The new Black Glove and fancy garnishes

black-glove Today’s Wall Street Journal includes a story on fancy and functional cocktail garnishes. I’m flattered that they chose to include a cocktail recipe from Metrovino, the Black Glove:

It’s not the ebony color that surprises drinkers most when they order a Black Glove cocktail at Metrovino in Portland, Ore. It’s the curious frill straddling its rim. The garnish, a preserved green walnut wrapped in a strip of orange peel, embodies the flavors of the cocktail—the sweetness of rum, nuttiness of nocino (a green walnut liqueur) and sharpness of bitters—in one bite. “The walnuts bring out the flavor of the nocino and add a texture like chewy candy,” said the Black Glove’s creator, Jacob Grier.

I posted about this drink once before, but for the article I adapted the recipe to work with commercially available ingredients. The nocino made by Todd Steele, the owner of Metrovino, is drier and spicier than what’s commercially available. I changed the rum selection, altered the proportions, and added a dash of bitters, and I have to say I’m very happy with the results. If you wanted to try this drink at home, make it this way:

2 oz aged rum (Gosling’s Black Seal)
1 oz sweet vermouth (Dolin)
1/2 oz nocino (Nux Alpina)
1 dash Angostura bitters

Stir with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish with orange peel and preserved green walnut. You can buy the walnuts from Harvest Song here.

Read the whole article for more garnish ideas, including a beer cocktail garnished with speck.

[Photo by F. Martin Ramin for the Wall Street Journal, styling by Anne Cardenas.]

Midnight Shift

Midnight Shift cocktail on my rooftop.

It’s been a while since I posted a “brown, bitter, and stirred” cocktail (as my friend Lindsey likes to order them). It’s also been a while since I made a new cocktail with Novo Fogo cachaça. The Midnight Shift addresses both of those oversights:

1 1/2 oz Novo Fogo Gold Cachaça
3/4 oz Cynar
3/4 oz sweet vermouth
1/4 oz Galliano L’Autentico
2 dashes mole bitters
1 dash absinthe
orange peel, for garnish

Give all the ingredients a good long stir with ice and strain onto a big frozen cube, if you have one handy. Otherwise serve it on your normal rocks. And don’t omit the orange peel. Like Jeff Lebowski’s rug, the citrus oil really ties everything together.

Speaking of Novo Fogo, the other purpose of this post is to inform you that Novo Fogo founder Dragos Axinte and Los Angeles bartender Jaymee Mandeville of Drago Centro will be guest bartending at Metrovino on October 22 as part of Novo Fogo’s “Bars on Fire” series. Come by from 5-8 pm to welcome them to Portland and enjoy creative cachaça cocktails.

The Black Glove

blackglove

This morning I tweeted with frustration about the inane Dark Knight Rises themed cocktail press releases that were arriving in my inbox. It didn’t occur to me that my agenda for the day included writing about my own Batman-inspired cocktail recipe. Hypocrite, thy name is Grier! (In my defense, the name for this drink comes from Grant Morrison’s fantastic run on the comics and its appearance alongside the new Christopher Nolan movie is completely coincidental.)

A while back the owner of Metrovino, Todd Steele, harvested a bunch of green walnuts to make Nocino, a liqueur made by steeping the unripe nuts in neutral spirits. The liqueur came out powerfully flavored, pitch black and both drier and spicier than the commercial versions I’ve tried. We decided to embrace the darkness and pair it with the very molassesy Cruzan Black Strap rum in this rich variation on the Manhattan:

1 1/2 oz Cruzan Black Strap rum
1 oz Dolin sweet vermouth
1/2 oz house Nocino

Stir with and serve up. Garnish with an orange peel and preserved walnut. (The preserved walnuts come from Armenia and are produced by Harvest Song; they deserve a post all their own and make the perfect edible garnish for drinks made with Nocino.)

Since we only produced two bottles of house Nocino, the Black Glove is available for an inherently limited time. Get it while it lasts!

I haven’t tried making this with a commercial Nocino, but my guess is one would have to reduce the amount of liqueur used and add aromatic bitters to prevent the drink from becoming too sweet.

Genever is genever

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The title of this post doesn’t promise anything informative: Genever is genever. Yet when I hear people explain what genever is, they usually say something like “Genever is Dutch gin.” Or a kind of gin they drink in Holland. Or a malty style of gin that was popular in the United States before London dry took over. Gin gin gin gin gin. Look, I enjoy gin too — the gin shelf in my apartment is filled to overflowing — but genever is a different thing. Genever is genever. Labels are admittedly somewhat arbitrary, but I’d like to persuade you that there are good reasons to think of genever as its own distinct category of spirits.

I should first disclose that I’m not a disinterested party on this matter. I work for the Dutch distillery Lucas Bols and my job largely consists of encouraging people to drink more genever. It’s a better pitch for me to walk into a bar and say, “You should carry at least one genever” than it is to say, “You should carry an additional gin, and it should be this unusual Dutch one.” However that’s not the only reason I’m urging this change in classification. The spirit is maltier and less botanical than gin and it doesn’t mix in the same way. Calling genever a type of gin creates confusion.

Consider a typical consumer. He walks into a liquor store, sees a bottle of genever in the gin section, and is intrigued enough to buy it. He takes it home and puts it in his favorite gin drink, a Gin and Tonic. This is a classic pairing for a London dry. But genever and tonic? Eh, not so much. The bottle gets tucked away and forgotten.

Or consider a bartender who finds genever added to the gin section of his employer’s menu. He makes a Martini with it. Is that going to make him enthusiastic about genever? Probably not.

Both of these drinks are excellent with gin. They’re not ideally suited to genever. It’s no fault of the consumer or the bartender that the cocktails didn’t turn out as they’d hoped: They were told genever was gin, so they tried mixing it in absolutely standard gin drinks. They were given the wrong expectations about the product. If they knew what genever is actually like and how to use it, that disappointment could have been avoided. The first step in that education is getting them to think of genever as genever rather than as a kind of gin.

Here’s an analogy I sometimes use to explain my work with Lucas Bols. Imagine that your job was to promote tequila before many people in the United States had any idea what tequila was. You might tell them it’s sort of like rum, produced in the southern latitudes and with an affinity for mixing with lime and other citrus. Or you might tell them it’s like whiskey or brandy, aged in barrels and very nice to sip neat. Neither of these descriptions is completely accurate, but they give consumers a starting point for enjoying the spirit.

In fact, that is pretty close to how some Americans first encountered tequila. Bottles arrived in the American market labeled “Mexican Whiskey.” You can see these in the Sauza Family Museum in Tequila or in this photo. It’s an interesting snapshot of how an unknown spirit reached many consumers in the guise of something more familiar. (The labeling regulations didn’t get worked out until the 1970s.)

When we encounter a new spirit, our impulse is to understand it by reference to spirits we already know. This is perfectly sensible. But eventually, if we really want to know a spirit, we need to understand it on its own terms. For tequila, we need to know about agave, not grain. Tequila would have never thrived the way it has in the American market if it was forever viewed through the lens of whiskey, if its essential “agave-ness” were never allowed to shine through.

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Genever today is in a similar position to those early tequilas. As genever re-entered the American market a few years ago, people needed an existing spirit to compare it to. They needed a section of their menu or their liquor store to put it in. Seizing on the etymology and botanicals it shares with gin, they reasonably grouped the two together. My view is that this classification misses the essence of the spirit, that genever is to “Dutch gin” as tequila is to “Mexican whiskey.” (Above: A photo I took at a liquor store in Amsterdam. There’s a lot of genever and it gets it own shelf!)

So if genever is not gin, what is it? The spirits do have one thing in common: They are both flavored with juniper berries. Early Dutch distillers sold spirits flavored with juniper and other botanicals for their alleged medicinal qualities. The spirits were produced in pot stills, which retain much of the character of the grain, producing a product that was essentially whiskey with botanicals added. It was called genever, from jeneverbes, the Dutch word for juniper. English speakers shortened this to gin.

With the invention of the column still in the nineteenth century, Dutch genever and English gin began to diverge in style. The English went for the new, purer spirit, essentially making botanical flavored vodka. The Dutch stuck with their malty genever. To distinguish between the two, English speakers called the latter “Holland’s gin.” It was a useful distinction until the triple blow of changing tastes, Prohibition, and World War II reduced genever’s prominence in the American market.

Thus gin evolved from genever, but that doesn’t mean that we should declare genever a kind of gin any more than we should think of the blues as just a proto-form of rock and roll. Gin and genever are “about” different things. Gin is primarily about botanicals. If you line up three different gins and want to describe the differences among them, you’re going to talk mostly about their botanical profiles. This one has very assertive juniper, this one is more floral, this one has a licorice note, etc.

Genever is partly about botanicals, but it’s also about the malty base spirit. As agave is to tequila, this maltwine (moutwijn) is to genever. When tasting different genevers, the differences in maltwine and the effects of barrel ageing are at least as important as the botanicals, often even more important.

As I write this I am sipping on a glass of the Bols 10 year old Corenwyn, one of the maltier styles of genever. There is juniper in it, but its presence isn’t obvious in either taste or aroma. The flavor is of grain mellowed by a decade of barrel ageing. It’s very good neat. If I had to compare it to another popular spirit category, I’d undoubtedly choose whiskey over gin. However it’s not quite that either. The botanicals are there, and they do make a difference.

This particular bottling isn’t currently available in the states, but aged genevers are starting to appear. A few months ago Bols introduced Bols Barrel Aged Genever, which is aged for a minimum of one and a half years in oak. It’s more than 50% maltwine, as is the original Bols Genever. As these spirits arrive in the market, the classification of genever as a type of gin is going to become more and more inapt.

Take the 10 year old bottle I mentioned. Let’s say you went to Amsterdam and brought a bottle back for your bar. You could insist, if you like, that any spirit that has so much as kissed a juniper berry counts as gin. But you would have to explain that this is a very strange gin that’s made mostly from a whiskey-like grain distillate, that’s aged for years in oak barrels, that doesn’t really taste like juniper at all, and that’s good in cocktails but also very nice on its own with no chilling or dilution. You could say all that. Or you could say, “genever is genever.”

I think the latter approach is simpler and more sensible. Take a couple examples from the press this week. Today at The Atlantic Clay Risen has a good article about barrel aged gins:

My favorite so far (and the most widely available) is Lucas Bols’s Barrel-Aged Genever. Unlike most gins available in the United States, Bols and other Dutch gins, or genevers, use a maltwine base, a combination of corn, rye, and wheat. They are also less intensely distilled, and usually through pot, rather than column, stills, producing a robust whiskey-like quaff, which connoisseurs prefer to drink chilled and neat. It’s thick, like a liqueur; you wouldn’t think to mix it with tonic for a summer-day quencher.

I’m delighted that he enjoys our product, but that’s a lot of words to explain how unlike gin our gin is! The classification is straining at the seams.

Here’s another from The Oregonian, which on Tuesday published its annual list of “100 Things We Love.” Kopstootje Biere, our collaboration with Portland’s Upright Brewery to create a beer designed specifically to pair with Bols Genever, made the list. That makes me very happy. Yet here’s how they introduced it: “A traditional Dutch ceremony consisting of genever, a type of gin, with a beer back.” If you know about genever, or especially if you tried this pairing last year, you know that this is a tasty combination. But to everyone else, a glass of gin with a beer on the side probably doesn’t sound very appealing. Even if you like gin, you don’t ever drink it like that.

So let’s stop saying that genever is gin. If someone asks what genever is, say “genever is genever.” From there you can explain how the spirit is made, where it comes from, and what it tastes like. Maybe after that talk about its relation to gin. Gin is wonderful and its evolution is a neat story, but it is not the story of genever.

flying-hart-1

If you’ve read this far, the least I can do is offer you a cocktail. At the beginning of this post I mentioned that putting genever in gin cocktails doesn’t always work. Sometimes it does; I’ve had delicious twists on the French 75 and the Corpse Reviver #2, to name a couple. However at other times it makes a better stand-in for whiskey and substituting genever in your favorite whiskey cocktails is a promising way of coming up with new drinks.

This one is the latest addition to our menu at Metrovino, featuring Bols Barrel Aged Genever. It’s a fairly straightforward adaptation of one of my favorite rye cocktails, The Remember the Maine. In keeping with the sunken ship theme, it’s named the Flying Hart (Vliegenthart), after a notable Dutch shipwreck.

2 oz Bols Barrel Aged Genever
1 oz sweet vermouth (Dolin)
1/4 oz cherry Heering
2 dashes Brooklyn Hemispherical fig bitters
1 dash absinthe

Stir, serve up, and garnish with a cherry. Prost!

MxMo Brown, bitter, and stirred

After a brief hiatus, Mixology Monday is back! This month my friend Lindsey Johnson takes charge and orders something brown, bitter, and stirred. From MxMo founder Paul Clarke:

While punches, sours and flips are essential parts of every cocktail fiend’s drinking diet, perhaps no other style of drink is as dear to our booze-loving hearts as those potent mixtures of aged spirits, amari, aromatized wines and liqueurs, sometimes (sometimes? Almost always!) doctored with a dash or four from the bitters shelf.

This seems like a good occasion to post another cocktail from my session with David Shenaut and the producers of Ilegal Mezcal. Here’s the Mexican Train:

2 oz Ilegal reposado mezcal
3/4 oz Carpano Antica sweet vermouth
1/4 oz green Chartreuse
5 drops mole bitters

Stir, strain, and serve up in a chilled cocktail glass. This is a mezcal-driven variation on a Tipperary, tied together by one of my favorite pairings, Chartreuse and chocolate. The bitters are the housemade mole bitters from Beaker and Flask. Bittermen’s Xocolatl bitters would probably work nicely too, though without any mezcal on hand I can’t try out an exact recipe (hence the lack of photograph this month). Regardless, it’s an interesting drink to try out when a discerning brown, bitter, and stirred order comes across the bar.

Bols at the NW Spirits and Mixology Show

boulevardier

If you’re in Portland today, consider stopping by the inaugural Northwest Spirits and Mixology Show at the Jupiter Hotel. Admission is free with proof of hospitality industry affiliation, otherwise $10 with registration here. The show is industry only from 12-4 and open to everyone from 4-7.

The Oregon Bartenders Guild is contributing to the show with a few mixology demos. I’m working the “classic to contemporary” slot, tweaking a classic cocktail. I’ll be making and serving a Bols Boulevardier:

1.5 oz Bols Genever
1 oz Campari
1 oz sweet vermouth

Stir, serve up with a cherry or orange twist. This drink is traditionally made with bourbon, so I’ll be using Bols to tie it into the trend toward white whiskeys (Bols is made from about 50% malt wine, an unaged grain distillate). This has been one of my favorite genever cocktails to order when I’m out at bars that are still developing their own drinks; the ingredients are widely available, it’s easy to make, and it’s really tasty. My demo is slated at 5:25 and I’ll be sampling the cocktail from the OBG booth for sometime before.

What to drink on St. Patrick’s Day?

I recently received a marketing email saying that whatever one drinks on St. Patrick’s Day, “you better be sipping on something green.” It then went on to describe a cocktail made with tequila and Midori. Because nothing says Ireland like tequila and melon liqueur…

Personally I could care less about drinking green and am perfectly happy with good stout and Irish whiskey. For the latter, I’ve been fortunate over the last week to sample more than 20 Irish whiskeys as part of Lance Mayhew’s informal “tasting panel.” Lance provides a primer on Irish whiskey here and fellow taster Geoff Kleinman makes some great recommendations on his new blog, Drink Spirits.

If you’re in a cocktail mood, my favorite mixed drink with Irish whiskey is the Tipperary, made with Irish whiskey, sweet vermouth, and Chartreuse. As a bonus Chartreuse does happen to be green, though the final drink won’t be.

Finally, there’s the elephant in the room, the extremely politically incorrect Irish Car Bomb. If you’re in a real Irish bar tonight you should not order one of these. Even so, I do have a soft spot for the drink, and judging by the number of search referrals this blog is getting for Irish Car Bombs today other people do too. Here’s photographic evidence that everybody loves an ICB. Or if you want to make this drink more sophisticated and stable, try the Defusion, a deconstructed version of the drink I served at Carlyle. Finally, if you really want to be adventurous, make it with Upright’s Oyster Stout. We tried it at Branch and it puts Guinness to shame.

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.

Ceci n’est pas une pipe

Pipe smoker's Manhattan

The nanny statists in Oregon have declared that smoking a pipe is henceforth illegal in the few cigar bars that survived the smoking ban intact. Now what am I going to do with all my pipe tobacco? Work it into a drink, of course! It’s not illegal if it’s not fire.

This month’s Mixology Monday theme is “new horizons,” in which A Mixed Dram encourages us to try a technique or ingredient we’ve never used before. I’d actually planned on posting something other than what I’m posting now, but that particular experiment is still in the works. Instead I tried my hand this weekend at flavoring liquor with smoke.

My friend David Barzelay suggested the method: put wood, leaves, or tobacco in a large pot, set them smoking, insert liquor in an elevated, smaller pan, and then place a lid on the whole thing for half an hour. I decided to try this with pipe tobacco and sweet vermouth with the goal being a sort of smokers’ Manhattan. (Why not smoke the bourbon? Because bourbon costs three times as much as the vermouth and I didn’t want to ruin it. I can already see Caleb cringing at the thought of molesting his favorite spirit that way.)

Unfortunately I was a little short on the necessary equipment. My large pot with lid was in the service of soup at the time, so I had to use a smaller one. And not having a pan small enough to fit in that pot I had to instead use a vegetable steamer with a steel bowl laid inside it. I didn’t actually own a vegetable steamer so I had to buy one. That I finally bought a vegetable steamer not for cooking vegetables but for adding tobacco to liquor tells you everything you need to know about my personal habits. Take out that life insurance policy on me now, folks.

The process was pretty straightforward. I added a layer of aluminum foil to the pot to protect it from the tobacco (probably unnecessary) and set the stove to high heat until the leaves started smoking. Then I turned down the heat and dropped in the steamer and bowl with 6 ounces of vermouth. I put on the lid and after a few minutes turned the heat off entirely and let it rest for 30 minutes. The first run didn’t impart quite enough flavor, so I ended up repeating this with one more 10 minute smoking period.

This worked out decently well in a Manhattan, with the flavor of the tobacco coming through in a balanced cocktail. It also came with a thicker mouthfeel and slightly sour aftertaste. I’m not sure if that’s the result of tar from the tobacco or heat damage to the vermouth. I’d have to experiment with a larger pan that dissipates heat better or with cold smoking to know for sure. In any case, adding a bit of unaltered vermouth fixed things up. So now when the Oregon smoking cops come around, I can mix up a Ceci n’est pas une Pipe to evade detection:

2 oz bourbon (Bulleit)
.75 oz smoked sweet vermouth
.25 oz sweet vermouth (Noilly Prat)
2 dashes Fee Brothers’ old fashioned bitters

If I keep experimenting with this I want to use cold smoking, either with a device like Lance has at 50 Plates or this smoking gun that Barzelay pointed out to me. For now, though, I’m glad to have a new technique at my disposal, even if I don’t keep using it exactly in this manner. Thanks to A Mixed Dram for hosting this month and to David for spurring on a new idea.