This will just be a quick after-post (post-post?) on the delicious drink I wrote about last time. I successfully killed off that bottle of Dolin dry vermouth by making yet another Ferrari, and side-by-siding it against the same drink make with the new Ransom dry vermouth. OH MY YES.
This Ransom vermouth is something else. Making this drink with a fresh bottle of Ransom was night and day against that poor old Dolin. Don’t get me wrong, Dolin makes a perfectly good vermouth, and I consider their dry to be well above average… but there is no comparison. Ransom has just deepened the crush that I already have on all their products (thus far).
To the left is our Neat Ice Kit, which is why the ice in the glass is oh-so-hard to see! Yes, being an Ice Nerd is a post for another day…
Made with a standard dry vermouth, the Ferrari attempts to make peace, no, screw that, it DOES makes peace between the slight bitterness and light body of the vermouth and the cloying sweetness of a really good amaretto, moderated by the always-wise and sublime lemon twist. With this new hotness, however, these opposing elements no longer must do battle and strive for harmony. The amaretto and the vermouth lock eyes, share a long smouldering look, and embrace each other with a relentless and heated makeout. The botanicals jump right to the front for a drink with surprising depth and complexity. The lemon peel, modestly working its magic in a separate show atop the drink, now blends in harmoniously with the profile of the vermouth, and change this drink from an unexpectedly pleasant drink to an outright surprise.
Never, never, never underestimate the value of a direct, scientific experiment via the change in only one variable. This recipe is a keeper.
Tomorrow, some dear friends are rolling in from out of town, and I’ve been eager all week. The evening will not feature Elyn’s masterful kitchen skills, but when the inquiry was made into fine drinks, my reply was “OH HELLS YES.”
When enough people give me sufficient cause and forewarning, my first thought is punch. Yes, making individual drinks of excellence is always a pleasure, but there is something to be said for the charms of the flowing bowl. By ‘something,’ I mean a significant, tangible something. If everyone can have the same drink, and it is objectively delicious, the shared-experience factor that we are already familiar with (in this age of over-sharing) becomes a thing to be treasured and, if I do my job correctly, marveled at.
I truly love these people coming to visit tomorrow, and what better way to show that than with a labor of love in drinkable form? I just got done prepping the oleo-saccharum, and I’m always blown away by it. I don’t think I ever want to make a punch without it.
Be jealous of these smells.
Also, I finally got the WordPress app to let me in! Posting on the go! Hooray for accessibility!
Alright, time to get back to work. I worried for a long time about getting back to this, and if I could write content worth your time, dear reader. It took me this long to figure out that the worry was keeping me from writing AT ALL (I’m kinda dumb that way). So now, back to business.
I will not be sacrificing quality for a mass of useless, ho-hum posts, and I will not write just for the sake of it. I refused to give up on this little write-n-drink project because, well, I’ve got a lot to say about fine drinking and about fine liquors. I’ve actually got a lot to say about crappy ones, too, for that matter. I will also not let the fear of inadequate photography slow me down. These images don’t have to look flawless; I’m not trying to pass myself off as a photographer, just a dude with a cellphone, a crazy home bar, and a lovely, talented, and supportive wife.
It’s time to work. Of course, by work, I mean drink. Here’s to you.
Alright, time to get back on the stick and rant about one of life’s greatest accomplishments! Sorry for the delay, you few readers, you; I return now with some excellent news! I’ve been doing a few odd jobs on the side, and decided to turn some of this extra cash into another little luxury. I just placed my order for a new Ra Chand J210 citrus juicer, as recommended by David Wondrich in his lovely book, Punch. Getting to those sweet juices (well, really, sour juices) has become all the easier! Now the only thing stopping me from making ALL THE PUNCH are willing faces to pour it into…
After a plodding search for ingredients, we’ve got a batch of Meyer Lemon bitters (from Brad Parson’s book, Bitters) currently waiting out a 2-week stint in a Mason jar. I am trying not to… but when I sneak a sniff, they already smell amazing. I, for one, am extra-excited to try these out.
We also had a very productive visit from our cocktail-loving friend with the great palate, Robert. Not one, but TWO recipes came out of that visit… more about them soon. Also, more about the Hudson Single Malt whiskey that I picked up; I am in love with it.
It’s been a busy month of travel and adventure, but there are a few new things to report in this short post!
First, we had a great trip to Washington D.C. over Thanksgiving to see some excellent friends. While there, we picked up a few new things for our Cabinet:
Green Hat Gin, made right in D.C. It’s a fine tasting gin with an excellent story to go with the name, as well as some very well-chosen botanicals. I put it to work in a Barnum (Was Right) Cocktail, and the results were sublime.
Art in the Age Sage, a ‘garden gin’ based on a recipe formulated by Thomas Jefferson’s gardener and horticultural mentor. This is another worthy and delicious addition to the Art in the Age line of liqueurs.
Hum, an unusual but stunning liqueur that contains ingredients like kaffir lime, cardamom, ginger, and hibiscus. It’s an entrancing, deep red color, and every ingredient I just listed comes through in the taste. There will some amazing things made with this stuff!
We visited The Passenger while in the capitol, and became instant fans… and I don’t mean Twitter. Well, not just Twitter. They don’t have a standing menu, and instead, take requests and preferences from the customer and create each drink according to those tastes. We were made some pretty impressive and inspired drinks, and will be writing more about that soon. Stay tuned!
Let me start this post with a confession. I don’t drink Bloody Marys. You are probably thinking you shouldn’t take my advice on them right about now but hear me out. While I don’t drink Bloody Marys, I absolutely do drink Bloody Mary Mix. See, when I was a child, my mother’s favorite drink was the Bloody Mary and (it being the 80s) she loved ordering them in restaurants where they came garnished with a side salad. Celery, pickles, olives, steamed shrimp. If you could dream it, it came on top of those Bloody Marys. After I got old enough to really start hogging the garnishes, she began just ordering me my own (without the booze, naturally.)
Although the initial allure of the Bloody Mary was the cornucopia of savory delights perched atop it, I soon became quite enamored with the drink itself. Cold, thick, salty, and spicy. For a 5-year-old, I had a pretty adventurous palette and I came to really enjoy Bloody Mary Mix.
Believe it or not, I never tried one with booze until I was of legal age. I ordered one in an airport bar about a week after my 21st birthday and. . . Blech. My Bloody Mary was watered down with vodka! Gross. Since then, I’ve tried them a few more times with different spirits. The most acceptable was reposado tequila but I’d still rather have my Bloody Mary’s sans booze, thank you very much. This seems like an odd admission for a cocktail blogger to make but I wired up those taste buds long ago. Naturally, you can take this mix recipe and do whatever you would like with is. I’m sure it is tasty with your choice of spirit (if you’re into that sort of thing.)
This recipe is also missing a very common ingredient, Worcestershire sauce. Initially that came out of a frantic substitution when I realized I was out half way through making my mix (mise en place, people!) but I am beginning to think it was a happy accident. I subbed in soy sauce and balsamic vinegar to make up for it and after getting some Worcestershire and tasting them side-by-side, I think I prefer it this way. It has the added bonus of making this mix vegan (at least until you garnish it with blue-cheese stuffed olives.)
Combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly. Adjust to taste but be aware that the horseradish develops over time. Best after at least 6 hours when the ingredients are thoroughly married and chilled.
Serve over ice and garnish with any manner of delicious salty things. If you're in the South, grab some dilly beans or pickled okra. If you're lucky enough to have dinner guests that bring you fancy olives, toss some of those in there.
I was recently given the awesome opportunity lately to help out a gathering of awesome people, more formerly known as the TEDx Columbia SC team and their speakers for this year’s event. I can’t tell you who was in attendance, since the announcement about who is speaking has not been announced, but I can tell you that I’m very excited for this year’s event.
Since I had previously mixed drinks for many of the team members for the event, I was asked to ‘tend bar'(I hesitate to say I was bartending, since it was just a table where the beer, wine, champagne, and water were hanging out). But that was something anyone could have done to help out. My contribution came in the form of punch.
But this was not to be the kind of punch that comes to many people’s minds, with bottles of booze, soda, and tooth-withering sucrose neon-colored ingredients. Oh no, not here. I drew my recipe forth from cocktail historian David Wondrich’s wonderful book, Punch. As with his earlier book, Imbibe, Wondrich tells the rich history of punch (which predates cocktails by centuries!) and provides recipes with context and modern-day options for how to make them. In the case of Punch, the correct verb is ‘compounding’ punch… and I discovered that I do enjoy compounding it.
I chose a recipe out of this awesome book called Regent’s Punch, and it is so named because the recipe is attributed to King George IV. Yeah, I went and made a 200+ year-old recipe for an unsuspecting group of Columbia’s movers and shakers. In the interest of full disclosure I did quickly print out a placard with the ingredients and a brief summary of the story, since I knew that sampling something unknown would be just cause for hesitation. Note: there are TONS of variation on this recipe (as is to be expected with something as popular and aged as this punch is), but that link just above is the same from Punch that I followed. The magic that makes this work (in my humble opinion) is the oleo-saccharum, which is a beautiful elixir made from the zests of citrus (the very outer peel with no pith) muddled in sugar and left to sit. The sugar and muddling releases the oils from the peels and becomes this bewitchingly oily, sugary miracle that is the heart and soul of many great punch recipes.
It came out a lovely golden color, and despite Elyn’s hesitations (and a few of my own), it was quickly devoured by the guests. I’d like to think it was the story and the intrigue that sold them on trying it, and not my insistence and classy hat. That punch was well worth the day-ahead of prep, and I am still thrilled that so many people gave it a chance and loved it.
We got a chance to check out the Harvest Week menu at Motor Supply Company last week. Every year, the folks at the restaurant invite in the farmers and other local producers that make their menu possible for a fun party followed by a week of farm-t0-table inspired menus. This year it wasn’t just the food menu that got the harvest makeover but the cocktail list as well.
When we arrived, the bar was packed so we got a table and ate some pretty tasty appetizers. We tried a beet salad, pork belly, and a steamed seafood appetizer. I’m still not sold on pork belly and unfortunately this preparation didn’t help, I guess I like mine more tender. But, the beet salad was to die for. We also got some soup and a cheese plate but we didn’t snap pictures of those.
But, we’re here to talk about the cocktails, right? We had a few with dinner – the “Jazz Go Down” and “The Fall Guy”. “Jazz Go Down” featured Zaya rum, pepper and bacon jam, creme de cacao, and apple cider. It sounded pretty awesome. Unfortunately, the creme de cacao took over and obliterated almost everything else. It was decidedly lacking a sour hit and even the rum got pretty lost in the chocolate flavor. Definitely a concept with some awesome potential, though. That garnish is pretty sassy, huh?
“The Fall Guy” was a definite hit. I’ve been finding myself pretty attracted to tequila drinks lately and snapping them up when they’re done creatively. This one called my name by matching Dobel Maestro tequila up with cinnamon basil, chipotle, honey, and ginger beer. It was spicy, refreshing, and really let the tequila sing. While the fall flavors were evident, the freshness from the basil made it a drink that I’d gladly sip all year.
After dinner, we slid over to the bar which had quieted down significantly. Good thing, because we wanted to bend the ear of the bartender. We lucked out and Josh Streetman, the head bartender that developed the harvest menu was there to help us out. Our next round of drinks was excellent. I’m a sucker for rye and witty names so the “Drunk @ Karaoke on Halloween” (Bulleit rye, Cocchi Americano, pumpkin puree, sorghum, carbonation) was a natural choice. Russ stepped out of his usual patterns and was so allured by the description of the “Six String Bass” that he picked a vodka drink! This one was Tito’s infused with smoked pears, calvados, amontillado sherry, lemon, and honey.
Josh is definitely doing some innovative things behind the bar at Motor Supply. He let us know that a brand new late fall cocktail menu would be unveiled this week so there will always be something new to check out.
For our second submission to Mixology Monday’s smoke theme, I chose to follow Elyn’s lead (as I, being no fool, so often do) with a Turkish hookah experience and decided to make apple brandy my base spirit. This drink was also created to pair nicely with a leisurely smoke of some apple shisha in a hookah, perhaps on a chilly night of the sort we are hoping to get more of here in SC.
I called upon some specific spirits for this recipe to make sure the result didn’t stray too far from the intent. With some lucky input from our close friend, Robert, I give you Newton’s Fog:
Combine the first four ingredients in an iced mixing glass and stir calmly. Pour into a rocks glass over a large ice cube and add the dashes of bitters and Laphroaig.
Measure carefully; this drink is a balancing act!
Of the Laird’s apple brandy options that we have here (which we’ll talk more about at a later date *wink!*), the Bottled in Bond is the most bold and full-flavored, yet lighter-bodied than bourbon. It is for that reason I used it here; we’ll need something solid to built this complex cocktail on. The Batavia Arrack brings in some needed spice and smokiness to help later with the bitters.
At after some early experiments, instead of amaretto, I had planned to use John D. Taylor’s Velvet falernum to tie up the last of the spice notes and bring the sweet counter to the lemon juice. It worked well and I was ready to roll with it, but on a lark our friend Robert made the exact same drink with the Luxardo Amaretto instead. To our surprise, it worked brilliantly. One sip of the amaretto by itself explained why; whereas most amarettos are just sweet and a little nutty, the Luxardo actually has a sharpness and spice to its profile that took this recipe right where I wanted to go.
As you may have noticed, the smokiest ingredient here is hardly used. If you’ve tried Laphroaig, you know that you don’t need much of it to turn any recipe into something akin to drinking a campfire. I love the stuff, and the cask strength is not fooling around. If you have Laphroaig 10 or 12 year, go ahead and be generous with that dash. With the cask strength, as I learned at The Gin Joint and their Penicillin cocktail, you don’t need much of it before it takes over completely. The Fee Bros. Whiskey Barrel-Aged bitters is another delicious and smoky addition.
This drink actually keeps developing as the ice melts; make sure it’s a big one!
Stirring this drink keeps it smooth and silky, while the apply brandy and Arrack keep it from getting syrupy. With that large ice chunk slowly opening up the flavors, this is a great one to sip and puff to while watching the cool nights roll in.
EDIT: Bust out that trusty channel knife and take a spiral of a sweet, cold apple and let that float on top of the drink as well. The juice really lightens up the finish, and makes a tasty snack at the end of the drink. Thanks for the reminder, Robert!