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Friday, December 7, 2018

Bottle Swap: St. George Spiced Pear Liqueur

Spiced Pear Punch

It's high time that Mr. Muddle and I did another bottle swap! This is when we each buy a bottle of something new for our bars and trade half. If you've got friends who like making cocktails at home, this is a great way to try twice as many new ingredients! In the past we've swapped Ancho Reyes, The King's Ginger, Suze, and Giffard Banane du Bresil. Today's bottle is the perfect holiday liqueur, St. George Spiced Pear.

If you're not familiar with St. George Spirits, they're a California-based distillery that produces some incredible stuff. They're probably best known for their gins, but you may have seen their Bruto AmericanoAbsinthe, or Green Chile Vodka on the liquor store shelf as well. Their Spiced Pear Liqueur is another winner. To make it, they start with their Pear Brandy and add additional fruit juice and spices. It's positively bursting with fresh pear, cinnamon, and cloves, and has just the right amount of sweetness to be sipped on its own or mixed into a cocktail.

Spiced Pear Punch

St. George Spiced Pear Liqueur

Alcohol content: 20%
Price: $40
Popular cocktails: Check out St. George's suggestions here

My cocktail with this liqueur is a little riff on the classic Philadelphia Fish House Punch. This is a drink with a long history, going back to the early 1700's. It's traditionally made with aged rum, Cognac, peach brandy, lemon, and sugar, and served in a large format from a punch bowl. For my Spiced Pear Punch, I replaced the peach brandy with the Spiced Pear Liqueur, used maple syrup as the sweetener, and added a dash of vanilla. Since it was just me drinking this one, I stuck to a single serve, but this would be a great big-batch cocktail for your next holiday party!

Spiced Pear Punch

Spiced Pear Punch

1 oz. aged rum (Jamaican recommended - I used Appleton Estate Signature Blend)
1/2 oz. Cognac (Pierre Ferrand 1840)
1/2 oz. St. George Spiced Pear Liqueur
1 oz. lemon juice
3/4 oz. maple syrup
1 dash vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a punch glass or rocks glass over ice. Garnish with a pear fan.

Check out Mr. Muddle's cocktail, the Decoder Ring!

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Holiday Gift Guide 2018

Cocktail Gift Guide 2018

The holidays are officially in full swing! I still have a ton of shopping to do before Christmas. If you're in the same boat, here are some of my favorite gifts for cocktail lovers this year! I always have a fun time putting this list together. Some of these are things I have and love, and others are things I'd really love to have. A note I feel I should include since I have done a lot of sponsored work with brands recently: I am not being paid or compensated to promote any of these products. Some (numbers 1, 3, 7, and 11) are from brands that I have worked with, but they are only being included here because I really really liked them.

1. The Elan Collective Rocks Glasses. I'm pretty obsessed with glassware and these rocks glasses from The Elan Collective are truly unique. $35 for two glasses or $55 for one of each of their four styles. Each glass comes with an ice sphere mold.

2. Love & Victory Whiskey Cufflinks. Why wear your heart on your sleeve when you can wear a glass of whiskey instead? If you're more of a gin drinker, they make Negroni cufflinks as well. $28.

3. Bouvery Chocolate Vodka. I don't think I've ever finished a bottle of anything as quickly as I went through my Bouvery. It's like drinking melted dark chocolate. $30 for a 375 ml bottle (you'll wish it was twice as big).

4. Jackson Cannon Bar Knife by R. Murphy Knives. I received this as a gift from my in-laws last year and I'm obsessed with it. It's perfect for cutting garnishes. The square tip allows you to do some really detailed work if you want to. $79.

5. The Bitter Truth Bogart's Bitters. Bogart's Bitters are the first bitters ever mentioned in a cocktail book, Jerry Thomas' Bartender's Guide. This reformulation is sold in a gorgeous, vintage-style bottle that is just begging to be gifted to your favorite bitters lover. $36 for a 350 ml bottle.

6. Cocktail Codex: Fundamentals, Formulas, Evolutions. Since Death & Co: Modern Classic Cockails is basically my cocktail bible, I'm confidently recommending their second book after having only flipped through it briefly. It has a different structure from the first, breaking down cocktails into six major templates. A great gift for both experienced and beginner home bartenders. $32.

7. Empress 1908 Indigo Gin. Why gift a typical bottle of gin when you can gift purple, color-changing gin? This gin tastes as beautiful as it looks and makes a striking gift. Just add tonic or citrus to see it turn pink, or make yourself a martini the color of amethyst. $35.

8. Stephen Kenn Travel Cocktail Kit. I've been wanting one of these ever since I saw it on the Instagram feeds of @apartment_bartender and @highproofpreacher. I've tried to find a better or cheaper one and failed utterly - this is the perfect travel kit for cocktails on the go. $295

9. Cocktails + Chickens Pillow. Speaking of Instagrammers I love, @drinkingwithchickens has all-new merchandise for the cocktail and/or poultry lover in your life. I seriously want a couple of these pillows - also available in pink! $30.

10. Homestia Flamingo Martini Picks. I stumbled across these on Amazon and fell in love. Perfect stocking stuffer! $11.

11. Bittercube Bitters Variety Pack. Variety packs of bitters make perfect gifts. This one has a nice selection of unique flavors that go especially well in Old Fashioneds and other whiskey cocktails. $54.

Past holiday gift guides: 2017, 2016, and 2015.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Pumpkin Spice Old Fashioned

Pumpkin Spice Old Fashioned

It's a little hard to believe it's already Thanksgiving. Wasn't Halloween like last week? And to top it off, my extended family is celebrating Christmas on Thanksgiving day this year because most of us will be out of town in December. Definitely a condensed holiday season.

Thanksgiving is a perfect cocktail holiday. It already centers around sharing food and drink with friends and family. And there are so many fantastic flavors that we associate with autumn and Thanksgiving: cranberry, cinnamon, pecan, sweet potato, maple... and of course pumpkin! I've never put pumpkin in a cocktail before, but I did have a guest post on pumpkin cocktails a couple of years ago. I've been meaning to make one myself ever since. And since the pumpkin spice trend doesn't seem to be going anywhere anytime soon, it's high time to hop on the bandwagon.

This is a very simple Old Fashioned recipe made special by a pumpkin spice syrup. I tried a couple of recipes I found online and didn't think any of them had enough pumpkin in them, so this one is my own creation. You're going to want to whip up a big batch, because it is good in everything - try it in coffee or on ice cream! A jar of it would make a great gift for your host this Thanksgiving.

Pumpkin Spice Old Fashioned

Pumpkin Spice Syrup

1/2 cup water
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cloves
1 dash cardamom
OR 2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice - I used Trader Joe's

Combine water and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Lower heat and add pumpkin and spices, whisking to combine. Let barely simmer for five minutes, whisking frequently. Then cover and let cool. Once the mixture has cooled, strain it through cheesecloth to remove the pumpkin solids. Store in the fridge.

Pumpkin Spice Old Fashioned

2.5 oz. bourbon
2 barspoons pumpkin spice syrup
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 dash pecan or walnut bitters (or another dash of Ango if you don't have this)

Build the drink in a rocks glass. Combine bitters and syrup, and then add bourbon and stir. Add a large piece of ice and stir briefly. Twist an orange peel over the drink and discard. Garnish with a cinnamon stick.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Bottle Buy: Luxardo Bitter Bianco

Sbagliato Errato and Luxardo Bitter Bianco

Hello again! I haven't posted in a couple of weeks, though I've been quite active on Instagram - if I want to just snap a single photo of a drink it often ends up there instead of on here.  I've also had the opportunity to partner with some additional brands like The Elan Collective and Coco Sky on recent (and upcoming!) recipes. So be sure to check it out if you want some additional drinks and pictures!

Today I want to introduce one of my new favorite bottles: Luxardo Bitter Bianco. This herbal liqueur is a bitter like Campari, Aperol, or Suze. In fact, the popularity of swapping Suze for Campari to make White Negronis seems to have been one factor that influenced Luxardo's creation of the colorless Bitter Bianco. It's made with a number of different botanicals, including wormwood, quinine, rhubarb, cardamom, bitter orange, and three mystery herbs. While it is definitely a bitter liqueur, it has notes of bright citrus and a good bit of sweetness to it.

Luxardo Bitter Bianco

Versatility is usually one of my main criteria when I add a new bottle to my bar, but with this one I had a single drink in mind. I absolutely love a Negroni made with Luxardo Bitter Bianco. Called a Negroni Bianco, it's usually made with blanc or dry vermouth to keep it entirely colorless (while one made with Suze is called a White Negroni, even though it's actually yellow). I've got recipes for both of these in the Negroni Round-Up I posted not long ago. I honestly prefer the Negroni Bianco to a traditional Negroni, and if you're a Negroni newbie I think it's a perfect gateway cocktail. It's definitely less polarizing than the classic, while still keeping with the spirit of the drink.

Sbagliato Errato and Luxardo Bitter Bianco

But my love for the Negroni Bianco doesn't mean that Bitter Bianco isn't versatile. It's similar enough to Campari in spirit that you can safely try substituting it anywhere its bright red friend is called for. It's more approachable and less bitter than Campari, which might even make it more versatile. I haven't played with mine nearly enough because I can't stop making the same few delicious recipes with it.

Luxardo Bitter Bianco

Price: $25-30
Alcohol Content: 30%
Popular Cocktails: Negroni Bianco

Sbagliato Errato and Luxardo Bitter Bianco

Since I love the Negroni Bianco, I wanted to use the Luxardo in another riff on the Negroni, the Negroni Sbagliato. Translating roughly to "mistaken Negroni," this drink was supposedly invented when a bartender poured prosecco into a Negroni instead of gin. It doesn't exactly seem like an easy mistake to make, but we can suspend belief in favor of a good story.

The Negroni Sbagliato is usually made with equal parts sweet vermouth, Campari, and prosecco. Before I looked up the recipe, however, I had it in my head that it must be equal parts gin, Campari, and prosecco, and I was excited to take advantage of the Luxardo's lack of color to let the gorgeous purple of Empress Gin shine through. When I realized my mistake I decided to go ahead with my recipe anyway. And it's quite good - a lovely, bitter, sparkling aperitif. You can substitute a non-purple gin, or go with a more classic Sbagliato using dry or blanc vermouth instead.

Sbagliato Errato

Sbagliato Errato

1 oz. gin (Empress)
1 oz. Luxardo Bitter Bianco
2 oz. prosecco

Combine gin and Luxardo in a mixing glass with ice and stir until chilled. Strain into a champagne flute and top with prosecco. I garnished mine with dried orchid petals.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Aztec Marigold with Sparkling Ice

Aztec Marigold with Sparkling Ice

I've got a cocktail for you today that tastes like autumn sunshine! I was inspired by Halloween and Day of the Dead coming up to make this citrusy tequila drink with a spicy kick. It gets its gorgeous color and fizz from Orange Mango Sparkling Ice, a zero-calorie, zero-sugar sparkling water.

Aztec Marigold with Sparkling Ice

To be honest, I'm not usually a fan of zero-calorie anything (besides water). But Sparkling Ice is something special. After I took a sip I actually turned the bottle around to check the label and make sure I wasn't mistaken about the calorie count! Its fresh, vibrant flavors and hint of sweetness are perfect for cocktails. It really compliments other ingredients without overpowering them, giving you plenty of room to get creative. And of course it adds that perfect fizz. I like that you can go crazy and make a really elaborate drink with it, but it's still tasty enough that a splash of vodka and a squeeze of lime would be utter perfection. (Utter, low-calorie perfection at that!)

Obviously, though, I usually like to go a bit crazier than that when it comes to my cocktails.

Aztec Marigold with Sparkling Ice

With Day of the Dead next week, a tequila cocktail seemed like the perfect pairing for Orange Mango Sparkling Ice. And my favorite thing to do with a tequila cocktail is add a bit of spice. So I infused some reposado tequila with jalapeño overnight before mixing it with pineapple juice, lime juice, and a blood orange syrup (because if winter has to come, then we'd better at least take advantage of some beautiful winter citrus). Topped off with Orange Mango Sparkling Ice, it's a super refreshing cocktail with just a bit of bite!

Aztec Marigold with Sparkling Ice

I named this drink the Aztec Marigold for its bright, sunny color. These marigolds are also called Mexican Marigolds or flores de muertos ("flowers of the dead"). They're often used during Day of the Dead celebrations to decorate graves and attract or guide the souls of the dead. Lacking any marigolds, I garnished the drink with yellow chrysanthemums and slices of blood orange.

Aztec Marigold with Sparkling Ice

Aztec Marigold

2 oz. jalapeño-infused reposado tequila*
1 oz. pineapple juice
1/2 oz. lime juice
1/2 oz. blood orange syrup**
3 oz. Orange Mango Sparkling Ice

Combine tequila, pineapple juice, lime juice, and syrup in a shaker with ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a tall rocks glass filled with ice. Top with Orange Mango Sparkling Ice and enjoy!

*For jalapeño-infused tequila, cut a fresh jalapeño in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Slice it thinly and add it to a mason jar with 1 cup reposado tequila. Let sit overnight, shaking occasionally. Strain out the jalapeño slices before using.

**For blood orange syrup, combine 3/4 cup sugar and 3/4 cup water in a saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Add one blood orange, sliced and then cut into quarters, leaving the skin on. Let simmer for a couple of minutes, smashing the orange pieces with a spoon to release the juice. Remove from the heat and let sit, covered, for 30 minutes. Strain out the orange slices and let cool completely before using. Store in the refrigerator.

This post was sponsored by Sparkling Ice. All opinions are my own.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

London Calling

London Calling

Earlier this year, my sister and I went on an epic weekend trip to London. When the immigration the officer asked us what we were planning on doing in the UK, she replied, "A lot of drinking, to be honest with you." And it was true. We did our best to hit all of my bucket-list London bars, including Nightjar and the American Bar at the Savoy Hotel. We also went to Milk & Honey, a Soho branch of the famous New York speakeasy that essentially started the modern craft cocktail movement. It was here that we tried the London Calling.

It was an appropriate cocktail choice for a number of reasons. First, the name, obviously. Second, we had been picking sherry cocktails off of every menu we saw (the Jerezana at Happiness Forgets was another favorite). And third, it was actually invented at the very bar in which we were sitting in 2002, and is the only drink to have stayed on their menu ever since. It's a perfect choice for right now as well, because it's International Sherry Week. Social media has been full of awesome sherry cocktail recipes, and I'm happy to add this new classic to the mix. If you're a sherry newbie, it's a great place to start. There's only a half ounce of Fino (a very dry sherry) in the recipe - just enough to give the drink some complexity and introduce that light, nutty flavor. If you like a Bee's Knees, you'll love a London Calling.

London Calling

History: The London Calling was invented at Milk & Honey in London in 2002 by Chris Jepson.

London Calling

1.5 oz. gin
1/2 oz. fino sherry
1/2 oz. lemon juice
1/2 oz. simple syrup
2 dashes orange bitters

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a coupe and garnish with a grapefruit twist.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Cucumber Basil Smash

Cucumber Basil Smash

I can't believe it's October already. I thought I would be ready for some cool fall weather after the sweltering summer we had here in Boston, but I'm a little reluctant to give up the long days and warm evenings on our balcony. I'm sure I'll be embracing autumn with apple picking and spiced cocktails before long. But for now I'm still trying to squeeze a few more summery drinks in.

I don't know what it was about this year, but my backyard garden and the potted plants on my balcony did not thrive. I've only gotten three tomatoes, whereas last year I was freezing huge leftover dishes full of sauce. I tried planting broccoli for the first time, but I clearly didn't know what I was doing and it bolted before producing anything. I trimmed it back and it looks like I might be getting some stalks - we'll see. My zucchini plant put all its effort into one monster zucchini while we were away on vacation and then died. Etc. My basil is one thing that really thrived, and as it flowered I thought I definitely needed to use some in a cocktail.

Basil Flowers

Cucumber and basil is a really winning combination. I've used it before in my Cucumber Basil Gimlet. Since I'd already done the combo with gin, I reached for vodka instead for this drink. On the one hand, I'm not a huge fan of vodka because I don't think it adds much to a cocktail besides alcohol. But on the other hand, sometimes this is exactly what you want. There's enough great flavor in here that vodka felt like a good choice. Not to mention that Thursday, October 4th is National Vodka Day.

A "smash" is a category of cocktails somewhat similar to a julep. In fact, at one time a Whiskey Smash and a Whiskey Julep were basically the same thing - whiskey, sugar, and mint. But a Smash has come to include lemon juice or other citrus as well. Think of it as boozy flavored lemonade. The "smash" part comes in when you muddle your herbs and/or fruit. It's a fun drink template to play around with. Try it with your favorite spirit and some different flavors and see what you can come up with!

Cucumber Basil Smash

Cucumber Basil Smash

2 oz. vodka
3/4 oz. lemon juice
3/4 oz. simple syrup
3 slices cucumber
6 basil leaves

Combine cucumber, basil, and simple syrup at the bottom of a shaker and muddle gently to bruise the basil and release juice from the cucumber. Add vodka and lemon juice and fill shaker with ice. Shake until chilled and strain into a rocks glass filled with ice. Garnish with a cucumber slice and a basil flower.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Queen Victoria with Empress Gin

Queen Victoria with Empress 1908 Gin

Last week I had the opportunity to go on my first industry trip to Victoria, British Columbia, sponsored by Empress 1908 Gin. We stayed at the historic Fairmont Empress Hotel, which was the inspiration for the gin's creation. They really spoiled us. We had beautiful rooms at the Empress, a whale watching trip, a morning at the spa, a champagne tea, and two lovely dinners. And of course we visited Victoria Distillers, where Empress 1908 is made. It's a gorgeous distillery, with large windows looking out over the Salish Sea. They make a number of spirits there, including two other gins that are locally quite popular. But Empress 1908 has been their most popular product by far, and it's easy to see why.

Fairmont Empress Hotel

I think it's safe to say that Empress is one of the most unique gins out there. You may have already noticed it on a liquor store shelf or in Instagram photos. Among an array of clear gins, its deep indigo color is hard to miss. But Victoria Distillers didn't set out to make a purple gin. They wanted to make a limited-edition gin to celebrate the renovation of the Empress Hotel (named for Queen Victoria, Empress of India). The Empress is famous for their tea, so the distillers turned to the tea menu for inspiration. They chose the Empress Blend black tea to infuse the gin, but they were also inspired by a tea blend called "Blue Suede Shoes" that contained butterfly pea flowers and was, as the name suggests, blue. So they added the flowers to the gin as well, giving it a gorgeous purple hue.

Empress 1908 Gin Botanicals

When Victoria Distillers started experimenting with Empress 1908 in cocktails, they discovered what drinkers of butterfly pea tea had already known for some time - that with the infusion of the flowers, the gin actually changes color when an acid like lemon juice is added, from bluish to pinkish. It's magical and fun, and definitely the thing that attracts most people to Empress. But it's also an excellent gin, with a style between a typical London Dry and an American gin with notes of juniper, tea, and grapefruit. If you think you're not a gin person, this lovely bottle might change your mind.

Empress 1908 Gin

I had several great cocktails made with Empress 1908 while in Victoria. It's fantastic in a Bee's Knees or a French 75. When you make a Negroni Bianco with it, it keeps its bluish purple color, while a traditional Negroni comes out a deep garnet red even prettier than its usual bright crimson. One favorite was a Gin Smash made with mint and lavender from the Fairmont Empress' rooftop gardens. And of course we had lots of gin and tonics. Empress recommends Fever Tree tonic and a slice of grapefruit for garnish.

Empress 1908 Gin and Tonic

For my first cocktail made at home with the Empress, I knew I wanted to use eggwhites because the purple color looks so good with that layer of foam. I decided to double down on all things purple by adding a lavender simple syrup and bit of Creme de Violette to a traditional gin sour. The result is a colorful, floral drink pretty enough to do justice to this wonderful gin. Thank you again to Empress 1908 for having me in Victoria!

Empress 1908 Gin

Queen Victoria

2 oz. Empress 1908 Gin
1/4 oz. Creme de Violette
3/4 oz. lemon juice
1/2 oz. lavender simple syrup*
1/2 oz. eggwhite

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake until chilled and combined, about 20 seconds. Strain out ice and dry shake for another 30 seconds or so. Fine-strain into a coupe glass and garnish with lavender buds and flowers.

*For lavender syrup, make a typical 1:1 simple syrup and pour it into a jar with several sprigs of fresh lavender. Let sit overnight to infuse.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Clover Club

Clover Club

Sometimes knowing a lot of cocktails can work against you. If you have a small bar and a few tried-and-true drink recipes, it's easy to figure out what to make when you want a cocktail or when friends come over. But when you have a massive arsenal of bottles and books at your disposal, sometimes it's difficult to pick a recipe, especially if someone asks you to just "make them something" and doesn't know enough about cocktails to specify much beyond that. A good bartender (or home bartender) knows what questions to ask to find the perfect drink for a guest. But sometimes the occasion isn't right for twenty questions and it's nice to be able to just hand someone a good drink. So I'd argue that a really good home bartender should know a few crowd-pleasers that anybody will like. And the Clover Club is going on my list.

Clover Club

I knew the Clover Club would be good - it's basically a raspberry gin sour - but I didn't expect just how much I loved it. I'm not usually a raspberry fiend, but the syrup imparts just enough raspberry flavor for my taste (and also gives the drink its gorgeous color). We planted a little raspberry bush in our backyard a couple of years ago, and it has flourished with very little encouragement, so I was able to pick the raspberries for the syrup and garnish the morning before I used them. The syrup is a bit unique in that it's not made on the stove - Julie Reiner, founder of the Brooklyn bar named after this classic cocktail, says that this will cook the raspberries and change their flavor. Instead, they are muddled, mixed with sugar, and allowed to macerate for 20-30 minutes. Then you add some water and strain the mixture. It's a very easy drink to make considering how absolutely beautiful it looks.

Clover Club

History: The Clover Club is a very old cocktail. It is named for a men's club that met in the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia. It was exactly what you are probably picturing - a bunch of old, rich white dudes (including William Butler Yeats) sipping drinks in a sumptuous lounge paneled in dark wood. It seems quite incongruous that a lot of them were probably drinking this pink, frothy cocktail. The Clover Club of Philadelphia, a book published in 1897, mentions the drink and that it originated the previous year, in 1896. It enjoyed a lot of popularity in the pre-Prohibition years but, like many other great cocktails, faded into obscurity afterwards, probably because of the egg whites and its girly appearance. By 1934, Esquire was referring to it as a drink for "pansies." The modern cocktail renaissance renewed interest in this delicious cocktail, and Julie Reiner's Clover Club bar ensured that the recipe got some extra attention.

Clover Club

Clover Club

1 1/2 oz. gin (Plymouth recommended)
1/2 oz. dry vermouth (Dolin recommended)
1/2 oz. lemon juice
1/2 oz. raspberry syrup*
1/4 oz. egg white**

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake well, for at least 20 seconds. Strain the drink, dump the ice, and return the cocktail to the shaker to shake again for at least 30 more seconds (this is called a reverse dry shake). Strain into a coupe and garnish with three raspberries on a pick.

*For raspberry syrup, muddle 1/4 cup raspberries in a bowl. Add 1/2 cup sugar and stir or muddle to mix it in well. The mixture should become bright red and juicy. Let it macerate for 20-30 minutes. Then add 1/4 cup water, stir well, and fine strain.

**It can be hard to pour small quantities of egg white - it all tends to goop out at once. I like to separate my egg white into a bowl and lightly whisk it so that it's easier to measure out 1/4 ounce.

Recipe from Julie Reiner via Imbibe. Historical info from Wikipedia, Punch, Gin Foundry, and The Cocktail Chronicles.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Penicillin

Penicillin Cocktail

One of the things I love about cocktails is how they tie you to the past. Thanks to the recipes that have been preserved and the consistency with which many spirits and liqueurs are made, we can literally make drinks that someone would have sipped one hundred years ago.

The true test of a great cocktail is its ability to withstand the test of time. What allowed classics like the Manhattan and the Negroni to persist while other drinks were destined for obscurity in the pages of old recipe books? Obviously a classic cocktail needs to taste great. It also needs to be relatively simple. It's unlikely that a recipe involving orange foam or a fat wash is going to become ubiquitous. It needs to be something that any bartender at any bar can make.

Penicillin Cocktail

By these metrics, what cocktails invented recently do you think people will still be drinking in 100 years? If you were to pose this question to a group of bartenders or cocktail enthusiasts, I can just about guarantee that someone would mention the Penicillin. It's a modern drink that has found universal fame and appeal. And it's easy to see why. A Scotch sour is made infinitely more interesting and delicious with a honey-ginger syrup and a bit of peaty single-malt to give it a hint of smoke. Admittedly, the honey-ginger syrup does break the rules a bit - not every bar will have one ready to go. But any bartender worth her salt will be familiar with the recipe. It's undeniably a new classic.

History: The Penicillin was invented in 2005 by Sam Ross (now at Attaboy) at Milk & Honey in New York. He created it as a riff on the Gold Rush while playing around with some bottles of Scotch from Compass Box - their Asyla for the base, and the Peat Monster for the float.

Penicillin Cocktail

Penicillin

2 oz. blended Scotch (Famous Grouse)
3/4 oz. ginger-honey syrup*
3/4 oz. lemon juice
1/4 oz. peaty single-malt Scotch (Laphroiag 10-year)

Combine blended Scotch, ginger-honey syrup, and lemon juice in a shaker with ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a rocks glass over one large ice cube. Top with the single-malt and garnish with candied ginger.

*For ginger-honey syrup, combine equal parts honey and water in a saucepan and simmer gently, stirring until honey is dissolved. Add a small piece of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced. Let simmer for a couple of minutes, then remove from the heat and let sit for at least 15 minutes before straining. Let cool before using.

Recipe adapted from Punch.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Bottle Buy: Apricot Liqueur

Tradewinds Cocktail

I've always wanted this blog to be a resource for people who don't know a lot about making cocktails at home, and part of that has been introducing new ingredients as I add them to my bar and start making cocktails with them. So I was alarmed when I realized I had posted the Periodista without saying a thing about its star ingredient, apricot liqueur. Specifically Rothman & Winter Orchard Apricot.

Apricot liqueur may seem a bit specific or obscure if you've only got limited space in your bar, but it's an ingredient that comes up surprisingly often. It appears in a number of recipes from the early 1900's, and in a lot of rum cocktails and Tiki drinks. Like many ingredients we've discussed, the quality and availability of apricot liqueur declined along with the popularity of the craft cocktail during the mid to late 20th century. But now it's back, and there are tons of classic and new recipes to make with it.

I knew apricot liqueur would be a good buy because I've already made - and loved - several recipes that called for a small amount of it. Not having a bottle, I subbed in a bit of apricot preserves, which really did work pretty well.  But for more apricot-centric drinks like the Periodista and the Tradewinds (below), you need the real thing. And now I can go back and make those other drinks right.

Apricot Liqueur

Apricot liqueur is often referred to as apricot brandy. The two terms are frequently used interchangeably, but I think certain aspects of how the liqueurs are made may prevent the word "brandy" from appearing on the label - likely the addition of fruit and sugars after distillation, although I'm not sure. The quality apricot liqueurs are essentially fruit brandies or eaux-de-vie - spirits distilled from fruit other than grapes, in this case apricots.

One of the easiest bottles of apricot liqueur to find, and the one that seems to be recommended the most often in my cocktail recipe books, is Rothman & Winter, which is imported from Austria by Haus Alpenz. It's made from Klosterneuberger apricots grown in the Danube Valley. Two of the other most popular varieties, Giffard and Marie Brizard, are made in France.

Rothman & Winter Apricot Liqueur

Price: $25
Alcohol Content: 24%
Popular Cocktails: Tradewinds, Periodista, Golden Gun, Flor de Jerez, Charles Lindbergh, Hotel Nacional

Tradewinds Cocktail

It's been a while since I made a genuine Tiki drink, but after a couple of recent trips to Tiki Rock in Boston, I was itching to make one at home. I love drinks with coconut creme - Tiki Rock had a Painkiller that was really amazing - and the Tradewinds had been on my list of drinks to make once I finally got my hands on some apricot liqueur. It's an undeniably tasty cocktail, creamy and tart. The traditional garnish is a lemon wedge speared on an inside-out cocktail umbrella (as if the wind has blown it that way), but I thought a mini pinwheel was appropriate.

History: According to Martin Cate in Smuggler's Cove, the Tradewinds originated in the Caribbean in the 1970's. The recipe appeared in Beachbum Berry Remixed.

Tradewinds Cocktail

Tradewinds

1 oz. black blended rum (Cruzan)
1 oz. blended lightly aged rum (Appleton Estate Signature Blend)
1 oz. apricot liqueur (Rothman & Winter)
1 1/2 oz. coconut cream
1 oz. lemon juice

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with 12 oz. crushed ice and a 4 large "agitator" cubes. Shake or flash blend and then open pour into a zombie or pilsner glass. Garnish with a lemon wedge speared on an inside-out umbrella, or a little pinwheel. I added some mint as well.

Recipe adapted from Smuggler's Cove.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Periodista

Periodista

I can trace my love affair with cocktails back to a single evening. I had just found out that I had gotten a competitive NSF fellowship to support me during graduate school, and my husband and I were going to celebrate. Earlier that week I had picked up a copy of one of those free magazines that used to be all over - I think it was Stuff at Night - and they had a feature on the best cocktail bars in Boston. In my mind there wasn't really anything fancier than sitting at a marble-topped bar and sipping a beautiful drink, so we went to one of the places on the list, Eastern Standard. I don't remember what the magazine said that made us pick Eastern Standard, but I do remember the cocktail they featured: the Periodista, a rum drink made with lime juice and apricot and orange liqueurs.

I don't know why the Periodista in that article stuck in my head. I didn't even order it that night - I ended up getting an Aviation, my first one ever, and realizing that there was so much more to cocktails than I had ever known. But I distinctly remember the orangey cocktail pictured in that magazine. I later tried one elsewhere in Boston and found it to be quite as tasty as Stuff at Night made it out to be. Little did I know that the Periodista is a drink with a story behind it.

The Periodista (Spanish for "journalist") is a happy, crowd-pleasing cocktail. Its flavor is bright and citrusy, with tart lime and sweet apricot playing against each other on your tongue. It's like a Daiquiri with a few extra tricks up its sleeve. It's somehow simultaneously perfect for drinking on a tropical beach or in a Boston dive bar in the dead of winter. It's not hard to see why it became so popular here. It's the how that is a bit more convoluted. If you're curious, read on.

Periodista

History: I could just tell you what is known about the history of the Periodista, but I would be doing you a disservice. Because if you're at all interested in craft cocktails, the people who make them, and the stories behind them, you should read Devin Hahn's Periodista Tales.

Briefly, Devin Hahn is a writer and filmmaker who lives in Boston. He also enjoys a good craft cocktail. In particular, he became a fan of the Periodista after having one at Chez Henri, a now-shuttered French-Cuban restaurant in Cambridge, in 2007. The menu there indicated that the cocktail originated in Cuba, and was a favorite of Ernest Hemingway. An instant fan, Hahn began ordering Periodistas at bars all over Boston, and bartenders were happy to make him one. This was, in fact, right around the same time that I made my pilgrimage to Eastern Standard and learned about the drink myself. It was not a hard cocktail to find.

Unless, apparently, you left Boston. When Hahn traveled out of the city, no one seemed to have even heard of Periodista. Bartenders at places like PDT in New York and The Varnish in Los Angeles had no idea what he was talking about. And Hahn couldn't find the recipe online or in any cocktail books.

So in 2010, Hahn set out on an epic quest to uncover the origins of the Periodista that he chronicled online in the Periodista Tales. It takes him to some of Boston's most beloved watering holes and introduces a cast of characters that I've come to know well as a cocktail lover in the city - people like Jackson Cannon, John Gersten, and Misty Kalkofen. And then Hahn's search expands, and he meets with luminaries like David Wondrich and Ted Haigh, who share their own stories and insights into the craft cocktail renaissance. It becomes a rumination on the craft of bartending itself, as well as a perfect example of how difficult it can be to find out the real story behind a cocktail.

The only thing wrong with it is that it seems to end prematurely. The last installment from 2011 reads like a cliffhanger. I don't know if Hahn has continued his research since, but I hope he updates us at some point.

Periodista

If you're short on time and really just itching to get to the punchline (the Periodista Tales is a lengthy read), I will spoil the results of Hahn's research here. The real origin of the Periodista remains unknown, but it does seem to hail from Cuba. The earliest mention of the recipe in print that Hahn could find is from 1948, buried at the back of El Arte de Cantinera, a bartenders' manual from the Club de Cantineros de la Republica de Cuba in Havana.

The Periodista came to Boston when Paul O'Connell and Joe McGuirk were building Chez Henri's cocktail list. They found the recipe in a "little tropical cocktail book," one of those pamphlets that spirits brands used to print. Like El Arte de Cantinera, it called for white rum, but they found it far better with Myer's dark rum. It ended up on the menu. From there, McGuirk took the recipe to the B-Side Lounge, one of Boston's most (in)famous cocktail bars, where many of the greats got their start. As they left to begin their own ventures, they took the Periodista with them. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Periodista

In his account, Hahn includes the Periodista recipes from many of the bars and bartenders that he interviews - a dozen in all, from the B-Side Lounge's version (which specifically calls for "generic bottom shelf" apricot liqueur and triple sec) to Drink's recipe with house-made lime peel syrup. The one that appealed to me most was Brother Cleve's recipe, which uses Appleton Estate Jamaican rum and included a bit of simple syrup to make the drink less tart. The result, in my opinion, is perfection. But if it doesn't suit your fancy, try adjusting the ratios or checking out some of the other recipes.

Periodista

1 1/2 oz. Appleton Estate aged rum (12- or 21-year recommended, I used Signature Blend)
3/4 oz. apricot liqueur (Rothman & Winter)
1/2 oz. Cointreau
1/2 oz. lime juice
1 barspoon (1/8 tsp) simple syrup

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a coupe and garnish with a lime wheel.

Recipe from Brother Cleve via Devin Hahn.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Frosé

Frose

In 2016, a New York restaurant called Bar Primi created the perfect summer cocktail. Frozen, crowd-pleasing, and attractively bright pink, it was destined to reach heights of popularity that most drinks can't even approach. Two years later, it's on the menu of just about every bar with a patio and is as synonymous with white female millennials as avocado toast, pumpkin spice lattes, and Lululemon yoga pants. I'm talking, of course, about Frosé.

A portmanteau of "frozen rosé," Frosé is an evolutionary offshoot of the growing rosé trend of the last few years. It's basically a wine slushie, usually made with lemon juice and strawberries. Its meteoric rise to summertime domination was greatly aided by Instagram, which is filled with photos of this undeniably pretty beverage.

Frose

I was always a bit conflicted about Frosé. On the one hand, it looks pretty tasty and refreshing, and don't even get me started on how photogenic it is. On the other hand, it's not exactly what one would call a craft cocktail, and it's become so popular that it almost seems uncool to like it. But a couple of months ago I found myself at a place with a pretty lackluster cocktail list, and Frosé was the only thing on the menu that caught my eye. It seemed like a good occasion to give it a try. And you know what?  It's as frosty and delicious as it looks. And with the temperature in Boston consistently topping 90 degrees for the last week, I honestly couldn't think of anything I'd rather be drinking today.

Making Frosé does require a bit of extra time and effort, but all in all it's much easier than I thought it would be. The first step is to freeze a bottle of rosé. You should not do this in the glass bottle itself - transfer the wine to a ziplock bag, baking pan, or ice cube tray. Once it's frozen, you blend it with some lemon juice and strawberry syrup. You can serve it right away or re-freeze it and blend it again like I did for a more solid consistency. Since it melts quickly in the heat, it seemed like a good idea to give it as much of a head start as possible.

Frose

I stuck to a basic recipe here, but it would be easy to dress this up into something even more exciting. I think elderflower liqueur would be an amazing addition. Or maybe Aperol for some bitterness. You can make it more boozy by adding some vodka or another spirit, or play around with other fruits besides strawberries - raspberry would be incredible.

So I am a Frosé convert. And if that makes me basic, then buy me some Uggs and sign me up for a barre class, because I am making loads of this for my next summer party.

Frose

Frosé

1 bottle (750 ml) rosé wine
1/2 cup strawberry syrup*
1/4 cup lemon juice

*To make strawberry syrup, combine 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water in a saucepan and simmer until sugar is dissolved. Add 1 cup of sliced strawberries and simmer, stirring occasionally, until mixture becomes pinkish and strawberries soften slightly (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat and let sit for 30 minutes. Strain and let cool.

Pour wine into ice cube trays or a 13 x 9 inch pan and put it in the freezer until it is frozen. Because of the alcohol content, it will remain softer than regular ice. Meanwhile, make strawberry syrup. When syrup is cool and wine is frozen, combine wine, syrup, and lemon juice in a blender and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust lemon and syrup accordingly - the wine you use can effect how much of both you need. At this point the mixture will be soft and slushy and can be consumed immediately, but for best results pour the mixture back into the pan or into a gallon Ziploc bag and freeze again (it will be too soft for ice cube trays). Return to the blender and blend immediately before serving.

Frose

Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit.

Friday, August 3, 2018

El Presidente

El Presidente

The El Presidente is a surprising drink. It might look something like a dry Martini, but one sip and you'll see that it has more in common with a Daiquiri or Mai Tai. It's rum-based, sweet, and citrusy, a spirit-forward Caribbean cocktail that's probably quite different from anything you've had.

If you've never heard of the El Presidente, don't feel bad. It's a cocktail that was set up for failure. Dating back to Cuba in the 1910's, it enjoyed incredible popularity for a while. But post-prohibition, that popularity plummeted. And that's probably has a lot to do with its ingredients.

First, there's rum, which was not a popular base spirit in the post-prohibition 20th century (outside of Tiki bars, at least). Then there's vermouth, which a lot of people didn't know how to store properly, leading to requests for ultra-dry martinis. Not to mention that most bartenders were using the wrong vermouth in this cocktail, as you'll see below. And then there's grenadine and orange curaçao. Used in their proper amounts, they round the El Presidente out beautifully. But if you do a Google image search for "El Presidente cocktail," the drinks you see will not look like the one I made - they are all either bright red or vivid orange, victims of the temptation to just pour in more sugar to salvage a sub-par drink.

Luckily for the El Presidente, rum is back in vogue, and so are the old classics. The recipe has been resurrected in its original glory, and it's definitely one worth making.

El Presidente

History:  Like the legendary Daiquiri, the El Presidente hails from Havana, Cuba. Some accounts indicate that the El Presidente's exact origins are uncertain, while others (like this thorough overview at Tasting Table) are pretty confident about their facts. According to them, it was invented sometime in the 1910's and named after Mario García Menocal, the president of Cuba at the time. In 1919, an American bartender named Eddie Woelke moved to Havana to run the bar at the Sevilla Biltmore Hotel. He took an interest in the recipe, tweaking it a bit and popularizing it from his bar.

Apparently Menocal's successor, Gerardo Machado, was quite jealous of Menocal's signature cocktail and asked for his own. A few dashes of orange curaçao were added to the El Presidente, and the Presidente Machado was created. In the 1930's, Cuban bartender Constante Ribalaigua Vert combined the two presidential recipes at the famous El Florida in Havana, using curaçao but dyeing it red to look like grenadine. Today you see recipes called El Presidente with one or the other, or both.

Once Prohibition was lifted, the El Presidente made its way to the States, but something was lost in translation. The recipe called for French vermouth, which usually means dry vermouth. But when bartenders made the cocktail this way, it was decidedly lackluster (probably leading to those heavy pours of orange curaçao and grenadine). After some digging, cocktail historian David Wondrich discovered that the vermouth used in the original recipe came from Chambéry in France, which is historically famous for making blanc vermouth - a sweeter, richer white vermouth. This discovery, along with a resurgence of interest in classic cocktails and ingredients, has allowed the El Presidente to gain the popularity it has always deserved.

El Presidente

El Presidente

1 1/2 oz. white rum (Bully Boy)
1 1/2 oz. blanc vermouth (Dolin)
1 tsp. orange curaçao (Ferrand)
1/2 tsp. grenadine (Stirrings)

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir until chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with an orange twist.

Recipe adapted from Imbibe.