What I’ve been drinking

A few of the samples that have been sent my way recently…

Remy Martin Louis XVIII — Despite what you may have heard about the glamorous and lucrative world of writing about cocktails, it’s not every night that I settle in with a snifter of Louis XIII. However thanks to the nice folks at Remy Martin, I was able to try this Cognac recently in celebration of Remy’s new Jeroboam bottle, which weighs in at three liters for €16.000.

Of course they didn’t send me the Jeroboam. I received their 50 ml bottle, which appears to retail for about $400. This is the most impressive mini bottle I have seen, arriving in a hard shell and modeled after the standard bottle, right down to the stopper to place in the neck after opening.

You’re probably not buying this for the bottle though, unless you’re trying to project the image of a very wealthy man with extraordinarily large hands. So how does it taste? Pretty amazing actually. Very light and taking on just enough vanilla from the oak. I could sip it all night. Obviously this is something you’d only buy if you have a fair amount of disposable income and you could buy much higher quantities of other very enjoyable booze with the same money. Whether it’s worth spending that much on any spirit is up to you, but it is very good.

Bulleit Rye — It’s a rye! From Bulleit! Bulleit is already known for its bourbon with a high rye content, so this is a natural extension for them. It’s 90 proof and 95% rye. It actually has a less assertive rye flavor than I expected, which will probably help it appeal to a larger market. I prefer it to their bourbon for sipping neat and it makes a nice Manhattan. Prices are all over the place on this one, but if you find it in the low $20s it’s worth picking up.

Blandy’s 10 Year Old Malmsey — Madeira is not a product I have much familiarity with, but the more I drink it the more I like it. This one is no exception. Being a Malmsey it’s on the sweeter side but nicely balanced by acidity and rich, raisiny flavors. It’s delicious. And one other plus: Unlike some other fortified wines, Madeira has been through enough oxidation, aging, and heating during its production to last for a long time after opening, so it’s an ideal wine to keep around and drink at leisure.

Transatlantic Mai Tai

maitai

First Mad Dog cocktails, now umbrella drinks? It’s a good thing Metrovino’s kitchen is here to keep things classy. (Let’s not even talk about the bone luge… yet). This drink came about from wondering what would happen if you made a grain-based version of a Mai Tai, which traditionally combines two kinds of rum with lime, orgeat, orange curacao, and sugar. In place of rum this uses equal parts rye whiskey and Bols Genever, a very malty spirit distilled from rye, wheat, and corn and flavored with botanicals.

1 oz rye
1 oz Bols Genever
1 oz lime juice
3/4 oz orgeat
1/2 oz orange liqueur

Shake and strain over ice, garnishing with a cherry, mint, and a cocktail parasol. Yes, you must include the parasol. You wouldn’t want the cherry to get a sunburn.

At the bar we’re serving this with Jim Beam for the rye, B. G. Reynold’s for the orgeat, and Combier for the orange liqueur. An alternate name for this drink would be the Product Placement cocktail. (Hi Blair and Tommy!)

MxMo Lazy Bear

Lazy Bear 008

Hey, wait, it’s Mixology Monday time again? Lucky for me, this month’s theme hosted by Spirited Remix requires no new work:

The theme is quite simple: your best. Give me the best drink recipe you’ve ever created.

No, I’m not really talking about that awesome drink that you made under pressure and on the fly for your friends one evening. I’m not talking about that kickass nightcap that you whipped up using the last bits from those few bottles that you needed to throw away.

I’m talking about that one drink that you’ve worked on for quite a while. The one that you’ve carefully tweaked over time until you found that perfect recipe. The one you’ve made tons of times: sometimes alone in contemplation, sometimes for a guest so that you could get their opinion.

It’s hard to choose just one. I find that my drinks are like children: Delightful when I first make them, but once they’re a couple years old I’m embarrassed to be seen with them. I mean, uh, I love them all equally and they’re all precious in their own way.

But if a measure of a good drink is that other people start making it too, then the one that stands out from this blog is the Lazy Bear. Created for my friends David and Jeanette’s wedding and named after David’s underground San Francisco restaurant, it was a hit at the reception. But more importantly, David and Jeanette have continued to make the cocktail, as have other friends, and it’s on the menu at Metrovino. It’s a simple, refreshing drink combining some of my favorite spirits:

3/4 oz Jamaican rum (preferably Smith and Cross)
3/4 oz rye whiskey
3/4 oz honey syrup (1:1 honey and water)
3/4 oz lime juice
2 dashes Fee’s Whiskey Barrel-Aged Bitters

Shake and serve on the rocks. It’s really easy and the funkiness of the rum balances with spicy whiskey, sweet honey, and tart lime.

This is also a good time to mention one update to the recipe. The Fee’s bitters are great, but I can’t always find them. A substitute we use at Metrovino is a 1:1 mix of Angostura bitters and St. Elizabeth’s Allspice Dram. Three dashes of this mixture work nicely here, and I’ve been using these “spiced bitters” in some other drinks too.

Seigle Sour

Encanto 012

I promised one more cocktail with the spiced plantain syrup, and here it is. This is one Kyle and I served as a special at Metrovino a few nights ago, the Seigle Sour:

2 oz rye whiskey
.75 oz lemon juice
.75 oz spiced plantain syrup
1 egg white
Cherribiscus Spiced Bitters

Combine all but the bitters in a mixing tin, dry shake, then shake again with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with the bitters.

Wild Turkey 101 works great as the rye in this drink. The bitters were made by Evan Martin with Novo Fogo cachaca as a base; feel free to substitute a different aromatic bitter.

The Lazy Bear Cocktail

Lazy Bear 008

Last weekend I had the pleasure of traveling to San Francisco for the wedding of my friends David and Jeanette. David’s behind the underground meals of Lazy Bear in SF, where he serves some amazing dishes. (Seriously, amazing. Go check out his blog if you haven’t before.) Rather than go with a traditional caterer, David and Jeanette wisely hired a high-quality taco truck to park outside the reception and provide us with all the tacos we pleased, a privilege I abused with gusto. I would love to see more weddings do this, especially if I can pose as a guest and score free tacos.

In this case I was earning my tacos with some drink making. David had asked if, as my wedding gift, I’d be willing to come up with a few cocktails and serve them for a while at the reception. I figured this would be a great way to meet women while doing something I’m good at (bartending) rather than something I’m terrible at (dancing), so of course I said yes. David also requested that one of the drinks be called a Lazy Bear. This suggested to me using honey syrup, and after some fun experimentation I came up with this for the wedding:

3/4 oz Jamaican rum (preferably Smith and Cross)
3/4 oz rye whiskey
3/4 oz honey syrup (1:1 honey and water)
3/4 oz lime juice
2 dashes Fee’s Whiskey Barrel-Aged Bitters

Shake and strain into an ice-filled rocks glass. Optionally garnish with an edible flower, but it’s aromatic enough as is and lazy bears don’t have time for flower picking.

Lastly, congratulations to David and Jeanette! The “ceremony-ish thing” was beautiful, touching, and at times hilarious, and I’m happy for you both.

Carlyle’s closing cocktail menu

I may have to make some changes as we run low on ingredients, but here’s the intended cocktail menu for our final two weeks, including three new additions. This will go into effect tomorrow:

Aquavit Hot Toddy – Krogstad aquavit, Swedish punsch, lemon, star anise $8

Antigua Old-Fashioned – English Harbour rum, coffee-orange bitters, sugar $8

Smoky Margarita – Herradura reposado tequila, Cointreau, lime, lapsang souchong syrup $8

Portland Stinger – Branca Menta, bourbon, brandy, lemon, grenadine $9

Thyme in a Bottle — Bombay Sapphire, Farigoule thyme liqueur, lemon, maraschino $9

Erica’s Impulse –Brandy, allspice liqueur, lemon, simple syrup, orange bitters $8

H’ronmeer’s Flame – Rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, Ramazzotti, flamed orange zest $9

Witty Flip – Brandy, J. Witty chamomile liqueur, lemon, orange bitters, egg, nutmeg $10

Horatio – Krogstad aquavit, Cointreau, Fernet-Branca, orange bitters $9

Curse of Scotland — Ardbeg 10 year single malt Scotch, Drambuie, maraschino, lemon $10

Queen Bee – Vodka, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, lemon, honey syrup, sparkling wine. $9

On a Whim – Trust your bartender to make you something good

Amari and the Shift Drink in the Tribune

The online edition of today’s Chicago Tribune (the print article ran in December) has a story about the’ increased use of the Italian bitter liqueurs known as amari in craft cocktails. I’m quoted a few times, and they included the recipe for my Shift Drink, a cocktail made in honor of West Coast bartenders’ love of Fernet-Branca. (For the record not all of my cocktails use Fernet-Branca or Branca Menta, but sometimes it does seem like it!).

H’ronmeer’s Flame

hronmeer

After a one-month hiatus, Mixology Monday returns with the theme of “Money Drinks.” As our host Beers in the Shower explains, this theme is open to multiple interpretations. One of the ones he offers is this:

I feel a “Money” drink is something you can put in front of anyone, regardless of tastes or distastes about the spirits involved. Come up with a drink or a list based on spirits about drinks that would appeal to anyone. example: turning someone onto a Corpse Reviver #2 when they like lemon drops.

The drink I’m posting today meets that definition. It also brings in the money, thanks to the strategic use of pyrotechnics. Here’s the H’ronmeer’s Flame,* one of the newest additions to Carlyle’s cocktail menu:

2 oz rye whiskey
.75 oz Ramazzotti
.75 oz Carpano Antica sweet vermouth

Stir all of the above, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and flame an orange zest over the surface of the drink. (To flame an orange zest: Take a large swath of zest, toast with a lit match, and squeeze the oils through the flame.)

Creatively speaking, this is not the most inventive cocktail in the world. Call it a variation on a Manhattan or Boulevardier. But the cinnamon notes of Ramazzotti make it a perfect amaro for winter cocktails and the ignited oils from the orange zest give the drink appealing aromatics. Almost as importantly, the light show that results from spraying citrus oils through a flame is a great conversation starter that inspires other customers to order the drink. When you want to bring in the money, fire is your friend.

*Yes, I sneaked a Martian Manhunter reference onto my cocktail menu. And yes, this makes me happier than it rightfully should.

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 ginger: The Shift Drink

Shift Drink

This month’s Mixology Monday is hosted by blog pal Rumdood, one of the small handful of cocktail bloggers I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in person. (And it’s going to remain a small handful a little while longer: I learned last week that, contrary to my initial plans, I won’t be able to attend Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans next month.) Rumdood’s chosen theme is ginger.

For the ginger contribution to the drink I’m using Domaine de Canton, an excellent liqueur made with ginger and Cognac. I’m also using two spirits I’ve come to appreciate much more since getting back behind the bar in Portland, rye whiskey and Fernet-Branca. Or maybe this is just a sign I spend too much time at 50 Plates. Hence the Shift Drink:

1.5 oz rye whiskey
.75 oz Domaine de Canton**
.5 oz Fernet-Branca
.75 oz lemon juice*

Shake all of the above with ice and strain into a cocktail glass, garnishing with a twist of lemon.

Ginger and Fernet pair very well and the whole drink comes together nicely. If you have a taste for cocktails with a strong bitter component, this is one to try in the summer months.

*Updated 9/1/09: Since publishing this I’ve been upping the amount of lemon juice used, a change now reflected in the recipe above.

**New Update 9/29/11: I recently revived this recipe for Metrovino and altered the recipe yet again. Instead of Domain de Canton I’m using a ginger syrup made by simmering fresh ginger with equal parts sugar and water. Nothing against Canton, which is delicious in this drink, but the syrup does just as well and allows us to keep the price down.