Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Recipe Round-Up: Champagne Cocktails

It's no secret that I love champagne cocktails. Coincidentally, I'm also a huge fan of New Year's Eve, and the two go together really well. This year we're having some friends over to our place instead of going out, so I'll be the one mixing the drinks. Here's a roundup of my favorite sparkling cocktails, any of which would be perfect for ringing in the new year!

Champagne Cocktail

1. Champagne Cocktail - It doesn't get easier or more classic than this. I love to enhance the original recipe (bitters, sugar cube, lemon twist, bubbly) with orange bitters and an orange twist.

Champagne Julep

2. Champagne Julep - This sparkling riff on a Mint Julep makes for a beautiful presentation, especially when served in a julep tin or cup with a metal straw.

Air Mail

3. Air Mail - Honey simple syrup adds beautiful richness and flavor to this sparkling Daiquiri riff. It's an impressive drink and a great crowd-pleaser. Definitely one of my all-time favorites.

Italian 57

4. Italian 57 - If you're up for something a little more complicated but well worth the effort, the Italian 57 is sure to surprise and delight your guests. Amaretto, a bit of gin, lemon, blood orange, orange marmalade, rosemary, and sparkling rose make for an incredibly aromatic and deliciously tart cocktail. Plus, I mean... look at it!

French 75

5. French 75 - Possibly the most classic champagne cocktail out there, the French 75 is a perfect go-to when you want to dress up your bottle of bubbly. There is much debate over whether the gin or Cognac version is best - I'm firmly in the Cognac camp with this one, but try them both and decide for yourself!

Old Cuban

6. Old Cuban - This is another drink on my list of definite crowd-pleasers, which makes sense as it's actually quite similar to the Air Mail. You can't go wrong with aged rum, simple syrup, lime, muddled mint, and champagne.


7. Curative - This is one of my own recipes from last New Year's, a sparkling riff on the Penicillin. Scotch and champagne work surprisingly well together with a bit of honey-ginger syrup, and crystallized ginger makes a perfect garnish.

Strawberry Sparkler

8. Strawberry Sparkler - I developed this one for South of Plum, working with the Air Mail and the Old Cuban as inspiration. It's basically a sparkling strawberry daiquiri. With it's lovely flavor and pretty pink hue, it's a great choice for guests.

Last Cocktail

9. Last Cocktail - This one requires a bit of extra prep, but it's completely worth it. A rosemary-pear puree along with a rosemary and clove garnish make an otherwise summery drink - gin, lemon, champagne - very appropriate for a wintry New Year's.


10. Seelbach - This is a whiskey-drinker's champagne cocktail. Don't let its rosy hue fool you: with bourbon, Cointreau, and lots of bitters, it's very boozy and not too sweet.

What will you be drinking this New Year's Eve?

Monday, December 19, 2016

Mixology Monday: The Innocents Abroad

The Innocents Abroad

Hello from Louisiana! GarnishGuy and I are back home until Christmas, spending time with family and eating far more than we ought to. We're hoping to sneak away to New Orleans later in the week to celebrate our anniversary (eight years!) and check out some bars. Until then, we've been having fun experimenting with the contents of my parents' liquor cabinet, which has definitely grown since I started this blog! Last night's cocktails were, appropriately, the De La Louisiane and the Vieux Carre - both big hits.

Mixology Monday Since we were pretty busy leading up to our trip, I didn't have much time to experiment with cocktails for this month's Mixology Monday. Luckily, the theme of this month's challenge, hosted by Stacey Markow, is digestifs. And I've had an absolutely fantastic recipe for a digestif that I've been looking forward to sharing. It's not an original recipe, but it's so good I can't resist sharing it for this challenge.

There's an excellent new restaurant in Boston's South End called SRV. It's a "Venetian-style Bacaro and wine bar" from the folks behind The Salty Pig and Canary Square, two of our favorite spots. We first went there for a drink while we waited for a table at Toro. We ordered a couple of cocktails and several of their bar bites, and we were really blown away. The bar snacks were ridiculously good: salt cod brandade on black bread with herbs, soft boiled quail eggs with white anchovies and a crunchy garlic pangrattato, grilled octopus with pine nuts and preserved lemon... I need to stop talking about this, I'm making myself really hungry right now.

The cocktail menu at SRV is heavy on amari and vermouth, which I love. They have a vermouth of the day ("We always drink to world peace") and some really great cocktails. One of these is The Innocents Abroad: Fighting Cock bourbon, Amaro Nonino, Gran Classico, and Kina L'Aero D'Or. It's been a while since I was so blown away by a cocktail that I thought, "I HAVE to make this at home," but that was what I thought about The Innocents Abroad, and I didn't really care how many bottles of liquor I needed to buy (three, it turned out - four if I wanted to use the same bourbon). On our second visit, I worked up the courage to ask the bartender for the recipe, which he happily shared. I hope they won't mind me re-posting it here, so that others can know the joy of this wonderful drink.

The Innocents Abroad

The Innocents Abroad is a perfect digestif. We recently made it after dinner for a couple of friends, and it was wonderful: sweet with just enough bitterness. It has an almost syrupy texture, thick on your tongue. It's one of those cocktails where the ingredients knit together so perfectly and tightly that it's hard to pick them all out. It's nutty, citrusy, and herbal, with the lovely flavor of the Amaro Nonino in the middle of your sip and the distinctive bitterness of the Gran Classico and Kina L'Aero at the end. It's definitely one of the best cocktails I've tried this year.

History: This cocktail was created for SRV by David Spielburg. According to this article, it's a something of a riff on the Paper Plane. I imagine it must have been named after the book The Innocents Abroad, or the New Pilgrim's Progress by Mark Twain, which tells the story of his travels through Europe and the Holy Land on a retired Civil War ship.

The Innocents Abroad

1 1/2 oz. bourbon (Fighting Cock recommended)
3/4 oz. Amaro Nonino
1/2 oz. Gran Classico
1/2 oz. Kina L'Aero D'Or

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir until chilled. Strain into an Old Fashioned glass and garnish with a lemon twist.

Recipe courtesy of SRV.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Pear Tree

Pear Tree Cocktail

I've got some very exciting news! I've been selected as one of Drizly's Top Shelf Bloggers. I kind of can't believe that I'm on the same page as so many awesome cocktail blogs that I've been following for a while: Apartment BartenderGastronomistaHolly & FloraStir & Strain... the list goes on! Be sure to check out some of the other bloggers on the list. And, seeing as it's freeze-your-nosehairs cold in much of the US right now, don't forget that Drizly will deliver booze right to your door!

Yes, the temperature has dropped and the holidays are here. I kind of can't believe it. I usually spend so much time looking forward to Christmas, and this year we didn't even get a Christmas tree! I'm seeing festive cocktails popping up left and right on Twitter and Instagram, and I haven't really had time to get into the holiday spirit cocktail-wise. So during last night's frenzy of packing - we're flying home to spend the holiday in Louisiana with our families, where I believe it's a balmy 60 degrees - I made this holiday-appropriate cocktail and named it in honor of the Twelve Days of Christmas. I even came up with a little verse for it:

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...
A cocktail made with sherry!

I'm pretty sure you could write a whole song here... Four Roses, Three Olives, Two... um... well, I haven't really thought it all through yet.

Pear Tree Cocktail

I just love the flavors in this cocktail. Amontillado sherry is one of my favorite new ingredients, and I think it works really well here, adding its nutty and fruity flavor without contributing too much sweetness. It blends beautifully with pear juice and bourbon. In lieu of regular maple syrup, I used some Noble Chamomile & Vanilla Maple Syrup, which was a subtle but nice touch - their Bourbon Barrel Aged Maple Syrup would also be awesome. And it turns out all the syrups at Muddle & Stir are 25% off right now! Use the discount code syrup25. If you need some stocking stuffers, the Noble Maple Syrups are perfect.

Happy holidays!

Pear Tree

1 1/2 oz. bourbon
3/4 oz. Amontillado sherry
3/4 oz. lemon juice
1/2 oz. maple syrup (I used Noble Chamomile & Vanilla Maple Syrup)
1/2 oz. pear juice
1 dash Angostura bitters

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a coupe glass and garnish with a candied pear*.

*For the candied pears, I adapted recipe from Adventuress (albeit in a very haphazard way - read on, but don't expect a precise recipe). I sliced the pear as thinly as I could, sprinkled both sides of the slices with sugar, and baked them on parchment paper at 300 degrees for at least an hour, maybe longer (it's going to depend a lot on the thickness of your slices). I checked them and flipped them roughly every 10 minutes. After 20 or 30 minutes, they had released a lot of juices, so I drained and replaced the parchment paper. I think I sprinkled on more sugar at 40 minutes or so. It took a long time to get them stiff enough to hold their shape when placed on the rim of a cocktail glass, and the thinner parts threatened to burn, so even slices is a must. Also, FYI, after 20-30 minutes they may not be stiff but they are delicious. Throw a few extra slices in for eating. :-)

Monday, December 12, 2016

Pale King

Pale King

After finally feeling like I have a bit of a handle on the different varieties of gin and whiskey, I'm trying to learn more about rum.

My Bar School post about rum is really quite basic, and if I was to write an updated one, I would structure it differently. I've learned that the most important way to separate varieties of rum is by geography and the sugar source you start with. As different regions tend to have their own styles, these two things go hand in hand, and you can use one to infer the other. They can tell you a lot about how a rum is going to taste.

I used to think there were too many countries producing rum to learn what all of the different varieties were like, but it can be quickly simplified if you know whether the country in question was previously a Spanish, English, or French colony. The Spanish style of rum, produced in places like Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Panama, is a lighter style made from molasses. Former British colonies such as Jamaica and Guyana use molasses or Demerara sugar as a base, and create darker, heavier, spicier rums. And former French colonies like Haiti and Martinique use sugar cane juice, producing dry, grassy rums.*

This French style of rum is known as Rhum Agricole, and it's mentioned specifically in many recipes because of its distinctive flavor. Many of the best brands come from Martinique, which is the only producer to have a specific designation ("Appellation de Origine Contrôlée") for its rhum agricole. But other countries do produce a similar style without the same official standards. I was happy to learn that Barbancourt, a brand from Haiti, is also an agricole-style rum. It's quite affordable ($20) and easy to find. I picked up a bottle of Barbancourt White, which the Death & Co cocktail book recommends as an option for a less vegetal-tasting agricole that's still got it's signature sharp, tangy flavor. It's quite good, and very different from the molasses-based white rums I've usually purchased in the past.

Pale King

I was so enchanted by the specific flavor of the Barbancourt that I really wanted a spirit-forward cocktail that would put it front and center. I kind of wanted a rum martini, but I wasn't sure if that would work. But I remembered a great drink I had at Loyal Nine that was basically exactly that (going back to look at the menu, it was the Georgetown Club), so I knew it could be done. I used Lillet instead of vermouth, which I thought might help smooth out the sharp edges of the rum. A dash of grapefruit bitters and a lemon twist tied it all together. It was exactly what I wanted.

The color of this cocktail is a beautiful pale yellow, and this name just sprung into my mind. It's an homage to the novel by David Foster Wallace, which I freely admit I haven't read.

*If you want a great guide to rum basics, check out Inu a Kena's Rum 101, which does a great job of breaking down all this and more. It also has more information on each individual producer's style.

Pale King

2 1/2 oz. white rhum agricole (I used Barbancourt White)
1 oz. Lillet Blanc
1 dash grapefruit bitters (I used Scrappy's)

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir until well chilled. Strain into a coupe glass and garnish with a lemon twist: expel the oils and rub the peel around the sides of the glass, then discard.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Hotel Belvedere

Hotel Belvedere

I'm a little late, but I should mention that the roundup for November's Mixology Monday has been posted over at Doc Elliot's Mixology! Check it out for eight brunch-appropriate recipes that will meet all your day-drinking needs. My contribution to the list was the Bombay Sour, which was inspired by my bottle of Black Cloud Saffron Mango bitters. It was the third drink I made with my Black Cloud sampler pack, and today I've got a fourth. Only bottle to go! I found all the flavors in the pack very inspiring, but when I tasted the Charred Cedar bitters, I was really blown away. They've got an incredible woody, smoky flavor that is amazing with bourbon. They make a mean Old Fashioned, but I was looking forward to tailoring a cocktail specifically for these awesome bitters.

Black Cloud Charred Cedar Bitters

I definitely wanted to pair the bitters with bourbon, and I liked the idea of them with Benedictine. This put me in mind of a drink from The PDT Cocktail Book I made almost exactly a year ago called the Hotel D'Alsace, made with Irish whiskey, Benedictine, and Cointreau. I decided to work with the recipe to include the bitters and make it a bit more to my taste, as I found the Hotel D'Alsace a little too sweet. I replaced the Irish whiskey with bourbon and the Cointreau with orange bitters. The result is rich, sweet, herbaceous, and a bit smoky. I made the first one in a Glencairn glass because it was what I had clean and nearby, and I liked the way the shape of the glass brought the smell of the cedar to your nose and forced you to get a good whiff of the rosemary. I decided to keep it in a tulip-shaped glass.

Since this version of the Hotel D'Alsace has charred cedar and burnt rosemary, I started thinking about ruined hotels when it came time to name it. I was reminded of an incredible experience my husband and I had in Croatia when we were traveling after college. We were exploring the Old City of Dubrovnik (now popularized for its role as King's Landing in Game of Thrones). Looking out from the harbor, you can see how the coast curves around slightly to the southeast, forming a small peninsula. On its tip was a big, beautiful building, and we wondered what it might be. Later, we walked a ways up into the hills surrounding the city to get an aerial view of the town and decided to walk there and see what it was.

As we got closer, we realized that while the building had once been beautiful, it was now completely in ruins. We had stumbled upon the ruin of the Hotel Belvedere, a luxurious hotel that was destroyed by the Yugoslav People’s Army on October 3, 1991, during the Siege of Dubrovnik.

Hotel Belvedere
The Hotel Belvedere - you can see why we weren't aware it was in ruins at first. Photo from Untapped Cities.

We wandered around for a while, exploring the hollow buildings and taking photographs. The gutted buildings are covered in graffiti and stained with rust. It was such a sad embodiment of the region as a whole, a real and chilling reminder of the violence that had occurred there not so long ago.

To this day I'm surprised the ruin was so empty, and that we hadn't heard about it before stumbling upon it. It's such a prominent landmark when you look out from Dubrovnik. If you Google it, you can find a few blogs where other travelers describe exploring the ruins, and there are spectacular photos here, here, and here. Part of it was used for the battle between Prince Oberon and the Mountain in Game of Thrones. I was happy to find an article that says the ruin was recently purchased by a Russian billionaire who is going to turn it into a luxury hotel once again. As interesting as the ruins were, they were a monument to a terrible conflict, and I'm glad the region is healing and moving on.

Hotel Belvedere
The Hotel Belvedere's sign in the ruins. Photo from Untapped Cities by Thomas Löbig.

Finding the Hotel Belvedere was one of the more memorable parts of our time in Croatia, and I think it makes a fitting name for this cocktail. Whereas Paris' Hotel D'Alsace is bright and sweet, the Hotel Belvedere is charred and bitter - but still elegant and strong.

Hotel Belvedere

Hotel Belvedere

2 oz. bourbon
1/2 oz. Benedictine
1/2 dropper Black Cloud Charred Cedar Bitters
1 dash orange bitters

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir until chilled. Strain into a tulip-shaped glass and garnish with a sprig of rosemary. Briefly burn the tip of the rosemary so that it is smoky and fragrant.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Charles Lindbergh

Charles Lindbergh

One great bar in Boston that has been a cocktail inspiration for me is Island Creek Oyster Bar. As at its neighboring bars also run by Jackson Cannon, Eastern Standard and The Hawthorne, the cocktails at ICOB are never anything short of fantastic. It was the first place I ever tried an Air Mail, and it has since become one of my favorite cocktails. Last time I was there, I ordered the Charles Lindbergh, particularly because of the inclusion of Tempus Fugit's Kina L'Aero D'Or, one of my new obsessions. It was really good, and I knew I'd like to make it at home.

Luckily, it turns out the Charles Lindbergh is an old cocktail, dating back to the classic Savoy Cocktail Book, and the original recipe wasn't hard to find: gin, Kina Lillet, apricot brandy, and a dash of orange juice. Lacking the last two ingredients, I came up with my own variation using a dash of Cointreau and about 1/4 tsp. apricot preserves. I also used the Kina L'Aero, which is sweeter and more bitter than the Lillet Blanc on the shelves today, but probably more similar to the original recipe. The result is surprisingly similar to what I remember from the bar, and thoroughly enjoyable. You could just as easily make it with Lillet Blanc or even dry or blanc vermouth; you'd be in for a different experience, but I think it would still be a very quaffable cocktail. It's nicely balanced, sweet with a bitter finish, with flavors of citrus, apricot, and botanicals.

Charles Lindbergh
Charles Lindbergh

History: Charles Lindbergh was, of course, the famous pilot who flew the Spirit of St. Louis from New York to Paris on the first nonstop solo flight across the Atlantic. He was only 25 years old. Harry Craddock of the Savoy Hotel in London invented this cocktail to celebrate the occasion. It would later appear in the 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book.

Charles Lindbergh

1 1/2 oz. gin
1 oz. Kina L'Aero D'Or, Lillet, or Cocchi Americano
1 dash Cointreau
1/4 tsp. apricot preserves

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass and stir to mix in the preserves. Add ice and stir until chilled. Fine-strain into a coupe glass. Twist a lemon peel over the cocktail and discard.

Recipe adapted from Cocktail 101.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Holiday Gift Guide 2016

It's that time of year again! Last December I made a little holiday gift guide, and I've been thinking about what to put in this year's ever since. Here are some gift ideas for the cocktail lover in your life!

1. Noble Tonic 01: Tuthilltown Bourbon Barrel Aged Maple Syrup. This maple syrup is positively out of this world. It's fantastic in cocktails and I think it would be positively divine on pancakes. $27.50 for a 16 oz. bottle.

2. Black Cloud Bitters Sampler. Bitters samplers are the best way to expand your collection, and I love the flavors in this pack from Black Cloud. It contains five varieties: Charred Cedar, Saffron Mango, Black & Blue, Prairie Rose, and Garden Party. I've been using them like crazy. $37 for five 1 oz. bottles.

3. Amaro Nonino Quintessentia. Whether you're buying a gift for a devoted amaro lover or someone who has never even heard of it, you can't go wrong with Amaro Nonino. This sweet, nutty, slightly bitter digestif is delicious on its own after dinner or mixed into cocktails like the Paper Plane. $40-50 for a 750 ml bottle.

4. Spirit, Mixer, Glass, and Garnish. It's not surprising that the Kickstarter for this gorgeous cocktail journal was funded in no time. It's custom designed for you to record your favorite cocktail recipes. Check out my post on it for more details. $27.

5. Shake. Stir. Sip. This little cocktail book by Kara Newman contains only recipes that use equal parts of their ingredients, from classics like the Negroni and Last Word to newer recipes like Amor y Amargo's Sharpie Moustache. With easy recipes and beautiful photos, it's great for cocktail-makers of all skill levels. $17.

6. Tovolo King Cube Clear Ice System. There are a lot of ways to achieve crystal-clear ice at home, but none quite so easy as this Tovolo ice maker. The insulated container and compartmentalized molds create one perfectly clear cube and one regular cube at a time. Also available in spheres. $22.

7. Hibiki Japanese Harmony. This is the Japanese whiskey that everyone seems to be talking about. Beautifully flavored and packaged in a gorgeous bottle, it makes a perfect gift for any Scotch or whiskey drinker. $60-70 for a 750 ml bottle.

8. Oak Bottle. Barrel-aging cocktails is all the rage right now, but if you're not ready to commit to an oak barrel and a few months of waiting, the Oak Bottle is the gadget for you. This bottle will oak-age spirits and cocktails in only days. It would be a great gift for the cocktail lover who has everything. $80 for a 750 ml bottle or $60 for the 355 ml mini version.

9. Copper Bar Tools from Cocktail Kingdom. I'm a sucker for pretty bar tools, and I think this shaker, julep strainer, barspoon, and jigger are about as pretty as it gets. They all come in other finishes, sizes, and styles (including a pair of weighted copper shaking tins). $133 for everything pictured.

What's on your wish list this year?