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Archive for February, 2009

The Bronx – An End to a Tasty Week

Posted by Reese On February - 14 - 2009

I’ve really enjoyed my week with the Bronx.  I hadn’t experimented a lot with oranges in the past so I decided that this week my focus would be on finding the right orange juice for this cocktail.  To start my journey I found all the oranges I could and got to juicing.  From left to right they contenders are:  Cara Cara Navel, Valencia, Minneola Tangelo, Moro (Blood Orange), Honey Tangerine and the bottled contender, Simply Orange (Original Pulp Free).

Orange Juice Tasting

Now, a couple quick comments.  One, I realize not all of these are oranges, but they all have similar flavors so I added them to the running.  Two, I had a Navel in my fridge that I was going to use for the juice off, but it was a bit leathery, so I passed.  Now for some results.

Cara Cara Navel - The color of Cara Cara juice, a gorgeous orange/pink, is truly the star here.  They are sweet but not overly so and have little to no sourness.

Valencia - Valencia juice is the flavor I naturally associate with freshly squeezed orange juice.  There is basically zero sourness and the sweetness is pleasant but not overwhelming.

Minneola Tangelo - Nice orangy flavor here, but with extra sourness.  This quickly became my front runner for the Bronx.

Moro (Blood Orange) - As with the Cara Caras the color is the star here.  The Moro steps up though with a perfect level of sweetness for this drink and the additional sourness that some of the others are lacking.  We then had two contenders for the Bronx position.

Honey Tangerine - It’s quite obvious where the name for these came from.  The juice is very sweet and has a distinct honey flavor.  A good fruit, but not what I was looking for in the Bronx.

Simply Orange (Original Pulp Free) - Sweet with nearly no sourness.  Definitely lacks the brightness of fresh squeezed but it’ll do in a pinch.

So, as you can see from my quick reviews I was leaning towards a juice with more sourness for this cocktail.  From playing around with the Bronx I feel a juice with additional sourness leads to a more balanced cocktail.  As a side note I found you can add a small dash of lemon juice to the sweeter juices to get some additional sourness.  About 1/4 oz in 1 oz of orange juice worked out very nicely in the case of the Simply Orange, but I’d start with about an 1/8 then sample and add more if needed.

Blood Orange Bronx Cocktail

Now for some recipes.  I started with The Joy of Mixology recipe (2 oz Gin, 1 oz Orange Juice, 1/4 oz Sweet Vermouth, 1/4 oz Dry Vermouth, 2 Dashes Orange Bitters).  What first struck about the Bronx is that it’s not nearly as sweet as I expected them to be.  I had anticipated with the orange juice and sweet vermouth that this drink would be on the sweeter side.  Not so.  Instead you get wonderful gin flavor, a subtle orange sweetness and the herbal notes of the vermouth.  These go down very easy, which oddly (or perhaps not so) seems to becoming a trend around here.  I didn’t find the orange bitters added much other than, not surprisingly, a touch of bitterness.  Overall, I’d call them optional.

Next I tried out the recipe in Difford’s guide (1 1/2 oz Gin, 1 oz Orange Juice, 3/4 oz Sweet Vermouth, 3/4 oz Dry Vermouth).  The result is much more vermouthy, which in this case I don’t think is really necessary.  With this much vermouth you lose the subtle notes from the gin and orange juice.

Finally I went to Wonderich’s Esquire recipe (2 oz Gin, 1 oz Orange Juice, 1/2 oz Sweet Vermouth, 1/2 oz Dry Vermouth).  Basically Regan’s recipe with some increased vermouth.  This version is also very dry.  Sadly with this much gin the orange flavors somewhat faded in to the background.

Minneola Tangelo Bronx Cocktail

Info in hand I was ready to craft my own version of the Bronx.  I like more sour notes so I suggest going with Moro blood oranges or Minneola Tangelos.  I’m guessing there are plenty of other oranges that would give the needed sourness, but I live in a land locked state with zero citrus, so I use what I can find.  3/4 oz of each vermouth was too much, but 1/2 oz pumped up the herbal flavors and that worked for me.  Finally 2 oz of gin seemed to dilute the orange, so for my money 1 1/2 oz is the way to go.

Bronx (Cocktail Hacker)
1 1/2 oz Gin
1 oz Orange Juice
1/2 oz Sweet Vermouth
1/2 oz Dry Vermouth
Orange Twist for Garnish

The Bronx Cocktail

Posted by Reese On February - 8 - 2009

This week we’re heading by to NYC, well a borough at least.  We’re going to be enjoying a blend of gin, sweet vermouth, dry vermouth and orange juice; a Bronx Cocktail.  As with many of the other cocktails I’ve discussed here there are a few stories floating around as to its origin.  Seems it could have been discovered in Philadelphia by Joseph Sormani in 1905.  Which would to lend credence to the claim that it was printed on a cocktail menu from 1906.

However, the story I believe is that the drink was created by Johnnie Solon, a bartender at the Manhattan hotel.  The story goes that Johnnie was challenged to make a new cocktail by a waiter named Traverson on behalf of a customer eager for something new.  Taking spin on the Duplex (a popular drink of the time combining sweet and dry vermouth and orange bitters) Solon crafted what would quickly become a huge hit.  As Traverson carried the cocktail to the waiting partron he asked what it would be named.  Solon responded with “A Bronx.”  Seems Solon had recently been to the Bronx Zoo where he had seen lots of beasts he’d never seen before, which reminded him of the stories customers would tell him of the beasts they’d seen after imbibing a bit too much.  The name stuck, as you can see, and the rest is, as they say, history.

There are a lot of recipes for this cocktail so I’m eager to get to experiment with them all.  Below you’ll find Regan’s recipe, which is as good a starting place as any I suppose.

Bronx Cocktail (Joy of Mixology)
2 oz Gin
1/4 oz Sweet Vermouth
1/4 oz Dry Vermouth
1 oz Fresh Orange Juice
Orange Bitters to Taste
Orange Twist for Garnish
1) Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice.
2) Shake and strain into a cocktail glass.
3) Garnish with an orange twist.

The Pegu – Pretty in Pink

Posted by Reese On February - 7 - 2009

This week seemed to fly by and during the course I made a lot of Pegus and enjoyed all of them, well, for the most part at least.  As I mentioned at the start of the week my starting recipe was the one from The Joy of Mixology (2 oz gin, 1 oz Cointreau, 1/2 oz lime juice, Angostura to taste, orange bitters to taste).  First, a bit of a gripe about recipes.  I personally don’t like recipes that list an ingredient’s quantity as “to taste.”  Seeing as I came to this recipe never having made the drink I at least need somewhere to start.  Now, I’ll grant you that with bitters it’s not terribly hard to guess, the number is likely between one and four dashes.  So, to end this mini rant, if you ever write your own cocktail book I suggest giving a range (2-4 dashes) rather than “to taste.”

Pegu Club Cocktail

My whining aside, I went with two dashes each for the record, this recipe resulted in a nicely pink colored cocktail that was quite tasty although not as sour as I would like.  Although, with this recipe as it is written I could drink a lot of these, they go down quite easy and I would be very pleased to receive one mixed in this manner at a bar.  My parting thought on this particular recipe is that I would like the bitters to be more present, at least the Angostura.

Next came Pegu Master Doug’s recipe.  As I mentioned earlier in the week Doug was kind enough to share all of his Pegu secrets, but to add to the awesomeness I received this picture mid-week.  See! 9th level Pegu mastery, right there, with photographic proof.  Doug’s recipe (1 1/2 oz Bombay Sapphire, 1/2 oz Cointreau, 1/2 oz Lime Juice, 2-4 dashes Angostura) had the additional sourness that I was looking for balanced nicely with the sweetness of the Cointreau.  I decided to go with four dashes of Angostura after my previous batch.  The additional spice flavors and smells were extremely pleasant and I really like the deeper pink color that results.  Much more photogenic as you can see from the pic above.

Finally, I mixed up the recipe from Esquire (2 oz gin, 3/4 oz Cointreau, 3/4 oz lime juice, 1 dash Angostura, 1 dash orange bitters), although I upped the Angostura to three dashes and the orange bitters to two dashes.  This recipe very slightly ups the sour and sweet components from Doug’s recipe and adds some additional flavor with orange bitters.  Although I must say the orange bitters don’t really add a ton to this cocktail they certainly don’t draw from it.  If you have some in your bar add a bit, if you don’t add the Angostura and know you’re still going to drink a fine cocktail.

Both Doug’s recipe and the one from Esquire are very good.  If you’re looking for something slightly sweeter and more sour then go with Esquire’s recipe.  If you’re looking for a drink that puts more emphasis on the gin then Doug’s is the hands down winner.  Doug also mentioned during our long months (minutes) of training that on occasion he’ll add half an egg white to the mix and shake violently.  I’ve tried this technique in the past, most notably with the Whiskey Sour, to varying degrees of success.  I decided I’d give it a go and ended up mixing it up three separate times.  The first ended badly when I knocked my shaker closed too hard and couldn’t get it back open.  A bit of a tip in the event you experience this; run water as hot as you can get it out of the tap over your shaker for about a minute.  Two things will happen.  One, the metal will expand slightly and two, the air pressure will increase inside the shaker.  You should then be able to pop it open.

Mixes two and three came out of the shaker okay, but I failed to produce the nice foamy top that I look for with this technique.  I’m not sure was caused the foam failure.  My current speculation is either the increased percentage of alcohol, some ingredient in the Cointreau (I’ve had trouble foaming with it before), or poor shaking on my part.  Matters not, though, as I was not a fan of the flavor of the Pegu with egg white added.  I felt it muted the flavors of the bitters and the gin far too much for my liking.

The Pegu Apprentice

Posted by Reese On February - 4 - 2009

dougWhen you want to learn to be a plumber you apprentice with a master plumber.  When you want to be a blacksmith you apprentice with an experienced metal worker.  When you want to make good Pegus you seek the wisdom of Doug Winship.  Doug is known in cocktail circles for his website, The Pegu Blog, through which he explores all manner of cocktail topics.  This month Doug is focusing his efforts on Tiki drinks which is, as always, proving to be both entertaining and educational.  In conjunction with his cocktail efforts Doug heads Killing Time, Murder Consultants.  Quite an ominous name for a very fun company.  Killing Time offers “custom, unforgettable, murder mystery entertainment events to corporate and private clients.”  Sounds like a damn fine time to me.

Knowing that a master existed I began my harrowing training regimen.  Picture a scene from Karate Kid only with me, a well rounded (physicall) geek, standing on one foot atop a pole embedded in the sand.  Each moment requiring the utmost of concentration lest I fall to my certain death.  Ok, let’s face it, it wasn’t at all like that.  But I did email Doug and he quickly offered up his Pegu secrets.  The first key lesson to be learned was the proper pronunciation of Pegu.  Pee-zhoo for those of you playing along at home.  Second lesson was the master’s recipe which is currently the front runner in my taste tests and his suggestion of Bombay Sapphire works wonderfully.  I’ll give you the full run down at the end of the week.

Pegu (Doug Winship)
3 parts Gin (1 1/2 oz Bombay Sapphire)
1 part Cointreau (1/2 oz)
1 part Lime Juice (1/2 oz)
2-4 Dashes Angostura Bitters
1/2 Egg White [Optional - Smoother but less subtle]

My sincere thanks go out to Doug for pointing me in the right direction this week. Much appreciated.

The Aviation – Now with Violette

Posted by Reese On February - 2 - 2009

My bottle of Creme de Violette finally arrived from Sam’s Wine last Tuesday.  I eagerly opened the box and pulled out a bottle of lovely violet colored spirit.  The beautiful color is the first and most striking thing you’ll notice about a bottle of Creme de Violette.  I admired for only a short time though before I had to break the seal and sample.  The smell, and not surprisingly the flavor, are distinctly floral.  This is a medium sweet liqueur, a little less sweet than Cointreau for comparison sake.  Ok, so enough about the Creme de Violette, you’re here to find out what impact it has on the Aviation.  Quite a lot I must say.

Aviation with Creme de Violette

I started off with Erik Ellestad’s approximation of the original recipe.  The resulting Aviation is much less sweet than some of the other recipes that I’ve tried, but at the same time not overly sour which is interesting.  In other recipes as the sweetness decreased the drink became quite a lot more sour.  I think this flavor profile is a direct result of the addition of a small bit of simple syrup.  My big gripe about this recipe was that the flavor of the Maraschino and Creme de Violette were not as present as I would like.

Aviation (Erik Ellestad)
3/4 oz Lemon Juice
1 1/2 oz Plymouth Gin
2 Dashes Maraschino (~1/2 tsp)
1/2 tsp Creme de Violette
1/2 tsp Rich Simple Syrup

So, on the tasting continued with a modification of my prefered non-Violette recipe.  I found that the Violette added an entirely new level of complexity in the flavor profile of this drink.  The result was nicely floral and exceedingly pleasing.  In addition the color of this recipe was absolutely gorgeous.  As you can see from the picture above the color is a light violet color that you rarely see in cocktails.  Still wasn’t exactly what I was looking for though.

Aviation (Mod of Dan's Recipe)
2 oz Gin
1 oz Lemon Juice
1/4 oz Maraschino
1/4 oz Creme de Violette
Touch of Simple Syrup

I next turned to the second recipe list in Diffords Guide #7.  This recipe upped the Violette to 1/2 oz which sounded appealing but lowered the lemon juice to only 1/2 oz as well.  As with the others the color is very striking, really in love with the look of this cocktail.  The aroma of the Violette comes through very nicely.  Although the Violette is the primary background flavor the Maraschino is still there as well.  This recipe has the perfect level of sweetness in my mind but due to the cut in the lemon juice the sourness isn’t where I’d like.

Aviation (Diffords #2 - Classic Recipe)
2 oz Gin
1/2 oz Creme de Violette
1/4 oz Maraschino
1/2 oz Lemon Juice

So where do all of these experiments lead us?  Well, I enjoyed the Violette level of the Diffords recipe, but the sourness was too low.  The sourness and sweetness of the modified recipe are right where I wanted them, but the Violette was a touch low.  A simple combination of the recipes leads to the Cocktail Hacker Aviation.  This recipe produces a cocktail that has a nice level of both sweet and sour.  The Maraschino is present but the Violette becomes the background star.

Aviation (Cocktail Hacker Recipe)
2 oz Gin (Junipero)
1/2 oz Creme de Violette
1/4 oz Maraschino (Luxardo)
1 oz Lemon Juice

The Aviation is an amazing cocktail with or without the Creme de Violette.  However, if you can find a bottle of Violette it will bring this cocktail to a new level of flavor complexity.  The added floral aroma and flavor are amazing, not to mention the color the Violette brings.  If you can’t find Violette at your local liquor stores turn to the internet, there are a few suppliers that can get you a bottle, for a price of course.