Monthly Archives: December 2008

Technical note

Just wanted to say, I’m currently in the process of redesigning this site.

Part of that process will include going back through the archives, cleaning up (and standardizing) the format of drink recipes, and adding any garnishes into the ingredients lists. I know it’s a particular pet peeve of some of my fellow cocktail bloggers to find a garnish mentioned only at the end of the technique paragraph, and not in the ingredients list.

At some point, inexplicably, my recipe formatting broke. I think a WP upgrade was misreading my CSS or my FORTRAN KO’d my COBOL or something, and my ingredients became all strung out on one line instead of listed out tidily.

Here’s an example of what I mean. My MxMo post from November 2007 is among the busted and broken and I failed to list the garnish. A little tweaking, though, and it all works out okay. My design work isn’t done yet, but you can see a before version and an after version that’s mostly complete.

(Please note that the URL for this site will not change. A Dash of Bitters will continue to live at www.adashofbitters.com. The URL for the redesign–michaeldietsch.com/bitters-redesign–is just a test site! You’re peeking behind the curtains a bit. As soon as the redesign is done–sometime on or around 1/1/09–I’m porting all of the changes back over to this blog and I will probably delete the entire directory that holds the test site.

Please don’t update your RSS settings, change your bookmarks or blogroll, or remove this site from same.)

Oh, happy new year, drunks. Remember to be careful handling loaded weapons after sipping six Seelbachs.

Ward, weren’t you a little hard on the Beaver last night?

MxMo logoIt’s time again for Mixology Monday. If you’re new to this, Mixology Monday is a thing we cocktail nerds do. Every month, a different blogger volunteers to host, picks a theme, and posts a round-up after everyone has weighed in. (My previous MxMo posts live here.)

Anyway, for installment 34, Craig, from Tiki Drinks & Indigo Firmaments has chosen the theme Spice. I’ll let Craig describe what he’s going for:

Spice should give you plenty of room to play – from the winter warmers of egg nog, wassail and mulled products to the strange and interesting infusions of pepper, ceubub, grains of paradise, nutmeg — what have you! I would like to stretch the traditional meanings of spice (as the bark, seed, nut or flowering part of a plant used for seasoning) to basically anything used for flavoring that isn’t an herb. Salt? Go for it. Paprika? I’d love to see you try. I hear that cardamom is hot right now.

So, there ya go.

I thought about this one a lot. Mrs. Bitters and I do a lot of home cooking–well, she does most of it, but I get a few things in from time to time. And we use a lot of spices in our cooking. Last night, we were talking about this challenge. Jen suggested that I should flip through some of her cookbooks to find spice combos that might work with booze. She also reminded me that we had a pomegranate in our fridge. This led us to one of her Middle Eastern books, since pom is a staple in some Middle Eastern cuisines.

I found a recipe for cooking duck with walnuts, pomegranate, cinnamon, and a few other spices. The recipe reminded me of a drink I had at Hearth, in New York’s East Village earlier this year. The drink was called the Jim Hogg, and it featured a pecan-infused rye. I’ve wanted to infuse nuts into whiskey since tasting that drink, and this recipe got my wheels turning.

I grabbed a bag of walnuts from the fridge, tossed a handful in a Mason jar, and threw in a couple of sticks of cinnamon. I added some whole rainbow and white peppercorns, not too many. Obviously, you need to finesse the pepper. I used whole corns; if you crush or grind them, you’ll have an entirely too peppery drink. Finally, I added a strip of lemon peel. Zest would have been better, but I was winging all of this. Call it the mania of inspiration.

I poured five ounces of Old Overholt rye whiskey over this mess, sealed the jar, and shook it well. I stored it in the coldest, darkest place in the apartment and agitated it several times over the course of the 24 hours.

After infusing this stuff for 24 hours (probably too little time), I strained it. I decided to mix it with grenadine and lemon juice, and then realized this was a Ward Eight variation. Why not just go with that? A lot of drinks are nothing more than subtle variations of other drinks.

The results were fine, although probably underinfused. The drink carried hints of walnuts, cinnamon, and pepper, but only very vague hints. I think 48 – 72 hours of infusion would have been better.

Nevertheless, I present the Ward Cleaver, with the caveat that it needs tweaking. I’m working on a longer infusion with the same spices but in 101 proof Wild Turkey bourbon. The higher proof will draw out more of the flavor, and I’m going to let it go a little longer. Anyway, enough gab. Recipe follows.

Ward Cleaver

  • 2 oz. rye, infused with walnuts, cinnamon, peppercorns, and lemon zest.
  • 3/4 oz. lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz. grenadine
  • Dash Fee Brother’s Barrel Aged Bitters

Shake ingredients over cracked ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish? You could go decorative with a cinnamon stick or a bit of walnut, or you could go for flavor by twisting on lemon peel. You could also get crazy! Pulverize a couple of walnuts, mix them with sugar, moisten the rim of your glass, and dip the rim in the walnut-sugar mixture. I would never do that, but maybe you’ll want to.

Flipping the bird

About a month ago, Gary Regan devoted his SF Chron column to examining the intersection of food and beverage. I’m not talking about pairings, but instead food as an ingredient in cocktails. The technique of fat washing is an example of what I mean: you take some bacon, for example, and steep it in bourbon for a while. Remove it, fine strain out the solids, and then freeze the bourbon. The spirit itself won’t freeze, but the fat that’s suspended within it will rise to the top, which makes it easy to remove and discard–or reuse, I suppose, if you’d like some bourbon-flavored lard for any reason. Think about chilling a chicken stock after you’ve made it; same thing happens with stock that happens with bourbon.

Canary FlipNow, Gary went on to describe something that isn’t really much like fat washing at all; in fact, it was such an abrupt segue that I think it didn’t really belong in that particular column. What he described was a drink called the Canary Flip, a drink created by a Brisbane bartender. A flip, if you don’t know, is a drink made by shaking up your drink ingredients with a whole egg. Flips were common in colonial times, but today, only cocktail geeks like me seem to make them anymore.

Shame, that. I mixed up the Canary Flip recently, and Jen and I loved it. It was a good use for Fernet Branca, a bitter Italian aperitif that many drink straight. I can’t really stand it on its own, but it’s good in cocktails, when it’s in balance with the other flavors. It’s absolutely perfect in the Canary Flip. In this drink, it’s mixed up with Chartreuse, cognac, simple syrup, and the aforementioned egg. The result is a delightfully complex drink, herbal, rich, and creamy. It’s not at all cloying and it has a wonderful mouthfeel. This one’s a keeper!

Canary Flip

Makes 1 drink

Adapted from a recipe by Nicholas Edwards, the Lark, Brisbane, Australia.

  • 1 ounce yellow Chartreuse
  • 1 ounce Courvoisier V.S. Cognac
  • 1/2 ounce simple syrup
  • 3 dashes Fernet Branca
  • 1 egg
  • 1 lemon twist, as garnish

Instructions: Fill a cocktail shaker with yellow Chartreuse, Cognac, simple syrup, Fernet Branca and egg. Shake without ice for 10 seconds to emulsify the egg. Add ice, shake and strain into a chilled sherry glass. Add the lemon twist garnish.

Repeal Day playlist

I wish I could take a minute this Repeal Day to post a list of swell goings-on around town, but alas, Providence doesn’t seem to have anything going on. I could dig around in my books and find a classic cocktail to post (and I may still do that), but why follow the crowd?

Instead, I figured I’d help you program the music for your happening bash. The following songs, unless Wikipedia has lied to me yet again, all have some peg in 1933, the year that Prohibition finally ended. Some of them were written a year earlier but premiered in 1933, whereas the rest are fully Repeal Year babies.

Some of the songs are performed by their original artists, but most are not, and most are also not 1933 recordings.

Included in the mix are two very different versions of Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler’s “Stormy Weather,” just to show how versatile these songs are. Enjoy.

  1. Fred Astaire, “The Carioca.” From 1933’s Flying Down to Rio, the first Astaire/Ginger Rogers picture. It’s always nice to remember that Astaire could also sing.
  2. Hoagy Carmichael, “Lazy Bones.” The (only?) instance of a song performed by its composer. Hoagy ‘n’ me went to college together. I’ve eaten in the former cafe where he wrote “Star Dust,” and he’s the third-best thing about the film version of To Have and Have Not.
  3. Henry Hall, “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?” Number three said nix on tricks, I will build my house with bricks. He had no chance to sing and dance ’cause work and play don’t mix. This is from the Disney short, “Three Little Pigs,” which premiered May 27, 1933.
  4. Louis Armstrong & Duke Ellington, “Drop Me Off in Harlem.” Louis + Duke = Nothing else to say.
  5. Maude Maggart and Fiona Apple, “(It’s Only A) Paper Moon.” Maggart and Apple are sisters, and they join up on this fun a cappella recording of Arlen and Harburg’s standard.
  6. Jerry Orbach, John Lesko, & Various Artists, “Lullaby of Broadway.” Okay, fuck it: this is a stretch. In 1933, there was a musical film called 42nd Street. In 1935, a song called “Lullaby of Broadway” first appeared in an unrelated movie. A later Broadway production of 42nd Street co-opted “Lullaby.” It wasn’t in the source material, though, so it’s a cheat. Y’know why I say “fuck it”? It’s always nice to remember that Orbach could also sing.
  7. Jimmy Durante, “Inka Dinka Doo.” You’re the top. You’re Inferno‘s Dante. You’re the nose on the great Durante.
  8. Doc & Merle Watson, “Stormy Weather.” A little more Harold Arlen, this time writing with Ted Koehler. Doc Watson, who’s still kicking around at 85, is a country and bluegrass pioneer. Merle, his son, died in 1985.
  9. Ike & Tina Turner, “Stormy Weather.” Tina Turner, who’s still kicking around at 69, is … aw, to hell with it, you know who she is.
  10. Bill Evans & Stan Getz, “Night and Day.” Finally, a little Cole Porter, but I’m gonna cheat you of the lyrics because I’m a son of a bitch. Porter wrote this for his 1932 play, Gay Divorce, but 1933 saw it become a hit, when Fred Astaire recorded it.
  11. Bryan Ferry, “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.” Recorded for his 1974 album, Another Time Another Place.
  12. Frank Sinatra, “You’re Getting to Be a Habit With Me.” From Frank’s sublime Songs for Swinging Lovers.
  13. Ginger Rogers, “We’re in the Money.” I began with Fred, so it makes sense to end with Ginger. This is her original recording, from Gold Diggers of 1933. This song’s a good reminder of the context in which Prohibition was repealed; the lyrics directly mention the Depression and bread lines. (In fact, sociologist David Hanson even links the Depression directly to the repeal of Prohibition.)

Oh, and because I love you, an embedded YouTube video of the always-dapper Ferry singing “Smoke”: