Fernet and ginger sorbet (a.k.a. Awesome Sorbet)


This is a refined version of a recipe we made at Carlyle back in 2009 for a night of drinks featuring Fernet Branca. That version was delicious but it didn’t freeze well as I’d have liked. A few months ago I acquired an ice cream maker, so I’ve been enjoying lots of fernet sorbet this summer tweaking the recipe to reduce the amount of sugar and alcohol, both of which impede freezing.

The texture on this one still isn’t perfect for a stylized restaurant presentation, but it’s much more stable. Perhaps it would be perfect with a better ice cream maker or a fernet with a lower proof than the ubiquitous Fernet Branca that I’ve been using. The important thing is that it tastes fantastic. “Awesome Sorbet” was the label I found on the container at Carlyle when we made the first batch, and it still lives up to the name.

The inspiration for this is the fernet and ginger ale pairing beloved by so many West Coast bartenders. Neither ingredient dominates the sorbet, but they add spice and flavor.

30 oz orange juice
4 oz lemon juice
3 oz fernet
1 1/2 oz ginger juice*
6 oz superfine sugar

Whisk ingredients in a bowl, spin in an ice cream maker, and put in freezer until frozen.

* I don’t actually juice ginger for this. I just blend chopped ginger with a little water and push it through a strainer.

[Recipe edited 8/20/14 to reflect newest version.]


Links for 8/23/11

I’ll be in Seattle tonight serving pre- and Prohibition era cocktails with Jason Saura for the State Policy Network annual meeting. If you’re attending the conference, come say hi at the bar.

A few of my favorite things get mashed up: Batman and latte art, The Decemberists and Infinite Jest.

Grant Morrison talks comics and his fun new book, Supergods.

As a fellow escapee from the DC policy world, I endorse Jeremy Lott’s “year of living frivolously.”

If Paul Krugman and these scientists are both right, global warming is just what the economy needs.

12 Bottle Bar rounds up the latest Mixology Monday.


Unintended consequences and genever houses


If you fly business class on KLM, you’ll be presented with a welcome gift from the airline: A small ceramic bottle of genever glazed in the style of Delft tiles and modeled after actual buildings in Amsterdam. This is a practice at KLM dating back to 1952, with a new house introduced each year. This I knew from my recent trip to Amsterdam. I have my own bottle, pictured above, of the House of Bols. This is the only one you can acquire without flying KLM or buying from collectors.

What I didn’t know is why this tradition developed. It turns out it’s an unintended consequence of regulation. Airline rules at the time capped the value of gifts to passengers at seventy-five cents, however they placed no restriction on the provision of drinks. KLM’s ingenious work-around was to hand out a single-serving of genever in a bottle that was worth far more than the spirit inside. Despite the cost-cutting that has deglamorized air travel in recent years, these ceramic bottles have become too beloved to eliminate.

See The Wall Street Journal for the full story, and thanks to my friend Edgar Hutte for the tip.


Links for 8/17/11

Porcupines are a frequent sight here on the island in Upper Peninsula Michigan. The most alarming fact about porcupines? They “fall out of trees fairly often.” I walk under a lot of trees here.

Judging by a quick Google search, there are no reports of people being injured by falling porcupines. However a porcupine may be partially responsible for creating the killer Leopard of Gummalapur, which took the lives of 42 people.

Five Books interviews Ruth Reichl on the topic of American food.

Tim Carney and Jon Stewart on how the media dismisses Ron Paul.

Your tax dollars at work: Prosecutors throw the book at a private club selling raw milk to its members.

Penn Jillette explains why he’s an atheist libertarian.

Louboutin seeks to claim the color red as a trademark when used on shoe soles.

Homeopathic “remedy” company Boiron sues blogger for claiming its products have no active ingredient.


Naval Traditions


This month’s Mixology Monday is hosted by David Solmonson at the wonderful 12 Bottle Bar:

As is the case for each event, the hosting site gets to choose the theme, and we’ve picked the ever-so-vague-yet-commanding “Come to Your Senses!”

We all know that cocktails are supposed to taste good, and for this event, we’re going to take that as a given. What we’re looking for, instead, are drinks that truly excite one or more of the other senses: touch, smell, sight, or even hearing. Of course, it you want to get scientific about it – and why wouldn’t you – there are even more sensations which can be played with (echolocation, anyone?).

My drink for this month involves fire. Why? Because fire sells drinks. How else to explain the otherwise inexplicably and cursedly popular Spanish Coffee? Light a drink on fire and customers are going to ask about it. In my bar, where the cocktails compete with 70+ wines available by the taste or glass, that’s no small thing. However I’m not interested in setting drinks on fire without reason or hiding inferior ingredients under pyrotechnic theatricality. The fire should improve the drink in some way.

In this case, fire comes in the form of a flamed mist of rum and orange bitters. The burnt bitters leave a strong aromatic presence that lingers over the surface of the drink. The cocktail appeals to three senses: The sight of the flame, the scent of the bitters, and (hopefully!) the taste of the combined ingredients.

The name for this cocktail came long before the recipe. There’s an apocryphal story about Winston Churchill remarking of tradition in the British Navy that “It’s nothing but rum, sodomy, and the lash.” This appears to be a false attribution, although according to the Churchill Centre and Museum he wished he had said it. Regardless, a friend of mine once suggested that Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash would make a great name for a cocktail, and it’s been at the back of my mind ever since.

The opportunity to use it came a few months ago at the bon voyage party for Portland bartender Tommy Klus before he left to spend a few months in Scotland. I was taking a turn behind the bar and was asked to improvise a cocktail with the limited range of ingredients available to us . Aged rum, black strap rum, peaty Scotch, turbinado syrup, bitters, and a canister of orange oil for flaming turned out to be a winning combination. Here’s a slightly revised version of that deep, dark drink:

1 3/4 oz aged rum
1/2 oz black strap rum
1/2 oz turbinado syrup
1/4 oz Islay Scotch
2 dashes spiced bitters
flamed orange bitters

Stir the first five ingredients with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and flame the bitters over the drink to finish. I use Cruzan for the rums and Ardbeg for the Scotch. The turbinado syrup is in a 1:1 ratio. The spiced bitters are an equal parts mix of Angostura bitters and allspice dram (also used in the Lazy Bear). For the flamed orange bitters, mix equal parts Regan’s orange bitters and 151-proof rum in a mister bottle and spray through a flame above the glass. (Note: The photo above is from a different cocktail that uses the bitters torch. I’m on the road right now with none of the ingredients needed to make the one in this post.)

This would have been the perfect cocktail to name as my friend suggested. There’s rum, obviously. The burst of flame is a lash. And I guess that leaves Scotch for the other thing. Sorry, Scotch. However I don’t work at the kind of place where I can put “sodomy” on the menu (in a manner of speaking!), so the actual name for this drink is an allusion to the falsely attributed Churchill quote, an in-joke for my friends at the bar. It’s listed as Naval Traditions.

Update 8/17/11: Below the break, my friend Tom sends in an animated GIF of the bitters torch in action!
Continue reading “Naval Traditions”


Transatlantic Mai Tai


First Mad Dog cocktails, now umbrella drinks? It’s a good thing Metrovino’s kitchen is here to keep things classy. (Let’s not even talk about the bone luge… yet). This drink came about from wondering what would happen if you made a grain-based version of a Mai Tai, which traditionally combines two kinds of rum with lime, orgeat, orange curacao, and sugar. In place of rum this uses equal parts rye whiskey and Bols Genever, a very malty spirit distilled from rye, wheat, and corn and flavored with botanicals.

1 oz rye
1 oz Bols Genever
1 oz lime juice
3/4 oz orgeat
1/2 oz orange liqueur

Shake and strain over ice, garnishing with a cherry, mint, and a cocktail parasol. Yes, you must include the parasol. You wouldn’t want the cherry to get a sunburn.

At the bar we’re serving this with Jim Beam for the rye, B. G. Reynold’s for the orgeat, and Combier for the orange liqueur. An alternate name for this drink would be the Product Placement cocktail. (Hi Blair and Tommy!)


Recent reading, drinks edition

Drinking Japan, Chris Bunting — Is Japan the best drinking country in the world? Chris Bunting makes a good case for it. The culture benefits from long traditions of native spirits along with a willingness to import the best from around the world. The book includes chapters dedicated to sake, schochu, awamori, beer, whisky, and wine, with extensive guides to the best bars in which to enjoy them. A miscellaneous chapter covers assorted bars such as those specializing in cocktails, an Iranian-owned tequila bar with more than 500 agave spirits, and a bar with more than 40 bottlings of calvados. A final chapter includes advice on buying alcohol in Japan and an appendix provides the basic language needed for communicating in a Japanese bar. I haven’t visited Japan yet, but I’ll absolutely bring this book along when I go.

The Punch Bowl, Dan Searing — Dan Searing is a DC-based bartender who in 2009 hosted a series of punch events called Punch Club. Why were there no events like this when I lived there? This attractive book collects 75 punch recipes made with rum, whiskey, gin, wine, champagne, milk, and tea, along with photos of vintage punch bowls. There’s even a punch made with India Pale Ale that I’ll be trying out this week. David Wondrich’s book on punch is a tough act to follow, but this is a great resource.

Left Coast Libations, Ted Munat — I’ve been remiss in not recommending this sooner. Ted Munat and Michael Lazar collected 100 recipes from 50 of their favorite bartenders from Los Angeles to Vancouver, Canada. (Sorry, Vancouver, Washington. Maybe in the sequel). Some of the recipes are a bit obscure to try at home, calling for ingredients like lime-whey mixture and smoked cider air, but they capture this wonderfully creative moment in West Coast craft bartending. The real joy in this book is in the hilarious and off the wall profiles of the bartenders themselves, and the drink photographs by Jenn Farrington are also gorgeous.

Bourbon: The Evolution of Kentucky Whiskey, Sam K. Cecil — Written by a veteran of the American whiskey industry, this book covers the history of bourbon. The introductory chapters cover some familiar ground, but the heart of this book is the 200 page guide to individual distilleries that operated throughout Kentucky. This is an extensive resource and a wealth of information for anyone looking for an in-depth history of distilling in Kentucky.

Cocktails 2011, Food & Wine — As always, this is a beautifully photographed guide to the year in cocktails. Lots of drinks to try out here.