Category Archives: Mixology

Bartender, don’t hose me. My gin deserves real tonic.

Gin and TonicNo. 1 tip for bartenders in 2012: If you’re so artisan-smarty about your cocktails, pop for a few bottles of real tonic instead of that insipid stuff you pump from a gun. Those of us out there who like a decent gin and tonic are way over watered down tonic. I’ve taken to ordering a “g n’ t hold the gin” to taste the tonic before I give it the chance to pollute my gin. When it comes from the gun or a bottle that’s been half empty for a week, it’s not great drinking but it costs less than a shabby cocktail.

Somehow the rush to cool, boutique liquors has led some folks to overlook the well-polished principle that the quality of the mixer must be as good as the booze, if not better. Fresh squeezed orange makes even cheap vodka taste great. Don’t care if it’s Schweppes, Canada Dry or C, give me a shot of quinine and fizz in my gin. Or don’t bother.

Madeira The Misunderstood: Oldie Meets The Young

Chris Blandy in B-21's A-21 Warehouse

Had a distinguished ambassador from Planet M (specifically, the island of Madeira), drop by this week: Christopher Blandy of the ancient and honororable house of Blandy’s. 200 years old last year. Young Blandy brought a full line of the firm’s Madeiras with the bold hope that the category could draw new, younger drinkers.

It should. What was in the bottles is not just sweet, but so bright with acid that even the 1985 tasted crisp and fresh. Doesn’t taste like it’s 35 years old! While many modern wine drinkers consigned Madeira to the cooking shelf decades ago, younger consumers in the chocolate martini generation have few prejudices to get in the way. They like to try new tastes and have no embarrassment about sweets. Blandy may have a chance.

Madeira does have a grand history. Actually a very American one. It was the wine of choice for George Washington’s cohorts. A beautifully exotic terroir on a volcanic island covered with flowers in the middle of the Atlantic. Plus, the odd preference for heat during decades of storage in barrels within sun-heated warehouses.

But if you’re not a geography or history buff, what’s Madeira got? A gorgeous aroma of toffee, dried fruits and caramel. Dry or off-dry, enough acidity to go with curry and Thai dishes (perfect with Pad Thai). At 18% alcohol and up, it packs a punch above wine, but well short of whiskies. Ready to drink with incredible longevity, 20 to 100 years AFTER opening. Virtues that appeal to home bar keeps as well as sommeliers. And no marketing guru could come up with a more eco-cool brand than Rainwater. Rainwaters are the youngest, most affordable and driest class of Madeira. Blandy’s is quite crisp, lively chilled after work or before dinner.

Beyond that are the richer elegant wines, aged five, ten, and forty years or more before bottling. At five years old, the sercial grape makes a dark, lush drink with a dry edge of orange peel. However, my favorites were those made with malmsey, dating back five to ten years and more (even back to 1985), steadily developing more honey and spice flavors until the 1985 that was positively taffy.

In between is where Blandy’s hopes to find a new sweet spot on hip bars, with a new bottling of young malmsey and other grapes wearing a hot pink armband. I think Blandy is right. We will see and drink more Madeira. Sweet, with a splash of acid for our ironic times.

Boutique Booze: Corsair Barrel Aged Gin

Corsair Barrel Aged Gin

Over the past two decades the market for craft beer and wine have boomed and now small scale spirits are surfacing bar scene and beyond. Boutique booze, formally known as artisanal spirits, are high quality, limited release, seasonal and/or experimental treats for a little bit more doe but totally worth it. Corsair Distillery in Bowling Green, Kentucky have got this emerging craft spirits movement covered. These Kentuckian genusis started with a gin base and upped the juniper content for more bold flavors then rested in charred barrels previously used for spiced rum. The result is a creamy spirit that oddly enough expresses hints of egg nog with notes of oak, sweetness, and peppery spice. I didn’t know there was such a thing as a perfect sipping barrel aged gin… I do now! But for those who prefer a mixy mix here is a delicious and simple recipe you will love. Cheers!

Ol’ Ginny

  • 2 oz Corsair Barrel Aged Gin
  • 3/4 oz Pumpkin Simple Syrup
  • Dash of orange bitters
  • Serve on the rocks. Garnish with an orange peel.

Waiter, there’s a …watermelon… in my gin.

So it’s too big to garnish a G&T, but crisp ice-cold watermelon is a perfect match for gin. I had cubed two slices of bright red watermelon for dessert yet it needed something. I’ll put port, sherry, rum on almost any fruit but watermelon’s too cool and refreshing for any of them. But gin, my lovely gin, crisp and clean, sparking with meadow of wild herbs and hints of licorice? You bet! Had a bottle of Zuidam’s, very un-tropical but from The Dutch home of gin, spicy, pure and artisanal. A splash straight on the melon did it. Sharp and lively.

Watermelon’s showing up in modern mixology and you can fix the makings at home easily. Take a melon baller to a cold melon and you’ve got cute garnish or (frozen) ice cube. Don’t need a blender to make juice: just push cut pieces through a strainer or mash in a bowl. The standard drink is a watermelon gin fizz, 2:1 juice to gin, plus lemon juice and simple syrup to taste, garnish with mint leaves. My own druthers is more tart a 1:1:1 punch of gin, tonic and juice. Hold the simple syrup, add mint, lime and a splash of Campari.

Eau de ginmill behind the ear?

Juniper SlingActually it’s Juniper Sling, a hot cologne that’s long on gin and made very dry. Why not? The best gin and perfume delight in botanicals, I certainly prefer clean forest aromas juniper berries to civet  musk and leopard sweat.  Now booze flavors are the latest trend in scents. There are reports of odd combinations of Asian fruits and sake, Cognac blends and more. But it’s not that new to those of us who grew up thinking we graduated to adulthood when we switched from Old Spice to St. John’s Bay Rum for our peach fuzz complexions. And knew other kids — it’s always some other guy — who tried to get drink on Bay Rum.

Back to Juniper Sling from Penhaligon. I found it online at rarecosmetics.com, $80 for 50 ml. May sound high but the tasting notes are elaborate enough to make a wine critic cry: “HEAD NOTES Cinnamon, Orange Brandy, Angelica, Juniper Berry HEART NOTES Cardamom, Leather, Black Pepper, Orris Wood BASE NOTES Brown Sugar, Black Cherry, Vetiver, Ambrox …inspired by the most iconic and atmospheric of spirits: London Dry Gin… a playful, chilled and mysterious homage to the Bright Young Things of London’s roaring twenties.”

 

Hey bartender, don’t hose me. My gin deserves real tonic

Gin and TonicNo. 1 resolution for bartenders in 2012: If you’re so artisan-smarty about your cocktails, pop for a few bottles of real tonic instead of that insipid stuff you pump from a gun. Those of us out there who like a decent gin and tonic are way over watered down tonic.  I’ve taken to ordering a “g n’ t hold the gin” to taste the tonic before I give it the chance to pollute my gin. When it comes from the gun or a bottle that’s been half empty for a week, it’s not great drinking but it costs less than a shabby cocktail.

Somehow the rush to cool, boutique liquors has led some folks to overlook the well-polished principle that the quality of the mixer must be as good as the booze, if not better. Fresh squeezed orange makes even cheap vodka taste great.  Don’t care if it’s Schweppes, Canada Dry or C, give me a shot of quinine and fizz in my gin. Or don’t bother.

Chestnuts roasting by a peaty fire on Islay

LaphroaigScotch was always a grand holiday gift for Dad when I was out of college and in the first throes of thinking myself mature. Whisky was “the man’s gift,” but my father was an old school drinker. That meant blends, not the oh-so cool single malts of young whippersnappers. And I  never tried him on an Islay Scotch, the whisky for smoke-eaters like me.  With time I think he might have warmed to Laphroaig. It certainly would have warmed him.

So I was pleased to see the New York Times salute the smoky, salty  island this month. Especially pleased after 20 bottles, the tasting panel chose the Laphroaig 10 y.o. as the best value. Three and half stars, cheapest of the bunch including Laphroaig’s higher end bottles: Heavily smoked, richly medicinal, savory, subtle, complex and deep. I should note that the runnerup malt was an Ardbeg, another personal favorite.

For Dad, the real surprise he would find in modern times is Four Roses. Yep, the bargain-basement bourbon he threw generously in the eggnog he made every year has been reborn for an age of artisan cocktails . He would have keeled over at Small Batch Four Roses – and its not so small price. But I think he’d like a bourbon that’s so mellow and creamy. Paul Pacult does and says five stars. Not the same kick as Dad’s stuff, just  smooth old spice.

Waiter, there’s a … watermelon in my gin.

So  it’s too big to garnish a G&T, but crisp ice-cold watermelon is a perfect match for gin.  I had cubed two slices of bright red watermelon for dessert yet it needed something. I’ll put port, sherry, rum on almost any fruit but watermelon’s too cool and refreshing for any of them.  But gin, my lovely gin, crisp and clean, sparking with meadow of wild herbs and hints of licorice? You bet!  Had a bottle of Zuidam’s, very un-tropical but from The Dutch home of gin, spicy, pure and  artisanal. A splash straight on the melon did it. Sharp and lively.

Watermelon’s showing up in modern mixology and you can fix the  makings at home easily. Take a melon baller to a cold melon and you’ve got cute garnish or (frozen) ice cube. Don’t need a blender to make juice: just push cut pieces through a strainer or mash in a bowl.  The standard drink is a watermelon gin fizz,  2:1 juice to gin, plus lemon juice and simple syrup to taste, garnish with mint leaves.  My own druthers is more tart a 1:1:1 punch of gin, tonic and  juice. Hold the simple syrup, add mint, lime and a splash of Campari.

Boutique Booze: Corsair Barrel Aged Gin

Corsair Barrel Aged Gin

Over the past two decades the market for craft beer and wine have boomed and now small scale spirits are surfacing bar scene and beyond.  Boutique booze, formally known as artisanal spirits, are high quality, limited release, seasonal and/or experimental treats for a little bit more doe but totally worth it.  Corsair Distillery in Bowling Green, Kentucky have got this emerging craft spirits movement covered.  These Kentuckian genusis started with a gin base and upped the juniper content for more bold flavors then rested in charred barrels previously used for spiced rum. The result is a creamy spirit that oddly enough expresses hints of egg nog with notes of  oak, sweetness, and peppery spice.  I didn’t know there was such a thing as a perfect sipping barrel aged gin… I do now!  But for those who prefer a mixy mix here is a delicious and simple recipe you will love.  Cheers!

Ol’ Ginny

  • 2 oz Corsair Barrel Aged Gin
  • 3/4 oz Pumpkin Simple Syrup
  • Dash of orange bitters
  • Serve on the rocks. Garnish with an orange peel.

Bubbles of Summer.

 

 

Prosecco Cocktails

Of all the sparkling wine in the world, none is more fun than Prosecco. Perhaps it’s because it is not bone dry like some of the great bruts of Champagne. Or is it simply because Prosecco is less than half the price of French bubbles? Or that it is made with Italian style, particularly the romance of the Veneto?

I’d say the latter, for while the Champenoise often say that Champagne makes everyday a celebration, Italians can and do enjoy sparkling anytime, with cocktails, and with a little snack of fried calamari or bacalao. Who needs caviar?

The best Prosecco producers, like Nino Franco, Zardetto, and Mionetto, do not pretend to be to protect their own name and terroir – wines made from Prosecco grapes in the delimited areas of Valdobbiadene and Conegliane, in the hills between Venice and the Alps. Prosecco from that region has now achieved DOCG status. Indeed Prosecco was only shared with the rest of the world in the last 25 to 30 years.

Prosecco makers do not subscribe to the Champagne method of “fermenting in the bottle;” they proudly endorse the Charmat process where the secondary fermentation is done in tank. Some call this “bulk” processing with a sneer, other enjoy the fact that there’s a lot more bubbly — at a much lower price. Yet, making Prosecco is a very serious endeavor at the best like Nino Franco in Valdobbiadene. Almost 100 years old and one of U.S. in the 1980s, Nino Franco’s top cuvees have won Tre Biccheri from Gambero Rosso and top scores from the critics.

My favorite is Franco’s Rustico, from fairly high hillside vineyards, slightly off dry and creamy & slightly mineral backbone. A big peachy nose makes it a perfect aperitif but I had it with buttery clams and mussels too. For light hearted drinking and cocktail making, the Zardetto bubbly from Conegliano is ideal. Peachy stuff, great ice cold, and also fun to play with. Any fresh fruit, especially summer berries or pomegranate, add instant punch. And prosecco was made for peaches; indeed the original Bellini is made with Prosecco, not the French sparkler, and pureéd peaches. And I’m dying to try a Sbroggino: Prosecco, vodka, two scoops of lemon gelato and fresh mint.Now that’s a summer drink. On the Rialto and everywhere else.

 

Twist: Three Keys to Sexier Cocktails

mixology-tangGeneration X and the younger tipplers who succeed us subsist in a new world rife with green terminology – organic, carbon footprint, renewable, hybrid – in which cable TV supplies a never ending onslaught of celebrity chefs melding the freshest and most exotic ingredients. Additionally, there exists a certain modicum of nostalgia toward our grandparents and the romanticized eras of Prohibition and World War II. Add a deep-seated desire to be fabulous and we can see why mixology has gained such a tremendous head of steam over the past decade. We celebrate this renaissance of tradition and attention to individuality with three brilliant additions to any proud liquor cabinet.

St-Germain Elderflower liqueur
96-100 Points, Wine Enthusiast

The Cheap Detective

2 oz. St. Germain
1 oz. Cynar ($24.99)
¾ oz. Campari ($23.99)
Grapefruit wedge

Stir with ice and strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with
grapefruit.

Elderflower Iced Tea

1 ½ oz. Earl Grey-infused gin*
1 oz. St. Germain
½ oz. lemon juice
Lemon wheel

Shake with ice and strain into a highball glass over ice.
Garnish with lemon.

*Infuse 750ml gin with 1 cup loose leaf Earl Grey tea at room temp for 7 days.
Strain out tea before using.

Brass Flower

1 oz. London dry gin
1 oz. fresh-squeezed ruby red grapefruit juice
¾ oz. St. Germain
Champagne

Shake everything but the Champagne with ice and strain into a
flute. Top with Champagne.

Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur

Strawberry Ginger Martini

1/12 oz. Canton
¾ oz. Gin
Large strawberries
Lime

Muddle 3 strawberries in shaker. Squeeze the juice of 1 lime wedge. Fill with ice. Add Canton and gin. Shake well. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with sliced strawberries.

Domaine de Canton Sidecar

1 oz Canton
1 oz cognac
Lemon
Crystallized ginger

Combine spirits with juice of 1 lemon wedge in shaker filled with ice. Shake well and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with crystallized ginger.

Ginger Mojito

2 oz Canton
½ oz white rum
Club soda
3 lime wedges
Mint

Drop a few mint leaves into a tall glass. Squeeze in the juice of
3 lime wedges. Gently muddle mint leaves. Fill glass with ice then add spirits.
Stir well. Fill with club soda. Garnish with mint sprig.

Rothman & Winter Créme de Violette

Aviation

1 ½ oz Dry Gin
½ oz fresh lemon juice
½ oz Créme de Violette
1 tsp Maraschino

Shake with ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass

Toulouse

1 ½ oz Vodka
¾ oz Créme de Violette
¼ oz Vanilla liqueur

Shake with ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass

Blue Moon

2 oz Dry gin
½ oz Fresh lemon juice
½ oz Créme de Violette

Shake with ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass

Mixology: The Negroni

The Negroni

They're like gloves...One's not enough and three's too many!

A Negroni is the perfect, crisp cocktail to combat summer heat. Be sure to get everything ice cold: glassware, shaker, everything.

And my best advice? Stay true to your measurements. Anything over two ounces loses its chill before you have the chance to finish it.

1 ounce London dry gin
1/2 ounce Campari
1/2 ounce sweet vermouth

Shake well with cracked ice and strain into a very chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a twist of orange peel.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.