Archive for the ‘Bars & Restaurants’ Category

A is for Absinthe

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

Note: I wrote the following recap for May’s Seattle LUPEC meeting and it is also posted on that site.

If the adage that “practice makes perfect” is true, then Seattle LUPEC (Ladies United for Preservation of Endangered Cocktails) members certainly need no lessons in drinking – we are already very, very good at it. But we love to learn (to get perfect-er?) and were eager students at the special Sorrento Drinking Lessons held just for our May 1st meeting. Not even May Day protesters (or at least the traffic of those fleeing them) could keep us from learning all about absinthe from Andrew Bohrer, bartender, cocktail history buff and Spirits Portfolio Manager for Vinum distributers.

Absinthe has a rich and varied history, from toast of the town in the 1800’s to modern-day bootleg production in dorm bathrooms. Andrew took us through the developments – such as the use of wormwood and herbs as additives — in spirit production that eventually led to the creation of absinthe in 1797. By 1840 it was the most popular non-wine spirit around, and vintage cocktail books reflect its use in many, many cocktails. An entire drinking ritual was created for it, and while drinks like the Moscow Mule may have their own special serving glass, absinthe boasts a range of apparatus (take that, vodka!) like the fountain and slotted spoon.  

A victim of misunderstanding about its ingredients, blamed for psychotic incidents and later slandered by threatened wineries, “the Green Fairy” was banned in the United States and elsewhere for up to 90 years. Fortunately for us, the bans have ended and an explosion of absinthe producers gives us many choices for enjoying the spirit and using it in cocktails. With the help of Alex mixing and Jen and Molly serving, Andrew treated LUPEC members to three samples of absinthe and three absinthe-laced cocktails.  

A Test for Our Tastebuds

Our glasses of Lucid, Trillium and Pacifique absinthes were served in the customary manner, with a bit of sugar and a ratio of 1 part absinthe to 3-5 parts water. Andrew explained that the cloudiness in the liquid is called the louche and results from the water separating the essential oils locked in during the two-step distillation and maceration process that defines absinthe production. Its green – vert – shade comes from the chlorophyll of its ingredients. While most absinthes use the herbs absinthium (wormwood), anise and fennel during distillation, more variation is used among brands in flavoring the secondary maceration and that results in a range of distinctive tastes.

Could we taste the differences among the three absinthes? Indeed we could. The LUPEC consensus was that the Trillium (not unexpectedly discontinued) was too cloying, especially compared to the softer, more complex Pacifique (which Wendy compared to beloved Good & Plenty candies). The Lucid, with a beet base, showed that the spirit can evolve and still remain true to its roots.

Comparing their bottles, Andrew also explained some practicalities about absinthe: because it is a very high proof spirit, it is susceptible (i.e. explosive) to heat. Therefore, Trillium’s narrow necked bottle was a detriment as it trapped heat; for us home bartenders, that means we must not store any absinthe near the stove!

While absorbed in the nuances of each absinthe, we were also excited to sample them in cocktails. In keeping with the theme of absinthe history, Andrew served us up three classic cocktails (recipes below) with absinthe as a key player: the Corpse Reviver #2, the Chrysanthemum, and the Sazerac. Andrew’s parting advice on the last is that to make a Sazerac New-Orleans-style, you must add the absinthe to an empty glass and then toss it in the air to provide the proper rinse. This is better advice for the first drink of the night than the last, if you value your glassware.

Corpse Reviver #2

1 oz gin
1 oz Cointreau
1 oz Lillet Blanc
1 oz lemon juice
3 dashes absinthe 

Shake all ingredients well with ice; strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Chrysanthemum

2 oz dry vermouth
3/4 oz Benedictine
2 dashes absinthe

Stir with ice; strain into a chilled cocktail glass. 

Sazerac

2 oz rye whiskey
1 sugar cube
4 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
2 dashes absinthe
 steady hands for tossing glass

Stir with ice; strain into a chilled lowball glass.

 Class is Dismissed 

Having gained knowledge, excellent drinks and a delicious meal provided by our hosts at the Sorrento, we LUPEC members mingled in the plush Fireside Room. There were no diplomas touting our expertise in the Field of Absinthe, but – even better! – we were treated to parting favors:  a tasty “to-go cocktail” of the Clipper Ship (Voyager gin, Pur Blossom liqueur, lime juice and Pacifique Absinthe), plus an atomizer of absinthe for our home bars.  We thank Andrew Bohrer, the Sorrento Hotel, Alex, Molly and Jen for their great help in presenting another informative, tasty LUPEC meeting. 

Cheers, ICE 

(A Necessary Diversion)

While steeped in absinthe (almost literally), the opportunity to ask a distributor about the state of liquor availability was too irresistible. Where and when will cherished brands return to shelves? What should we stock up on before June 1?  Andrew said that Voyager gin and Pacifique Absinthe will be stocked next month at Fred Meyer and likely at Metropolitan Market, QFC and independent stores as well.  Andrew will post availability on the LUPEC Facebook page to keep us updated. Those not wanting to run dry on smaller Italian liqueurs should stock up; many of their producers are not prepared for the changes in distribution. 

 

 

From cocktails to dessert, this chocolate goes with everything

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

Chocolate eggs, bunnies, and Girl Scout cookies are hard to escape this season. I have never claimed the chocoholic label, but that may change now that I’ve discovered a new variety: chocolate stout reduction.  I’m like a fairy sprinkling chocolate stout reduction around instead of magic dust; it may be brown and sticky but it is enchanting all the same. It rocks in cocktails, milk, ice cream…hell, I’m ready to make it a fondue for fruit and cheese, too.  Or, wait, what about on pancakes?!

My first taste of such a reduction was at Lot No. 3 in Bellevue. They offer a selection of “classics with a twist,” and made me a Rocketeer (based on the Twentieth Century Cocktail) that subbed chocolate stout reduction for the crème de cacao liqueur. Their version was so much better than the classic because the reduction is less sweet and has a more complex chocolate flavor. I was hooked and intent on recreating it at home.

The stout doesn't reduce this much, I just wanted to create a thicker topping for ice cream.

It took using some baking recipes for direction and a lot of simmering, but I finally settled on the following delicious recipe:

Chocolate Stout Reduction

1 bottle (24 oz) of chocolate stout (so far Southern Tier’s Imperial Choklat is my favorite)
7 oz turbinado sugar
1/8 t of salt

Combine all in a large sauce pan. Bring to boil until the sugar is dissolved, and then simmer on medium while stirring occasionally and watching carefully – it can quickly bubble up and over if left unwatched. As it reduces, the bubbles become thicker and glossy, like bubbling syrup. Simmer 15-20 minutes until the liquid is reduced by half (for drinks, but reduce more for a thicker topping) and remove from heat. Cool, bottle and refrigerate.  Hint: if you discover upon cooling that you have over-reduced, simply add a bit of water and gently heat until mixed to your desired consistency.

The end result is rich and chocolate-y, with a slight bitterness.  It is scrumptious on caramel ice cream (note to self to stock up at Molly Moon’s) with a bit of sea salt; it makes the perfect adult chocolate milk (4:1 ratio); and, of course, it is fabulous in cocktails! Try these to start:

Chocolate Julep

Crushed ice
1 ½ oz bourbon
½ oz chocolate stout reduction
2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters

Pour bourbon, reduction and bitters over crushed ice in a low glass and stir vigorously to chill. Or, try spiced rum instead of bourbon for a tasty variation that strangely tastes of Kahlua liqueur.

This “julep” is so easy and tasty that I haven’t ventured away much. But, the tiki Scootini Sling from Portland and classic Twentieth Century Cocktail are also good vehicles for the chocolate stout reduction in place of crème de cacao*.

Scootiki Sling, revised

2 oz spiced rum
½ oz orgeat (B.G. Reynolds brand preferably)
½ oz chocolate stout reduction
¼ oz cherry heering
½ oz lemon juice

Shake with ice and serve over crushed ice.

 

Twentieth Century Cocktail, revised

1 ½ oz gin
½ oz chocolate stout reduction
¾ oz Lillet Blanc
¼ oz lemon juice

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake well and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Note: I scaled back on the lemon juice from the original recipe to create a better balance; and confirmed at home that this really is improved by subbing out the crème de cacao.

Cheers, ICE 

*A caveat:  if a recipe calls for white crème de cacao and drink color is important, do not use the reduction as it darkens the drink dramatically.

As always, check out my Glossary of Spirits page for alcohol and mixer definitions and details.

 

A Cackle Nite Hollow

Friday, October 21st, 2011

Don’t you love anagrams? So much fun scrambling up words to make new combinations. Here are some for “Halloween Cocktails” that still fit the theme:

A Cackle Nite Hollow
Hello, A New Cocktail
Hone Well A Cocktail
A New Alcohol Tickle

 For real Halloween cocktails, whip up the Bloody Sunday punch I created last year, or try this fun layered one. Enjoy either of these at your Halloween party next weekend! I will work on more next week (“Hello, A New Cocktail”).

 Hone Well A Cocktail

Amongst the Halloween parties October 27-30 will be the first annual Seattle Cocktail Week – definitely “A New Alcohol Tickle!” There will be events at bars all over the city in celebration of cocktails. For updates, check out the event’s Facebook page. Be sure to attend the LUPEC event on Thursday, October 27 from 7-9 pm at Rob Roy. “Boobs, Booze & Beignets” will raise money for breast cancer research New Orleans-style. Good cause + good cocktails = good time!

 

Cheers, ICE

 

A Second Chance for Aquavit

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

In my pre-family, pre-suburbs days, I spent a lot of time in Ballard. Ballard is now full of fresh restaurants and craft cocktail havens, but that’s not the Ballard of my youth. That Ballard was The Sloop, Hattie’s Hat and sometimes the Tractor Tavern – these gems are still there, still treasured, but fairly overshadowed. Somewhere among these I once tried aquavit, probably encouraged by one of Ballard’s transplanted Norwegians (one of whom introduced me and Red, but not in a bar!), the prized Scandinavian liquor.  A shot and a shudder: No more aquavit for me. Uff da!

But then I tried the Trident (aquavit, sherry, Cynar and peach bitters) at the Zig Zag Café and re-examined my opinion of aquavit, a neutral spirit flavored with caraway seeds, anise, fennel and citrus peel. In the right cocktail it is lovely and soft, not harsh. Thinking about aquavit after some blackberry foraging, I created the following cocktail. Enjoy!

Uff Da

 4 blackberries
1 oz aquavit
½ oz yellow chartreuse
¾ oz lemon juice
¼ oz honey syrup (equal parts honey and warm water shaken to mix)

Muddle the blackberries with lemon juice in a cocktail shaker. Add ice and remaining ingredients and shake well to chill. Double strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

When not playing fetch, Nacho loves some hang time.

A Nacho Libre Update: Despite my scoffing, the meds are actually working. He wakes us up only once in awhile, is cuddlier again, and spends less time on patrol. But he still loves his upside-down time.

Cheers, ICE

As always, check out my Glossary of Spirits page for alcohol and mixer definitions and details.