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

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

Mixology Monday: And It’s All For Me Grog

Good day internet cocktailians the world over. Welcome to Rum Month at the Dram. The subject for this month’s Mixology Monday is “19th Century Cocktails.” While the drinks I present today aren’t necessarily cocktails per say, they are certainly mixed drinks that were popular at some level in the 19th Century and early 20th Century. Today I am playing with three or four ingredients: lime juice, sugar, rum, water, and the occaisional addition of lemon juice, mint, or triple sec.

The first drink up on our tour of rum sours is one of the most traditional, and, arguably, the origin of many modern sours, at least those on the English islands. The origin of this drink is the Royal Navy. Of course sailors could not be expected to sail their ships sober, so the Admiralty began issuing a pint of rum every day in two installments. To cut down the taste of strong navy rum, and also to prevent sailors from hoarding it, they added a lot of water. The story goes that Admiral Vernon added citrus juice to the stagnant, foul water that was common on naval ships of the era to try and make the combination of foul rum and foul water more palatable. Sailors would then add whatever they cold to sweeten the drink. Vernon was known as Old Grog variously because of his grogram coat or because he was “groggy” or crazy in the parlance of the time, and gave his name to this concoction:

Royal Navy Grog (Traditional)

  • 1 gill (4 oz.) – Rum
  • 1 quart (16 oz.) – Water
  • 1 oz. – Lime Juice
  • To taste – Whatever sweetener is on hand. (Honey, molasses, etc. but not refined sugar)

Mix together in whatever drinking vessel is available and serve at room temperature. The traditional method of drinking is to slam the whole concoction. You want a garnish? You’re on a ship of war. Don’t be rediculous.

It’s a bit unrefined, and, to my palate at least, the lime clashes a bit with the dark rum. So why not try a white rum, you ask. Ah, now we get into a bit of a debate: How do you juice the lime? What ratio of lime to sugar do you use? What sort of sugar do you use and in what form? What type of white rum do you use? The answers to these questions give you a wide variety of basic rum sours. Let’s start with the most classic, at least in America. We juice our limes careful to avoid pulp or oils, and use white granulated sugar in a syrup:

The Daiquiri (Classic)

  • 2 parts (2 oz.) – White Rum (Cruzan Estate Light is my preference, but a Cuban style would be more tradional)
  • 1 part (1 oz.) – Lime Juice
  • 1 part (1 oz.) – Simple or Invert Syrup

Shake with ice and serve either over crushed ice in a tall bar glass or straight up in a stemmed cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime wedge.

Instead of using simple syrup, we could use boiled down cane juice, and replace a Cuban rum with a rhum agricole from the French islands and we would be left with:

‘Ti Punch

  • 1 bottle – White Rhum Agricole (A cachaca is better than plain white rum, but even white rum will work)
  • 1 bowl – Lime Wedges
  • 1 small pitcher – Cane Syrup (Simple, brown, or unprocessed sugar syrup will work as would some other subtly flavoured syrup like agave. This is not the time for maple syrup. If you are using brown sugar syrup, cut it 50/50 with simple.)
  • 1 bowl – Ice

Place small tumblers out with the above fixings, and let guests mix their own after the tradition chacun prépere se sprote mort (“each prepares his own death”). The traditional portions would be a dash of the syrup, a wedge of the lime an a generous pour of the booze. Ice is optional.

Of course, you could replace the white unaged rhum agricole with with an aged version to get a Punch Vieux. If you like it bitter, though, what better way then to get some of that good lime oil in with the drink. How do you do that, you may ask. Why not muddle some lime wedges? And while you’re at it, let’s use cachaca instead of something from the Caribbean. And, you know what? I’m not feeling the syrup. If we’re muddling the lime, I think we should be using some plain old syrup to get the abrasiveness, and it’s a bit more rustic. Guess what! We just made a…:

A Caipirinha

A Caipirinha

Caipirinha

  • 1.5-2 oz. – Cachaca (Not having any, I used Cruzan Estate Light)
  • 3-4 – Halved Lime Wedges (about half a lime)
  • 1 Tbsp – Granulated Sugar (a raw sugar is better, but white is fine)

Muddle the sugar with the lime wedges in a tumbler, and then add ice and the rum. Stir briefly to cool and garnish with a lime wedge.

What? You want to muddle some mint in with your caipirinha? And then you want to add some seltzer water? And use a Cuban rum? Well, you could do all that, and call it a Mojito. Oh, you meant aged Cuban rum. And you’re out of seltzer so you are going with Champagne? That’s silly. But if you insist, I guess we could toss in a dash of Angostura and call it an Old Cuban. What? You want a more Anglophonic rum sour? I thought the grog at the top would have been good enough, but no. There’s just no satisfying some people. I guess that means we should go with:

Rum Punch

  • 3 parts – Gold Rum (Mount Gay Eclipse)
  • 2 parts – Sugar
  • 2 parts – Water
  • 1 part – Lime Juice

Mix the sugar, water and lime juice into a cold syrup. Add in the rum and shake with ice. Serve over ice in a tumbler. Note that the shaking and the ice in the tumbler make up the remaining two parts ice to give you one part sour, two parts sweet, three parts strong, and four parts sweet. Use .5 oz. as one part for a decent cocktail. You may want to back off the sugar a bit though, as I find this a bit on the sweet side.

There. That’s a pretty thorough overview of the rum lime sour. I hope you’re happy. You’re not? There’s just no pleasing some people. How about something from the old school. Maybe something from the Professor? How about a:

Santa Cruz Sour

  • 2 oz. – Santa Cruz Rum (Appleton V/X)
  • 1 oz. – Water
  • 1 Tbsp – Sugar (white, granulated is fine)
  • .25 oz. – Lemon Juice
  • .25 oz. – Lime Juice
  • 1 dash – Triple Sec (Jaquin’s)

Mix the water, sugar, and juices into a syrup. Add the triple sec and rum and shake with ice to combine. Serve either in a cocktail glass or in a tumbler over ice. Garnish with either a lemon or lime wedge.

Is that good? Can I go home now? No? You want more? But you’re bored of the basic sour? Jeesh. What do you want? It’s not like I get anything out of writing this blog. I should just quit and go do work. Oh fine. I’ll give you one more:

The Bajan Legend

  • 2 oz. – Gold Rum (Mount Gay Eclipse)
  • 2 oz. – Falernum

Build in a tumbler with ice and garnish with a lime wedge.

Yup. That’s a sour. After all, what is falernum but a sour mix with more rum and some spices added? Ha! You still want more? But not from the 19th Century? You know the theme is 19th Century cocktails, right? Okay, I’ll give you one inspired by a daiquiri.

The St. Germain Daiquiri by Charles Joy

  • 2 oz. – Bacardi 8
  • .5 oz. – Lime Juice
  • .5 oz. – Orange Juice
  • .5 oz. – Simple Syrup
  • .25 oz. – St. Germain
  • 2 drops – Orange flower water
  • 1 – Egg white

Shake everything but the flower water together without ice to combine. Add ice and shake it to wake it up. Serve in a cocktail glass, top with flower water and garnish with a candied flower.

These are the quantities as best I can guess from the seminar where it was presented. I hope you all are happy. I pulled together a round dozen rum sours, almost all of which date to the 19th Century.

Pictures will slowly migrate up as I finish making and getting pictures of the final few cocktails and get them off my camera.

And so, in the spirit Monday, I offer a toast to those at sea, who drink their grog,
The Scribe

Me Jolly Jolly Grog

If you read Jeffery Morgenthaller, he asserts that rum can replace gin as the clear spirit in just about any application. Since I have lots of rum, and only low quality gin, I have been making use of that wisdom. One application is:

The Bees Knees

  • 2 oz. – Gin (Cruzan Estate Light Rum)
  • 1 oz. – Lemon Juice
  • .5 oz. – Water
  • .5 oz. – Honey

Shake all the ingredients together with ice and serve in a stemmed cocktail glass. Note that you can use 1 oz. honey syrup in place of the water and honey together. Garnish with a lemon wedge.

This is really quite a simple take on a gin or rum lemon sour. While it is not bad, it also has no real outstanding characteristic to it. Perhaps if you used an interesting honey, like buckwheat or something strongly flavoured, you might get some interest out of it, but simple clover honey doesn’t have enough flavour to be really noticeable. Hmm…The outstanding taste in buckwheat honey is molasses. So what about:

The Knees of Cari-bee

  • 2 oz. – Dark Rum (Gosling’s Black Seal, Pusser’s could be good)
  • 1 oz. – Lime Juice
  • .5 oz. – Sweet Molasses
  • .5 oz. – Brown Sugar Syrup (Or a raw sugar syrup would be even better)

Shake with ice and serve either over ice in a rocks glass or straight up in a stemmed cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime wedge or perhaps some candied ginger.

Now this is interesting. The first iteration was not particularly palattable since I used a full ounce of molasses, but by cutting it with syrup, the molasses taste did not overpower everything. You may want to cut it further still, but that is a matter of taste. Make sure you are using a sweet or light mollasses or you may need to sweeten your mollasses with sugar. I also shook the drink a little extra to get some extra melt in to loosen up the molasses. You will need to either dry shake the drink first to combine the molasses or just shake it quite hard. If you don’t, the molasses might seize and fail to integrate. Unfortunately, I could not find my camera while I was drinking these, so we are without pictures.

Here’s to your grog,
The Scribe