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Archive for December, 2008

Baileys – The Original Irish Cream

Posted by Reese On December - 9 - 2008

So, answer me this, what discussion about Irish Cream is complete without a brief mention of Baileys?  I’m betting nearly every person who has a liquor cabinet has a bottle somewhere in the depths.  I, oddly enough, did not, so thanks go out to my Mom for donating her bottle to the cause.  Baileys is what most people think of when they hear the words Irish Cream.  In fact in most people’s vocabulary the terms are synonymous.  And, I’ll stick my neck out there to say that this is not due solely to the fact that it is the most common Irish Cream you’ll find in the States.  It’s really quite good, not as good as homemade mind you (more on that later), but really quite tasty.  I cruised over to their website and, not surprisingly, they have some cocktail recipes listed.  Not being one to muck around with a good thing I decided to keep it simple this go round.  I tried Baileys Shaken with Ice and Baileys Over Ice, about as pure an Irish Cream experience as one can get.

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Baileys Shaken with Ice is really quite nice (Wow! I’m a freaking poet!).  The ice dillutes the Irish Cream just enough to mellow out the richness which I really like.  Only problem is, like a lot of the cocktails I’ve made, this one disappeared much too quickly.

The Baileys Over Ice preparation is good too, but not as good as shaken with ice.  The problem I had was that the first few sips were very rich, too rich for me in fact.  The ice began to melt at that point and mellowed the richness, and the middle few sips were perfect.  However, the tables then turned the other way.  The drink became watered down quickly, due to the room temperature liqueur, which was also not so pleasant.  So, basically, you have a narrow window when this drink was just right for me.  As such, the quick and dirty summary is this; if you’re going to have a quick nip of Baileys I’d recommend shaking it with ice and straining in to a glass.

Irish Cream

Posted by Reese On December - 7 - 2008

This week I’m going to cover another cocktail related item that isn’t technically a cocktail by itself.  I’m going to spend this week taking a look at a holiday tradition of mine, Irish Cream.  Each year I make homemade Irish Cream for family and friends.  It seemed like a great time to take a closer look at this wonderful liqueur and some of its uses.  Toward the end of the week I’ll be posting my recipe and method for making homemade Irish Cream.

French 75 – Kick Confirmed

Posted by Reese On December - 6 - 2008

I think Harry Craddock summed it up best in his book The Savoy Cocktail Book when he said that this drink “hits with remarkable precision.”  I can certainly attest to that, but it is stealth in its strike, somewhat like being hit by a smart bomb dropped from a stealth bomber.  When you begin sipping the drink you notice the champagne flavors and a hint of the gin, but not as much as you’d expect given the amount in the drink.  A couple sips later (or chugs depending on how much you’re enjoying the drink) it starts to sink in.  This is not a drink to be trifled with.  But you keep drinking. And do you know why you keep drinking?  Because this drink is amazingly delicious.  This drink fully redeemed the Champagne cocktail category for me after the poor showing by its namesake.

I tried a few different recipes and found that there seemed to be two schools of thought.  The first being that this drink should have a touch of gin in it to complement the Champagne, say an ounce.  The other school feels that this drink should indeed hit like the WWI artillery piece its named after.  This school advocates one and a half to two ounces of gin.  After having tried both I opted for the artillery option.  The cocktail with only an ounce of gin is much sweeter and ends up tasting more like a Champagne Tom Collins, which although not bad, certainly is not what this cocktail is all about.  Wondrich, it seems, approves of my take. “Most modern recipes lowball the gin; one online compendium cuts it down to 1/4 ounce. For shame.”  The final Cocktail Hacker recipe is very similar to Wondrich’s that we started with, but with a touch of extra simple syrup.

Cocktail Hacker French 75
[Ingredients]
2 oz Gin
1/2 oz Simple Syrup
1/2 oz Lemon Juice
5 oz Brut Champagne

As for the gin, I suggest going with something that has a nice amount of juniper flavor.  I’ve been using Plymouth all week and found that it works wonderfully.  Although we made a few up last night for Repeal Day with a bottle of Junipero that Sean gave me and that was another step above entirely.  I certainly wouldn’t recommend using a lightly flavored gin in this as the flavor of the lemon juice and champagne will walk all over the gin.  Were you to do that you might as well sub in vodka instead and make yourself a French 76.

Although I promised to try both the gin and brandy based recipes I just didn’t feel that the brandy and lime option was going to be that good, so I opted out, at least for now.  Finally I’ll wrap this week up with another picture.  Photographic proof that we at CH headquarters do in fact consume these cocktails, not that you had worried to the contrary.

[NOTE] In the spirit of hacking cocktails and keep the cost down I tried The Barefoot Bubbly Sparkling Chardonay this week in place of champagne for a couple cocktails.  Although the wine is good by itself I wouldn’t recommend it as a replacement for champagne in these cocktails.  The flavor simply isn’t right.  I’ve been using Chandon Brut in tiny bottles and love both the flavor and the serving size.  The small bottles allow me to open a bottle for cocktails without having to worry about the rest of the bottle going flat.

Repeal Day is Nearly Upon Us!

Posted by Reese On December - 3 - 2008

As you may or may not be aware Friday, December 5th, 2008 marks the 75th anniversary of the repeal of prohibition in the US.  A while back Jeffrey Morgenthaler, a bartender, cocktail enthusiast and freaking genius, realized there was a serious need for another drinking holiday and as such Repeal Day was born.  I had intended to do a write up on Prohibition this week, but in reading the information available online I really think your best bet is to simply read those.  So, in that light, here are some links you may find interesting.

RepealDay.org is Jeffrey’s site commemorating the holiday.

Imbibe has a wrap up of events going on across the country.

The Liquid Muse‘s Natalie Bovis-Nelsen has a great write up on prohibition, the holiday and associated events.

Erik Ellestad of The Underhill Lounge expands on the holiday as well and notes some events happening in the SF area.

Jeffrey has a quick summary and some links to other Repeal Day writings.

Finally, even the food blogs are getting in on the action.  Serious Eats has a post written by Paul Clarke of Cocktail Chronicles.

And if all that reading hasn’t gotten you ready to do some drinking you can read Wikipedia’s write up on prohibition here.

[NOTE] A bit of odd history.  One could actually obtain liquor in the US during prohibition however you had to have a prescription from your doctor (pictured above).  During our tour of Buffalo Trace we found out that they were one of the few distilleries licensed to produce sprits during prohibition which is very likely the reason they’re still around today.

French 75

Posted by Reese On December - 1 - 2008

This Friday, December 5th, 2008, marks the 75th anniversary of the repeal of prohibition!  So along those lines I felt it appropriate to feature a cocktail created during that unpleasant time period.  With much fanfare I present to you the French 75.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia member PHGCOM. Thanks!

Ok, so that’s not really a cocktail, but it is the cocktail’s namesake.  That is the 75mm French Field Gun used by the USA’s National Guard troops when they joined World War I in 1917.  You see, we were a bit behind the times in equiping the National Guard with good artillery.  To the tune of 20 years behind the times to be exact.  So, when our troops arrived in France the artillery teams were issued the French 75.  Which had a number of creative (and deadly) developments, which, if you’re so inclined, you can read about here or here.

The cocktail came about a bit later, although I’m not clear on the exact time, during WWI.  It was created by Raoul Lufbery, a flying ace during WWI.  It’s said that Raoul liked Champagne, but wanted something with more kick so he added (here comes the weird part) a bit of Cognac.  The resulting drink had enough kick that after drinking one you felt as though you’d been hit by a round from the French 75.  So, why is the Cognac odd you ask?  The first published recipe for the French 75 lists the drink as made with Gin and Lemon juice (The Savoy Cocktail Book via The Joy of Mixology).  It seems that the recipe listing Cognac as an ingredient didn’t come about until Embury’s book (also via The Joy of Mixology).  Now you note the oddity.  Never fear, we here at CH are here to ferret out what’s tastiest in the name of science and I’m going to give both variations a try.  My starting point will be the recipe from David Wondrich published on Equire’s Website.

French 75
[Ingredients]
2 oz London Dry Gin
1 tsp Superfine Sugar (1/8 oz Simple Syrup)
1/2 oz Lemon Juice
5 oz Brut Champagne
[Directions]
1) Combine gin, lemon juice and syrup in a shaker
2) Shake with ice until chilled
3) Strain into an ice filled Collins glass
4) Top with Champagne