Golden Lion

Golden_Lion

As further proof that the dream of the 90s is alive in Portland, I’m breaking down and putting an infused vodka drink on the Metrovino cocktail menu:

1 1/2 oz Dolin blanc vermouth
3/4 oz cumin-infused vodka
1/2 oz Galliano
2 dashes Berg and Hauck’s celery bitters

Stir with ice and serve up with a lemon twist.

I rarely create cocktails with vodka. I don’t often drink vodka. And I never, ever buy vodka. As a cocktail blogger I get more free samples of the spirit than I can possibly consume. But when a package arrived carrying not just one bottle but more than four liters of the stuff, I decided I might as well play around with it.

Inspired by Kummel, an herbal liqueur, I set aside some of the vodka to infuse with cumin seeds. The next morning it came out powerfully aromatic with a yellow-orange hue. I was intrigued enough to build a cocktail around it, using Galliano to play up the golden color. The drink is light and savory-sweet, an infused vodka cocktail for the mixology nerds. I thought it might be a bit too weird for Metrovino’s wine-drinking clientele, but in testing it’s played well enough that we’re putting it on the menu. If you want to give it a try at home, here are the specs for the vodka:

1 cup vodka
2 teaspoons cumin seeds

Let steep overnight and strain.

Speaking of vodka, I have to give thanks to Vesica vodka for sending the product that prompted me to try this out. They sent much more vodka than I needed but there are a few things I like about the brand. One, the vodka is perfectly good and the bottles are attractive. Two, it’s reasonably priced and not hyped up with meaningless marketing. Three, the name. From Wikipedia:

The vesica piscis is a shape that is the intersection of two circles with the same radius, intersecting in such a way that the center of each circle lies on the circumference of the other. The name literally means the “bladder of a fish” in Latin. The shape is also called mandorla (“almond” in Italian).

Did you know that? I didn’t know that and I took four years of Latin. I have to appreciate a vodka brand that actually teaches me something. The 750 ml and 1 L bottles themselves are shaped to form a vesica when placed next to each other, which is a neat idea. Recommended.

Super Bowl Punch Out!

Apparently there is some kind of sporting event happening this Sunday. Thrillist Portland invited Jeff McCarthy from TenTop/Kitchen Cru, Janis Martin from Tanuki, and me and the Brewing Up Cocktails team to contribute a few recipes for readers’ Super Bowl gatherings. We all managed to make things just a little bit weird: a fermented beef sausage from Janis, Doritios encrusted wings from Jeff, and a gin, IPA, and Galliano punch from us. Any host that makes all three of these is guaranteed to have a memorable party.

Visit Thrillist for all three recipes. Here’s the punch:

2 12 oz bottles IPA or pale ale, chilled
6 oz gin
6 oz orange liqueur
3 oz lime juice
2 oz Galliano
1/2 cucumber, sliced

Combine ingredients in a punch bowl, add ice, and serve. Some dilution is beneficial here so if you’re using a large ice block consider adding a few smaller cubes as well. We didn’t want to call for specific brands in the Thrillist post, but in my own testing I used Damrak for the gin, Mandarine Napoleon for the orange liqueur, and Full Sail IPA for the beer. I like this combination but feel free to make substitutions.

MxMo Retro Redemption: Harvey Weissbanger

weissbanger2

This month’s Mixology Monday theme, as chosen by me, is Retro Redemption. The challenge: To resurrect a cocktail from the Dark Ages of mixology that fell between Prohibition and the contemporary cocktail renaissance, defending it on its merits or giving it new life with the addition of better techniques and ingredients.

This is a fitting theme for me to choose, because part of my job as a brand ambassador for Lucas Bols is promoting Galliano, an Italian liqueur flavored with anise, vanilla, and other herbs. Galliano was absolutely huge in the 1970s, showing up in a variety of cocktails served “against the wall” and by far most prominently in the Harvey Wallbanger. My parents, who don’t drink much but do keep a well stocked bar for guests, include a bottle of Galliano in their collection. They estimate they acquired it around 1978. I am pleased though not surprised that Galliano has shown up in several of the MxMo entries that have been sent in so far.

In the year-and-a-half that I’ve been working for Bols I’ve thought off and on about how to update the Harvey Wallbanger, which is made with vodka, orange juice, and Galliano. There’s a good flavor pairing there. Vanilla and orange go very well together. Look at the Creamsicle cocktail or the success of the Orange Julius chain. This combination works. The ingredient that doesn’t bring anything except alcohol to the drink is vodka. It’s just there in the background, not doing anything aside from getting people drunk. So to modernize the Harvey Wallbanger, the obvious thing to do is replace the vodka with something else.

So OK, what else pairs well with orange? If you read this blog you know that I love beer cocktails, and people have been putting oranges in wheat beers for years. Sometimes they do this in the brewing stage, as with Belgian witbier that’s flavored with coriander and orange peel. Sometimes a wedge of orange is simply added to the rim of the glass, as with some less complex American wheats. Either way, this is another flavor pairing that works.

Putting these pairing ideas together, you can omit the vodka and replace it with beer. Then you get the Harvey Weissbanger:

1 oz Galliano
2 oz orange juice
6 oz quality wheat beer

Build in an ice-filled collins glass, stir gently, and garnish with a strip of orange peel.

You can make this with just about any wheat beer, but the more flavorful ones work best. At my beer cocktail seminar with Ryan Conklin last month we served it with the Upright Four made here in Portland. For something more widely available, the classic Weihenstephaner is also fantastic. Give it a try. I think it’s a refreshing beer cocktail for sipping on the patio or knocking back at brunch.

[Photo by John Valls.]

Galliano Suissesse

galliano 006

Last night in Portland, I was guest-bartending for Bols at an event at Vault where we were challenged to come up cocktails inspired by the classic drinks of New Orleans. When I think of New Orleans drinks, three types come to mind. First are the spirit-driven classics like the Sazerac and Vieux Carré. Then there are the giant, sweet, fruity drinks for the tourists on Bourbon Street. And finally there are the creamy, frothy brunch drinks like Ramos Gin Fizz or the Brandy Milk Punch.

It was those drinks I turned to for inspiration last night. The Absinthe Suissesse is a delicious New Orleans drink combining absinthe, cream, egg white, and a few other ingredients. It wasn’t too hard to adapt into a Galliano Suissesse, since both spirits share a strong anise flavor. I dropped orgeat from the original recipe since Galliano is sweet enough as is and added a little soda to lengthen and lighten it:

1 1/2 oz Galliano
1 1/2 oz whipping cream
1 egg white
2 dashes orange flower water
soda

Give the first four ingredients a long, hard shake with ice, then strain into a wine glass. Add a splash of soda and grate some fresh nutmeg on top.

With an ounce and a half each of Galliano and cream there’s no getting around that this is a sweet drink, but it could be just the thing for a hair of the dog brunch after tonight’s Mardi Gras festivities. Unless you’re giving up drinking for Lent, but let’s be honest: No one reading this blog is likely to do something drastic like that.

Previously:
Utah, future home of the Vieux Carré

Two cocktails “against the wall”

galliano-033

Working as the Oregon brand ambassador for Lucas Bols, I spend much of my time promoting Bols Genever. However I also work with one of our other brands, the ubiquitous Italian liqueur Galliano. Both present interesting challenges. With genever we’re introducing people to an entire category of spirits with which they may be unfamiliar. With Galliano, the spirit is familiar sometimes to the point of neglect. A friend of mine jokes that buying a bottle of Galliano is a condition of getting a liquor license; it seems like every bar has it, but they don’t reach for it as often as they could.

When I talk to the public about Galliano, three associations come up repeatedly. One is of course the Harvey Wallbanger. Another is people sneaking pours from their parents’ giant Galliano bottles when they were underage. Or lastly, if a person had been to bartending school, they remember that if a drink is ordered “against the wall,” that means it’s served with Galliano. I’m pretty sure this nomenclature derived from the Wallbanger, but one guy was certain of his alternative theory: Because 750 ml Galliano bottles are too tall to fit on some bar shelves, they’re stored “against the wall” instead. Probably wrong, but points for creativity!

To be fair, there’s a good reason the spirit has been overlooked in recent years. Previous owners of the brand moved production to France and altered the recipe, taking it down to 60 proof and making it much less complex. Those older bottlings are far too sweet. Bols, however, has taken the brand back to its original home in Livorno, Italy and restored its quality. It’s now back above 80 proof and much more complex, with some 30 herbs, spices, and extracts going into it. If you haven’t tasted it in a while, it’s worth giving it a new try. I was skeptical myself, but it really is a vast improvement over the French product. Look for the bottles with red trim and “L’Autentico” on the label.

The most famous Galliano cocktail is the Harvey Wallbanger, basically a Screwdriver with Galliano floated on top. A close second is the Golden Cadillac, a blend of Galliano, white crème de cacao, and half-and-half, sold in unimaginable quantities at Poor Red’s BBQ in El Dorado, California. This was a guilty pleasure of mine as far back as my DC days. Sweet, yes, but also delicious.

Recently I’ve been challenging some Portland mixologists to come up with new Galliano cocktails. Here are two of my favorites. The first is from Adam Robinson at Park Kitchen. He served this is as the opening drink at the cocktail pairing dinner that kicked off Portland Cocktail Week and it was a hit. He calls it the RCA cocktail, since the three ingredients are red, white, and yellow, like an RCA cable:

1.5 oz Cocchi Americano
1.5 oz Sanbitter soda
.5 oz Galliano

Stir with ice and strain into a rocks glass. Express a lemon zest over the drink and discard. This is a great aperitivo, low in alcohol but with lots of flavor and fantastic color from the Sanbitter soda.

Another drink I really like is the Livorno Buck from Dave Shenaut at Beaker and Flask:

.75 oz Galliano
.75 oz gin
.75 oz dry vermouth
.75 oz lime juice
ginger beer

Shake the first four ingredients with ice and strain into an ice-filled collins glass. Top with ginger beer and serve. It’s balanced and refreshing, a good long drink for sitting outside in the summer.

Have another good drink “against the wall?” Let me know in the comments.