A Terrible Two for Labor Day

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It’s Labor Day in Portland and the weather couldn’t be better for grilling out. For today, anyway. It looks like the wonderful Portland summer is starting to give way to months of rain, but I knew what I was getting into when I moved here. To enjoy the sun while we can, here’s a cocktail to cap the summer with. We served this at Hop and Vine a few weeks ago to celebrate their two year anniversary. The Terrible Two is a refreshing, easy drink made for cooling off outside:

1.5 oz Krogstad aquavit
.5 oz lime juice
.5 oz simple syrup
3 dashes Angostura bitters
soda

Shake the first four ingredients, serve in a rocks glass over ice, top with a splash of soda, and stir.

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Carlyle’s Smoky Margarita

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By request, here’s the one recipe that was missing from my closing cocktail menu at Carlyle. (Yes, someone actually wrote in to request the recipe. I was surprised too!)

I came up with this drink for a tequila dinner hosted by Herradura a few weeks ago. They enjoyed a seven course tasting menu from our chef and along with it they requested cocktails made with each of the tequilas in their primary line: blanco, reposado, and anejo. A shot of each was paired with the cocktails, so as you can imagine it was a fun time for all. This was the reposado drink for the evening:

1.75 oz Herradura reposado tequila
.5 oz Cointreau
.5 oz lime juice
.5 oz lapsang souchong syrup

Shake over ice and serve on the rocks in a salt-rimmed glass.

Lapsang souchong is a delicious Chinese black tea dried over burning pine wood. This distinctive process gives it a strong smoky aroma that lends itself well to use in cocktails. To make the syrup, simply brew hot lapsang souchong and mix with an equal volume of sugar. This is the same syrup I use to make extra smoky Swedish punsch; here it stands by itself to lend an extra flavor element to the traditional Margarita.

In the few days this has been on our menu it’s been competing with our token vodka drink to be our best-seller, a useful reminder that simple twists on popular cocktails can be a great way to generate interest in a bar program.

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MxMo for cocktail virgins

Pegu cocktail

March’s Mixology Monday is hosted by Pink Lady at LUPEC-Boston, who writes:

This event was inspired by a chance encounter I had with an almost-famous Christian rock musician who, at age 32, had never had a cocktail. “I’d like to try one sometime,” he said, “What do you think I should have?”

It’s an excellent question, and one I though best vetted by wide audience of experts: What drink do you suggest for the delicate palate of the cocktail neophyte? Something boozy and balanced, sure – but one wrong suggestion could relegate the newbie to a beer-drinker’s life. To which go-to cocktails do you turn to when faced with the challenge?

I’ve been tending bar for a couple of years now and, aside from people who abstain from alcohol on principle, I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone of legal drinking age who has never had a cocktail. If I did meet such a person, however, I’d want to make them a good one. My own first taste of spirits was probably one of my grandfather’s strong gin Martinis; it was enough to turn my young palate off of liquor for years. It wasn’t until my friend Court introduced me the Long Island Iced Tea that I started exploring again.

Given that experience, I’d probably choose something similar for someone’s first cocktail. Not a Long Island, but something on ice, bubbly, and with some flavors they’re accustomed to. If I knew nothing else about the person I would probably choose a Dark and Stormy. Or maybe a Mojito, but then you’re potentially sending that person down the path of annoying every bartender she meets for the rest of her life. Ideally, before choosing a drink I’d start by asking the person what other drinks she likes. Black coffee? Then maybe she enjoys bitterness. Hoppy IPAs? Maybe she’s receptive to gin. Sprite? OK, back to the Mojito. It doesn’t really matter what that first drink is, as long as it tastes good and piques her interest.

The situation I’m more frequently faced with is a customer who’s curious about cocktails but has only tried some very basic drinks, likely variations of vodka mixed with soda or fruit juice. My job then is to expand their horizons. For people who are used to white liquors and citrus, this is when I often mix up a Pegu cocktail. (The cockles of Doug’s heart are so warm I can feel them from here!)

I first came across this one at Jeff Morgenthaler’s site and it quickly became one of my favorites at my first bar job, mainly because it was an esoteric cocktail that we actually had the ingredients for (minus the orange bitters). It originally appeared in Harry Craddock’s Savoy Cocktail Book. Here’s the recipe I’m using now:

1.5 oz gin
.75 oz Cointreau
.5 oz lime juice
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 dash orange bitters

Shake over ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnishing with a lime is optional, but I tend to avoid it because a customer squeezing it into the drink is going to make the drink too tart.

People who are accustomed to basic sours like a Cosmo or Margarita will find some familiar tastes here, while the gin and bitters will introduce them to new flavors. I’ve had numerous people try it at my suggestion and say that they don’t normally like gin, but they like this. Would I serve it to someone who’s never had a cocktail before? Only if they really like citrus and have an adventurous palate. But as a gateway to better cocktails, I think this makes a great choice. It also happens to be one of my favorites to make for myself at home.

Previous Pegu action: Earl Grey tea lends a bergamot note to the Earl of Pegu.

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The last word in mixology

Last Word cocktail

When you see green in a mixed drink, that’s often a sign that the bartender is getting carried away with sour apple pucker and it’s time for you to find another bar. Not so if the color comes from Chartreuse liqueur. My post today at Crispy on the Outside takes a look at the delightful Last Word cocktail.

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