Archive for the ‘Vermouth’ 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.


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

Stir with ice; strain into a chilled cocktail glass. 


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. 



Even Leap Day has a cocktail

Monday, February 27th, 2012

What was Julius Caesar thinking when he created the extra Leap Year day in February? Not that I’m in any hurry to see March – it being just as soggy and cold as November-May – but an extra day in July or August would be so much better. 

Leap Day is mostly lacking in traditions or celebrations, but does claim its own cocktail. According to Paul Clarke on SeriousEats, this Leap Year cocktail was created at London’s Savoy Hotel in 1928 to celebrate Leap Day.

 Leap Year Cocktail

 2 oz gin
½ oz Grand Marnier
½ oz sweet vermouth (I used Dolin)
1 dash fresh lemon juice

Pour ingredients into a cocktail shaker and fill with ice. Shake well and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Twist a piece of lemon peel over the drink and use for garnish.

Have a couple on the 29th, because real life is for March.


Cheers, ICE

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


School Supplies? Check.

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010
Mommy needs school supplies, too.

A friend forwarded to me a humorous email that included the line, “There is a Christmas morning for parents and it’s called ‘back to school.’” But now my youngest is off to Kindergarten, making it a bittersweet day.  

So of course my drink this week is also bittersweet. But, as it turns out, I am not especially fond of either bitter or sweet dominating my cocktails.  Oops.

Since I like all the ingredients included, I was sure that I would enjoy the Remember the Maine drink.  Isn’t it annoying when it doesn’t work out that way? I ended up doctoring the mix with a bit of lime juice and grenadine to suit my taste, but I know there are many cocktail drinkers that do like the stronger drinks. This one is for you:

Remember the Maine

2 oz rye whiskey
3/4 oz sweet vermouth
2 teaspoon (10 ml) Cherry Heering
1/2 teaspoon (2 ½ ml) absinthe

Stir in glass with ice, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

On the other hand, with all those school forms I have yet to complete and sign, I may just need a stiff drink to see me through.

Cheers, ICE


No Shortage of Cocktails From New Orleans

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

Since starting on this cocktail mania, I’ve heard a lot about the Tales of the Cocktail event in New Orleans each summer (July 21-25 this year). Since it combines two fascinations for me – cocktails and New Orleans – I am understandably interested in the goings on. While I won’t be attending this year, I am content with a few related pleasures, namely sipping the official Tales of the Cocktail drink, a new season of HBO’s True Blood, and three bottles of New Orleans booze my friend Dee brought back from her visit there.  I am hardly suffering.

I had hoped that Dee could bring me back a mini-bottle of rye whiskey to sample. Instead, she hauled home a fifth each of Sazerac Rye Whiskey, Old New Orleans Cajun Spice Rum, and Praline Pecan Liqueur for me. I’ve had fun experimenting with these, and it still surprises me that I like whiskey:  I have always associated it with stiff, hair-on-your-chest drinks, but have been shown otherwise by some great recipes and generous friends.

If you have some rye whiskey, try out The Scofflaw. It was created during the Prohibition in Paris and named after those illegally drinking in the U.S., called scofflaws. Another blogger provides more history and the recipe here.  This is a good year-round drink, not too summery or too heavy for any season, and I would happily order it in a bar. As a bonus, I was able to use some of the grenadine I made recently; however, I have learned that Stirrings now makes a genuine bottled grenadine that sounds promising.

The Scofflaw

1 oz rye whiskey
1 oz dry vermouth
3/4 oz grenadine (homemade or Stirring’s brand)
3/4 oz lemon juice
2-3 dashes orange bitters

Add ice and all ingredients to a cocktail shaker and shake until well-chilled. Strain into a chilled glass and enjoy!

I also found a great refreshing summer drink in the Cajun Spiced Rum bottle: The Cajun Iced Tea. The beauty of this kind of drink is that it’s “loose” because it doesn’t require exact measurements, and it’s easy because no shaker is involved. It was also a great excuse for a drink in the afternoon (you know, so the caffeine wouldn’t keep me up at night). This rum is different than other spiced rums I’ve tried – mainly of the Captain Morgan’s variety – but not hot spicy like the “Cajun” would imply.

Cajun Iced Tea with my New Orleans trio.

Cajun Iced Tea

1 ½ oz Old New Orleans Cajun Spice Rum
½  oz simple syrup
½ oz lemon juice (optional but a good addition)
Unsweetened iced tea

Fill a tall glass with ice, add all the ingredients to fill, and then stir and serve with a lemon slice.

The above fulfill my liquid New Orleans needs at home, but I also discovered an incredible drink at the Chantanee Thai Restaurant’s Naga Cocktail Bar, which boasts that it is the only craft cocktail lounge in Bellevue, Washington. No surprise that it is the official Tales of the Cocktail drink this year, because it is fabulous. Head straight there – now! – to order the Death in the South Pacific and go to cocktail heaven.

Cheers, ICE