MxMo Retro Redemption Roundup

mxmologo1The theme for this month’s Mixology Monday was Retro Redemption, with the challenge being to revive a drink from the lost decades of mixology, defending it from detractors or giving it new life with better techniques and ingredients. Our merry band of cocktail bloggers came through big time with lots of creative takes on some old standards.

pinksq511

Frederic at Cocktail Slut takes one for the team by trying out a packet of powdered Pink Squirrel mix from sometime in the late 1960s or early 1970s. That drink ended up getting poured down the drain, but a scratch version using homemade peach pit ratafia came out much better. Hats off to Frederic for his bravery.

racerx

Mackenzie at Spirit Imbibing writes that he wasn’t even alive during the 1980s. Hey Mackenzie, you’re not supposed to make the host feel old! He makes up for it by saying that my site was one of the ones that inspired him to get into cocktail blogging. Aw, shucks. His high-end take on the wine cooler, the Racer X, sounds downright delicious. (And having lived through the 80s, I can vouch that wine coolers were the beverage of choice for my mom for a while. I’m glad to say she’s traded them in for craft brewed beers today.)

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Dominik, the Opinionated Alchemist, tries his hand at the Scarlett O’Hara with his own Buttons and Cuffs, a homemade and awesome-sounding version of the ubiquitous Southern Comfort.

mr-wallbanger

Janice at House Made gives us the first of three Harvey Wallbanger variations, the Mr. Wallbanger, I Presume? This one keeps the Galliano but swaps out everything else, bringing in tequila, crema de mezcal, Aperol, grapefruit juice, vanilla syrup, and grapefruit bitters.

irish

Zach at The Venture Mixologist takes on that TGI Friday’s staple, the Mudslide. His updated version, the Filthy Irish, tones down the sweetness with the use of Irish whiskey, Averna, and mole bitters. Though he says a coffee liqueur less sweet than Kahlua would improve the drink, the idea works nicely.

lizardtail2

Elana at Stir and Strain uncovers a drink I’d never heard of, the Cola de Lagarto, or “Tail of the Lizard.” The original mixture of vodka, white wine, creme de menthe, lime juice, and sugar does indeed sound horrifying. Elana’s new version with Lillet, gin, and mint bitters sounds a lot better, and pretty refreshing.

appletini

You probably think Paul Clarke knows a thing or two about cocktails. But guess what? Dude has never even tried an Appletini. Nonetheless he demands that the drink lives up to its name by creating it with gin and vermouth infused on the spot with fresh green apple. Honestly this sounds really good. But still, if you see Paul out and about in Seattle, somebody please buy him a “real” Appletini so that he knows he’s been missing.

hilltop-slammer

Chris at 1022 South sends in not one but two entries, the Hilltop Slammer and the Hilltop Iced Tea. Which reminds me, I really need to get up to Tacoma so I can try some of Chris’ drinks in person.

north-sea-breeze

The Sea Breeze blows Rowen at Fogged In Lounge in a Scandinavian direction, with aquavit standing in for vodka. I have a not-so-secret love of aquavit cocktails, so this sounds delicious.

isle-of-seven-cities-1

Jordan at Chemistry of the Cocktail revives the Long Island Iced Tea as the Isle of Seven Cities. It has better ingredients and more sensible proportions while still maintaining the spirit of the original. Fun fact: When I first started drinking cocktails, I turned down a Long Island because I “didn’t like tea.” Ah, how much I’ve learned since then!

headbanger

Marc at A Drinker’s Peace provides our second Wallbanger variation, the Hairy Headbanger. Marc travels back in time to mix Strega, Jager, and orange juice. Proportions? Who cares. So metal!

sloe

This MxMo wouldn’t be complete without one drink served “against the wall.” Ed at Wordsmithing Pantagruel takes Plymouth sloe gin for a spin in the Sloe Comfortable Shag Up Against the Wall.

frankbama-3-of-3

Ian at Tempered Spirits gives us another Alabama Slammer variation, the Frank Bama. Trading bourbon and peach bitters for Southern Comfort, orgeat for Amaretto, and real sloe gin for the fake stuff, this comes out looking like a tasty sour.

blackdrop

Dennis at Rock and Rye channels The Dude with an updated take on the White Russian. Like Dennis, I feel no shame indulging in a Caucasian now and then. His Black Drop, featuring coffee-infused bourbon, coffee liqueur, creme de cacao, and cream sounds tasty too though.

mr_boston_bartend_guide

Felicia at Felicia’s Speakeasy gets nostalgic exploring a hand-written recipe from a copy of Mr. Boston inherited from her parents. With fresh juice, the Apricot Sour comes out tasting pretty nice.

dshell

Louis-Florian Tatsuhito at Le Trou d’Argent makes the Daisy Shell, a tequila take on the Brandy Crusta, with Ocho Blanco, lime, orange, maraschino, agave syrup, and salt.

kamikaze21

In a guest post at this site, my friend Paul Willenberg provides a new take on the Kamikaze featuring aquavit instead of vodka. I sipped on this recipe making a few substitutions based on what I had at home: Gammal Krogstad for the Linie and Mandarin Napoleon for the Grand Marnier. The half ounce of orange bitters in this drink is a great touch.

weissbanger21

Finally, in my post I give my own take on the Harvey Wallbanger, the Harvey Weissbanger, which omits the vodka and turns this drink into a beer cocktail.

Thanks to everyone who submitted drinks for this month’s Mixology Monday! It was a pleasure to host after so many times being involved as a participant.

MxMo Retro Redemption: Harvey Weissbanger

weissbanger2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Photo by John Valls.]

Mixology Monday LXIII: Retro Redemption!

mxmologo Contemporary cocktail enthusiasts take pride in resurrecting forgotten cocktails of the past — unless “the past” refers to the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, or 90s. We sometimes refer to these decades as the Dark Ages of Mixology, eras not yet recovered from the violence Prohibition and a World War inflicted on American cocktail culture. The classic Martini, a flavorful blend of gin and vermouth, had morphed into a glass of cold, diluted vodka. Other drinks were just too sweet, too fruity, too big, too silly.

But still, it wasn’t all bad. People ordered these drinks for a reason. Despite the now annual “burial” of a disfavored drink at Tales of the Cocktail, not all of them deserve to die. Perhaps, as they said of the Six Million Dollar Man, we can rebuild them. We have the technology. So the theme of this month’s Mixology Monday is Retro Redemption! Your task is to revive a drink from mixology’s lost decades. Perhaps you feel one of these drinks has a bad rap; tell us why it deserves another shot. Or maybe the original concoction just needs a little help from contemporary ingredients and techniques to make it in the big leagues. If so, tell us how to update it.

Post your cocktail recipe on Monday, November 21, along with a photo, the Mixology Monday logo, and a link back to this site and the Mixology Monday homepage. Then post a link to your post in the comments here or send me an email at feedback@jacobgrier.com. Don’t have a blog? Feel free to send me your photo and recipe and I’ll collect it in a second post.

I look forward to seeing what you all come up with.

Update 11/21/11: You may notice a glitch trying to comment but your comment should go through. Please refresh the page to check.

MxMo Sleeping Scotsman

Scotsman

Back when I worked at Grape and Bean in Alexandria, VA, one of the items we specialized in was a variety pack of gourmet salts. One of these was a smoked sea salt that I absolutely loved. It was incredibly fragrant and, as I do with most tasty things, I immediately started thinking about how I could work it into a cocktail.

This month’s Mixology Monday provided the perfect opportunity to revisit that idea. Fellow Portlander Craig at Tiki Drinks and Indigo Firmaments chose the theme of spice:

Spice should give you plenty of room to play – from the winter warmers of egg nog, wassail and mulled products to the strange and interesting infusions of pepper, ceubub, grains of paradise, nutmeg — what have you! I would like to stretch the traditional meanings of spice (as the bark, seed, nut or flowering part of a plant used for seasoning) to basically anything used for flavoring that isn’t an herb. Salt? Go for it. Paprika? I’d love to see you try. I hear that cardamom is hot right now.

For this drink I picked up a pouch of Pacific Northwest Smoked Sea Salt distributed by a local company called Salt Central. It’s every bit as fragrant as what I had in Virginia. The package says it’s made from sea salt smoked over red alder wood and the aroma really is amazing. It makes me want to open the package every once in a while and shove my nose inside. A talented chef could probably make some delicious meat dishes with it. I’m not a talented chef by any means, so I stick to drinks.

The obvious use of salt in a cocktail is a Margarita with a salted rim. The alder aroma opens up new possibilities, Scotch offering itself as a fitting complement to sea salt and smoke. Wanting to retain the citrus component of the Margarita, I came up with this Sleeping Scotsman:

2 oz Scotch
.75 oz sweet vermouth
.5 oz orange juice
.25 oz lemon juice
1 dash Peychaud’s bitters

Shake and strain into a glass half-rimmed with smoked sea salt.

The salt is used here for the way its aroma complements the Scotch, so salting half the rim lets the drinker take in the fragrance without having to add it to the drink. The salt is delicious though, so enjoying some on a few sips isn’t a bad idea.

This drink’s closest relative is the Blood and Sand, which combines Scotch, sweet vermouth, orange juice, and cherry brandy, traditionally in equal parts. Here the Scotch takes center stage and the cherry brandy is omitted entirely. Adding Peychaud’s may seem like a strange choice, but its medicinal quality marries well with the Scotch, whereas the spiciness of aromatic bitters would seem out of place. Peychaud’s actually has a long history with the spirit, dating back at least to a footnote in David Embury’s The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks in which he recommends it over Angostura. A page before he also writes, “Just why anyone would want to make a cocktail with Scotch I wouldn’t know, any more than I can understand why anyone should want to kill the exquisite bouquet of a good champagne by blending it with sugar, Angostura, and lemon and calling it a champagne cocktail.” He’s right that Scotch really is harder to mix with than other whiskeys, but I think here I’ve come up with a drink that makes it worth diluting. I imagine it working well as a brunch drink for guys who want something a little more manly than the usual Mimosa.

Incidentally, this post marks my one year anniversary participating in Mixology Monday. My first contribution also involved Scotch and smoke, so this post is a fitting bookend. I’ve come a long way as a bartender since then. For much of that time I haven’t been working behind any bar aside from my own home setup, so MxMo has been an excellent spur to creativity.

As for the name of the drink… when you’re combining Scotch and salty aromas, there’s only one song that comes to mind.

Everybody loves an Irish car bomb

I wasn’t much of a drinker in college so I missed out on that phase of imbibing nasty “punches” and jungle juices and whatever else it was the people who were getting drunk and high and having sex were doing. I was busy tossing frisbees and hanging out in coffee shops, or drinking an occasional glass of cheap wine with my philosophy professors, and that was about it. The semester I spent in DC loosened me up, though even then I once turned down a Long Island iced tea because “I don’t like tea.” Today I do like tea, and I especially like alcohol, so obviously things have changed a bit.

Because I came around late to the joys of drink, I don’t have many guilty pleasures, the theme of this month’s Mixology Monday hosted by Stevi Deter. My elitism was well developed by the time I got into cocktails, and if I’m in a crappy bar where I don’t trust the bartender I’ll order straight whiskey before taking my chances on some foul sour mix concoction. But I do have one secret shame: the mixologically dubious and politically incorrect Irish car bomb.

Irish car bomb recipe

Guinness was the first beer I really liked and I think it was my friend Chad Wilcox who first turned me on to dropping a shot of Jameson and Bailey’s Irish Cream into it. Since then I’ve never had a night that involved Irish car bombs that wasn’t fun. Some bad next mornings, sure, but the nights are always a blast.

A few years ago Chad and I tested the theory that everybody loves an Irish car bomb. We were at an Irish pub in Nashville and our eyes were caught by two attractive and completely out of place women sitting at the bar. Everyone else was relaxed in jeans or khakis with a beer in hand; these two were dolled up in cocktail dresses, sitting alone with glasses of red wine. One of us had the idea to have our server send them a pair of Irish car bombs “courtesy of the gentlemen in the corner,” a completely inappropriate drink. We made side bets about what would happen next: a dollar on whether they would drink them and a dollar on whether they’d come and talk to us. I put my money on yes for both.

The women were surprised when the drinks came, but they flashed big smiles and downed them like pros. Our timing couldn’t have been worse though. At just that moment their friends arrived, a group of five or six former frat boys, and it looked like we were going to break even on the bet. In the end they did eventually wander over and talk for a few minutes, but we parted ways as they went off into the Nashville nightlife and we headed back to Vanderbilt for an outdoor concert. Still, I was glad to get $2 off our car bomb experiment, and I’ve had a soft spot for the car bomb ever since.

Normally for Mixology Monday I try to perfect a recipe and post a photo of the finished drink. I’m staying with a bartender friend at the moment, and while he understands the cocktail blogger lifestyle I think even he might be concerned if I start downing car bombs in his kitchen. Photographing it would be tricky too, since the Bailey’s causes the whole thing to curdle into a nasty mess if it’s not consumed immediately. So instead I searched through Flickr for photos of people drinking Irish car bombs, and it seems that indeed everybody does love them. Take the blonde on the left, for example:

Jen Irish car bomb

That’s Jen. We went to high school together. Back then she was one of the good kids; I remember she’d stitched the words “I love Jesus” into her backpack, but never quite finished the “s.” Now she shows up with empty glasses when you search for Irish car bomb photos. No one can resist their allure.

The woman on the right here also loves a car bomb. Look at how proper she is. Her right hand’s extended to catch the drips, and note how she’s holding the glass: pinkies out! Who are you, mysterious woman who drinks a car bomb so daintily? Are you single?

Irish car bomb

The red-headed guy in the next photo may actually be Irish but the look on his face reveals that he is clearly not in touch with his culture. Here’s to learning about your heritage!

Irish car bomb

These party girls are drinking car bombs from very full pint glasses. Major points to them if they pull it off.

Irish car bomb

Guys with mohawks love car bombs.

Irish car bomb

It’s the backstory that makes that one. He’s apparently bonding with his girlfriend’s uncles here. When you’re a dude with a mohawk, nothing builds relations with the future in-laws like introducing them to Irish car bombs.

Asians like car bombs too.

Irish car bomb

Seriously, they really do.

Irish car bomb

Irish car bomb

Irish car bomb

It’s never too early in the morning to do a round of car bombs. Weak pours though. Buck up, it’s Saint Patrick’s Day!

Irish car bomb

Without the Bailey’s mustache, this guy is just another drunk with his shirt off. With it he’s pure sex appeal.

Irish car bomb

You know you’re at a good bar when they serve so many car bombs that they pre-mix the Bailey’s and whiskey in a store-n-pour.

Irish car bomb

Damn it, I want a car bomb now.

[Photo used under Creative Commons license: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13.]

MxMo Martinez: Ur doing it wrong

Martinez cocktail

I’m coming in just under the wire for this month’s Mixology Monday — it’s still Monday somewhere, right? — where we’re kicking it old school with Bibulo.us and the theme of 19th century cocktails.

I owe the inspiration for this entry to Stevi Deter. In a post about Magellan gin at her new cocktail blog Two at the Most, she wrote:

If you don’t like floral infusions, you will not like Magellan. I like both. It is immediately apparent this isn’t a general-use gin. I can’t imagine using it in a Martinez, as I suspect the unique flavors wouldn’t mix well with sweet vermouth.

Say what? I’ve always made a Martinez with dry vermouth so that sweet vermouth comment threw me for a loop. That’s how I discovered I’ve been making one of the vintage cocktails the “wrong” way for quite a while now.

To see how I made this mistake, let’s step back a bit and talk about vermouth. This fortified and infused wine was long popular in Europe as a aperitif, but in the US drinkers were accustomed to stronger stuff. Sure, it could be enjoyed on its own, but why not stiffen it up with a shot of gin or whiskey? Such was the thinking of American bartenders in the late 1800s. Their legacy lives on in two truly classic cocktails, the Manhattan and Martini. The Manhattan, made with bourbon, sweet vermouth, and bitters, retains its 19th century flair. The Martini, unfortunately, has been diminished. The vermouth is all but gone, the gin nearly so. Today’s Martini drinkers are likely to want just plain vodka shaken over ice, as boring a drink as one could imagine. (I was always amused when customers complimented me on my Martini-making skills, me having done nothing but shake their chosen vodka over ice. Any idiot could have performed the task.)

Vermouth has suffered a long fall from grace. As Paul Clarke put it in his recent SF Chronicle article:

… by the mid-20th century, bartenders were following the lead of martini drinkers such as Winston Churchill, who is said to have merely glanced at a bottle of vermouth (or, in some versions of the story, in the direction of France) while preparing a drink. This trend toward drier martinis, combined with changing tastes toward lighter-flavored drinks and the advent of the vodka martini, meant vermouth became largely ignored and, as a result, misunderstood.

Today it’s not uncommon for a bottle of vermouth – deployed solely for the purpose of making martinis or Manhattans – to last weeks or even months in a standard bar, and many home bartenders may have bottles in their liquor cabinets that were purchased during the era of $2 gasoline.

That’s a damn shame, because vermouth can be a wonderful addition to a drink. Early versions of vermouth-based cocktails used it as the featured ingredient, often in double the amount of other liquors. Over time that ratio flipped, with traditional base spirits taking the lead and vermouth coming it at half the proportion, until we reached the point of today’s insipid vodka Martini. We can do better. That’s why for this month’s Mixology Monday I’m going back to a trio of cocktails featuring vermouth.

So let’s talk about the Martinez. Father of the Martini, recipes for the Martinez included yet another spirit that has fallen into obscurity: Maraschino. Distilled from cherries grown in Italy’s Marasca region, maraschino is a fruity, sweet, and slightly nutty liqueur that makes a fantastic addition to many cocktails. Adjusted for contemporary tastes, a modern Martinez looks something like this:

2 oz gin
.75 oz sweet vermouth
.25 oz maraschino
2 dashes orange bitters

This is a great cocktail. It’s reminiscent of a Manhattan, yet strangely different. The orange bitters are less spicy than Angostura. The gin imparts higher notes, more botanical, than bourbon. It doesn’t, however, fit the trend toward drier cocktails, and that’s how I made my mistake. I learned how to make a Martinez from Jeff Hollinger and Rob Schwartz’s excellent book The Art of the Bar. The fault is all mine. As they describe the drink:

While the original Martinez is too sweet for most, we don’t believe the Martinez should be poured down history’s drain. On the contrary, we’ve developed a take on it that we feel is a perfect adaptation of a true classic. It is balanced, as a cocktail should be, and dry, as most of today’s martini drinkers prefer them.

Their version goes like this:

2 oz Plymouth gin
1 oz Dolin dry vermouth
Splash of maraschino liqueur
Dash of orange bitters
Lemon twist and olive for garnish

When I first got the book I read the full history of the Martinez, but when it came time to actually make the drink I skipped right to this recipe, not catching my error until reading Stevi’s post. I haven’t been able to find Dolin vermouth yet, but this is still an excellent drink — certainly an improvement over the stripped down Martini we’re left with today.

Since we’re on the topic of vermouth and the Manhattan remains our most enduring vermouth cocktail, I think it’s appropriate to finish with an 19th century variation on that classic tipple. This one comes from “The Only William” Schimdt’s The Flowing Bowl, as described in David Wondrich’s indispensable Imbibe!:

Half a tumblerful of ice
2 dashes of gum
2 dashes of bitters
1 dash of absinthe
2/3 drink [2 oz -- Wondrich] of whiskey [rye]
1/3 drink [1 oz -- Wondrich] [sweet] vermouth
A little [.25 oz -- Wondrich] maraschino may be added

Stir this well, strain and serve.

There’s no need for sugar (gum) here; the drink is plenty sweet on its own. Just a tiny bit of absinthe goes a long way. It’s an intriguing variation, slightly sweeter and much more fragrant than the Manhattan you’re likely to be served in a bar today. Wondrich concludes:

… if you follow William Schmidt’s formula to a T, maraschino and all, you’ve got a drink that is a perfect metaphor for the 1890s, a decade of top hats and electric lights, automobiles and buggy whips. A final twist of lemon will do the drink, or you, no harm.

With these drinks we go back to a time when vermouth earned its place as a worthy complement to popular liquors. Try these three as a flight of cocktails, from Hollinger and Schwartz’s dry Martinez to a modern Manhattan. Vermouth forms the bridge, across the spirits and across the centuries.

Update: Paul Clarke gets vermouthy too and digs up a few obscure cocktails for this Mixology Monday.

MxMo bourbon: Amy’s Mom

Ginger ale cocktail

Because my friend Amy was there at the time, and her mom likes ginger drinks, and that’s how this one came to be…

This month’s Mixology Monday theme is bourbon, hosted by my fellow Arlingtonians at Scofflaw’s Den. Bourbon’s one of my favorite spirits, and a conversation about drinks made with ginger ale inspired my friend and I to try out the Bufala Negra from the Oakroom in Louisville, KY, as printed in the Food and Wine 2008 Cocktails 2008 guide. It’s a drink that combines balsamic vinegar and basil — a duo I enjoyed in my previous MxMo — with bourbon and ginger ale. I’m sure it’s a great drink at the Oakroom, but it was missing a little something when I made it at home. Maybe it was the ginger ale I used (Reed’s) or the substitution of balsamic syrup for separate vinegar and simple syrup (see the previous entry), but it needed a little bit more complexity.

That’s where the allspice dram comes in. Originally known as “pimento dram,” the obscure liqueur fell out of favor and was largely forgotten except among true drink enthusiasts, some of whom turned to making homemade versions from rum, allspice, and sugar. Luckily, it’s back, and with a name that doesn’t bring to mind those weird red things in the center of cocktail olives: St. Elizabeth’s Allspice Dram. (DC area readers can find it at Central Liquors.)

Allspice, so named because the berries of the pimento bush reminded the English or clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, and other spices all at once, is intensely aromatic, and can add wonderful complexity to cocktails. Often used in tiki drinks, it also plays well with bourbon, as in the classic Lion’s Tail. A little dash of it was just what my drink needed, and we’re pretty sure Amy’s mom would like it too. Here’s a recipe that worked for me, but vary it to fit your particular ingredients:

3 basil leaves, plus 1 for garnish
1/3 oz balsamic syrup
2 oz bourbon (I used Bulleit)
1/4 oz allspice dram
ginger ale (I used Reed’s)

Muddle the basil leaves with the syrup, add the bourbon and allspice dram, shake, and strain over ice. Top with a short pour of ginger ale. Add the garnish and enjoy.

Update 6/19/08: The month’s full recap is posted here.

MxMo: And a bottle of rum

Sangre de fresca

Today’s Mixology Monday is all about rum, a spirit of which I know virtually nothing. Sure, I use it in an occasional Mojito, Cuba Libre, or Dark and Stormy, but I haven’t experimented with many different bottlings or with more adventurous flavor combinations. For this MxMo, then, I didn’t strive for anything original.

Instead I turned to The Art of the Bar, the fantastically inventive cocktail book from Absinthe Brasserie and Bar’s Jeff Hollinger and Rob Schwartz, and source of one of my favorite recipes of late: the Sangre de Fresca.

The Sangre de Fresca features cachaca. Some might say this doesn’t count as a rum, but it is distilled from sugar cane and rum has always played fast and loose with its definitions. I’m mixing with Leblon, which actually calls itself a Brazilian rum and is barrel aged, so I’m going to go with it. For the sticklers in the audience, I’ll shake one up with rum, too. It’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make; I drink to make you happy. Here’s the recipe:

2 hulled strawberries
4-5 basil leaves
.5 oz balsamic syrup*
1.5 oz cachaca
.25 oz Cointreau
.25 oz lime juice
soda water

Muddle the berries, syrup, and leaves. Add the spirits and lime juice and shake with ice, then strain over rocks and top with soda. This makes a nicely refreshing drink. The ripe, fruity smell of the cachaca pairs really well with the balsamic syrup, and of course strawberries and balsamic vinegar is a winning combination.

To tie this more perfectly to the rum theme, I’ve also tried this a few times with Rhum Barbancourt, a Haitian rum aged for four years, in place of the cachaca. This makes for a smoother drink, but the more powerful cachaca stands up better to the other strong flavors at play; the Brazilian spirit’s the way to go here.

To follow the rest of this month’s MxMo’s entrants, check in with Trader Tiki for the recap. And for an informative article on rum, see Paul Clarke’s recent piece in The San Francisco Chronicle.

*For the syrup, dissolve 1.5 cups of sugar into half a cup of water in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the water dissolves and the sugar caramelizes to an amber color. In a separate pan, simmer 1.5 cups of balsamic vinegar. Then take both off the heat and carefully add the vinegar to the caramelized sugar. Be careful, it will spatter messily. Heat the mix a few minutes longer until it thickens, cool it an ice bath (it retains heat very well), bottle, and store in the refrigerator. It’s a nice thing to have around and lasts a long time.

Update 5/13/08: Trader Tiki’s got your wrap-up right here.

Calvados times two

It’s a good thing this month’s Mixology Monday closes at midnight Pacific Standard Time, because otherwise I’d never have made it in under the wire. First a plugin I installed to make my site faster completely backfired, then literally minutes after that was fixed DreamHost ran into tons of database problems. Now everything is finally working… for the moment. It’s a enough to make a guy hit the brandy.

Luckily, that’s the theme for this MxMo, hosted by Marleigh at Sloshed! (Thanks, Marleigh!)

At Open City, the bar where I work, we have a tea called Chaucer’s Cup from Serendipitea. It’s a tisane made from dried apples and mangos, cloves, cardamom, ginger, and various other fruits and spices. It’s popularly served here infused into hot apple cider.

Chaucer’s Toddy

It’s a tea I rarely drink, but it struck me that the tea and the bottle of calvados (French apple brandy) I’ve been enjoying at home would naturally go together. And so Chaucer’s Toddy was born:

6 oz Chaucer’s cup tea
2 oz calvados
1 cinnamon stick

Chaucer’s Toddy

This one came together on the first try. It’s very basic, with no sweetener or lemon added as is done in many toddies. Either addition could be alright, but the apple in the tea and the apple in the brandy go together so well that there’s no reason to add distractions. Simple, but it works.

This MxMo also gave me the reason I needed to open up a beer I’ve been holding on to for about a year, J. W. Lees Harvest Ale Calvados Cask, brewed in 2005. It’s an English barley wine at 11.5% abv, a serious ale. It pours with a lot of sediment, has just a little carbonation, and is richly sweet, malty, and well-balanced. The hint of the brandy is subtle. I don’t often get to drink Lees’ Harvest Ales, and if I did I might have been able to pick out more of the barrel’s contribution. Even so, it’s a great beer, perfect for capping a winter weekend and following a hot calvados toddy.

[Cross-posted at Eatfoo.]

Update 1/19/08: Marleigh’s got the complete round-up here.