Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Cooper Union

Cooper Union

I'm officially a fan of cocktails that include a bit of smoky, peaty Scotch. I've enjoyed trying different recipes that use it, from the popular Penicillin to the more obscure Avery's Arrack-Ari. I even took a stab at using some in my own recipe with the Blood and Smoke.

It was the Scotch rinse - along with the inclusion of St. Germain, which I have not been using nearly enough lately - that sold me on the Cooper Union. And it's just as good as I imagined. I really like the play of the smoky Scotch with the sweet and floral St. Germain. The orange bitters and twist of lemon add a perfect hint of citrus. This was one that we drank several nights in a row after discovering it. It's the perfect cocktail to sip on in the evening after a long day.

I probably know less about Irish whiskey than any other sort (except maybe Japanese), and I didn't have a bottle in my bar until recently. I went ahead and bought GrandTen Distilling's South Boston Irish Whiskey, which is bottled quite close to where I live. It's quite affordable and very tasty. I thought it worked well in the Cooper Union. I'd love recommendations for other go-to Irish whiskeys for cocktails.

Cooper Union

2 oz. Irish whiskey
1/2 oz. St. Germain
1 dash orange bitters
Laphroig rinse (I used Lagavulin)

Pour a small amount of the Scotch into a rocks glass and turn the glass to coat the edges. Combine whiskey, St. Germain, and bitters in a mixing glass. Stir with ice until chilled. Strain into the prepared glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Recipe from Wine Enthusiast.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

French Pearl

French Pearl

A few weeks ago, I went to New York city for the first time since I really got into cocktails. I showed up with a long list of cocktail bars I wanted to visit, far more than I could ever make it to in one weekend. There are just so many great ones! And a lot of them are clustered together in the East Village: PDT, Death & Co, Amor y Amargo, and Mayahuel are all within blocks of each other. It's almost ridiculous.

One place I was very excited to visit was Pegu Club. It had a very different feel from the speakeasy-style bars: bigger and more elegant. The drinks all had a classic feel, and each one was crafted to perfection. There were very few unusual ingredients on the list. It was a reminder that simplicity can still be incredibly impressive.

I ordered the French Pearl: gin, Pernod, lime, simple syrup, mint. It's a creation of Pegu Club's owner, Audrey Saunders. She seriously has a way with cocktails. The Old Cuban is one of her recipes. She also invented the Earl Grey Martini. Her recipes have the feel of classics that have been around for ages. I think I am officially a die-hard fan.

The French Pearl is just perfect. It's like these ingredients were just begging to end up together in the same glass. Sweet and citrusy with that wonderful hint of anise. Everyone should try this cocktail.

French Pearl

2 oz. gin
1/4 oz. Pernod (I used Herbsaint)
3/4 oz. lime juice
3/4 oz. simple syrup
5-6 mint leaves

Muddle lime juice, simple syrup, and mint leaves in the bottom of a shaker. Add gin and Pernod. Fill shaker with ice and shake until well chilled. Strain into a cocktail glass or coupe. Garnish with mint and/or lime if desired.

Recipe adapted from the James Beard Foundation.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Trois Pêches

Trois Peches

A few days ago I received an email from Ménage à Trois Vodka inviting me to participate in their Galentine's Day Blogger Challenge.

Galentine's Day is a new one for me. Apparently, this holiday occurs on February 13th, and it's a day for women to celebrate female friendships. As far as I can tell, this involves lots of manicures, spa days, brunches, romantic comedies, and - of course - cocktails.

Trois Peches

Now, the cynical side of me could really have a field day with this. The whole Galentine's Day thing is definitely not my usual style. But the thing is, I love any excuse to celebrate and have a good time with friends. I've never been in the "Valentine's Day is too commercial" camp. A holiday that's all about telling the people you care about that you love them? I can get behind that. And I can get behind Galentine's Day too. Especially when there's vodka involved.

Trois Peches

Ménage à Trois Vodka, to be exact. This is a new venture for the long-time winemakers, and it comes in three flavors: original, berry, and citrus. I got to try all three, which arrived in a big box full of Galentine's Day goodies. The original is really an excellent go-to vodka; I subbed it for the gin I usually put in my martini, and was quite impressed by its smooth flavor. But for a Galentine's Day cocktail, I wanted to play with the flavors in the citrus vodka.

Trois Peches

What I like about the Ménage à Trois Citrus is that it's not too sweet. It may smell a bit like orange candy, but the taste is well-balanced: subtly sweet and tart with a hint of bitterness and spice and a lot of citrus flavor. I decided that peaches would be the perfect thing to pair it with, and I think it works perfectly. I chose St. Germain and Lillet Blanc to add some delicate floral notes that I think do a nice job of enhancing the taste of the vodka. Bright and flavorful, this peach martini is sure to be a hit at your Galentine's Day celebration, or any night with your girlfriends. Or any friends, for that matter.

Trois Peches

Thanks to Ménage à Trois for the opportunity to taste their new vodkas! If you want to see more Galentine's Day cocktail recipes, search #matvgalentinesday on Twitter or Instagram, or check Ménage à Trois Vodka's Facebook page.

Trois Pêches

1 1/2 oz. Ménage à Trois Citrus Vodka
1/2 oz. St. Germain
1/2 oz. Lillet Blanc
1/2 peach

Combine all ingredients in the bottom of a shaker and muddle the peach to release its juices. Add ice and shake until well chilled. Fine-strain into a coupe glass. The mixture will be thick, with lots of peach pulp, but it's worth it - be sure to strain out all that delicious vodka! Garnish with a peach slice and a spring of thyme.

For a sparkling twist on this recipe, try adding a splash or two of champagne!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Hot Toddy

Hot Toddy

In the search for a good winter cocktail, it's just about impossible to beat a Hot Toddy. Warm and strong and citrusy, it's the cure for chill and gloomy days, the ideal libation after a foray out into the snow and slush. It will warm you up through-and-through.

The Hot Toddy is a well-known cocktail for which I'm not sure there's really a definitive recipe. There are a ton of variations on the general theme of booze + citrus + sugar, and even the ones that call themselves "classic" vary greatly in their ingredients. Notably, a lot of them contained tea, which I didn't think was traditionally a part of the Hot Toddy. I ended up cobbling together my own recipe based on what I always thought a real Hot Toddy ought to be. I kept it simple, with nothing but bourbon, lemon, honey, hot water, and a cinnamon stick. I could definitely see playing with the base spirit and adding tea or other flavors, but for now this is utter perfection.

If this recipe isn't quite enough to stave off the winter cold, check out the round-up post for Mixology Monday CV over at Doc Elliot's Mixology!

History: The Hot Toddy as we drink it today probably comes from Scotland, originating around the 18th century. That makes plenty of sense, given the popularity of Scottish whiskey and the fact that the weather there begs for a nice warm beverage. The name may come from Tod's Well in Edinburgh. There's a poem by Allan Ramsey called "The Morning Interview" written in 1721 that refers to its water being used to make tea. In the passage, he describes how everything for a tea party has come from afar: the table from Japan, the tea set from China, the sugar from Amazonia. Only the water comes from Scotland:

Here Scotia does no costly Tribute bring,
Only some Kettles full of Todian Spring.

Tod's Well was a major source of water for Edinburgh. So it follows that if people began drinking warm water from the "Todian Spring" mixed with Scotch, they might begin to refer to them as "hot toddies."

However, like any good cocktail, the Hot Toddy's origin isn't so clear. It may actually originate much further back - and farther away - than the Todian Well. There are records from as far back as 1638 that refer to an Indian coconut tree as the "Toddy Tree." Its sap was used to make liquor called arrack (I've written about it before) that became very popular in punches.

Interestingly, there's a pretty big gap between either of these possible sources for the word "toddy" and any record of someone actually drinking a cocktail called a "toddy." The earliest use appears in the 1784 book A Tour of the United States by J.F.D. Smyth. He writes that between noon and one o'clock, the typical Southern "gentleman of fortune" would drink "a draught of bombo, or toddy, a liquor composed of water, sugar, rum, and nutmeg, which is made weak, and kept cool." This does help explain why the modifier "hot" needed to be added later on.

One of the earliest mentions of a "hot toddy" actually comes from a scientist, Yale chemist Benjamin Silliman, in 1808. On a visit to Britain, he wrote, "Both dinners and suppers, when they are meant to be hospitable, are here concluded by the drinking of a hot toddy." He describes how guests mix their own hot water, whiskey, and sugar in pint-sized glasses. "The ladies are not supplied with foot-glasses," he writes, "but the gentlemen occasionally lade out some of their own hot toddy into the wine glasses of the ladies, who thus partake of this beverage, although with much moderation." Hmph.

In his 1862 classic How to Mix Drinks, Jerry Thomas equates hot toddies with hot punches. This seems like further evidence that the toddy may have a direct link to arrack, the classic punch ingredient.

Thanks to Wonderland Kitchen for most of this historical info!

Hot Toddy

2 oz. bourbon
1/2 oz. lemon juice
1/2 oz. honey (maple syrup also works nicely)
5 oz. boiling water
1 cinnamon stick

Add bourbon, lemon juice, and honey to the bottom of a warmed mug. Top with boiling water and stir briefly. Add the cinnamon stick. Garnish with a lemon peel if desired. Stay warm.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Beer and a Smoke

Beer and a Smoke

I don't own very many cocktail recipe books. There are several that I'd really like to buy, but I've already got so many recipes I want to make from the ones I have. The PDT Cocktail Book alone would take years to get through. It's such a great combination of good, solid recipes for classics and interesting new things.

If you're not familiar with PDT, it's a speakeasy-style cocktail bar in New York's East Village. The name stands for "please don't tell," but unfortunately many people have, and on my recent trip to New York I couldn't even get in. I did at least get to see the entrance, which is famously hidden inside a phone booth, inside a hot dog restaurant. Next time I'm in the city, I'll make reservations.

Had I gotten a seat at PDT and only had the opportunity to have a couple of cocktails, I doubt the Beer and a Smoke would have been one of my choices. But I was more than happy to try and make it at home, mostly out of curiosity. It's a variation on a well-known Mexican cocktail called a Michelada, made from beer, lime juice, hot sauce, and spices. The main difference is that it uses mezcal, the "smoke" in the name. Its flavor is decidedly unusual. It's spicy and tart and savory. The first sip honestly made me cringe a little and wonder what I had been thinking, but it kept growing on me. The lime hits you first, a surprisingly sour beginning to your sip. Then you taste the salted rim and the Cholula. The spice and smoke linger. It reminds me a bit of a Bloody Mary even though they don't have that much in common, probably because it feels a bit like you're drinking a meal.

The Michelada is supposedly a decent hangover cure; I wouldn't be surprised if this worked, too. Maybe if I finally get to PDT, I'll make one the next morning.

History: This cocktail was invented in 2009 by Jim Meehan at PDT in New York.

Beer and a Smoke

Beer and a Smoke

1 oz. mezcal
3/4 oz. lime juice
1 dash celery bitters
4 dashes Cholula hot sauce
6 oz. Pilsner (they recommend Victory, I used Lagunitas)

Rub the edge of a Collins glass with a wedge of lime and rim the glass with a mixture of salt, black pepper, and celery salt. Stir mezcal, lime juice, bitters, and hot sauce with ice. Strain into the prepared glass. Top with the beer. Garnish with freshly-grated lime and orange zest.

Recipe from The PDT Cocktail Book.