Posts Tagged ‘classics’

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. 

 

 

Off to the races…or a fiesta

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

A dilemma! Two fab cocktail-ready events on Saturday, May 5, but which to choose? Cinco de Mayo, with tequila and citrus, or Derby Day (not roller derby, darn it), featuring the always-welcome Mint Julep? I may have to decide officially by rochambeau.

Granada de Amor

If you are hosting a Cinco de Mayo party, having a pitcher drink will free you from bartender duties. And if you want to stay in theme but have tequila-phobic guests (there are many of those), try the Granada de Amor. It uses citrus vodka as its base, but gets Mexican street cred from the use of Damaina liqueur.

Damaina liqueur is made from the damaina herb, thought to have many health benefits and aphrodisiac qualities. The bottle, in the shape of a buxom fertility goddess, touts Damaina liqueur as a traditional bridal gift from the groom’s mother (I’m thinking those mothers lack faith in their son’s virility). If the legends hold, those serving the Granada de Amore this weekend should watch for a baby boom around New Years.

Granada de Amor*

12 oz citrus vodka
3 oz Damiana liqueur
4 ½ oz fresh lime juice
4 ½ oz fresh orange juice (I opted for a bit less)
1 ½ oz cinnamon syrup
6 orange twists to garnish 

Combine all ingredients except garnishes in a pitcher and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. Stir and strain into chilled cocktail glasses. Garnish with orange twists. Serves 6.

Cinnamon syrup
see previous post 
 
Online descriptions say that damaina is an aphrodesiac…and cures bedwetting. Just so you know.

Mint Julep

The Mint Julep is the class Derby Day drink. There are many ways to make it and most of the variations involve how to handle the mint, while some swap the bourbon for rum or rye whiskey. The consistent elements are crushed ice, mint, sugar and a brown spirit swizzled into icy goodness.  The following Mint Julep introduced me to bourbon and I love it still.

 Run for the Roses*

Crushed ice
1 ½ oz bourbon
1 oz mint syrup (I reduce to ¾ oz)
1 sprig of mint for garnish

Fill a silver mint julep cup (no, I don’t have one, either) or lowball rocks glass with crushed ice. Add the mint syrup and bourbon. Stir briskly to chill thoroughly. Garnish with mint sprig and straw.

Mint syrup

¾ oz turbinado sugar
¾ oz water
1 c. chopped mint

Combine sugar and water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and add fresh mint. Cover and stand at room temperature for 3-5 hours. Strain, bottle and refrigerate until needed. Makes about 1 cup.

El luchador mexicano le gusta, por lo que debe ser bueno. (translation: The Mexican wrestler likes it, so it must be good.)

El Luchador was featured here for Cinco de Mayo 2011, but reappears for another laugh.

Cheers, ICE

 *the Granada de Amor is featured in Food & Wine Cocktails 2008 and hails from Andina, an incredible Portland restaurant

 *Run for the Roses is featured in MixShakeStir

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

 

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.

 

Eggs: To Drink, Not to Dye

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

Some post-Easter fun with those leftover eggs:

Want to amuse yourself when friends come over? Ask them if they want a cocktail and see their faces light up. Then ask how they feel about egg whites in their drink and watch them shudder.

It’s too bad, because a properly made cocktail with egg whites – traditionally called a Flip – is divine. It is frothy, foamy and light, NOT slimy or thick. And the perfect choice when I’ve done a kick-ass barre3 workout and later need some extra protein (this is my excuse to go from barre to bar).   

Pink Lady, a classic cocktail with egg whites

 I have to admit the process can be messy. Separating the egg white from the yolk isn’t too difficult, but I find the current accepted shaking technique to be drippy and annoying. Also, some people are wary of salmonella*, although I also don’t avoid cookie dough or a Caesar salad for that reason. 

In the name of research I launched my Great Egg White Experiment to find the best products and approach. I tried pasteurized powdered eggs, pasteurized carton egg whites, chilled eggs and not, shaking with crushed ice, cubed ice and no ice. Yeah, I totaled a lot of cocktails!  And I found a great solution. Read on for the best method, plus recipes of course!

Challenging the Accepted Wisdom of The Double Shake

The double shake is considered the best way to emulsify a drink with egg whites. It calls for adding together the egg white and all ingredients and shaking well first with no ice, then adding ice and shaking well again. The problem is that opening the shaker to add the ice creates a drippy mess down the sides and an unacceptable loss of liquor! But it does create good froth…too much of it, actually. It ends up reminding me of a bad tap pour; I don’t want that much head on my beer or my cocktail.

What if we skip that first shake without ice. What happens? A sad, forlorn layer of foam is the result. Looking at it, you’d barely know it was a flip.  Drinking it, you’d miss the creamy texture.

In other attempts I did have slightly better results doing a solo shake with crushed ice instead of cubed. Maybe all the small pieces served to better whip the egg white. But while respectable, it still wasn’t the ideal amount of foam.  A chilled egg versus one kept at room temperature also didn’t make a difference.

Powdered vs Carton Egg Whites 

Eggbeaters vs. Powdered in a PC Fizz

 For those concerned about food-borne illness, using a pasteurized product is an option.  For a head-to-head competition I made the same drink using each.

I found the powdered egg whites in the baking section at the grocery store and followed the directions to reconstitute it by mixing 2 tablespoons of powder with 1 ounce of warm water. Then I mixed and mixed. Even using my tiny whisk it was difficult to get the clumps out and rather tedious.

For the competition I used Eggbeaters Egg Whites, managing to find a carton without added coloring, unlike the last time when the “yellow” egg whites turned my drink baby shit brown. Yuck.

Employing the double-shake technique (see above) for both, I deemed the Eggbeaters to be the clear winner. Not only was it easier with no extra mixing, it produced the perfect amount of foam. The powdered eggs, perhaps because of the pre-whisking, just produced too much foam.  Both drinks tasted and felt exactly the same while drinking.
 

The Solution

Sticking to fresh eggs because they are always on hand, I tried another approach. If this is recommended elsewhere, I haven’t seen it so I’ll consider it my “breakthrough.” But I will let you use it because I’m nice like that.

I was thinking about the additional foam created by the powdered egg whites and the pre-whisking involved, and I wondered:  Would whisking an egg white (fresh or carton) – just as I do before making scrambled eggs – then adding ingredients and ice for a single shake be a good substitute for that pre-ice shaking used in the double shake technique?  Why, yes it is! In fact, it created the perfect amount of foam for my PC Fizz with no extra mess or time. 
 

Voila, a perfect PC Fizz!

 Woo hoo, let’s celebrate with a couple of drinks I used during my mad science trials:

The PC Fizz – from the MixShakeStir cocktail book

1 ½ oz Pimm’s No. 1
½ oz chartreuse (either yellow or green)
1 oz simple syrup
¾ oz lemon juice
¾ oz lime juice
1 egg white
pinch of pumpkin pie spice to garnish

 Add egg white to shaker and whisk (use a fork or small whisk) until foamy. Add all ingredients (except pie spice) and ice, and shake well. Strain into an ice-filled highball glass, garnish with a pinch of pumpkin pie spice on top of the foam and enjoy. Note:  I like this drink with either green chartreuse for a brighter drink or the yellow for a mellower version.

The next drink is a classic. Pink and tasty:

The Pink Lady

1 ½ oz gin
½ oz applejack
¾ oz lemon juice
¼ oz grenadine
1 egg white

 Add egg white to shaker and whisk (use a fork or small whisk) until foamy. Add all ingredients and ice, and shake well. Strain into a wine glass.

So now you have no excuses. Pasteurized carton egg whites are as tasty in drinks as fresh. Whisking the egg white is less messy than alternatives. Using egg whites provides texture and elegance to cocktails. It’s time to mug a chicken.

 Cheers, ICE

*what, actually, is the risk of salmonella poisoning from an egg white? Very small according to Lawrence Pong, principal health inspector and manager of food-borne illness outbreak investigations for the Department of Public Health in San Francisco: “Egg whites are alkaline in nature, and salmonella colonies cannot survive there.”  Plus it seems that the alcohol present in cocktail would also inhibit bacteria.