Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Pontifications on the Mint Julep

The Julep:  potential for great douchey-ness and marginal deliciousness.
The Mint Julep and I have had a fraught relationship.  As I've mentioned in previous posts, my primary beef with the cocktail is that it is not a "cocktail"; composed of only mint, sugar, water, and whiskey, the Julep does not have the crucial and quintessential cocktail ingredient:  bitters.  And not just a single damnable dash; it needs enough bitters to balance a whopping amount of whiskey.  Some Julep recipes call for as much at 4 jiggers, and a dash of Angostura is not going to a delicious cocktail make.

I taught a cocktail class last night, and one of the main points I made in the history portion was from Dave Wondrich's book Imbibe and some of his other talks:  that the ice industry of the 1820's and 30's in New England revolutionized drinks-making for the next 200 years.  Cocktails went from being served at room, cellar temp, or hot, to being served cold.  Prior to 1800, ice was a scarce commodity, especially in the heat of summer.  How is it that the Mint Julep, The Cocktail of Virginia in the 1700's, could be so misunderstood?  Was it formerly hot drink?  Where was the ice?  Did it come later?  The Julep stands as a symbol of late-spring refreshment….how could it be that the fundamental identity of this drink could be so far from how we currently imagine it?

It's worth considering that in the late 1700's (again, Wondrich is the source here), men especially were abusing alcohol--spirits in particular--and were mixing up potent "slings" as their poison of choice.  Usually, just whiskey, sugar, and water, these primitive drinks were the fuel for a great deal of domestic violence, and sowed the seed of the Temperance movement, as well as starting the push for Women's suffrage and even the American feminist movement.  Oh shit!  Whiskey-sugar-water….where have we heard that before?  We'll I'll be damned if a julep isn't just a sling with some mint, drank now and then by some of the more reprehensible members of society; in the past, wife-beating deadbeat dads, and contemporarily, floppyhat-wearing lasses and lobster-panted lads day-drinking away their parents' inherited fortunes at the races.  Man, I really hate this drink.
The face of moral outrage.  
The only way to redeem the Julep is to apply a little common sense, suppress my moral outrage and Puritanical distaste for arrogant children of privilege, and focus on how fresh and transcendently fragrant tender shoots of mint are in the first month of spring.  Sticking your face in a freshly-picked handful of mint is a reason to get out of bed, and the inspiration for the following cocktail:

Real life right there.
Micah's Mint Julep
1 oz Laird's Bonded Apple Brandy
1 oz Zaya Rum
3/4 oz Morrocan mint tea syrup**
3 dashes Angostura
3 drops Bob's Peppermint bitters
10 large mint leaves
3 stalks of mint

**Morrocan mint tea syrup
  1 c boiling water
  2 tbsp Morrocan mint tea
  1 c sugar
    Pour boiling water over the tea and steep for 15 minutes.  Strain tea and add sugar.  Stir to dissolve  
    and then refrigerate.

To a julep cup or tumbler, add the 10 mint leaves.  Bruise with a muddler.  Add the spirits, syrup, and btters, and top half way with crushed ice.  Stir to incorporate the mint and melt some of the ice.  Top with more crushed ice, and garnish with a cluster of 3 stalks of mint.

Just down the road from where I live here in Cville is Laird's Distillery, and their Bonded (recently declassified as "bonded") Apple Brandy is really quite tasty.  It manages to retain a good deal of the funky hard cider flavors from which is was distilled.  Zaya also makes an incredibly rich, vanilla-y, aged rum, which some people have deemed too delicious to the point of declaring that indeed something must be wrong with it.  I disagree.  I think is rich and delicious and nothing is wrong with it.  Both of these spirits were popular in the 1700's, and hopefully they were consumed a bit more ethically than whiskey "Slings" in their heyday.  Together they make a good brown base for a cocktail with a healthy amount of bitters, crushed ice, and mint.  The Morrocan mint syrup adds just another hint of mint, and bit of green tea tannins, which reinforce our bitter element.  As much as I hate to admit it, I really like this Julep :)  Happy mixing!

Hope sprouts eternal. 

Monday, February 2, 2015

To be or not to be kinky: The Hinky-Dinky Parlez-Vous

Pleasure is strange.  People are innately drawn to pleasure, and sometimes this constant return to pleasure warps our sense of what is and isn't immediately or intuitively pleasurable.  Taking a long strand of beads and put them where?  Well, I think you get the point….

Such as it is with cocktails.  The more I learn, the less know for what is pleasurable for sure, and the more fearful I am of resorting to metaphorical butthole pleasures.  Similarly if not thinking enough, my patrons will leave their seat to seek out another love.  My boss and I talk about wine all the time (wine--Burgundy in particular is his calling in life), and we frequently discuss his theory that exceedingly thin, tannic, and syrupy French Pinot Noir might really be the fetish of an ancient wine culture; a culture that has tasted and tasted and tasted and tasted and tasted until their buds were taken to a place far from where their palates started, warped by centuries of sameness into something that became definably and undeniably kinky.

Chef turned me on to K Sabatier.  Hews a nice orange wheel.
The Tiki cocktail is the opposite of a finger in the ass.  It is right now.  It is Marylin Monroe at the bar, blowing kisses to you, and framing her rummy bosoms in the most fruity and fecund way imaginable.  It is the "Hot Damn!" that stands in contrast to the over-wrought introspections that bring humans to plausible but terrifying sexual conclusions.  The Tiki drink, though itself a false category, is paradoxically the most pure iteration of intuitive, animal consumption when it comes to beverages.  And we all know that it is the time of year for Tiki cocktails, at least is what the French say.

This tastes really good.  
Rye and Cognac are classic partners, as are passionfruit and pineapple in confections (and smoothies!).  They seemed a perfect foursome of intuitive delight, and an antique song title--risque to historical proportions--seemed a natural fit for such a conceived beverage.  Behold the Hinky-Dinky Parlez-Vous:

1 oz Cognac
1 oz Rye
3/4 oz lemon
1 oz pineapple cordial (4:2:1!)
1 oz passionfruit cordial (4:2:1!!!!!)
1/4 oz Benedictine

Build in a tumbler or Julep cup.  Top w/ crushed ice.  Garnish with a lime wheel and orange wedge.

Look familiar?  Of course.  There's nothing new under the sun!
2 oz mixed spirits : 3/4 oz citrus : 2 oz tropical fruit syrup : bar spoon-1/4 oz accent = a great Tiki formula!

May this drink transport you to a place of pleasure that may or not be kinky.  Hinky-Dinky!!!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Gallic temperaments, Tropical flavors.

"Silence on Cuisine!!!"
Our chef is an interesting dude.  He is very French.  Usually I arrive at work, and he is standing over a prep station, methodically slicing vegetables, and his signature greeting is to barely look up at me, stone-faced, and then return his eyes to his work.  He is not chatty.  He believes unequivocally that there are right and wrong ways of doing things, and is dogmatic about his approach, especially in his own kitchen.  On occasion, I will nervously pose a question to chef on technique.  If I ask him the right question, he'll get a little gabby and even flash a smile.  This never ceases to crack me up; the stern, square Gaul, talks and sometimes opens up on some of the more odd tendencies of the French.

Recently, we did a New Year's dinner and he asked me to make a cordial to pair with a "tropical dessert".  I thought that sounded a bit odd from Ol' Frenchy, so I asked him cautiously to explain.  Evidently eating tropical things in the dead of winter is common in the tradition of French escapism, and they do it all whimsically and giggly-like.  It seemed so delightfully tacky and anachronistic (chef always gets the best produce of the season), that maybe it might just be the most French thing those Frenchies could do.  A "malibu rum" mousse?  Yes, that is French as fuck.

This odd tradition has served as a point of inspiration for some escapist, tropical tiki drinks in January.  Behold the De Brito in Paradise, a rummy mix of mango, pineapple, lime, rum, and Luxardo.
Frenchies like the tropical stuff in winter.  
1 oz light rum
.5 oz rich aged rum (Zaya!)
.5 oz different aged rum (Pusser's, Barbancourt, Appleton's, or even Sailor Jerry's would be tasty)
1 oz Pineapple Cordial (in the 4:2:1 Golden ratio)
1 oz Mango Cordial (again, in the 4:2:1 Golden ratio!)
.75 fresh lime
barspoon Luxardo maraschino liqueur

Build in a tumbler or julep cup.  Top with crushed ice and garnish with a lime wheel and an orange half-wheel.

Using a blend of rums really creates a backbone of spiritous complexity for a tiki drink.  Mango and pineapple are intuitive tiki ingredients, and using Luxardo in sparing, bar spoon amounts can add an additional level of complexity (without the soapy-ness of larger quantities).  Serving this drink over crushed ice gives it enough dilution to balance out the sugar in the cordials and the heft of 2 oz of booze.  Sante!

Behold, the De Brito in Paradise.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Drink this: Christmas Cranberry Smash

Smash, consumption in progress. 
One of the great things about late fall and winter is, paradoxically, working with a limited palate of colors.  The big flavors of winter--cranberry, apple, pumpkin, pear, and citrus--must be needled and analyzed from all angles to make it through the cold to the first beams of spring's yellow light and the produce that follows.  I'll likely be riffing on these few flavors for the next month or so, but I think I've stumbled across some combos that really work.

One of my favorite styles of cocktail both for winter and summer is a Cobbler/Smash.  I mashed up these 2 categories to incorporate the best elements of both styles of cocktail:  fortified wine and fruit from the Cobbler, crushed ice and liquor from the Smash.  There is a lot to be said about the deliciousness and history of both of those styles of cocktails in their own right, but let's not do that right now.  Let's give you a recipe.

Christmas Cranberry Smash
1 oz Barr Hill Gin (it's important to use this or something equally pine-y like Junipero or Tanqueray in a pinch)
1 oz Contratto Bianco (or some other richly flavored dry vermouth; Lillet could work here if need be)
1.5 oz cran shrub, from previous posts
.5 oz fresh lime
Green Chartreuse rinse

Rinse a julep cup with Green Chartreuse.  Add all remaining ingredients.  Top with crushed ice.  Garnish with a rosemary sprig.

Tasting notes.  Barr Hill is an incredibly fragrant, piney gin.  It really cuts through and competes with other flavors in a cocktail.  The vermouth adds sweetness and echoes the fruit from the cranberries with just a hint of bitter.  The lime balances the sugar, and the Chartreuse compliments the bitter and pine notes in the cocktail.  This one tastes like a crisp, Christmas morning in the woods.  See what you think.
Area woman testing out the Xmas Smash. 

Area woman approves.  

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Drink This: Dead Rosetti

My cran stuff.  
So, I've been binge watching Boardwalk Empire.   5 seasons in about 45 days.  For those of you who don't know, BE is a Prohibition Tele-Novela; it's kind of like Game of Thrones, but set in the 1920's in Atlantic City and loosely based on the life of a real-life bootlegger named Enoch Johnson.  My grandparents pastored a church in Atlantic City in the 1970s, and as a profession they dealt with the legacy of the organized crime depicted in the show.  I remember visiting them in the 80's, and riding down Atlantic Avenue asking my dad, "Dad, what's a live nude show?"Their moral dispositions towards alcohol and corruption were largely formed in response to the crime and corruption of the 1920's in New York and New Jersey, so it's interesting (for me anyways) to think of my Grandparents as kids during days of bootlegging--growing up with cops on the take, criminal syndicates down the block, and widespread alco-violence through the stomping grounds of their youth.  It's also interesting to think that a good part of their adult lives were spent confronting the moral desert that 'Nucky' Thompson left behind on the Boardwalk.

All that to say, prepare yourself for a month or two of BE-inspired cocktails.  It's fall, we're getting into pumpkin, cider, and cranberry territory.  I revisited my cranberry shrub of yesteryear, and tweaked it just a little after my boss told me about his love of Bourbon and Campari cocktails.  The cran stuff, Bourbon, and Campari seemed like they could get along in Cran Man proportions.  A good deal of making drinks is Mr. Potato Head-ing an existing recipe, so here's my tweak to the Cran Man:

These guys are business partners.  
The Dead Rosetti
2 oz good Bourbon
3/4 oz cranberry shrub
1/2 oz Campari
8 drops of my orange-spiced bitters; 3 dashes Angostura Orange is a perfectly acceptable substitute

Build the cocktail in a shaker.  Add ice and stir.  Strain into a tumbler with single large(r)
cube.  Express an orange peel over the cocktail and drop into the drink.

The Dead Rosetti echoes the prominent themes of the eponymous antagonist:  a whiskey-bent, bitter Italian.  I think it does come off a little more balanced than Gyp Rosetti the character, but in death, there is return; in return there is symmetry; and in that symmetry is balance.  I think this is a balanced beverage.  See what you think!
Raw materials, with a 2.0 recipe to the left.  

Friday, October 3, 2014

Drink this: Yes, Mr. Washington.

Ok, I'll admit it.  I've been on an egg white kick.  It allows you to suspend cool stuff in a drink and makes it super frothy, fluffy, and pillowy (yes, pillowy).  We are just at the point in the year where silver beams sneak their way into the colored light of dusk and dawn, and embracing fall flavors is a natural reaction to this change in season.

My boss's farm is shitting sugar pumpkins right now (I think he's harvested about 40 so far), and I've never made pumpkin butter, so I thought I'd try to make a pumpkin preparation that I could use in a cocktail.  Here's what I did.

Cut the tops off of 8 sugar pumpkins, and cut the pumpkins half.  Remove the seeds.  Roast face down on a sheet pan at 350 degrees F for about 1 hour, or until the flesh can be easily scraped away from the shell.  Allow the pumpkins to cool, and then scrape out the flesh.

At this point, you should have about 3-4 quarts of pumpkin flesh.  In a pot, add
1.5 c Dr. Pepper (or something cola-esque)_
1.5 c brown sugar
2 c table sugar
1 Tbsp freshly grated cinnamon (or cassia)
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp whole cloves
1/2 tsp allspice (grind the cloves and allspice in a spice grinder)

Cook this for about an hour, and season with additional spice and sugar to taste.  I'd recommend covering the pot with a lid, and putting a wooden spoon in the pot to prop open the lid.  The butter will plop and spit like a volcano about to erupt, and the wooden spoon-lid set up keeps you from getting pumpkin butter all over your stove.  After an hour, run the butter through a vitamix in batches until smooth.  I was really pleased with how the PB turned out, and I've enjoyed putting it on my yogurt and granola in the morning, too.

I tried a few iterations of this with bourbon, but really liked how the pumpkin butter played with Applejack and apple cider.  George Washington was all about Applejack way back in the day, so Yes, Mr. Washington seemed like an intuitive name for our cocktail.

Here's the recipe:
Lil' Greggy crushing that nutmeg garnish!
1.5-ish oz Laird's Applejack
1 Tbsp pumpkin butter
1 oz cider reduction, recipe here
1/4 oz lemon juice
1/2 oz egg white

Dry shake, then hard shake with ice.  Double strain into a chilled coupe and garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Drink this: Paw Paw Daiquiri

Drink this. 
Prior to today, I had never tasted a Paw Paw fruit.  I'd only heard about this mythical thing--an indigenous Southern US fruit tree that prefers the shade of the forest canopy, and that bears fruit that ripens and then rots within just a matter of days.  Despite being balls-deep in the food scene for 10 years, I'd never seen or tasted one.
The mythical fruit.

This morning, I trekked out to the Clifton Inn to talk cocktails with their chef, Tucker Yoder.  He's a hippie that plays soccer, home schools his many children, and spends every other waking moment at his restaurant trying to bring the forest into his kitchen.  He walked me past his grove of wild hardy oranges(!) and through a Paw Paw grove at the edge of the forest next to the Inn(!!).  The fruit was ripe and abundant.  I picked one and tasted it.   I had heard it described as banana custard-like.  To me, that sounds gross.  While the texture of ripe Paw Paw is soft, it tastes to me like deliciously fragrant pineapple/banana.  Paw Paws season is, as I mentioned, quite short, so I was not surprised to find that my boss (a farmer and restaurateur) had a basket of ripe fruit for me to play with when I got to work.
Truth be told, kind of custard-y.

I resorted to my old tricks using Micah's Golden Ratio of Macerated Fruit Cordials, and made the following Paw Paw syrup/cordial with the ripe fruit as follows:
4 c peeled, ripe Paw Paw (with the seeds and all)
2 c sugar
1 c white wine
1/2 tsp citric acid
Paw Paw cordial, with seasoned professional C. Dunbar proofing those specials.  
Macerate the Paw Paw flesh on the sugar and citric acid for an hour or 2.  Add wine to dissolve the sugar.  Pass the fruit mix through a course sieve, using a ladle to push the ripe fruit off of the large, dark seeds.  Pass the strained mix through a fine chinois.

What goes well with fragrant, sub-tropical, native fruit?  Rum!  I made a Daiquiri with a pinch of Maraschino liqueur as a nod to Hemingway and tp one my colleagues who can't get enough of the stuff (Lil' Greggy!).  I thought it was delicious.  Here's the recipe:

1 oz light rum
1/2 oz aged rum (I like Pusser's)
1/2 oz lime juice
1 oz Paw Paw Cordial
1/8 or barspoon Maraschino liqueur

Combine all ingredients in a shaker and shake with ice.  Double strain into a chilled cocktail or martini glass and garnish with a lime wheel.

Good drink.

Do it this week before the season is over!