Mixology Monday: You Drank WHAT?

mxmologoGood evening all. The challenge this MxMo was to “broaden your horizons.” I really liked this challenge. (Obviously, it was my challenge, I better have liked it!) It gave me an excuse to do four things I really wanted to do. First, I sort of got to play with molecular mixology, you can be the judge on that one. Second, it gave me an excuse to go for a strongly bittered cocktail – a full half ounce. Third, it allowed me to use a new ingedient. Finally, I was able to return to what I really love to do in cooking, and wanted to do in cocktails.

I have a confession to make. I have drunk Balsamic vinegar – straight. I’m pretty sure that if Balsamic vinegar had alcohol in it, that would be enough to qualify me as an alcoholic, much as my friends who drank vanilla extract certainly do. For Khanukah (Chanuka, Hanuka, whatever), I was given The New Basics Cookbook, which, incidentally, despite being published in the Eighties sticks to classic cocktails, not overly sweet contraptions. Anyway, when discussing Balsamic vinegar, the authors note that what we think of as Balsamic vinegar is merely flavoured red wine vinegar, not the authentic stuff, which, in Modena, where the reall stuff comes from, they drink it straight as a digestivo. So I tried it, and you’ll get the results on Wednesday. In the meantime, here is my entry for Mixology Monday.

Almost looks like a glass of Guinness

Almost looks like a glass of Guinness

The Espresso Stout Cocktail

  • 1 oz. – Dark Rum (Cruzan Black Strap)
  • .5 oz. – Aromatic Bitters (Peychoud’s)
  • .5 oz. – Curacao or Triple Sec (Gran Gala)
  • .5 oz. – Balsamic Vinegar (I used a Condimento grade, a Tradizionale grade, or even a 25 year old or older would be even better.)
  • .25 oz. – Simple Syrup
  • To Top – Sweetened Egg White Foam

Stir together all ingredients but the egg whites. Pour into a medium height narrow glass (pouse cafe, beer tasting, vodka, etc.). Top with foam.

Adjust the simple syrup to taste. Balsamic vinegar is a tad on the tart side, so if you don’t like your cocktails bitter, up the sweetness factor. If you sip Angostura, then feel free to eliminate the syrup entirely.

In cooking, I really enjoy making things that appear to be something else: a ceviche that appears to be an oyster, sushi in the shape of a classic caviar presentation, and so on. What I was able to do here was make a cocktail that looked like a stout. When contemplating what spirit to pair with the vinegar, I realized that Balsamic vinegar is dark. I decided to go for it, and tossed in a dark rum to darken it up. By adding a foam on the top, I got what looked just like a stout. In seeking to ballance it, I deicded to go for the complexity of a heavily bittered drink, and figured that the Peychoud’s would pair nicely with the Balsamic. From there, the decision to use the Cruzan instead of either the Pusser’s or Gosling’s was pretty much made for me.

The final result is delicious. A little sweet, a little sour, a little rummy, a little molasses, and the egg white makes it all smooth as a baby’s bottom. The egg white foam wasn’t really setting up properly so I got  a bit of egg white on the bottom. I just tried to avoid drinking it and that was okay, but if you do it for yourself, and next time I do it, I’ll work harder to make sure that doesn’t happen. It might be even better with something like Benedictine instead of Gran Gala. Try one for yourself and you will see just how good it is.

In the interests of getting this up in a timely manner, I will upload a picture as soon as I find the cord for my camera.

Stay playful,
The Scribe

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What To Do For the Winter Olympics

So I haven’t posted in about a month. What can I say? Travel’s a bitch. But not a bad bitch. It’s actually one of the betters ones. Except when you’re in coach. Then flying is miserable. Anyway, I spent two weeks in Chicago until New Year’s and then spent another two weeks in the 2010 Winter Olympic host cities, Vancouver and Whistler, BC. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera, but I’ll try and give you a decent recap.

Chicago:

Hopleaf: As I’ve said before, the Hopleaf is my favourite beer bar in the city. And they serve more brews than any other Chicago bar.  Check out my lengthier review for more. While there, I enjoyed the Delerium Tremens Ale, reputed to be the finest beer in the world. It’s good. Real good. But as Belgian sours go, it’s not too special.

Chief O’Neil’s: The Chief’s is our favourite Irish pub in the city. The have acceptable craic, and pour a good, but not perfect, pint of plain. Standard Irish pub fare and a good location for when we are out shopping round out what makes this bar good. They have a wonderful whisk(e)y selection with both old and new world distillates. Of course, they focus on the Irish whiskey but good selections Scotch, Bourbon, and rye can all be found behind the stick. Their pint of stout is quite good, and fairly opaque, but doesn’t compare to Nash’s in the Pale.

While there, I learned that Guinness is holding a competition for “best pint.” Their scoring rubric seems to have more to do with prominently displaying the Guinness logo than anything else. Of course, given Guinness’s long history of marketing genius, I don’t know why we should expect anything else.

Park 21: This new restaurant from the same people behind Carnivale, a restaurant sensation is practically the same. While the service is impeccable, the atmosphere pleasant and vibrant,  and the wine list good, the food is mediocre at best, and the bar program leaves much to be desired. I suggest if you must eat there, you stick with vine, beer, or neat spirits.

O’Hare Airport: It is a sad truth that while traveling, we must spend a good deal of unpleasant time in airports. For the drinking public, however, it is getting better. While Patron has become de regour at most bars, I saw many airport bars making a concerted effort to stock at least one premium offering in each category, including Hendrick’s gin, a variety of sippable rums, good Bourbon and rye and belike.

Vancouver:

The Chef and the Carpenter: We only spent one night in the city, and we went to this wonderful French restaurant after the old school. The Caesar salad is still made fresh, tableside, and with a real egg yolk. Quite possibly the best Caesar I’ve ever had. The rest of the food was equally good. Their cocktail program was outstanding. The maitre d’hotel was a competent barkeep, and while they did not have a bar menu, he could mix up all the classics with a practiced shake or stir from a surprisingly well stocked bar. If you find yourself in Vancouver, I recommend you visit this outstanding Robson street establishment.

Chow: While I was there a year ago, I never mentioned this fine and progressive restaurant serving the fine Pacific Rim fusion cuisine. Another restaurant with an impressive drinks program including fine beer, wine, and, of course, classic cocktails. You certainly can’t go wrong here.

The Cat’s Paw: Another gem from last year, this Granville Island bar has innovative cuisine and reasonable prices, and is, by and large, filled with locals. Another great place to take a load off.

Whistler

The Dubh Linn Gate: This has been our longtime apres hangout. The best beer bar in Whistler, though that doesn’t say much, with a good selection of Scotch whiskies as well, and excelent food, this is as good a spot for dinner as for taking a load off after a hard day on slopes.

Black’s Pub: A reasonably indifferent bar with little to speak for it. While it has good bar staff, an indifferent drinks program and reasonably standard beer menu, as well as non-distinct food doom this to my “eh” list (and not in the way the Canadians say it either).

Milestone’s: A step up from Black’s. A fairly nondescript cocktail menu at least is supplemented by interesting local microbrews and better food. They offer the Wild Horse Winter Ale a refreshing, medium bodied beer with just a hint of winter spice. It is much less spiced than most American winter offerings which is quite a bit more refreshing.

The Cinnamon Bear Bar: Hotel bars tend not to be good, and whether I hit them on an off day, or something else, this is no exception. There are literally no redeeming features to this bar. Avoid it.

Merlin’s, The Girabaldi Lift Company, and Dusty’s: These three mountain-owned bars are surprisingly good. While the beer selection isn’t what it has been in years past, they still stock the Alexander Keith’s Pale Ale, a reasonably standard pale ale after the British style, and their Amber Ale, a heartier, more flavourful brew on tap. This, combined with good food, make this a reasonable place to recover. Dusty’s is supposed to have wonderful barbeque, but I admit to never having tried it. Similarly, both Merlin’s and the GLC have distincive personalities and menus. All have live music and are steps from the slopes.

Ceeta’s Bistro: This bar has a reasonable beer selection, and good, relatively inexpensive sandwitches. We were there for the Canada-Russia game of the World Youth Hockey Championship, which was epic. We also had the Okanagan Spring Pale Ale, a relatively non-descript pale, and the Okanagan 1516, an even less flavourful brew. Unfortunately, Ceeta’s is likely closing soon, so Whistler will loose this quarter century old establishment.

Rim Rock Cafe: This is not somewhere you go for the drinks, not because they do not have a wonderful bar, outstanding wines, and good beers, but merely because the food is so good. One of Canada’s top ten restaurants, if you are in Whistler, and can remotely afford it, you need to try it. One of the best meals of my life.

Hope this list has helped you if you are traveling out there. There are a lot of positives on this list, but I have been to Vancouver and Whistler enough to avoid many of the bad apples, though not all, as the list suggests. Again, I apologize for the lack of pics.

May wind fill your sails,
The Scribe

A New Year’s Toast

Hey all.

I would just like to wish everyone a joyous, profitable, and otherwise happy new year. I hope it is better than this and any other. To toast this sentiment, might I suggest a…

Seelbach Cocktail

  • .75 oz. – Bourbon Whiskey (Maker’s Mark)
  • .5 oz. – Curacao (Gran Gala)
  • 7-8 dashes – Aromatic Bitters (Angostura)
  • 7-8 dashes – Aromatic Bitters (Peychoud’s)
  • Top (4-5 oz.) – Sparkling Wine (Cava)

Stir whiskey, liqueur, and bitters with ice to cool, then top with chilled bubbly. I recomend Cava or Prosecco over the more traditional Champagne or California sparkling as the fruitier elements of Cava or Prosecco will tie it better to the orange cordial and Peychoud’s.

I would generalize that advice to all cocktails, as I find, unless you are simply mixing Champagne with crisp spirits, the fruitiness of some other European sparkling offerings works better.

Happy new year, and an easy morning after,
The Scribe

Mixology Monday: Hot and Heavy

mxmologo‘Tis that time of year again, and that time of month as well, the time when all of us cocktailians get together and have ourselves a grand old time writing about cocktails. This is an especially good time for me because my Real Life™ commitments finally allow me to write. I am also happy to announce the next Mixology Monday, below.

Anywho, it’s getting awfully cold. I’ve stopped wearing sandals regularly, which I only do if it’s below freezing out there. One thing that really wamrs me up after a cold day is a nice hot beverage. The first one I have created is inspired by Charlotte Voisey from Hendrick’s Gin. She talked about bringing teatime to cocktail hour, and that is exactly what I did with:

The Redcoat’s Aunt

  • 4 oz. – Vannila Roohibos Tea (From my local looseleaf tea shop, brewed strong)
  • 1 oz. – Rye Whiskey (Old Overholt)
  • .5 oz. – Curacao (Gran Gala)
  • .5 oz. – Aromatic Bitters (Peychoud’s)
  • 1 drop – Orange flower water

Stir together everything except the tea and flower water. Pour the tea hot over the top. Garnish with freshly grated nutmeg and an orange twist. Spritz orange flower water over top.

This is really quite nice. The warmth of the tea, both physical and the warmth of the vanilla flavour, really cuts through the bitterness of the Peychoud’s allowing the flavour of it to come through. The Peycoud’s ties quite nicely with the Gran Gala. The rye gives it just a litte backbone. All in all a very pleasant blend. I really like warm drinks and another one which is great in front of a fire after, for instance, a long day of hiking in a frigid downpour is:

Mulled Wine

  • Claret (Nothing too fancy)
  • Oranges
  • Cloves
  • Lemons
  • Simple syrup
  • Water

Slice up fruits (1 orange and half a lemon or so per bottle of wine) and add simple syrup (about 2-3 oz. per bottle of wine) and a handful of cloves to a pot. Add water to cover, but as little as you can. Bring to a boil and reduce. Then add wine. Keep heat as low as possible, stirring until wine is warmed through.

Mulled wine is one of those great soul healers. I enjoy it as often as I can.  There are few things better than sitting in front of a fire in a wilderness lodge after a good day of ice climbing, ski mountaineering, or the like, with a nice cup of mulled wine, good company, and lots of good grub.

Pictures to follow.

Stay warm on cold nights,
The Scribe

MxMo: You Scratch My Back…

mxmologoWell, it’s been a month since our last little gathering, and two since I participated, so, to make up for it I have two cocktails for you with a total of three ingredients from scratch. First off is a little something from way back in the day when they had no choice but to make it all from scratch:

The Chinese Cocktail (After Jerry Thomas)

  • 2 pt. – Jamaican Rum (Appleton V/X)
  • 1 pt. – Grenadine (Homemade)
  • 3 dashes – Curacao (Gran Gala)
  • 1 dash – Aromatic Bitters (Angostura)

Stir to combine and serve as you like.

Now this is obviously a riff on the “fancy cocktail” with grenadine replacing the syrup, and the orange cordial adding just a bit of complexity. I should not that in order to make my grenadine, I simply reduce pomegranate juice by a third without adding sugar, as I find most pomegranate juice quite sweet enough. But this is hardly original. Let’s try something with a bit more interest:

The Island Inferno

  • 2 pt. – Dark Rum (Cruzan Blackstrap)
  • 2 pt. – Medium Sherry (Taylor Golden)
  • 2 pt. – Orange Juice
  • 1 pt. – Falernum (Paul’s #8)
  • 5 dashes – Spicy Cocktail Bitters (Scrivenal Spiced Sherry Peppers #1)
  • 2 dashes – Aromatic Bitters (Angostura)

Shake it all up over ice, and serve straight up in a cinnamon rimmed glass.

Now this is something worth drinking. Of the cocktails I have invented to date, this is by far the most successful. There is something wonderful going on here. It hits notes that you don’t often see cocktails hitting, and that was quite intentional. For just about any cocktail, you have some sweet, some sour, and from time to time, some bitter. There’s nothing wrong with this, but asside from a few savoury cocktails, it’s rather predictable. Here, I made a cocktail that burns the back of the throat as it slides down, and does all sorts of other nice things, without being a blood mary. It’s just a much more complex cocktail than most of what I am exposed to.

I highly recommend that you go for the Cruzan offering here. The Blackstrap is a much fruitier rum than, say, Gosling’s, which makes it work much better in this cocktail. It combines nicely with the orange juice, which transitions nicely into the sherry. The peppers pick up the sherry, while adding island spice and heat. The spices are reinforced by the falernum, which also moderates the spiciness. I am, justly, I think, quite proud of this concoction.

Pictures to follow as soon as my camera charges back up.

Keep on scratching,
The Scribe

There Were Four Lofty Rums from Around the World Came

Oh gosh…Four rums and all of them on this side of yummy. Where to start? I guess we’ll begin with the Single Barrel, which was by far my least favorite. Next, but only a scosh behind is the Temptryst Peachwood. In first were the El Dorado and Temptryst Hickory. I know, it’s a hard decision to make, so maybe I need just one more taste, and maybe another after that…Ah, it’s too close to call. Both are wonderful.

So here’s to all the rum you’ve sunk at sea,
(Roll high, roll low, and so sailed we…)
The Scribe

A Cargo Gold

For those of you in the know, you will know that Dr. Daniel Watson of Angelsword fame has begun a distillery for the purpose, at least initially, of producing rums. These rums are not yet available, but I was lucky enough to get my hands on a bottle of two of his rums: the peachwood and the mesquite. In the interests of full disclosure, I should note that these bottles were sent to me as free review samples, and, unlike almost every other product I review here, I did not purchase the two Temptryst rums. Anyway, what Dan is doing is really quite novel. He is using the wood and the flavour of the wood to, in effect, infuse the rum. However, using the woods is supposed to lead to a more complex rum. Let’s see if it works:

Au Natural Spirits Co.: Temptryst Peachwood Rum

Tasting Conditions: I tried this rum after hearing rave reviews of the Temptryst line. After talking to its maker, I was sent a small sample for review purposes. I enjoyed it as an evening digestif after a long day at school, a hard exam, some great sailing, and an evening of relaxation. I used a Flare rum tasting glass to try it. This was the first dram out of the bottle.

Eye: This rum is a golden amber in the bottle and a dark honey in the glass with very quick forming, stubby legs. The bottle is pyramidal in shape with a non-commercial label. I have no idea what the final packaging will be.

Nose: The nose is very subtle and mostly generically “rummy.” I got just a hint of peach, as I might expect, on the finish, and touch of molasses.

Mouth: This was a very smooth rum, and quite sweet. There was definitely a distinct peachiness to it. In addition, I got some nice honey, and perhaps a bit of cloves and apple. Next I added in a bit of water. The water, surprisingly made it a bit harsher. However, we are talking shades of harshness here. It is still well within the sipper category. The water also brought out a bit of cinnamon and citrus. Lastly, and not without trepidation, I added some ice. After waiting for the ice to melt just a bit and cool the rum, I had a sip. The ice really upped the sweetness and pushed back any complexity leaving just peach and vanilla.

Conclusion: I enjoyed this rum, and it is very unique. I cannot wait until Au Natural releases it so it is available. However, given what I expect the price to be, I think it is a bit out of my price range, and, frankly a bit beyond what I think the price ought to be. This is a fine rum, make no mistake, but for me it is a bit one dimensional, which is not a bad thing in and of itself, but does make it less what I want to shell out the big bucks for.

CORRECTION: In this post, I suggested that the price was a bit beyond what I thought it should be. After talking to Dr. Watson, I was informed that the expected commercial price for this rum should be under $20, which is between half and two thirds what I had guessed. At $20, this will have a permanent place on my shelf.

So here’s to you and rum as a long time ago,
The Scribe