Resplendent Island

New cocktail at Metrovino: Margarita flavored with Sri Lankan curry and honey, cumin-salt rim.

If I were making a parody of my own cocktail menus, a Sri Lankan Curry Margarita is exactly the kind of drink I’d put on it. Yet after a making a batch of this curry powder, I knew it had to put it into a drink. At our chef’s suggestion we’re pairing it with tequila in a Margarita variation on the latest Metrovino cocktail menu:

1 1/2 oz reposado tequila (Espolon)
3/4 oz Sri Lankan curry-honey syrup
3/4 oz lime juice
1/4 oz Royal Combier
salt and ground cumin, for garnish

Moisten half the rim of a rocks glass with lime juice and coat with the salt and cumin mixture, then fill with ice. Shake cocktail ingredients with ice and strain into the glass.

About that curry blend: It’s the roasted curry powder from Rice and Curry: Sri Lankan Home Cooking by Skiz Fernando, Jr., a very interesting cookbook a friend sent me recently. Rather than copy that recipe here, I’d rather encourage you to support the author by buying the book or purchasing his blend directly, which you can do here. It requires a few hard to find ingredients like curry leaves and a dozen spices, so buying the blend is the easier approach. I recommend the book though and have enjoyed the wonderfully flavored curries I’ve made from it.

Once you have your blend, here’s how to make the syrup:

2 tablespoons roasted curry powder
1 cup honey
1 cup water

Simmer all ingredients for a few minutes until flavorful, then add a pinch of salt. Cool, strain, and bottle. Or save yourself the trouble and come enjoy one at the bar.

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.

Some recent press…

meromole

With Cinco de Mayo coming up, Thrillist Portland ran a feature today featuring Portland’s five best Margaritas. I was flattered to learn that the plantain margarita I made for Mi Mero Mole made the cut. Their photo is above; if you’d like to make one at home the recipe is fairly simple:

2 oz reposado tequila
3/4 oz lime juice
3/4 oz spiced plantain syrup

Shake with ice and strain into an ice-filled rocks glass. The recipe for the spiced plantain syrup is here. For one more drink from Mi Mero Mole, try the Senor Brown. Or even better, visit the restaurant for more cocktails and some of the best tacos in town.

Last week the Specialty Coffee Association of America hosted its annual conference here in Portland. While in town for the event, Joshua Lurie from FoodGPS stopped into Metrovino to have a few cocktails and record a fairly wide-ranging interview with me. Read it here. He also snagged an interview with one of my favorite local brewers, Ben Edmunds from Breakside.

Finally, Portland Monthly got on board with the Bone Luge trend with a piece about the meaty practice. They take the Bone Luge puns to new heights with their headline “Marrow Minded.”

Bitter End

Bitter_End

After a couple of month’s hiatus, Mixology Monday returns today with a Tiki theme from Doug at the Pegu Blog:

The Tiki scene, like classic cocktails in general, is reviving nicely these days. The lush, decadent marriage of tropical flavors and exotic kitsch carries us away to a better, less dreary place. Please join in and add your words, images, and offerings to the Tiki Gods on the 20th. Since Tiki is more than just the drinks, feel free to post on whatever Tiki subject floats your outrigger canoe. I suspect most of you will want to offer up delectable drinks, but feel free to wax eloquent on aloha shirts, exotica music, decor, garnishes, food or whatever else moves you to enter the Tiki spirit!

The Bitter End is a cocktail I originally submitted to Portland Monthly for their Super Bowl drinks feature. Todd Steele, the owner of Metrovino, is a big 49ers fan, so this year’s football season came to a bitter end for him. In recognition of that we decided to make a cocktail with San Francisco’s favorite bitter liqueur, Fernet Branca. It just so happens to be a perfect fit for this month’s Tiki theme too:

1 oz Fernet Branca
1 oz lime juice
1 oz B. G. Reynold’s orgeat

Shake all ingredients with ice, strain into a glass filled with crushed ice, and garnish with a cocktail umbrella and cherries for bonus tiki points. Alternatively, just gulp the whole thing down quickly.

As far as cocktail construction goes, this is as basic as it gets: Equal parts of stuff that’s really bitter, really tart, and really sweet. Yet it all works. If the one ounce of Fernet is intimidating, worry not. This is actually a pretty sweet drink. If you’re making this with a different orgeat, you may need to adjust the recipe to account for relative sweetness.

For fun I also tried making this drink with the new Fernet Leopold from Colorado. This is a very minty take on the spirit, a bit more so than I prefer for sipping (though some of my friends love it), so I’ve been wanting to try it mixed. If you’d like to sample a mintier version of the Bitter End, give it a shot.

Finally, here a few other loosely Tiki-themed drinks from the archives:

Transatlantic Mai Tai — An all-grain version of the Mai Tai substituting rye and genever for the usual rums.

Kooey Kooey Kooey Cocktail — Rum, coconut milk, coconut porter, allspice dram, and a few other ingredients combine in this Tiki-themed beer cocktail.

Lazy Bear — One of the best-selling drinks at Metrovino, featuring the fantastic Smith & Cross rum from Jamaica.

Seigle Sour — It’s a whiskey drink, but the plantain syrup arguably takes it into Tiki territory.

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.

Hot Caipi

hot-caipirinha

Everybody knows that the Caipirinha is a fantastic drink for summer. But how about for winter? Surprisingly, it’s a great drink for the cold months too. Just try serving it hot.

The idea struck me as strange when my friend Tobias Heinrich told me about it, but apparently it’s become quite popular in Germany. He remembers seeing the drink show up at German Christmas markets in the early 2000s, sold from booths alongside the traditional Glühwein. Cachaça sells extremely well in Germany; according to this site the country accounts for about one quarter of cachaça exports, with the Caipirinha second only to beer in drink orders. It gets cold there, so apparently some enterprising bartenders adapted the cocktail to turn it into a warming beverage.

The method for this is pretty much the same as for a regular Caipirinha, except that instead of shaking with ice you’re adding hot water. Some recipes also call for mint. Though I like unaged cachaça in a cold Caipirinha, in the hot version the spice notes from a barrel aged cachaça are a nice addition. I served it at an event this week with Novo Fogo Gold and it went over very well.

2 oz Novo Fogo Gold Cachaça
1 oz turbinado syrup (1:1)
1/2 lime, quartered
5-6 oz hot water

Muddle the lime in the bottom of a heated mug. Add remaining ingredients, stir, and serve.

[Photo courtesy of Novo Fogo.]

Jelly shots go upscale

jelloshots

First Mad Dog 20/20 cocktails, now jelly shots? It’s true. Local writer Jen Stevenson (author of the excellent restaurant guide Portland’s 100 Best Places to Stuff Your Faces) reviews Jelly Shot Test Kitchen in the latest issue of MIX, and as part of her write-up she challenged me and Tommy Klus to come up with a few fancy gelatinized cocktails of our own. Click through to see my recipe for Pisco Sour jelly shots made with Encanto Pisco and Amargo Chuncho bitters whipped cream.

I had a chance to flip through a copy of the book and it takes the jelly shot to new heights. Order it on Amazon or browse the recipes on the Jelly Shot Test Kitchen weblog.

[Photo by Ross William Hamilton.]

MxMo Retro Redemption guest post

kamikaze2

We have one guest post for this Mixology Monday. This one’s from my friend Paul Willenberg, who gives the Kamikaze a new twist with aquavit and a healthy dose of orange bitters. Take it away Paul:

I’ve never participated in a Mixology Monday but this topic, along with the fact that my friend Jake is hosting, is too good to pass up. Now I’m no professional bartender, I just have a little bierstube.

Here are Jake’s Rules and here are mine. When revisiting a cocktail, you must honor one or more but not all or none of the following of the original:

1) base spirit
2) adjuncts
3) proportions
4) profile
5) intent

Now the original Kamikaze is equal parts vodka, triple sec, and lime juice, and the intent is a sweet drink that can be done as a shot to get chicks drunk. For my revival, I’ve chosen to honor #’s 5 and 4, and not flout 2 and 1. pSo I’ve replaced the vodka with a flavored vodka (aquavit) and the triple sec with a combo of (actually) orange things, and asked the lime to sit down a bit. The result is a very spice-forward and sippable, but also shot worthy drink.

2 oz Linie Aquavit
1/2 oz Bitter Truth Orange Bitters
1/4 oz Grand Marnier
1/4 oz lime juice

Shake all ingredients and garnish with peel.

Transatlantic Mai Tai

maitai

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!)

Mixing with the Mad Dog

dalbo

This drink violates at least two of my general rules for making good cocktails: 1) It’s blue and 2) It’s made with MD “Mad Dog” 20/20, the convenience store favorite for brown bagging it in the park. The blame for this abomination goes to Thrillist Portland, which is profiling a few of the city’s best restaurants with outdoor patios and asked each one to create a special off-menu item exclusively for Thrillist readers. The challenge they issued to me at Metrovino was to make a drink using Mad Dog as an ingredient. So if any of my recent house guests were worried about the bottle of MD 20/20 in my refrigerator, rest assured that it had a legitimate purpose. (The bottle of Ardbeg in the shower, however, is definitely cause for concern.)

There are multiple flavors of Mad Dog to choose from, but I couldn’t resist the allure of the “bling bling” on the label of Blue Raspberry. This liquid is a totally unnatural shade of blue and its flavor is sickly sweet. It’s not going to replace the Carpano Antica in my Manhattans anytime soon. But mix it with a strongly flavored spirit like aquavit, add some acidity with lime juice, soften everything up with some pillowy egg white, and you’ve got yourself a drink that’s pretty damn tasty and priced for the recession. You’ve got yourself a Dalbo Dog:

2 oz Krogstad aquavit
3/4 oz Blue Raspberry MD “Mad Dog” 20/20
3/4 oz lime juice
1/4 oz agave nectar
3 drops Novo Fogo Cherribiscus bitters for garnish

Dry shake all but the bitters, shake again with ice, strain into a cocktail glass, and finish by etching the bitters on the foam into adorable little heart shapes.

The Dalbo Dog is just for Thrillist readers, but now you’re in the know too. Stop into Metrovino this month and this summery blue little number will only set you back eight bucks. Also be sure to check out Thrillist for some of the other off-menu items in Portland, including a ramped up burger at Yakuza that sounds amazing.

(The Dalbo Dog is an extinct Swedish breed used for herding sheep. Here’s a photo; awww.)

[Photo by Thrillist.]

Mane to tail drinking with pimento dram

bitter_truth

When Haus Alpenz brought St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram into the US market a few years ago, it immediately became one of my favorite staples behind the bar. Allspice dram is one of those forgotten liqueurs that shows up in some vintage cocktail recipes and then largely disappeared. The spirit is made by infusing allspice (or “pimiento”) berries into Jamaican rum and then sweetening the mixture. It’s delicious and powerfully aromatic stuff, packed with winter spice notes like cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove. Haus Alpenz wisely chose the more descriptive and appetizing “allspice dram” over the traditional “pimento dram,” the latter of which calls to mind those red things stuffed into bar cheap olives.

Now there’s a second allspice liqueur on the market. The Bitter Truth from Germany is using the classic name Pimento Dram for their offering. I received a sample a few weeks ago and I love it. It’s very rich and complex, with everything you’d want from an allspice liqueur. In price and proof it’s closely matched to the St. Elizabeth. I don’t have a strong preference between the two and am happy to recommend both of them.

This isn’t a spirit you’re likely to drink straight. It’s made for cocktails, so here are two to try. The first is the Lion’s Tail, brought back to prominence by cocktail historian Ted Haigh. It originally appeared in the Cafe Royal Cocktail Book, but I like Ted’s contemporary version from Imbibe magazine. This is a fantastic winter drink:

2 oz bourbon
1/2 oz allspice (or pimento!) dram
1/2 oz lime juice
1/2 oz simple syrup
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Looking for a summery version of this drink, I came up with a variation called the Lion’s Mane using Novo Fogo’s Gold Cachaca, which is aged in oak for two years:

2 oz Novo Fogo Gold Cachaca
1/2 oz lapsang souchong syrup
1/2 oz lemon juice
1/4 oz pimento dram
2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters

Shake, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish with a lemon twist. To make the syrup, brew lapsang souchong tea and combine it with an equal volume of sugar.

I also use pimento dram to make “spiced bitters,” an equal parts mix of the liqueur and Angostura bitters, that I keep in a dasher bottle at the bar. At Metrovino we pour through a lot of it making Lazy Bear cocktails. I haven’t tried Bitter Truth’s product this way, but I’m sure it would do well.

MxMo Lazy Bear

Lazy Bear 008

Hey, wait, it’s Mixology Monday time again? Lucky for me, this month’s theme hosted by Spirited Remix requires no new work:

The theme is quite simple: your best. Give me the best drink recipe you’ve ever created.

No, I’m not really talking about that awesome drink that you made under pressure and on the fly for your friends one evening. I’m not talking about that kickass nightcap that you whipped up using the last bits from those few bottles that you needed to throw away.

I’m talking about that one drink that you’ve worked on for quite a while. The one that you’ve carefully tweaked over time until you found that perfect recipe. The one you’ve made tons of times: sometimes alone in contemplation, sometimes for a guest so that you could get their opinion.

It’s hard to choose just one. I find that my drinks are like children: Delightful when I first make them, but once they’re a couple years old I’m embarrassed to be seen with them. I mean, uh, I love them all equally and they’re all precious in their own way.

But if a measure of a good drink is that other people start making it too, then the one that stands out from this blog is the Lazy Bear. Created for my friends David and Jeanette’s wedding and named after David’s underground San Francisco restaurant, it was a hit at the reception. But more importantly, David and Jeanette have continued to make the cocktail, as have other friends, and it’s on the menu at Metrovino. It’s a simple, refreshing drink combining some of my favorite spirits:

3/4 oz Jamaican rum (preferably Smith and Cross)
3/4 oz rye whiskey
3/4 oz honey syrup (1:1 honey and water)
3/4 oz lime juice
2 dashes Fee’s Whiskey Barrel-Aged Bitters

Shake and serve on the rocks. It’s really easy and the funkiness of the rum balances with spicy whiskey, sweet honey, and tart lime.

This is also a good time to mention one update to the recipe. The Fee’s bitters are great, but I can’t always find them. A substitute we use at Metrovino is a 1:1 mix of Angostura bitters and St. Elizabeth’s Allspice Dram. Three dashes of this mixture work nicely here, and I’ve been using these “spiced bitters” in some other drinks too.

Crystal Caipirinha and Cleared for Departure

crystal_caipirinha

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”

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.

Pisco con Platanos

pisco

My drink for this year’s Great American Distiller’s Festival cocktail competition this year was a Pisco Sour with spiced plantain foam. Though the drink was tasty, it didn’t win. Lesson for next year: Serve a cocktail with multiple foams. The judges will never see that coming.

Seriously though, this was a fun cocktail to work on. The Encanto Pisco is a wonderful spirit. It’s good neat and I imagine one could make some very good spirit-driven cocktails pairing it with vermouth, liqueurs, and bitters. I went in an entirely different direction with this twist on a Pisco Sour:

1.75 oz Encanto Pisco
.75 lime juice
.5 oz Dimmi
.5 oz spiced plantain syrup
2 dashes Amargo Chuncho bitters
spiced plantain foam

Shake the liquid ingredients with ice, strain into a cocktail glass, top with the spiced plantain foam, and serve.

One of the nice thing about the Encanto Pisco is that it actually tastes like a spirit distilled from fruit, which is more than I can say for some lower-quality piscos on the market. I wanted to play up that aspect, pairing it with the partially grappa-based Dimmi liqueur and one of my favorite foods, ripe plantains. The syrup is easy to make:

8 oz simple syrup (1:1 sugar and water)
1 ripe plantain, peeled and sliced
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise

Simmer to extract flavor, about 10 minutes. Let cool and strain.

I used this syrup in both the drink and the foam. The foam is made with juice from sweet limes, which are much less tart than the usual lime and has a mild flavor that complements the Pisco Sour. If these are unavailable two ounces of lime juice diluted with six ounces of water is an acceptable substitute, but the sweet limes are the way to go if one can find them.

8 oz sweet lime juice
6 oz spiced plantain syrup
4 egg whites
4 dashes Amargo Chuncho bitters

Combine in a whipped cream canister, charge with an NO2 charger, and shake. (Method loosely based on Morgenthaler’s proportions.) This should make enough for a solid 10 drinks and will keep for a few days if one can resist eating it with a spoon.

Foams have become a bit cliché and I was a reluctant to use one, but in this case it works. A Pisco Sour is supposed to have foam. Rather than shaking an egg white into it, this version has the egg white foam layered on separately. This gives it an incredibly smooth texture and allows one to incorporate more flavors into it. It’s a lot of work to prep but it tastes great and the plantain syrup has potential in lots of other cocktails, one of which I’ll post tomorrow.

Previously: My GADF cocktail from last year

The Lazy Bear Cocktail

Lazy Bear 008

Last weekend I had the pleasure of traveling to San Francisco for the wedding of my friends David and Jeanette. David’s behind the underground meals of Lazy Bear in SF, where he serves some amazing dishes. (Seriously, amazing. Go check out his blog if you haven’t before.) Rather than go with a traditional caterer, David and Jeanette wisely hired a high-quality taco truck to park outside the reception and provide us with all the tacos we pleased, a privilege I abused with gusto. I would love to see more weddings do this, especially if I can pose as a guest and score free tacos.

In this case I was earning my tacos with some drink making. David had asked if, as my wedding gift, I’d be willing to come up with a few cocktails and serve them for a while at the reception. I figured this would be a great way to meet women while doing something I’m good at (bartending) rather than something I’m terrible at (dancing), so of course I said yes. David also requested that one of the drinks be called a Lazy Bear. This suggested to me using honey syrup, and after some fun experimentation I came up with this for the wedding:

3/4 oz Jamaican rum (preferably Smith and Cross)
3/4 oz rye whiskey
3/4 oz honey syrup (1:1 honey and water)
3/4 oz lime juice
2 dashes Fee’s Whiskey Barrel-Aged Bitters

Shake and strain into an ice-filled rocks glass. Optionally garnish with an edible flower, but it’s aromatic enough as is and lazy bears don’t have time for flower picking.

Lastly, congratulations to David and Jeanette! The “ceremony-ish thing” was beautiful, touching, and at times hilarious, and I’m happy for you both.

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.