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

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.


9. Earthbound. A sophisticated alternative to a Margarita.


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.


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.