Thursday, January 28, 2016

Italian 57

Italian 57

Has there ever been a cocktail as pretty as the Italian 57? I had so much fun taking pictures of it. I couldn't seem to get a bad shot. And it tastes just as bright and beautiful and eclectic as it looks.

It was the photo of the Italian 57 on Imbibe's website that first made me put it on my list, quite some time ago. I'm not sure I would have gone for a cocktail with amaretto as its main ingredient if I hadn't seen the beautiful pink hue and fun garnish. It looks like it has since been removed; I had to hunt it down on Pinterest so that I could properly replicate the look of the blood orange and rosemary.

Italian 57

Everything about the Italian 57 is lovely. It's very aromatic, with the beautiful scent of amaretto and rosemary filling your nose with every sip. First you taste sweet almond and blood orange, and then you're hit by the sharp tartness of the lemon and marmalade. It's a remarkably crafted cocktail with a very unique flavor. The one thing I don't understand is the gin. Is 1/4 oz. really adding much to the finished product? I suppose I'll have to make one without it, or maybe with more of it, to figure out how it fits in.

I did increase the amount of sparkling rosé in the recipe, from 1/4 oz. to 3/4 oz. Without it, the flavor was so incredibly sweet and tart that it was almost overwhelming. I found that a bit more rosé helped to space it all out on your tongue.

History: The Italian 57 was the winner of the 2011 Disaronno Mixing Star Competition. It was developed by Chicago bartender Debbi Peek.

Italian 57

Italian 57

1 oz. amaretto (Disaronno recommended)
1/4 oz. gin
1 oz. lemon juice
1/2 oz. blood orange juice
1 barspoon orange marmalade
10 fresh rosemary needles
3/4 oz. sparkling rosé (Martini & Rossi recommended)

In the bottom of a shaker, muddle orange juice, blood orange juice, marmalade, and rosemary. Add gin and amaretto. Fill with ice and shake until chilled. Double-strain into a cocktail or coupe glass and top with the sparkling rosé. Garnish with a blood orange wheel and a sprig of rosemary.

Recipe adapted from Imbibe.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Verte Chaud

Verte Chaud

Winter hit hard this weekend. We lucked out in Boston; our six inches of snow felt like nothing compared to what fell in some places south of us. And the storm was even accommodating enough to hit on a weekend. With nowhere to go, we hunkered down in our apartment and watched the snow slowly collect. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday.

As I thought of what cold-weather drinks might be appropriate for this weather, a strange thought popped into my head: Chartreuse hot chocolate. I'm not really sure where it came from, but I know I have been to at least one bar that had this on the menu. I remember thinking that it was so odd it just might be good, and I suppose I filed it away in the recesses of my brain for a day like Saturday, when the snow was falling outside, and there was both Chartreuse and hot chocolate inside.

A quick search for any existing recipes that might fit the bill uncovered the Verte Chaud (translated far less poetically as "hot green"). It's apparently a popular "après-ski" cocktail. The concept of après-ski is not one with which I am intimately familiar; my first (and last) experience on skis ended with me running into the side of a building, and there were no cocktails involved. But I think I can get behind the idea. Après-snow-shovel, anyone?

I knew the Chartreuse-and-chocolate combination was going to be unusual, and I was a little afraid that it would result in a waste of both Chartreuse and chocolate, a true tragedy. But though it was odd at first, I liked the result. The Chartreuse comes off as very vegetal right at first. The chocolate flavor hits you in the middle of your sip, and then the herbal notes of the Chartreuse linger. It's very strong, very sweet, and will definitely warm you through-and-through, whether you've just come in off the slopes or you're holed up in your apartment watching the snow fall.

Verte Chaud

If you're not sold on the Verte Chaud yet, maybe I can cinch the deal: you can light it on fire. When building the cocktail, pour the Chartreuse into your mug and ignite it. If you're making it for guests, you can serve it like this with the hot chocolate on the side, ready to be poured in to quench the flames. In addition to being fantastically dramatic, the fire serves to warm up the mug.

As for the hot chocolate and whipped cream, you owe it to your bottle of Chartreuse to make them yourself. See below for my favorite simple recipes.

History: As far as I can tell, the Verte Chaud was invented by Jamie Boudreau, former blogger and bartender at Vessel in Seattle, currently owner of Canon. It turns out there's also a cocktail out there called the Charles de Gaulle that is essentially the same as this one, but I can't find out much about it.

Verte Chaud

Verte Chaud

2 oz. Green Chartreuse
6 oz. hot chocolate*
Whipped cream**

Pour Green Chartreuse into a mug. If desired, ignite with matches or a lighter and let burn briefly to warm the mug. Pour in the hot chocolate. Top with a dollop of whipped cream.

*For hot chocolate, combine 1/2 cup of good quality chocolate chips like Guittard or Ghirardelli with 3/4 cup milk in a saucepan. Heat on medium, stirring frequently, until chocolate chips are melted and the mixture is hot. Do not allow it to boil. Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 tsp. vanilla.

**For whipped cream, pour 1/2 cup heavy cream or whipping cream into a bowl. Whip with an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until thickened. Add 1 tbsp. sugar and 1/2 tbsp. vanilla. Continue to mix until the cream forms soft peaks.

Recipe from Jamie Boudreau, Spirits and Cocktails.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Boukman Daiquiri

Boukman Daiquiri

I never realized how much I liked the Daiquiri until I made a proper one, with nothing but rum, lime juice, and simple syrup. Once I understood what this cocktail was really like in its original, pared-down form, I thought there had to be some variations I could try. My own ideas, while probably still refreshing, weren't that spectacular (Peach daiquiri anyone? Pineapple?). The really good daiquiri riffs do more than just toss in some fruit. The Hemingway Daiquiri is probably the most famous, with maraschino liqueur and grapefruit juice. Now I'm adding the Boukman Daiquiri to the list.

The Boukman Daiquiri does not smother the original recipe in fruits and flavorings, nor does it even change it quite so much as the Hemingway Daiquiri does. It simply switches out a bit of the rum for Cognac, and the usual simple syrup for cinnamon syrup. It preserves the spirit and flavor of the daiquiri while - dare I say? - improving on it. The Cognac and cinnamon syrup give it an incredible depth of flavor that the traditional daiquiri lacks. It's richer. A gorgeous cocktail in every way. If you've never made one, I highly recommend trying it.

As with a traditional daiquiri, your choice of rum is going to really affect the cocktail. I used Bully Boy white rum, made in Boston. It's incredibly flavorful and really shines in a drink like this.

History: The Boukman Daiquiri was created by Alex Day for the Franklin Mortgage and Investment Company in Philadelphia (which, yes, is a bar - looks like maybe they recently changed their name to better reflect that fact). He named it after Dutty Boukman, a Haitian slave and Voodoo priest. In 1791, Boukman presided over an infamous ceremony at a place called Bois Caïman. There was some dancing, prophesies were made, plenty of pig blood was consumed, and Boukman and his fellow priests encouraged the Haitian slaves to revolt. This led to the Haitian Revolution. Boukman was killed by the French three months later, and they put his head on display to let everybody know it. It took years, but Haiti finally gained independence in 1804.

Boukman Daiquiri

Boukman Daiquiri

1 1/2 oz. white rum
1/2 oz. Cognac
3/4 oz. lime juice
3/4 oz. cinnamon simple syrup*

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a slice of lime.

*For cinnamon simple 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.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Mixology Monday: Blood and Smoke

Blood and Smoke

It snowed last night in Boston. I woke up to see a beautiful, smooth blanket of white on my balcony, all the neighboring roofs dusted with snow. I stood in my pajamas gazing at the tranquil winter scene, sipping my coffee, feeling at peace with the world.

Then I remembered: shoveling.

Nothing kills the magic of winter quite like home ownership. We moved to Boston from Louisiana, and for the six years that we rented, we never had to worry about the snow. We'd walk right out of our door onto the (usually) shoveled walk and go about our day. Since we didn't even have a car, I never touched a shovel. Snow remained a magical, beautiful thing, at least when it was freshly-fallen.

Then we bought a condo, and last winter the shoveling began. It's not that bad when there's just a few inches on the ground like today, but unless you've successfully blocked it out, you probably remember that more than just a few inches fell last winter. I got very, very tired of shoveling. Maybe if we avoid any more record-breaking snowfall this year, I'll be able to rediscover my love of snow. But until then, shoveling it is.

Mixology Monday The only really good part about shoveling snow is that moment when you come inside, hot and cold and the same time, shake off your boots and jacket, and have something to drink. This morning, I swear a mug of hot coffee has never tasted better. And last winter, when we shoveled in the evenings, nothing was better than a cocktail.  So it's fitting that the theme for this month's Mixology Monday, hosted by Doc Elliot, is Brace Yourself. The Doc asks, "What adult beverages can best prepare the body and steel the will for that moment when we go forth into Winter?"

Blood and Smoke

Some drinks really do lend themselves perfectly to winter weather. Bourbon and Scotch, red wine and brandy. There's hot toddies and mulled wine and spiced cider. And sometimes it's great to try and forget that it's winter at all, with Tiki cocktails or winter citrus that tastes like summer. I never used to pay much attention to all the winter citrus fruits that pop up in grocery stores right around now, but this year I've been taking advantage of the variety: satsumas, tangerines, clementines, and of course blood oranges. I've never bought blood oranges before. It's pretty hard to find them at other times of the year. But now there are piles of them, and I couldn't wait to try them in a cocktail.

In the Blood and Smoke, I combined the bright taste of blood orange with the spicy and smoky flavors of rye whiskey and Scotch. It's a cocktail that warms away the winter chill while giving just a hint of summer to hold you over. It's quite similar to an Old Fashioned in flavor, except that the blood orange is richer and more tart, and a rinse of a peaty single-malt Scotch gives it a subtle smokiness.

I can't wait to see the bracing concoctions that everyone else whips up. It's only January - I think we're going to need them.

The roundup for Mixology Monday CV is here!

Blood and Smoke

Blood and Smoke

2 oz. rye whiskey
1 oz. blood orange juice
1/4 - 1/2 oz. simple syrup (depends a fair bit on the tartness of your blood oranges)
1 dash Angostura bitters
Scotch rinse (use a smoky single malt like Lagavulin or Laphroig)

Combine rye, blood orange juice, simple syrup, and bitters in a mixing glass. Add ice and stir until well-chilled. Strain into an Old Fashioned glass that has been generously rinsed with the Scotch. Add one large ice cube. Garnish with a slice of blood orange.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Lucien Gaudin

Lucien Gaudin

The Lucien Gaudin is a current favorite of mine. It's an older cocktail, probably Prohibition-era, that has managed to fly under the radar for nearly 100 years. Which is a shame, because it's very good. With gin, Campari, Cointreau, and dry vermouth, it's sort of a Negroni-meets-Martini. It's a perfect aperitif, with just the right amount of bitterness, sweetness, and bright and beautiful hints of citrus.

One thing I love about this cocktail is how simple and classic its four ingredients are. You probably have them in your bar already. The one thing I didn't have until recently is Cointreau. Since it's a bit pricier than other orange liqueurs, I've often substituted Triple Sec in the past, which will give you generally the same flavor. But since buying a bottle, I have to say that it is definitely not the same. Triple Sec is orange candy in comparison to Cointreau's brighter, more complex flavor. It adds a level of sophistication to a cocktail that Triple Sec lacks. It's a worthy splurge.

Lucien Gaudin

History: Lucien Gaudin was a famous French fencer. He was known for his graceful technique, which fellow master Felix Bertrand called "poetry in motion." He won two gold medals at both the 1924 and 1928 Olympics, in which he competed in both the foil and the épée. He went on to become a journalist and co-owner of a company that made sports films. He committed suicide in 1934. Most sources say it was because his company had gone bankrupt, but others claim he suffered a thumb injury that would prevent him from fencing.

Lucien Gaudin
Lucien Gaudin

The cocktail named for Gaudin was probably invented in France during the height of his popularity, but its exact origins are unknown. The earliest publication to include a recipe is Trader Vic's Bartender's Guide from 1948. It has recently been rediscovered by cocktail enthusiasts, probably due to its inclusion in Ted Haigh's recent book Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails. This recipe uses the proportions from Trader Vic's; Haigh's recipe reduces the gin to 1 oz.

I think the Lucien Gaudin cocktail is an apt tribute to its namesake. It's elegant and strong, and the ingredients work together like a bit of poetry themselves.

Lucien Gaudin

Lucien Gaudin

1 1/2 oz. gin
1/2 oz. Campari
1/2 oz. Cointreau
1/2 oz. dry vermouth

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir until well chilled. Strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with an orange twist.

Recipe from Cold Glass.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Basil Cranberry Julep

Basil Cranberry Julep

The Mint Julep may be a classic, but it isn't really a cocktail I crave very often. It's just so very sweet, without much to balance it out. I used to think I'd only ever want one during the Kentucky Derby; I've been forced to amend that statement after a visit to Houmas House Plantation outside of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where we sipped Mint Juleps while touring the beautiful gardens at sunset. A Mint Julep can be perfect in the right setting.

Despite my Mint Julep misgivings, I like the idea of trying some variations on the simple mint-sugar-bourbon mixture, and this one from Nick Caruana of The Straight Up looked like a perfect candidate. It swaps out the mint for basil, the bourbon for mezcal, and the plain simple syrup for a cranberry syrup, which I already had made up for my Autumn Cranberry Old Fashioned.

Like a traditional Mint Julep, this cocktail dances dangerously close to being too sweet. The mezcal really helps provide some balance in this respect, as does the slight tartness of the cranberry syrup. It's still not my favorite, but I'm really glad I made it. One of the most remarkable things about it is how very much like a julep it tastes, even with its unique ingredients. I could definitely find a situation or two in which this would be the perfect cocktail to sip. Nick points out that Derby Day and Cinco de Mayo usually fall quite close together - I think I know what I'll be drinking this year.

Basil Cranberry Julep

Basil Cranberry Julep

2 oz. mezcal
1 oz. cranberry syrup*
1/4 oz. agave nectar
6 basil leaves

Add basil leaves and agave nectar to the bottom of a julep cup and muddle gently. Add the mezcal and cranberry syrup. Fill the cup with crushed ice, mounding it on top. Garnish with two basil leaves and some fresh cranberries, if desired. Drizzle about 1/4 oz. cranberry syrup on top.

*For cranberry syrup, Nick recommends reducing cranberry juice in a saucepan and adding sugar. You can also simmer fresh cranberries in equal parts water and sugar until they begin to break down. Crush them with a spoon and then strain the syrup. Either way, let it cool completely before using.

Recipe from The Straight Up.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Pretzel Bites with Honey Mustard Sauce

Pretzel Bites

Soft pretzels are one of my favorite bar snacks, but I always thought they'd be too complicated to make at home. Getting the dough to rise, achieving that perfectly browned exterior... I figured it was all better left to the experts.

Until one night last year when, alone in my apartment, I suddenly and inexplicably began craving soft pretzels. I figured I might as well look into how hard it would be to make them. And I found a recipe on Sally's Baking Addiction that promised easy, 30-minute soft pretzels. No mixer, five ingredients. It seemed worth a shot.

A half hour later, I was gobbling down warm, delicious (albeit oddly-shaped) soft pretzels and feeling thoroughly pleased with myself and the general state of the universe. As promised, they were simple to make and really good. After a couple more attempts to make anything resembling an actual pretzel, I decided I might achieve more picturesque results making bite-sized versions.

Pretzel Dough

I was skeptical about the 30-minute claim when I saw that this recipe uses yeast; usually, when you add yeast to dough, you have to let it rise, sometimes for hours (which is why I have yet to make homemade cinnamon rolls, because I just can't wait that long for my breakfast). But I guess pretzels are pretty dense, so they don't need all that time. And other than that, there's nothing inherently difficult about making yeasted dough.

You begin the recipe by combining a packet of yeast with warm water in a bowl, stirring it until the yeast is dissolved. Add some sugar and salt, and then slowly stir in flour to form a dough. It will get pretty thick at the end, so I like to add the last bit of flour as I knead it. The dough is then divided into sixths, each of which is rolled out and cut into bite-sized pieces.

Pretzel Bites

One of the things that gives pretzels their unique texture and flavor is a baking soda bath before they're baked. Boiling the pretzels briefly in an alkaline solution (lye is traditionally used) changes the texture of the crust and helps them brown. This isn't a complicated process; they're just boiled for 20 seconds in a water and baking soda mixture. You can technically skip it, but they'll be much less pretzel-like.

After the bath, the pretzels are brushed with beaten egg and salted. They bake for about 10 minutes. That's all that's standing between you and perfect, warm, delicious pretzel bites.

Pretzel Bites

These pretzels are really at their best when they're fresh out of the oven. They're still good once they've cooled down, but nothing beats them when they're piping hot. I like to serve them with a simple honey-mustard sauce, but there are lots of possibilities there. They're a great appetizer or snack and go really well with beer or cocktails.

Pretzel Bites

Pretzel Bites

1 1/2 cups warm water
1 packet of yeast
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
~4 cups flour
1 egg, beaten
coarse salt

For water bath
9 cups water
1/2 cup baking soda

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine the warm water and yeast in a mixing bowl and stir until yeast is dissolved. Add salt and sugar and stir. Add three cups of flour gradually, one cup at a time. The dough will become very thick. Add another 3/4 cup flour, working it in until the dough is no longer sticky. If it's too difficult to stir, you can work in this flour and up to another 1/2 cup flour while you knead the dough.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface (I use a large cutting board for easy cleanup) and knead it, adding more flour if needed. It should be nicely elastic and not sticky. Shape it into a ball and use a large knife to cut it into six pieces. Roll each of these pieces out into a rope about 20" long. You may need to lightly moisten your hands to absorb the flour and give the dough some traction. Cut the rope into 1-inch long pieces with a knife.

Combine 9 cups of water and 1/2 cup baking soda in a small pot and bring to a rolling boil. Add the pretzel bites a few at a time and let them boil for 20 seconds before removing them with a slotted spoon or spatula. Arrange them on the prepared baking sheet.

In a small bowl, beat the egg with a whisk or electric beater until it is smooth. Brush the beaten egg onto the pretzel bites and sprinkle them with coarse salt. Bake 10-12 minutes until nice and brown.

Pretzel Bites with Honey Mustard Sauce

Honey-Mustard Dipping Sauce

1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 tbsp. dijon mustard
1 tbsp. honey
1 dash soy sauce

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir until smooth. Adjust to taste.

Pretzel recipe adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction.