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Archive for December, 2009

Violet Fizz

Posted by Reese On December - 31 - 2009

Well folks, the eve of the new year is upon us.  For some it’s already here.  For everyone I wish you a happy, healthy and prosperous new year.  Though, before we get too carried away with the revelry I think there’s still time for one last cocktail.  I’m going to take a quick look at the Violet Fizz from The Bubbly Bar as I promised earlier in the week.

Violet Fizz (The Bubbly Bar)
4 oz Brut Sekt or Prosecco
1/2 oz Monin Violet Syrup
1 oz Delicate Gin
Juice of 1/2 Lemon
1/2 oz Pasteurized Egg White
2 Pieces of Candied Violet for Garnish
1) Pour the prosecco into a cocktail glass
2) Combine other ingredients in a shaker
3) Shake with ice until well chilled
4) Strain into cocktail glass
5) Garnish with Candied Violet

Reading the recipe for this drink in the book it sounded really good.  Plus it’s a twist on the Ramos Gin Fizz, one of my favorites.  Mixing up the drink I ran into a few problems, but nothing that some recipe tweaking can’t handle.  First, I don’t have Monin violet syrup.  I do, however, have a bottle of Creme de Violette that would be delightful here.  Second, I don’t have any prosecco on hand and I’m comfortable enough to admit I’ve never heard of sekt.  After a bit of googling it seems that sekt is the German word for sparkling wine.  Now you know.  (I’ll let you insert the G.I. Joe reference)  Not to worry, I’m sure the Gruet Brut I’ve been mixing with this week will work fine.

Third, I don’t think the Creme de Violette adds as much sweetness as the Monin syrup would.  In my subsequent attempts I added a bit of simple syrup which sorted that problem out nicely.  Finally, my drink didn’t come together nearly as well as the one pictured.  When I poured the shaken components into the Champagne, I ended up with about six ounces of foam.  Not optimal.  I switched up the method and mixed it like you would a Ramos Gin Fizz.  I mixed the ingredients, poured them into a collins glass and topped it with the Champagne.  Same result, way too much foam.  I tried reducing the amount of egg white I added to no avail.  Simple enough, I just dropped the egg white all together and moved on.

Now that you’ve patiently read this rambling story I’d like to make a point as to why I wrote it all down.  When you’re looking at cocktail recipes and you don’t have the exact ingredients needed or don’t like the results, improvise!  Whatever you’re mixing should make you happy first and foremost and only after that adhear to classic recipes.  Cocktail recipes, as with those for cooking, are just guidelines after all.

Violet Fizz

Violet Fizz (Cocktail Hacker)
4 oz Brut Champagne
1 oz Gin (Hendricks)
1/2 oz Creme de Violette
1/4 oz Simple Syrup
3/4 oz Lemon Juice
Lemon Twist for Garnish
1) Add the Champagne to a cocktail glass
2) Combine other ingredients in a shaker
3) Shake with ice until well chilled
4) Pour gin mixture into the cocktail glass
5) Garnish with a lemon twist

So there you have my recipe.  I have to say, I really enjoy this drink.  It’s reminiscent of an Aviation, another favorite, which is definitely not a bad thing.  The color is a light sea green and the Creme de Violette gives the aroma a very delicate floral note.  The flavor is really well balanced and harmonious, with each ingredient coming through.  Note that I opted for a delicate gin as the original recipe suggested.  Good call.  Too much punch from the gin would overwhelm the Creme de Violette and Champagne.  Finally the effervescence from the Champagne is really refreshing.

Happy New Year all.  Enjoy your drinks tonight.

Champagne Resources

Posted by Reese On December - 30 - 2009

I’ve been tantalizing you with Champagne cocktails all week but haven’t really been pointing you in any specific direction on the choice of Champagne.  Let’s see if we can’t rectify that with this post.  I’m going to offer you two paths.  The first is to do your homework, understand the basics, seek some advice and then make an educated decision.  The second path is way simpler, just use my suggestions and happily enjoy.

Champagne Cocktail

Path One

While this is the more complex path I’m going to keep it relatively simple for you.

Step 1 - Do some basic research.  I’d start with a quick read of Wikipedia, as any good geek would suggest.  There is a lot of great info on there about growing regions, naming requirements, etc.  Given that wealth of information, I’d recommend you focus on a few facts.  One, if the wine isn’t from the Champagne region of France it’s not really Champagne.  One-B, despite this regulation, there are some great “Champagnes” from other places around the US and the world.  Two, there are a range of sugar contents and each has an associated name.  For most mixing I’d stick with Brut.  It’s a dry option which will allow you to adjust the sweetness of your drinks as you see fit.  For drinking straight I also lean towards Brut, but there are other options depending on your preferences.  Three, there are a variety of Champagnes that are classed based on their grape composition.  For example a “Blanc de Blancs” is composed completely of Chardonnay grapes, whereas a “Blanc de Noirs” is a combo of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes.  That said, a lot you find simply won’t say, and that’s fine too.

Step 2 – Okay, now you’ve got the basics down, how about some suggestions?  Well, naturally you can go lots of places to seek this advice.  My personal suggestion is to first talk to friends and family.  Chances are, if they’re wine appreciators they’ll have some suggestions for you.  As a second option here are some resources that know more about wine than I do.  Gary Vaynerchuk of Wine Library TV has a number of episodes about sparkling wines.  This episode is one of my favorites and covers a huge range, both in style and price.  Ben Carter of Benito’s Wine Reviews put up a post last year on some of his personal recommendations.  Finally, I’ll point you to a series of posts on Fredric Koeppel’s blog Bigger Than Your Head where he covers a lot of sparkling wine options.

Path Two

Okay, here’s the compressed, ADHD version for the attention challenged among us.

Mixing – Gruet Brut.  It’s fairly cheap, my bottles were on sale for $12.49, usually $16.99.  Better still, it’s good stuff.  I’d drink it straight and it blends well in cocktails.

Drinking Straight – Schramsberg Brut Rose.  Although my personal choice is the Rose their Blanc de Blancs and Blanc de Noirs are also very good.  These are more expensive choices, about $40.  You could certainly use them for mixing, but I’d say just drink they alone in a flute instead.

So there you have it.  Some guidance on education and selection and the quick approach to the problem.  Let me know if you have any great recommendations to share with everyone.

Kir Royale

Posted by Reese On December - 29 - 2009

In flipping through The Bubbly Bar I noticed a classic Champagne cocktail that I’ve been wanting to mix up for a while now, the Kir Royale.  This drink has an interesting past as well.  The drink that started it all was blanc-cassis, a blend of dry French white wine and creme de cassis.  After World War II the drink was renamed to honor the then mayor of Dijon and prominent member of the French Resistance during the war, Felix Kir.  And thus, the original Kir was born.  There are a number of variants on the classic Kir.  The best known being our pick for today, the Kir Royale.

Kir Royale
1/2 oz Creme de Cassis
5 oz Champagne
Lemon Twist
1) Add the creme de cassis to a Champagne flute
2) Top with Champagne
3) Garnish with a lemon twist

Kir Royale

The Kir Royale is truly elegant in its simplicity.  The color that the creme de cassis brings is a lovely maroon.  The berry flavor is bright but not overpowering or overly sweet.  In this drink’s case that lemon twist isn’t solely for decoration, either.  It adds a nice citrus note to the aroma and flavor.  This really is a delicious drink and I think it would work great for a party.  It’s a tasty twist on standard Champagne, simple enough that people can mix their own and packs a bit lighter punch than a French 75.

Real Drink Costs

Posted by Reese On December - 29 - 2009

Have you ever sipped an $8 Gin and Tonic and felt like you were somehow getting screwed?  Well, chances are good that you were.  Drinks are a very high profit item for restaurants and bars.  To give a better idea of the true costs check out the Cocktail Calculator that Rob whipped up over on Cockeyed.  I have to admit I spent about 20 minutes playing with different combinations to see the results.  True geek fun.

To give an example, one of my perennial favorites the Gin and Tonic contains about 36 cents worth of ingredients when made with well spirits.  That’s even cheaper than my budget recipe that rang in at 83 cents.

The Bubbly Bar

Posted by Reese On December - 28 - 2009

A few months ago I received a review copy of Maria Hunt‘s new book The Bubbly Bar.  Unlike most cocktail books, this one centers entirely on Champagne based cocktails.  The book starts, as it should, with the classics.  Some I’ve featured already (eg The Champagne Cocktail and the French 75) and some I have not (look for the Bellini and the Kir Royale later this week).  After the classics are laid down Maria goes on to cover more recent creations.  Amongst these are  riffs on other cocktails (like the Aperol Flip and Ruby Red Sangria) and original cocktail creations (like the Violet Fizz, which I’m going to mix up later this week, and the Cucumber Cooler which I’ve listed below).

The recipes are straight forward, using fairly common ingredients for the most part.  Another definite high point is that Maria put some effort in to making the drinks balanced.  Which, in a world where a lot of restaurant creations are much too sweet, is very welcome.  In addition to the well thought out recipes, the photographs are also quite stunning.  Overall, the book is well done and worth checking out if you’re looking for some new ways to enjoy an old classic.

Cucumber Cooler (The Bubbly Bar)
6 Thin Slices of Cucumber
1/2 oz Vodka
Juice of 1/2 Lime
3/4 oz Agave Nectar
5 oz Dry Sparkling Sake
1 Cube of Cucumber
1) Muddle vodka and cucumber in a rocks glass
2) Add lemon juice and agave nectar
3) Stir to mix thoroughly
4) Fill glass 3/4 full with ice
5) Top with sparkling sake
6) Garnish with a cucumber cube

† The product reviewed here was provided to me as a free sample. If you’re wondering what that means check out my sample policy.