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!


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!



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!



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!



Monday, March 2, 2015

Tried & True: The Old Fashioned

I hereby declare March the Month of the Old Fashioned on Sass&Gin!

We'll be playing with new combinations and clever variations on the original "cock-tail." Dating to the the early 1800's, an Old Fashioned is composed of spirit, bitters and sugar. The Old Fashioned that most people know is composed of whiskey, superfine white sugar, aromatic bitters, and a lemon twist. Occasionally you will also see a cherry or an orange muddled in to sweeten the mix. Those elements are really up to the drinker's preference. Most purists prefer it without the fruit.

We'll start the month of right by discussing the basic elements of an Old Fashioned and what options are available.


2 oz Spirit
2 ds bitters
1/2 tsp superfine sugar

Combine the ingredients in the base of an Old Fashioned glass or rocks glass. Stir or muddle to dissolve sugar. Add a large ice cube or sphere to chill. Garnish as required.

Preparing the garnish for a bourbon Old Fashioned, ca 2012.


While the original Old Fashioned was likely made with brandy or rye whiskey, the Old Fashioned is a family of cocktails, like the sour, and can be comprised of almost any spirit. Mayahuel's Oaxaca Old Fashioned uses tequila and mezcal as its base spirit. PDT's Benton's Old Fashioned uses a Benton's bacon-infused bourbon. My go-to cocktail at home last year was a Rum Old Fashioned made with Flor de Caña 12 yr Rum.


Traditionalists will call for an aromatic bitters, like Angostura, but in recent years the bitters market has exploded and there are so many more fun options to try. But, what are bitters? Basically, bitters are the spices of the cocktail world. Bitter makers take their unique combination of spices and bittering agents and infuse them in a high proof spirit, creating a very potent, very flavorful liquid that is not intended to be consumed on its own, but added in very small qualities (or dashes) to season a cocktail. Most cocktail bars carry Angostura Aromatic Bitters, Orange Bitters (Angostura or Regan's), and Peychaud's bitters. Some unique bitters currently available? Check out Bitter Queen's Bangkok Betty Thai Spiced Bitters, Bittermen's Hopped Grapefruit Bitters, or Dr Adam Elmegirab's Teapot Bitters.


For a whiskey Old Fashioned, most recipes call for superfine sugar, but you still have stir or muddle the sugar to get it to dissolve. In a need for speed, many bars have gone to using syrup, because it's sweetener in liquid form. With a more health-conscious public, there are more sugar options available at most grocery stores, so the drinking public can choose to avoid GMO's in white sugar. Sweetening options that I use in my cocktails range from pure cane sugar, turbinado sugar, agave nectar, maple syrup, sorghum, molasses, and honey.


Squeezing the oil from a lemon peel over the surface of the drink is the traditional garnish for a whiskey Old Fashioned, but what happens when you change the base spirit? I've used orange or grapefruit oil for a tequila or rum old fashioned. But, surely there are other options. Perhaps we could try misting the top of a gin old fashioned with orange flower water...


An Old Fashioned calls for a bit of dilution, but you don't need much. Some old-school bartenders are accustomed to adding a splash of club soda to help dissolve the sugar. Some modern bartenders prefer to use a liquid sweetener or syrup (as noted above). The other option is to grind the sugar into the spirit and bitters with a muddler.


Ice matters. Don't grab those cubes that have been sitting in your freezer for 6 months and have absorbed the smell of whatever else you've been storing along side them. Use fresh ice. I prefer large cubes or spheres, because they have less surface area and dissolve slower. You want your Old Fashioned chilled, not watered down.


Bartending in Wisconsin? Then you know all about the Brandy Old Fashioned and how essential muddling fruit into this particular Old Fashioned is to your guests. Some people just like it sweet, and I've learned living in the South not to stand between a guest and their sweet tooth. Some variations add a secondary spirit, such as in the Old Fashioned cocktail's sister, the Sazerac, which calls for an absinthe or Herbsaint rinse.

And those are just the basics. This month we'll be pushing the envelope of this seemingly simple ratio of ingredients. In addition to my own work, I'll be hosting Mixology Monday this month, with many brilliant and creative cocktailians taking on this challenge as well. Many happy drinks to come!



Mixology Monday XCV: Call Me Old Fashioned! - Announcement Post

I hereby declare March the month of the Old Fashioned at Sass&Gin, and since I'm hosting Mixology Monday this month, it seemed like perfect timing! The Old Fashioned is the original "cock tail," dating to the early 1800's. In this humble bartender's opinion, it is the pater familias of all other drinks, and it has taken its place as such in the recent cocktail revival. We have seen many variations of the Old Fashioned (i.e. Mayahuel's Oaxaca Old Fashioned, PDT's Benton's Old Fashioned) and the resurgence of similar cocktails (i.e. the Sazerac). The bitter's market has exploded over the last decade, with more flavor profiles than ever before, and with a more health-conscious public, your local grocery store is likely to carry a selection of sugars to play with (agave, coconut sugar, turbinado, etc).

So, here's the challenge: We will be sticking to the traditional ratios of spirit, bitters and sugar, but I'm challenging you to step outside the box with your selections. In addition, how will it be chilled or garnished? Do you want to add a secondary spirit or rinse? Go to town!

And for all of you newbies to Mixology Monday, here's how to play:
  • Find or create your a cocktail in the format of a classic Old Fashioned. Be unique. Be daring. Include a photo and your description on your blog, tumblr or webiste. If you don't have an online sounding board, you can post on eGullet's Spirits and Cocktails forum.
  • Be sure to include the Mixology Monday logo in your post, and link back to the Mixology Monday page and Sass & Gin.
  • Submissions are due by Monday, March 16th. Notify me of your submission by commenting with a link below, or send me a link on Twitter @sassandgin with the hashtag  #MxMo.
I can't wait to sip all of your lovely creations! 



[PS: Check out the round-up post here.]

Monday, February 23, 2015

Mixology Monday XCIV: That's Not a Martini!

This month's Mixology Monday challenge comes to us from Dagreb at Nihil Utopia, and I couldn't be more delighted with his challenge: the Martini. We are taking this classic drink and tweaking it to our own specifications.

First off, my own two cents about the Martini from behind the stick.
  • The Martini is made with gin. Would you like a martini made with vodka? Then please order a Vodka Martini.
  • If you belly up to my bar and order a martini I'll ask you these two questions: (1) What is your gin preference? and (2) Would you like an olive or a twist? You may assume that it will be stirred, chilled to perfection and double strained into a chilled cocktail glass. If you would like it shaken or on the rocks you need to tell me. If you would like (god forbid) those crazy little ice chips from a severely shaken martini floating on the surface of your cocktail, I need to know that too. Wet? Dry? Sweet? Perfect? I'll make it any way you like it, but please don't assume I make it the same way your favorite bartender at Outback Steakhouse makes it. I really want you to be happy with your drink, but a martini requires a little instruction. Know the terminology and any bartender worth their stuff should be able to make it for you to spec every time.
  • Vermouth.  Vermouth is a bittered, infused, fortified wine. After opening a bottle it needs to be kept refrigerated, and though it doesn't go bad as quickly as wine, vermouth will sour over time. Hate vermouth? That's likely due to the fact that you've never enjoyed a fresh, quality made vermouth. There are two varieties, dry and sweet (blanco and rosso). My favorite vermouths are produced by Vya in California. There are also some fabulous Spanish vermouths, my favorite being Perucchi.  A finely made vermouth is sippable on its own. They're worth tracking down. For more on the basics of vermouth, check this out.
  • My take on the Dirty Martini: while it's fun to joke with my guests about "how dirty they like it" (*wink*wink*), I believe olive brine exists within a martini to cover up the flavor profiles of an ill made spirit. Choose a better quality base spirit and you won't need to drown your cocktail in salt & vinegar. A reasonable, balanced ratio of olive brine to gin is 1:4, but I have made many a dirty martini where the patron requested it "porn star dirty" and wanted it made 1:1. This just seems pointless to me. And that much sodium on top of alcohol can't be good for your blood pressure.
  • Those triangular shaped glasses you use are called "Martini glasses" because historically they most often held a Martini. However, that doesn't mean that every drink contained in them are types of martinis. They are simply cocktail glasses. They may contain a Martini or many other lovely cocktails. The term "Appletini" is a misnomer. The ingredient list does not fit the bill for what a Martini or even a Vodka Martini would contain. It's an Apple Cocktail.
Rant over.

But, how do I prefer my Martini? That depends on the gin. Understanding the flavor profile of your gin of choice is key to crafting the perfect Martini with it. With each gin there are elements of a martini that will highlight or elevate the flavor profile of that particular gin. For my palette, if it's a classic, London dry gin, I prefer it bone dry, with a twist. If it's a citrusy, new-American-style-gin, I prefer it sweet, with a dash of orange bitters and a twist. If I'm sipping on a barrel-aged gin, I use the same ratios I would use for a Manhattan, and take it sweet with a dash of aromatic bitters.

What's currently in my glass? And how would I order it? I'd ask for a sweet Uncle Val's Martini with a dash of orange bitters and a twist. Depending on where I was at I might also instruct them that I want it stirred, not shaken, and served up. It's a bit like ordering a drink at Starbucks, where coffee culture demands you know all the terminology and know how to communicate it in the right order.

2 oz Uncle Val's Botanical Gin
.25 oz Vya Sweet Vermouth
2 ds Angostura Orange Bitters

Stir until outside of mixing glass begins to frost (approx. 45 seconds).
Double strain into chilled cocktail glass (I keep mine in the freezer).
Express lemon oil over surface of cocktail.
Garnish with remaining twist.

Want to know how NOT to order a martini? Several months back I received a service well ticket for a Martini: New Amsterdam Gin (our well), perfect, dirty, twist. I questioned their server as to wether or not the guest understood what "perfect" meant in Martini lingo, and was told that yes, the guest wanted equal parts sweet and dry vermouth in their cocktail, in addition to olive brine. I winced and then made their cocktail as they ordered it, wondering if this was perhaps the same guest who occasionally orders well gin with Diet Coke. I tasted it before sending it out and it was just as vile as I had feared. I watched as the drink went out to the table and the guest took their first sip. The gentleman held his composure and continued to smile and chat with his date, but at the end of his meal his glass still sat there full. He paid his tab, told his server they had a great time at our restaurant, tipped well and left. I can only assume he had seen one too many old movies and ordered using some of his Hollywood Martini Lingo to impress his date. All I can say to this is that if you don't understand Martini Lingo or Bartender Lingo, just ask, and trust your bartender's opinion. We do this for a living, you know?

The Martini is one of the simplest, yet routinely poorly executed classic cocktails. Starting with good base spirits is not enough. You have to understand the technique behind making the perfect martini. There is plenty of science involved, but it's also an art form. Please stir & sip responsibly.



Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Mixology Monday MCIII: Blue - The Siren & The Blue Blood

This month's Mixology Monday challenge comes from a kindred spirit, Andrea, at Ginhound, who believes that "gin should be (her) middle name." Her challenge this month is to create something blue, wether in color or in spirit. In her announcement post, she reminds us that

"blue has been predicted as a new cocktail trend several times in recent years... but any mixer of blue drinks is faced with a bit of a dilemma as there is nothing 'natural' about E133 - the most common of blue food colors: Do I really want to mix chemicals into my perfect mixture of fresh juices and good booze? Feel free to interpret blue as freely as you wish - you can dazzle us with a brilliant blue drink or you can share that blue feeling with a melancholic drink."

In response I attempted two entries. The first is my "Siren," a rummy, spicy, sour delight that tastes as pretty as it looks! I put this one together a few months ago when I became fascinated with how bright colors mellow into egg whites in sour drinks! I love watching the etherial way the softly tinted foam floats to top of the glass after the drink is initially poured. I believe this obsession started late this last summer when a guest ordered a Midori sour. At work we make all of our "sours" with egg white, paired syrups and fresh juices. For example, our whiskey sour is made with lemon, demerara and egg white, and our tequila sour is made with agave nectar, lime and egg white. But, I hadn't experienced how much delight an artificially colored liqueur could bring to a cocktail until I made that first Midori sour with egg white, fresh lime juice and simple syrup. It was so pretty, I just had to put something similar on our menu! So, I started playing and came up with my Siren. It's eye-catching for our guests to admire and tasty to boot!

1 oz Bacardi Superior
1 oz blue curaçao
1 oz lime juice
1 oz burnt sugar syrup (recipe below)**
.25 oz allspice dram
1 egg white

Dry shake & strain over ice into a collins glass.
Garnish with a lemon twist or with lemon zest stars.
(For the lemon zest stars we cut a wide piece of lemon zest
and then punch the stars out with a small, star-shaped fondant cutter.)

"Siren", Laura Cloer, TMSPC, 2014

"Siren", Laura Cloer, TMSPC, 2014
Lately I've been playing with homemade sodas, trying to master the art of using champagne yeast for carbonation. It is not as fool proof as the recipes you come across make it seem. I'm having issues with building a consistent product. But, I did manage to put together a blueberry and juniper soda that worked perfectly in this next concoction.

For my blueberry-juniper soda I made a syrup base and added water and champagne yeast to a small plastic bottle and sealed it for 48 hours until the pressure had risen and the bottle was hard on the outside. I made my soda "to taste", but the measurements were roughly as follows: 1 part blueberry-juniper syrup**, 1.5 parts water, 1/8 tsp champagne yeast to 2 pint-sized grolsch bottles. I'm still in the process of creating my own sodas and when I get further along I'll write more about it. Until then, if you're wishing to recreate what I've done here I recommend looking at this article or this one as a guideline. On a tasting note, the blueberry-juniper soda turned out a bit sweet for me. I'm wishing I'd added a bit of lemon zest to the batch. Although the juniper notes came out in perfect balance among the bold blueberry notes.

The Blue Blood
1.5 oz Boodles Gin
.5 oz Pimm's Blackberry & Elderflower Liqueur
2 ds Bitter Truth Lemon Bitters 
Top blueberry-juniper soda

Combine ingredients together in a collins glass
over ice and garnish with a lemon twist.

"The Blue Blood," Laura Cloer, 2015 
Many, many thanks to Andrea for hosting and to Fred for very diligently and patiently keeping this thing going month after month, year after year! Can't wait to see all the other BLUE concoctions!



**BLUEBERRY-JUNIPER SYRUP: .5 cup blueberries, .5 cup water, .25 cup cane sugar, 8 juniper berries. Bring water to a boil. Dissolve sugar and add blueberries and juniper berries at a low boil for 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Let cool. Strain out berries and pulp through a fine mesh strainer.

**BURNT SUGAR SYRUP:  Caramelize .5 cup sugar in the base of a heavy sauce pan over medium heat. Slowly add .5 cup hot water and stir frequently until caramelized sugar dissolves. Chill.