Posts Tagged ‘liqueur’

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.

 

Drinks That Burn in Hell-oween

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

Other than color (blood red, orange, gruesome green), Halloween cocktails are often chosen by garnish and presentation – we have to dress up our drinks like we do ourselves for this holiday. This year I’m choosing to cloak my cocktails in flames:  Eerie blue flames that spark with a sprinkle of nutmeg or cinnamon, or turn orange with a bit of salt. I was not aware that I could channel Beavis & Butthead, but there they were, snickering “fire, fire, fire, heheh.”

My first flaming cocktail attempt was the The Goblet of Fire*, created for the Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows movie and appropriate for Halloween. I followed the instructions very carefully and found it quite simple, particularly since I learned how to layer drink ingredients (super duper easy) for last year’s Black + Orange drink. 

 The Goblet of Fire

 2 oz Ty Ku Liqueur
1 oz Kahlua liqueur
Barspoon of cream
1 oz Bacardi 151 rum
grated cinnamon
 
Directions:
  • Shake Ty Ku and Kahlua in a shaker filled with ice.
  • Strain into a cocktail glass.
  • Float cream on top using a bar spoon.
  • Float Bacardi 151 on top of cream.
  • Light the rum with a match.
  • As flame burns, sprinkle some cinnamon onto the flame.
  • Clap hands over flame or blow to put it out.
  • Give a stir and serve.

So much fun to make!  But not a favorite taste for me since I’m not keen on coffee (unlike everyone else in the Seattle area).  So I decided to try another recipe, using green chartreuse as the accelerant. This one was more to my taste.

Cradle of Life 

3/4 oz white rum
3/4 oz spiced rum
1/2 oz orgeat
1/3 oz (= 1T) fresh lemon juice
1/3 oz (= 1T) fresh lime juice
1/3 oz (= 1T) fresh orange juice
2 dashes of Angostura bitters
crushed ice
1 hollowed-out lime half, for garnish
1/2 ounce green chartreuse

 In a cocktail shaker, combine the rums, orgeat, citrus juices and bitters; shake well. Pour into a chilled double rocks glass. Add crushed ice and garnish with the lime cup (the site photo shows the lime cup inside out). Pour the chartreuse into the cup and ignite the chartreuse. Blow out the flame, then tip the chartreuse into the drink.

Really, though, any drink recipe can be made into the flaming variety, provided the accelerant liquor is compatible with the rest of the ingredients and the drink is served up (without ice). Floating a bit of Barcardi 151 on the top of a rum drink will little impact the taste (hmmm, this could be the perfect presentation for my Bloody Sunday drink!).  I did a lot of experimenting and here is what I learned:

  1. Depending on the mouth opening of the glass, as little as a quarter ounce of high-proof liquor floated on top can produce nice flames; if the glass mouth is wide, you’ll need more for dispersal
  2. I didn’t have any luck producing visible flames with less than 110 proof. Liquor can produce invisible flames and perhaps that was the case with the 100-proof vodka, but what’s the spectacle in that?
  3. While ice in a drink does not prevent floating a liquor on top, but it does prevent flaming (I had to see if fire could burn around the ice cubes; wouldn’t that be cool?)
  4. Better to keep the flames going just long enough to serve the drink, ooh and ahh quickly, maybe spark it with some cinnamon or nutmeg, and then blow it out. Otherwise the glassware gets too hot to drink.
  5. Because I was sober and safe, my eyebrows and house remain intact. DrinkNation serves up some safety tips for working with flaming drinks. 

Drinks that appear to arise from the inferno – that’s Halloween!

Cheers, ICE

* The Goblet of Fire is courtesy of Cocktails.About.com and Cradle of Life is from FoodandWine.com and featured in their Food & Wine Cocktails 2011 book.

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

 

¡Salud to Cinco de Mayo cócteles!

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

Although we are far from the U.S.-Mexico border here in Seattle and my kids can speak more Spanish than I can, we do have a cat named Nacho Libre and I’m always happy to lift a glass in celebration.  I think that’s enough to get my tequila revved and ready for Cinco de Mayo.

 

El luchador mexicano dice: "Escucha al HIELO, este es un cóctel muy bueno!"(translation: The Mexican wrestler says, "Listen to ICE, this is a very good cocktail!")

This cocktail, the St. Rosemary by mixologist Jacques Bezuidenhout, is another approachable tequila drink (more here) that is easy to make and chug, er, sip.

St. Rosemary

Leaves from a 1-inch rosemary sprig, plus 1 rosemary sprig for garnish
¼ oz fresh lime juice
1¾ oz  reposado tequila
¾ oz  St-Germain elderflower liqueur
1¼ oz apple juice, preferably unfiltered

In a cocktail shaker, muddle the rosemary leaves with the lime juice. Add ice and all of the remaining ingredients except the garnish and shake well. Double strain into a chilled coupe and garnish with the rosemary sprig.

¡Salud, ICE

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