Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Carrot Cocktail

I intended to make a simple drink with some berries or other sweet, tart fruit in it. But there was no fruit to be found in the fridge. Just carrots. Oh, and green onions. Why not?

The first thing I discovered is that muddling carrots isn't easy, nor do you get out a great deal of flavor from a small amount of carrot. So, lots of thin strips, such as what a peeler produces, are the way to go. Hendrick's gin seemed a reasonable base spirit, with it's hints of cucumber, so a spin on a Martini seemed like the way to go. I thought it might lack depth of flavor, so throw in some Cynar, balanced out with a bit of Agave syrup. I shook up a couple drinks like this, but I had erred in the proportions - way too bitter, and the carrot was lost.

I made a second attempt, dialing up the vermouth and dialing down the Cynar. This worked better. Though the cocktail wasn't earth-shattering, it was carroty, different, and eminently drinkable. Perhaps it could be improved, but it ain't awful as-is:

The Carrot Cocktail
  • One small-to-medium sized carrot
  • 2 inch cutting of the hollow green end of a green onion
  • 1/4 tsp dark Agave syrup
  • 1.75 oz French vermouth
  • 1.5 oz gin
  • 0.25 oz Cynar
Using a vegetable peeler, completely shred the carrot into a shaker. Tear up onion into shaker. Add the other ingredients, and muddle the fuck out of the veggies. Seriously - muddle as hard as you can. Shake vigorously, double strain through a very fine strainer into a cocktail glass, and garnish with a strip of carrot.
 I'm not the only one that's thought about carrot cocktails - Camper English has written about them several times, though I haven't tried those recipes.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Last Word, and Variants

Perhaps my favorite cocktail is the Last Word. It was one of the first real cocktails I made. After watching the sublime documentary, Into Great Silence, about the Carthusian monks, I purchased a bottle of the intriguing Green Chartreuse (which has it's own great story, but that's another post). Needing something to do with it, I made a Last Word, and the rest is history.

Well, a brief history, anyway. You see, I first tasted this cocktail, unbeknownst to me at the time, at the very moment of the beginning of its resurgence into the cocktail world. You've only been able to find a Last Word in cocktail bars for the last six to seven years or so. I don't mean to imply that it's a young drink; the Last Word was first mixed sometime during prohibition, most likely at the Detroit Athletic Club. It vanished for years until Ted Saucier somehow came across the recipe and wrote it down in his book, Bottom's Up, in 1951, saying,
Courtesy, Detroit Athletic Club, Detroit
This cocktail was introduced around here about thirty years ago by Frank Fogarty, who was very well known in vaudeville. He was called the 'Dublin Minstrel,' and was a very fine monologue artist.
Then, however, it disappeared again. As far as I know, there are no other mentions of it in print until the 2000s. Luckily for us, Murray Stenson, bartender at the Zig Zag Cafe in Seattle, found the recipe in Saucier's old book one night in 2004. It went on the menu, and it spread across the cocktail world, through word of mouth as well as through internet discussions such as the ones over at eGullet. These days, it can be found at nearly any craft cocktail bar. And thank god for that.

The Last Word is glorious libation. It sits beautifully green in the glass. The unlikely pairing of maraschino and Chartreuse is wonderfully complex, by turns nutty, vegetal, spicy and sweet. It plays off the sour lime and light botanicals of the gin, and the flavor profile evolves as it moves across your mouth. Amazingly, the cocktail is ever so simple to make:

The Last Word
  • 3/4 oz gin
  • 3/4 oz Luxardo Maraschino
  • 3/4 oz Green Chartreuse
  • 3/4 oz fresh squeezed lime juice

Shake until very cold. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. No garnish.

You want to use a gin that is somewhat floral and with a hint of sweetness. What I mean to say is that London dry isn't bad, but it certainly isn't the best. Plymouth is a personal favorite, and many of the American gins work well, too. I often use New Amsterdam when I want to save some money, and even it works very well.

Perhaps as amazing as the drink's flavor is its adaptability. Variations of the drink are exceptionally easy to implement; the basic formula works with many other base spirits. The citrus can be changed. Lemon works well with the brown spirits, and, supposedly, even yuzu is excellent. Many recipes exist for such variations (see Douglas Ford's take here or the attempts of the eGullet community here), but it's just as easy to play with by yourself. As an example, here's a variation I made recently, substituting Yellow Chartreuse for the Green, and akavit for the gin. It's a bit sweeter, lighter, and more on the refreshing side.

Sidste Ord
  • 3/4 oz Akavit (I used Aalborg)
  • 3/4 oz Luxardo Maraschino
  • 3/4 oz Yellow Chartreuse
  • 3/4 oz fresh squeezed lime juice
Shake until very cold. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. No garnish.

The Last Word embodies what I love about cocktails. It is a simple beverage to create perfectly, but it's flavor profile is richly rewarding. History suffuses it, both in the classic, storied liqueurs with which it is made and in its own history, having been created in the dark night that was Prohibition, only to be forgotten for decades before its revival. It's a drink that can teach you the joys of cocktails.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Bar Keep Bitters

On a recent visit to a local liquor store, I noticed some bitters that I had never seen before. This brand, Bar Keep, comes in three varieties, evidently the house formulae of three bars that entered a bitters competition hosted by the Modern Spirits distillers. They are purportedly organic, and the bottles feature the visages of their creators. I grabbed all three: lavender spice, baked apple, and Swedish herb.

At home, I didn't know what to try them in. The labels offer some recipes, but they each had a bunch of liqueurs, none of which I have, made by the bitters' manufacturer. So no luck there. So, what the hell, I opened and tasted the lavender spice. It's predictably floral, reminiscent of a weak creme de violette, but more watery than I expected. I tried 2 dashes of it it in a 2:1 Plymouth martini. It's flavors were mostly lost to the gin, and the drink wasn't very good. More experimentation needed.

I had a little more success with the baked apple bitters, created by Marshall Altier. Upon opening the bottle, the smell was glorious, like a fresh apple pie. A search of the internet led me to a post that contained a recipe for a Baked Apple Sour that was supposedly "adapted from" Altier himself. I whipped one up. The apples notes are subtle but there, though I'm not sure if they came predominantly from the bitters or from the Laird's Straight Apple Brandy that I used. The drink wasn't quite in balance; the maple syrup could be reduced a bit, and I wouldn't mind using a bit less bourbon and more apple brandy.

I haven't gotten around to trying the Swedish herb bitters, yet, but I'm sure I'll play with them soon. The baked apple bitters have a lot of potential; can't wait to see what I can make with them. These bitters will probably never become staples of the bar, but they're fun to play with.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Mezroni

I love the smoky flavor of mezcal. I recently got a new bottle, so I decided to try a variation of a Negroni. I'm a fan of bitter drinks like the Negroni, but mezcal's smokiness can make bitter flavors stronger. To combat this, I used a combination of Campari and Campari's sweeter cousin, Aperol, rather than Campari alone. Additionally, a bit of simple syrup made it a bit smoother. I personally err on the bitter and smoky side, so you may want to further sweeten the drink. I add a small dash of salt to some of my drinks; I think it pulls out some flavors, especially those of tequila and mezcal. You may need to muddle the salt a bit if you use larger grained salt.

The Mezroni
  • 1 oz mezcal (I used Loz Danzantes joven)
  • 1/2 oz Aperol
  • 1/2 oz Campari
  • 1 oz sweet vermouth
  • 1/2 tsp 1:1 simple syrup
  • Small dash of salt

Stir in a mixing glass with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

The Street Cocktail

This was a quick experiment to try out a new bottle of Canton Ginger liqueur. It isn't perfect; I didn't manage to get the gingery flavor I had hoped for. It's a bit like a variation of the Boulevardier, though, and was still pretty good. Rye might work as well as the bourbon, especially since I used a rye-heavy bourbon. Fiddling with the ratios, especially the vermouth-to-Canton ratio, might improve it.

The Street Cocktail:
  • 1.5 oz bourbon (I used Bulleit)
  • 1 oz Aperol
  • 1 oz sweet vermouth
  • 3/4 oz Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur

Combine in a mixing glass. Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Mud Cocktail

This cocktail came about because I wanted to make a Blood & Sand but lacked a fresh orange. So I improvised. These proportions make a slightly large cocktail at just over 4 ounces - it'll fit in most big modern cocktail glasses, but if you have smaller ones (or if you want a more reasonably sized one) you may want to cut back. I left them this big just because it was the only way to get round number; when I actually made this, I split it between two glasses. You can change the bourbons if you'd like; I used the Bulleit to give the Maker's Mark a bit more bite, because Bulleit is more rye-forward than Maker's Mark (which is more wheat-forward).The chocolate bitters are what transforms this drink - don't leave them out!

The Mud Cocktail
  • 1 oz fresh grapefruit juice
  • 1/2 oz Bulleit Bourbon
  • 3/4 oz Makers Mark Bourbon
  • 3/4 oz Cherry Heering
  • 3/4 oz Sweet Vermouth (I used Martini & Rossi)
  • 4-5 dashes chocolate bitters (I used The Bitter Truth Bittermens Xocolatl Mole Bitters)

Combine all ingredients in shaker, generously add ice. Shake and strain into a large, chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a grapefruit twist.