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...


Anonymous said... have not been lazy.....!!! what nice works.

I especially want to try the Blood and Sand with Yamazaki. Now i don`t have the 12, but i have the 10 and the Hakushu, hope they make a nice B&S too.

Beautiful photos.

Keep up the good works!

Cheers T

Chris Stanley said...

Not me! ; )

Never seen the 10 and the Hakushu is a bit out of my price range for the time being. But I'd wager they would work well. I really think the fruity taste you get from the 12 works wonders alongside the Cherry Heering in the B&S. Overall makes for a lovely, spicy B&S, especially with some Carpano Antica Formula for the Vermouth.

Let me know how the other ones fare there - this is the first time I'd ventured away from a blended Scotch for the drink.


Kaiser Penguin said...

Those Kilo Kai cocktails sound quite tasty, Chris.

How did the photographer get the fire to be so blue? Was there a light on it?

Well done, by the way; I've been itching to try the blue blazer for a while now. What mugs would you suggest?

Chris Stanley said...

I really liked that Kilo Kai - it's everything a bottled spiced rum should be methinks. Little low proof but still very nice...

I'm hardly an expert on photography (as my usual pics will attest) but I have a few ideas for the blazer. I believe it was a combination of several factors.

Lighting was one - I did it after the sun had set with windows behind me, so low ambient light there. The room that the bar was in had the lights off, but the three rooms on each side of it stayed lit; a little ambient light there. Finally the camera (and photographer) were just brilliant - one of the high-level Nikons I think.

You can see the difference bewtween the two forward/up close shots and the 'from the side, wide view' shot - two different cameras.

As for mugs I use these:

They're curved on the exterior but straight on the exterior. Liquid pours more or less straight down once you get the hang of it and if it spills to the outside you can tip it further and it slides down easily. They're also super-insulated - don't get very warm a all.


Anonymous said...

This was a fantastic post, Chris!

Every one of these cocktails looks delicious. Your take on the Rosewater Rickey is really neat, as is the idea for a pistachio orgeat syrup.

I'm curious about the bird's eye chili and tamarind syrup -- do you use it in anything else (other than the gin drink you mentioned)?



Chris Stanley said...

Thanks Brett!

I'd been thinking about Pistachioes in Orgeat (I think I'm very very slowly making every regional/possible orgeat sub imaginable) for some time - t works great with rosewater - a very Middle Eastern flavor combo.

As for the Chili-Tamrind syrup - I had some illusions about trying a variation on Scott Beaties' "Hot Indian Date" cocktail, from his (ludicrous) new book. Didn't work out, but I've stil got the syrup floating about - plano on playing with it. It's remarkably good for winter cocktails - not outrageously spicy but just enough kick to play well with the tamarind. I'll be sure to post on it soon.

Cheers & Thanks!

erik.ellestad said...

I like both the Coupes and Conical cocktail glasses. Is that commercial glassware or vintage?

Chris Stanley said...

Erik - All the coupes and cocktail glasses are vintage from one point or another. The majority of my glassware is sourced from secondhand or antique shops.

A glassblowing friend tells me the conical ones are molded/pressed glass, while the coupes pictured are handmade.

I'll actually be wrting an article on glassware sometime soon - where do you usually find yours?

erik.ellestad said...

I mostly find glasses on eBay or in second hand and antique stores.

I'd really like to find a few like the conical glasses, as I really don't have any like them.

Chris Stanley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris Stanley said...

I find those pretty regularly in two sizes: ~2 1/4 and 3 1/2 oz. varieties.

The ~2 1/4 oz. ones are by far more common - I've got a load of them and spot more almost every time I'm out at the local secondhand shops...