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The Delicious Sour – Aptly Named

Posted by Reese On February - 2 - 2011

While the middle of winter isn’t generally the time you crave a nice, cold sour, I found this one to have truly been aptly named.  The delicious sour is nicely balanced, big, cold and frothy.  First on your palate you get fruity hints of the apple and peach.  Following that, I noted that it wasn’t nearly as sweet as I expected it to be, rather it was nicely balanced.  Finally, the egg white gives this drink a tremendous mouth feel in the same way that it does with other drinks.  There are a couple interesting points to be made, though.

Delicious Sour

First, let’s talk peach brandy.  If you walk into your local liquor store and go to the brandy aisle you’re going to get the same response that I did.  Namely, peach brandy is kept over with the liqueurs and really isn’t a brandy at all.  Peach brandy, as most know it, is a brandy based, peach flavored liqueur.  At this point I’m certain some of you are saying something to the effect of “But, what about eau de vie?” and you’re absolutely correct.  Peach eau de vie is technically peach brandy proper.  However, after mixing this drink I’m certain that’s not what the author (“The Only William” Schmidt) intended.  Without the sweetness of the peach brandy the drink would need additional sweetening to balance things out.

Second, let’s talk lime juice.  The original recipe in Schmidt’s Flowing Bowl and my source, Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, calls for the juice of one lime.  Being a details type of guy this wasn’t an exact enough measure for me so I did some experimentation.  After that foot work (or should it be arm work) I can say that you have two options.  If you prefer a drier cocktail go with 1 1/2 oz of lime juice and omit the sugar entirely (my personal preference).  The resulting drink still has a mellow sweetness from the peach brandy and isn’t overly tart.  If you prefer a bit more sweetness bump the lime juice up to 2 oz (which I did, in fact, get from one giant lime) and keep the tsp of sugar.  The added lime juice balances the extra sugar.

Lastly, I felt this drink needed some additional complexity.  I found that complexity in 3 dashes of bitters.  I used my homemade version of Robert Hess’ House Bitters, but you could use any aromatic bitter that you like.  The spices play extremely well with all the fruitiness in this drink and really give the drink much more depth.

The Delicious Sour (Cocktail Hacker)
2 oz Applejack
2 oz Peach-Flavored Brandy
1 1/2 oz Lime Juice
1 Egg White
3 Dashes of Aromatic Bitters
Soda Water

1) Shake all but the soda in an iced cocktail shaker
2) Strain into a goblet
3) Top with a splash of soda water

The Communist – Nearly Forgotten by Time

Posted by Reese On January - 15 - 2011

During my time in school, I wrote a ton of papers about all manner of topics.  Some of the hardest to write were those where the topic was interesting, but there was very little source material to go from.  However, in some cases, those were the most rewarding as well, where as other times I just winged it and hoped for the best.  The Communist reminds me of the former.

The Communist

In looking through my books the recipe I started with from Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails is the only recipe I ended up finding in my entire cocktail bookshelf.  That gave me free rein to experiment as I saw fit.  But first, let’s quickly discuss the original recipe so we’re on the same page.

Communist (Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails)
1 oz Gin
1 oz Orange Juice
1/2 oz Cherry Brandy
3/4 oz Lemon Juice

This recipe produced a drink that was a bit overly sour for me.  After some additional experimentation I decided this was a result of particularly sour lemons, but it’s something interesting to note none the less.  As with any natural ingredient you’re going to get some variation in your citrus acidity.  That said, I encourage all of you to see every cocktail recipe as a guide rather than set in stone; change as you see fit.  The other main thing that was off in this cocktail for me was its size.  While it’s true that classic cocktails tend to be much smaller than today’s drinks, this one is particularly tiny.  So, on to my preferred recipe.

Communist (Cocktail Hacker)
1 1/2 oz Gin
1 1/4 oz Orange Juice
3/4 oz Cherry Brandy
1 oz Lemon Juice
2 Dashes Orange Bitters

First, and easiest to see, I bumped the overall size of the drink up to ~5 oz.  Second, I didn’t bump the lemon juice as much as other ingredients.  If your lemons are super sour you might even want to drop back to 3/4 oz.  Finally, I added some orange bitters to the mix.  These serve to really increase the depth and complexity of the cocktail while adding a slight bitter component.

When mixing this drink I’d definitely suggest going with a bold, juniper forward gin.  With the strong citrus notes you need a bold gin; I used Tanqueray to good success.  The flavor of the drink is, not surprising, rooted in citrus.  Next you get the gin and finally the flavor of the cherry brandy rounds  everything out.  Per Dr. Cocktail’s suggestion, I used Cherry Heering for this drink and found it to be perfect.  Anything drier wouldn’t add enough sweetness to the drink.  So, if you’d like to try a cherry eau de vie in this make sure you also add about 1/4-1/2 oz of simple syrup to balance things out.

I will definitely be making this drink again and have added it to my mental list of drinks to suggest to people who swear they hate gin.  The strong citrus flavors subdue even strong juniper gins and allow the flavors to be introduced gently.  Very tasty and I’m quite glad it wasn’t completely lost to the sands of time.

The Coffee Cocktail – Hmmmm…Purple?

Posted by Reese On January - 3 - 2011

So, call me crazy, but very few cups of coffee that I’ve seen are purple.  Okay, none.  But, don’t think that’s a harsh criticism of the Coffee Cocktail.  Simply an observation.  I certainly see what the originator of this drink was thinking and, given a more brownish port I think mine would have come out looking more like the coffee I’m used to.  That’s enough of the drivel, let’s discuss the recipes and my thoughts.

Coffee Cocktail

As I mentioned in the intro for this cocktail I started with another recipe from Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails.  As a quick aside, if you don’t have VS+FC yet, you should really get it; it’s a fantastic tome.  The recipe listed called for 2-3 oz of port.  For my first mix I opted for 3 oz and was a bit overwhelmed.  The drink is certainly good at this ratio, but the flavors of the brandy are completely smashed by the port.  The consistency and mouth feel of the drink are fantastic though, very much like a really good eggnog.  Thick and mouth coating with a flavor that lasts.

Returning to the proverbial drawing board, in my case my cocktail bookcase, I found a recipe listed from Jerry Thomas’ Bartenders Guide which I found via Imbibe.  This recipe is nearly exactly the same as the one from VS+FC with two exceptions.  First, note that only two oz of port are called for.  Second, the recipe calls for powdered sugar.  The port looks good, but I need to make some comments on the sugar.  Whenever you see a cocktail recipe that calls for powdered sugar or bar sugar, you should reach for superfine regular sugar.  Powdered sugar, as sold in the US, has cornstarch added to it to prevent clumping.  This will not do good things for your cocktail, trust me.  If, like me, you don’t have superfine sugar on hand, do what I did.  Drop a half cup of regular white sugar (or raw sugar if you like) in your food processor and chop it for a bit until it’s fine and powdery; problem solved.

Coffee Cocktail (Jerry Thomas' Bartenders Guide)
1 oz Brandy
2 oz Ruby Port
1 tsp Powdered Sugar
1 Egg
Grated Nutmeg

This recipe is definitely my favorite of those that I found.  The port doesn’t overwhelm the brandy, improving the overall balance tremendously.  That wasn’t the end of the sampling, though.  As Pavel (Scomorokh) pointed out in his blog post about the cocktail, there is also a version that uses only an egg yolk rather than the whole egg.   My recipe for this version came from the Savoy Cocktail Book and also added an interesting addition in the way of a bit of curacao.

Coffee Cocktail (Savoy Cocktail Book)
1 oz Brandy
2 oz Ruby Port
1 tsp Powdered Sugar
1 Egg Yolk
Dash of Curacao
Grated Nutmeg

I found that the yolk-only version lacked some of the silkiness of the whole egg version.  The flavor was nearly the same though, the curacao being lost completely to my palate.

Coffee Cocktail (Cocktail Hacker)
1 oz Brandy
2 oz Ruby Port
1 tsp Superfine Sugar
1 Egg
Grated Nutmeg
1) Pour brandy into an ice filled shaker
2) Add egg, port and sugar
3) Shake and strain into a goblet
4) Top with grated nutmeg

There you have it, the Coffee Cocktail.  It doesn’t taste like coffee at all, but it certainly is tasty.  The wine and brandy flavors play really nicely with the touch of nutmeg and, as I mentioned above, the egg adds an incredible texture.  As you can see in my photo I paired the cocktail with a shortbread cookie and some dark chocolate.  Like red wine this drink pairs really well with those flavors.  Give it a mix some evening and enjoy a truly unique flavor.

The Widow’s Kiss – Oh, the Tales She Could Tell

Posted by Reese On December - 18 - 2010

Each time I walk into a spice shop, like Savory Spice Shop, I’m struck with the complex commingled aroma of the spices around me.  Each seems to have a tale to tell of food created, meals enjoyed and places far away.  The Widow’s Kiss is the cocktail representation of that feeling.  The combination of Benedictine and Chartreuse giving this drink an incredible depth and complexity and the calvados brightens everything up.  This truly is like an old widow.  She always has a smile on her face, but stop and chat with her for a while and you’ll hear tales of joy, tales of sadness and many more.  Each of which will give you a new perspective on this bright cheery lady.

The Widow's Kiss

Mixing up my first Widow’s Kiss I used the recipe from Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails that I mentioned earlier.  I didn’t have any Yellow Chartreuse in my collection so I used my Green.  My first note simply stated “this drink has stories to tell.”  And so it does.  Insane herbal complexity, hints of apple and a mellow sweetness.  However, as the drink began to warm a bit, the herbal flavors came out stronger and stronger, eventually becoming more than I could handle.  I ended up pouring out about half of this first attempt.  A sad day indeed.

Refusing to give up so easily I looked for other recipes only to find that almost every one of them was the same.  The main point being that same recommendation of using Yellow Chartreuse instead of the Green.  Being a slacker I still hadn’t picked up a bottle of Yellow so I tweaked the ratios and tried again.  With 1/2 oz Green Chartreuse and 1/2 oz Benedictine, leaving the calvados alone, the drink is much more balanced.  Additionally, the apple flavors came through much more prominently.  Only problem was, despite the better balance, some of the herbal flavors were now too muted.  I probably could have kept tweaking the levels until I was blue in the face, however, I decided to just pick up a bottle of Yellow instead.

That was truly the “Aha” moment for the week.  Yellow Chartreuse is 40% ABV unlike its punchy green bigger brother which weighs in at 55%.  Back to the original proportions and I was a happy boy.  This recipe has the complexity and the balance without the overwhelming herbal punch.  The apple is present and the sweetness is still mellow and pleasing.  This is definitely the recipe you want to use when you mix up this cocktail for yourself.

The Widow's Kiss
1 1/2 oz Calvados
3/4 oz Yellow Chartreuse
3/4 oz Benedictine
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
1) Combine in a shaker with ice
2) Shake and strain into chilled cocktail glass

I’m guessing there are more than a few hands raised out there after reading this recipe and the original.  Let me just say this, yes, you should definitely shake this drink rather than stirring it.  I realize this goes against the adage that all drinks with purely clear spirits should be stirred, but let me offer these reasons.  One, this drink could use a bit of extra dilution from the ice flecks.  It’s powerful and a bit of taming is a good thing.  Two, you want this cold, very cold.  You see, cold mutes flavors.  So, as you take your first sip of this drink you’re not floored by the bold complexity.  Instead it comes on slowly as the drink warms.

The Widow's Kiss

So, the next time you sit down to contemplate the intricacies of life, mix up The Widow’s Kiss.  I can’t promise that you’ll solve any problems, but I can promise that you’ll have a delightfully complex beverage to help smooth over the rough edges.

Hot Toddy – Deeply Warming

Posted by Reese On December - 5 - 2010

After mixing up Hot Toddies for three weeks I’d like to share with you some life changing epiphanies I’ve had.  Problem is, I haven’t had any.  I’m still not head over heals in love with hot drinks, though the Hot Toddy definitely got me another baby step closer to liking them.  Nothing earth moving there.  I can’t share any incredible recipes that I’ve found, either.  My main take away from my experiments is a really simple one.  Next time it’s cold out and I’m looking for a nice relaxer I’m going to make myself a toddy, sit in front of the fire and decompress.  I can hear a not small subset of you saying “well, duh”.

Hot Toddy

As for the myriad toddy recipes out there, I again have some plain yet I hope good advice.  You know that toddy recipe you’ve been mixing up for years and really love?  That’s the one you should keep mixing up.  Not because there aren’t possibly different, super interesting options out there.  No, it’s not that at all.  You should keep mixing that tried and true recipe because of all the relaxation and warming it’s brought you in the past.  It’s those good memories that will make your recipe awesome every time you make it.

Some tips?  Okay, here you go.  As for brown liquor, pick whatever you’re partial to at the time.  I’ve tried brandy, rum and whiskey and can say they’re all good.  They each have their own strengths and whichever you’re partial to in other cocktails will likely be the one you’ll enjoy most in a toddy.  In the realm of spices the sky truly is the limit.  That said, here are the ones I find particularly good: allspice (2-3 berries), cinnamon (a stick), cloves (3-4), nutmeg (a couple grates on top), and, as Greg suggested on my intro, a star anise adds nice flavor and looks really stunning in the glass.  For sweetening I’d stick with honey.  I contemplated maple syrup and agave nectar and while both would probably be pretty tasty I felt that their flavors might contrast the spices too much.  Finally a bit of citrus is essential.  I like both lemon and orange.  The lemon is going to add a brighter note to the drink where orange will add a smoother, warmer note.  Go with what you have on hand and make sure to zest them right over the drink to get those oils mixed in as well.

So, there you have it.  As I said at the start, no incredible new discoveries here.  Just an introduction to a relaxing drink as we descend into the depths of winter.  Stay warm my friends.