Thursday, March 31, 2016

Trinidad Sour

Trinidad Sour

One of my favorite new bars in Boston is Hojoko. The cocktails there are incredibly good, but the place doesn't take itself too seriously. They serve brightly-colored cocktails out of those square circulating juice tanks and have a wide selection of frozen drinks and sake bombs. These things aren't usually the mark of a craft cocktail bar, but these same cocktails have ingredients like shochu, absinthe, Fernet Branca, and coconut-infused Campari. The bartenders there have also always been incredibly friendly and informative, willing to discuss the cocktails and their unique ingredients.

The second time I went to Hojoko, I ordered the 1970 Sour. The ingredients were Angostura bitters, Wray & Nephew (a white overproof rum), passionfruit, almond, and sesame. The bartender paused a moment and said, "Ok, but just so you know, Angostura bitters are the base of the drink." I didn't even understand what he meant at first. Angostura bitters are added to drinks in dashes, not ounces. I wasn't sure if I would like it. I assumed an Angostura-based drink would be unbearably bitter. But the bartender assured me that it wasn't, and I figured I'd give it a go.

Wow. I can't remember the last time I was so blown away by a cocktail. Angostura bitters have an incredible rich, spiced flavor that allows them to stand out in drinks even when added in small amounts. When you throw an ounce of them in a cocktail, the result is amazingly flavorful. And it really gives you a sense of what the bitters taste like, and what they're adding to your cocktails in smaller quantities. I really didn't have a good handle on their flavor profile before I tried the 1970 Sour.

After that night at Hojoko, I began seeing Angostura-based cocktails popping up all over the place. So I decided to try and make one myself. It seemed only natural to try the Trinidad Sour, one of the first drinks to give this ingredient a starring role. Imbibe refers to it as a "paradigm shifter" and I think they might be right. This is definitely one of the most unusual things I've tried in a cocktail in a while. I quickly ran through my tiny bottle of Angostura and invested in the much larger 16 oz. size.

Trinidad Sour

The Trindidad Sour is not an overwhelmingly bitter drink. It's rich and incredibly flavorful. It smells a bit like Christmas potpourri. The flavor is deep notes of cinnamon and allspice, with a subtly bitter finish. It's surprisingly bright. And that color! It's easily one of the most beautiful cocktails out there.

History: The Trinidad Sour was invented by Giuseppe Gonzalez at the Clover Club in Brooklyn in 2009. It is based on a slightly earlier cocktail called the Trinidad Especiale, which was invented by Italian bartender Valentino Bolognese for the Angostura European Cocktail Competition in 2008. It uses Pisco instead of rye. The names of both cocktails pay homage to the country where Angostura bitters are made.

Trinidad Sour

1 oz. Angostura bitters
1 oz. orgeat
3/4 oz. lemon juice
1/2 oz. rye whiskey (100 proof preferred)

Combine all ingredients in a shaker. Fill with ice and shake until well-chilled. Strain into a coupe or cocktail glass.

Recipe from Imbibe.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Prince of Wales

Prince of Wales cocktail

Guess what? It's been exactly a year since I started this blog. The time really flew by. It's been a lot of fun making all these cocktails and sharing them with all of you. I've learned so much and discovered lots of new favorites. I hope you have, too!

What better to celebrate a year of blogging than a champagne cocktail? And not just any champagne cocktail - one fit for a prince. Or rather, invented by one. The Prince of Wales isn't as well-known as many of its sparkling counterparts, but it's a more than worthy addition to your celebratory repertoire. It's got an elegant, classic flavor. The rye tastes rich with the champagne, the hint of pineapple blending it all together perfectly and elevating the final product beyond the realm of the ordinary. As Paul Clarke of The Cocktail Chronicles writes, "It's a decadent recipe to read, and the drink is obviously the work of someone who takes their refreshment very seriously, and has plenty of time and resources to do so. A prince, in other words."

Prince of Wales cocktail

History: The Prince of Wales cocktail is so named because it was a favorite of King Edward VII when he was still just Albert Edward, the Prince of Wales. And, as his mother was Queen Victoria, until recently England's longest-reigning monarch, he was the Prince of Wales for quite a while - 60 years, longer than anyone else. (Interestingly, the current Prince of Wales, Prince Charles, has held the title of "heir apparent" longer than Edward did, for reasons I'm not going to get into here.) He reigned as King from 1901-1910. His son was George V, and his grandsons were Kings Edward VIII and George VI, whose story was recently depicted in The King's Speech (in case, like me, you get your British monarchs confused unless you have Hollywood movies to orient you).

Edward VII
King Edward VII

Edward had quite the reputation as a playboy and bon vivant. He had several mistresses and was known to frequent a brothel in Paris that had a custom bathtub that could be filled with champagne. We know from the 1901 book The Private Life of King Edward VII, an anonymously-written biography of the king, that he enjoyed drinking champagne as well as possibly bathing in it. The book contains a detailed section on the monarch's drinking habits, including tidbits like "the Prince is not in any sense a beer drinker" and the fact that he kept a small flask of brandy on the side table in his entrance hall at Marlborough House because once a friend of his fell ill there and "no brandy was at hand to restore the sufferer, and the illness proved fatal." Of the Prince of Wales cocktail, the biographer says:

He is also credited with having composed an excellent "cocktail." It consists of a little rye whisky, crushed ice, a small square of pineapple, a dash of Angostura bitters, a piece of lemon peel, a few drops of Maraschino, a little champagne, and powdered sugar to taste. This "short drink" is often asked for at the clubs he frequents.

The recipe was given modern proportions by David Wondrich in his book Imbibe!Though the 1901 recipe post-dates Jerry Thomas' Bon Vivant's Companion, the Prince was probably drinking his concoction around the same time Thomas was tending bar, maybe even in Thomas' bar at one point - a popular story claims that Thomas served the Prince his first Mint Julep in New York during his 1860 visit.

Prince of Wales

1 1/2 oz. rye
1/4 tsp. maraschino liqueur
1 tsp. sugar or simple syrup
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 chunk fresh pineapple
1 oz. sparkling wine

If using sugar, combine with bitters at the bottom of a shaker and add a dash of water. Stir to dissolve. Otherwise, just combine your simple syrup and bitters. Add rye, maraschino, and the chunk of pineapple. Fill the shaker with ice and shake nice and hard ("brutally," Wondrich says) to crush the pineapple. Strain into a goblet or coupe glass. Add sparkling wine and garnish with a lemon twist.

Recipe from Imbibe! by David Wondrich via The Cocktail Chronicles.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Bottle Buy: Amaro Averna

Black Manhattan

When we were in New York in January, we had a fantastic dinner at Gramercy Tavern with a couple of friends. It was a serious splurge for us; we ordered two bottles of wine and did the six-course tasting menu. It was some of the most incredible food I've ever had. As we dug into the ridiculous assortment of desserts they brought us, the waitress asked if we'd like a digestif. We waffled a bit, not sure what to order, and she offered to bring out a couple of amari.

Amaro has been on my radar as a potential cocktail ingredient, but the reason I hadn't bought any was because there were just so many. I would see them in recipes: Amaro Montenegro, Amaro Averna, Fernet Branca, Amaro Nonino, Cynar, Ramazotti. There was no way I could buy them all, and I had no idea which one would be the best to choose.

That night at Gramercy Tavern, our waitress brought out two: Amaro Averna and Amaro Nonino. We drank them straight up. It was absolutely perfect after our big meal. They were both sweet enough that they worked after dessert but bitter enough to be great digestifs. We agreed that we liked the Averna a little better, which worked out well, because it's the cheaper of the two ($30 vs. $50). As soon as we got back to Boston, we bought a bottle, ready to whip it out after dinner parties to impress our friends.

Amaro Averna

Averna is made by soaking herbs, roots, dried fruit, and citrus rind in a base of grain alcohol. Caramel is later added for flavor and sweetness. Its flavor is described as "exotic spice, wood, maple syrup, cinnamon, and dried orange peel." Supposedly the recipe comes from the Benedictine monks of St. Spirito's Abbey in Caltanissetta, Sicily. (You may recall that the Benedictine monks have a history of making tasty liqueurs.) They had been making the herbal elixir for years when a rich textile merchant, Salvatore Averna, gave a generous donation to their Abbey in 1859. To thank him, they gave Salvatore the recipe. Realizing he had a seriously delicious secret on his hands, he created the company Fratelli Averna in 1868 and began selling Amaro Averna to the public. His son later took over the business and expanded it, selling Averna all over Europe. Currently, the fourth generation of Avernas is running the business, which was acquired by Gruppo Campari in 2014.

Amaro Averna

Price: $30
Alcohol Content: 29%
Popular Cocktails: The Black Manhattan is one of the few that's currently widespread. It's traditionally consumed on its own.

Much as I enjoy drinking Averna straight, I've also started experimenting with it in cocktails, and I'm really liking the result. My go-to right now is the Black Manhattan. There are a lot of versions of this cocktail out there. My favorite so far is the one below, which I found in a Reddit thread about what cocktails to make with Averna. It replaces half the sweet vermouth in my favorite Manhattan recipe with Averna, and half the Angostura bitters with orange bitters.

I think I like the Black Manhattan better than a traditional Manhattan. It's less sweet, but the Averna leaves lingering flavors of raisins and dark fruit. When you taste them side by side, the Averna makes for a deeper, smoother cocktail, blending the rye and vermouth together better into a harmonious whole.

Black Manhattan

Black Manhattan

2 oz. rye
1/2 oz. sweet vermouth (I like Punt e Mes)
1/2 oz. Averna amaro
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 dash orange bitters

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass and stir until chilled. Strain into a rocks glass or coupe. Garnish with a cherry or orange peel if desired.

Recipe adapted from Reddit user murrayhenson.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Improved Japanese Cocktail

Improved Japanese Cocktail

What qualifies as a Tiki drink? This article by Doug Winship I found today makes it clear that it's not a simple question. Apparently people have strong and differing opinions on this issue. I always thought anything vaguely tropical or beachy involving rum probably qualified, and Doug basically agrees with this. But he cites an article by Humuhumu that argues that a drink has to be created in a Tiki bar to really qualify - knocking out things like the Daiquiri, the Singapore Sling, the Pina Colada, all of which were created in actual foreign, tropical locations rather than under a plastic bamboo awning in Los Angeles. It's kind of funny to think that it's the inauthenticity that actually makes an authentic Tiki cocktail.

I'm not sure the Improved Japanese Cocktail would qualify as Tiki under most criteria. It was not created at a Tiki bar. It has no elaborate garnish, and it doesn't even contain rum. But it does contain orgeat, and lots of it, which made me think Tiki as soon as I took a sip. Orgeat is an almond syrup. It's used in the Mai Tai and a number of other Tiki drinks, and I think of it as a thoroughly Tiki ingredient. But it turns out that orgeat pre-dates Tiki by quite a lot. Jerry Thomas was serving up cocktails containing orgeat in the 1860's, most notably the Japanese Cocktail, which this cocktail is based on: Cognac, orgeat, and bitters. The "improvement" is the addition of lemon juice.

So if you want some of the flavor of Tiki in classic cocktail form, the Improved Japanese Cocktail might be for you.

History: This cocktail comes from Toby Cecchini at the Long Island Bar in Brooklyn. But, as I mentioned, its ancestor the Japanese Cocktail goes much further back. Jerry Thomas included it in his famous 1862 Bartender's Guide. As far as why he called it a Japanese cocktail when none of its ingredients are even remotely Japanese: he was tending bar at the Metropolitan Hotel when it housed the first Japanese delegation to the United States in 1860. It seems likely that he created it in their honor. Some accounts take the story a bit further, suggesting that the delegation's translator, Tateishi "Tommy" Onojirou Noriyuki, spent a good amount of time quaffing drinks with Thomas, and might have individually inspired the cocktail.

Improved Japanese Cocktail

2 oz. Cognac
1 oz. orgeat
1 oz. lemon juice
3 dashes Peychaud's bitters

Combine all ingredients in a shaker. Add ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a cocktail or coupe glass.

Recipe from The Barman Cometh.