Monthly Archives: January 2007

Embury and his fine art

Embury's "Fine Art"

photograph by Jennifer Hess

The 1948 first edition of David A. Embury’s The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks. This thing usually sells for upwards of $150-200, but Jen got it for a steal, from an online vendor who apparently didn’t know what he/she had. Although the dust jacket is missing, the condition of the book itself is excellent, with just a few scratches on the cover and a stamp on the edge of the book. But no tears, dogears, or obvious wear on the pages. Bargain!

Party drinking: Ward 8

For my friend’s birthday party a couple of weekends ago, I wanted to take a special cocktail. One that I’ve been wanting to try at home is the Ward 8–which is rye, lemon and orange juices, and grenadine–but Jen’s allergic to orange juice, so I’ve never mixed it up here. However, I thought it might go over well at a party.

Rather than trucking oranges and lemons, though, I decided to premix the juices and grenadine the morning of the party, mix, and bottle them. For the grenadine, I used Paul Clarke‘s recipe from Imbibe magazine. I used equal parts Pom and superfine sugar (half a cup each), which I shook together in bottle. I added an ounce of pomegranate molasses (which we found at Whole Foods) and shook it some more. (Paul, by the way, has a couple of other variants on grenadine recipes on his blog, if you want other ideas.)

Ward 8 recipes come in varying proportions depending on the taste of the mixer. I looked at a number of recipes and decided on these proportions:

Ward 8

  • 2 oz. rye whiskey
  • 1 oz. fresh lemon juice
  • ¾ oz. fresh orange juice
  • ¼ oz. grenadine

Technique: Shake over ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

To scale this up to party measurements, I had to do a little math. Since I was planning to add the rye and ice at the party and then shake, I didn’t add any water to the mix. (If you’re fully premixing a cocktail to prechill and then serve later–that is, if you’re mixing up the base spirit and all the modifiers and you’re not planning to shake it over ice just before serving–it’s good to add water since you won’t have the water you’d get from the ice.)

A 750-ml bottle of spirit equals just over 25 ounces, and I was using an 8-4-3-1 ratio of rye-lemon-orange-grenadine. I ignored an ounce from the rye and came up with these proportions:

Ward 8, party style

  • 24 oz. rye
  • 12 oz. lemon juice
  • 9 oz. orange juice
  • 3 oz. grenadine

Technique: Shake the last three ingredients in a 24-oz. bottle.

When ready to serve, pour equal parts rye and juice-grenadine mix into a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a glass.

Charbay v. Mother Nature!

Charbay wins!

If you’ve turned on the teevee at all this month, you know that Cali got hit hard by a deep freeze that wiped out its citrus crops. To the tune of $800-million bucks, it seems.

Bad news for those of us who like some fresh juices in our cocktails. But not everyone’s so unlucky.

Just days before the cold snap, Charbay‘s master distiller, Marko Karakasevic, picked up four tons of Meyer lemons from the grower. Charbay distills its fruited vodkas using real fruits instead of chemical compounds that mimic fruit flavor, so it’s important to get good produce. Without this shipment, Charbay wouldn’t have been able to produce its Meyer Lemon vodka this year.

More odds than ends

Feast or famine around here. I either have nothing to write about or I have more to write about than I know what to do with.

I still owe Todd and Lauren’s friends a recipe for the Ward Eight, so that’s coming soon. Jen and I had an anniversary dinner/cocktail hour at Pegu Club this past Friday, and I want to write about that. And Jen got me a cocktail-geek’s dream as an anniversary gift. I’ll probably write that up on eGullet, though, before I discuss it here.

It’s hard to figure out how to pace myself. I don’t want to blog all this stuff one day after the other because I know I can’t maintain a daily pace here. But if I spread it out too much, I’m writing about things that happened a couple of weeks ago, and it’s no longer as fresh.

Syrup experimentation

Inspired by this post, by Sam Kinsey on eGullet, I decided to make a lime syrup for gimlets. Jen and I both enjoy gimlets, but I haven’t made them in a long while because I wasn’t too crazy about the way I’ve made them. I’ve tried gin and Rose’s, but that’s too sweet and artificial tasting. I’ve tried gin and lime, but that’s way too bracing. Gin, lime, and simple syrup works well, but it’s not quite right either.

I googled around for a bit and found a recipe at the BBC site, for a lime syrup to serve over pineapple. The recipe called for cardamom pods, which intrigued me because I thought the cardamom would play well with gin and lime.

I tinkered just a bit with the proportions, and the next time I make it, I’ll definitely play around the ingredients–perhaps leaving out the water and doubling the lime juice, adding a couple of juniper berries with the cardamom, and so forth. Also, because this was formulated as a food syrup rather than a drinks syrup, the recipe didn’t advise me to strain the cardamom from the syrup. Jen and I don’t mind pod floaters in our drinks, but if I were serving these for company, I’d certainly want to strain out the herbs.

I’m also trying to think about other applications of this syrup. It would go great with rum, for example, but I’m happy to hear other ideas.

Anyway, here’s the recipe:

Cardamom Lime Syrup

  • 8 oz superfine sugar
  • 8 green cardamom pods, seeds removed and crushed
  • 4 oz water
  • 4 oz lime juice
  • 1 tbsp grated lime zest or to taste

Technique:

  1. Put the superfine sugar, cardamom pods, lime juice, and water in a pan. Stir over a gentle heat until the sugar has dissolved.
  2. Take off the heat and allow to cool before adding the lime zest.

MxMo11: Winter Warmers

MxMo WarmersThis month’s edition of Mixology Monday comes to us from that fine new magazine, Imbibe, whose editors have chosen the theme winter warmers, in keeping with the issue on the stands right now.

My contribution isn’t particularly original, but it’s a drink I’ve wanted to try at home for a while now: Irish coffee. Jen and I wanted something yummy to go with the ham-and-cheese baked eggs she made for brunch, and Irish coffee seemed like a good pairing.

Imbibe did a piece on this drink in the previous issue–the holiday issue–and although I referred to that feature while prepping the drink, I also consulted other sources to try to get the technique down.

Obviously, it’s not difficult. Irish coffee depends only a little on your technique–mainly layering the cream on top in the right way–and more on the quality of the ingredients. If you have good coffee, whiskey, sugar, and cream, you’ll make a yummy Irish coffee even if you flub the technique. It might not be best in show, but it’ll still taste great.
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Party drinking

My good friend Todd had a birthday brunch party today and to help him celebrate, I took along a couple of premixed drinks that seemed to go over well. I brought a Bloody Mary premix, and also a Ward 8 premix. I left the Bloody Mary stuff out for folks to pour into a glass and add their own vodka, but for the Ward 8, I mixed the whiskey into the premix myself.

Some of the party guests asked for my recipes, and before I could really explain them, Todd blurted out, “adashofbitters.com!” So, to anyone following Todd’s advice, welcome.

I’ll start with the Bloody Mary and save the Ward 8 for a later post.
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Odds and ends

I’ve been quiet, but I haven’t been a complete slug. The holidays were mainly a fall-back period, in which we enjoyed our favorite cocktails and didn’t try a lot of new drinks. I sampled a few new whisk(e)ys–bourbons, scotches, and ryes–during the holidays, and I’ve come up with a fun way to evaluate a new whiskey: in addition to drinking it straight, I mix it up into an Old Fashioned.

(As an aside, Drinkboy Robert Hess, to whom I’ve just linked, is no relation to my wife, Jennifer Hess, despite the fact that Jen’s dad and Drinkboy are both named Robert Hess. I tease her sometimes about this. Whenever Drinkboy has a new article or blog post, I say to Jen, “Hey, guess what ‘your dad’ just said!” I am a frivolous man.)

Back to the Old Fashioned, I’ve fallen in complete love with the technique demonstrated on the video blog Brilliant Cocktails. All that stirring with the ice really blends the flavors and chills the drink. I’m sure this is the way I should have been mixing my Old Fashioneds all along, but I’m dumb and never knew it. The extra work and time really pay off.

On our last trip to LeNell’s, I picked up a bottle of Fee’s Lemon Bitters. I’ve used this in a lot of drinks since picking it up. I’d recommend it anywhere you’d use orange bitters, or anywhere you’d like a bit of lemon flavor. The brothers Fee use lemongrass and lemon oils to make a piquant and spicy bitters. I think I’m especially surprised by the depth of flavor here because Fee’s Orange, compared to the Regan’s, is a little flat.

Finally, I’m sure everyone who reads this blog also reads Darcy’s The Art of Drink and Paul’s Cocktail Chronicles. If you don’t, you should. I mean no false modesty to say they’re better bloggers than I am. They have more experience and knowledge than I do, and they post more often.

But anyway, go check out Darcy’s recent series about the science of spirits tastings. It’s fascinating stuff, and with Darcy’s chemistry background, he’s the perfect person to parse the science literature so we don’t have to. Darcy’s the Harold McGee of drink!

And Paul’s in the middle of an excellent series on rye tastings (I’d link to all of his posts, but I don’t think he’s done yet), in conjunction with his article in the latest Imbibe magazine. I guess if Paul had slept with Sinatra and Presley, he could be the Gael Greene of drink. Or something. Anyway, his rye series is great. Go read, goddammit.

P.S. MxMo is pending this Monday. Have you sorted out your winter warmers yet? I know what I’m doing, and although it’s hardly unique or original, I think I’ll have fun with it.

P.P.S. Oh, I bought a bottle of Fernet Branca. Still puzzling this stuff over. Not sure yet what to make of it–or with it, for that matter. I’m open to suggestion.