Mixology Monday: East Indies Bloody Mary

East Indies Bloody Mary

April’s Mixology Monday theme is the deceptively healthy sounding “Drink Your Vegetables.” From Rowen at Fogged in Lounge:

Want to get more vegetables but you’re always eating on the run?… Well then, how about a vegetable cocktail? No, not that nice little glass of red stuff Grandma put at each place setting—we’re talking something with a kick in it. You can definitely start with the little glass of red stuff and expand it to a Red Snapper-style drink like a Bloody Mary. Or how about a cucumber-scented cooler like a Pimm’s Cup, or maybe a cocktail featuring a vegetable-based ingredient like Cardamaro or celery bitters? Maybe you’ve been wondering if you can get more mileage out of that juice extractor before consigning it to the garage sale. However you get them in that glass, be prepared for the most fun with vegetables ever.

A while back I was tasked with coming up with a creative take on the Bloody Mary. In a town with as many brunches and savvy bartenders as Portland, coming up with something unique and tasty was a challenge; here even the Aquavit Bloody Mary can seem routine. After quite a bit of experimentation with different spirits and spices, I eventually settled on one made with Batavia arrack — a funky, assertive spirit distilled from sugar cane and red rice — and accented with a spice paste inspired by Indonesian cuisine. To top it all off, the cocktail is garnished with house made pickles and a spicy grilled prawn.

I’ve been meaning to post this recipe for a while, so I’m glad to finally have the opportunity. To make it you’ll need a basic Bloody Mary mix, the spice paste, and Batavia arrack.

For the spice paste:

4 tablespoons sambal oelek
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

Combine all ingredients and mix well.

For the East Indies Bloody Mary:

1 1/2 oz Batavia arrack
4 oz Bloody Mary mix
2 teaspoons Indonesian spice paste
cumin salt rim, for garnish
pickles, for garnish
grilled prawn, for garnish

Combine all ingredients, shake with ice, and strain (but don’t fine strain) into an ice-filled pint glass rimmed with a mixture of salt and ground cumin. Go crazy with the garnishes. A grilled prawn flavored with turmeric and other spices is a good touch. When we served this we pickled various vegetables such as long beans, green beans, lotus root, daikon, and cucumber in the brine from the Indian-style pickled cauliflower recipe in The Joy of Pickling.

Coming up on my to-do list: Trying this spice paste on grilled meat. In the meantime, drink up.

[Photo courtesy of Lush Angeles.]

Mixology Monday: Fortified Wines

Though the tradition was on hiatus for a few months, Frederic from Cocktail Virgin Slut has thankfully revived Mixology Monday. Hosting for January is Jordan Devereaux of Chemistry of the Cocktail. The theme is fortified wines:

These wines held an important place in the ur-cocktails of punch and have continued on in cocktails proper, the personal punches of the past several hundred years. Though less common nowadays, sherry, port, and, to a lesser extent, madeira and marsala, all find their way into various mixed drinks. [...] For this month’s Mixology Monday, I’d like to see what you all can do with these versatile wines.

Working at Metrovino, where the cocktail list is always in the shadow of our massive selection of wines by the glass, mixing with fortified wines comes naturally. From Sherry Cobblers at brunch to the PX Flip for dessert, cocktails made with sherry or port appear frequently on our menus.

The Adonis is not one from our list, but it’s one of the most pleasing aperitif drinks I know. Its recipe is given in The Savoy and I believe dates from the 1800s.

1 1/2 oz dry sherry
3/4 oz sweet vermouth
1 dash orange bitters
orange peel, for garnish

Stir with ice, strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with an orange peel.

For a bit more background, also see my article from Culinate about sherry cocktails or check the sherry category of this site’s cocktail archive.

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.)

shapeimage_1

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.

Mixology Monday: Beer!

coconut

I’d be stupid not to take part in this month’s Mixology Monday hosted by Cocktail Virgin:

This month the chosen theme will be beer cocktails.

While beer being used as an ingredient in modern cocktails has gotten a lot of press as of late, this is not a new trend. Beer has played a historical role in mixed drinks for centuries. For example, it can be found in Colonial drinks like the Rumfustian, Porter Sangaree, and Ale Flip. While many of these drinks are not seen in modern bars save for craft cocktail establishments, other beer drinks are though, including the Boilermaker, Black Velvet, and Michelada. And present day mixologists are utilizing beer with great success including Kelly Slagle’s Port of Funchal, Jacob Grier’s Averna Stout Flip, and Emma Hollander’s Word to Your Mom. Bartenders are drawn to beer for a variety of reasons including the glorious malt and roast notes from the grain, the bitter and sometimes floral elements from the hops, the interesting sour or fruity notes from the yeast, and the crispness and bubbles from the carbonation. Beer is not just for pint glasses, so let us honor beer of all styles as a drink ingredient.

Coincidentally, July is Oregon Craft Beer Month and we’re coming up on the one year anniversary of the first Brewing Up Cocktails event put on by me, Yetta Vorobik, and Ezra Johnson-Greenough. In the time since we’ve been experimenting with themed beer cocktail events, whether that be creating a menu around a specific brewery (Ninkasi, Oakshire, and Hopworks) or a type of drink (nothing but flips!). For our anniversary party we’ll be serving beer cocktails with a loosely interpreted tiki theme. Details are coming soon, but in the meantime here’s a preview of one of the new (and thus far unnamed) drinks:

2 oz Maui Brewing Coconut Porter
1 1/2 oz English Harbour rum
1 1/2 oz coconut milk
1/2 oz Galliano Ristretto
1/2 oz allspice or pimento dram
Angostura bitters mist, for garnish

Shake the first five ingredients, strain into a rocks or wine glass, and garnish with the Angostura mist.

This is a weird drink. The idea of mixing coconut porter and coconut milk was Ezra’s, and I was skeptical at first. However this comes together really nicely and has a rich flip-like consistency. The pimento dram adds big spice flavors, the Galliano Ristretto espresso liqueur adds depth and sweetness, and the coconut milk puts this in the running for the most unhealthy cocktail we’ve come up with yet.

Stay tuned for more info about the Brewing Up Cocktails anniversary event on Saturday, July 30, at The Hop and Vine.

Scandinavian Spring

scandinavian

This month’s Mixology Monday is about niche spirits. From Filip at Adventures in Cocktails:

June’s theme will be “favorite niche spirit”, so any cocktail where the base ingredient is not bourbon, gin, rum, rye, tequila, vodka etc would qualify. So whether you choose Mezcal or Armagnac get creative and showcase your favorite niche spirit.

You know what bottle I empty the most at my house? I mean aside from Bols Genever. It’s Krogstad Aquavit, made here in Portland by House Spirits. It’s a very anise-forward spirit flavored with star anise and caraway, and I absolutely love making cocktails with it.

This one, Scandinavian Spring, I’m adding to the menu at Metrovino this week:

1 1/2 oz Krogstad Aquavit
1/2 oz Maurin Quina
1/2 oz lemon juice
1/2 oz honey-lavender syrup

Shake, strain, and serve up in a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Maurin Quina is a product I’ve been eager to get on the Oregon market and it finally arrived in stores this month. It’s a fortified white wine flavored with quinine, cherries, lemon, and cherry brandy. It’s delicious stuff, either chilled as an aperitif or as an ingredient in mixed drinks.

There’s a lot going on in this cocktail, but the flavors come together really nicely. To make the honey-lavender syrup, combine 1 cup hot water, 1/2 cup honey, and 1/4 cup lavender, let cool, and strain.

Previously:
Take your medicine: A guide to quinine in cocktails
Iron Bartender Krogstad Aquavit cocktails

Sally Port Punk

sallyport 006

Last week I promised one more cocktail made with Dimmi, the Milanese liqueur flavored with grappa and fruit blossoms. Coincidentally this month’s Mixology Monday hosted by The Barman Cometh is about cocktails made with floral ingredients:

The challenge is to feature a cocktail that highlights a floral flavor profile or includes a floral derived ingredient, whether home-made or off the shelf. With the ever expanding catalogue of spirits (and the kitchen labs of home enthusiasts), there’s a whole host of directions for you to choose from – elderflower liqueur, creme de violette, chamomile infused gin, hibiscus grenadine, rosewater, lavender syrup – or to create. With some luck, one of the garnish gurus will figure out a way to turn an orchid into a swizzle stick.

The Sally Port Punk, a slightly bitter aperitif-style cocktail, is the newest addition to the menu at Metrovino:

1 oz blanco tequila
1 oz white port
1/2 oz Dimmi
1/2 oz Campari

Stir, serve up, garnish with an orange twist.

This drink is a straightforward variation on one of my favorite contemporary cocktails, Stephen Shellenberger’s Alto Cucina. Like the Negroni or Last Word, his is a drink that lends itself to infinite variation by substituting one or more of its components for similar spirits:

1 oz Scotch
1 oz dry vermouth
1/2 oz St. Germain
1/2 oz Cynar

Stir, serve up, garnish with an orange twist.

We have one other cocktail on the current menu based on this template, which I’ll post sometime soon.

Mixology Monday: Clubland Cocktail

Clubland 043

What, me make vodka drink? It’s rare when it happens willingly, but it does happen. One of these times is for this month’s Mixology Monday hosted by Dennis at Rock & Rye:

I am excited to be hosting the next round of Mixology Monday here at Rock & Rye. This month’s event will take place on Monday, November 22nd, and the theme will be: Forgotten Cocktails. There are many cocktail books out there, and even more that are no longer in print, filled with thousands of cocktails. Some are decent, some are crap, and some might be great.

The challenge this month is to bring to light a drink that you think deserves to be resurrected from the past, and placed back into the spotlight. It could be pre-prohibition, post-war, that horrible decade known as the 80′s, it doesn’t really matter. As long as it is somewhat obscure, post it up. If possible try to keep to ingredients that are somewhat readily available. While we all appreciate the discovery of an amazing cocktail, if we can’t make it, it’s no fun for anyone.

This is a good opportunity to write about one of the few vodka drinks I like, the Clubland:

1.5 oz vodka
1.5 oz white port
1 dash Angostura bitters

Stir and serve up in a cocktail glass with an optional orange or lemon twist for garnish.

The drink originally appears in the Café Royal Cocktail Book, a 1937 publication of the United Kingdom Bartenders Guild. Compiled by William J. Tarling, the credit for this drink is given to “A. Mackintosh.” I was turned onto it by Jeffrey Morgenthaler, who I think came across it at the Bar Convent Berlin and offered it on the Clyde Common cocktail menu for a while.

This is not a life-changing drink, unless one’s life has been extremely boring. But it works well, the Angostura brings a little complexity, and the port makes it a nice aperitif. Plus it’s always good to have a vodka cocktail in your pocket for those customers who won’t drink anything else. Dust off your bottle of vodka and give this one a try sometime.

MxMo absinthe and the Atty cocktail

Atty cocktailMixology Monday is back and this time it’s hosted by Sonja at Thinking of Drinking, who chooses absinthe as our theme:

The topic for February is Absinthe. That much maligned, misunderstood, mistreated spirit, suddenly plentiful again in the US and other parts of the world. Absinthe played a role, whether large or small, in a variety of great cocktails from the 1800′s and early 1900′s – the Sazerac, Absinthe Suissesse, Corpse Reviver No. 2… I’m getting thirsty.

So let’s celebrate absinthe’s history, and it’s future, with all manner of cocktails using absinthe.

I tend to drink absinthe most often as an accent in cocktails rather than on its own and even then I don’t turn to it very often. So lacking inspiration this month I turned to Difford’s Guide #7, a massive book that includes recipes and photos for more than 2,250 cocktails conveniently indexed by ingredient. The drinks are of decidedly mixed quality but there are some gems in there, including the Atty cocktail:

2.25 oz Plymouth gin
.75 oz dry vermouth
.25 oz absinthe
.25 oz creme de violette

Stir (not shake!) over ice and optionally garnish with a lemon zest, though the aromatics of the absinthe and violette are strong enough that it’s not strictly necessary. The recipe is adapted from the Savoy Cocktail Book, which to my shame I don’t have in my library yet. Erik Ellestad posts the original recipe here.

The interplay of the absinthe and floral flavors is really nice here. It’s similar to the absinthe and lavender combination in Neil Kopplin’s Envy cocktail, though much more restrained. I like this drink a lot, and the color is fantastic (as you could see if I was a better photographer). Definitely recommended.

Incidentally, Difford’s Guide is available online as well, but the physical book is great to have on hand to browse through for ideas. The new edition #8 is available now.

Secrets of the Patty Mills

patty_mills 007

My friend David’s method for creating a new cocktail:

1. Come into Carlyle and pick a drink on the menu that includes lemon juice.

2. Order that drink without lemon juice.

3. If the drink is served up, order it on the rocks.

4. Name the new drink after a Blazer.

5. Enjoy.

This method isn’t foolproof. Sometimes the results are, as one fellow drinker put it, “horribly unbalanced.” But sometimes it works. And one of those times is perfect for this week’s Mixology Monday, which is all about tea and hosted by Cocktail Slut:

Tea has played a historical role in cocktails for centuries. Perhaps the best documented early example was its inclusion in punches as part of the spice role to round out the spirit, sugar, water, and citrus line up. Later, teas appear in many recipes such as Boston Grog, English Cobbler, and a variety of Hot Toddies. And present day mixologists are utilizing tea flavors with great success including Audrey Saunder’s Earl Grey MarTEAni and LUPEC Boston’s Flapper Jane. Now it’s our turn to honor this glorious cocktail ingredient!

For a while our menu at Carlyle included an updated version of one of the first cocktails I came up with, a Pegu Club variation made with Earl Grey tea-infused gin. Putting this through David’s drink algorithm produces the Patty Mills:

2 oz Earl Grey-infused Bombay gin
.75 oz Cointreau
1 dash Regan’s orange bitters

Serve on the rocks with an orange zest. It’s a secret off-the-menu drink at Carlyle. But would Patty Mills himself approve? Only time will tell.

Rye Boulevardier

boulevardier

It’s Mixology Monday! Er, Tuesday in my case. But it’s still Monday one time zone over, which is close enough for bartender time. Vidiot at Cocktailians hosts this month, choosing the theme of vermouth:

[...] if your sole experience is of vermouth from dusty, warm half-empty bottles that have moldered away on a back bar since the Carter Administration, you aren’t going to like vermouth very much. One can even buy ridiculous products to atomize it in your drink. But that’s not necessary, and if you go down that road, you’re missing out on a great ingredient. [...]

So: your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to present a delectable vermouth cocktail for us all to drool over. Sweet/Italian or dry/French vermouth are fair game of course, as are quinquina, aperitif wines like Pineau des Charentes, or for that matter any fortified, aromatized wine such as Lillet (red or white), or Dubonnet (ditto.) Have fun, and leave the link in the comments to this post by midnight PDT (no, not this PDT) (3am EDT) Tuesday, October 27th. In other words, you have a little over a week to get it done, and as long as you submit it sometime by Monday, you’ll get in under the wire. I look forward to the results!

My drink for this month is no great shakes for originality, but it’s a tasty little number adapted from the classic Boulevardier as described in Ted Haigh’s indispensable Vintage Cocktails and Forgotten Spirits:

1.5 oz rye
1 oz Campari
1 oz sweet vermouth, preferably Carpano Antica

Stir over ice and strain into a cocktail glass. The drink is traditionally made with bourbon. I prefer the added spiciness of rye in this drink, so that’s how we serve it at Carlyle. Here it’s garnished with a rye-soaked cherry, a jar of which I set aside while they were in season this summer.

One nice thing about this drink is that the ingredients are totally accessible. Not every bar will have them, and not every bar will be taking care of its vermouth, but in an above average place the bartender should be able to make a Boulevardier with no problem. If you like Negronis and like whiskey, I recommend giving this one a try.

MxMo: Package Notice

Hibiscus cocktail

A couple months ago I agreed to be in a vodka infusion contest hosted by Oval Vodka. The winner received a free hotel stay in New Orleans for Tales of the Cocktail. Unfortunately I found out soon after the bottle arrived that I wouldn’t be able to attend this year, so I didn’t compete and have an extra bottle of vodka sitting on my home bar. At about the same time my friend David sent me a package that included a big bag of hibiscus flowers. This makes for a nice coincidence given that this month’s Mixology Monday theme is “vodka is your friend,” hosted by Felicia’s Speakeasy:

The theme of August 10th’s Mixology Monday is “Vodka is Your Friend.” The recent high profile bashings of vodka interspersed with a few weak “yeah, buts…” left me wondering, is vodka the axis of evil, our most dangerous enemy? While it may not be the life of the party, experts agree: Vodka’s obituary does not have to be written just yet.

Every once in a while I do enjoy vodka on the rocks, especially if it has some rye character to it. I very rarely choose to mix with it though. There’s a limited amount of spirit that can fit into a cocktail and I don’t often want to devote any of it to a nearly flavorless ingredient. If a drink is good with vodka, wouldn’t it be better with gin? Or rum, or aquavit, or tequila, etc.? Despite this, the two most popular cocktails on Carlyle’s menu are made with vodka. Like it or not, we craft bartenders have to use it.

One thing vodka is good for is letting other flavors shine through. Given what I had on hand, my first thought was to try a hibiscus infusion. This turned my vodka an attractive shade of red but the flavor wasn’t strong enough to stand out in a mixed drink; clearly I would not have won the infusion contest.

So then I started doing some research. And by “research” I mean I looked up the hibiscus entry on Wikipedia. There I learned that there are countless words for hibiscus tea, a beverage popular throughout the world and made by steeping dried hibiscus flowers in hot water. In Jamaica fresh ginger is often added. Thus an idea for a drink began to take shape and after a little trial-and-error I settled on this Package Notice cocktail:

2 oz chilled hibiscus tea (agua de Flor de Jamaica)
1.5 oz vodka
.25 oz ginger liqueur
.25 oz rich simple syrup

Shake over ice, strain into an ice-filled rocks glass, and garnish with an edible flower.

The hibiscus flavor is tangy but also very light, so vodka works nicely here. It’s a simple drink, but it’s admittedly pretty nice on a summer day.

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.

MxMo made from scratch

Kentucky Woman

This month’s Mixology Monday is hosted by Doug at Pegu Blog. His theme is made from scratch ingredients. This one sneaked up on me, so I didn’t have time for anything requiring long infusions. Bitters? No time. Tonic water? Brandied cherries? Done those already. With not many options left, this seemed like a good opportunity to try out the honey lavender syrup from The Art of the Bar:

1 cup hot water
.5 cup honey
.25 cup dried lavender

Keeping the water off boil, briefly infuse the lavender into it. Remove it from heat and pour it over the honey, stirring until mixed. Let it steep until cool, then pour through a sieve to remove the petals. You’re left with a sweet and distinctly fragrant syrup.

(Random aside: When I was in elementary school I developed an irrational dislike of honey. I don’t know if it was the fact that it came from bees or the silly bear jars or something else entirely, but for some reason I decided I did not like it. It wasn’t until the past year or so that revisited this belief and realized that honey is pure, sweet deliciousness.)

The guys at Absinthe used this syrup to make a lavender Sidecar. That’s a good drink, but a bourbon-honey combination struck me as a more natural pairing. After a bit of experimentation I came up with this Kentucky Woman cocktail:

1.75 oz bourbon
.5 oz honey lavender syrup
.25 oz lemon juice
2 dashes orange bitters

The ingredients all play very well together. The bourbon blends with the honey, the lemon adds a touch of acidity and brightness, and the lavender gives the drink a lovely floral aroma. It shines with its own kind of light; you drink it once and a day that’s all wrong looks all right. And I love her, God knows her I love her.

Wait, what? Sorry, I got a little carried away there. But it is a tasty cocktail and a nice syrup. Generally speaking I’m not sure that infusing syrup is the best approach to this kind of drink. Doing so ties sweetness to flavor, so that to add more of one you must also add more of the other. A lavender tincture and a separate syrup might be the better way to go. But like I said, I didn’t have time for that, and in this case the syrup works just fine.

Thanks to Doug for hosting this month. I’ll post a link to the roundup when he gets it posted.

Update: Doug’s got the full roundup right here. And he’s right, I do need to get out more.

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.