March 29, 2010

Happy Anniversary to Me!

Tonight makes it the First Anniversary of this little ol' cocktail blog. And so far, I've not made any Cosmopolitans. And I've not used any wire hangers. And I aim to keep on with that.

But for tonight, I thought I'd go back to the early days of this endeavor and correct a horrible wrong I did to a poor, defenseless drink. The very first drink I posted, in fact. I mixed up, on the morning of March 30th, 2009, the day after I created the blog and posted the introductory entry, a makeshift version of a cocktail from David Wondrich's "Esquire Drinks" wherein I substituted bourbon for brandy, dropped the amount of dry vermouth in accordance with what I had on hand, and added lemon juice. Yeah. That turned out to be okay...but it was not the drink that it purported to be.

So I thought tonight I'd rectify that, and post a properly made version of this drink tonight. So that you can see what it should be, rather than the strange, mutant bourbon sour it wound up being. And so, I give you the proper version of the Metropole Cocktail. Named after a "somewhat lively" hotel in New York that went bankrupt in 1912, a scant week after it saw one of its regulars murdered. Morbid as that is, it always makes me think of The Happiness Hotel from "The Great Muppet Caper." Only without Muppets getting killed (we'll leave that to "Meet the Feebles").
The Metropole Cocktail

1 1/2 oz brandy
1 1/2 oz dry vermouth
1 dash orange bitters
2 dashes Peychaud's bitters
cherry for garnish

Stir all save cherry with cracked ice and strain into chilled glass. garnish, if desired, with cherry.
I'll admit to not being much of a brandy uncle drinks it like it's going out of style, and my home state is one of the biggest consumers of brandy, per capita, in the US. We even make Old Fashioneds with brandy and mashed up fruit. But I digress. Despite the rosy hue, this is not a girly drink. Nor is it sweet. It winds up being quite a dry drink...very acerbic, not sweet at all, but very layered...there's the vermouth and the faint anise notes from the Peychauds, and a touch of sweetness from the brandy, a little citrus from the orange bitters, but nothing really dominates the drink. I think that makes it really interesting, frankly. It's complex and sort of mysterious. I like it!

Thanks for sticking with me for this first year of blogging, everyone, and I hope that I'll continue to hold your interest. If I don't, well, it's not like I'm puttin' a gun to your heads or anything. You'll just miss out on all sorts of new and interesting drinks.

Metropole Cocktail

March 22, 2010

MxMo XLVII: Punch

0EE1C1B7-51D9-464A-9FD4-3362608E69F5.jpgThe challenge posed by Hobson's Choice for this month's Mixology Monday is punch! Now, I used to consider myself quite the expert on punch, back when I was about 10, and my grandmother and I used to mix up non-alcoholic punches for New Year's Eve. I knew that it had to be sweet, but not overly so. Tangy, but not too sour. Fizzy was good. A sort of creamy mouth-feel was sought after, but not a prerequisite. I was, as it turns out, looking for all the criteria of a great punch with alcohol, as well, though I wouldn't know it for another decade-plus.

In trying to come up with an original punch (or, if not original, at least one I hadn't read about specifically), I went back to the well of all punch wisdom, and dredged up that hoary old formula; 1 part sour, 2 parts sweet, 3 parts strong and 4 parts weak (plus spice, as Alton Brown recently pointed out on "Good Eats"). Well, being the crazy tinkerer that I am, I decided to take a few liberties with the formulation. I was remarkably faithful, but in lieu of using grated nutmeg or cinnamon for the spice, as is tradition, I used a homemade tincture of mine.

Then, of course, I struggled with a name. My concoction draws from so many disparate influences, it's really hard to find an overarching theme. Finally I decided to name it after the tincture I used to add that final bit of flavor, and thus I give you, for March's Mixology Monday:
Donn's Gin Punch

1 part lime juice
scant 2 parts limoncello, plus a dash of Maraschino liqueur
3 parts London dry gin
4 parts ginger beer
2 dashes per cup Donn's Tinc
1 dash per cup Blood Orange syrup (optional, for color. I used Torani's version.)

Combine all save for Donn's Tinc with a large block of ice in a punchbowl. Dash in Donn's Tinc to each cup, then ladle in punch mixture. If using Blood Orange syrup, add dash after punch has been ladled into cup. For an individual serving, assume 1 part is 1/2 ounce.
I think this is a wonderfully balanced drink. Sweet, sour, spicy from the ginger, botanical from the gin, ever-so-slightly fizzy, and just a bit of funk from that wonderful Maraschino. I'm tremendously pleased with how this turned out, and I think it could make a nice change from the classic rum- or bourbon-based punch. Come summertime, it certainly would make for a refreshing take on this classic concoction.

Donn's Gin Punch

March 21, 2010

If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, what do pears do? Deflect chiropractors?

Oh ye gods, it's been a long time since I posted. I suck, and that's sad. But I've also been broke, once again (stupid car insurance payments), and getting busy once more with rehearsals for my latest theatrical engagement, so posting time has been at a bit of a premium. Mea culpa, everyone.

It is, however, because of rehearsals that I came across this drink to begin with. I had managed to pick up a bottle of St Germain Elderflower liqueur for a song, and went about looking for something to make with it. And lo and behold, I found originally billed itself as a martini, but you know and I know that simply serving something up in a cocktail glass does not a martini make. It has no gin and no vermouth, and therefore I have demoted it to "cocktail" status. It also contains a flavored vodka, which you purists know I tend to cringe at. Surprisingly, however, this vodka wound up not being too synthetic-tasting (although I suspect an eau de vie of the fruit could have been even more interesting, albeit much more expensive). And furthermore, I had to tweak the proportions from the original, as it was WAY too sweet in its first incarnation. Plus, I added some bitters. You know me, I like to make modifications! So, I'd like to introduce you to:
The Pear Tree Cocktail

1 1/2 oz pear-flavored vodka (I used Smirnoff)
1 oz St Germain Elderflower liqueur
1/4 oz lime juice
1 dash Urban Moonshine Organic bitters

Stir all but bitters briskly with ice for a good minute, or until well mixed. Strain into a cocktail glass coated with a dash of Urban Moonshine bitters.
First off all, it's got a very true pear flavor. The St Germain actually augments this, and adds some sort of rounded, mellow tropical fruit notes. The lime juice prevents it from being sickly-sweet, and the Urban Moonshine bitters give it a nicely vegetal nose, adding to the fresh pear impression. It's still a rather sweet cocktail, and one that I wouldn't drink every day, but as a nice drink for someone who doesn't want a strongly alcohol-flavored libation, it's pretty damned good.

Pear Tree Cocktail

March 6, 2010

"Excuse me, I'm John Smith!" "John Smith 1882?" "My mistake."

It happens show up at the bar, and there's another girl there wearing the exact same outfit as you. Let's try that again. You show up at the bar, order a drink, and get something that's nothing at all like what you were expecting. Before you haul off and smack the bartender, consider this: there may be multiple drinks with that name that bear some passing similarity to each other, but are different enough that your bartender may have heard of one but not the other. I'm not just talking about different recipes (see part one of an ongoing series that hasn't gone on yet regarding variants on the Singapore Sling), but drinks with maybe an extra space, or a slightly different spelling, or even no difference at all that are nevertheless different.

Tonight I made a drink called the "Scoff Law Cocktail," which is not to be confused with the previously featured "Scofflaw Cocktail." Confused yet? No? Good, then I can introduce you to a new ingredient being used on here for the first time tonight; Chartreuse.

"Wait," I hear you say, "Isn't that a color?" Why, yes it is. It's a shade of a sort of yellow-green hue. However, Chartreuse-the-spirit comes in two colors. Green Chartreuse and Yellow Chartreuse. Kind of like how, in the southern US, you might get this little exchange in a diner or restaurant:
Customer: "And can I get a Coke?"
Server: "Sure, what kind ya want? We got Pepsi Coke, Sprite Coke, orange Coke..."
In this case, Chartreuse refers to the spirit, not the specific color. As a matter of fact, the color was named after the spirit, as it's been made since 1605 or so. Now are you confused? Good. You'll want a drink to settle your addle-pated mind. Make this one.
Scoff Law Cocktail

1 oz rye whiskey
1 oz dry vermouth
3/4 oz green Chartreuse
3/4 oz lemon juice
1-2 dashes orange bitters

Stir all with ice, strain into cocktail glass.
If you've never had Chartreuse, it's really nearly impossible to describe. There's 130 different plant flavors in there, and the few that can be agreed upon are anise and hyssop. It's very vegetal, but a little sweet. There's a little spice in there, to boot. A very complicated flavor. In our drink, it melds with the spice of the rye, the sour of the lemon, and the botanicals from the vermouth. It's really a hard flavor to pin down, but that complexity makes for a very interesting cocktail. If your local bar has a hidden stash of Chartreuse, see if they can make this particular version of the Scoff Law.

Scoff Law Cocktail