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Archive for October, 2010

Mamie Taylor

Posted by Reese On October - 25 - 2010

Whiskey!  Whiskey!  Whiskey!

Guess what I’m craving?  It starts with whis and ends with key.  Okay, so my riddle skills need work but I really have been craving a new whiskey cocktail to try.  And as happenstance should have it, in leafing through Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails I found a tasty sounding recipe I had marked a while back.  It’s a concotion of Scotch, lime juice and ginger beer.  Seems like a rather fitting transition cocktail as we pass through fall.  Some citrus flavors to remind us of summer and some whiskey to warm us up as winter comes.  Shall we get things started?

Mamie Taylor (Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails)
2 oz Scotch
3/4 oz Lime Juice
Spicy Ginger Ale or Ginger Beer
1) Combine the Scotch and lime juice over ice
2) Fill with ginger ale
3) Garnish with a lime wedge

Milk Punch – Fallesque

Posted by Reese On October - 23 - 2010

I’ve been drinking a lot of Milk Punch these last couple weeks, as has nearly anyone that came over.  Fall is in the air here and the flavors in this drink fit very nicely into my current state of mind.  There is the warmth and sweetness from the rum and brandy.  There is the warm spice note from the nutmeg.  Then there is the warm and subtle, yet complex flavors from the vanilla.  You seeing the same pattern here that I did?  It’s all so warming on a chilled fall day.  Perfect.

Milk Punch

As I promised in my intro post I went in search of older recipes and found a few in the books on my shelves.  However, I didn’t bother to mix any of them up.  The reason being, they’re really not that much different.  As Dr. Cocktail points out in his recipe, the only real difference is the addition of the vanilla extract.  And, while I wouldn’t say the vanilla is essential it really adds a layer of complexity that I think you would wish were there were it omitted.

My other suggestions and tweaks are really very simple but key.  First, I bumped up the simple syrup a bit because I like this drink a touch sweeter; more on the level of eggnog.  However, as with any cocktail that’s something you should experiment with to find your happy balance.  Second, use fresh grated nutmeg.  I really can’t emphasize this one enough.  The nuts keep for about a thousand years in their whole form and the flavor of fresh grated simply can’t be matched by something pre-grated.  Heck, if you really don’t want to go buy some of your own, come over here, I’ll give you a couple.  I have tons.  It’s really that important.  Third, use brandy and that you would be willing to drink on their own.  I think this should go without saying, but I wanted to include it here to drive home a point.  I feel cocktail making is like cooking with wine.  In cooking you never use a wine you wouldn’t drink on it’s own.  Same goes for cocktail making.  That’s certainly not to say that you should use the best stuff you have on the shelf, but please don’t use crap ingredients.  It really shows in the final product.  Ok, enough ranting.  You’ve got the idea.

Lastly, a tip.  If you’re wondering how exactly one measures two dashes of vanilla extract or any other ingredient that doesn’t have a dasher here’s what I do.  I use a cocktail straw.  Dip it into the liquid, get as much as you want, cap the end with you finger, drop it into your shaker.  For this drink I used two straw loads approximately 1/3 full each time.  That gave me the vanilla level I like.

Milk Punch (Cocktail Hacker)
1 oz Brandy
1/2 oz Dark Rum
1/2 oz Simple Syrup
2 dashes Vanilla Extract
4 oz Whole Milk
1) Combine in a shaker with ice
2) Shake and strain into a shaved ice filled glass
3) Top with nutmeg

So, here’s what I suggest.  If you’re in the northern hemisphere* and fall is closing it’s chilly hands around you, whip up a milk punch some evening.  It’s warming and I bet you won’t have just one.

*Supposing you’re not in the northern hemisphere, or you’re reading about this recipe when it’s hot out, consider this idea.  Brunch.  Enough said.

Vanilla Extract

Posted by Reese On October - 21 - 2010

Vanilla extract is one of those ingredients that we all have sitting in our cupboards and, I would venture to guess, most of us don’t know the first thing about it.  I certainly didn’t.  That is, until I started learning digging in to the facts about vanilla a year or so back.  But let me back up a bit.

As a kid I was always into cooking and baking.  In my travels, well, more correctly stated, sedentary TV watching, I remember watching a ton of TV Food Network (what is now simply Food Network) one summer.  I watched anything and everything that came on.  During one of the programs I remember a brief discussion about the vanilla that was being put into the recipe and how one should use pure vanilla extract rather than vanilla flavoring.  The latter having been derived from wood rather than actual vanilla beans.  So, being a curious kid, I checked our cupboard and lucked out, we already had pure vanilla extract.

Though I was a changed lad.  From that point on, whenever I needed vanilla, I was always careful to buy the good stuff and that’s where the story gets boring.  At least until last year.  Sometime last year I read a blog post on making your own vanilla extract.  Sadly I can’t remember where I saw it, but it got me thinking.  I had a few vanilla beans at home that needed application and I knew I could get some more good ones from my local spice shop.  On top of that, the process was easy enough; combine your alcohol of choice with some sliced vanilla beans, shake and wait.  No problems at all.

That is, until I went to Savory to get those additional beans and was a bit startled by what Dan told me.  He said that commercial vanilla extracts use about 140 beans per gallon of alcohol.  I was floored.  In reading the wikipedia article, and subsequently the FDA site, about vanilla extract Iwas able to confirm what he had said.  Specifically, per the US FDA, vanilla extract must contain at least 35% ABV and no less than 13.35oz of vanilla beans per gallon.  Which works out to ~8-9 beans per cup.  It started making more sense why vanilla extract is so expensive at the store.  Despite my shock, I wasn’t deterred and  here’s the recipe I ended up using.

Homemade Vanilla Extract
8 Vanilla Beans
1 cup Gold Rum
1) Slice the beans lengthwise to expose the seeds inside
2) Cut the resulting long slices into 2-3" bits
3) Combine the vanilla beans and rum in a glass container
4) Shake weekly for 8 weeks

Dirt simple and, if you buy your beans in bulk from an internet source or local spice shop, not all that expensive.  Plus you get some serious benefits that you don’t from the commercial products.  First, you know exactly what’s going into the final product.  Second, you can choose the type of vanilla bean you like.  If you’re unsure, go with bourbon vanilla beans.  Third, you get to choose the spirit you like.  I go with rum because I think it has a very complimentary flavor and the sugary notes really go well with the vanilla.  However, you could just as easily go with vodka for a more pure vanilla flavor or whiskey if you want to mix things up a bit.  Fourth, you get little vanilla seeds with the extract.  True, this won’t be a plus for everyone, but I like it.  I think it makes things more natural.

A couple final notes before I let you go.  When you start to deplete your extract supply simply top up the jar with alcohol and add an appropriate number of fresh beans.  You can pull out the old beans if you need the room.  Please don’t dump the vanilla hulls if/when you pull the out of the jar.  Dry them and put them in with sugar to make flavored vanilla sugar.  Mmmm…vanilla sugar topped creme brulee.

So, there you have it, my vanilla extract journey.  I’m certain I’ll be making homemade going forward.  It’s really good and I love being able to make my ingredients at home.

Review – The Lash Spiced Rum

Posted by Reese On October - 19 - 2010

The Las Spiced RumI’ve got a new spiced rum on my sampling docket today, The Lash.  At present, the distribution in the US isn’t all that broad, but I’m certain it will grow as this rum is really quite good.  Deeper in color than most spiced rums I’ve seen, this one starts life as a Trinidad rum aged four years in bourbon barrels.  From there it heads to the Netherlands where it is introduced to real spices and vanilla extract.  The final product is not chill filtered so you may notice a bit of sedimentation but I think that’s a good thing.  It shows that real spices were used in the production and not purely extracts and oils.

In the aroma I found strong notes of cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla backed by a mixture of warm spices.  In the flavor I’m getting the strong notes of cinnamon and vanilla again with noticeable hints of nutmeg and cardamom.  The overall flavor reminds me very much of a well made fruitcake (No, that’s not a bad thing).  There is a sweet element and a bold mix of spices all combined quite harmoniously.  There is no burn to this rum which isn’t all that surprising since it clocks in at a relatively low 35% ABV.  Although this is low for most distilled spirits I think it could be a very good thing for those interested in taking the leap from mixed drinks to sipping alcohols.

The advertising material for The Lash seems to follow that same plan by offering two simple serving suggestions.  Serve it neat or on the rocks.  If you must, they advise you can mix it with some cold Coke.  And therein lies the small leap.  For many who enjoy a rum and Coke the leap from that to a glass of The Lash on its own won’t be a monumental one.  So, if you’re looking to expand your horizons with a new spiced rum or, for that matter, looking to take the leap to a sipping alcohol then The Lash might be a great place for you to start.  I know I’ll be enjoying it neat from time to time.

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

Review – Cruzan 9 Spiced Rum

Posted by Reese On October - 13 - 2010

If you look at my collection of liquor you’re going to notice that the number of rums I have on hand is second only to my selection of gins.  This is no odd coincidence; I’m a huge rum fan.  One class of rum that I’ve always been a bit intrigued by, though, is spiced rum.  I love the spices they use (cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, etc).  Problem I’ve always had though is what do I do with spiced rum.  In some cases it’s flavor can work fantastically with the other ingredients in a drink, though I don’t seem to reach for it often enough.  Having reintroduced myself to the category with a bottle of Cruzan’s new offering, simply titled 9, I will definitely be changing that habit going forward.

In the nose of Cruzan 9 you’re going to get notes of vanilla, nice caramel sweetness and warm spices.  The flavor follows the aroma in this one with a great mix of spices, vanilla and a very subtle bit of sweetness.  The blend of spices used in this rum are allspice, vanilla, cinnamon, pepper, ginger, nutmeg, clove, mace and juniper berries.  As I’m typing this up, reading the spices off the bottle, I’m surprised to note the inclusion of pepper and juniper.  Definitely not what I would expect, but they work really well in the overall spice flavor.  Speaking of that flavor the spices all form a very harmonious spice layer in the flavor profile that I find really pleasant.

I can’t say anything bad about this spiced rum at all.  It’s a great blend of spice flavors that is very well executed without losing the character of the rum itself.  I’m very much looking forward to sampling this rum in some winteresque cocktails.  I think it’s mellow spice notes will blend very well with a number of cocktail ingredients.

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