Sunday, January 25, 2009


...was all my joy, Greensleeves was my delight...

Sorry; that's about as old a song as they come, dating as it does to the close of the 1500's. Yet despite its' age, the ballad is quite a good one - still sung in a few of the right places - unchanged from its' original lyrics & rhythm. This practice is in many ways similar to that of one of the oldest spirits - Green Chartreuse - still produced today more or less as it was in the eighteenth century when a (c. 1605) receipt for an "elixir of long life" was translated by the Carthusian monks of Le Grand Chartreuse monastary.

Much as with the aforementioned song, Chartreuse can be quite a rarity in the liquor cabinets of all but the most-seasoned cocktailians. Indeed, to the uninitiated Chartreuse can appear to be a little intimidating - a brilliant green in color, with an incredibly-complex flavor deriving from over 130 herbs, spices & flowers; to say nothing for its steep 55% ABV (and similarly-sized price tag). Don't let any of that scare you, though - the spirit is delicious - both on its own, and more importantly, in the many classic cocktails what call for it. In libations such as the Last Word or Bijou Cocktail, the use of Chartreuse typically makes for a beverage that well-exceeds the sum of its' parts. For those of you looking to delve further into classic cocktails of this sort, good starting points for researching recipes utilizing Chartreuse include Harry Craddock's Savoy Cocktail Book and A.S. Crockett's Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book.

But, venerable classics aside, when my compatriots over at the Mixoloseum announced that a recent Thusday Drink Night was to be sponsored by the folks who produce & market Chartreuse, I was shall we say, delighted at the opportunity to work with an ingredient so dear to my heart. Indeed, many of the drinks (and there were a great many) postulated & sampled that evening were deemed a great success, yet rather amazingly, one of my own concoctions came out of the evening as the winner! And so, I would like to share with you; my joy, my delight...

1½ oz. Plymouth Gin
¾ oz. Green Chartreuse
¼ oz. Carpano Antica Formula
½ oz. Orgeat syrup
1 dash: Angostura bitters
Combine ingredients in a mixing glass with plenty of ice & shake. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and enjoy both un-garnished & un-varnished.

Once you've sampled Chartreuse in a cocktail like this, one of the others developed a la minute & highlighted in the TDN wrap-up, or in one of the many classic libations which are (thankfully) re-appearing on bar menus all over - I promise you too will never again be without this lovely spirit...


Monday, January 19, 2009

MxMo XXXV: Broaden Your Horizons...

...with a pinch of this, a dash of that - trying something new, whether it be a spirit one hasn't worked with before, a culinary technique applied towards some cocktailian end, or some other creative feat of mixological cleverness. That's the (frankly, rather clever) theme for this month's installment of Mixology Monday, as chosen by the Scribe over at A Mixed Dram. I can't help but think that this theme is certain to bring some serious entries - everything from molecular mixology items (or more fundamental, if still interesting, applications of technique) to rare & esoteric (even by my estimation) ingredients to odd cocktails from antiquity or otherwise.

I started my own considerations about topics for this event with a desire to try something simple - unique & new to be sure - but nothing too crazy, I said to myself. I had settled on a cocktail addition with which I've scarcely ever played - rimming glasses - whether to provide a contrast of flavor, added sweetness, an aromatic component, or any number of other applications.

But my copy of The French Laundry Cookbook just wouldn't stop staring at me from its place on the shelf, so that plan swiftly vanished in the resultant flurry of turning pages. So much for simple; but then again our man did say culinary techniques & tricks were fair game...

For those of you who may not possess or be familiar with this culinary gem, to say nothing of the genius behind it, The French Laundry Cookbook is the work of (3-star Michelin) Chef Thomas Keller - the fellow behind such landmark restaurants as Per Se, Bouchon, Ad Hoc and, of course, the French Laundry. The book highlights Chef Keller's use of and passion for quality ingredients - treated well and lovingly-prepared. It includes a wealth of gorgeous photographs, delightful anecdotes and highly-detailed recipes - many adopted for use by the home cook. And while none of these are specifically geared towards the cocktailian side of culinary tradition, many of the ingredients, concepts, flavor combinations, tips & tricks found within can be applied towards such ends. One such application includes the section in which my roving eye lingered - which focuses on making & using:

"are a primarily visual device, to make a dish look more appealing. They're typically a by-product related to the dish - tomato powder for a tomato salad [...] But some of our powders have a more pronounced effect on the finished dish. [Some...] are used as both a spice and as a powder [...] the oils in the spices add an exciting aromatic element to the dish." -Thomas Keller, The French Laundry Cookbook, p. 231

Upon reading that & summarily making several of the presented recipes with varying degrees of success, I was inspired to formulate a worthy cocktail rim. What follows is adapted from Chef Keller's published recipe & technique for Citrus Powder - a substance which, on its own, isn't too good for rimming cocktails with. But as a component of a more-complex mixture of sugar & spices, it makes a wonderfully-fragrant addition to any number of cocktails:

Lemon Powder
½ Cup: Lemon peel, pith removed & finely-julienned
¼ Cup: Meyer Lemon peel, pith removed & finely-julienned
Place Lemon peels in two separate saucepans and cover with cold water. Bring to a rapid boil over high heat and remove from heat, straining peels from the pans. Cover with water and repeat blanching two more times. Allow peels to cool to room temperature & pat dry with a towel before arranging separately on a parchment paper-lined, microwave-safe tray or plate. Microwave on lowest power setting for 7-10 minutes (depending on microwave) until peels are completely dry - check occasionally & if peels become dry early remove them. Allow to cool to room temperature before combining in a food processor or spice grinder. Process until peel is pulverized into fine powder (there will be a slight amount that will not fully process), then pour into a fine mesh strainer and stir with a spoon to sift into an airtight container. Makes a generous Tablespoon of powder; utilize in the following recipe (©):

Winter Rimming Blend
½ Cup: white Sugar
1¼ Tsp: Nutmeg, freshly ground
1 Tsp: Lemon Powder (as above)
½ Tsp: white Cardamom, freshly ground
Zest of one Tangerine, patted dry
Using a zester or microplane, zest the Tangerine onto some paper towels and allow to stand for a hour before patting dry to remove as much of the oils as possible. In a food processor or spice grinder, process the sugar until superfine. Add first the ground spices, processing until well-incorporated, before adding the Lemon powder & processing to mix. When Tangerine zest is no longer noticeably moist add to an airtight container, along with the sugar mixture. Stir well with a fork, being sure to incorporate the zest throughout & store for up to one week. Use in a variety of cocktails - extreme success has thus far has been had in adding a pinch to the top of Mimosas & Sidecars, as well as a rim on the following:

I absolutely love a good Ramos Gin Fizz - a harmonious blend of Gin, Cream, Egg white and Citrus - developed and made famous at the turn of the century by Henry C. Ramos, first in 1888 at the Imperial Cabinet Saloon, then later at his Stag Saloon. Though the drink has experienced a resurgence in popularity in the past few years - and it is amazing to me that it ever became unknown - I have not yet encountered any examples of variations on the (admittedly, perfect as-is) concept. In keeping with my habit of messing with classic formulas, I replaced the Lime juice originally called for with a bit of Tangerine juice, reduced the sugar and, in a nod to another classic - the venerable Pink Lady - combined a bit of Apple Brandy with a blend of Gins. The hints of Tangerine, Orange-flower Water and Gin botanicals are well-accented by the use of the fragrant Winter Rimming blend, which also plays off the reduced sugar & increased Lemon juice in this small, yet delicious, homage to Mr. Ramos' creation (©):

Winter Stag Fizz
½ oz. Plymouth Gin
½ oz. Distillery 209 Gin
½ oz. Laird's 100° Bonded Apple Brandy
¾ oz. fresh Lemon juice
¼ oz. fresh Tangerine juice
2 oz. Heavy Cream
¾ Tablespoon: superfine Sugar
2 drops: Orange-flower Water
1 fresh Egg white
1 oz. Seltzer
Winter Rimming Blend, for rim & garnish (see above)
Prepare a highball glass by running a wedge of Tangerine along the rim, then dipping it in the Wintertime Rimming Blend at a 45° angle & tapping off any excess. Combine all ingredients except Seltzer in a mixing glass & dry-shake hard for thirty seconds. Add plenty of ice & shake very hard for approximately one minute; Add seltzer to prepared glass before straining shaken mixture in. Add a pinch of the Winter Rimming Blend to the foamy top as a further aromatic garnish.

Cheers & Enjoy!

Monday, January 5, 2009

What are you doing New Years, pt. II

Now, in my previous post you might recall I inquired as to the New Years festivities with which many of you were doubtlessly engaged. I also made reference to my own plans, which in my humble opinion, went over smashingly well. To sum up, I spent the past five days 'down the (New Jersey) shore, in the company of some dear friends, mixing up cocktails and concoctions of all kinds for one & all...

Sumptuous food was served by talented cooks, warm & wonderful conversation was had between friends both old & new; and the drinks were more than plentiful. Cocktails, Fizzes, Juleps, Sours, Daisies, Coolers, Toddies, Blue Blazers, Tiki drinks, a trio of Punches; even a Pousse-Cafe or two. But don't take my word for it; thanks to an almost papparazzi-like spat of photography by many talented friends, you may press on & see for yourself 'o gentle reader...

Fun with Fire
"The Blue Blazer does not have a very euphonious or classic name, but it tastes better to the palate than it sounds to the ear. A beholder gazing for the first time upon an experienced artist compounding this beverage, would naturally come to the conclusion that it was a nectar for Pluto rather than Bacchus..." - Harry Craddock, 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book

As I (and others) have said in the past, the Blue Blazer is quite the production - essentially a Scotch Toddy with the addition of an impressive spot of presentation. Yet at it's core that's all the libation really is; while it tastes just fine, the drink is about as good as the sum of it's parts, gaining distinction only from it's preparation & heavenly aroma. The use of flame in cooking (& elsewhere) can take known flavors in new directions - the caramelization of sugars can do some impressive things after all - such as in concoctions at the Pegu Club's recent Blazer Mix-off. I aimed to incorporate a similar effect in the toasty apple & spicey caramel flavors of this riff on Jerry Thomas' immortal Blue Blazer (©):

Burning Down the Orchard
5¼ oz. Laird's 100° Bonded Apple Brandy
¾ oz. Lemon Hart 151° Demerara Rum
2½ oz. Apple Cider, warmed
2½ oz. boiling Water
In each of five pre-warmed mugs:
1 oz. Apple Cider, warmed
1 Tsp. Agave Nectar
1 pinch: Cinnamon, freshly-ground
1 pinch: Nutmeg, freshly-ground
Prepare with all due caution & care as a normal Blue Blazer, passing the flaming mixture approximately 8-9 times between the mugs.

On the theme of caramelization as a flavor modifier, I set about preparing a slight variation on Jamie Boudreau's (already-wonderful) Rosewater Rickey...

This beverage is compounded by bruleeing cherries with sugar in the mixing glass. In this instance using my own brandied Sour Cherries (in a Cherry-Tamarind syrup) and a mixture of superfine cane Sugar with ground white Cardamom & Iranian Saffron. For the curious, this is made by combining approximately ½ Cup cane Sugar, ¾ Tablespoon ground white Cardamom and ~13 threads of Saffron in a small food processor until all is incorporated and finely-ground. For the brulee flame: a Misto sprayer filled with a 2:1:1 mixture of Lemon Hart 151°, Angostura & Honey Tangerine bitters...

Eastern Rosewater Rickey
3 oz. Gin (Martin Miller's)
1 barspoon: Rosewater
¼ oz. fresh Lime juice
¼ oz. fresh Tangerine juice
Brulee in a mixing glass:
6 Brandied Sour Cherries w/ Tamarind
1 rounded barspoon: Cardamom-Saffron superfine Sugar (as above)
Bitters mist (as above)
Carefully brulee Cherries until superfine sugar caramelizes. Fill with ice and add remaining ingredients. Shake well & strain into a Collins glass filled with ice. Top with soda water & garnish with brandied sour Cherries. Brilliant technique & drink Mr. Boudreau!

Curious Classics
As I compounded all manner of beverages, a great many questions were asked about them and the history & craft of the cocktail in general. I was only too happy to oblige the curiosity, passing around copies of works like David Wondrich's Imbibe!, Gary Regan's The Joy of Mixology and Ted Haigh's (now rarified) Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails for perusal. Likewise, when a drink was made which had some particularly interesting snippet of history behind it, I was quick to regale (read: try not to bore) my friends with a little story about each.

Take for example, the class of drinks known as Corpse Revivers and "Eye-Openers", or the creation of the Japanese cocktail (very possibly my favorite cocktail) for visiting dignitaries in 1860 by Jerry Thomas. The innovation of the Florodora (a real crowd pleaser, by-the-by) for a stubborn chorus girl in 1901; even the Negroni's rise from the Americano (at left & below) came up at one point or another during the week:

Corpse Reviver #2
1 oz. Gin (Plymouth)
1 oz. Lillet Blanc
1 oz. Cointreau
1 oz. fresh Lemon juice
1 drop: Absinthe (La Fee)
Combine ingredients (save Absinthe) in a mixing glass with plenty of ice and shake well. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, add drop of Absinthe (or a quality Pastis) & garnish with a stemless Cherry. Try (& fail) to keep your friends from drinking it before photographing.

Japanese Cocktail
2 oz. VSOP Brandy or VS Cognac
½ oz. Orgeat syrup
¼ oz. fresh Lime juice
4 dashes: homemade Boker's bitters (or substitute 2 dashes of Angostura bitters)
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with plenty of cracked ice & shake well. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a twist of fresh Lime.

1½ oz. Gin (Plymouth or Boodles)
Juice of 1 fresh Lime
2 Teaspoons: Raspberry (or Blackberry) syrup
Ginger Ale (preferably homemade)
Combine ingredients (save Ginger Ale) in a mixing glass with plenty of ice & shake [typically this built & stirred; my 'berry syrup is quite thick so I tend to shake]. Strain into a highball glass filled with ice and fill with Ginger Ale. Garnish with a cherry & a slice of fresh Orange.

1½ oz. Sweet Vermouth (Carpano Antica Formula)
1½ oz. Campari
Soda Water
Build ingredients in a lowball glass filled with ice. Fill with soda and stir. Garnish with a long twist of fresh Orange or Lemon.

Experiments, Innovations & Smashing Samples
As I'd stated previously, I had been hard at work preparing all kinds of ingredients - syrups, bitters, mixers of all sorts - to go alongside the prodigious quantity of booze I had procured & collected throughout the year. Now certain of the syrups (& drinks they create) I've mentioned here before in various articles, but among both the spirits & syrups are a number of recent additions which made for some fantastic drinks. As part of my association with the Mixoloseum, I have - as several posts here should indicate - been recieving samples of various spirits for experimentation, a feat which I rather gleefully carried out at every opportunity this week...

Yamazaki Whisky & Cocktails
One of many cocktails calling for Orgeat syrup, the delightful Cameron's Kick is something of a unique item, seeing as it utilizes both Scotch & Irish Whisk(e)y's as its' base spirits. The Yamazaki 12-year, produced by the Suntory company of Japan, is similarly unique - a "Scotch" not from Scotland, but nonetheless quite delightful for use in cocktails. It makes a killer Blood & Sand (as pictured at left) likely due to the smooth hints of dried fruit (Cherries?) in its flavor, so I thought to try it out in a Pistachio & Rose-accented variation on the venerable Cameron's Kick. After the first, I had to make them three at a time, so it would seem the combination worked rather well (©):

Kikku no Cameron
2½ oz. Yamazaki 12 year Whisky
½ oz. Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey
¾ oz. Pistachio Orgeat syrup (see below)
¾ oz. fresh Lemon juice
Combine ingredients in a mixing glass with plenty of ice and shake well. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a twist of fresh Orange.

Pistachio Orgeat
6¼ Cups: Pistachios, peeled
3¾ Cups: Water
3 Cups: white Sugar
1½ Tablespoons: Rosewater
½ Tablespoons: Orange flower Water
Prepare as a normal
Orgeat syrup then cool, bottle & add 2½ oz. Brandy. Makes just under 1½ Liters of syrup.

Kilo Kai Rum & Cocktails
I've always been rather so-so about supposed 'spiced' rums - they always fall short of the mark for me in just about everything but a Rum & Coke. Even worse, many examples often have a cloyingly-artificial flavor about them. Not so with Kilo Kai, a relatively new, lightly-aged spiced rum (sadly, not yet distributed in the NJ-area) produced in Curaçao. Posessing a great spice character - redolent of Vanilla and Cinnamon, my first thought was of some of the Tiki spice combinations popularized by Donn the Beachcomber - blending Cinnamon and Grapefruit for example. Several of these combinations worked so well, I ran dry on the stuff. While I'll have to wait for a few months until it becomes available, for those of you who can get it, give either of these libations a try (©):

Donn's Red Velvet
1¼ oz. Kilo Kai spice Rum
1¼ oz. Jamaica
¼ oz. fresh Pink Grapefruit juice
2 Teaspoons: Cinnamon syrup
1 dash: Peychaud's bitters
1 dash: Fee's Whiskey Barrel-Aged bitters
Combine ingredients in a mixing glass with plenty of ice & shake well. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a twist of fresh Grapefruit.

The Tropica Spice
1¾ oz. Kilo Kai Spiced Rum
¼ oz. JW&N Overproof Rum
½ oz. fresh Orange juice
¼ oz. fresh Pink Grapefruit juice
1 barspoon: Cardamom-Saffron Sugar
1¼ oz. Grapefruit soda (Jarritos)
Prepare a 6-7 oz. glass by rimming it with Cardamom Saffron sugar and filling it halfway with cracked ice. Build ingredients in prepared glass, top with grapefruit soda & stir briefly.

Other (sadly undocumented) experiments included a pair of Volcano Bowls utilizing a 3:1 Jaggery (Indian plam sugar) syrup in place of the usual Maple syrup - the creation of at least one of which was broadcast to a friend-of-a-friend in Brazil via webcam. The finger-lighting trick works quite well by-the-by. A bottle of BarSol's wonderful Quebranta Pisco arrived on my doorstep on the day before my departure, and as I had just finished making a batch of Gomme syrup, I set up a Pineapple for a lovely punchbowl full of Pisco Punch. A number of succesful experiments took place involving a Thai Bird's Eye chili & Tamarind syrup paired with Gin, Cherry Heering & Blood Orange as well as number of other innovations which might have been lost (or at least un-photographed) in the weeds of serving forty-odd folks drinks for five days.

Nevertheless, some wonderous photos were taken (thanks to all who took care of that), a positively-brilliant time was had every day, night & early morning and many happy memories were made. Cheers and thanks to all who attended, and I look forward to doing it all again next year...

Cheers & may everyone's new year be better than that which came before it! Except for those lousy Carolingians...