½ oz. Jameson's Irish Whiskey
½ oz. Bailey's Irish Cream
12 oz. Guinness Stout
1x (sturdy) Pint Glass
1x (sturdy) Pony shotglass
Pour the Guinness into a chilled pint glass. In the pony, layer the spirits in the order presented. As quickly as you are able, carefully drop the shot into the pint glass - no spilling now! When the pony hits bottom, it's bottoms up - much like a (far more classy) Fizz, a Carbomb does not improve with time.
Best enjoyed with friends - preferably a whole dive bar's worth - with loud punk music (I prefer Rudie Can't Fail or Anarchy in the UK myself) blaring from the jukebox...
Cheers, enjoy & don't be too serious!
Monday, October 6, 2008
With the looming descent of autumnal weather, a great many of my favorite fresh produces are hitting their peak seasons. Pumpkins, apples, cranberries and pomegranates are all prevalent from September on, but chief among these, in my humble opinion, are Pears. Literally dozens of varieties of this delicious fruit become readily available around this time of year, with new types appearing in your local market (even supermarket) from late September all the way through to February.
Returning to our Roman friends' practice of stewing pears in honey & spices once more, one finds another great use for the fruit in libations. Poached pears, long a potent item in the pastry chef's arsenal, can be used to add sweetness, spice and flavor to any number of drinks which may be well-enhanced by any of those elements. At its most basic, poaching pears (or most any firm fruit) merely requires you to skin & remove the cores from the fruit before simmering for about twenty-five minutes in a 3:1 mixture of water & either sugar or honey. From there the sky is the limit: adding spices, citrus zest, wine, or most any other savory ingredient to the mix can result in some truly marvelous creations.
The great recipe for pears poached in Saffron-Vanilla syrup posted at Figs with Bri, for example, makes a fantastic addition (though a plain honey-poached one works fine too) to the following libation - itself a riff on the classic autumnal Stone Fence. Much like that venerable cocktail, one can use a commercially-available Perry (such as Woodchuck) or the adventurous can ferment their own by leaving a non-pasteurized Pear cider/nectar out in a cool, dark place for 5-6 days (uncovering occasionally to release the accumulated gasses). Either method will endow you with a dry, lightly-alcoholic and very tasty 'cider' which can be used to great effect in (©):
1¼ oz. Eau de Vie de Poire (Pear William)
¾ oz. Irish Whiskey (Redbreast or another full-flavored variety)
Perry cider (see above)
2-3 slices: Poached Pear
Combine spirits & poached Pear slices in a Highball glass half-filled with ice. Fill up with Perry, stir briefly and enjoy un-garnished & un-varnished.
Embracing Seasonal Flavors
With the growing popularity of fine-dining establishments, one doesn't need to delve into ancient history or even the kitchen to enjoy the taste of fresh pears in libations or cuisine. Great restaurants & bars all over the world have been embracing a seasonal outlook on fresh produce for quite some time - a concept which really brings some delicious, high-quality drinks and dishes to both bar & table. One such establishment is my favorite 'local: the highly-rated Catherine Lombardi's in downtown New Brunswick, New Jersey. The outspoken principles on fresh, local ingredients of co-owners Francis Schott and Mark Pascal (of Restaurant Guys Radio fame), together with a top-notch bar & kitchen-staff, regularly produce truly fantastic culinary creations, such as Mr. Schott's own (delicious) autumnal cocktail:
The Irish Twin
1½ oz. Jameson's Irish Whiskey
2 oz. organic Pear nectar
½ oz. Honey syrup (1:1 - Honey:Water)
1 dash: ground Cinnamon
1 slice: fresh Pear
Combine liquid ingredients and dash of Cinnamon in a mixing glass with lots of ice & shake well. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass & garnish with the slice of fresh Pear (dusted on one side with a little cinnamon).
If you find yourself in the New Jersey area sometime this Fall, a stop into New Brunswick and the beautiful bar at Lombardi's would not be amiss. Ask for an Irish Twin, perhaps an antipasta or two, and escape autumn's chill with some of the great produce of the season...
PS - For those of you gentle readers with some homebrewing experience who want to have a go at brewing a real Perry, the UK-based Real Cider and Perry Pages contain some excellent reading material on the topic...
Sunday, September 28, 2008
It sometimes seems that those of us who write cocktail blogs are especially prone to following similar lines of booze-soaked thinking. I sometimes think it must be some sort of collective-subconscious inspired in part by our prodigious drinking habits...
Case in point - I embarked upon this post with the aim of writing about a certain pair of Tiki cocktails of which I am rather fond when, hey presto, I check my blog reader to see that Tiare - the fabulously-talented mixologist from A Mountain of Crushed Ice - has beat me to the punchbowl as it were. Her research & descriptions of those classic cocktails, the Dr. Funk and Funk's Son specifically, are both spot-on and well-done (as always). That she prepared the drinks in a pair of beautifully-executed ice towers (!), makes her post an incredibly hard act to follow. Nevertheless, I'll make an attempt to contribute something to the topic of the inestimable Doctor Funk...
In my recent and fairly long-winded vacation recap, I mentioned a number of spirits I had acquired in my travels. One of these was a French Pastis flavored with Violets - an interesting spirit of 45% ABV which reminds me considerably of a combination of the best elements of both Herbsaint and Crème de Violette. After getting a feel for its strength & (very) pleasant flavor, I began searching for a use for the stuff in cocktails. Despite a few marginal successes with some recipes from the Savoy cocktail book, the savory use of Absinthe/Pastis as an addition to many of Tiki barman Donn Beach's libations continued to spring to mind...
One of the finest examples of this modifier is the good Samoan doctor's cocktail, which Trader Vic speculated was originally invented to cure the cathard (the loss of ones' mind from the heat). After a bit of experimentation with the various recipes for the original, alongside a variety of substitutions for different ingredients, I settled with a riff on the (slightly-simplified) Dr. Funk recipe which Jeff "Beachbum" Berry prepared for an episode of The Cocktail Spirit filmed at the close of this year's Tales of the Cocktail. Maybe there is something to this boozy collective-subconscious thing after all? In any case, here she is, a very funky libation named after an old song by another hard act to follow - Bad Manners (©):
1½ oz. flavorful white Rum (Rhum Barbancourt white)
¾ Tsp. Pastis au Violette
¾ Tsp. Hibiscus Grenadine
¾ oz. fresh Lemon juice
¾ oz. Violet "Tea" Syrup (see below)
1 oz. Seltzer
2 Tsp. heavy dark Rum (Cruzan Blackstrap)
Combine all ingredients except Seltzer & dark Rum in a cocktail shaker filled with cracked ice. Shake well & strain into a chimney glass ¾-filled with crushed ice. Top with Seltzer, give a brief stir and float the dark Rum on top, adding more crushed ice if necessary. Garnish with a long twist of Lemon & an edible Violet.
Violet "Tea" Syrup
1 Cup: white Sugar
¾ Cup: Water
2½ Tablespoons: Blue Violet Herb Mix
1 Tsp. dried Hibiscus flowers, coarsely ground
Combine ingredients in a saucepan & bring to a gentle simmer over medium-low heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Simmer for five minutes & remove from heat. Allow Violet Mixture to steep until liquid cools to room temperature before fine-straining out solids & bottling (a small tea ball/infuser will minimize this step considerably).
Can't find a Violet-flavored Pastis or get ahold of the required herbal blend? The following substitutions work fairly well & produce almost the same beverage with only marginally more work. For the Violet Pastis, a mixture of approximately 2/3 Herbsaint & 1/3 Crème de Violette is fine. For the Violet "Tea" Syrup, a 3:1 blend of Monin Violet Syrup (or an equivalent commercial syrup) with strong Green tea will more or less replicate the flavor you're seeking...
Cheers & Enjoy!
Monday, September 22, 2008
...and on, after a brief stopover on the topic of this month's Mixology Monday as well as a ferocious bar-room brawl against an inexplicable episode of writer's block, here she is (finally, you say) - part deux of my long-delayed vacation recap from the often-curious perspective of food & drink...
Naturally, when planning this vacation, I had elected to take an excursion (arranged by the cruise) entitled "Cuisine & Bazaars of Istanbul". The tour began perilously (for me anyway) early in the morning, arriving in the Old City (where Istanbul was Constantinople) and walking through the marvel that is Galatasaray Square. Off this pedestrian-only street a multitude of confectionary shops, markets and other stores abound and the tour visited many of them, including a walk through the old Cicek Pasaji (once the Flower Market, the space is now filled with restaurants, coffeehouses & taverns) to reach Istanbul's outdoor Balik Pazari - the Fish & Produce market:
Following the tour & subsequent jaunts through the various Bazaars, being left with the option of several hours on my own in the city prior to boarding the ship, I thought to get a look at the quieter, less tourist-clogged areas. After wandering for short time towards the Old City, I stumbled upon a small back street which terminated at the coffeehouse, or kiraathane pictured at left. Though thirsty from walking, I thought of moving on - not wanting to push my caffeine-rush any further with yet another glass of coffee or tea (delicious though they may have been) - yet something, perhaps the atmosphere, kept my feet firmly planted. As I took a carpet-draped seat and the proprietor approached, I recalled there was libation particular to Turkey which I had not yet sampled - the native spirit called Raki.
Vanilla & Star Anise Syrup
1 Cup: white Sugar
1 Cup: Water
1x Madagascar Vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1x Star Anise pod, whole
Combine ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a light simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat and allow to cool before transferring to a clean airtight container & adding ¼ oz. Vodka as a preservative. Allow to rest, agitating occasionally, for twelve hours before removing the Anise pod. Allow to rest for six days, agitating occasionally, before removing the Vanilla bean & bottling.
Many thanks again for the fabulous hospitality and phenomenal drink Max! For those of you gentle readers who have not checked out his bilingual cocktail blog or tried any of the inspired recipes he regularly posts there - get to it posthaste!
Much as with Rome, I had been to France once before - Paris specifically - yet let the record show that the culture of southern France is worlds removed from that of the north. The cuisine for example, while undeniably French, tends towards more Mediterranean leanings with a serious emphasis on fresh seafood and flavorful herbs like the omnipresent Lavender & Herbs de Provençe blend(s). The wines produced in this area and its' surrounding regions were already among my favorites, particularly vintages hailing from the Côtes du Provençe and nearby Côtes du Rhone appellations. This appreciation did nothing to prepare me for the incredible wines I would enjoy at the cozy Pour le Vin (whose list of specials for the day is pictured at left) in beautiful Arles, a small city dating to Roman times, deep in the heart of Provençe...
Following the glorious wine and food, I journeyed around the tiny streets of Arles for a while until later in the day when I came across the following famous cafe. [The first person to correctly name this places' significance in the comments section will receive a bottle of my own homemade Honey Tangerine bitters.] Regardless of the quiet establishment's history, the strong coffee they served up was superb - particularly when sweetened by a splash of Orgeat syrup in a handily-named Cafe au Orgeat. My only regret about this particular stop was that I wasn't in Arles (or even Marseilles) at nightfall and so could not have gotten a much more apropos look at the cafe...
Les Baux de Provençe
Before my return to the ship, the final stop of the "Provençe on your Own" tour (read: glorified bus transport) I had undertaken was at the medieval village of Les Baux de Provençe. Built on a truly incredible location, this one-street tourist-town, complete with the ruins of a medieval castle, is precariously perched atop a limestone cliff, overlooking the scenic valley pictured at left. The shops here largely carry an interesting variety of art, homegoods and spices alongside artisanal spirits & liqueurs. Absinthe and Pastis were everywhere, with literally dozens of both lining the shelves of most every shop, as well as the numerous types of specialty glasses, spoons, fountains and drippers which facilitate their enjoyment. Though I contemplated purchasing one of the many beautiful blown-glass absinthe fountains I saw, I limited my purchases to several more interesting (& easier to transport home) items of local origin:
Though I was in Barcelona for only one full day after the ship disembarked, it certainly was a culinary dream of sorts, one whose brevity required me to enjoy it in a mad dash about the city. Barcelona is a wonderous city, particularly from an architectural and aesthetic standpoint, with a plethora of things to see and do - made simpler by the (genius) tourist bus lines which run preset routes through the city. A sort of combination multilingual tour-guide & taxi service, these brightly-colored buses take one nearly anywhere you would care to go, highlighting stops one may not have known of along the way & allowing one to see as much of the massive city as possible.
After lunch I worked my way towards the central portion of the city with a purpose - a stop at the famed bar Dry Martini. Dimly-lit and quiet at the time of my late afternoon visit, this gorgeous, classy spot is lined from floor to ceiling in antique bar equipment, books and cocktail-artwork - making it a kind of museum of the bartender's craft. The specialty drinks served across its' long hardwood bar were excellent, a blend of classic recipes - Martinis, Frappes, Highballs - with modern interpretations on the above.
Unable to get a reservation on such short-notice at Dry Martini's highly-rated restaurant Speakeasy, I inquired with the hotel concierge for an alternative dinner spot. Though, to me, an unlikely name for a restaurant, "The Crazy Crab" would prove to far outstrip even the most glowing recommendations I received for it. I returned to the harbor area not far from where I had lunch to the last building along the Port Olímpic piers. What followed ranked among the top five meals of my entire life, no fooling:
Cheers & Thanks!