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



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!



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.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Bottle Swap: Banane du Brésil

Banana Bread

It's finally time for another bottle swap with our good friend Adam of Mr. Muddle! I say "finally" because we organized this one and swapped the bottles before I got pregnant with Luke, and it's been on hold now for over a year. And let me tell you, this Giffard Banane du Brésil has been burning a hole in my bar. I did not expect it to become an ingredient I used frequently. Banana can be such an overpowering flavor and aroma. But I have been shocked to find myself reaching for this bottle over and over again. I try not to post recipes with ingredients I haven't officially introduced, but with this one I couldn't help it. It found its way into my Banana Stand for #TikiTheSnowAway (which was featured in an article by Liquor.com, by the way!) and my Savannah Sunrise for Amarula. It was also great in the L'Acajou, which I posted on Instagram. Banane du Brésil has probably been the single most surprising thing I've added to my bar.

I think Banane du Brésil is so good because it's not just some sugary banana-flavored liqueur. It's made from a mixture of neutral grain spirits macerated with bananas and a spirit actually distilled from bananas. A bit of Cognac adds the finishing touch. It's sweet, yes, but it has a rich flavor like caramelized bananas with hints of vanilla. I've just been shocked at how versatile it is. Mixing it with bourbon or aged rum brings out its richer notes, while lime juice and coconut play up its more tropical banana flavors.

Banane du Brésil

Price: $35
Alcohol content: 25%
Popular cocktails: Often added to daiquiris, Tiki drinks, and spirit-forward rum cocktails

Brown Butter Washed Rum

For this cocktail, I was inspired by a drink I had at Blossom Bar in Brookline that had both banana liqueur and brown butter in the ingredient list. I love baking and cooking with brown butter, and fat-washing a spirit with it seemed genius. And it was. I know this post is supposed to be about the banana liqueur, but this brown-butter washed rum is AMAZING.

I've only fat-washed a spirit once before, when I made an olive oil-washed gin. Fat washing is one of those techniques that sounds intimidating but is actually incredibly easy. Basically, it involves mixing a spirit with a fatty substance like butter or oil and then chilling or freezing the mixture until the fat separates and rises to the top. Once the fat is strained out, the spirit retains its flavor. It can be done with a number of different fats and spirits. I've seen bacon-washed whiskey, coconut oil-washed Campari, sesame oil-washed gin, and more.

Washing an aged rum with brown butter gives it an incredible rich, toasty, buttery flavor that goes perfectly with Banane du Brésil.

Brown Butter Washed Rum

Brown Butter-Washed Rum

1 stick butter
1 cup aged rum (I used Plantation 5-Year)

Place butter in a saucepan and melt over medium heat, swirling the pan frequently. The butter should melt and then begin to foam up. Continue to swirl the pan frequently until the foam begins to go down, brown solids appear, and the butter gets a toasty, nutty aroma. Remove from heat and slowly stir in the rum - the butter will foam and sizzle a little. Let cool slightly and transfer to a cup measure or jar. (This is the stage pictured above.) Let cool completely. A layer of fat will begin to form on the surface of the rum. Once it is cool, transfer it to the fridge for 48 hours, then stir it to break up the fat and strain it through a coffee filter or cheesecloth. Store in the fridge for up to a week.

With my Banane du Brésil and my brown butter rum, I wanted to create a cocktail that basically tasted like banana bread. It's sweet, nutty, and boozy with a thick, buttery texture. It's downright decadent. And it does a nice job of showcasing this fantastic banana liqueur.

Don't forget to head over to Mr. Muddle to check out the Pratfall: peaty Scotch, Banane du Brésil, maple syrup, and apricot liqueur!

Banana Bread

Banana Bread

1 1/2 oz. brown butter washed rum
3/4 oz. Giffard Banane du Brésil
1/2 oz. Amaro Averna
1/4 oz. Allspice Dram
1 dash maple walnut bitters

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir until chilled. Strain into a rocks glass over one large ice cube and garnish with banana chips and walnuts.