July 31, 2009

Just a minor variation...

Remember the Hanky Panky cocktail of a few weeks ago, where we started to play around with Fernet Branca? Well, alter the proportions on that one a little bit, swap dry vermouth in for the sweet, and you've got this beauty.
Fifth Avenue Variation

1 1/2 oz gin
1/2 oz dry vermouth
1/2 oz Fernet Branca

Combine all in a mixing glass with ice. Stir to combine, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Simple enough, and a pretty minor change from the Hanky Panky, but oh, how different it is! It's a lot less sweet, for one, which may be a deal breaker for some of you out there...I used to have a major sweet tooth for cocktails, but mercifully, I've outgrown it. There are a lot of flavors and a lot of botanicals in there, but the overarching flavor I take away from it is almost a sweet, woodsy taste...I really quite like it, but I'll be the first to admit it's not for everyone. Still, though, if you feel up to it, give it a try.

EDIT: It merits pointing out, if only so all of you can point and laugh, that when I initally posted this drink three hours ago, instead of "Fernet Branca" I typed "sweet vermouth." I'm not sure where that came from, as I most assuredly made it with the Fernet. I suppose I can blame the booze, but I must thank Tim from Ginger Bitters for pointing out in the comments below that the original drink, as posted, was a Perfect Martini. While it's a damned tasty drink, it's not what I made tonight. Thanks, Tim! Cheers!

Fifth Avenue (variant)

July 29, 2009

Here's a quick one for those sultry summer evenings...

Do you have a bottle of limoncello? If yes, fantastic; stick it in your freezer. If no, go out and get one. They're cheap, and some even omit the yellow food dye (including, remarkably, Danny DeVito's Limoncello, which also has a fantastically goofy theme song...just click on the lemon on the main page under the question "How does a Sorrento lemon sound?"). Limoncello's a liqueur made from the zest of lemons, not the juice, so it's got a very strong lemon flavor and smell, but not a lot of bitterness. It also blends beautifully with gin, so here's what you do...
Gin-Lemon Cooler

2 oz limoncello
1 oz gin
2 oz seltzer

in a small glass, gently mix the gin and limoncello. Top up with the seltzer.
Simple as that. It works best if everything is well-chilled beforehand, so stash that gin and limoncello in your freezer. If you want it a little more sour, feel free to add the juice of a quarter of a lemon, or so. Either way, if your AC breaks some summer evening when it's still 79ºF and humid as a steam room outside, this can help beat the heat, even if just for a little while.
Gin-Lemon Cooler

July 28, 2009

Beware the heavy-handed pour!

I was planning on making something entirely different tonight...a great drink I heard about from Tales of the Cocktail 2009 called The Violet Hour. However, my pouring hand had other plans, it seems. I was attempting to add 3/4 oz of sweet vermouth to my bourbon, already in my mixing glass, and, well...I overdid it. So I'll be featuring The Violet Hour some other time (get it? Hour? Time? Huh? Oh, forget it.) In an attempt to salvage the drink, I turned it into a variant of another bourbon and sweet vermouth concoction, the Fanciulli cocktail. The story behind the name is explained in detail in this article from the Wall Street Journal a few months back, so I'll just show you my variant, which I think holds up pretty well to the original.
Fanciulli Cocktail (variant)

2 oz bourbon
1 1/2 oz sweet vermouth
1/4 oz dry vermouth
1/4 oz Fernet Branca
3 dashes Angostura bitters

Combine all with ice, stirring well until thoroughly chilled, strain into chilled cocktail glass.
Normally, this drink is just the bourbon, the sweet vermouth and the Fernet Branca, in slightly different (and mostly smaller proportions). Reluctant to let my precious Bulleit Bourbon go to waste (even though it was on sale, no sense wasting good whiskey), and having already mixed it with the bitters when I overpoured the sweet vermouth, I tried to temper it a bit. The dry vermouth countered it somewhat, and the small amount of Fernet augmented the bitters and balanced it out. All in all, this version holds up pretty well to the original, and for a simple variation on the hoary old Manhattan cocktail, it really has a fresh new angle to it. For a mistake, it's, happily, a most palatable one.
Fanciulli (variant)

July 25, 2009

Here's another booze-free one! Y'know, for the kids!

So I'd been meaning to make this one for a while, since I didn't want my Tahitian limeade to go to waste. So I rummaged through my DRY Soda flavors and got an idea. I looked at the Lemongrass flavor, and I thought, "Hmmm...lemongrass...Thai food...coconut, lime, yes, that'd work nicely!" And went and made this:
Thai Fizz

2 1/2 oz Tahitian limeade (remember, it's 3 to 5 parts coconut water to 1 part lime juice)
7 oz Lemongrass DRY Soda
dash of Peychaud's bitters (for color, more than anything)

Combine all in glass. Serve.
And it's a really refreshing drink. It's got a nice complexity from those flavors vying for attention, and it's really quite Thai like in character. That said, next time, I'd add a little bit of ginger beer for some back of the mouth heat...and if you really wanted booze, you could sneak in an ounce of gin...that would go nicely. But for an unusual, refreshing, booze-free tipple, I like it.

Thai Fizz

July 20, 2009

Just a quick one.

It's less common now, but for years, there were cocktails galore named after celebrities...some because the stars in question actually ordered them, some just to cash in on the identity. I've had a few of these (the Bogie was one I've already featured, the Mary Pickford may come later) and some are actually quite tasty. That's not to say that you should just run out and drink celebrity-christened cocktails willy-nilly...can you imagine what a Paris Hilton would be like without shuddering and scheduling an STD test? I certainly can't.

But tonight's libation is one that comes by its name honestly. It was actually ordered by the star in question, though you probably haven't heard of her. Her name was Vera Rush, and though she doesn't appear on IMDb, she was a silent film actress, who featured in such works as The Graven Image and Intemperance. It's quite a simple thing, as drinks go, but eminently quaffable.
Vera Rush

2 oz dark Jamaican rum (Myers's is traditional, but Gosling's, Coruba or even Cruzan Blackstrap can be used with no ill effect)
1/2 oz unsweetened pineapple juice

Pour rum over ice in an Old-Fashioned glass, and float the pineapple juice on top.
A simple drink from a simpler age. Still tasty, still classy, and still simple to order, even if your bartender gives you a blank stare when you mention it by name. Just order it as David Wondrich, of Esquire Magazine et al, informs us Vera herself did; "Myers's on the rocks with a splash of pineapple juice." Tip tip hurrah.

Vera Rush

July 18, 2009

I have found a new spirit!

I've been looking for Fernet Branca for a while now, as it's a rather esoteric italian amaro, or bitter liqueur. It's intended as a digestif, and has a ton of secret ingredients, which, according to the website, include chamomile, wild aloe, bitter orange, myrrh, iris, gentian, European lime-tree, cinnamon, galangal, and saffron. The most dominant taste, however, is menthol, but it's sort of a sweet-bitter thing going on overall. Well, after hearing about it from all sorts of cocktail bloggers, most notably Rick over at Kaiser Penguin, who positively loves the stuff, I decided a few weeks back that if I could find it, I'd buy it.

Well, I found it. And I made a very old drink with it. It was created at the American Bar at the Savoy Hotel in London by the first bartender of renown at the Savoy, and indeed, one of the first female bartenders of renown anywhere, Ada Coleman. It was made for Sir Charles Hawtrey, Noel Coward's mentor, who took a sip and exclaimed, "By Jove! That is the real hanky-panky!" And thus the Hanky Panky was born. Now, let it be said that at that time in England, hanky-panky did not mean sexual tomfoolery. No, it was used to connote black magic, sleight of hand, legerdemain...that sort of thing. So the black magic comes in the combining of three unlikely ingredients into one delightful beverage.
Hanky Panky

1 3/4 oz gin
3/4 oz sweet vermouth
2 dashes (I used just under 1/2 tsp) Fernet Branca

Stir all with ice, strain into a chilled glass, and squeeze a small bit of orange zest over the drink.
It really makes for a most unusual cocktail, but a good one. I can see how Sir Charles deemed it black magic. The orange really makes it, somehow tempering the strange, herbal character of the Fernet, and blending it with the gin and vermouth. I don't know where that pixie came from, but I like her pixie drink!

Addendum: For what it's worth, here's a fun little article from Wayne Curtis (author of "And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails") that he wrote for the Atlantic about Fernet Branca. I am now sipping it straight, and it's everything he says it is. I find myself growing to like it, though! The Bitter Beginning, from the November 1998 issue of "The Atlantic."

Hanky Panky

July 17, 2009

The one with a bad visual pun...

Every now and then, it's nice to revisit the classics... the drinks that elevated men from saloon-minders to barkeepers, from mixers to artisans. There are several examples of this...the Old Fashioned, the Gimlet, the Daiquiri, but one of the simplest of drinks is a cobbler. A Cobbler is basically a cocktail without the bitters, and with added sugar. It's usually made with cracked or shaved ice, but sometimes lump, and it's frequently nothing more than the spirit of choice, sugar (or a sweet spirit), ice, and fruit to garnish. Tonight, since it's unseasonably cold here in the Midwest (I'm currently at 59ºF in mid-July!) I opted to go with a whiskey cobbler. Here's how I made mine:
Whiskey Cobbler

1 bar spoon simple syrup
1 scant bar spoon triple sec
lump ice (or ice cubes, in my case)
2 oz rye whiskey (or bourbon)
2 oz seltzer
cherries to garnish

In a 9-ounce glass or so, combine the syrup and triple sec (or just stir 2 tsp of superfine sugar with a splash of soda water). Add ice, add your rye, stir gently, and add the seltzer. Garnish.
And that's it. All the soda and sugar and triple sec to is make the spirit not quite so powerful...but it's still very much the dominant flavor in the drink, just tempered a bit. It's a good drink to use a liquor you're partial to in, as you can really appreciate some of the more subtle characteristics that can get lost to the burn of the spirit at full strength. Definitely one to experiment with.

Whiskey Cobbler

July 12, 2009

"Pineapple Princess, he called me Pineapple Princess all day..."

When warmer weather finally settles in to the Midwest, and the three months of bad skiing commence (as opposed to our nine months of winter), I start up my Exotica/Hawaiiana playlist and think about drinks with pineapple. Yes, it's cliche, but it's also damned tasty, and a fun plant in general. It's a bromeliad, meaning its relatives are as varied as ornamental houseplants and Spanish moss. It's also a distant cousin to the Torch Ginger plant. However, the pineapple is the most heavily cultivated one, and the tastiest (though I can't speak personally on the flavor of Spanish moss, or lack thereof).

So, our lovely pineapple, which lends itself so well to tropical drinks, is getting featured tonight, in a simple but elegant libation called:
Pineapple Fizz

1 oz pineapple juice
1/4 oz simple syrup (or superfine bar sugar)
1 3/4 oz Bacardi Silver rum

Shake all with ice, strain into a 6-8 oz tumbler, and top with seltzer.
That's all there is to it. It's a simple drink that really features the flavor of the pineapple. In fact, if you wanted to go for the ne plus ultra of freshness, you could muddle about 4 oz of pineapple chunks with your bar sugar/syrup, add the rum, shake, and double strain. You'd really be tasting the pineapple then.

Oh, and fun fact: my family has always, when noshing on fresh pineapple, sprinkled just a tiny bit of salt over it before diving in. It helps draw out and emphasize the sweetness, although now that I understand flavors a bit more, I'm more likely to use kosher or sea salt (maybe even black Hawaiian salt if I could afford it), just so I don't get that iodized flavor that table salt brings to the party. I'm happy it helps keep me from getting a goiter, but still, I don't wanna taste it on my fruit.

Pineapple Fizz

July 9, 2009

by the way...small bit of housekeeping...

I turned off the TypePad Connect comments, but that means that some old comments that were here have vanished. Sadly, there's no way I can salvage those, but please be assured it's not censorship, it's just a stupid technical limitation. I'm going back to Blogger's system, and that's good enough for me.

On that note, I need to go through and re-enable comments on old blog entries...I may miss one or two...if so, sorry! Just drop me an email and tell me which one I've missed, and I'll get it switched back on.

This one had me worried...

Sometimes you'll look at a drink and go "Errrr...I dunno about that." This one, I suspected might be far too sweet, cloyingly so. Still, the other ingredients might balance it out, so I decided to give it a go. I'm glad I did.
Gilroy Cocktail

1/2 oz lemon juice
1/2 oz dry vermouth
1 oz Cherry Heering (or other cherry-infused brandy-based liqueur)
1 oz London dry gin
dash of orange bitters

Shake or stir very well with ice, strain into a cocktail glass
As it turns out, this is definitely not cloyingly sweet. In fact, it's a remarkably well balanced drink...the dry vermouth and lemon juice strike just the right balance again the Cherry Heering, and the gin adds a little extra zip. The only odd quality is that, compared to some cocktails, it's a little more viscous on the tongue. That may just be because I opted to stir it rather than shake it (it was late when I made this, and the windows were open. I didn't want grumpy neighbors) but still, it's a very tasty drink. In fact, if you wanted to do this as a sort of cooler, I'd suggest pouring it, unstrained, into a Double Old-Fashioned glass and adding a couple ounces of seltzer or club soda. Could be tasty!

Gilroy Cocktail

July 8, 2009

I love drinks with goofy names.

Sometimes, when paging through your drink guides and cocktail recipes, you stumble across a drink with a name so incongruous that you just have to make it. This is one of those drinks.
Sloppy Joe's Special

1 oz good gold rum (I used Bacardi 8, but if you have some Cuban rum secreted away that fell off a truck, use that)
1 oz dry vermouth (Noilly Prat & Cie is my brand)
juice of 1 lime
2 bar spoons grenadine
2 bar spoons curaçao (I swapped in triple sec)

Stir all with cracked ice and strain into a cocktail glass.
I have no idea where the name of the drink originated. My source is a handy little cocktail app for my iPod touch that has collected dozens of drinks from various sources. This one was published in "The Gentleman's Companion: Being an Exotic Drinking Book, or Around the World with Jigger, Beaker and Flask" published in 1946. I won't link to it on Amazon because pretty much the only copies available are used and approaching $200.

In terms of flavor, the lime juice really tends to overwhelm this, and I didn't use much, only about 3/4 oz. I'd scale it down to 1/2 oz lime juice, just so you can taste the rum a bit more. Other than that, it's sort of a modified Sidecar with rum and vermouth. There's some subtleties there, but until you get rid of some of the lime, you'll never taste them.

EDITED on 8/1/09 to add: I've got a lead on where the name comes from...apparently in Prohibition-era Cuba, there was a bar called Sloppy Joe's. More info can be found here.

Sloppy Joe's Special

July 5, 2009

Gotta take the bitter with the sweet...

Those of you who have read this blog for a while know that I like to make variations on drinks, swapping out one ingredient for another, seeing what results. Often, the experimentations are the result of stark realities...I don't have any oranges, I'm out of Jamaican rum, I've got three nearly empty bottles that I need to use up, I took a strip of zest from a lemon for my Sazerac, and now I need to use it before it dries up...that last one was what prompted this drink. The original is called the Income Tax Cocktail, which is basically a Bronx cocktail with bitters added. However, I don't have any oranges in the house, and I had a lemon that needed to be used, so I pondered...what's even more apt to put a sour expression on your face than an income tax...why, payroll taxes, of course! How else can you lose a third of your earned income with a few microseconds of calculation time?

Now, let me be clear, I'm not one of those rabid anti-tax goofballs who thinks that nothing good comes of paying state and federal taxes...I willingly concede that there are vital things that my money goes towards; roads, vital infrastructure, that whole "providing for the common defense" thing. But nonetheless, it is a bit disheartening to see that disparity between "Gross Income" and "Net Income" on the check stub. With that in mind, I give you my take on the Income Tax Cocktail:
The Payroll Tax Cocktail

1 3/4 oz London Dry Gin
3/4 oz sweet vermouth
3/4 oz dry vermouth
juice of 1 small lemon, squeezed directly into the shaker
2 bar spoons of 2:1 simple syrup
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Shake all with ice, strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with a lemon twist.
Without the simple syrup, this would be unpalatable, as sour as grandpa's face at Thanksgiving when he learns you're out of Scotch. With it, it really is a nice cocktail...sweet, sour, a zing of lemon, a bracing bit of gin, a hint of spice from the bitters. Yes, I would drink this experiment again, with no hesitation.

The Payroll Tax Cocktail

July 4, 2009

Celebrate the independence of your nation by blowing up a small part of it!

Today's drink post is a quick one so I can go and, er... not light off illegal fireworks, yeah...that's the ticket!

I read about this one yesterday on Imbibe Magazine's blog, and thought "that sounds interesting...let's try it!" The thing that might make some of you gasp is that it combines liquor and beer. And not in a "Boilermaker" fashion, either. See, our Founding Fathers, in addition to being bewigged and remarkably prescient, were hard drinkers, of a fortitude that we can merely aspire to. Water, in the days before treatment plants, was not always the most potable thing around. Beer, wine, rum and whiskey, by virtue of their alcohol content, were safer bets. And so the builders of this nation drank. Morning, noon and night. As Imbibe puts it on their blog entry, "With breakfast, they drank beer and wine; with dinner it was claret and Cognac. And they drank rum all the time." The average was 8 ounces of alcohol a day. And from those building blocks, James MacWilliams, bartender at Canlis Restaurant in Seattle, came up with this:
The Declaration Cocktail

1 oz rum (something with good fruit notes in it, I used Bacardi 8)
3/4 oz rye whiskey (something strong and spicy, though Old Overholt worked for me)
3/4 oz brown sugar syrup (MacWilliams suggests 1:1 brown sugar to water, I actually used 2:1 demerara sugar to water)
6 oz of chilled beer (mine was local New Glarus Brewing Co.'s Fat Squirrel, which is like Newcastle in that it's a nut brown ale-type beer)

Build in a 12 oz glass with a few cubes of ice, stirring to combine. A dash of Angostura bitters will not go astray, either, and makes it a proper cocktail.
It's really remarkably good...everything works quite harmoniously, the nutty nature of the beer complimenting the spice of the rye and the sweetness of the rum, rounded out with the sugar syrup...it's well worth trying. Seriously. I cannot tell a lie.

The Declaration Cocktail

Happy 233rd birthday, America. Celebrate responsibly. And try not to blow off any fingers.

July 2, 2009

There are many drinks with this name; this is the non-crappy one.

For a time, the big three of the Ivy League Universities had a drink named after them. The Princeton was gin, ruby port, and orange bitters; the Harvard was cognac, sweet vermouth and Angostura bitters. There are, however, multiple drinks vying for the title of the Yale Cocktail. Most of them sound abominably horrid, like gin, dry vermouth and blue curaçao (allegedly to replace the créme d'Yvette that used to color the drink). In his "Savoy Cocktail Book", Harry Craddock eschewed the novelty of color in favor of something that actually didn't look like Smurf urine and taste nearly as bad. Instead, he combined, well...let me show you...
Yale Cocktail

1 bar spoon orange bitters
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 1/2 oz London dry gin (use one with a little backbone)

Shake all with ice, strain into rocks glass, top with club soda, garnish with lemon twists.
Now this version is good, don't get me wrong, but club soda is a little dull sometimes. So what I did, since I can't leave well enough alone, is top the drink with tonic water instead of club soda, and garnished with a paper-thin slice of lime, the gin and tonic's natural ally. Oh, this is a wonderful drink, friends and neighbors. The bite of the gin is tempered with the sweet-spiciness of the orange bitters, and the dash of Angostura enhances that further. The tonic water keeps it crisp and refreshing, rather than merely diluting it, and its effervescence is just icing on the cake. Oh, how I love it!
Yale Cocktail