Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Bitter Mai Tai

Bitter Mai Tai

I've got another Tiki cocktail today! The Bitter Mai Tai is a twist on a very traditional Tiki beverage, the classic Mai Tai. This version replaces a good bit of the rum with bitter, citrusy Campari for an entirely different experience. Given the name, I was surprised when I took a sip and immediately thought it tasted exactly like Hawaiian Punch - sweet and fruity. The bitterness hits you a fraction of a second after that first taste. From its bright red hue to its intense flavor, this is a great cocktail for when you really want to make an impact.

History: This recipe comes from Jeremy Oertel of Dram in Brooklyn. He based the recipe on another Mai Tai variation that used Angostura bitters instead of rum (which I think I've got to try).

Bitter Mai Tai

1 1/2 oz. Campari
3/4 oz. Jamaican rum (substitute any aged rum)
1/2 oz. orange Curacao
1 oz. lime juice
3/4 oz. orgeat

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a rocks glass filled with crushed ice. Heap more crushed ice on top. Garnish with a sprig of mint.

Recipe from Imbibe.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Lawn Dart

Lawn Dart

The description for the Lawn Dart in The PDT Cocktail Book says that its flavor mimics the aroma of freshly-cut grass. If that doesn't sound like something you'd like to drink, I suppose I understand. But you'd be missing out. One sip of this cocktail really blew me away. The flavors are really unique, but they work perfectly together. The bell pepper, a truly unique cocktail ingredient, makes a big impact. It brings out the grassy notes in the gin and tequila, and the dash of Green Chartreuse ties it all together. It does, indeed, taste like summer.

I have a beef with the recipe, though. It calls for "one 5-inch slice of bell pepper," which is not nearly descriptive enough. If we're talking about, say, cucumber, a 5-inch slice is a very clear unit of measurement; there's really only one dimension in which to cut a cucumber. But a bell pepper is more vague. What orientation is the bell pepper when you cut this slice? Do you slice all the way around the pepper? If not, how wide should the slice be?? I thought about this for way too long.

In the end, I went with a slice from the top to the bottom of the pepper (roughly the instructed five inches), about 1/4 inch wide. Maybe smaller than the recipe intends, but I didn't want to over-bell-pepper my cocktail. And I was pretty happy with the outcome.

History: This cocktail was developed by Sean Hoard at PDT in New York in 2010. He's now the manager of Teardrop in Portland.

Lawn Dart

1 oz. tequila blanco
1 oz. gin
3/4 oz. agave nectar
3/4 oz. lime juice
1/4 oz. Green Chartreuse
1 5-inch slice bell pepper

Recipe from The PDT Cocktail Book.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Charred Lemon Gin Sparkler

Charred Lemon Gin Sparkler

There seems to be two schools of thought when it comes to naming cocktails. There are the descriptive sort of names that give some information on the ingredients (i.e. Cucumber Basil Gimlet, Warm Vanilla, Olive-Rosemary Martini), and then there are those that are a bit more cute and clever (say, Sherlock & Watson, Witty Comeback, 23 Skidoo). I'm definitely a fan of the latter sort. They're much more fun.

That said, the Charred Lemon Gin Sparkler really benefits from its very descriptive name, because it lets you know right off the bat that this cocktail involves charred lemons. This was definitely a new one for me, and I immediately saw the appeal. Burning something can bring out a lot of unique flavor. Browned butter, flamed lemon peels, the caramelized top of a creme brûlée... I could see charred lemon juice being a very good thing.

Charred Lemons

And it was. This is an excellent cocktail. I love rosemary in cocktails because it's so amazingly aromatic. Even a rosemary garnish has a huge impact on the smell and taste of a cocktail. Muddling a little in yields a really delicious herbal flavor. This recipe uses it well. It's just sweet enough, letting the herbal and citrus notes shine through. Charring the lemons really does do something for their flavor; it's richer and more mellow, as the recipe promised. The result tastes extremely sophisticated.

The original recipe for this cocktail makes 12 servings; it would be a great option for big-batch cocktail for a party.

Charred Lemon Gin Sparkler

Charred Lemon Gin Sparkler

1 1/4 oz. gin
1/2 oz. charred lemon juice*
1/4 oz. simple syrup
1 sprig rosemary
1 oz. sparkling wine

Combine rosemary and simple syrup in the bottom of a shaker and muddle. Add gin and charred lemon juice. Fill the shaker with ice and shake until chilled. Double-strain into a rocks glass filled with ice. Top with sparkling wine and garnish with a sprig of rosemary.

*For charred lemon juice, cut a lemon in half and place it cut-side down on a hot skillet for about two minutes. Then juice it as usual.

Recipe adapted from Serious Eats.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Deconstructed Negroni

Deconstructed Negroni

It seems it's Negroni Week! All my favorite sites have been exploding with Negronis and Negroni variations. Few cocktails have such a loyal, enthusiastic following as the Negroni. It makes me even more ashamed to admit that it's really not my favorite cocktail. But that doesn't mean I can't still appreciate it. Plus, with all these twists and variations on the classic gin/Campari/sweet vermouth formula, I'm bound to find a version I'm more on board with. For example, I'm pretty sure I'd adore the Contessa, made with gin, dry vermouth, and Aperol.

This sudden focus on Negronis reminded me of something I've been wanting to try for a while now: dehydrating spirits. A bartender at Roosevelt in Denver introduced me to the concept. They do it with Campari and Green Chartreuse, and he said they used the Campari to make a "white Negroni" with gin and dry vermouth. (Incidentally, there's a more popular White Negroni out there, made with gin, Lillet, and Suze - another recipe I'd love to try.) I decided it was high time I dehydrated some Campari and tried this for myself.

Dehydrating spirits is very easy, especially if you have a dehydrator. Most come with little pans for making fruit rolls that are also perfect for liquids. Just put one in place, pour in your booze, and let it run 12-36 hours. I tried running it overnight at first, and thought the whole thing was a bust - the Campari was thick and sticky, but not crystallized at all. I stirred it up a bit and spread it out and found a few patches of solids I hadn't been able to see. After that it dried out quite quickly. I scraped it up and pounded it into small pieces using a muddler. I didn't take photos, but Camper English has the whole process documented over at Alcademics. He's also got an alternative method for those of you who don't own dehydrators: doing it in the oven.

The crystallized Campari makes for a really cool ingredient. It's very pretty, and tastes about like you'd expect - sweet and herbal at first, and then extremely, wonderfully bitter. For my Deconstructed Negroni, I ran an orange wedge around the edge of my glass and dipped it in the Campari, then added gin, dry vermouth, and an orange peel. Of course, a true Negroni is made with sweet vermouth, but then you lose the visual contrast between the clear liquids and the red solids. It's almost like the ghost of a Negroni.

It tastes a bit like that, too. The Campari takes a minute to blend with the rest of the drink on your tongue, which makes for an interesting transition of flavors as you sip. That along with the texture of the Campari made for a truly unique cocktail. It's not one I'll be making again and again, but it was quite a fun experiment. I look forward to using the dehydrated Campari in other ways, and crystallizing some other liqueurs as well.

Deconstructed Negroni

1 oz. gin
3/4 oz. dry vermouth
Dehydrated Campari to rim glass

Combine gin and dry vermouth in a mixing glass. Add ice and stir until chilled. Run a small piece of orange around the rim of a rocks glass and coat with the dehydrated Campari. Carefully add one large ice cube. Strain the gin and dry vermouth into the glass. Garnish with an orange twist.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Witty Comeback

Witty Comeback

Getting back from vacation is rough, isn't it? We spent last week in California exploring Sonoma, Yosemite, and Highway 1. It's an amazing road trip. Especially if you stock up on great bottles of wine to drink while you're gazing at those beautiful views. Now that we're home, I guess the view from our balcony will have to do. Maybe with a cocktail.

Since I bought my bottle of Amaro Averna, I've been looking for recipes to use it in. I love ginger, so the Witty Comeback immediately caught my eye. A cocktail with just rye, lemon juice, and ginger simple syrup would probably still be really delicious, but the Averna makes this one particularly special. It adds a lovely spice and bitterness, perfectly rounding out the recipe. The flavor is sweet and tart, with a subtle bite.

So far it seems like the Averna works well with whiskey, but I'm looking forward to experimenting with some other spirits. If you've got any Averna recipes, let me know!

History: The Witty Comeback was created by New York Times editor Dan Saltzstein. He wrote a great piece about its conception and perfecting it with Jim Meehan at PDT.

Witty Comeback

2 oz. rye
1/2 oz. Amaro Averna
1/2 oz. lemon juice
1/2 oz. ginger syrup*

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

*For ginger syrup, combine 3/4 cup sugar, 3/4 water, and 1/4 cup chopped, peeled ginger in a saucepan. Bring the mixture to a simmer and stir to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and let steep for 20 minutes. Strain and let cool completely before using.

Recipe from Bon Appetit.