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Friday, June 15, 2018

Bamboo

Bamboo cocktail

If you like cocktails and you haven't bought a bottle of Amontillado sherry yet, I highly recommend you try it. It's not a big investment nor a big commitment; a decent bottle runs under $20, and because it's a fortified wine like vermouth, it should be stored in the fridge and can eventually go bad. It's a unique ingredient because it has flavors like raisin, nuts, and spice, but is actually fairly dry. So it can add those flavors to a cocktail without adding sweetness. I've made a number of recipes with Amontillado that I absolutely love: the Sherry CobblerTeenage Riot, Toffee Negroni, Flor de Jerez, and Legend are a few I've posted, as well as a couple originals of mine: the Pear Tree and L'Orchid

Bamboo cocktail

Amontillado sherry plays a starring role in the Bamboo. This is a classic, turn-of-the-century cocktail that was extremely popular in its time. With the resurgence of interest in sherry cocktails, it's finally receiving some attention again. And not a moment too soon. This is a seriously tasty drink, particularly if you love sherry as much as I do. It has a nutty, raisiny flavor while still being surprisingly light. Also, without any hard liquor, the Bamboo is a relatively low ABV cocktail that still drinks like something more spirit-forward. As David Wondrich writes, it "looks like a cocktail, tastes like a cocktail, and punches like a six-year-old."

The first recipe for the Bamboo in print (see below) as well as the more famous version in Boothby's 1908 The World's Drinks and How to Mix Them, don't specify what kind of sherry should be used. As such, you'll see the Bamboo made with a number of different sherries besides Amontillado, as well as with both blanc and dry vermouths. But ever since the Death & Co book changed the way I made Sazeracs, I've trusted them on the classics. When their recipes stray from tradition, it's usually for the better. And I think that's true of their specs for the Bamboo. They use Amontillado sherry and blanc vermouth, which probably tastes more similar to the "French vermouth" of Boothby's day. They also add half a teaspoon of simple syrup, which makes the drink less dry and really helps the sherry shine.

Bamboo cocktail

History: According to Boothby, the Bamboo was invented by Louis Eppinger, a German bartender who worked in Yokohama, Japan, where he managed the Grand Hotel from 1890-1907. Most accounts of the Bamboo's creation claim that Eppinger came up with it while he worked at the Grand, and that the name is a reference to Japan. But the Bamboo pre-dates Eppinger's stint in Yokohama by several years. The recipe appears in the St. Paul Daily Globe in 1886, and by 1893 it appeared on menus in New York as a Boston Bamboo. It was extremely popular, and a pre-bottled version was even sold.

This timeline doesn't mean that Eppinger didn't invent the Bamboo. Before he worked in Japan, he tended bar in San Francisco, and may have invented the drink there, which would explain its gradual journey eastward over the years. But it's clearly an even older drink than most people assume - another little piece of history you can sip on in your own home.

Bamboo

1 1/2 oz. Amontillado sherry (Lustau)
1 1/2 oz. blanc vermouth (Dolin)
1/2 tsp. simple syrup
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 dash orange bitters

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir until chilled. Strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Recipe from Death & Co: Modern Classic Cocktails.
Historical information from Tuxedo No. 2, Cold Glass, and Imbibe!

Friday, June 8, 2018

Recipe Round-Up: The Negroni

Negroni

Unless you're living under a rock (or, you know, not on social media), you probably know that it's Negroni Week! Sponsored by Imbibe and Campari, this is a week-long celebration of what is arguably the cocktail world's favorite drink. Bars around the country serve Negronis and Negroni variations, with proceeds from the drinks going to various charities. I'm only getting in on the tail end of the week, but if you're reading this before June 10th, see what venues are serving Negronis for a good cause near you here.

The Negroni and I have a tumultuous history. When I first tried one, I did not like it at all, and I said as much in my original Negroni post three years ago. In the cocktail world, thinking that Negronis are anything less than amazing is a fairly controversial opinion, but I was prepared to stand by it unless I magically developed a taste for them. And I did. Not magically, exactly; I think it was a combination of buying better sweet vermouth (and storing it properly in the refrigerator) and developing a taste for more bitter drinks in general. Other less polarizing cocktails eased me into the flavors of the Negroni, and before I knew it I was a convert. But I still understand how someone might not enjoy them, especially if they're new to Campari or cocktails in general. So whether you love a classic Negroni or are looking for your gateway drink, I've rounded up some Negroni variations in honor of this iconic equal-parts cocktail.

Assume that all of these should be stirred over ice and strained into a rocks glass over ice (though the last two can also be served in a coupe). Alternatively you can build them in the glass for an even easier cocktail.

Classic Negroni

1 oz. gin
1 oz. Campari
1 oz. sweet vermouth
Orange twist

The original: easy to remember, easy to make, and always great. Opinions will differ on the best gin and sweet vermouth for the job, but my go-tos are The Botanist or Wire Works and either Cocchi Vermouth di Torino or Carpano Antica Formula.


White Negroni

White Negroni

2 oz. gin
1 oz. Lillet Blanc
3/4 oz. Suze
Lemon twist

This variant from London bartender Wayne Collins is actually a lot more yellow than white, but let's not nitpick. Suze and Lillet make this Negroni a bit lighter but more herbal. It does diverge from the typical equal parts ratio, since Suze can be a bit overpowering. See my full post on this drink here.

Negroni Bianco

Negroni Bianco 

1 oz. gin
1 oz. Luxardo Bitter Bianco
1 oz. blanc vermouth
Orange or grapefruit twist

This truly white Negroni is known as the Negroni Bianco, and it is my favorite drink on this list. In fact, it's easily one of my favorite drinks of all time. (Someone told me recently that I say that a lot on here. Well, tough. It's true, especially in this case.) It's beautifully light and balanced, still bitter but not overpowering. It would be a perfect introductory Negroni. I wish I'd had one years ago - I might have started liking Negronis sooner.

Special Negroni

Special Negroni

1 oz. gin
1 oz. Aperol
1 oz. Lillet Blanc
Orange twist

I have a feeling this recipe exists under other names, but ever since I was served one at Canary Square in Boston, I call it the Special Negroni. This is the ultimate introductory Negroni - milder, sweeter, and a bit more citrusy, but still preserving all the crucial parts of the original.

Toffee Negroni

Toffee Negroni

1 oz. aged rum
1 oz. Aperol
1 oz. Amontillado sherry
Grapefruit twist

I had never heard of this Negroni until I saw it in Kara Newman's equal parts cocktail book Shake. Stir. Sip. Created by Lynette Marrero, it has a deep toffee sweetness with just the right amount of bitterness.

Deconstructed Negroni

Deconstructed Negroni

1 oz. gin
3/4 oz. dry vermouth
Dehydrated Campari
Orange twist

This one is a bit more of a novelty than a go-to recipe, but it seemed like I ought to include it. A bartender at Roosevelt in Denver told me how they dehydrated Campari and used it to serve a colorless Negroni with a Campari rim. I tried it at home and was pretty pleased with the result. See how to make it here.

Boulevardier

Boulevardier

1 1/2 oz. bourbon
1 oz. Campari
1 oz. sweet vermouth

This is another drink that definitely goes on my list of all-time favorites. I find the juniper notes of gin one of the more polarizing things about a Negroni, and subbing in bourbon makes a smoother drink that's more akin to a Manhattan. Say what you will, but I'll order a Boulevardier over a Negroni any day. See my original post on the Boulevardier (from before I developed my undying love for this cocktail) here.

Old Pal

Old Pal

1 oz. rye
1 oz. Campari
1 oz. dry vermouth
Orange twist

A close relative of the Boulevardier, the Old Pal is an even lighter cocktail that uses dry vermouth instead of sweet. You can take it one step further and try a Pen Pal, which additionally swaps the Campari for Aperol.

I've seen a ton of other interesting Negroni variations this week... what's your favorite?

Monday, May 28, 2018

A Dinner Party with Fonseca Siroco

Fonseca Siroco White Port

Ever since the weather has gotten warmer, I've been looking forward to enjoying dinners on our porch and in our backyard. Usually it's just my husband and I taking advantage of these springtime evenings, but I've always thought an outdoor party with friends would be a lot of fun. So when I was invited to host a dinner party with cocktails made with the Fonseca Siroco White Port, I jumped at the chance to throw the backyard soiree I'd always wanted. I had big plans: white tablecloths, candles, cafe lights, flowers, the works.

Then it rained.

Looking on the bright side, at least this meant we didn't need to carry all our food and supplies down three flights of stairs. It did mean a bit of frantic apartment cleaning and shoving baby gear into closets. But that evening, our friends braved the weather and joined us for a beautiful dinner party with Portuguese food, cocktails, and plenty of Fonseca Siroco.

Fonseca Siroco White Port

Let's quickly talk about Port, since it's not something I've used in any recipes on the blog yet. Port is a fortified wine made in the Douro Valley of Portugal. Fortified means that a distilled spirit has been added to the wine, which increases its alcohol content, extends its shelf life and affects its flavor. Other common fortified wines are vermouth, sherry and Madeira. Fonseca is one of the most widely available brands of Port, and their products are consistently very high quality.

When you think of Port, you probably picture a red Port like a tawny or ruby port, which are quite sweet and typically enjoyed after a meal. But white Port like the Fonseca Siroco is generally quite dry. Fonseca Siroco is crisp, fruity, and bright, perfect as an aperitif or with a meal. It's also fantastic in cocktails. The simplest option is just to mix it with tonic water and serve it with a slice of lemon, as it is commonly served in Portugal. Using it instead of vermouth is another easy way to work it into some of your favorite recipes.

White Port Cocktails

For my Port 'n' Party, I made two cocktails with the Fonseca Siroco that I batched ahead of time so I wouldn't be mixing while my guests were here. The first was a simple spritz made with white Port, Aperol, club soda, and an orange slice. Bright, citrusy and just a bit bitter, it made a great pairing for appetizers. For the second cocktail, I wanted to make something more spirit-forward but still appropriate for spring, so I made a martini with gin, white Port, St. Germain, and chamomile citrus bitters. I absolutely love this one - it's just the kind of cocktail I enjoy sipping on. The St. Germain lends this drink a bit of floral sweetness, but it's still dry enough to have before dinner. We also made some white Port and tonics. The recipes for all three cocktails are below!

Porto Spritz

For dinner, we had Arroz de Tamboril, a rice stew made with monkfish and shrimp that reminded me a lot of the Shrimp Creole we make at home in Louisiana. It's easy to prepare and great for a crowd. Dessert was Serradura, a spectacularly simple combo of sweetened whipped cream and shortbread cookie crumbs. Both recipes came from The Girl Loves to Eat. Our friend Chris of Socktails also brought Pasteis de Nata, which are amazing Portuguese custard tarts. We had plenty of Fonseca Siroco with dinner, and it paired very nicely with the seafood. It had been a long time since we had hosted a party like this one, and we really enjoyed the excuse to get together with friends, even if it was indoors! Maybe a garden party will have to happen later on in the summer. There will definitely be Port cocktails involved.

Portuguese Dinner Party


Portuguese Dinner Party


Fonseca Siroco White Port

Portuguese Dinner Party

Fonseca Siroco White Port

Fonseca Siroco White Port

White Port and Tonic

White Port and Tonic

1 1/2 oz. Fonseca Siroco White Port
3 oz. tonic water

Build in a glass over ice, stir gently, and garnish with a lemon slice.


Porto Spritz

Porto Spritz

1 oz. Fonseca Siroco White Port
3/4 oz. Aperol
1 oz. club soda

Combine Port and Aperol in a mixing glass with ice and stir until chilled. Strain into a rocks glass over one large ice cube. Top with club soda and stir gently. Garnish with an orange slice.


Lisbon Martini

Lisbon Martini

2 oz. gin (GrandTen Wire Works)
1 oz. Fonseca Siroco White Port
1/2 oz. St. Germain
1 dash Bittermen's Boston Bittahs

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir until chilled. Strain into a coupe. Twist a lemon peel over the cocktail, rub it along the sides of the glass, and discard. Garnish with chamomile flowers.

This post was made in partnership with Fonseca Port. All recipes and opinions are my own.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Sunflower

Sunflower

This week was another fun campaign on Instagram, #WeHaveTheLastWord. Started by Mike of mmydrinks last year, it's a weeklong celebration of one of the greatest cocktails out there, the Last Word. This equal-parts mix of gin, Green Chartreuse, maraschino liqueur, and lime juice is iconic in the cocktail world for its simple recipe and unique flavor. If you haven't had one, you need to make or order one immediately.

As one of the more famous equal-parts cocktails out there, the Last Word lends itself to all sorts of riffs and variations. The Last of the Oaxacans trades the gin for mezcal. The Naked and Famous takes this even farther with Yellow Chartreuse and Aperol instead of the Green Chartreuse and maraschino. The bourbon-based Paper Plane doesn't share a single ingredient with the Last Word, but is still generally considered a variant due to its equal-parts proportions. And if you check out We Have the Last Word on Instagram, you will find countless other variations on this formula containing just about every spirit and liqueur you can think of.

Sunflower

I wanted to create my own riff on the Last Word for the campaign, and even started playing around with some recipes, but I didn't have a chance to perfect one in time. Using equal parts can be a tricky business. Usually when you pick ingredients that you think might work together, you can adjust the amounts of each until they're in perfect harmony. But when you're committed to equal parts, if it doesn't work, it just doesn't.

Not wanting to miss out on all the fun, I turned to my copy of Shake. Stir. Sip. to see if there were any 4-ingredient equal parts cocktails I had never made before. And to my surprise, the first recipe in the 4-ingredient section was not only one I had never made, but it was one that sounded really, really good: the Sunflower. It's actually a riff on the Corpse Reviver, swapping elderflower liqueur for the usual Lillet or Cocchi, but since I've seen some Corpse Revivers and variations posted with the #WeHaveTheLastWord hashtag, I think it will fly.

Sunflower

You can tell the Sunflower is going to be a crowd pleaser long before you taste it. You can't go wrong with gin, lemon, St. Germain, and orange liqueur. It's basically a sunny, floral, boozy lemonade. The absinthe wash might seem a bit polarizing to the casual drinker, but once they try it they'll see that it's fairly subtle touch that really brings the cocktail together, and it keeps the discerning drinker from rolling their eyes at ingredients so tasty and versatile that they might overlook the Sunflower for being too ordinary. Plus, it's a recipe by Sam Ross, creator of the Penicillin and the aforementioned Paper Plane. I will basically drink anything he comes up with, no questions asked.

And man, "Sunflower" is a much happier name than "Corpse Reviver," huh?

History: This cocktail was created by Sam Ross of Milk & Honey and Little Branch in New York, now at Attaboy. He created it around 2008.

Sunflower

Sunflower

3/4 oz. gin
3/4 oz. St. Germain
3/4 oz. Cointreau
3/4 oz. lemon juice
Absinthe rinse

Combine gin, St. Germain, Cointreau, and lemon juice in a shaker with ice and shake until chilled. Pour a dash of absinthe (I used Herbsaint) into a coupe and swirl it to coat the glass. Strain the cocktail into the glass. Garnish with a lemon twist or some sunflower petals.

Recipe from Shake. Stir. Sip.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Pineapple Rum Julep

Pineapple Rum Julep

It's the first week of May, and you know what that means: Juleps. Or Margaritas. Or weird combos of both. Because the first week of May is when we celebrate two of America's favorite excuses to drink: the Kentucky Derby and Cinco de Mayo. Because let's face it, that's really all they both are. The Kentucky Derby lasts all of two minutes if you don't count the time you spend drinking Mint Juleps before the race, and the average American probably couldn't tell you what Cinco de Mayo even celebrates other than the stellar combination of lime and tequila. But I like how both events inspire my favorite cocktail sites to come up with creative variations on these two iconic drinks. And since it's been a while since I made a julep, I figured I'd join the party.

Pineapple Rum Julep

A julep is a combination of a spirit, a sweetener, and usually herbs or other flavoring. This drink has a long history (more of it can be found here), likely beginning in the Middle East with a rosewater beverage called a gulab. As it made its way to Europe and on to America, spirits and mint were added. Juleps were often prescribed as health tonics, and early American colonists would drink them in the morning for their health. Before whiskey became the ubiquitous American spirit, they were usually made with rum.

Pineapple Rum Julep

Since I'm falling more and more in love with rum these days, and in honor of those early juleps, I decided to make a rum julep to celebrate the upcoming Derby Day. I thought a pineapple syrup would be a really nice combo with some good aged rum and fresh mint. I tried a couple of bottles and settled on Bacardi Añejo Cuatro, which is bright and fruity and really shined in this recipe. Making the syrup takes a bit of prep work, but otherwise it's a deceptively simple cocktail - as juleps often are. That's one of the things that makes them so good.

Pineapple Rum Julep

Pineapple Rum Julep

2 oz. aged rum (Bacardi Añejo Cuatro)
3/4 oz. pineapple syrup*
5 large mint leaves

Place mint leaves in the bottom of a julep cup. Add pineapple syrup and muddle gently, bruising the mint but not breaking it up. Then add the rum and stir a little. Fill the cup with crushed ice and garnish with a dried pineapple slice and a bunch of mint. Heap a little more crushed ice on top and serve with a straw.

*For pineapple syrup, combine 1/2 cup water and 1 cup sugar in a saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add 1 cup fresh pineapple, cut into chunks. Simmer for about five minutes. Crush the pineapple with a potato masher or the back of a spoon and continue to simmer for five more minutes. Let cool and fine-strain out the pineapple pieces. Store in the fridge.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Gibson

Gibson

I've always been a bit fascinated - and confused - by the Gibson.

Before writing this post, I didn't really know much about this classic cocktail, except that it was a Martini garnished with a cocktail onion instead of an olive or lemon twist. But if that's all it is, then why does it have a special name? And is it actually any good?

The answer to the first question is a bit complicated, but I'll get to it. The answer to the second question is yes.

If you like Martinis, especially with olives, you will like a Gibson. Well, assuming you like onions too. Like olives, onions give gin and vermouth a hint of savory flavor, and snacking on them in between sips enhances notes in the gin that you wouldn't normally taste. I'm not sure the Gibson deserves to be a cocktail in its own right, as it is definitely just a Martini variation. But the reason for that is historical, as you'll see below. And there's no denying that it's a tasty drink.

Gibson

Some writers play up the Gibson as the sort of drink you have to be in-the-know to order, a signal to your bartender that you are a discerning imbiber of finely-crafted cocktails. But in my opinion, no one who fits this description would ever order a Gibson at the average bar. The quality of a Gibson hinges on the quality of its garnish, and at most bars this is going to come from an old jar of soggy cocktail onions that they've kept around on the off chance that anyone orders this obscure drink. To make a Gibson really good, you've got to use good onions. They should be briny and crunchy and - preferably - hot pink.

Well, that last bit isn't exactly part of the classic Gibson recipe. But if I was going to make my own cocktail onions, I figured I might as well have a little fun with it, so I made these beet-pickled pearl onions. It was completely worth the extra trouble. First of all, these are good - tart and briny and garlicky and just the tiniest bit sweet. And second of all, they look absolutely awesome. This is a cocktail garnish on another level. And in a drink that depends on its garnish as heavily as the Gibson, you might as well go all out.

Beet-pickled Cocktail Onions

History: I had a feeling a classic drink like the Gibson would have enough history to fill an entire book, and indeed it does. Although, as tends to be the case, most of it is apocryphal. Who, for example, was the eponymous Gibson who lent his (or her) name to this libation? And, again, why the special name at all?

Over the years, this drink has been attributed to a number of different Gibsons. In my brief research, I encountered no fewer than six - well, seven, actually, since one story involves twins. All of these tales supposedly occurred sometime between 1890 and 1920. Most are probably not true. A couple are certainly not. But it's fun to know them all nonetheless. Here are the contenders:

1. Charles Dana Gibson, the artist/illustrator responsible for the famous "Gibson Girls," challenged Charley Connolly, the bartender at the Player's Club in New York City, to improve upon the classic Martini. Connolly completely phoned it in and just swapped the olive for an onion.

2. Stockbroker Walter Campbell Gibson requested an onion in his Martini at the bar in the Ritz in Paris, and the bartender named the drink after him. This claim was included in his obituary in the New York Times.

3. Hugh Simons Gibson, a diplomat with the U.S. State Department, did not like to drink as much as his colleagues when they went out to the Metropolitan Club in D.C., so he had the bartender pour him water instead of a Martini, with an onion garnish so he could keep track of which one was his. This version is sometimes repeated with a banker named Gibson instead.

4. The drink was named after a boxing promoter named Billie Gibson.

5. There was a pair of twin sisters in Chicago with the last name of Gibson. They loved Martinis but hated olives, so would always ask for two cocktail onions as their garnish instead - two because they were twins.

6. Walter D. K. Gibson, a successful San Francisco businessman, believed that eating onions prevented colds so he would always put one in his Martini when he ordered one at the Bohemian Club (definitely my kind of healthy living).

Gibson

#1 and #6 are the most popular options, though they're usually accompanied by the assertion that we'll never really know. And maybe we won't. But in an excellent article for the Wall Street Journal, Eric Felten provides fairly compelling evidence that the correct Gibson is #6 - Walter D. K. Gibson (and thanks to Doug Ford for calling my attention to it).

Felten uncovers what he says is the earliest mention of the Gibson cocktail in print, in a humorous story by Edward W. Townsend in an 1898 issue of New York World.  Townsend was most famous for his Chimmie Fadden stories, a couple of which were later made into movies by Cecile B. DeMille. But he also published a series of stories featuring the upperclass Major Max and his young wife, who drink copiously and discuss such things as the merits of having whiskey and water with dinner (abominable, unless you are suffering from gout), the ongoing flirtation between the single Mr. Billings and the married Mrs. Jack, and the Major's unpublished manuscript on mushrooms. While I can't get my hands on the particular essay in question, according to Felten Major Max tells his wife, "Gin, my dear... if mixed with an equal part of dry vermouth and properly chilled makes a Gibson cocktail."

The kicker here? Townsend, who wrote these words, was the vice president of the Bohemian Club in San Francisco, where Walter D. K. Gibson supposedly enjoyed his Martinis with onions. It's not a smoking gun, but it's a compelling coincidence.

Gibson

But what about those onions? Isn't that supposed to be what makes a Gibson a Gibson? Not according to Major Max, and not according to the second-oldest Gibson recipe (often credited as the oldest) in William T. Boothby's The World's Drinks and How to Mix Them. Boothby also calls for equal parts gin and dry vermouth, and says that an olive can be optionally added. So basically... a Martini. But not the Martini of the time, as you can see on the page opposite Boothby's Gibson recipe - Martinis contained orange bitters. The difference with the Gibson, as Boothby points out, is the lack of bitters, not the garnish. But the classic Martini recipe eventually lost the bitters, while the Gibson gained the onion. Maybe it was named for Walter D. K. Gibson, but the business about onions curing colds wasn't true. Maybe one of the other stories led to the iconic garnish. But it seems that the Martini and the Gibson converged on their similar recipes independently.

One thing is for sure - the Gibson is a cocktail that shouldn't be neglected. Major Max told his wife, "I purpose writing about its merits until it shall be crowned with the appreciation of mankind." A noble aim, and one I hope I've furthered here.

Gibson

2 1/2 oz. gin
1/2 oz. dry vermouth
Beet-pickled cocktail onions for garnish (recipe below)

Combine gin and vermouth in a mixing glass with ice and stir until well chilled. Strain into a chilled coupe or cocktail glass and garnish with three cocktail onions on a pick.

Beet-Pickled Cocktail Onions

1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup water
3 garlic cloves, crushed
3 tbsp. sugar
3 tsp. whole black peppercorns
1 tbsp. kosher salt
4 small red beets, cooked and roughly chopped (I used Love Beets; you can also try canned, check your grocer's salad bar, or roast your own)
1 cup pearl onions (I bought mine frozen and thawed them out)

Combine the vinegar, water, garlic, sugar, peppercorns, and salt in a saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring until sugar is dissolved, about 5 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes. Combine beets and onions in a mason jar and pour the vinegar mixture on top. Let sit at room temperature for 2 hours, then transfer to the fridge and let sit at least overnight.

Onion recipe adapted from this one by Food & Wine.
Besides the sources linked above, historical information also came from Slate, Elemental Mixology, and Paste Magazine.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

White Negroni

White Negroni

Hello again! It's been a little while since I posted. The past couple of weeks have been quite busy. We had lots of family visit, and my sister and I went on a quick weekend trip to London! It's something we had been talking about doing for a while, and I'm so glad we finally did.

We had both been to the city before, so this time we didn't do any of the usual touristy stuff - no museums, no tours, not even a peek at Big Ben. Instead, we just walked around the city, did a little shopping, and went to lots of bars and restaurants. It was really perfect. I had a long list of cocktail bars I wanted to check out, and right at the top was Nightjar, a world-famous spot renowned for their elaborately presented drinks. It didn't disappoint - the cocktail menu was insane, and each drink was a veritable work of art. Other highlights were the American Bar at the Savoy hotel, where Harry Craddock invented such classics as the Corpse Reviver #2, and Dandelyan, which effortlessly spanned the gap between simple, well-made cocktails and really innovative ingredients and techniques. I could have spent much longer in the city, but as weekend trips go, it was pretty much perfect!

White Negroni

A couple of weeks ago, I introduced Suze, a new bottle in my bar. Ever since then, I've been itching to try a White Negroni, one of the more popular Suze cocktails. A Negroni, as you probably know, is made with equal parts gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth. The White Negroni swaps out the Campari for Suze and the sweet vermouth for Lillet Blanc. (You can also use Cocchi Americano, dry vermouth, or blanc vermouth if you don't have the Lillet.) While the drink lacks the Negroni's ruby red hue, its name is a bit misleading, as it is definitely not white - the Suze turns it a bright, sunny yellow.

The White Negroni may look like a pale imitation of its namesake, but it's anything but. It is a little less sweet than a Negroni, with a lighter flavor and mouthfeel, but with a bigger, more herbaceous finish. It preserves the spirit of the iconic cocktail, with sweet and bitter and strong flavors mixing perfectly together. The version I made comes from The PDT Cocktail Book, and doesn't use equal parts like a traditional Negroni - I prefer this, as I find the flavor of Suze pretty intense, and PDT's 3/4 oz seems perfect to me. But other books, such as A Proper Drink, do recommend 1 ounce of each ingredient. Try some different ratios and figure out what you like best!

White Negroni

History: The White Negroni was created by London bartender Wayne Collins in either 2001 or 2002 (I've seen both dates). He was in Bordeaux to participate in a cocktail contest hosted by Plymouth Gin. Nick Blacknell, a brand ambassador for the gin, asked Collins for a Negroni, but he didn't have any Campari. He reached for the Suze instead, and the locally-made Lillet instead of vermouth. Another Plymouth ambassador, Simon Ford, brought the recipe back to New York, where Audrey Sanders of Pegu Club helped make it famous.

White Negroni

2 oz. gin (Plymouth recommended)
1 oz. Lillet Blanc
3/4 oz. Suze

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir until chilled. Strain into a rocks glass with one large piece of ice, or into a coupe. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Recipe adapted from The PDT Cocktail Book.
History from A Proper Drink and Gin Foundry.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Bottle Swap: Suze

Apiary

Today is the second installment of my latest bottle swap with Adam of Mr. Muddle! A few weeks ago, we each made a cocktail with Banane du Bresil, which surprised me by being ridiculously tasty and extremely versatile. Today, the bottle we're working with is Suze - definitely more of an acquired taste than a crowd pleaser, but an ingredient I'm pretty excited to be adding to my bar.

Suze is a bitter French aperitif flavored with gentian root. It was first sold in 1889 by French distiller Fernand Moureaux. Some say he created the recipe with his partner, Henri Porte, and named it after his sister-in-law, Suzanne Jaspert. Other accounts allege that he purchased the formula in 1885 from a Swiss herbalist named Hans Kappeler, and that Kappeler inspired the name by saying that his aperitif would flow in France just like the river Suze. This turned out to be pretty accurate. Suze became incredibly popular in France, and was a fixture of cafe culture. Porte's design for the tall, distinctive bottle and its vivid yellow color made it instantly recognizable. It was even immortalized (albeit extremely abstractly) in Picasso's 1912 painting Verre et bouteille de Suze ("Glass and Bottle of Suze").

Though it has remained popular abroad, Suze was not even available in the United States until 2012, when Domaine Select began importing it. Since then, craft cocktail bars and home bartenders have been reintroduced to Suze, and are including it in all sorts of different recipes.

Suze

Suze's label refers to it as "Saveur d'autrefois," meaning "the flavor of yesteryear" or "the flavor of another time." This really sums up what I love about Suze, and about most other spirits and liqueurs that have been in production for a similarly long amount of time - when you drink it, you really are tasting the same thing that someone might have sipped in Paris in 1900, or that Picasso drank while he painted the bottle in 1912. It's a very romantic notion.

Suze is an excellent ingredient for adding to cocktails, but it can definitely be tricky to work with. Its flavor is bitter and vegetal, with hints of citrus. Its taste is as distinctive as its bright yellow color. The closest thing I can compare it to is Campari, though I would consider Suze more floral and earthy, and therefore more of an acquired taste. It adds some sweetness to your drink, but not without a big wallop of a bitter finish. As such, I tend to use it in fairly small amounts when I want it to play well with other ingredients. But it can also be enjoyed on its own on the rocks, or with soda or tonic.

Suze

Alcohol content: 20%
Price: $30
Popular Cocktails: White Negroni

Apiary

Suze plays particularly well with fizz, and it's been way too long since I made a sparkling cocktail, so I knew where I wanted to go with this one. Suze and champagne is just ridiculously elegant and oh-so-French. Gin blended well with Suze's herbal notes, and I decided to amplify the floral, sunny flavors with a honey chamomile syrup and a bit of lemon juice. This cocktail tastes like wandering through French fields surrounded by wildflowers and buzzing bees. It's herbaceous and bitter, bright and fizzy. La saveur d'autrefois.

Be sure to check out what Adam has done with his half of the bottle over at Mr. Muddle! It's an equal-parts cocktail with mezcal and creme de menthe called Power of the Glow.

Apiary

Apiary

1 1/2 oz. gin (GrandTen Wire Works)
1/2 oz. Suze
1/2 oz. lemon juice
1/2 oz. honey chamomile syrup*
3-4 oz. sparkling wine

Combine gin, Suze, lemon juice, and honey chamomile syrup in a shaker with ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a champagne flute and top with sparkling wine. Garnish with an edible flower.

*For honey chamomile syrup, heat 1/2 cup of brewed chamomile tea in a saucepan until it simmers. Add 1/2 cup honey and stir to dissolve. Remove from heat and let cool before using.

Suze history mostly from Frenchly.com.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Ramos Gin Fizz + 3 Years of Garnish!

Ramos Gin Fizz

I'm celebrating! Today Garnish is three years old. I started the blog back in 2015, while I was still in graduate school. My first post was on building a basic home bar. And honestly, it holds up pretty well, except for the inclusion of Punt e Mes as the recommended sweet vermouth. (I love Punt e Mes, but it's more bitter than most vermouths; I'd recommend Carpano Antica Formula or Cocchi Vermouth di Torino now.) Live and learn!

Since that first post, so much has happened that I never expected. For one thing, there are actually people like you out there reading this blog, which in itself is pretty crazy and amazing. My home bar has grown beyond the few bottles in that first post to a ridiculous, sprawling collection that recently spilled over into the neighboring bookcase. I've gotten the opportunity to attend industry events, work with brands, and connect with other cocktail lovers. The biggest surprise has been Instagram - just this month, I hit 10,000 followers, with is insane. It has easily been the best platform for connecting with other home bartenders, and if you're not on there, I highly recommend you check it out.

Ramos Gin Fizz

Like any good celebration, this one calls for a drink! I chose the Ramos Gin Fizz to celebrate this milestone because I always thought of it as the Mt. Everest of cocktails. I tried to make one early on in my home bartending days and failed utterly; my foam was pitifully nonexistent and the flavor was just off. After that I assumed it was a drink that was just beyond my skill level. But no longer! I made a Ramos Gin Fizz. And guess what? You can, too.

The only ingredient in a Ramos Gin Fizz that you might not have on hand is orange flower water. This is a clear liquid distilled from orange blossoms that has a flowery flavor and fragrance. You can find this at many liquor stores or buy it online. You can also skip it if you must. Your Fizz will be lacking that hint of floral flavor that makes it extra special, but it will still be quite tasty.

The other big challenge when making a Ramos Gin Fizz is getting that foam just right. There are a lot of tricks you can employ. A reverse dry shake with a blender ball (see my notes in this recipe) is the best way I've found to get that really nice foam.

Actually, that's a lie. I'll come clean - the best way to get this great foam, and the way that I got the foam in the picture, is with an electric mixer. I know, I know. That must technically be cheating or something. And it creates some bubbles that are a bit too large for most egg white cocktails. But for the Ramos Gin Fizz, which benefits from a big, stiff topping of foam, an electric mixer with a whisk attachment can save your arms some serious work and basically guarantee that you'll get that beautiful drink you're striving for. And if anyone has a problem with that, then tough.

All that mixing and shaking will be worth it, I promise. The Ramos Gin Fizz is a heavenly drink. I've often seen it compared to a Piña Colada, which is sort of bizarre since they don't share a single ingredient in common. I think it's because they both have that perfect combination of creamy, sweet, and sour. The Ramos Gin Fizz just looks and tastes so special, from the magical cap of foam to the hint of orange flower water. It's a cocktail that shouldn't be missed.

Ramos Gin Fizz

History: The Ramos Gin Fizz is a New Orleans classic, so of course it was born there. It was invented by Henry C. Ramos in 1888 at the Imperial Cabinet saloon at the corner of Gravier and Carondelet. He called it a New Orleans Fizz. When he sold his bar and opened a new one right down the street called The Stag in 1907, he took the iconic recipe with him there. It was wildly popular. This was actually something of a problem, because Ramos' recipe required a staggering 12 minutes of shaking. To keep up with demand, he employed an assembly line of "shaker boys" who would each shake the drink for a minute or two so that they didn't become exhausted.

Ramos was actually a supporter of the temperance movement, quite surprising for someone who made a living slinging drinks. He discouraged any kind of drunkenness or misbehavior at his bar, and closed at the respectable hour of eight o'clock. When Prohibition began in 1919, he was quick to shutter The Stag and switch to mixing paint instead of cocktails. He died in 1928.

When Prohibition was lifted, Ramos' son sold the rights to the New Orleans Fizz to the Roosevelt Hotel, which trademarked the new name "Ramos Gin Fizz" in 1935. Their Sazerac Bar remains the most famous place to order one today. It was famously the favorite cocktail of Huey P. Long, who went so far as to fly one of the Roosevelt's bartenders to New York to teach the folks at the New Yorker Hotel how to make the drink properly for him when he was visiting. If you think that sounds a bit silly, you've never seen the bartenders at the Roosevelt make a Ramos Gin Fizz. It's a theatrical production, with white-suited bartenders energetically shaking the drink, performing an impressively high pour, and then doing that final top-up with club soda that causes the foam to almost miraculously rise above the rim of the glass. Ordering one there is a must if you visit New Orleans.

Thank you all so much for reading - here's to another three years! Cheers!

Ramos Gin Fizz

Ramos Gin Fizz

1 1/2 oz. gin (preferably Old Tom)
1 oz simple syrup
1 oz. heavy cream
1 oz. egg white
1/2 oz. lemon juice
1/2 oz. lime juice
3-4 drops orange flower water
2 drops vanilla extract (optional*)
Club soda

Combine all ingredients except club soda in a shaker with ice and shake well to combine. Strain out the ice and return to the shaker, adding a blender ball or spring. Shake very well to froth up the egg whites, 30-60 seconds. Alternatively, transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl and blend with an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment for 30 seconds.

Add a dash of club soda to the bottom of a tall Collins glass. Pour in the cocktail, raising the bowl or shaker as you pour to increase the distance between it and the glass - this helps the foam form. Top up the drink with club soda so that the foam rises above the rim of the glass.

*According to Stanley Clisby Arthur in his 1937 book Famous New Orleans Drinks and How To Mix 'Em, "Veteran barkeepers differ violently - practically come to blows - over the inclusion of the two innocent drops of extract of vanilla. Old-timers who worked for Henry Ramos in the past declare the original Ramos included no vanilla in its make-up. Others hold that the twin drops of extract wrung from the heart of the vanilla bean either make or break a real gin fizz - make it taste like heaven or the reverse." I will leave it up to you to decide where you stand on this divisive issue. Since I was having my fizz with a vanilla cupcake, I thought the two drops sounded like a lovely idea.

Recipe adapted from this video and from Famous New Orleans Drinks and How To Mix 'Em. (Note that the stated ounce and a half of orange flower water in the video is clearly a mistake!)

Historical information mostly came from Thrillist, Gin FoundryGambino's Bakery, and Famous New Orleans Drinks and How To Mix 'Em.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Condado

Condado

I'm so excited today to share a cocktail made in partnership with Bacardi to celebrate the launch of their brand-new Bacardi Añejo Cuatro! This premium blended rum is aged in American Oak for at least four years. Slightly fruity with flavors of vanilla, honey, and toasted oak, it's an amazing rum for cocktails.

Bacardi Anejo Cuatro

In addition to the Anejo Cuatro, I was able to try the re-branded Bacardi Reserva Ocho and the brand new Gran Reserva Diez, which will also be released in April. I have to say a quick word about these as well, because they are fabulous. If you're skeptical that rum can be as enjoyable to sip neat as whiskey, get your hands on one of these bottles. My husband was doubtful when I offered him a glass of rum, and he has since replaced his usual nightcap of Scotch with some Bacardi on the rocks.

Bacardi Anejo Cuatro

Sipping the Bacardi Añejo Cuatro makes me think of the streets of San Juan - brightly colored houses beside shady palms and weathered seaside forts overlooking bright blue water. It's a blend of Old World elegance and Caribbean beauty, and that's what I tried to capture in this cocktail. Lime and pineapple juices are always great with rum and bring some bright tropical notes, but to emphasize the flavors of vanilla and oak, I brûléed the pineapple slices before extracting their juice. It's amazing what a bit of heat or fire can do for flavor. Brown butter, toasted spices, caramelized fruits, smoked wood or herbs... a bit of char can take a drink to an entirely different place. I have yet to use my crème brûlée torch to make actual crème brûlée, but you'd better believe it has seen some use on cocktail ingredients.

Bruleed Pineapple

Pineapple actually pairs really well with an IPA, a fact that Death & Co taught me with their Strange Brew and Savage Islands cocktails. IPAs are my favorite beers by far, and I've been meaning to try an IPA syrup in a cocktail for some time. This seemed like the perfect opportunity. Along with some Punt e Mes, the hoppy syrup adds sweetness balanced with bitterness. A dash of smoky Scotch adds the finishing touch and helps emphasize the toasted taste of the pineapple. I really like how these flavors play together, and how they all work so well with the Añejo Cuatro. Salud!

Condado

Condado

1.5 oz. Bacardi Anejo Cuatro
3/4 oz. Punt e Mes
1 oz. brûléed pineapple juice*
1/2 oz. lime juice
1/4 oz. IPA syrup**
1 dash peaty Scotch (Laphroaig)

Combine all ingredients except Scotch in a shaker with crushed ice and shake until chilled. Open pour into a large brandy snifter. Top with a little more ice and the peaty Scotch. Garnish with pineapple leaves and a piece of brûléed pineapple.

*For brûléed pineapple juice, slice a pineapple into rings, removing the rind and the core. Set rings on a cooling rack or other heatproof surface and pass a torch over them until they begin to blacken. Let cool slightly, flip rings, and repeat. To extract the juice, muddle the rings and then fine-strain the pulp. For the garnish, leave the rind on one of the rings and sprinkle a bit of sugar on before you brûlée it - this gives it a nice caramelized color.

**For IPA syrup, add 1 cup of IPA beer to a saucepan and bring to a simmer. When it foams up, add 3/4 cup Demerara sugar. Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved and the mixture has reduced to a syrupy consistency.