Navigation cocktail

Navigation cocktail at Metrovino: Reposado tequila, jalapeno tomatillo jam, Ferrand dry curacao, lime, and egg white. Cinnamon on top.

Lisa Fain’s The Homesick Texan Cookbook is a title that called out to me, especially after seeing many positive reviews for it. Though I don’t have any strong desire to move back to Texas (except on income tax day), I do miss the food. And while Portland’s restaurant scene is taking a few stabs at Tex-Mex, nothing I’ve tried has fully hit the mark yet. My best bet is cooking at home, and Lisa Fain’s recreations of Texas cuisine from her New York City apartment have been an excellent guide.

The recipes are consistent winners. One of the standouts is a tomatillo jalapeno jam spiced with cinnamon, cloves, and allspice. I made it to serve with chevre, but it’s so good that I knew I wanted to work it into a cocktail too. The Navigation, a play on the Margarita, is the result of that experimentation:

1 1/2 oz reposado tequila
3/4 oz dry curacao
3/4 oz lime juice
1 egg white
2 barspoons tomatillo jalapeno jam
cinnamon, for garnish

Shake the ingredients without ice to aerate, then add ice and shake again. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a dusting of freshly grated cinnamon.

We use Ferrand for the curacao at Metrovino, but other cognac-based orange liqueurs like those from Combier or Mandarine Napoleon would also work well. For the jam recipe you’ll have to buy the book. If you happen to be in Portland, this is on our current menu.

Resplendent Island

New cocktail at Metrovino: Margarita flavored with Sri Lankan curry and honey, cumin-salt rim.

If I were making a parody of my own cocktail menus, a Sri Lankan Curry Margarita is exactly the kind of drink I’d put on it. Yet after a making a batch of this curry powder, I knew it had to put it into a drink. At our chef’s suggestion we’re pairing it with tequila in a Margarita variation on the latest Metrovino cocktail menu:

1 1/2 oz reposado tequila (Espolon)
3/4 oz Sri Lankan curry-honey syrup
3/4 oz lime juice
1/4 oz Royal Combier
salt and ground cumin, for garnish

Moisten half the rim of a rocks glass with lime juice and coat with the salt and cumin mixture, then fill with ice. Shake cocktail ingredients with ice and strain into the glass.

About that curry blend: It’s the roasted curry powder from Rice and Curry: Sri Lankan Home Cooking by Skiz Fernando, Jr., a very interesting cookbook a friend sent me recently. Rather than copy that recipe here, I’d rather encourage you to support the author by buying the book or purchasing his blend directly, which you can do here. It requires a few hard to find ingredients like curry leaves and a dozen spices, so buying the blend is the easier approach. I recommend the book though and have enjoyed the wonderfully flavored curries I’ve made from it.

Once you have your blend, here’s how to make the syrup:

2 tablespoons roasted curry powder
1 cup honey
1 cup water

Simmer all ingredients for a few minutes until flavorful, then add a pinch of salt. Cool, strain, and bottle. Or save yourself the trouble and come enjoy one at the bar.

Some recent press…

meromole

With Cinco de Mayo coming up, Thrillist Portland ran a feature today featuring Portland’s five best Margaritas. I was flattered to learn that the plantain margarita I made for Mi Mero Mole made the cut. Their photo is above; if you’d like to make one at home the recipe is fairly simple:

2 oz reposado tequila
3/4 oz lime juice
3/4 oz spiced plantain syrup

Shake with ice and strain into an ice-filled rocks glass. The recipe for the spiced plantain syrup is here. For one more drink from Mi Mero Mole, try the Senor Brown. Or even better, visit the restaurant for more cocktails and some of the best tacos in town.

Last week the Specialty Coffee Association of America hosted its annual conference here in Portland. While in town for the event, Joshua Lurie from FoodGPS stopped into Metrovino to have a few cocktails and record a fairly wide-ranging interview with me. Read it here. He also snagged an interview with one of my favorite local brewers, Ben Edmunds from Breakside.

Finally, Portland Monthly got on board with the Bone Luge trend with a piece about the meaty practice. They take the Bone Luge puns to new heights with their headline “Marrow Minded.”

Sally Port Punk

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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.

Gone chupacabra hunting

After a quick stop at Rickhouse in San Francisco tonight, I’ll be catching a flight to Guadalajara with a group of bartenders to celebrate Día de los Muertos and tour tequila distilleries. Call it vacation, call it professional development, either way I won’t be blogging. I’ll be back late next week.

Beer cocktails in MIX

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This month’s MIX magazine includes an article by John Foyston taking a look at the growing interest in beer cocktails:

Good beer, it can be pretty easily argued, is perfect and complete by itself. It’s complex and flavorful and doesn’t need anything else … except that a band of intrepid young mixologists see good beer as a starting point for something better — beer cocktails.

Straight-ahead beer fan that I am, I have to agree that beer cocktails open up a brave new world. I recently got to taste and talk about beer cocktails with some of Portland’s most ardent proponents: mixologist Jacob Grier, New School blogger Ezra Johnson-Greenough and Yetta Vorobik, owner of the Hop & Vine, where Grier and Johnson-Greenough held an event in the summer called Brewing Up Cocktails. They plan to repeat it this month, also at the Hop & Vine.

Portland bartenders Jabriel Donohue, Neil Kopplin, Christian Rouillier, and Kevin Ludwig also make appearances. Read the whole thing here.

The drink in the photo is the Quatro Blanco, made with a Farigoule rinse, Herradura reposado tequila, and a special keg of Upright Four wheat farmhouse ale aged in a Hungarian oak barrel with yarrow flowers and rose petals. It was probably my favorite drink from our Brewing Up Cocktails event, but since it was a one-off beer it will probably never be made again and you will never be able to try one.

There’s one other drink that went understandably unmentioned in the article, the notorious Furburger:

3/4 oz Buffalo Trace bourbon
1/4 oz Chartreuse
approx. 5 oz Oak Aged Yeti Chocolate Imperial Stout from Great Divide

The name comes from the beer, because Yetis are furry, and from “bur” as in bourbon. So Furburger. See, nothing dirty about it. At least that’s what I thought when a friend jokingly suggested the name assuming I knew what I meant. I didn’t know what it meant and so passed the idea on to the owner of Hop and Vine. It wasn’t until two days later that I learned what it really referred to. We talked about finding a new name for the drink, but after that incident we couldn’t think of it as anything but a Furburger. The lesson? When coming up with new cocktail names, be sure to look them up on Urban Dictionary before submitting them to your prospective boss. Or not: The Furburger was one of our bestsellers of the day. And since the word has been approved for use in schools by a federal judge, why not for a beer cocktail menu too?

Two other cocktails from the event, the Dutch Devil and Brewer’s Bramble, we’re covered previously here. Brewing Up Cocktails II is in the works and we’ll announce the date soon; stay tuned here and at The New School Blog.

[Photo by Ross William Hamilton.]

Carlyle’s Smoky Margarita

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By request, here’s the one recipe that was missing from my closing cocktail menu at Carlyle. (Yes, someone actually wrote in to request the recipe. I was surprised too!)

I came up with this drink for a tequila dinner hosted by Herradura a few weeks ago. They enjoyed a seven course tasting menu from our chef and along with it they requested cocktails made with each of the tequilas in their primary line: blanco, reposado, and anejo. A shot of each was paired with the cocktails, so as you can imagine it was a fun time for all. This was the reposado drink for the evening:

1.75 oz Herradura reposado tequila
.5 oz Cointreau
.5 oz lime juice
.5 oz lapsang souchong syrup

Shake over ice and serve on the rocks in a salt-rimmed glass.

Lapsang souchong is a delicious Chinese black tea dried over burning pine wood. This distinctive process gives it a strong smoky aroma that lends itself well to use in cocktails. To make the syrup, simply brew hot lapsang souchong and mix with an equal volume of sugar. This is the same syrup I use to make extra smoky Swedish punsch; here it stands by itself to lend an extra flavor element to the traditional Margarita.

In the few days this has been on our menu it’s been competing with our token vodka drink to be our best-seller, a useful reminder that simple twists on popular cocktails can be a great way to generate interest in a bar program.

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

El Dude

El Dude

Mixology Monday returns today with a collection of cocktails that’s all about dairy, hosted by the eGullet forum:

Any drink using a dairy product is fair game: milk, cream, eggs, butter, cheese, yogurt, curds, you name it. Given the importance of dairy products in drinks dating back centuries, there are lots of opportunities for digging through vintage receipts for a taste of the past, and as always innovation is highly encouraged.

Not everyone is in to dairy drinks. Me, I love ‘em. I’d drink straight heavy whipping cream if it weren’t so unhealthy. I’ve written frequently about raw milk. The Golden Cadillac is a guilty pleasure. That said, I don’t order milk-based drinks often and generally save them for the occasional dessert libation.

My drink for this month is a variation on the White Russian. The White Russian’s enjoyable as is, but it could be a lot more interesting. Kahlua’s a one-dimensional liqueur and vodka is, well, vodka. I decided to rehabilitate the drink with Patron XO Café, a tequila-based coffee liqueur, in place of the cloyingly sweet Kahlua, and then added a few other things to make El Dude:

1.25 reposado tequila
.75 oz Patron XO Café
.5 oz heavy whipping cream
.25 oz triple sec
cardamom tincture to taste*
wet whipped cream**
cinnamon

Combine the first five ingredients, shake over ice, and strain into a shot glass. Float wet whipping cream then finish by grating fresh cinnamon on top. It’s an indulgent drink, but it packs enough heat to balance the sweetness. And now that I’ve published it I really need to get around to finally watching The Big Lebowski.

For your added pleasure, here’s a bonus cocktail from the American Bartenders School that’s totally beyond hope of rehabilitation:

*Grain alcohol infused with cardamom seeds.

**The cream should be whipped just enough to float yet still be liquid enough to drink; the cream in the photo is actually a little too stiff. To make this on the fly pour cream in a cocktail shaker with the spring from a Hawthorne strainer and shake for 10 seconds.

MxMo MexMar

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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.

One more drink for the road

This morning I’m making attempt number two at flying out of Portland, but before I go I’ve got one more item to take a look at. The latest bottle to slide across the bar here at blogging headquarters is Sandeman 10 year old tawny port. I love port and don’t enjoy it nearly often enough. That’s party because of the price, but mainly because I worry about oxidation. The lifetime of an open bottle of port depends on a variety of factors, including style, age, temperature, air exposure, and personal taste. Buying a 750 ml bottle without guests to share it with requires making a commitment to drinking lots of port in the following days or weeks. Oh, such a terrible burden!

For those reasons I was happy to receive a sample of this Sandeman bottling. It has a thick, viscous mouth feel, appealing hints of raisin on the nose, and both raisin and vanilla flavor notes. I just glanced at the bottle, incidentally, and those are the same flavors the label writers highlight — a rare case where I tasted exactly what the marketers thought I would. It’s a delicious port that’s been calling me back for glass after glass and easily worth its $30-40 retail price. (By the way, the 10 year old designation for tawny ports is based on the average age of wines blended into them; they’re not made from grapes aged exactly 10 years.)

As much as I like this port on its own, this is a cocktail blog and I was sent this bottle with the intent that I’d mix some drinks with it. The first one I tried is the classic Coffee Cocktail, which, weirdly, doesn’t actually contain any coffee:

1.5 oz port
1.5 oz brandy
1 tsp simple syrup
1 egg
1 dash Angostura bitters (optional)

Shake well with ice, strain, and garnish with grated nutmeg. This is a fine dessert drink, but I didn’t find it very exciting.

Lately I’ve been experimenting with cocktails composed entirely of spirits, which can be more challenging than using sweeteners and juices and forces one to focus on harmonizing the flavors of ingredients. I’m not quite prepared to call the combination below a finished recipe, but it comes together nicely:

1.5 oz Cazadores reposado tequila
.50 oz Sandeman 10 yr port
splash of Benedictine
1 dash Fee Bros. rhubarb bitters

I’m especially happy with the tequila and rhubarb bitters combination. I picked up this new offering from Fee’s several months ago and it’s been sitting on my bar taunting me ever since. It has a wonderful flavor — so good that I’ll often dash some on my hand just to give it a taste — but I’ve been clueless as to what to do with it. I think the pairing with tequila has potential, the tart sweetness of the bitters just standing out above the spirit. If anyone else plays with the recipe above I’d be curious to hear your feedback.

Samantha Harrigan offers Sandeman port cocktail recipes from some other bloggers at Cocktail Culture. Robert Simonson suggests using the rhubarb bitters with Cynar; when my movers deliver the rest of my liquor in a couple weeks, I’ll have to give that a try.