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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Curative

Curative cocktail

It's New Year's Eve! This has always been one of my favorite holidays. Everyone gets dressed up, drinks champagne, and toasts to new beginnings. I've never been big on formal resolutions, but I do see the new year as an opportunity to start fresh. I feel like you can tell that other people do, too. Everybody is a bit nicer around this time, a bit more determined to be better in one way or another.

I aspire to one day host an annual New Year's Eve party. Like a big formal affair, with lots of confetti and champagne cocktails where everybody dresses up. But ever since I became old enough to do so, I've never had the opportunity - as most of our friends are either graduate students or medical residents, they're out of town or working on New Year's. I'm sure one day my glamorous dreams will come true, but until then I'll enjoy quiet evenings with family and close friends. And, of course, champagne cocktails.

Curative cocktail

I have expounded at length on my love of champagne and all cocktails that use it, so I won't go into it yet again. But I love how many great recipes pop up around New Year's. I'm happy to share an original recipe today. I was going to make Ginger Sparklers with honey-ginger syrup when I came across the Auld Lang Syne over at Bit by a Fox. It's a sparkling wine cocktail that includes my current favorite Scotch, Highland Park 12-year. For some reason, adding Scotch to champagne never occurred to me. I thought about adding it to this one, and realized that I was inching towards a sparkling version of a Penicillin, a "new classic" that mixes ginger-honey syrup with lemon juice and Scotch. It seemed like a pretty good idea.

But what to call it? Naming a cocktail can be tricky if you want to pick something new. Since this is a riff on the Penicillin, I really wanted to call it a Panacea, but apparently I'm not the only one who had that brilliant idea. I also toyed with the idea of naming it after Alexander Fleming, the scientist who discovered Penicillin, but it turns out Fred Yarm of Cocktail Virgin Slut already did that, and for a very similar recipe, too. As I'd never seen it before, I'd like to believe that great minds think alike.

Keeping with the antibiotic theme (and since Ciprofloxacin just doesn't have that nice ring to it), I'm calling this the Curative cocktail. It's rich and bubbly, with hints of ginger spice. The candied ginger makes a lovely garnish, and if you drop it in your drink the sugar slowly dissolves, kind of like the sugar cube in a champagne cocktail. I think it's one of my better inventions.

Cheers, and happy New Year!

Curative cocktail

Curative

1/2 oz. blended Scotch whiskey (I used Monkey Shoulder)
3/4 oz. honey-ginger syrup*
sparkling wine

Combine Scotch and syrup in a shaker. Add ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a champagne flute. Top with champagne or other sparkling wine. Garnish with a piece of crystallized ginger.

*For honey-ginger syrup: combine 1/2 cup honey, 1/2 cup water in a saucepan. Add a 3-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced. Let the mixture come to a simmer so that honey is dissolved. Turn off the heat and let it sit for at least 10 minutes. Strain out ginger and let cool before use.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Cinnsation

Cinnsation

Boston has been unseasonably warm this December. Though I worry about what it means for the future (both in terms of how much snow we're destined to get in January and, you know, this whole global climate change thing), it's actually pretty nice not to have to bundle up in multiple layers with gloves and a hat and snow boots every time you want to walk the dog. Besides, it still felt like Christmas to me. I grew up in Louisiana, where Christmas temperatures in the 40's and 50's are not unusual.

But then I flew down to Louisiana on Sunday, and it turns out that temperatures in the 50's in Boston translate to temperatures in the 70's here. It does not feel like Christmas. I didn't bring nearly enough short-sleeved shirts. We usually light a fire every evening, but it's way too warm for it. I can't even bring myself to have the dog try on his brand-new Christmas sweater; it just seems cruel.

So obviously we're not making batches of Hot Toddies here. But the Cinnsation is actually the perfect cocktail for this weather. It's cool and refreshing, but its flavors of tart apple, smoky mezcal, and spicy cinnamon are perfect for the winter we wish we were having. It evokes spice cake and warm apple cider and sitting by the fire. It's a warm-weather winter cocktail.

The recipe calls for an aged mezcal, but lacking that I used mezcal joven and was still quite happy with the cocktail. I can definitely see how the flavor of an aged mezcal would be even better. I never think of mezcal as a holiday spirit, but the smoky flavor is really perfect for the season.

Cinnsation

History: The Cinnsation was created by Phil Ward at Mayahuel in Manhattan. Ward is also the mastermind behind the Division Bell and the Oaxaca Old Fashioned. I'm headed to NYC in early January and Mayahuel is on my list of must-visit bars.

Cinnsation

1 1/2 oz. aged mezcal
1 1/2 oz. mulled apple cider*
3/4 oz. lemon juice
1/2 oz. cinnamon syrup**
1 dash Peychaud's bitters

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake until chilled. Strain into an ice-filled highball glass and garnish with an apple slice and a cinnamon stick.

*You can buy mulled apple cider, but you can also make it by adding spices to plain cider. I kept it simple and just added two cinnamon sticks, several cloves, and a bit of grated nutmeg to a cup of cider, letting it infuse for a few hours.

**For cinnamon syrup, combine 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water in a saucepan with 4 cinnamon sticks broken into pieces. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat, letting the mixture simmer for 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and let cool completely before use.

Recipe from Imbibe.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Hotel D'Alsace


Hotel D'Alsace

Christmas is less than a week away! In previous years, I've been so busy during December that I've felt like it snuck right up on me. But this year I feel like I've really had time to anticipate and look forward to it. I love Christmas, and I love all the culinary traditions that come along with it. All my favorite blogs are posting recipes for eggnog, hot buttered rum, and bright red drinks involving cranberries and champagne. But not every holiday cocktail needs to be so obviously Christmasy. I'd argue that anything you'd enjoy sipping on while chatting with friends or sitting by a fire is a perfectly good holiday cocktail. Even if it's one that wouldn't be all that out of place at another time of year.

With that in mind, I give you the Hotel D'Alsace. The only thing about it that could perhaps be called Christmasy is the rosemary garnish. I've seen springs of rosemary popping up in cocktails left and right the last couple of weeks, and I have to admit that I'm a big fan. Not only does the piney, herbal taste evoke the holidays, but it basically looks like a piece of Christmas tree in your glass. I love the scent of it every time I take a sip. It was an ingredient in The Last Cocktail, and I'll almost certainly be putting a sprig in something else before the holiday season is over.

Hotel D'Alsace

The Hotel D'Alsace is a simple formula: whiskey, Cointreau, and Benedictine with a bit of that rosemary muddled in. The result is actually a fairly sweet cocktail, more so than I expected. Admittedly, I didn't have a bottle of Irish whiskey on hand, so I subbed in bourbon, which surely amped that up a bit. I found that I preferred the flavor if I reduced the amount of Benedictine by half. Even such, its sweet, herbal taste of it is the dominant flavor in the cocktail. If you like it, it's delicious. The citrus is far more subtle than I expected, and I might add an orange twist garnish next time as well.

History: The Hotel D'Alsace was created by David Slape at PDT in New York. He named it for the hotel in Paris where Oscar Wilde died, now called L'Hotel. Wilde had been living there for over a year, deeply in debt but still going through five bottles of Couvoisier a week (he famously remarked "I am dying beyond my means"). He contracted cerebral meningitis and spent the last month of his life confined to the hotel. The infinitely quotable Wilde was apparently not too fond of his room's decor, remarking, "My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or the other of us has got to go."

Hotel D'Alsace

2 oz. Irish whiskey
1/2 oz. Cointreau
1/2 oz. Benedictine (I preferred 1/4 oz.)
1 rosemary sprig, halved

Combine Cointreau, Benedictine, and the bottom of the rosemary sprig in a mixing glass and muddle. Add whiskey. Fill with ice and stir until chilled. Strain into a rocks glass with one large ice cube. Garnish with the top of the rosemary sprig.

Recipe from The PDT Cocktail Book.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Brandy Milk Punch

Brandy Milk Punch


Last Christmas, one of my gifts was a signed copy of Magic in a Shaker by Marvin Allen. It's a great book of cocktail techniques and recipes filled with New Orleans inspiration. It's organized by month, with a different cocktail theme for each. December is, of course, holiday cocktails, and one of them is this Brandy Milk Punch. This boozy, milky confection is a New Orleans classic that's perfect for this time of year.

Brandy Milk Punch is traditionally served with brunch. It became famous at the iconic Brennan's restaurant in New Orleans. But it's also become associated with the holidays. It would be a great, unique cocktail to serve at a Christmas party. It's sweet but not cloyingly so. The flavors bring eggnog to mind, but this is a much lighter beverage, and less involved to make. Half and half, simple syrup, and vanilla are combined in a shaker with brandy (bourbon is delicious as well), strained into a rocks glass, and dusted with nutmeg. Easy and festive.


Brandy Milk Punch


History: Though Brandy Milk Punch has become inextricably linked with the city of New Orleans, it wasn't invented there. It's a very old cocktail, old enough that Benjamin Franklin had his own recipe. Jerry Thomas's 1862 Bartender's Guide contains multiple versions. As for when and where it originated, variations on the theme of milk and booze go way back, far enough that we probably can't say for certain. In the middle ages in Britain, there was a warm drink called posset made of curdled milk and wine or ale. The Irish drank scáiltín contained hot milk with whiskey and spices. There was probably a slow evolution from these recipes towards the milk punch we drink today, culminating in the masterpiece enjoyed alongside bananas foster at Brennan's.


Benjamin Franklin's Brandy Milk Punch Recipe
Benjamin Franklin's Milk Punch recipe from 1763. Image courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society.

Some of the older milk punch recipes, like Franklin's above, involve using lemons to curdle the milk and then straining the mixture to produce a clearish cocktail. In an age without refrigeration, this technique helped the drink keep longer. It's currently experiencing a revival, and I've had milk punch made this way at a couple of bars in Boston. It's a very different experience than having a glass of the creamy kind, and definitely something worth trying.

Brandy Milk Punch

1 1/4 oz. brandy
2 oz. half-and-half
1/2 oz. simple syrup (or to taste)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
ground nutmeg, to garnish

Combine all ingredients except nutmeg in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled. Strain into a rocks glass filled with ice and sprinkle nutmeg on top.

Recipe from Magic in a Shaker.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Last Cocktail

The Last Cocktail

I bookmarked this recipe a while ago, and I decided to finally make it as part of my search for good holiday cocktails. Rosemary, pear, and cloves form an unconventional wintery trio in what would otherwise sound like a very summery cocktail: gin, lemon, sparkling wine. The result is a fantastic drink with notes of herbs, citrus, fruit, and spice blending together with just the right amount of fizz. It's well worth the extra prep time that the rosemary-pear puree requires.

I tried both of my gins with this one, St. George Terroir and GrandTen's Wire Works. I liked Wire Works better; it brought out the taste of the pear more. The St. George yielded a much more herbal cocktail which, while still really good, was less balanced.

Whip up a tray of these for your next holiday party - you won't be sorry!

The Last Cocktail

History: This recipe originally comes from Alchemy in a Glass by Greg Seider. It was the most popular cocktail on the menu at Prima in New York. This version was adapted by Imbibe.

The Last Cocktail

1 oz. gin
1 oz. lemon juice
2 oz. rosemary-pear puree*
1 1/2 oz. sparkling wine
Cloves and a rosemary sprig, to garnish

Combine gin, lemon juice, and puree in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled. Double-strain into two rocks glasses (can be a bit tedious depending on the thickness of your pear puree). Add sparkling wine and stir briefly. Fill with ice. Garnish with a rosemary sprig and sprinkle with ground cloves.

*For rosemary-pear puree: Combine 5 oz. agave nectar with four sprigs of rosemary in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer and then remove from heat. Cover and let sit for 30 minutes. Combine with 20 oz. of pear puree (I used fresh pears pureed in a food processor).

Recipe adapted from Imbibe.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Autumn Cranberry Old Fashioned

Autumn Cranberry Old Fashioned

My parents and sister recently had cocktails at Mondo, Susan Spicer's restaurant in Lakeview, New Orleans. They raved about a Cranberry-Satsuma Old Fashioned that they wanted to recreate at home. Since I wanted to embrace some holiday flavors in the coming weeks, I thought it was an appropriate challenge.

A minor obstacle was that the Whole Foods in my neighborhood didn't have satsumas. They did, however, have fruits they called "autumn honey tangerines," which sounded season-appropriate and very amenable to inclusion in a cocktail. They're sweet and have a wonderful flavor. Satsumas or even regular oranges would also do nicely.

Autumn Cranberry Old Fashioned

I made a cranberry syrup to replace my usual simple syrup and brandied cherry syrup, as well as some sugared cranberries for a garnish. I popped in a cinnamon stick to cement the holiday vibe. All in all, I'm quite pleased with the finished product. The differences from a traditional Old Fashioned are subtle but festive: flavor and bitterness from the cranberries and a hint of spice from the cinnamon. And the sugared cranberries are really one of the prettiest garnishes I've made so far.

Autumn Cranberry Old Fashioned

Autumn Cranberry Old Fashioned

2.5 oz. bourbon (I used Bulleit)
1 tsp. cranberry simple syrup*
5-6 fresh cranberries
2 slices autumn tangerine or satsuma
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Sugared cranberries* and cinnamon stick to garnish

Muddle tangerine or satsuma and fresh cranberries in the bottom of an old fashioned glass. Add cranberry simple syrup, bitters, and bourbon. Stir briefly and add one large ice cube. Garnish with sugared cranberries on a pick and a cinnamon stick.

*You can make the sugared cranberry garnish and the cranberry simple syrup together. Combine 1/4 cup water and 1/4 cup sugar and simmer to dissolve the sugar. Add about 1/2 cup cranberries. Remove from heat and let sit for 10 minutes. Strain, reserving both the cranberries and the syrup. Arrange half of the cranberries on parchment paper on a wire cooling rack and let sit for one hour; these will be your sugared cranberries. Return the rest to the pot with the syrup and muddle. Let sit for another 10-20 minutes and strain again, discarding the muddled berries. Once an hour has passed, pour 1/4 cup sugar onto a plate and roll the remaining cranberries in it to coat.

Sugared cranberry recipe from Vanilla and Bean.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Gift Guide 2015

A lot of my favorite blogs will do gift guides around the holidays. I've always loved them, because they're a great way to find out about nifty new products and get ideas for family and friends. There's a lot of cocktail stuff out there I'd love to give (or get!) this Christmas, but here are some favorites that have caught my eye.


1. Feather Bottle Opener from H&M Home, $12.99. I just bought one of these a couple of days ago! It's a perfect combination of my two great loves, birds and beer.

2. St. George Gin Sampler, ~$30. St. George makes some really lovely, unique gins and this is a great way to try them all. It includes their Terroir, Botanivore, and Dry Rye gins. Look for it at your local liquor store.

3. Orb Cocktail Shaker from Crate & Barrel, $24.95. I know Boston shakers are supposed to be the best, but I can't get over the sleek look of this copper cobbler shaker.

4. Double Old Fashioned Glasses from Williams Sonoma, $55.96. I love the size and that they're all different.

5. Cocktail Matches from Waiting on Martha, $11. Flame that orange peel with style.

6. Silicone Ice Cube Trays from Amazon.com, $16.95. We've had these for a while now, and I love them. They're much easier to use than the spherical molds, and one of these jumbo cubes is perfect for a glass of bourbon.

7. Scrappy's Bitters Gift Box, ~$25. Includes Lavender, Cardamom, Chocolate, and Grapefruit bitters. Available from a number of online retailers, including Amazon.

8. Bullseye Cocktail Picks from West Elm, $19. I see so many cute cocktail picks in photographs but they can be pretty hard to find. I love these arrow-shaped ones.

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Warm Spiced Vanilla

Warm Spiced Vanilla

Hello again, and sorry for the long silence. I had some personal things going on that ended up preventing me from spending any time on the blog (or even making many cocktails, alas). I'm happy to be back!

It seems that in my absence, autumn has come and gone. Thanksgiving is over, and we put up our Christmas tree on Saturday. I do wish the fall had passed a little more slowly, but I love the Christmas season. Decorating the tree helped dispel the gloom of a cold and rainy day, and so did this rich and delicious cocktail. It's guaranteed to leave you happy, sleepy, and warm - the perfect drink for a winter evening.

Warm Spiced Vanilla

2 cups milk
2 tbsp. maple syrup
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
6 cloves
1 tsp. vanilla
1/3 cup Bailey's
1/6 cup bourbon

(Makes two cocktails.) Combine milk, maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves in a small saucepan. Warm over medium-low heat until the mixture is gently smoking. Reduce heat to low and let sit for five minutes, stirring occasionally, being careful not to let the mixture come to a boil. Pour through a fine strainer and return to the pan. Add vanilla, Bailey's, and bourbon. Serve in mugs, garnished with cinnamon sticks or star anise if desired.

Recipe adapted from Kitchen Treaty.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Twin Peaks

Twin Peaks

Ever since I bought a bottle of St. George Terroir gin, I've been wanting to use it in some more cocktails. As I mentioned before, it has a very strong, piney taste, so you've got to be in the mood for it, and you've got to think carefully about what to pair it with. Lucky for me, St. George has a great list of recipes using the Terroir on their website. Unfortunately, most have at least one odd ingredient that I don't own: lavender bitters, bergamot simple syrup, fresh huckleberries... where do you get fresh huckleberries, anyway? I aspire to make them all eventually, but the Twin Peaks sounded particularly good. I thought Green Chartreuse would blend nicely with the Terroir gin, so this was the second cocktail I made once I finally bought some.

Sure enough, the Twin Peaks is a really, really nice cocktail. The combination of flavors is incredibly interesting. I was most surprised by how well they harmonized. The flavor of the Terrior is toned down a bit in comparison to the Martini I made with it last time, blending wonderfully with the Chartreuse and lime. The result is sort of an herbal Gimlet, with a sage leaf adding the final touch. This one might end up on my next list of favorite cocktails.

Twin Peaks

History: The Twin Peaks was invented by Jon Karel of Vera Pizzeria in Buffalo, New York.

Twin Peaks

1 3/4 oz. St. George Terroir gin
3/4 oz. lime juice
3/4 oz. simple syrup (original recipe called for 1 oz.)
1/4 oz. Green Chartreuse

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a rocks glass filled with one large ice cube. Garnish with a sage leaf.

Recipe adapted from St. George Spirits.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Icky-Poo Tonic

Icky-Poo Tonic

I thought about re-naming this cocktail. I really did. I'm sure I could come up with a much fancier, catchier medicinal name. But I just couldn't do it. Because in our house, it is known as Icky-Poo Tonic.

The name should really be self-explanatory. This is a curative cocktail for when you are feeling, well, icky-poo. Achy and sniffly and downright bad. The recipe comes from the incomparable Joy the Baker, and she neglected to name it, leaving it wide open for my ridiculous interpretation. So Icky-Poo Tonic it is.

I usually don't go anywhere near alcohol when I'm sick. My body is already working hard to fend off an infection, I figure, and is too busy to also be filtering alcohol out of my blood stream. But right around this time of year, as Boston begins to yield its warm summer to the frigid claws of fall and winter, I almost always get a bad cold. And it turns out that a nice warm cup of honey and vitamin C with a few glugs of bourbon is exactly what the doctor ordered. It warms you up through-and-through. It won't cure you, but I have yet to find anything that makes you feel quite so good when you're sick.

Icky-Poo Tonic

3 oz. boiling water
3 oz. orange juice
1/4-1/2 oz. honey
1/2-1 oz. bourbon or other whiskey

Pour orange juice into a mug and add boiling water. If this isn't quite hot enough for you, warm it in a saucepan or in the microwave for a few seconds. Add honey and stir well to dissolve. Add bourbon and stir. Feel better.

Recipe adapted from Joy the Baker.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Spiced Nuts

Spiced Nuts

I love when you order a cocktail somewhere and they give you a little bowl of nuts or chips to snack on. I'm surprised more hip cocktail bars haven't embraced this tradition. If I ever had a bar I'd try and come up with some creative cocktail hour snacks like the ones I've posted here. Flavored popcorn is easy, cheap, and great with a drink. Another favorite of mine is sweet, spiced nuts. This recipe is particularly fitting in autumn and around the holidays. Despite what seemed to me like a lot of cayenne powder, they aren't terribly spicy; it's just enough to give them a bit of warmth.

Spiced Nuts

You can go with any nuts you like for this recipe; I used peanuts, walnuts, and pecans. I definitely recommend including pecans, because they taste amazing with this glaze. Whisk the spices with the egg white in a bowl until everything is well combined. Then stir in the nuts and turn them well to coat.

Spiced Nuts

Spread the nuts out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, being careful to separate them as best you can. If they're touching while they bake, they'll be stuck together when they come out. You'll end up with a bit of liquidy glaze at the end that you can brush or pour over the nuts or discard.

Bake the nuts at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes and let cool. Then enjoy these perfect holiday munchies.

Spiced Nuts

Spiced Nuts

1 1/2 cups mixed nuts (I used walnuts, pecans, and peanuts)
1 large egg white
2 tbsp. white sugar
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp. cayenne
1/4 tsp. cumin

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients except nuts in a bowl and whisk until well mixed. Stir in nuts and coat thoroughly. Spread the nuts out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Do your best to separate them so that they aren't touching one another (an admittedly sticky job). Bake for 15 minutes.

Recipe adapted from the spiced nuts in this recipe at Love & Olive Oil.

Monday, October 19, 2015

French 75

French 75

If I haven't already made it clear, I love sparkling wine cocktails. Love them. I love champagne on its own, and once you start adding spirits and mixers it only makes a good thing better. Plus, a little bit of bubbly adds an instant element of class to anything.

The French 75 is probably the most famous champagne cocktail outside of the Mimosa and maybe the Bellini, neither of which involve any hard liquor. Interestingly, there are two versions of the French 75 floating around, which can be confusing. There's a gin version that I've made before, but there's also a Cognac version. So of course I made both for this post. GarnishGuy and I agreed: we liked the Cognac better. The flavor was richer. The gin version is still very good, particularly if gin is your favorite spirit. It's lighter and more herbal.

Whichever version you choose, be careful; this drink is named after heavy artillery. It's got quite a kick. David Wondrich says of the French 75: "Two of these and you'd fight to defend Madonna's honor... hell, there's enough alcohol in it to give even Hemingway a buzz."

Quite a claim given Hemingway's drinking habits.

History: I've been trying to write this post for some time now, but the history of the French 75 is more convoluted than any I've encountered. It's a popular drink, and there are two main variations and dozens of origin stories floating around. I'm still not sure I've got the whole story, but I hope I've at least got the basics down accurately.

The cocktail on which the French 75 is based was called simply a "75" and it was quite a different beast: Absinthe, Calvados, and gin. The recipe appears in the 1922 Harry's ABC of Mixing Cocktails by Harry MacElhone of the famous Harry's New York Bar in Paris. He writes that the recipe comes from 1915. Most folks think it was invented by - or at least popular among - WWII airmen who named it for the French 75 mm field gun.

For some reason bartenders found this particular cocktail just begging for some tweaks, and various changes were made. The first printed recipe for a "French 75" (possibly renamed to clarify its country of origin, although the gun for which it was named was also called a French 75) is in a 1927 booklet called Here's How. It's not an easy piece of literature to get your hands on, but this site has some of the recipes it contained, including the French 75: "Gordon water" (gin), lemon juice, powdered sugar, and champagne.

I wish that the connection between these two recipes was a bit clearer; most folks seem to accept that they're the same cocktail at different stages of its evolution, but they are awfully different. And where did the Cognac version come from? Does it represent a separate evolutionary trajectory from that original with Calvados, or is it a variation on the gin and champagne version? The gin recipe is repeated in the Savoy Cocktail Book in 1930, but then Cognac recipes also start to pop up. In 1939, Charles Baker included a Cognac French 75 under the name "Maharaja's Burra-Peg" in the Gentleman's Companion Volume II: Around the World with Jigger, Beaker, and Flask. This is a variation on a Cognac and champagne cocktail called a King's Peg, and suggests that the Cognac French 75 may have sprung from the King's Peg and converged on a similar recipe. Or it may have a couple of different origins; in New Orleans, the French 75 is made with Cognac, and has been served there almost as long as the drink has been around.

There's probably a lot more to this story, but I think it's time for a drink.

French 75

2 oz. gin or Cognac (I prefer Cognac)
1/2 oz. lemon juice
1 tsp. simple syrup
Champagne

Combine gin or Cognac, lemon juice, and simple syrup in a shaker with ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a champagne flute. Top with champagne and garnish with a lemon twist.

Recipe adapted from Liquor.com.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Autumn Cocktail #1

Autumn Cocktail #1

When we got back to Boston after our vacation at the end of September, it was quite clear that autumn had begun while we were away. There was that hint of coolness in the air. The leaves were beginning to change. Even though fall is usually my favorite season, at first I resisted what I saw as an inevitable lead-in to another snowy, dark winter. But over the past few weeks I've finally accepted and embraced it. I've broken out my coats and boots, made hot spiced apple cider, and started thinking about the upcoming holidays. So I knew it was time for this cocktail.

I made up this recipe, or something very much like it, last fall. I wrote it down and tucked it away, only to realize that I'd completely lost it some time in the past year. Probably the result of one of my rare but overzealous cleaning sprees. But I've done my best to reconstruct it, and though I don't know if this cocktail is the same one I made last year, I do know that I like it. Bourbon is a perfect spirit for fall, and apple cider is a great mixer. I have a feeling I'm going to be trying out some other autumn-inspired recipes with other ingredients (Applejack and Allspice Dram come to mind), so this may be the first of several.

Autumn Cocktail #1

2 oz. bourbon
1 oz. apple cider
1/2 oz. maple syrup
1/2 oz. lemon juice
cinnamon stick

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a cocktail or coupe glass and garnish with the cinnamon stick.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Mixology Monday: Mad Scientist

Mad Scientist

Mixology MondayThis month's Mixology Monday is hosted by Rated R Cocktails, and the theme is Spooky Sips. I love it! I had several different ideas aesthetically, from a bloody dark red cocktail fit for a vampire to some sort of witches' brew using this stuff, but actually making something that would taste good was the real challenge. I decided to go with this one because it has a theme close to my heart: the Mad Scientist. It's a Daiquiri with a lemon foam on top (raw egg whites are spoooooky) and a dropper of Green Chartreuse for you to mix in yourself (or just shoot straight from the pipette, I won't judge). I really, really wanted to work in some dry ice, but not only is it pretty unsafe to stick a chunk in an individual cocktail (if you swallow it, it's going to do some serious damage on the way down), it's also best to get food-grade dry ice to avoid any additional contaminants, and there's no way the stuff we use in the lab is food-grade. In retrospect I really should have taken some home anyway, because it would have looked great in this photo. Alas.

Mad Scientist

2 oz. white rum (I used Bully Boy)
3/4 oz. simple syrup
3/4 oz. lime juice
~1/2 oz. Green Chartreuse
1 egg white
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. lemon juice

For foam: (Only use fresh egg whites when consuming raw, and be aware that there is a risk of salmonella.) Place egg white in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat with the whisk attachment until slightly foamy. Add in sugar and lemon juice and beat until the mixture reaches desired consistency.

For cocktail: Combine rum, simple syrup, and lime juice in a shaker with ice and shake until very well-chilled. Double-strain into a beaker. Spoon lemon foam on top. Fill a disposable pipette with Green Chartreuse. (It was a little difficult to get the pipette as full as I wanted it. After I sucked up what I could, it worked best to snip the tip off of another pipette, fill it, hold it with the opening facing down, insert the pipette going into the cocktail, and suck the liquid out.) Place pipette into the cocktail and serve.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Recipe Round-Up: The First 100

Since starting this blog, I've had so much fun learning about different spirits and techniques, and of course making cocktails - nearly 100 of them, it turns out! This is my 100th post. So I thought I'd go back and pick out my top ten recipes from what I've made so far. I've had people ask me what my favorite cocktail is before, and I don't think I could ever pick one. But ten? Maybe.

In no particular order:

Air Mail

1. Air Mail. I can't help it, I just love this cocktail. It's elegant and delicious. If I had my own signature cocktail, it might be this.

Red Hook

2. Red Hook. Not to knock the Manhattan, but I'll take one of these instead.

Last Word


3. Last Word. I was going to choose the Aviation, but honestly, I think I like the Last Word more.

Maximillian Affair

4. Maximillian Affair. Narrowing it down to just a single mezcal cocktail was a bit of a challenge, but this really is one of my all-time favorites.

Vieux Carre


5. Vieux Carre. New Orleans in a glass.

Classic Martini


6. Classic Martini. Sometimes nothing hits the spot quite like a martini. Made with GIN, obviously. I used to prefer olives, but now I'm on a lemon twist kick.

Battle of Trafalgar

7. Battle of Trafalgar. Anything good enough to make me hunt down a bottle of Batavia Arrack deserves a spot on this list. Honestly, this is also one of my all-time favorite cocktails.

Coal Miner's Daughter

8. Coal Miner's Daughter. Like a Gold Rush, but even better.

Earthbound

9. Earthbound. A sophisticated alternative to a Margarita.

#42

10. #42. A gorgeous riff on the Martini.

Runners up: Old Cuban, Grilled Pineapple Margarita, French Maid

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you keep reading for the next 100 posts!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Gold Rush

Gold Rush

The Gold Rush is a pretty simple cocktail. It has three ingredients: bourbon, honey simple syrup, and lemon juice. Yet Jim Meehan says in The PDT Cocktail Book that drinking one at Milk & Honey in New York fundamentally changed the way he viewed cocktails. I can only assume his revelation was related to the simplicity of the formula. It's basically a whiskey sour, but the honey makes a big difference in flavor - one of the reasons that honey simple syrup is a staple in my home bar. I wouldn't say the Gold Rush has fundamentally changed the way I view cocktails, but it's a nice reminder that you don't need a bottle of Green Chartreuse to make something truly tasty, and that small tweaks can make a big difference. There's a similar cocktail that replaces the bourbon with gin, called a Bee's Knees; given how much I like gin, that's definitely on my list.

History: The Gold Rush was invented by T. J. Siegal of Milk & Honey around 2000.

Gold Rush

2 oz. bourbon
1 oz. honey simple syrup*
3/4 oz. lemon juice

Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake until well chilled. Strain into a rocks glass over one large cube of ice. No garnish.

*For honey simple syrup: combine equal parts honey and water in a saucepan and heat until honey is dissolved. Let cool before using.

Recipe from The PDT Cocktail Book.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Bottle Buy: Green Chartreuse

Green Chartreuse

I have wanted a bottle of Green Chartreuse for a really, really long time. It basically went on my wish list as soon as I started getting into cocktails. It kept popping up in really good drinks, and soon it was pretty clear that it should be one of my next purchases. Then I saw the price tag. Maybe $60 isn't a lot for some folks, but it's pretty hefty for me. I knew it would last a really long time, but there were so many other, cheaper spirits out there that I wanted that I shelved my dreams of Last Words and Chartreuse Swizzles for a later day.

Today!

That's right, I finally bought a bottle of Green Chartreuse, and I am super excited. I'd been feeling a bit uninspired cocktail-wise, and when I looked at some of the recipes I could make with it, I got enthusiastic again. I can't wait to share some with you, and I'll do my best not to put it in everything since I know it's not something a lot of people have at home.

So what is Chartreuse? It's a sweet, herbal liqueur. I primarily wanted it for cocktails, but I also love it on its own. It should be served very cold. Sipping it, there's a really interesting progression of flavors. First you taste the sweetness, then citrus and herbs, and then anise and a vegetable bitterness, with the sweetness lingering after your sip. It's become a very popular shot with a particular crowd; Details magazine called it "the hipster Jagermeister." Roosevelt, which I visited when I went to Denver earlier this year, had Chartreuse on tap (a 70/30 mixture of Yellow to Green, if I remember correctly), and said they serve tons of it. It's particularly popular with service industry folks.


Green Chartreuse

History: Green Chartreuse is made by Catholic Carthusian monks, also known as the Order of St. Bruno or the Chartreuse Order. It was founded in the Chartreuse Mountains of France in 1084. In 1737, the monks began making Green Chartreuse, supposedly based on a recipe for an "Elixer of Long Life" from an ancient manuscript given to the order over 100 years prior by the Marshal of King Henri IV's artillery (no word on where he got it). They sold it as a health tonic, bringing it down to nearby villages by mule. But it turned out that people enjoyed drinking it just for fun, so the monks reduced its alcohol content to 55% and started selling it as a liqueur. It became popular throughout France. In 1838 they began making Yellow Chartreuse as well, which is less alcoholic and slightly sweeter.

The French government briefly took control of the distillery in the early 20th century, forcing the monks to flee to Spain. But the government-run distillery went bankrupt in less than 30 years, and the monks were able to return.

Chartreuse claims that only two monks know the recipe for Green Chartreuse, which includes 130 different plants and flowers. They crush and mix the botanicals at the monastery and then bring them to the distillery in Voiron, about 15 miles away, where they are macerated in alcohol that is distilled and aged in oak casks. Again, it's supposedly only these two guys - Dom Benoit and Brother Jean-Jacques - who do it all with the help of a couple of assistants.

Fun fact: the liqueur came before the color. We refer to certain shades of green as "chartreuse" because they are similar to Green Chartreuse in color.

Green Chartreuse

Price: $60
Alcohol Content: 55%
Popular Cocktails: Last Word, Chartreuse Swizzle, Pousse Cafe, Bijou


Last Word

I think the Last Word is probably the most popular cocktail with Green Chartreuse. Its ingredients might make you a bit leery at first, but the final product is more than pleasantly surprising. Somehow the combination of equal parts gin, Green Chartreuse, maraschino liqueur, and lime juice creates perfect harmony. It's vaguely reminiscent of an Aviation, but the Chartreuse makes it less tart and much more herbal. It's an excellent cocktail.

For the gin, The PDT Cocktail Book calls for Tanqueray; I used The Botanist, one of my new favorites.

History: This is a Prohibition-era cocktail was invented at the Detroit Athletic Club in the 1920's. It was a favorite of Vaudeville comedian Frank Fogarty, and may have been named for him. The recipe was first published in Ted Saucier's Bottoms Up! in 1951. But then it dropped off the map until, in 2004, Murray Stenson put it on the menu at the Zig Zag Cafe in Seattle. It turned out to be quite a resurrection, with the drink becoming widely popular.

Last Word

Last Word

3/4 oz. gin
3/4 oz. Green Chartreuse
3/4 oz. maraschino liqueur
3/4 oz. lime juice

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake until well chilled. Strain into a cocktail or coupe glass and garnish with a brandied cherry, or leave ungarnished.

Recipe from The PDT Cocktail Book.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Oaxaca Old Fashioned

Oaxaca Old Fashioned

If you want to put a unique spin on a classic recipe, a pretty surefire way to do it is to work in some mezcal. The deep smokiness gives just about everything a delicious facelift if done right. I see mezcal variations popping up all over the place: mezcal mules, mezcal palomas, mezcal sours, mezcal juleps... I recently featured a Mezcal Smash and even attempted a mezcal Manhattan. But, as I learned while trying to come up with the Manhattan recipe, it's not always so simple as replacing the base spirit with mezcal. This is even more true when it comes to the Old Fashioned.

The Old Fashioned is the original cocktail, and it's a simple one at that. Spirits, sugar, bitters. Modifying it requires a certain amount of subtlety. But this variation puts a nice, agave-centric spin on the classic. With tequila reposado, mezcal, agave nectar, and mole bitters, it sticks to the formula of the Old Fashioned without actually keeping a single ingredient.

The Oaxaca Old Fashioned also calls for a flamed orange twist. Flaming a twist is something I didn't mention in my post on twists. Maybe I should have, because it's fun, dramatic, and actually educational - it gives you a really clear view of the oils expelled from the twist, which are usually all but invisible. It does not involve lighting the twist on fire; instead, the oils pass through the fire, giving them a nice caramelized flavor. It does require you to be a bit more ambidextrous than the usual twist. First, strike a match and hold it over the glass in your non-dominant hand (being careful not to panic and drop it into your cocktail if it burns too low). In your other hand, pick up your orange twist with the outside facing the match. Hold the twist between your thumb and middle finger or forefinger and bend it in half by bringing your fingers together. The ends should bend towards your hand, the middle out towards the drink. You should see little flickers as the oils are expelled and pass through the flame into the cocktail. Blow out the match and rub the peel on the edges of the glass when you're done.

History: The name of this cocktail is a reference to the Mexican province where most mezcal is made, Oaxaca. It was created by Phil Ward at Death & Company. Ward left to open Mayahuel and create many more delicious mezcal and tequila cocktails, such as the Division Bell.

Oaxaca Old Fashioned

1 1/2 oz. tequila reposado
1/2 oz. mezcal
1 tsp. agave nectar (I like a little less)
2 dashes mole bitters

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir until chilled. Strain into an old fashioned glass filled with ice. Garnish with a flamed orange twist.

Note: Other versions of this recipe use Angostura bitters instead of mole, and some omit the flaming of the orange twist.

Recipe adapted from Imbibe and Kindred Cocktails.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Battle of Trafalgar

Battle of Trafalgar

It wasn't that long ago that my bar consisted of nothing but rye, vodka, gin, dry vermouth, and a couple of tooth-achingly sweet liqueurs. The fabulous bars in Boston slowly introduced me to the world of craft cocktails, but I didn't think I'd ever be able to replicate most of them at home without spending a fortune on liquor. Now I know that this isn't the case; while you'll probably never be able to make everything a great bar can make, you can equip yourself with a lot of really versatile spirits that will give you tons of options.

As I wrote when I introduced Batavia Arrack, the cocktail that changed my mind was the Battle of Trafalgar. This recipe, invented by Aaron Butler at Russell House Tavern in Harvard Square, was so unique and delicious to me and GG that we decided we wanted to be able to make it at home. I searched online for the recipe, assuming I wouldn't find it, but there it was on Cocktail Virgin Slut, straight from Butler himself. Lime juice and honey simple syrup, check. I knew of Pimm's No. 1, and I was excited to see it playing such a central role in a cocktail not involving fizz and fruit. St. Germain was another familiar ingredient, and though I'm not sure we owned a bottle, I had definitely been wanting one. And then there was the Batavia Arrack, entirely foreign at the time but now a familiar sight on our bar. Buying all three was pricey, but they lasted a really long time, and we made a lot more than just Battle of Trafalgars with them.

What is it about this cocktail that was so good that it induced two cheapskates to spend so much on liquor? We just love the flavor. It's deep and sophisticated, with hints of bitter orange and spice and honey-sweet citrus. I think it's a truly brilliant example of cocktail craftmanship.

History: As I said, this cocktail was invented by Aaron Butler at Russell House Tavern. The name refers to a famous naval battle fought by the British against the French and Spanish during the Napoleonic Wars in 1805. It was a great victory for the British, led by Admiral Lord Nelson, whose statue now stands in Trafalgar Square in London. Unfortunately Nelson took a bullet wound during the action and died not long after.

Butler was an English History major, so he was familiar with all this when he named the cocktail. The Pimm's No. 1 is a very British liqueur, and the lime and Batavia Arrack evoke thoughts of the Royal Navy. I can't really explain why, but I've always thought the name was a perfect fit. It tastes like a cocktail Lord Nelson might have enjoyed after a victory.

Battle of Trafalgar

1 1/2 oz. Pimm's No. 1
3/4 oz. St. Germain
3/4 oz. Batavia Arrack
1/2 oz. honey simple syrup*
1/2 oz. lime juice

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a rocks glass. Twist an orange peel over the cocktail and rub it along the sides of the glass, then discard. Toast Lord Nelson and enjoy.

*Honey simple syrup: combine equal parts water and honey and heat on the stove or in the microwave until honey is dissolved. Let cool before use.

Recipe from Cocktail Virgin Slut, courtesy of Aaron Butler.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Vanilla Punch

Vanilla Punch

I'm back from vacation! We did a beautiful tour around southern Utah and northern Arizona, visiting all the national parks in the area: Zion, Bryce, Canyonlands, Arches, Capitol Reef, the Grand Canyon, and lots of things in between. We've always been snobs when it comes to travel, opting for international destinations over anything in the US, but this was a humbling reminder that America is a big and stunningly beautiful country.

My reading material for the trip was Imbibe! by David Wondrich, which tells the story of the "father of American mixology" Jerry Thomas and his cocktail recipes. I know, I know, even I can't believe I hadn't read it yet. I blame that pesky dissertation. Since a lot of the book is dedicated to technique and recipes, it should properly be read at home with a full bar and plenty of time, but it's not bad when you're watching the sun set over the desert, either.

Of the first few recipes, this one caught my eye in particular. It's very simple, but extremely tasty. Nothing I can write here could possibly rival Wondrich's humorous and informative prose, but I'll tell you a few things and urge you to pick up the book yourself if you haven't already.

From the mid-17th to mid-19th centuries, punches were some of the most popular cocktails, so much so that Wondrich has devoted his second book to them entirely. They consisted of spirits, lemon, sugar, and spices and were generally shared out of a large bowl. By Jerry Thomas' day, the bowl was old-fashioned and it was more popular to make individual servings of punch to order. This Vanilla Punch is one example. It's basically a brandy sour.

In the late 19th century, ice came in large blocks from which cubes or shavings had to be cut. This recipe calls for shaved ice (crushed will do fine). It is shaken in a Boston shaker and then served in the tumbler in which it was shaken, with a straw. Straws were a good deal more popular back then, given that most folks had bad teeth that would have made it painful to sip directly from a cold drink.

Though it's a simple recipe, I enjoyed this lovely, vanilla-scented sour. The Cognac gives it a sophisticated edge that is only intensified by its venerable age and illustrious pedigree. I wonder how similar the cocktail I made actually tastes to one that Jerry Thomas might have served. I like to imagine that it's similar. In that way, all of these classic recipes are an incredible link to the past.

History: The recipe appears in Thomas' 1862 How to Mix Drinks.

Vanilla Punch

2 oz. brandy (I used Pierre Ferrand Cognac)
Juice of 1/4 lemon (roughly 1/2 oz. for me)
2 tsp. sugar (I used simple syrup)
A few drops of vanilla extract

Combine brandy, lemon juice, and sugar in a Boston shaker. Add crushed or shaved ice. Shake until well chilled. Pour into tumbler half of shaker and add vanilla on top. Serve with a slice of lemon and a straw.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Bar School: With a Twist

Lemon Twist

Sorry for the silence! We just painted our living room and kitchen, and our apartment was in complete disarray for days. I think we may have made a cocktail or two, but there was no doing it neatly or photographing it; they were rewards for hard work. Now everything is back where it should be and the walls are no longer an unpleasant off-white. But we're going on vacation next week, so I won't be blogging much then either. But I'll try to post a couple of things between now and then.

There are a few reasons why I decided to call this blog Garnish. One, admittedly, is that it was a cocktail-related word that hadn't already been taken. But the more I've thought about it, the more appropriate it seems. As I've gotten more careful about making cocktails, I've come to realize that a garnish can really make a drink. They are rarely just decorative. A hint of herbs or citrus can have a huge impact. Not only that, but a garnish is to a cocktail sort of what a cocktail is to me: a beautiful, delicious thing that isn't absolutely necessary but really adds something when you have it.

One of the most common garnishes you will see called for in a cocktail is a citrus twist. I've posted plenty of recipes that use them, but I've never really gone through how to properly garnish a drink with one. Unlike many garnishes, which are just plopped into the drink or hung on the side of the glass, a twist is a bit more involved. And a lot of people get it wrong. For one thing, it's not a slice of fruit. Just the peel. If you're meant to garnish the cocktail with any of the inner fruit, the recipe will refer to a slice, wedge, or wheel of citrus.

A twist also doesn't have to be curly. A twist is called a twist because of the action that the bartender performs over the drink, not its shape. The idea is to release the oils in the skin of the citrus fruit into the cocktail. These oils contain compounds called terpenes that give citrus fruit their distinct aromas. If you garnish your drink correctly, they'll also lend that aroma to your cocktail.

So, if you're making a cocktail that should be garnished with a twist, here's what you should do:

1. Wash your fruit well; the peel is going in your drink, after all.

2. Using a paring knife or a peeler, slice a thin section of peel from your fruit, as pictured above. You want to avoid getting much of the white pith on the peel. This part of the fruit is bitter and can add that bitter flavor to your cocktail. Go for a shallow cut, so that you can see the pores of the fruit through the underside. Just aim for an elongated shape. Sometimes I'll trim mine into something more creative, but the basic twist is just vaguely oval-shaped.

Lemon Twist

3. Take the piece of peel in both hands with the two sides pinned between your thumb and forefinger. Twist it over the drink with the outer peel facing down. This will release the oils into the drink. If you look carefully at the surface of your cocktail, you should be able to see the oils floating on the top.

4. Next, rub the outside of the peel along the sides of the glass to coat it with the oils as well.

Lemon Twist

5. Finally, drop the peel into the cocktail. You can actually discard it if you wish, and some recipes recommend doing so. Yep, that's right - it doesn't even have to go in there if you don't want. I've seen bartenders bring a cocktail over to a patron so they could see them do the twist before they threw out the peel.

And that's it! Quick and simple, but a very important technique for making good cocktails.

Friday, September 11, 2015

American Trilogy

American Trilogy

The American Trilogy is a variation on the Old Fashioned, an admittedly difficult cocktail to improve upon. Perhaps aware of this, the American Trilogy doesn't stray too far from the original recipe. With hints of apple and strong notes of bitter orange, it's lighter and less sweet than its cousin. If you drink a lot of Old Fashioneds, you might find it a welcome change.

Instead of using straight rye, the American Trilogy combines it with Laird's Applejack or Bonded Apple Brandy. Use the latter if you have it, but the Applejack will do just fine if not. Similarly, a white sugar cube can replace a brown one. You can also use simple syrup if you prefer a sweeter cocktail; much of the sugar will get left in the mixing glass if you use the cube.

History: The American Trilogy was invented by Richie Boccado at Little Branch in New York City. The "trilogy" in question probably refers to the rye, applejack, and orange bitters. The first two are recognizably American, and while we're not exactly world-renowned for our bitters, most of the varieties you pick up have probably been made here. The most common bitters brand, Fee Brothers, was founded in Rochester, NY in 1863.

American Trilogy

1 oz. rye
1 oz. apple brandy or Laird's Applejack
1 brown sugar cube
4 dashes orange bitters

Soak sugar cube in bitters and place at the bottom of a mixing glass. Muddle into a crumbly paste. Add rye, apple brandy, and ice. Stir well. Strain into a rocks glass. Serve neat or with one large ice cube. Garnish with an orange twist.

Recipe adapted from Punch.