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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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

I’d Load Her With Guyana Rum

Next up on our round the world in a bottle of really tasty rum is the rum bottle that is currently my most prized bottle. This rum is considered one of the better Demerara rums. What is a Demerara rum, you might ask. I would respond that rum started, as best we can tell, in Barbados, and is still fairly similar to modern Bajan rum. It then spread around the Spanish Main. From there each nation developed its distinctive style. The British style is typified by Jamaican rum, the French by the rhum agricole of Martinique, the Spanish by Cuban rum. But then you get oddballs, and the Demerara Valley in Guyana is one of those. The sugar produced there is special and while it is similar to other bold, big bodied British-style rums, the Demerara sugar from which it is made as well as a longer aging gives it a wonderful rich fullness. And with that, I give you:

Demerara Distillers Ltd.: El Dorado 15 Year Old Special Reserve Finest Demerara Rum

Two glasses, and both for me!
Two glasses, and both for me!

Tasting Conditions: In addition to reviewing this fine dram, I am also reviewing Spirit Sipper’s The Flare rum glass. I drank this fine aged rum after my last day at work for the summer, after an excellent dinner of Southwestern risotto. I compared a Spirit Sipper’s rum tasting glass and a Ministry of Rum London dock style tasting glass. I tasted straight from the bottle, which according to notes on the bottle was bottled just after noon on September 21st, 2006.

Eye: This rum presents beautifully in a box, though it is cardboard not wood, which would be even nicer. The bottle is squat with a long bubble neck. It is a very traditional bottle style, and I can easily see a pirate swigging directly from it. The label is elegant with its trilingual description of the contents and it’s drawing of a sailing ship. The rum it self is a gorgeous honey amber with legs that formed quickly and needle-thing in The Flare, and much slower and thicker in the dock glass.

Nose: In the Flare, this was very smooth nosing with hints of honey, lime, and oak. The dock glass produced a noticeably harsher aroma with a more caramelized nose, and what had been citrus tended more towards banana, and I completely missed the oak, though I think it showed up as the burn odor.

Mouth: In the mouth this was quite nice with citrus notes on the front and transitioned to toffee and then on the finish blossomed into honey. The dock glass was slightly sweeter on the front but on the finish continued in the same lines as the Flare. I also got some good vanilla notes. The rum was smoother than the aroma of the dock glass would have suggested, but a bit rougher than the utter smoothness of the Flare. Adding water seriously upped the sweetness of the front in what I believe are the characteristic demerara notes. The taste in the dock glass was identical. I added ice to the dock glass after pouring the majority over to the Flare to finish sipping after the review. After waiting a minute for the rum to cool, I tasted it. The ice revealed more spice notes that had previously been hiding and a lot spicy cinnamon on the finish. In fact, I would say the most flavour emerged when a bit of ice pushed the sweetness back a bit.

Conclusion: I was very pleased with this rum. While this will never be an everyday for me, this may be my staple for fine rum. I am definitely a fan of this. If only the price would come down by ten bucks this would be something like a daily sipper.

So here’s to you, my bullies,
The Scribe

It’s There We’ll Sit and Take Our Ease

Now we are into the creme de la creme, the ultra-premium sippers. I have four lined up for you: Cruzan Single Barrel, El Dorado 15, and two offerings from Au Natural’s Temptryst line. I’m pretty excited. Now in the rum world, one major course of debate is whether so called “single barrel” offerings are really worth anything. Marketing people will tell you that it is your only chance to “taste what the master blender tastes.” Of course, if I had the tasting ability of a master blender, that might be special indeed. On the other hand, what a master blender does is combine a variety of barrels with slightly different qualities to round out the weaknesses in each. You will have to make your own decision, but I will give you this to think about while you decide:

One Glass, One Barrel

One Glass, One Barrel

Cruzan Rum Distillery Co.: Single Barrel Estate Rum (Barrel #86499)

Tasting Conditions: I cracked open Cruzan’s single barrel after a relaxing day of running errands, seeing friends, and just a little work at the end. I had an absolutely delightful dinner, and came back a few hours later for a digestif. The bottle was freshly opened and I used a Ministry of Rum tasting glass of approximately six ounces.

Eye: The bottle that the single barrel comes with is similar to the other bottles bottled under the “estate rum” label, yet it is quite distinct. The neck is taller which makes the bottle more distinguished. While both bear the Cruzan barque logo embossed on the bottle, the single barrel also has a date – 1760 – the date of the founding of the distillery. The bottle also has a pebbled or hand-beaten texture, and of course, is capped by a cork, not a screw cap. Overall, it is simply a more elegant presentation as befits the top of Cruzan’s line. My bottle was number 446449 and the contents came from barrel number 86499. In the glass, the rum was an amber color with stubby, reasonably quick forming legs.

Nose: The nose was fairly smooth, and had notes of caramel, oak, and some sort of fruit.

Mouth: The rum is quite sweet in the mouth with the caramel from the nose coming through quite clearly in the mouth, as well as molasses, and cloves. It was quite smooth, as such a rum should be. This is clearly a sipper. Next up, a bit of water to try and help the rum open up. There isn’t much of a change in taste, except that the spice comes through perhaps a bit more strongly and the bitter end of the molasses comes through a bit. As I roll another sip around in my mouth, I am also getting quite distinct citrus notes. They are a cross between orange and a bit of grapefruit pith. After liquid water, I added solid water: a small ice cube. I waited for a bit to allow the rum to cool, and the ice to melt a little. The ice really pushed the bitterness and sweetness back. I got some nice spice notes, as well as citrus, and the clove really took the spotlight.

Conclusion: At no time was this rum ever bad. However, I expected a real knock out rum, and I got a rum that was good, but never really crossed the threshold to great. I don’t particularly plan to mix with this rum, but it is not going to make the cut for my nightly inbibment. I guess what I am trying to say is that for it’s price, I really expected something a bit nicer, a bit more multi dimensional. Unfortunately, as the other dimensions opened up, they weren’t particularly good dimensions.

I’ll see you ‘ round the corner,
The Scribe

Oh A Drop of Nelson’s Blood Wouldn’t Do Us Any Harm

The story goes that after the Battle of Trafalgar, instead of burying him at sea, as was their tradition, the sailors who had fought wanted Nelson, who had fallen in the battle, to be brought home to England to be buried. In order to preserve the body for the journey home, it was placed in a barrel of spirits. I have been told most often that the spirits were rum, but I have also heard brandy. Regardless, the legend is that when the barrel was opened in Gibralter, Nelson’s pickled body was inside, but none of the spirits. To this day, rum and brandy are referred to as Nelson’s blood. That same rum was served daily on the ships of the Royal Navy until 1970. After Black Tot Day, when the Royal Navy stopped the rum ration, it was thought that navy rum was lost forever, and it was, until Pusser’s bought the rights to the recipe, and started producing rum. This rum is faithful to the very same stuff that Nelson was pickled in.

The Sailor's Dram

The Sailor's Dram

Pussers Rum Ltd.: Original Navy Rum

Tasting Conditions: I cracked this fine rum open fresh from the store as my Sunday evening digestif. I tasted it in a Ministry of Rum tasting glass.

Eye: The eye is a gorgeous amber in the glass. A swirl shows very slow forming legs of medium thickness. The bottle is a squat, thick glassed affair. It is liberally coated with fouled anchors. I counted four: one embossed on the cork, on embossed on the shoulder of the bottle, and one on each label. There is also a Royal Navy Jack. They are quite proud of the fact that it is Royal Navy-style rum. I feel the bottle is quite nice, and very evocative of an old-style rum bottle from the age of sail.

Nose: The first impression of the rum I got was that it was fairly rough. Behind the roughness I got a bit of toffee and oak. The smell is surprisingly simple, but hopefully there will be more in the mouth.

Mouth: Tasted neat, this spirit sneaks up on you with caramelly sweetness only to ambush you with as the rum reaches the back of your mouth to burn all the way down. Taken a bit more carefully, the caramel blends to toffee, and fades to honey on the finish. It is quite a sweet rum, but there are also a wide variety of pleasant spice notes, mostly cloves and cinnamon. Adding a bit of water smoothes this out as well and bringing nutty notes up. It also highlights the clove taste, and brings a bit of nutmeg to the very first sip. The sweetness, in the meantime, is pushed back. Far from being repelled as I initially was in the first neat sip, with just a bit of water, this becomes quite exceptional. I am almost afraid to add the ice, since I do not think it can possibly get better. After waiting for the ice to cool the dram, a sip proves my fears unfounded. The ice really brings the cinnamon and other spice notes to the fore, as well as adding molasses into the mix. With that bit of ice, this rum truly sings. All of the gorgeous elements that had been barely glimpsed before rise harmoniously to make a wondrous symphony of rummy goodness. The buttery texture of the rum combines with molasses, spice, vanilla, and oak notes to make an epic rum.

Conclusion: It seems recently that every new spirit I try is my new favorite. Before I wondered how people could be willing to shell out thousands of dollars for a fifth of old Royal Navy rum. I still don’t think I would ever do it, but now I can see the draw. I can see a bottle of Pusser’s on my shelf for a long time to come, and I may even need to find their better aged Red Label.

So enjoy your blood, and perhaps a bowl of Irish stew,
The Scribe