Saturday, June 13, 2015

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: It's WORLD GIN DAY!

Dear Lovers of Gin,

Aside from the whole month of Ginuary, World Gin Day is my favorite time of year! Are you drinking gin right now? Well, get to it! There are no excuses today! I recommend trying something new. I recently picked up a bottle of Russell Henry Hawaiian White Ginger Gin, from Craft Distillers. Coming in at 47.3%, this gin is a bit robust on its own, but mixed in a proper drink or served over the rocks with a splash of water and a lemon, and the flavor profile opens right up.

Recently I've used it in a Blueberry-Thyme Gimlet, with house-made blueberry thyme syrup and fresh lime juice.

Blueberry-Thyme Gimlet
BLUEBERRY THYME GIMLET

2 oz  Russell Henry Hawaiian White Ginger Gin
1 oz   lime juice
1 oz   blueberry-thyme syrup


Shake & Double Strain into Chilled Cocktail Glass.
Garnish with fresh blueberries.


BLUEBERRY THYME SYRUP

2 cups fresh blueberries
4 fresh thyme sprigs
1 cup water
1 cup cane sugar

Combine ingredients in a pan over medium heat and let simmer for 5 minutes. Press / crush blueberries against inside of pan to release juices. Simmer for an additional 5 minutes. Allow to cool. Strain through cheesecloth. Chill.

Cheers!

Laura

"The only time I ever enjoyed ironing was the day I accidentally got gin in the steam iron." 
-Phyllis Diller

Sunday, April 5, 2015

"The End of an Era": Cooking from The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook

When I first started slinging drinks Sex & the City was still airing on HBO, and in my first few years behind the stick I must have made a thousand Cosmopolitans. It's amazing to me how much television and film affect drinking culture. Over the last 7 years there has been one show that has dramatically increased its viewers knowledge of classic cocktails, and driven many bar patrons nationwide to order Old Fashioned's and gin Martinis. Tonight, AMC premiers the second half of the final season of Mad Men, the "End of an Era." I raise my glass high, in honor of the show that has reminded people to drink classy.

A few weeks ago I got my hands on a copy of The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook: Inside the Kitchens, Bars and Restaurants of Mad Men.  Each recipe includes a description connecting it to a specific moment or episode within the series. There's also a bit of background history on the era and the recipes origins. To celebrate tonight, I decided to try out a recipe for Jackie Kennedy's Avocado and Crabmeat Mimosa Salad, and pair it with a Bridge Night Tom Collins. Recipes are below.

Jackie Kennedy's Avocado and Crabmeat Mimosa 

AVOCADO & CRABMEAT MIMOSA

Ingredients:
2 ripe avocados
1 scallion, minced
2 teaspoons lemon juice, divided
1/4 teaspoon salt, plus additional to taste
dash of hot pepper sauce
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons chili sauce
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
ground white pepper
8 ounces cooked fresh crabmeat
2 cups watercress (I substituted kale)
2 hard-cooked egg yolks
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

1. Peel half of one avocado. In a small bowl, mash avocado half. Add scallion, 1 teaspoon of lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and hot pepper sauce. Stir until well combined. Reserve.

2. In a separate bowl, stir together mayonnaise, chili sauce, horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, and remaining teaspoon lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and white pepper. Reserve.

3. Peel remaining 1 1/2 avocados, cut into half-inch cubes, and place in a large bowl. Squeeze excess moisture from crabmeat. Add to cubed avocado and gently combine. Fold in mayonnaise mixture until crab and avocado are evenly coated.

4. Line bottoms of 6 chilled open champagne glasses (coupes) or small glass serving dishes with watercress (I substituted finely chopped kale). Divide crab mixture evenly among glasses. Top each with a dollop of mashed avocado mixture.

5. Press egg yolks through fine mesh sieve; combine with parsley in a small bowl. Sprinkle yolk/parsley mixture evenly over each portion. Mimosas can be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 hours.

Bridge Night Tom Collins
TOM COLLINS

Ingredients:
1 1/2 ounces dry gin
1 ounce lemon juice
1 teaspoonful powdered sugar
1/2 lime
club soda (about 3 ounces)
Maraschino cherry, for garnish
Orange slice, for garnish

1. Add gin, lemon juice and powdered sugar to cracked ice in a cocktail shaker and shake thoroughly. Strain into a Collins glass.

2. Add ice cubes (to collins glass), squeeze lime into drink, and fill with club soda. Stir a little and garnish with lime shell (I used a lime wheel), cherry, and orange slice.

Both recipes turned out splendidly. I was a bit skeptical about the Tom Collins recipe, but I found it very refreshing. I had a few friends over to test out the Avocado and Crabmeat Mimosa Salad and they're all begging me for the recipe. Enjoy your Sunday nights on the couch as we celebrate the last few episodes of Mad Men, and happy dining!

Cheers!

Laura

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Old Fashioned Month: The Gin Old Fashioned

On the last day of my self-declared Old Fashioned Month I'm finally getting to introduce you to the Old Fashioned I've been dreaming of all month... the Gin Old Fashioned.

First, you need to choose a finely crafted gin that you, personally, enjoy sipping neat. I chose Martin Miller's Gin, a smooth London Dry gin with crisp citrus notes and warm, easy juniper. I paired it with Wilelaiki Blossom honey (a moderately sweet and spicy honey I enjoy for it's seemingly low acidic content) and Dr Adam Elmegirab's Teapot Bitters (handcrafted with black tea, yerba mate, hazelnut, citrus peel, vanilla and ginger).

The honey i chose is typically raw and crystalized, so you'll need to set the jar in a bowl of hot water for a few minutes before preparing your cocktail. I don't recommend placing your honey in the microwave, as you can scorch it.

Gin Old Fashioned

1.5 oz Martin Miller's Gin
.5 teaspoon Wilelaiki Blossom Honey
3 ds Dr Adam Elmegirab's Teapot Bitters

Combine ingredients in the base of a mixing glass and stir with cracked ice until the honey fully dissolves. Strain over fresh ice in an old fashioned glass. Cut a wide strip of lemon zest from a fresh lemon (shiny and firm) and express the lemon oil over the top of the drink. Use lemon zest as garnish.

a Gin Old Fashioned

Thank you all for joining me this month! I hope you're enjoying your spirits with a bit of sweet and a dash of bitters! I'm going to be working on stuff for the restaurant over the next few weeks (our Summer beverage menu is due) and will be absentee from the blogosphere until late April. Until then, happy drinking!

Cheers!

Laura








Monday, March 30, 2015

Barrel Aged Old Fashioned (3 Weeks In)

Last month I received a new, 2-liter, lightly-charred American Oak Barrel from Deep South Barrels. I've been wanting to try out barrel aging for some time now, thanks to this particular cocktail trend led by Jeffrey Morgenthaler, and since it's Old Fashioned Month here at Sass & Gin, I figured, why not!?!


Barrel aging comes with its own challenges. A lot of the barrel aging you've seen trending in cocktail bars is being done in used barrels that once aged whiskeys or wines. As this is a new barrel, there are several things to remember: (1) it needs to be cured, (2) it will produce a stronger oak flavor in your spirits the first few times you use it, (3) it will take your selected spirit or cocktail 6 to 12 weeks to mellow out.

To cure my barrel, I filled it with hot water (close to boiling) and let it sit for approximately 24 hours until the wood had absorbed some of the moisture, expanded, and sealed all the microscopic gaps that exist in new barrels. Deep South Barrels have a great set of instructions on their website. [Note: Sometimes older barrels need to be re-cured too.]



Next, I filled my barrel with a batched cocktail. You want to choose something liquor forward, like a Manhattan or a Negroni. Since it's Old Fashioned Month here at Sass & Gin, I went with the classic, using Canadian Club, cane syrup and Angostura bitters. 

I've been tasting my concoction once a week. I'm currently 3.5 weeks in.

Week 1- You can already tell a huge difference. It reminds me a bit of the toasted effect I got from speed aging a cocktail with cedar paper. 

Week 2- The oak stands out a lot more. But it needs more time for the flavors to come together and mellow out. 

Week 3- I tried it next to a freshly made Old Fashioned. The oak is still omnipresent, but the whisky and bitters are starting to mellow out. The color hasn't changed much and it somehow seems sweeter (???), likely from the caramel coming through from the charred oak. 


I don't expect it will be where I want it to be until week 6 or so, but I'll keep testing it out. 

The barrel itself is small (only 2 liters) and comes with its own stand. It fits easily on top of my little home bar and is a nice conversation piece for when I have guests. I'm excited about trying more cocktails in it in the future. I think next up will be a batch of Negronis. More notes to come on my Aged Old Fashioned as the weeks progress. 

Cheers!

Laura



Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Mixology Monday XCV: Call Me Old Fashioned - Round Up Post

Welcome to this month's round-up of Mixology Monday! Our theme this month was Call Me Old Fashioned, in which we explored variations on the original "cock-tail." This is the first time I've hosted Mixology Monday, and I just need to say thank you! There are so many talented bartenders, cocktail enthusiasts, mixologists, bar chefs and beverage artists out there and it is an absolute joy to be able to share my passion with this community every month!

With a basic format to start with (spirit, sugar, bitters), we very quickly saw just how versatile this drink can be. We have a wide range of spirits represented below, some unique sweeteners (including homemade caramel), and a few bitters options I didn't even know existed! In addition, I saw many of you crafting your drinks the "old fashioned way," mixing ingredients in the base of your glass, as described here, but many more shook their ingredients together and served them straight up or over ice. 

Let's get started.

Our first entry this month is from Marius at Archane Potions with a gin Old Fashioned, Hogarth's Prophecy, named for William Hogarth's famous Gin Lane sketch. He paired his gin with 1/2 oz of Fernet Branca, lavender simple syrup, grapefruit bitters and a twist. As this was the first entry in, I had some time to try it out and play with the components. Marius doesn't specify what type of gin he used, but I think based on the name of the cocktail, he probabaly chose a London dry gin. I tried this cocktail out with a New American style gin, a London dry gin and Genever, and I have to say Genever was by far my favorite with these other components.

Hogarth's Prophecy
Marius also entered a cocktail on behalf of his colleague, Ciprian Stefan, who brought us the Waterloo, inspired by a bit of history. He paired Morello cherry infused Grand Marnier with Dalwhinnie Scotch, muddled Morello cherries and Bitter Truth Creole Bitters. Check out the description in the post about how each component in the cocktail represents an element of the Battle of Waterloo. I love a little history lesson with my drink!

Waterloo

Next up is Jordan's Prescription Sazerac on Chemistry of the Cocktail. Jordan chose to use cognac and rye in place of bourbon, similar to the Prescription Julep, arguing (rightly so) that cognac and rye were far more popular sipping spirits in the 1800's when this drink was created than bourbon. It's stirred with a little Herbsaint and Peychaud's and served straight up with a twist.

Prescription Sazerac

From Beca at Bring Me A Shrubbery comes the Ometeotl's Breath, named for a Mesoamerican god. This cocktail features a dark Venezuelan rum, honeyed plum shrub syrup, plum bitters, and a honey liqueur rinse.  Sounds delightful!



Ometeotl's Breath

Next up is Bellocq's Old Fashioned Cobbler, brought to us by Mixology Monday's cat wrangler, Fred Yarm of Cocktail Virgin Slut.  This recipe comes from Robert Simonson's The Old Fashioned: The Story of the World's First Classic Cocktail with Recipes and Lore, and was created by Bellocq at the Hotel Modern in New Orleans. The Cobbler Old Fashioned "turns a bourbon Old Fashioned into a Cobbler," adding to the bourbon, demerara syrup and Angostura bitters, a muddled orange wheel and a few drops of vanilla extract.



Bellocq's Cobbler Old Fashioned
Next up is a new-comer to the Mixology Monday scene from the Inteperance blog, with the Oat-Fashioned, featuring Koval Oat Whiskey, a brown-sugar-butternut-squash syrup, a dash of Averna, a dash of Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas' Own Decanter bitters, and an orange twist. This sounds amazing. I'm adding an oat whiskey to my purchase list for my next trip to the liquor store.  Welcome to Mixology Monday! I hope you join us again next month!


Oat Fashioned

Chris from Buried Pleasures showed up to our Mixology Monday party for the first time with his game-face on, bringing three entries to the table! His first entry, the Applewood, pairs Laird's Apple Brandy with demerara syrup, Bittercube's Blackstrap Bitters and a mezcal rinse. His second entry, Clear & Present Danger, pairs rhum agricole blanc with blanco tequila, simple syrup, grapefruit bitters and a grapefruit twist.  Chris' third entry is his BFF Old Fashioned, pairing El Dorado 5 yr Rum with Pierre Ferrand 1640 Brandy, simple syrup, Bittercube Blackstrap Bitters, Bittercube Jamaican #1 Bitters and an orange twist. Three very well thought out flavor combinations! I'm looking forward to sipping on the Clear & Present Danger while enjoying some much needed sunshine later this week! I'm hoping to see more from Christ next month!



BFF Old Fasioned

This month, Andrea from Ginhound brought us her Banana Old Fashioned, pairing mezcal with banana liqueur, homemade banana salted caramels and eucalyptus bitters. Oh my! During WWII, bananas were a prized commodity in Denmark and you never let them go to waste. In memory of that time, Andrea's family makes salted banana caramels the way my family makes banana bread. You never let an over-ripe banana go to waste. I really need the recipe for those caramels! Props for being the first (that I've seen) to replace sugar or syrup with candy!



Banana Old Fashioned


Gary from Doc Elliot's Mixology brings us his Old Fashioned Tent Revival, featuring Russell's Reserve 10 yr Bourbon, Bad Dog Barcraft's Fire & Damnation Bitters, agave nectar and a lemon twist. Regarding the agave nectar, Gary notes that different brands of agave nectar vary in sweetness, so you really have to be familiar with the exact ingredients you are using to make sure this cocktail is balanced. I would make the same argument about any mixed drink, but the Old Fashioned in particular. The balance of the flavor profiles can be easily thrown off by one too many dashes or an extra 1/8 oz of sweetener. Good work!


Old Fashioned Tent Revival


On the first anniversary of her blog, Tipicular Fixin's, Whitney brings us her Plain Gin Cocktail 2015, Based on Jerry Thomas' recipe, Whitney's cocktail features gin, a dry curaçao, simple syrup, grapefruit bitters and citron twist, served straight up. If you haven't had a chance to check out Whitney's blog yet, do it NOW!!! Her photography alone is astounding, but she also happens to be a very talented mixologist.


Plain Gin Cocktail 2015

From swizzzlestick we have the Batavian Affair, with Batavia Arrack, genever, brown sugar, Bitter Truth Aromatic Bitters, lemon and orange twists. This combination is bold and rustic.



Batavian Affair
Alison from Etagamist is also making her Mixology Monday debut this month with her Stir It Up, combining hibiscus-infused Jamaican rum, ginger syrup, Bittercube Jamaican #2 Bitters and a grapefruit twist. Excellent combination. I love how many different flavor combinations are coming together with infused spirits and flavored syrups, without compromising the integrity of the cocktail. An Old Fashioned should be potent, with the spirit still taking top billing, and the sweetener and bitters acting as supporting roles. I'm loving this variation. Floral + Spice + Citrus? Yes, please! Welcome to the game, Alison!


Sir It Up!
The Three Archer's concoction, The Connemara Te, is exactly what I was hoping for from this challenge. They very thoughtfully and considerately explored the flavor profiles of their chosen spirit and then went through a series of tests with different sweeteners and bitters to find the perfect match. They also brought a spirit to the table I've only read about in passing and had nearly forgotten about entirely: Poitin, an old Irish White Whiskey, with a history similar to that of Appalachian Moonshine. This Old Fashioned pairs mountain-strength poitin with honey syrup, Angostura bitters, orange bitters, orange blossom water and an orange twist. Something tells me one of my local readers is going to be asking me to recreate this soon with some local moonshine. Game on!


Connemara Te
The Muse of Doom from Feu de Vie brings us Iris' Requiem, named for a beloved and dying laptop. This concoction features Irish whiskey, gin, sugar, Bittercube Cherry Bark Vanilla bitters, a Benedictine rinse and sakura blossoms for garnish. May we all raise our glasses and toast in memory of the computers we've lost, and all the happy memories we've had with them.


Iris' Requiem

Next up is the Fernet Old Fashioned from Tartines to Tiki's. Fernet is typically used minimally within a cocktail, such as in the rye-based Toronto (which falls into the Old Fashioned family) or the gin based Hanky Panky. But, for those of us who love sipping on or shooting Fernet Branca on its own, this Old Fashioned is a nice way to dress it up! Here it is paired with simple syrup, Regan's Orange bitters, Fee Bros Whiskey Barrel Aged Bitters and an orange twist.



Fernet Old Fashioned

Julia Tunstall of A Bar Above (a phenomenal resource for technique and professionalism behind the stick which I'm constantly referring people to), brings us the Becherovka Old Fashioned, balancing out Becherovka liqueur with Templeton Rye, simple syrup, Angostura bitters and a citrus twist. 


Becherovka Old Fashioned

Next up, Torben of Trinklaune challenged me back by reminding me just how little German I remember. I took 4+ years of the language, spent a summer in Tübingen, and at one point spoke conversational German relatively well. When I was studying abroad I could read the newspaper in Deutsch. Now? Nothing. So sad. Well, at least he was kind enough to write the recipe in English. Torben's Springtime Old Fashioned pairs a single malt moonshine (Edelstahl) with agave syrup and Reisling Quince Bitters (I MUST FIND THESE), lemon zest and blueberries. It looks so refreshing! Must brush up on my German.


Springtime Old Fashioned
Brenda from 4:00 DCT Delicious Cocktail Time (what a name), brings us her Alta Vista Old Fashioned, building a sweeter Old Fashioned with Canadian Whisky, Cointreau, blood orange, maraschino cherry, sugar cube, lime juice, lemon bitters, and lime pearls from finger limes.


Alta Vista Old Fashioned
Christa and Shaun of boozenerds brought two cocktails to the table with their East Indies Old Fashioned and their Whitechapel Old Fashioned. For their East Indies Old Fashioned they paired aged rum and blackstrap rum with dark brown sugar (muscovado maybe?), chocolate bitters and Angostura bitters. Yum! The Whitechapel Old Fashioned is a gin Old Fashioned, paired with aged peach brandy, apricot-peach preserves, black lemon bitters and cherry bitters. I'm curious to know which gin they chose. A gin with a lot of ginger would be lovely in this concoction. I've also never seen black lemon bitters before. I must track down a bottle immediately.

East Indies Old Fashioned

Joel from Southern Ash brings us his Naval Regulation. He paired El Dorado 12yr Rum, simple syrup, black walnut bitters, aromatic bitters, a "worthwhile" cocktail cherry ("the more brightly colored red, the more optional it is") and served them in an Islay scotch rinsed glass with a grapefruit twist. Well done, Sailor! Joel also writes about cigars. I wonder if he could pair a cigar with this drink. I imagine a graying, bearded captain sipping on this cocktail and telling tales in some dimly lit warehouse office near a wharf. He needs a cigar too.

Naval Regulation

Next up, we have the Laughing Boy from Nihil Utopia. This cocktail was adapted from the Esquire Drink book and features El Dorado 12yr Rum, Carpano Classico, sugar, Angostura bitters, a lemon twist and an orange slice. This is the first Old Fashioned I've seen this month to use vermouth as a secondary spirit. I'm intrigued.

Laughing Boy

Over three weeks ago I ordered Dr Adam Elmegirab's Teapot Bitters through a seller at Amazon, with the intention of making a gin Old Fashioned I just can't get out of my head. The package never arrived. I've emailed the seller twice and still haven't heard back from them. Frustration abounds over here at Sass & Gin over my missing bitters. Temper tantrums over not being able to create the drink I want may or may not have occurred. If my teapot bitters ever arrive, I will post a link to my fantasy cocktail here.

But, for your sakes I knew I had to bring something to the table. After all, it is Old Fashioned Month at Sass & Gin, and I am hosting Mixology Monday. Best to stay classy, pull myself together and get to creating a few tasty drinks. I'd like to introduce you to the Banana Seat and the Southern Transplant. My first entry, the Banana Seat, is a dessert Old Fashioned, pairing banana infused bourbon with Frangelico, cane sugar, Bitter Queen's Marie Laveau Tobacco Bitters and cinnamon dust. For my second entry, the Southern Transplant, I created a rye Old Fashioned that morphs into a Sazerac, by using Herbsaint infused ice.

Southern Transplant

That's all for this month's Mixology Monday! If I've missed anyone, please email me and I'll add you in. Many thanks to everyone who joined in on this month's party!

Cheers!

Laura

Monday, March 16, 2015

Mixology Monday XCV: Call Me Old Fashioned- A Dessert Old Fashioned & A Chameleon

Hosting Mixology Monday this month has been a blast! You can check out the announcement post here. I'm enjoying looking through all the entries that are slowly trickling in tonight. I'll be sipping on some very tasty creations until my round-up post next week. For the meantime, here are a few Old Fashioned ideas I've been working on...


First up, a dessert Old Fashioned. I would usually argue that muddling fruit into an Old Fashioned makes the drink too sweet, but I have a good friend who loves a traditional Winsconsin-style Brandy Old Fashioned, and I have developed a taste for them as a dessert cocktail. But what if we didn't muddle the fruit into the drink, but infused it into the spirit? Bear with me here. This drink is not for the Old Fashioned purist. This drink is not for the flavored vodka drinker. This drink stands somewhere in between. Let's say that this drink is for the sorority girl who is now a graduate student. She still wants something fruity, but she's on a date with Don Draper and she wants to look sophisticated. But, I might not have done her any favors on the sophistication front when I went and gave it a silly name...

The Banana Seat

The Banana Seat

2 oz Banana Infused Bourbon
.25 oz Frangelico
.25 tsp cane sugar
5 ds Bitter Queen's Marie Laveau Tobacco Bitters
cinnamon dust

Combine sugar, bitters and spirits in the base of an Old Fashioned glass. Stir until sugar dissolves.
Add a large ice cube or sphere and stir briefly to chill. Garnish with cinnamon powder.

Banana Infused Bourbon: I started by taking an over-ripe banana, slicing it up, and tossing it in a mason jar with a sweeter bourbon (I chose Buffalo Trace). Shake it up. Let it sit over night. Strain it out through a fine mesh strainer.

I chose to use Bitter Queen's Marie Laveau Tobacco Bitters with the banana-infused bourbon because they are full of vanilla and warm spices. Combined with the hazelnut liqueur and cinnamon, this cocktail is slightly reminiscent of spiced banana bread.

The Banana Seat reminds makes me want to throw on a sun dress and ride my bike to the farmer's market. So, maybe this drink is not for the graduate-student-sorority-chick. Maybe this drink is for me. Maybe this is the Old Fashioned for those days when winter is slowly fading away and the hope of warm weather is on its way.
Next up, a chameleon. I saw a spirits infused ice sphere in a cocktail last year and I have been wanting to try it out. This cocktail starts out as an Old Fashioned and "morphs" into a Sazeerac. I used my Fred's Cold, Cold Heart ice mold to create an Herbsaint infused ice cube. I let it freeze partially (for a few hours) so the exterior was solid, but the interior was still liquid. I then carefully drilled a hole through the filling hole and shook out the liquid. Next, I filled the interior of the mold with a 2:1 solution of water to Herbsaint and stuck it back in the freezer. When it's ready to use, tuck the Herbsaint ice into your drink and sip slowly. As the ice begins to melt the Herbsaint will start to take its place within the cocktail.

Herbsaint Ice

The Southern Transplant

 2 oz Rye Whiskey
.25 tsp cane sugar
3 ds Angostura bitters
3 ds Peychaud's bitters

Combine rye, bitters, and sugar in the base of an Old Fashioned glass. Stir to combine.
Add Herbsaint infused ice. Stir briefly to chill.
Express lemon oil over the surface of the drink and along the rim of the glass
and use left over peel for garnish.

The Southern Transplant
While the Southern Transplant is not a true Sazerac, it combines all the same ingredients in very similar proportions. At first sip it's simply a rye Old Fashioned, but as the ice melts it slowly picks up that hint of anise. I don't always get so lucky when experimenting, but this drinks works as well in the glass as it did in my mind.

There are more Mixology Monday posts coming next week in the round-up post. Until then, here's to hoping you're sipping away on a tasty Old Fashioned right now!

Cheers!

Laura 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Old Fashioned Month: Two Rummy Twists

I would wager that most creative bartenders, budding mixologists and spirit enthusiasts ask themselves a few simple questions when tasting a new spirit. These questions may break down in various categories depending up on the skill level of the individual, but it all basically comes down to these simple quandaries: (1) Is it good (taste, quality, categorically)? (2) How can I use it in a drink?

One of the tests I run most brown liquors through is the Old Fashioned test. What bitters or sugar would I pair this with to really make the flavor profile of the spirit stand out? For me, an Old Fashioned is not about hiding the taste of a bad spirit, but enhancing the qualities of a great spirit.

Flying Circus (left) and Rum Old Fashioned (right)


When I didn't have gin in my glass last summer, it was quite common to find me sipping on a rum Old Fashioned. It all started with a bottle of Flor de Caña Centenario 12 Year, some Angostura and demerara sugar. From there I was off. Below is what I finally progressed to as I payed with the rum. This particular aged rum has some heavy toffee and vanilla notes, but under the surface lies a little chocolate, nut and clove. I found the subtleties of the coconut sugar and the spice of the Tiki bitters suited this rum best.

Rum Old Fashioned

1.5 oz Flor de Caña Centenario 12 Year
5 drops Bittermen's 'Elemakule Tiki Bitters
.5 tsp coconut sugar

Combine and stir in the base of an Old Fashioned glass.
Add large ice cube or sphere and stir briefly to chill.
Garnish with a lemon twist.

For anyone who hasn't worked with coconut sugar before, it is very fine and dissolves very quickly. I originally purchased it to try rimming a glass, but it dissolves so quickly it just made a mess. It's the powdered sugar of brown sugars. Coconut sugar tastes only vaguely of toasted coconut. It has more of a molasses kick, with some slight bitter notes.

Cane sugar (left), Coconut sugar (right)

Next up is my Flying Circus, served at The Main Street Pizza Company on our Monty Python cocktail list (FYI: We have 6 Monty Python themed cocktails total). It is one of my favorite creations. If I could, I'd have a picture of it in my wallet, like it was one of my kids. It's a twist on a Sazerac, and it's garnished with a flamed orange twist, which means I get to light stuff on fire. My two favorite techniques from behind the stick are "spanking mint" (which makes me giggle) and lighting citrus oil on fire.

Flying Circus

rinse with Fernet Branca
1.5 oz Kirk & Sweeney 12 Year Rum by 35 Maple Street
1 bsp demerara syrup
5 ds Bittermen's Burlesque Bitters

Rinse Old Fashioned glass with Fernet Branca.
Combine and stir rum, demerara and bitters in base of Old Fashioned glass.
Add large ice cube or sphere and stir briefly to chill.
Cut a wide piece of orange zest and express oils over surface of drink across flame (tutorial here).

Me, flaming an orange twist over a Revolver, sometime last year.
Photo credit to IG @63words

There is something about this simple format and ratio of spirit:sugar:bitters that is so versatile. While it may be an "Old Fashioned," it's certainly not ready to retire. This format will be in the business for many years to come!

Cheers!


Laura