Zelda cocktail

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Continuing our practice of always having at least one beer cocktail on the Metrovino cocktail menu, the Zelda is replacing the popular Mai Ta-IPA. Fans of pink drinks, rejoice!

2 oz Small’s gin
3/4 oz lemon juice
3/4 oz framboise lambic reduction
1 egg white
pickled peach, for garnish

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker and shake without ice to aerate the egg white. Add ice and shake again. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with the peach.

The gin used in this cocktail is unique: Small’s from Ransom Spirits, distilled with raspberries and cardamom. It has a distinctive flavor that doesn’t work in every gin cocktail, but in the right drink there’s no substitute for it. If you can find it, pick up a bottle of Small’s.

There are exceptionally good, exceptionally expensive lambic beers flavored with fruit. They are not what you want for this cocktail. Get the inexpensive, fruity, sweet kind that’s widely available. You won’t feel bad about boiling it down into a syrup. I got the idea of reducing these beers with spices from Teardrop Lounge here in Portland and have tried a few variations on it. Here’s the latest:

1 750 ml bottle Lindemans Framboise
1 small stick cinnamon
1 star anise
2 inches ginger, sliced
sugar

Combine the beer and spices in a pan and simmer until flavorful and reduced by about a third in volume. Strain out the spices and measure the liquid. Mix with an equal volume of sugar. Bottle the syrup and keep refrigerated.

Finally, there’s the pickled peach. These come from our chef and are tart with a touch of winter spices. I don’t have an exact recipe, but here is one that you might try. Or simply garnish with fresh raspberries and call it good.

[Informal cocktail naming contest won by Megan McArdle, who is back to blogging this week. Thanks, Megan!]

Recent reading, spirits and cocktails edition

gin1Gin: A Global History, Lesley Jacobs Solmonson — One of the challenges confronting a cocktail writer is finding ways to make drinks sound interesting day after day. Anyone can write a recipe, but presenting it memorably with context and story is a rarer talent. Few pull it off as well as the husband and wife team of David Solmonson and Lesley Jacobs Solmonson, authors of the 12 Bottle Bar cocktail blog. Lesley has put that talent to work in a new book chronicling the history of gin.

In my job as a brand ambassador I’m immersed in gin and genever (not literally — OK, sometimes literally) but I still learned a great deal from reading this. It’s the best presentation I’ve come across explaining the stylistic evolution of juniper spirits from early, medicinally-inspired Dutch genever to the old toms of England, then to London dry and the botanically diverse gins made by contemporary distillers. The story is enhanced with many illustrations reaching back to gin’s earliest days and concludes with a selection of essential cocktails. Highly recommended for gin enthusiasts.

pdt1The PDT Cocktail Book, Jim Meehan — Leave aside the recipes for the moment: This books raises the bar for quality on its production values alone. Omitting photographs in favor of colorful illustrations by Chris Gall, this is easily the prettiest volume on my cocktail bookshelf.

But, of course, the recipes are stellar too. There are more than 300 of them, some classics but mostly originals from the renowned PDT speakeasy in New York. It’s a fantastic snapshot of how one of the best bars in the world operates at the top of its game; there’s plenty here to keep one busy trying new things.

The only difficulty with this book is that Meehan specifies brands for every recipe. This is useful for knowing exactly how they make the drinks at PDT, but it’s not always easy to tell when a substitution would be welcome or when a specific brand is essential to a cocktail. Readers will have to use their judgment or else do a lot of shopping; some guidance in the notes would have been a welcome addition. Nevertheless, this is an instant classic. If you reference cocktail books, you should own this.

beercocktailsBeer Cocktails, Howard and Ashley Stetzer — A collection of beer cocktail recipes is obviously a book that’s going to interest me. The publisher sent me a copy of this one and I’m grateful for the chance to look through it. The drinks run the gamut of beer styles, the recipes are clearly written with brief but entertaining introductions, and the photography is appealing.

There’s somewhat less variety in the spirits used. Allspice dram and Root liqueur show up surprisingly often in a book of fifty recipes, as do nut-flavored liqueurs. A few of the ingredients — vodka, PBR or similar mass market lagers, 99 Bananas — strike me as missed opportunities, but that’s a matter of personal preference. I’m also left thinking the book may have benefited from more research into beer cocktails from other writers and bartenders; the authors’ Sympathy for the Devil, a mixture of gin and Duvel with an absinthe rinse, is nearly identical to Stephen Beaumont’s Green Devil cocktail. This is likely an honest mistake, but it was jarring to see it.

There are bright spots too, including some of the classic beer drinks that the Stelzers include. I like their Knickertwister, which combines sweet and dry vermouth with allspice dram, orange bitters, and IPA (mixing vermouth and beer is underexplored territory). I’m also eager to try their Sleepy Hollow flip, which calls for rye, apple brandy, maple syrup, a whole egg, and pumpkin ale; it sounds delicious, but I’ll have to wait for pumpkin beers to come back into season to give it a go. I have several other recipes marked to try out in the future.

There’s a lot to try here and I’m glad to see beer cocktails, which are popping up on more and more menus, getting a whole book devoted to their creation. Definitely recommended if you’d like to explore more ways of mixing spirits and beer. Follow the authors’ blog too at Beyond the Shadow of a Stout.

Filtering tonic water with the Espro Press

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Homemade tonic water is delicious. Homemade tonic water is also a real pain to make. The natural source of quinine, cinchona bark, usually comes in a very fine powder that’s difficult to filter out of the finished product. It can take hours to drip through coffee filters and leaves a sticky mess on the counter if you’re not careful. Difficulty of filtering is the number one reason many people I know buy commercial tonics, many of which are now quite good, instead of making their own. But there are still reasons one might like to make a homemade tonic, including lower cost and the freedom to flavor it exactly how one wants.

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Happily, I recently stumbled onto a solution that makes filtering tonic water easy. One of the hit new products at this year’s Specialty Coffee Association of America show was the Espro Press, a new kind of French press developed in Vancouver, Canada. Two things make this press unique. One is that the brewing chamber is enclosed by double wall vacuum-insulated stainless steel, so that it retains heat very well. The second is that it uses not one but two filters on the plunger. The primary filter is much finer than that on a standard French press and the secondary filter is finer still. This allows it to brew French press coffee without the “sludge” that the brewing method tends to leave in the bottom of the cup. It makes a nice cup of joe and I’ve been using it fairly often for my morning coffee the past few weeks.

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I realized that the same things that make the Espro Press good for brewing coffee could also make it good for making tonic water. The heat retention should make it possible to brew the entire tonic in the press without need of a stovetop pan. And the dual filters, if they don’t get clogged with cinchona, would be perfect for removing the fine powder. The Espro sold out quickly at the show but luckily I was able to buy their demo press. I brought it back to the bar to try it out. The experiment worked and I have to say that I was a little more excited than a grown man should be when the first runnings of nearly perfectly clarified tonic came pouring out of the press.

What follows is a sample recipe for making tonic with an Espro Press. The proportions aren’t meant to be definitive, as this isn’t something I’ve needed to make consistently for a menu item. My usual approach to tonic is to riff off a standard recipe with whatever citrus and spices I happen to have on hand. A couple recipes that I often work from are this one from Kevin Ludwig in Imbibe magazine and this one from Jeffrey Morgenthaler (whoever he is). Two notes before proceeding:

Note 1: Quinine has effects on the body and can be dangerous in high doses. Read up on the possible adverse effects before proceeding. I’ve never heard of anyone coming to harm from homemade tonic water but I’m a bartender, not a doctor. Proceed at your own risk!

Note 2: Contrary to what some recipes say, add the sugar and citric acid after you filter out everything else. These need to be dissolved but they don’t have flavors that need to be extracted with heat. Adding them early just makes the mixture more viscous and more difficult to filter. Make life easier and add them at the end.

That out of the way, here’s one of the recipes I used to make tonic with the Espro Press:

4 cups hot water
3 cups sugar
6 tablespoons citric acid
3 tablespoons cinchona bark
zest of one grapefruit
zest of one lime
6 oz grapefruit juice
2 oz lime juice
1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
1 teaspoon dill seeds

Step 1: Pre-heat the Espro Press with hot water so that the temperature will remain stable when you brew the tonic.

Step 2: Discard the water and place the cinchona bark, citrus zests, citrus juices, and spices into the press. Add the four cups of hot water and stir. Place the plunger on top of the press to seal in heat and let sit for twenty minutes.

Step 3: Lower the plunger to filter the tonic. The bark will offer significant resistance so you can’t just Hulk Smash the plunger into the chamber. Proceed slowly, using your weight to gently press the plunger down.

Step 4: Pour as much of the tonic out of the press as possible. When it stops flowing, rotate it and pour from a different angle; I think this gets around some blockage caused by the cinchona powder. Doing this a few times will maximize the yield.

Step 5: Beneath the filters there will still be some liquid remaining with all the powder and spices. You can filter this with some more labor-intensive method or simply discard it. This recipe being all about making things easy, I opt for the latter.

Step 6: Add the sugar and citric acid to the tonic to make a syrup. Stir to dissolve and pour into a bottle for storage.

That’s all there is to it. The syrup is ready to enjoy with soda water or mixed into a classic Gin and Tonic:

1 1/2 oz gin
3/4 oz tonic syrup
soda
lime wedge

Combine all ingredients in a glass with ice, squeeze in the lime wedge, and stir.

A few additional notes…

I’ve made two batches of tonic with the Espro Press. It’s easy to clean afterwards and I don’t think repeated use would be a problem. However I haven’t put it up to the rigors of regular use in a busy bar, so if you’re buying one for that purpose I can’t guarantee that it will hold up. If you’re buying one for home use it should be fine and you’ll get a stylish coffee brewer too.

The Espro Press comes in two sizes. I bought the larger one, which at 30 oz is large indeed. The 8 oz one is intended for single servings of coffee. I haven’t tried it out for tonic. A list of retailers selling the Espro Press is here. It’s also available on Amazon (large; small). Cinchona powder can be purchased in bulk at herb shops such as this one.

Finally, in a surprising bit of synchronicity this isn’t the only post published this week about using coffee equipment to filter tonic water. Camper English of Alcademics features a method from Kevin Liu for using an Aeropress to accomplish the same thing. Check out that post too and keep following Camper’s blog for additional ideas.

[Photos of the Espro Press courtesy of Espro.]

Get sweet on liqueurs

Pigou

My latest article at Culinate takes a look at a few liqueurs that have recently arrived on the market, highlighting three to try and cocktails in which to mix them. Read it here for details on some very good fruit liqueurs and the redemption of crème de cacao and crème de menthe.

The article also includes the recipe for the newest cocktail at Metrovino, a variation on the Pegu Club. The ingredients in a traditional Pegu — gin, lime, orange liqueur, and bitters — combine to create a grapefruit-like flavor, so substituting the excellent Combier Pamplemousse Rose grapefruit liqueur for the orange was one of the first things I tried with the spirit. Such a minor variation in recipe deserves at best a minor variation in name, hence the listing as Pigou Club on our menu. The number of our customers who know about both Pegu and Pigou is sure to be vanishingly small, but the allusion makes me happy.

1 3/4 oz. London dry gin
3/4 oz. Combier Pamplemousse Rose
1/2 oz. lime juice
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 dash orange bitters

Shake all ingredients with ice, strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with a twist of lime peel.

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.

Genever is genever

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The title of this post doesn’t promise anything informative: Genever is genever. Yet when I hear people explain what genever is, they usually say something like “Genever is Dutch gin.” Or a kind of gin they drink in Holland. Or a malty style of gin that was popular in the United States before London dry took over. Gin gin gin gin gin. Look, I enjoy gin too — the gin shelf in my apartment is filled to overflowing — but genever is a different thing. Genever is genever. Labels are admittedly somewhat arbitrary, but I’d like to persuade you that there are good reasons to think of genever as its own distinct category of spirits.

I should first disclose that I’m not a disinterested party on this matter. I work for the Dutch distillery Lucas Bols and my job largely consists of encouraging people to drink more genever. It’s a better pitch for me to walk into a bar and say, “You should carry at least one genever” than it is to say, “You should carry an additional gin, and it should be this unusual Dutch one.” However that’s not the only reason I’m urging this change in classification. The spirit is maltier and less botanical than gin and it doesn’t mix in the same way. Calling genever a type of gin creates confusion.

Consider a typical consumer. He walks into a liquor store, sees a bottle of genever in the gin section, and is intrigued enough to buy it. He takes it home and puts it in his favorite gin drink, a Gin and Tonic. This is a classic pairing for a London dry. But genever and tonic? Eh, not so much. The bottle gets tucked away and forgotten.

Or consider a bartender who finds genever added to the gin section of his employer’s menu. He makes a Martini with it. Is that going to make him enthusiastic about genever? Probably not.

Both of these drinks are excellent with gin. They’re not ideally suited to genever. It’s no fault of the consumer or the bartender that the cocktails didn’t turn out as they’d hoped: They were told genever was gin, so they tried mixing it in absolutely standard gin drinks. They were given the wrong expectations about the product. If they knew what genever is actually like and how to use it, that disappointment could have been avoided. The first step in that education is getting them to think of genever as genever rather than as a kind of gin.

Here’s an analogy I sometimes use to explain my work with Lucas Bols. Imagine that your job was to promote tequila before many people in the United States had any idea what tequila was. You might tell them it’s sort of like rum, produced in the southern latitudes and with an affinity for mixing with lime and other citrus. Or you might tell them it’s like whiskey or brandy, aged in barrels and very nice to sip neat. Neither of these descriptions is completely accurate, but they give consumers a starting point for enjoying the spirit.

In fact, that is pretty close to how some Americans first encountered tequila. Bottles arrived in the American market labeled “Mexican Whiskey.” You can see these in the Sauza Family Museum in Tequila or in this photo. It’s an interesting snapshot of how an unknown spirit reached many consumers in the guise of something more familiar. (The labeling regulations didn’t get worked out until the 1970s.)

When we encounter a new spirit, our impulse is to understand it by reference to spirits we already know. This is perfectly sensible. But eventually, if we really want to know a spirit, we need to understand it on its own terms. For tequila, we need to know about agave, not grain. Tequila would have never thrived the way it has in the American market if it was forever viewed through the lens of whiskey, if its essential “agave-ness” were never allowed to shine through.

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Genever today is in a similar position to those early tequilas. As genever re-entered the American market a few years ago, people needed an existing spirit to compare it to. They needed a section of their menu or their liquor store to put it in. Seizing on the etymology and botanicals it shares with gin, they reasonably grouped the two together. My view is that this classification misses the essence of the spirit, that genever is to “Dutch gin” as tequila is to “Mexican whiskey.” (Above: A photo I took at a liquor store in Amsterdam. There’s a lot of genever and it gets it own shelf!)

So if genever is not gin, what is it? The spirits do have one thing in common: They are both flavored with juniper berries. Early Dutch distillers sold spirits flavored with juniper and other botanicals for their alleged medicinal qualities. The spirits were produced in pot stills, which retain much of the character of the grain, producing a product that was essentially whiskey with botanicals added. It was called genever, from jeneverbes, the Dutch word for juniper. English speakers shortened this to gin.

With the invention of the column still in the nineteenth century, Dutch genever and English gin began to diverge in style. The English went for the new, purer spirit, essentially making botanical flavored vodka. The Dutch stuck with their malty genever. To distinguish between the two, English speakers called the latter “Holland’s gin.” It was a useful distinction until the triple blow of changing tastes, Prohibition, and World War II reduced genever’s prominence in the American market.

Thus gin evolved from genever, but that doesn’t mean that we should declare genever a kind of gin any more than we should think of the blues as just a proto-form of rock and roll. Gin and genever are “about” different things. Gin is primarily about botanicals. If you line up three different gins and want to describe the differences among them, you’re going to talk mostly about their botanical profiles. This one has very assertive juniper, this one is more floral, this one has a licorice note, etc.

Genever is partly about botanicals, but it’s also about the malty base spirit. As agave is to tequila, this maltwine (moutwijn) is to genever. When tasting different genevers, the differences in maltwine and the effects of barrel ageing are at least as important as the botanicals, often even more important.

As I write this I am sipping on a glass of the Bols 10 year old Corenwyn, one of the maltier styles of genever. There is juniper in it, but its presence isn’t obvious in either taste or aroma. The flavor is of grain mellowed by a decade of barrel ageing. It’s very good neat. If I had to compare it to another popular spirit category, I’d undoubtedly choose whiskey over gin. However it’s not quite that either. The botanicals are there, and they do make a difference.

This particular bottling isn’t currently available in the states, but aged genevers are starting to appear. A few months ago Bols introduced Bols Barrel Aged Genever, which is aged for a minimum of one and a half years in oak. It’s more than 50% maltwine, as is the original Bols Genever. As these spirits arrive in the market, the classification of genever as a type of gin is going to become more and more inapt.

Take the 10 year old bottle I mentioned. Let’s say you went to Amsterdam and brought a bottle back for your bar. You could insist, if you like, that any spirit that has so much as kissed a juniper berry counts as gin. But you would have to explain that this is a very strange gin that’s made mostly from a whiskey-like grain distillate, that’s aged for years in oak barrels, that doesn’t really taste like juniper at all, and that’s good in cocktails but also very nice on its own with no chilling or dilution. You could say all that. Or you could say, “genever is genever.”

I think the latter approach is simpler and more sensible. Take a couple examples from the press this week. Today at The Atlantic Clay Risen has a good article about barrel aged gins:

My favorite so far (and the most widely available) is Lucas Bols’s Barrel-Aged Genever. Unlike most gins available in the United States, Bols and other Dutch gins, or genevers, use a maltwine base, a combination of corn, rye, and wheat. They are also less intensely distilled, and usually through pot, rather than column, stills, producing a robust whiskey-like quaff, which connoisseurs prefer to drink chilled and neat. It’s thick, like a liqueur; you wouldn’t think to mix it with tonic for a summer-day quencher.

I’m delighted that he enjoys our product, but that’s a lot of words to explain how unlike gin our gin is! The classification is straining at the seams.

Here’s another from The Oregonian, which on Tuesday published its annual list of “100 Things We Love.” Kopstootje Biere, our collaboration with Portland’s Upright Brewery to create a beer designed specifically to pair with Bols Genever, made the list. That makes me very happy. Yet here’s how they introduced it: “A traditional Dutch ceremony consisting of genever, a type of gin, with a beer back.” If you know about genever, or especially if you tried this pairing last year, you know that this is a tasty combination. But to everyone else, a glass of gin with a beer on the side probably doesn’t sound very appealing. Even if you like gin, you don’t ever drink it like that.

So let’s stop saying that genever is gin. If someone asks what genever is, say “genever is genever.” From there you can explain how the spirit is made, where it comes from, and what it tastes like. Maybe after that talk about its relation to gin. Gin is wonderful and its evolution is a neat story, but it is not the story of genever.

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If you’ve read this far, the least I can do is offer you a cocktail. At the beginning of this post I mentioned that putting genever in gin cocktails doesn’t always work. Sometimes it does; I’ve had delicious twists on the French 75 and the Corpse Reviver #2, to name a couple. However at other times it makes a better stand-in for whiskey and substituting genever in your favorite whiskey cocktails is a promising way of coming up with new drinks.

This one is the latest addition to our menu at Metrovino, featuring Bols Barrel Aged Genever. It’s a fairly straightforward adaptation of one of my favorite rye cocktails, The Remember the Maine. In keeping with the sunken ship theme, it’s named the Flying Hart (Vliegenthart), after a notable Dutch shipwreck.

2 oz Bols Barrel Aged Genever
1 oz sweet vermouth (Dolin)
1/4 oz cherry Heering
2 dashes Brooklyn Hemispherical fig bitters
1 dash absinthe

Stir, serve up, and garnish with a cherry. Prost!

Hail the Wale and the Two Item Rule

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Long time readers know that I have a possibly unhealthy love of corduroy fabric. I have corduroy pants, jackets, and hats. Even my laptop case is lined in corduroy, which was a big selling point for me when I bought it. When I first considered moving to Portland from Washington, DC I thought, “That is a city with a relaxed sense of fashion and many cool rainy days. I could probably wear a lot of corduroy there.”

In some sense every day is a day to appreciate corduroy, but in another sense there is only one true Corduroy Appreciation Day, as declared by the venerable Corduroy Appreciation Club. That is 11|11, the date that most resembles corduroy. And this Friday being 11|11|11, it is the date that most resembles corduroy, ever. (Except for 11|11|1111, but I’m pretty sure the people of that time had yet to discover essential comforts like modern medicine, indoor plumbing, and finely waled fabrics.)

Corduroy Appreciation Club founder Miles Rohan has planned an amazing series of celebratory happenings in New York this week, including the installation of the Corduroy Messiah. Unfortunately I cannot be there. However I have teamed up with Portland’s The Hop and Vine to organize a celebration of our own. From 5-8 pm this Friday, The Hop and Vine’s new chef will be serving a special menu of twists on food from the Golden Age of Corduroy, with items such as smoked pork, beef, and lamb Swedish meatballs. We’ll also have a special Two Item Rule cocktail for the occasion, named after the Two Item Rule in effect at the Club’s official meetings. Wear one item of Corduroy, get a dollar off. Wear two items and get two. Wear three and, well, you still only get two dollars off, but you will have won the admiration of all who gaze you upon you.

What’s in a Two Item Rule cocktail? In a nod to the fabric’s reportedly English origins, I aimed to use only English or English-inspired ingredients to create a drink as smooth and lush as corduroy itself. It features the very lightly sweetened Old Tom style gin, authentic sloe gin, and cream sherry, a type of sherry originally targeted to the British market.

1 1/2 oz Ransom Old Tom gin
1 oz Dios Baco cream sherry
3/4 oz Plymouth sloe gin

Stir with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish with a lemon twist. The Dios Baco cream sherry is not too sweet, so adjust the recipe if using a different sherry. And definitely use real sloe gin, not the cloying artificial stuff from the liquor store’s bottom shelf. Consume while wearing at least two items of corduroy or while reclining on a corduroy couch.

If you’re in Portland, join us this Friday to toast the world’s greatest fabric. Details are here. For last minute corduroy needs, Bonobos and Betabrands make good stuff. And be sure to check out the official page of the Corduroy Appreciation Club for all things corduroy.

Hail the Wale!

Smokejumper cocktail

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For Wendy, who includes a smokejumper clause in all her relationships.

2 oz London dry gin
3/4 oz lemon juice
1/2 oz yellow Chartreuse
1/2 oz lapsang souchong syrup*

Shake with ice, strain into ice-filled rocks glass.

* Equal parts brewed lapsang souchong tea and sugar. Or if you’re feeling spendy, substitute Qi black tea liqueur and a bit of sugar.

Crystal Caipirinha and Cleared for Departure

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If you read this blog and stop by Metrovino for a cocktail, you might notice some recurring themes. The drink menu starts with a beer cocktail and ends with one featuring Bols Genever. In between there’s Farigoule, three different brands of gin, Smith and Cross rum, plantains, Chartreuse and chocolate, and clarified citrus juice. If that sounds like the kind of menu I would put together, that’s because it is. I’ve happily ended up playing a larger role in the bar program there than initially expected. I’m joined behind the stick by another Carlyle alum, Jason Karp, and a new arrival from Los Angeles, Elizabeth Foley, most recently at Wolfgang Puck’s Cut and Sidebar at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.

Part of the fun of being behind a bar regularly again is getting to put into practice some of the things I’ve been working on only for fun or for special events during the past year. Among these is agar agar clarification. The method for this was developed by Dave Arnold at the French Culinary Institute and it’s not too hard to work into one’s prep, yet as far as I know no one in Portland is doing much with it yet. We have two cocktails on our new menu using clarified juice as an ingredient.

The first of these is the Crystal Caipirinha. The Caipirinha is one of the world’s great cocktails, a rustic affair with cachaça, limes, and sugar. Traditionally one would muddle this drink. With clarified lime juice you don’t have to. You can stir it instead, and serve it up for a more refined presentation. From the appearance it could be a boring vodka Martini, which makes it all the more surprising when one gets the strong flavor and aromatics of cachaça and lime.

This way of making the Caipirinha is very spirit-forward, so it’s important to use a good cachaça. My favorite Novo Fogo is wonderful here. We served it in this cocktail at Teardrop Lounge recently and again at the Science of Cocktails event in San Francisco. Sugar cane really comes to the forefront in this take on the drink:

2 oz Novo Fogo silver cachaça
1 oz clarified lime juice
3/4 oz simple syrup

Stir, serve up in a cocktail glass, garnish with a lime twist. It’s important to cut the lime twist over the drink; this isn’t just a visual garnish, it’s there to incorporate the citrus oils that would get released during muddling in a traditional Caipirinha.

The other drink we’ve put on our menu with clarified citrus is a take on the classic Aviation, the Cleared for Departure (possibly my favorite thing about clarified juice is all the clarification puns it opens up). According to one story, the Aviation is named for the sky-like color given to the drink by crème de violette, a liqueur flavored with violet petals. It’s a fantastic cocktail, but shaking it with ordinary juice clouds its appearance and takes away some of the violette’s striking hue. By substituting clarified citrus and stirring instead, you get a drink that’s crystal clear and has beautiful color.

When I make this at home I use the Beefeater Summer Edition gin, which has floral notes that are just perfect for this drink, and the Deniset-Klainguer crème de violette. It’s delicious but I can’t get either of those ingredients in Oregon right now. However the locally made Aviation gin and Rothman and Winter crème de violette work well too, so that’s what we use at Metrovino. And yes, I know that the Aviation cocktail is usually made with lemon, but lime also goes nicely here.

2 oz Aviation gin
1/2 oz clarified lime juice
1/3 oz maraschino liqueur
1/3 oz crème de violette

Stir, serve up with a lemon twist.

So far both of these drinks have been fairly easy to work into our cocktail menu. The execution is simple and the preparation isn’t as time-consuming as it might at first appear. One can juice early, let the agar agar set while doing other work, then filter right before service. I’d like to see what other bartenders would do with the process.

Previously:
The Pegu, clarified
A clarified coffee cocktail
Rum with it

Two cocktails “against the wall”

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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.

The Pegu, clarified

ClearPegu 089

It’s been just a bit longer than a year since Dave Arnold posted his method for clarifying lime juice with agar. This month’s Mixology Monday theme also happens to be lime. Further, my local grocery has good, juicy limes selling for a mere $.39 right now. Coincidence or synchronicity? Either way, it was clear what I must do for this month’s post.

Using agar clarification on juice is something I’ve been wanting to do for a while. My first experiments with agar clarification of coffee didn’t work nearly as well as using the more time-intensive gel-freeze-thaw method, but I’ve been overdue to try it with citrus. Click here for detailed directions. The basic idea is to hydrate agar in boiling water, whisk a larger amount of fresh lime juice into this solution, let set, and then filter through cloth. Sounds easy, right?

Well, it is easy. Today was my first time using this method on citrus and I was able to get a yield of 170 grams clarified juice from 200 grams of fresh juice, 50 grams water, and .5 grams agar. The only complication is that I was out of muslin through which to strain it, so an ill-fitting, never-worn linen shirt found constructive use as a filter. I probably could have extracted even more juice using Dave’s “massaging the sack” technique, but I was raised conservative. The resulting juice (right) is substantially clearer than juice that’s only been fine strained (left).

ClearPegu 100

OK, neat, but who cares? That’s exactly what I thought as I was doing this today. But as soon as the first drops of clarified lime juice started dripping through the linen, I realized this was actually pretty cool. I could use this stuff in a traditional citrus cocktail, but I could probably stir it instead of shake it. The drink would look better and have better mouthfeel than it would with the air incorporated from shaking. As Dave says, “Clear drinks look more pleasing than cloudy ones, and have a better texture.” (The winning bartenders at this year’s 42 Below cocktail competition appears to have done something similar, as have a few others.)

This being a Mixology Monday hosted by none other than Doug from the Pegu Blog, the choice of cocktail was obvious: The Duck Fart. No, even better, the Pegu!

2 oz gin
1 oz Cointreau
.75 oz clarified lime juice
1 dash orange bitters
1 dash Angostura bitters

Stir over ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

This is a slightly different recipe than I use for a traditional Pegu, but it tastes great. The cocktail (above) is much clearer than the shaken version:

Pegu cocktail

The most interesting thing about this cocktail is that the flavor is so unexpected. You see a clean, transparent drink and think it’s all spirits, maybe vermouth, maybe some bitters. Then you taste it and surprise! There’s citrus all up in your face.

I also tried the clarified lime juice tonight in a Pendennis Club (meh) and a Last Word (nice, though I had to add a little extra lime). The technique isn’t practical enough that I’d use it all the time, but it’s definitely an idea that can be used to good effect in cocktails.

A duo of beer cocktails

dutchdevil

With our “Brewing Up Cocktails” event successfully wrapped up at The Hop and Vine with co-conspirators Ezra Johnson-Greenough and Yetta Vorobik, I thought it’d be fun to go into the details on a couple of the drinks. These both use products from the Bols line and adapt popular cocktails for use with beer in place of the usual ingredients.

First up is the Dutch Devil, pictured up top in the flute. There were two inspirations for this drink. The first is the classic champagne cocktail, made with champagne, a sugar cube, and Angostura bitters. The second is Stephen Beaumont’s Green Devil, which deliciously mixes gin and Duvel Golden Ale with an absinthe rinse. This drink sort of combines the two, putting Duvel in place of sparkling wine and taking advantage of the malty notes in genever:

1 oz Bols Genever
1 Angostura-soaked sugar cube
Duvel

Build in a flute. We were serving these with the sugar cube added first, but the cocktail science article I linked to this morning suggests that adding it last might be a better way. At The Hop and Vine, this drink is now on the menu with a candied ginger garnish.

The second drink is a variation of the Bramble, a lovely cocktail created by London bartender Dick Bradsell. It’s made by mixing gin, lemon, and simple syrup in crushed ice, then topping it with blackberry liqueur and fresh berries. Our idea for this one was to take out the lemon and simple syrup and replace them with a sour ale. But which beer to use? Ezra likes it with the Cantillon Gueuze. My preference is the Bruery’s Hottenroth Berliner Weisse. Berliner Weisse is a tart style of wheat beer native to Germany, where it’s often served with raspberry or woodruff syrup. I like the way it balances this drink and the way the final addition of blackberry liqueur mirrors the way it’s traditionally served:

3/4 oz Damrak Gin
Bruery Hottenroth
3/4 oz Clear Creek blackberry liqueur

Build the first two ingredients in an ice-filled rocks glass, top with the liqueur, garnish with fresh blueberries, and enjoy.

For notes on the rest of the drinks featured at the event, check out Hoke Harden’s write-up for the Examiner.

More summer gin cocktails

My July column at Culinate takes a look at three summer gin cocktails, giving background and recipes for two easy classics and one that will take a little more preparation.

In search of the Rouge Gorge

erithacusrubeculaTwo of the most recent spirits to arrive here for sampling are the Floraison and Nouaison gins from G’Vine. These are distilled in France from Ugni Blanc grapes, the same grape commonly in use for distilling Cognac. The spirit is infused with grape flowers and other traditional gin botanicals before undergoing a final distillation. My preference is for the Nouaison, which is flavored with lime. However this post isn’t so much about the gins as it is about an unusual cocktail I came across while experimenting with them.

Credit for pointing me toward this drink goes to my friend Paul Willenberg. While tasting the G’Vine gins with me he remembered a drink he enjoyed in France called a Rouge Gorge, possibly named after the little bird pictured up top. Paul says he had it as an aperitif at Levernois. One of the only mentions of it I can find online is this:

Rouge Gorge: You Know You Want One

The place to drink this in Paris is the wonderful Alsatian restaurant “Aux Deux Canards” – try it with the pan fried fois gras.

Rouge Gorge – The recipe:

8 parts Cotes du Rhone, 5 parts good quality gin – Tanqueray or Hendricks, 3 parts Crème de Mure. Mix well, and serve slightly chilled in a brandy glass.

The combination sounds strange, but the perfume of the gin combines with the violet aromas of the Rhone wine and the fruitiness of the Crème de Mure to create an absolutely bewitching – and lethal – cocktail.

OK, this does sound strange. And it is strange. But it’s not totally off the wall. The original Martinez featured a 2:1 ratio of sweet vermouth and gin, further sweetened with a little maraschino liqueur. Though contemporary palates tend toward a flipped ratio, this isn’t that far removed from drinks served in the Golden Age of cocktails.

Still, the recipe above is a little sweet. Cutting down the blackberry liqueur brings out more of the gin. Here are the proportions I’ve settled into:

2 oz chilled Côtes du Rhône (Domaine “La Garrique” at Paul’s suggestion)
1 oz gin (G’Vine Nouaison)
.5 oz blackberry liqueur (Clear Creek)

I think the best word to describe this drink is “beguiling.” You take a sip, and you’re not quite sure what to make of it, and so you sip again. It’s better than you think it would be, and difficult to wrap your head around the flavors.

It’s a weird drink; I’m still trying to figure it out myself. Should it be enjoyed before dinner as an aperitif? After with cheese and bread? Where did it come from, and can I order one at a French bar with any reasonable expectation of the bartender knowing what I’m talking about? Googling has yet to reveal the answers, but if anyone else has experience with this unusual drink I would love to hear about it.

Summer Imbibing

tiberius

I have a new cocktail up at Imbibe this weekend featuring the limited edition Beefeater Summer Gin, hibiscus syrup, lemon, and cucumber. If you’re looking for a refreshing summer drink, give the Tiberius Fizz a try.

Why Tiberius? The emperor was reportedly extremely fond of cucumbers:

According to The Natural History of Pliny, by Pliny the Elder (Book XIX, Chapter 23), the Roman Emperor Tiberius had the cucumber on his table daily during summer and winter. The Romans reportedly used artificial methods (similar to the greenhouse system) of growing to have it available for his table every day of the year. To quote Pliny; “Indeed, he was never without it; for he had raised beds made in frames upon wheels, by means of which the cucumbers were moved and exposed to the full heat of the sun; while, in winter, they were withdrawn, and placed under the protection of frames glazed with mirrorstone. Reportedly, they were also cultivated in cucumber houses glazed with oiled cloth known as “specularia”.

He was also a dark, somber, and sometimes tyrannical ruler, described by Pliny as “the gloomiest of men.” Perhaps a few cucumber fizzes would have cheered him up.

Good Old Tom

An interesting bit of history from Houston bartender Bobby Heugel’s weekly drink column, this week about the Tom Collins:

The era’s infatuation with Old Tom Gin today seems most analogous to our society’s accessibility to and reliance upon Starbucks. Among various other alcoholic habits, Tom Gin fanatics would approach neighborhood bars that had wooden cat silhouettes hanging on the walls — hence the second origin story, that the drink is named after a bar cat. They would then deposit a coin in the cat’s eye, alerting the bartender inside to pour a shot into a tube that extended out from the cats paws. The person would place their mouth on the tube and drink the flowing gin. Now, that’s drive-thru service!

I’m generally optimistic about social progress, but on the availability of Old Tom gin we are clearly backsliding!

What I’ve been drinking

Several people have mentioned that I’ve been neglecting the blog lately, which I suppose is better than no one noticing that I haven’t been updating. I’ve been far too busy testing drink recipes for my forthcoming cocktail guide to have time for writing. It’s a terrible burden, but someone has to carry it! Recipe selection wraps up today and then I am off to Houston for my ten year high school reunion, so things should return somewhat back to normal next week. In the meantime here are a few spirit reviews…

Glenlivet 1973 Cellar Collection– How does one review a whisky that sells for more than $1,000 a bottle? At that price it no longer makes sense to ask if it is worth the money in an ordinary sense. I can say that it’s an excellent whisky. It’s rich, warming at 98 proof, and has a slight fruit note that I assume comes from finishing in sherry cask. It’s not every day I get to taste a whisky older than I am and sometimes very old whiskies are just too woody. That’s not the case here. I only have a couple ounces of this but I would happily drink much more. This is a fantastic Scotch and if I’d gone into banking instead of blogging I might be tempted to buy a bottle.

Oxley gin — What sets this gin apart is its unique distillation process. As you might remember from physics class, when you lower the pressure on a liquid its boiling point drops as well. Oxley is distilled in a near-vacuum at a few degrees below freezing. That’s interesting for science nerds but it wouldn’t matter if it didn’t taste good. Luckily it does, with the fresh citrus peel used to flavor it standing out against lighter juniper notes. Its grapefruit taste makes it perfect for a Pegu Club. Definitely recommended.

Sagatiba cachaca — A few weeks ago the Oregon Bartenders Guild hosted Sagatiba brand ambassador John Gakuru for a cachaca event. Sagatiba isn’t in the state yet, but hopefully it will be soon. The Pura is a light, clean, and smooth unaged cachaca. It’s good but I am more excited about the Velha, a pot still cachaca aged between two and three years in bourbon barrels; this is nice neat and I could see it being great in cocktails. Finally we were also treated to their Preciosa, a very limited bottling of cachaca left to age 23 years in Cognac barrels. The finish is long and woody; it’s an unusual spirit worth sipping if one comes across it. Oregon is short on quality cachaca so the Pura and Velha will be very welcome additions here (I don’t know if the Preciosa is coming in).