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Park Avenue – New York in the Tropics?

Posted by Reese On March - 13 - 2010

Ted Haigh questions the logic of naming this drink the Park Avenue in Vintage Cocktails and Forgotten Spirits. “Note, if you will, the tropical character, invoking Carmen Miranda strutting down a Palm Beach boulevard.  As I say, the names of this and the Palm Beach Special preceding it, were obviously switched at birth.”  Definitely on the mark.  Although this drink holds a Gothamesque name, its flavor definitely is more reminiscent of the tropics.  So, what is that flavor profile exactly?  Complex, but still light and fruity.  The pineapple is the dominant note in the aroma of the cocktail but isn’t as much the star in the flavor.  In the flavor you’re first going to notice the flavors of the vermouth and hints of the gin coming through at the forefront.  The pineapple and curacao round it all out really nicely.

Park Avenue

Gin is the base spirit in this drink, and it’s important to pick the right one.  I started, as I usually do, with Plymouth.  I found the resulting cocktail to be very smooth, but lacking the level of gin in the flavor that I’d like.  So, I decided to give a bolder gin a try next.  Wanting to try a gin that’s more main stream and, quite frankly, a little less expensive, I decided to mix the next one with Gordon’s.  Interestingly, I found that even with a bold gin the flavor didn’t come through as much as I expected.  And, regarding this gin choice specifically, I found it a little funky.  Not necessarily bad, but not quite what I’d like either.  I also wanted to try another recipe I had found in the Difford’s Guide so I decided to continue the gin experimentation (ginsperimentation?) with that.

Park Avenue (Difford's Guide #8)
2 oz Gin
1 oz Pineapple Juice
1/2 oz Sweet Vermouth
1/2 oz Curacao
1) Combine ingredients in a shaker over ice
2) Shake until combined and well chilled
3) Strain into a chilled cocktail glass

I wanted to keep with the bold gin plan so I pulled Tanqueray off the shelf for the first mix.  Since the vermouth is decreased in this recipe, I expected it to be more of a background flavor.  It really isn’t at all, though.  You get the herbal notes and with the increased curacao you get a bit more orange flavor as well.  Through it all the Tanqueray stood up great.  This is definitely my favorite of the two recipes.

Finally, since this drink has strong tropical flavors I decided to try a gin that has more of a citrus forward flavor profile while maintaining the juniper as well.  The clear choice to me was Beefeater.  It’s a nice mix of juniper and citrus and works great in this recipe.  While not as bold as Tanqueray this gin is still stands up great to the other strong flavors.  Through all the tastings this week, Beefeater rose to the top as my gin of choice for this drink.

The Park Avenue, while a bit oddly named, is quite tasty.  It has topical flavors but uses vermouth and gin.  Definitely not a combination you’d immediately think would work well, but it definitely does.  If you’re a gin lover and looking for something a bit different give it a go.  Or, if you have a gin hater, this might be a fun place to get them started.  Use a bit lighter gin and the other flavors will carry the weight.

The Brooklyn – Manhattanesque, but Unique

Posted by Reese On March - 7 - 2010

Looking at the recipe for the Brooklyn the first thing you’re going to notice is that it’s like a Manhattan, but…different.  Once you go the next step and mix one up you’re going to find that that logic holds quite true.  This drink really is like a Manhattan, yet different in really subtle, good ways.  The flavor profile is extremely pleasant and really very unique.  The amer and maraschino fill the spot where the bitters reside in a Manhattan.  They add bitterness and a complexity of flavor which is essential.  Though, if you’ve ever had a Manhattan with too much bitters, you definitely know they can be overpowering.  In the case of the Brooklyn the bitters are replaced with other flavorful, if a bit less strong, ingredients.  This allows you to better taste the other ingredients.

Brooklyn

I started my week mixing with a high rye bourbon, namely Bulleit and though I tried other spirits I found myself coming back to this choice as my favorite.  With a straight rye (Michter’s in my case) the drink is much spicier as you would expect.  Though, while this is a good recipe I found myself preferring the Bulleit.  Straight rye made this drink a little too sharp for my liking.  I think that’s mostly because this recipe doesn’t have as much sweetness as my Manhattan recipe and, as such, doesn’t stand up to the rye’s boldness as well.

Mixing up the Brooklyn with a wheated bourbon (Eagle Rare in my case) results in a drink that is tremendously smooth and hugely pleasant.  Though as I found with the straight rye, this was not my favorite of the options.  Specifically, I really missed the light spiciness of the Bulleit.  It’s all about the balance and for me that was found in the form of high rye bourbon.

So, now that we’ve discussed the base spirit let’s take a quick look at one of the other ingredients that really caught my eye.  As I said in the intro this week I’ve had a bottle of Torani Amer in my collection since Tales of the Cocktail last year.  I had no experience with amers of any kind, so I had no idea what to do with this ingredient.  So, as a result of my ignorance, it languished unopened until this week.  Having tasted it and used it in a recipe I feel can shed a bit of light on it now.  Torani Amer falls in to the category of bitter herbal liqueur or, were it Italian, an Amaro.  Others in this category that you might be more familiar with are Fernet Branca and Campari.  However, I offer those only as notables of the category; Torani Amer tastes nothing like either.

Having tasted it and tried to nail down it’s flavor, I find it much easier to compare it to other products than to explain it on its own right.  Torani Amer is very lightly sweet, nothing like you’d find in other liqueurs like creme de cassis, triple sec, or even it’s partner in crime in this drink maraschino.  The aroma is complex and very hard for me to pin down.  Though you do get strong herbal notes coming through.  In the flavor I find it equally hard to discern specific flavors that really outshine the others.  Rather, like other great herbal liqueurs, noteably Benedictine and Chartreuse, the flavor is harmonious.  There is certainly a bitter note present as you’d expect but it’s not nearly as strong as you’d find  in Campari.  So, having danced around the actual flavor of this product I can say one thing with certainty.  Torani Amer is quite tasty and really adds some wonderful complexity to the Brooklyn that would be sorely lacking without it.

As a final note on Torani Amer and more specifically why Dr. Cocktail suggests it over the classic Amer Picon, I’ll let his words from the notes on Picon Punch in Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails do the talking.

“The House of Picon has had its problems, at least with distribution in the States, but extending back further in France to when, inexplicably, they changed the proof (and thereby the flavor) of Amer Picon from about 35 percent to about 12 percent alcohol.  Fortunately, while I feel so wrong saying so, there is a better, though more obscure product on the market.  Its matches the Amer Picon proof from days of yore, and its flavor is more in keeping with the traditional Picon Punch.  This product, Torani Amer, is made in the United States … Still, I hope Picon straightens out its formula and distribution.  It might otherwise foretell the sad end to a historic product.”

Ted “Dr. Cocktail” Haigh

There you have it.  In summary, if you can find a bottle of Torani Amer, it’s definitely the choice for this cocktail and the Picon Punch which I’ll be featuring at a later date.  It’s made in California so I’m sure you can easily source it on the west coast.  If you can’t find it locally a quick Google search will point you to a few online sources.

As for the Brooklyn, mix it up some night when you’re wanting a Manhattan.  I think you’ll really enjoy this variant.  It’s quirky, but delightful in its own ways.  Enjoy.

The Alexander – Simply Delicious

Posted by Reese On February - 27 - 2010

I had a little trouble at the beginning of the week figuring out a good way to intro a cocktail that includes both gin and chocolate flavors.  I really shouldn’t have had trouble at all.  It’s easy, the Alexander is simply delicious.  The gin is there, but it’s tempered by the cream and creme de cacao.  The chocolate flavor is present but not overpowering.  So, how do you get the right balance?  Let’s discuss just that.

Alexander

My first mix of the week I reached for Plymouth gin.  The results were good, great in fact.  However, the gin was much lighter than I would have liked.  In fact, as I noted during my tasting, I wouldn’t guess that there was gin in there at all.  Thankfully that’s a very easily corrected problem.

Next I pulled down a bottle of Leopold’s, a gin made locally in Denver.  Leopold’s had a stronger juniper flavor and is generally a bolder gin all around.  With this choice the gin takes a much more starring role.  The resulting flavor blends the herbal qualities of the gin with the earthy flavor of the chocolate.  All mellowed by the smoothness of the cream.  Very tasty.

Slight problem.  I’m guessing most of you don’t have a bottle of Leopold’s on your shelf.  Not to say you shouldn’t.  A more mainstream gin that has a similar flavor profile is Tanqueray.  This option works extremely well, too.  To sum up the gin discussion, pick something bold.  Anything else will be covered up.

A common response when I mentioned that I was mixing up the Alexander has been “Oh, the Brandy Alexander.”  I would then explain that the brandy version is actually a spin off of the original.  I did try mixing one up though to find out what the fuss is about.  Not surprisingly the Brandy Alexander is also quite tasty.   Interestingly the flavor is almost like Irish Cream.  This version lacks the intriguing complexity that I love in the original, gin recipe though.

No matter what ingredients you pick, give this one a mix.  You’ll enjoy sipping the result.

Knickerbocker Special

Posted by Reese On February - 20 - 2010

I did a lot of experiments this week.  All with very good results though, I must say. I’ll start the discussion with the recipe that I started this week with, the one from the Savoy.  I tried Erik’s recommendation to muddle the pineapple and used Appleton V/X.  The result was a drink with a very mellow sweetness.  However, sadly, the sourness of the lemon juice is almost completely lost.  This recipe is certainly tasty, and you’d never guess that there is a full 1 1/2 oz of rum in there.  Not my favorite of the recipes though.

Next I’d like to discuss the recipe from Harry Johnson’s Bartenders Manual, but I can’t.  I wasn’t able to decipher the recipe in to something I could mix up.  Harry’s recipes call for wine-glasses as a measure.  In my searching (although not extensive) I wasn’t able to find out how that translated in to a unit of measure I could use.  So, I let it go by the wayside.  If any of you know what a wine-glass equates to, please let me know.

Knickerbocker (Harry Johnson)
1 oz Raspberry Syrup
2 Dashes Lemon Juice
1 Slice Pineapple
1 Slice Orange
1 Wine-glassful Rum
1/2 Wine-glassful Curacao

Finally, I experimented extensively with the recipe from Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails.  First a recipe, then my summarized thoughts.

Knickerbocker (Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails)
2 oz Rum
1/2 oz Curacao
1/2 oz Raspberry Syrup
1 oz Lemon Juice

This is, very nearly, my favorite recipe.  I tried a few different rums and found them all to be good.  That said, my favorite two were La Favorite Rhum Agricole Blanc and Appleton V/X.  The rhum agricole gives you a more grassy flavor but there is no aged rum complexity present.  The Appleton V/X gives you more complexity from the barrel aging.  Appleton was my favorite, but I’d recommend you try your favorite rum as well.

Next, I found the sweetness of this recipe to be a bit too much for my tastes.  With the raspberry syrup and curacao you’re getting a lot of sweetness.  So, to make things a little more balanced I tried dropping both ingredients to 1/3 oz.  That was the perfect amount for either rum choice.  The balance is much better and the flavors from these ingredients is still present.  Now you know my favorite recipe.

Knickerbocker Special

Knickerbocker (Cocktail Hacker)
2 oz Rum (Appleton V/X)
1/3 oz Curacao
1/3 oz Raspberry Syrup
1 oz Lemon Juice
Orange, Pineapple and Cherry for Garnish

This is definitely one worth mixing up.  Good rum flavor.  Goes down very easy and has a great fruitiness.  Super tasty.

Jockey Club Cocktail – A Bit Like Spiked Hawaiian Punch

Posted by Reese On February - 13 - 2010

I started the week with the classic Savoy recipe for the Jockey Club Cocktail and found it be mediocre at best.  The flavor of the creme de noyau was completely lost to the gin and bitters.  The lemon juice shined through, but only dimly.  Finally, there was nearly no sweetness at all.  It was okay, but definitely not one that I’ll be mixing for myself or others again.

Jockey Club Cocktail

Looking further I found that the current recipes changed the Savoy formula drastically.  Of this new breed I first mixed up the recipe from Difford’s Guide #8.

Jockey Club Cocktail (Difford's Guide #8)
2 oz Gin
1/2 oz Amaretto
1/2 oz Lemon Juice
1 Dash Angostura Bitters
1 Dash Orange Bitters

This is much better!  Fair level of sweetness, could be a touch more.  The bitters are a bit too light, though.  I think two dashes would serve this drink better.  From there, my search continued and I landed on the Joy of Mixology recipe.

Jockey Club Cocktail #2 (Joy of Mixology)
2 oz Gin
3/4 oz Amaretto
3/4 oz Lemon Juice
Angostura Bitters to Taste

You’ll note that for his recipe Regan has changed up the name.  He felt that his reformulation was sufficiently different from the original as to necessitate a different name.  While I agree in principal, I don’t think anyone will be drinking the Savoy version of this drink.  So, in that light, I think it would be safe to simply call it the Jockey Club Cocktail.  Another few interesting points.  First, Regan bumps up the amaretto and lemon juice to 3/4 oz.  I think this works well.  It increases the sweetness slightly but he also ups the sour to compensate.  Second, you’ll note that he’s stayed with amaretto rather than creme de noyau.  More on that in a bit.  Finally, Regan has dropped the orange bitters entirely.  I agree with this move as well.   With the other flavors being bold the orange flavor was completely lost in this drink.

As I mentioned, this recipe is a bit sweeter, but that additional sweetness truly is balanced well with the sourness.  As for the bitters, for my taste two dashes provided the perfect level of flavor.  Next, the gin.  For my first mix I used Tanqueray 10.  It was too light and its flavors were completely lost to the other ingredients.  Switching to regular Tanqueray solved that problem wonderfully.  Tanqueray has a bold enough flavor that it’s able to compete with the other ingredients but still not be overwhelming.  Finally, the amaretto and the source of the subtitle for this post.  I decided I wanted to mix up this recipe using creme de noyau instead of amaretto.  The resulting color was certainly more interesting.  The flavor, on the other hand, was not.  My tasting notes read “Tasty, but slightly off flavor.  Not sure if I like this one.”  Colton was over that night so I asked for his input.  His comment? “Tastes like someone spiked the Hawaiian Punch.”  And thinking about it, it truly does.  The net of it all?  Stick with amaretto, you’ll be much happier.

Jockey Club Cocktail (Cocktail Hacker)
2 oz Gin (Tanqueray)
3/4 oz Amaretto
3/4 oz Lemon Juice
2 Dashes Angostura Bitters

This drink is a tasty one, at least with the later recipes.  I learned a good lesson from this drink though.  Just because a drink is an old classic doesn’t mean it’s going to be good.  Spam is also an old classic, after all.