Archive for the ‘Absinthe’ Category

Divide and Concord

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

Apples and pumpkins get a lot of the cocktail attention in autumn, but the drink below is a worthy way to buck those trends and go grape.

Grape jelly is one of the most delicious memories of childhood and produces hands-down the best  PB & J. That flavor of Concord grapes is the one we most associate with grape-ness.  But it’s time that grapes get off our sandwiches, and make the jump from our juice – or wine – glasses to our cocktails.

One great cross between grape and cocktail is the Divide and Concord, featured in the September/October issue of Imbibe Magazine and credited to Tona Palomino at Trenchermen in Chicago. Combining grape juice, gin, absinthe and egg white, it is fruity and creamy without being cloying.

  

Divide and Concord

1 oz Concord grape juice (fresh pressed or store-bought bottled)
1 ½ oz gin
¼ oz absinthe
¾ oz simple syrup
½ oz lime juice
½ oz egg white
¼ oz heavy cream

Combine all ingredients and shake without ice. Add ice and shake again. Double-strain into a chilled glass. For more details about using egg whites in cocktails, see my previous egg white post.

Note: I omitted the cream because I didn’t have any on hand, but didn’t feel like anything was missing.

 

One obstacle to eating Concord grapes is those annoying seeds, but growers have solved that problem with the introduction of the Thomcord, a cross between seedless Thompson table grapes and the Concord. You can even use store-bought Concord grape juice  (I tried it with great results) if the produce is unavailable: Look for brands with no added sugars. There’s nothing holding you back from this drink!

Cheers, ICE

 

PS: Do you know, photos are a big reason I don’t post much? They aren’t my strength in the first place, plus I often forget/circumstances don’t allow me to take a photo of a great drink and then I never end up posting about it because I lack a picture. So I’m breaking with “blog protocol.” Maybe I will post more, and then you will just have my ramblings and great drink recipes unpunctuated by mediocre pics. That doesn’t sound too bad, does it? 

 

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. 

 

 

No Flash Mardi Gras Drinks

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

Time, it does slip by. But what better point to get back to bloggin’ than Mardi Gras?!? And since New Orleans is the mother of all Mardi Gras celebrations, it was natural to try a couple of the city’s classics – the Sazerac and the Ramos Gin Fizz.

The Ramos Gin Fizz earns some beads

The Sazerac is a classic cocktail with some controversy. People, there are very precise methods and measurements to making this drink – many of them. A blogger/cocktail-author brawl could easily break out over the Sazerac’s “musts” and tweaks. In the end, I went with the following from The Gumbo Pages, a blog that purports, “in Louisiana … alcohol, butter, cream and big piles of fried seafood are still good for you.”

Sazerac

1/2 teaspoon absinthe, or Herbsaint
1 teaspoon of simple syrup (or 1 sugar cube)
4 dashes Peychaud’s bitters (essential)
1 small dash of Angostura bitters (extremely optional)
2 oz rye whiskey
Strip of lemon peel

For full instructions and some history, visit the site; it’s complicated. Here is my approach: Rinse (coat by running the absinthe around the inside of the glass) one cocktail glass with the absinthe and discard the remaining liquid. In a mixing glass, add the remaining ingredients and stir with ice until chilled. Strain mixture into the absinthe-rinsed glass, twist the lemon peel and serve.

On the whole, this drink didn’t work for me…too much like sipping whiskey neat for my taste. I did enjoy the Peychaud’s bitters (found at some area liquor stores), though.

Round Two

Ah, the Ramos Gin Fizz. I have tried many a tasty variation of this drink, but never the original. While the Sazerac is the Official Cocktail of New Orleans (and, hello, Kirkland City Council, what is our official cocktail?) the Ramos Gin Fizz is one of New Orlean’s most famous drinks. I used the version offered by Imbibe Magazine, but did appreciate The Gumbo Pages’ warning about the orange flower water:

“Be EXTREMELY careful when adding orange flower water to this drink! It can very easily overwhelm, making the drink taste like perfume. You want a light, flowery touch, so no more than 3 or 4 drops.”

So true. If you are picking up a bottle of orange flower water (I found mine at QFC near cocktail mixers on the top shelf) – and you should so you can make the best grenadine ever – get an eyedropper while you’re at it. There is nothing precise about the pour from this bottle.

Ramos Gin Fizz

1½ oz gin
½ oz simple syrup
½ oz fresh lemon juice
½ oz fresh lime juice
1 fresh egg white
1 oz heavy cream (I had only half-and-half on hand)
3 drops orange flower water
1 oz club soda

+ 2 drops of vanilla extract (a variation)

Combine all ingredients except the club soda in a shaker with crushed ice. Shake well and strain into a chilled old fashioned glass. Add club soda and stir gently.

I didn’t have that dropper and poured too much orange flower water, but a late add of the vanilla extract helped temper the flowery taste. The Ramos Gin Fizz gets my Mardi Gras endorsement, no flashing required.

By the way, if you google “Cajun cocktail recipes,” you get far more hits for cocktail wieners than drinks. Interesting.

Cheers, ICE

PS, next week is St. Patrick’s Day and I suddenly have a craving for a McD’s Shamrock Shake. Or another green drink…

 

 

Sunday, Bloody Sunday

Monday, October 18th, 2010
Halloween Drink #1 of 2…

Halloween falls on a Sunday this year, hence the name for this drink. This one is my own creation, using my newest find: black vodka!

I may be all very “2000 and late,” as Fergie would sing, but Blavod black vodka was a revelation to me. I didn’t know such a thing existed. Perfect for Halloween, it added enough darkness to this drink to get it close to that blood red quality I was looking for. By the way, I created the Bloody Sunday for a friend’s party, so the store-bought sparkling pomegranate juice made for easy mixin’.

Bloody Sunday punch — serves 16

16 oz Blavod black vodka
8 oz limon rum
8 oz Velvet Falernum
25 oz Trader Joe’s Sparkling Pomegranate beverage
2 oz 1 ½ oz absinthe

Stirring gently, mix all ingredients together in a pitcher or punch bowl. Serve with crushed ice.  Note this recipe change: When scaling this recipe I used 2 oz of absinthe, but after playing with it a bit, I recommend starting with only 1 ½ oz, stir, taste and add more if desired.

The Bloody Sunday, along with Blavod in its spiffy wet suit…in case you want to go diving with your vodka? You can see the black hue of the vodka in the shot glass.

Blavod (aside: What a lame name. Oh, and it comes in its own wet suit. Huh?) is vodka tinted by the bark of black catechu, which is used for a variety of medicinal and commercial purposes, including as dye.  The black catechu doesn’t add much flavor, so it can work in any vodka drink.

As a responsible blogger, I tested the Blavod and can assure you that, a) it will not discolor your teeth while drinking, like black food coloring certainly would, and b) if a sloppy guest spills some on your cream carpet or sexy nurse’s costume, the vodka won’t leave a stain. Whew. 

Cheers, ICE