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

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The Curse of Scotland

Drambuie is one of those bottles of liquor that’s a staple in many bars, including my own, that most bartenders don’t know what to do with. Recently my friend Lance Mayhew has been promoting it around Portland by hosting Drambuie Dens, encouraging bartenders and patrons to experiment with the spirit. They’ve been a lot of fun and while hosting one at Carlyle I was able to try it out in a few new cocktails. One of these is now on my menu as The Curse of Scotland:

.75 oz Ardbeg 10 Scotch
.75 oz Drambuie
.75 oz maraschino liqueur
.75 oz lemon juice

Shake and strain over ice into a chilled Martini glass. Ardbeg is my preferred Scotch here, but feel free to substitute another smoky Islay.

Obviously this is just a Scotch version of a Last Word. It substitutes Scotch for gin, Drambuie (an herbal liqueur) for Chartreuse (another herbal liqueur), and lemon for lime. It all came together on the first try; I wish all cocktails were this easy to make.

I’ll be serving this cocktail tonight at the 2009 Drambuie Den Bartender Showcase in Portland. Get the details and RSVP here if you’d like to attend. There’s a prize for best cocktail, too. With my drink using all off-the-shelf ingredients and having no fancy garnish it will be tough to win, but it is damn delicious.

Playing card enthusiasts will recognize the Curse of Scotland as a reference to the Nine of Diamonds, a card that has unique importance to many magicians as well.

Previously:
A simple summer Scotch cocktail
Thyme in a Bottle

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Thyme in a Bottle

Thyme in a Bottle

Farigoule is a delicious liqueur from Provence that I recently came across here in Portland. Its primary flavor comes from the region’s abundant thyme, with a few other herbs added for good measure. It’s a unique, wonderful product: Not too sweet, intriguing flavors, great aroma, and well-balanced at 80 proof. I enjoy it neat, but since that’s a tough sell at the bar I also wanted to highlight it in a mixed drink.

At the same time I was working on a cocktail to enter into Bombay Sapphire’s Inspired Barender contest. Luckily gin is a natural pairing with Farigoule. And Farigoule, with its floral and herbal qualities, fills in well for better known French liqueurs like Chartreuse and St. Germain. Here’s the recipe I’ve submitted for the contest and placed on the Carlyle menu as Thyme in a Bottle, getting great reviews from customers so far:

1 oz Bombay Sapphire
.75 oz Farigoule
.75 oz lemon juice
.5 oz maraschino liqueur

Shake over ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish with a sprig of fresh thyme. A really nice touch is to lightly toast the thyme to release its aroma before serving. My bar at Carlyle has tea lights on it so it’s easy for me to rest a sprig above a candle while I mix the drink. This fills the area with the scent of thyme and gives the cocktail an extra sensory dimension as the customer sips from it.

A tip of the hat for this drink also goes to Charles Munat, who suggested using Farigoule in a Last Word variation. Though the proportions are different here, that’s essentially what this drink is, with Farigoule standing in for Chartreuse and lemon for lime.

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MxMo MexMar

MexMartinez 016

That’s short for Mixology Monday Mexican Martinez… obviously. This month’s theme as chosen by Tristan at The Wild Drink Blog:

This month’s Mixology Monday is all about twists on classic cocktails, that for one reason or another do an even better job than the drinks upon which they are based.

This could be as simple as a classic Margarita with a dash with a special touch that completes it, or maybe as complicated as a deconstructed Hemingway Daiquiri with a homemade rum foam/caviar/jus/trifle. It might be taking a classic like a Manhattan and using Tequila instead of Bourbon?

Substituting tequila into a classic cocktail is exactly what I’m up to this month. A while ago I mentioned that the pairing of tequila and rhubarb bitters had potential, but I wasn’t quite sure what do with it. Lately I’ve been playing with these ingredients in a variation on the classic Martinez cocktail. Covered in greater detail here, the Martinez is made with gin or Old Tom gin, sweet vermouth, maraschino liqueur, and orange bitters. Making a few substitutions, I’ve lately been enjoying this variation I call a Mexican Martinez:

2.25 oz reposado tequila (Chamucos)
.5 oz Dolin Blanc vermouth
1 bar spoon maraschino
2 dashes Fee Bros.’ rhubarb bitters

Stir over ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish with a slice of orange zest expressed over and dropped into the drink.

The Dolin line of vermouths is suddenly readily available here in Portland and I couldn’t be happier. The Blanc is a sweet, floral, melony vermouth that’s absolutely delicious on its own. It works well in cocktails too, rounding out the tequila in this one while letting a little bit of lingering heat to show through. The Dolin Blanc complements tequila better than other vermouths I’ve tried, but if you can’t find it in your area experiment with other sweet vermouths. I expect you’ll find tequila makes an intriguing twist on the venerable old Martinez.

Update: What madness is this, two tequila and rhubarb cocktails in one Mixology Monday? It’s true. Michael Dietsch at A Dash of Bitters posts a Margarita variation working in Cynar, rhubarb bitters, and orange flower water. I’m sipping on one right now and can vouch for its tastiness. Check it out here.

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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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