Achievement unlocked: One decade of blogging

I realized late this afternoon that my blog turns ten today. That’s like retirement age in blog years. Blogging isn’t quite as much fun as it was when I first started, back when bloggers would gather for happy hours based solely on sharing a publication format, subject matter inconsequential. Because we were bloggers! And that was reason enough. Much of what I used to post is now better suited to Twitter and Facebook, and the professionalization of the web makes it more sensible to submit longer content to existing publications than post it here. Nonetheless I’m grateful for those of you who do read this blog and continue to find value in posting, even if SEO has become a bigger consideration than trying to build a daily readership.

I could go on, but in adherence this site’s rules for good blogging…

Rule #1: Be meaningful.

Rule #2: If meaning is elusive, be amusing.

Rule #3: If meaning and amusement are both out of reach, be brief.

… I should probably shut up and post a cocktail recipe.

The Plantain Pisco Sour is exactly what it sounds like, a Pisco Sour sweetened with the spiced plantain syrup I like so much. This is an updated version of a drink I made for competition a few years, minus the foam. Use a good pisco like Campo de Encanto, the kind of pisco that actually tastes like it was distilled from grapes, for best results.

2 oz pisco
3/4 oz spiced plantain syrup
3/4 oz lime juice
1/2 oz Dimmi
1 egg white
bitters, for garnish

Shake everything without ice to aerate the egg white, then shake hard again with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with drops of aromatic bitters. Etch them into tiny hearts for that extra special mixologist touch. (I use Novo Fogo Cherribiscus Bitters that my friend Evan Martin made, but any colorful and aromatic bitter will do.)

And if you’re looking for more drinks to try, remember there’s a whole section of the site devoted to cocktails now.

[Photo by Will Ray.]

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Jelly shots go upscale

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

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

[Photo by Ross William Hamilton.]

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Yirgacheffe Cooler

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In the latest issue of my favorite drinks magazine, Imbibe, the editors asked me to provide an iced coffee cocktail for their “Distilled” Q&A column (not pictured). Despite the surge in popularity of both craft coffee and cocktails in recent years, the two drinks don’t show up in the same glass all that often, probably because most coffee shops don’t have liquor licenses and the coffee at most bars is terrible.

Iced coffee drinks are a good way to bridge the gap. It’s just as easy to make as hot coffee, but it’s more temperature stable so that a bar doesn’t have to worry about making it a la minute or letting it go stale during service. My favorite way to make it is the “Japanese method” popularized by Peter Giuliano of Counter Culture Coffee, in which very concentrated hot brew coffee is poured directly ice. The ice melts, cooling the coffee and bringing it to the proper level of dilution (just like stirring a cocktail). This preparation captures flavors and acidity that would be lost in a cold brew. It’s fantastic with East African or Central American coffees with bright fruit notes, making a refreshing drink reminiscent of iced tea. For details on this method, see Imbibe or the Counter Culture brewing guide.

For the cocktail, I picked ingredients to play off the citrus, fruit, and floral notes of African coffees:

1 1/2 oz pisco
3/4 oz Dimmi
1/4 oz lemon juice
4-5 oz iced Yirgacheffe coffee

Build in a rocks glass with ice. (The print recipe instructs to shake and strain, but that’s not necessary.)

Campo de Encanto is still my go-to choice for pisco. Dimmi is a Milanese liqueur flavored with grappa, herbs, and flowers, which I’ve paired with pisco once before. And for the coffee Yirgacheffe from a quality roaster is great, but any other coffee with a fruity flavor profile will do fine.

If you make a big batch of iced coffee, this can make a refreshing patio drink. Or if you want to serve an iced coffee cocktail at a bar, the coffee can be made before service and be good for the night.

For more iced coffee cocktails to explore, here are a couple from Elizabeth McElligott at Food Shed.

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Pisco con Platanos

pisco

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Previously: My GADF cocktail from last year

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