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Archive for September, 2008

Review – Jackelope Gin

Posted by Reese On September - 23 - 2008

Jackelope Gin was the next gin on our tasting list.  This is a small batch gin produced by Peach Street Distillers in Palisade, CO.  Being a sucker for small batch, artisinal spirits I knew this bottle had to come home with me the minute I saw it.  The gents at Peach Street give a superb telling of exactly why gin is the best bait for the Jackelope and sadly I can’t say we had any luck in catching any.  I think this stems more from my location in a small city though than our choice of bait.  As any amateur cryptozoologist knows Jackelopes prefer the sparsely populated high mountain deserts and sand stone mesas.  What we did find is a great gin that is well worth seeking out.

Jackelope has a nice fruity nose and the taste of sweet fruits comes through in the flavor as well.  We all concurred that this gin is much smoother than our control (Bombay Sapphire) and has little burn which is also nice.  Peach Street uses a blend of local junipers which I think adds to the uniqueness and great taste of this gin.  Beyond that the “secret” ingredients are the standard gin fare: Coriander, Angelica, Oris root, Licorice, Lemon peel/zest, Lime peel/zest, Cassia bark.  In this gin they are very nicely balanced and make for a complex but tasty gin.  None of the botanicals are screaming at you but they are all there.  I think this gin would be excellent in a Martini, but maybe go a little light on the vermouth, say 5:1, so as not to overwhelm the subtle flavors.

Overall Jackelope is a great gin and well worth seeking out if you’re in the Colorado area.  I’m starting to see it at a number of local liquor stores and with luck it will be going nationwide soon.

Gin and Tonic

Posted by Reese On September - 21 - 2008

The Gin and Tonic, the cocktail that started my love.  The G&T is so utterly simple that a lot of people, I would hazard to guess, wouldn’t even classify it as a cocktail, rather a simple mixed drink that you pound back to get buzzed.  I on the other hand will expound that a well made G&T is truly a thing of beauty.  Introduced by the Army of the British East India Company, the Gin and Tonic was originally consumed for the quinine contained in the tonic water.

Quinine was the first effective treatment for malaria discovered and was in use as early as the 17th century.  In addition to its antimalarial properties it is also a fever reducer, painkiller and can reduce inflammation.  The story goes that due to its very bitter taste gin was added to quinine tonics in order to make them more palatable, and thus, the Gin and Tonic was born.  So why is it then that this cocktail of medicinal wonder has been relegated to the lowly position of buzz inducer?

I think the primary reason for this is people don’t give this cocktail’s ingredients and their proportions enough thought.  Although the ingredient list is very short, there is a surprising amount of variability held within.  This week we’re going to take a look at each of these key players and make some suggestions on how you can elevate this cocktail back to the place it rightly deserves.

Gin and Tonic (Difford's Guide #7)
[Ingredients]
2 oz Gin
Tonic Water
Lime Wedge for Garnish
[Directions]
1) Add gin to an ice filled Collins glass
2) Top with tonic water
3) Run lime wedge around rim of glass
4) Squeeze lime into drink and drop in

The Tom Collins – In Summary

Posted by Reese On September - 20 - 2008

Sadly, I’ve not had the time I like to spend experimenting fully with this cocktail this week.  But, on an up note, I have a wealth of prior knowledge to draw from.  There are a few points I’d like to make about the Collins.  The first being Gin is but one base spirit that can be used.  A Vodka Collins, Rum Collins or even a Whisk(e)y Collins are quite tasty.  I highly recommend making a Collins with your favorite base spirit.  I’m betting you won’t be disappointed.

The next point is one of construction.  Nearly every Collins recipe you run across will state that you should “combine over ice and top with soda”.  Now, were I making this cocktail as a bartender I think this would definitely be the best method as its the quickest and will yield near absolute consistency given your ice remains the same size.  For home preparation however I advocate a different method.  When I build these I do the following: 1) Combine spirit, syrup and juice in a glass. 2) Swirl briefly to combine. 3) Fill glass to about 1-1.5″ from the top with soda water. 4) Add ice cubes slowly to fill remaining space.  The resulting cocktail will not require stirring as pouring in the soda has effectively done that for you.  Additionally there won’t be as much fizzing since you’re adding the ice at the end.  I’m guessing that purists will tell me that this isn’t the “right” way to build this cocktail, but I’m not making it for them so :P.

Now for the selection of gin.  As with most cocktails I’ll recommend you first try your favorite gin, it is your favorite after all.  When I’m building this cocktail I reach for a citrus forward gin.  I think with this choice the gin’s flavors and the lemon blend nicely and make for a very harmonious tipple.  My choice if I’m just looking for a refreshing summer drink to quench my thirst is Baffert’s Gin.  It’s very cheap which makes it a great choice if you’re going to be serving this at a party and I think you’ll really be surprised by the flavor.  For such an inexpensive spirit its really very good.  If I’m wanting to up the ante I bit I pull down my bottle of Indigo Gin.  Again a citrus forward gin, but a touch more refined than the Baffert’s.  All of that aside I don’t think I’ve made a Tom Collins at home with any gin that I haven’t liked.

Finally, the Tom Collins while dining out is always a roll of the dice.  Generally, unless you’re at a restaurant with a great bar, you’re going to get gin, sour mix and soda water.  And, as you may have guessed, the gamble comes in the form of the sour mix.  There are some really great sour mixes out there, don’t get me wrong.  Are they a replacement for fresh juice and simple syrup?  Most definitely not, but they’re good for what they are, shelf stable sweetened cirtus juice.  There are, however, some really terrible sour mixes out there as well.  I went out with my cousin for dinner on Monday (Thanks again for dinner Mike!).  The Tom Collins I ordered was really very good.  Good enough in fact that I asked the waitress whether it was made with lemon juice or sour mix.  Sour mix it was.  In retrospect I should have known seeing as you couldn’t see any lemon juice pulp in the drink, but it was pretty damn good.  So give it a go some time.  You may be pleasantly surprised, and, if not, don’t order one there again.

The Tom Collins truly is one of my favorite summer drinks.  It’s extremely refreshing and has enough liquid (other than alcohol) in it that you’re actually going to rehydrate yourself a bit.  As with other cocktails we’ve covered here, I must pass on my warning.  These are very easy to drink. Two, Three, Seventeen, all go down very easily.  With that I leave you for another week fellow hackers.  Enjoy your Collins.  I certainly will.

Ingredient – Fizz Water

Posted by Reese On September - 16 - 2008

This is the first time here at Cocktail Hacker that we’ve had a chance to use any sort of carbonated water in a cocktail.  Most of you are quite familiar with some of the types of soda water by now, but there are some important differences that you should keep in mind when mixing drinks.

Types of Fizz Water

[Soda Water] – Also known as carbonated water, seltzer, fizzy water, or sparkling water is what is best known to most people.  It is simply water in to which carbon dioxide has been introduced thus carbonating the water.  There ware some natural sparkling waters available which are equivalent to carbonated mineral water.

[Club Soda] – This is the other main type of carbonated water you’re likely to find at your local grocery store.  The primary difference here is that club soda has had a small amount of salt added in the form of sodium chloride (table salt), sodium citrate, sodium bicarbonate, potassium bicarbonate, potassium sulfate, or disodium phosphate.  Which salt is added depends on the bottler.  Wikipedia says that these are added to emulate the taste of home made soda water.  They also have a nice history of carbonated water that I’m not going to go in to here.  Although, the anecdote about mice is rather interesting.

Sources of Fizz Water

Like most of the ingredients we feature here on the site there are many sources for fizz water, some that allow you to precisely control the resulting product.  Naturally these types are my favorite.

[Store Bought] – There are a nearly endless number of choices when it comes to store bought fizz water.  I’d caution against using club soda as it may throw of the intended flavor of the cocktail in general.  That said, most club soda will have such a small amount of salt added that you’re likely not to notice it at all.  You can even experiment with a flavored fizz water that will complement the end flavor of the cocktail you’re producing.

[Soda Siphons] – Soda siphons are the tried and true home soda making tools.  They consist of a carafe that you fill with your choice of water (I’d suggest filtered for the most neutral flavor).  The carbonation comes in the form of small CO2 cylinders that introduce the carbonation to the water in the carafe. In the old days full bottles of pre-carbonated water were delivered to the home and your siphon attached to the top.  The siphon provided a way to use a small amount of the water while keeping the rest fizzy.

Siphons work fantastically and make for a very elegant presentation.  I’ll also say that if you want to make Fizz drinks, such as the Ramos Gin Fizz, a siphon is very nearly a requirement.  The reason behind this is that the recipes call for the soda water to be injected in to the mixed cocktail rather than poured on top.

[Soda Makers] – If you’re really in to soda water, as I am.  Then a soda maker may be more your sytle.  Soda makers allow the use of much larger bottles of CO2 which allow for the carbonation of many liters of water before they empty.  I personally have a Soda Club (now Soda Stream) soda maker and can’t speak highly enough of it.  Each CO2 cylinder will carbonate approximately 100 liters of water and I have two bottles always chilling in the fridge.  As for the water itself I go with Brita filtered water.  This way I know I’m using pure water and not introducing any flavors I don’t intend to.

Another soda maker route is to build one yourself.  Kevin Kelly has a nice overview of one DIY system.  Here’s an instructable on the same topic.  If you’ve done some home brewing, then home carbonating might be old hat for you.  If not, then try one of the other options, or simply buy good store bought products.  There are lots out there so experiment away.

Tom Collins

Posted by Reese On September - 14 - 2008

This week’s cocktail is one of my absolute favorites.  When I first started enjoying cocktails my go to drink was always the Gin and Tonic.  This drink is a great choice when out and about as most restaurants will have passable gin and tonic in their bar.  At home you can craft an even more perfect G&T, but we’ll leave that for a later week.  A couple years ago I found out about the Tom Collins and ever since it has become the equal of the G&T at least while I’m at home.  This is the first Fizz style cocktail we’ve covered here at Cocktail Hacker and the key ingredient you’ll want to pick up that we haven’t used before is soda water.  There are a few options for this ingredient and I’ll explain them later this week.

So, where did the name Tom Collins come from?  Well, there is some confusion on that one.  It is said that the cocktail started it’s life as the John Collins, named for the waiter at London’s Limmer’s Hotel of the same name.  David Wondrich lists a recipe for this cocktail in his book “Killer Cocktails”.  The drink has a base of Genever Gin, or Holland Style Gin.  Since then the drink’s name has morphed into Tom Collins.  The thinking behind this is that the name change came along when the drink’s primary spirit switched over to Old Tom Gin, which was a sweetened aromatic gin.  Fear not though, English Dry Gin works perfectly well when constructing this cocktail.

Here is the recipe I’ve always used.  As is customary I’ll spend the week trying other versions and will come back with what’s the best.

Tom Collins
[Ingredients]
2 oz Gin
1 oz Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Simple Syrup
Soda Water
[Directions]
1) Combine the gin, lemon juice and syrup in a tall glass with ice
2) Stir to combine
3) Top with soda water to fill glass