Category Archives: Cocktail recipes

La Rosita

At Serious Eats, I contributed a drink to a new feature, “The Best Cocktails We Drank in [a given month].” This previous month being April, it was April’s turn to be the given month. The remit was, pick a drink you loved, whether out or at home. We don’t really get out much, for several reasons, so it would have to be a drink at home. I chose something new, a drink I’d never had or made before. My comments on the site were …

“Reposado tequila, sweet and dry vermouth, Campari, and Angostura bitters combine for the La Rosita, a spin on the classic Negroni cocktail. I mixed this one up at home for a crisp springtime refresher. Tequila and Campari play very well together, making for an herbal, lightly bitter drink that highlights tequila’s agave flavor.”—Michael Dietsch, Cocktail 101 columnist

Now, the recipe:

La Rosita

  • 1-1/2 ounces reposado tequila
  • 1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 1/2 ounce dry vermouth
  • 1/2 ounce Campari
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters

Stir all ingredients over ice in a mixing glass. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. No garnish.

For tequila, I used Espolon Reposado. For sweet vermouth, Cinzano; for dry, M&R.

Disclaimer: The Espolon and Campari were sent to me for review purposes by Campari America. I had never before had the Espolon and I quite liked it. I would consider buying it again, but I would consider other reposados before Espolon. As for Campari, I almost always have a bottle on hand, usually purchased with my own money. But to cover my ass, I probably can’t fail to disclose that Campari America sent me a bottle.

Photograph © Jennifer Hess

No tonic for the body

THE MINT JULEP: The Very Dream of Drinks

by Joshua Soule Smith

Then comes the zenith of man’s pleasure. Then comes the julep—the mint julep. Who has not tasted one has lived in vain. The honey of Hymettus brought no such solace to the soul; the nectar of the Gods is tame beside it. It is the very dream of drinks, the vision of sweet quaffings. The Bourbon and the mint are lovers. In the same land they live, on the same food they are fostered. The mint dips its infant leaf into the same stream that makes the bourbon what it is. The corn grows in the level lands through which small streams meander. By the brook-side the mint grows. As the little wavelets pass, they glide up to kiss the feet of the growing mint, the mint bends to salute them. Gracious and kind it is, living only for the sake of others. The crushing of it only makes its sweetness more apparent. Like a woman’s heart, it gives its sweetest aroma when bruised. Among the first to greet the spring, it comes. Beside the gurgling brooks that make music in the pastures it lives and thrives.

When the Blue Grass begins to shoot its gentle sprays toward the sun, mint comes, and its sweetest soul drinks at the crystal brook. It is virgin then. But soon it must be married to Old Bourbon. His great heart, his warmth of temperament, and that affinity which no one understands, demand the wedding. How shall it be? Take from the cold spring some water, pure as angels are; mix it with sugar until it seems like oil. Then take a glass and crush you mint within it with a spoon—crush it around the borders of the glass and leave no place untouched. Then throw the mint away—it is a sacrifice.

Fill with cracked ice the glass; pour in the quantity of Bourbon which you want. It trickles slowly through the ice. Let it have time to col, then pour your sugared water over it. No spoon is needed, no stirring is allowed—just let it stand a moment. Then around the brim place sprigs of mint, so that the one who drinks may find a taste and odor at one draught.

When it is made, sip it slowly. August suns are shining, the breath of the south wind is upon you. It is fragrant, cold and sweet—it is seductive. No maiden’s touch could be more passionate. Sip it and dream, it is a dream itself. No other land can give so sweet a solace for your cares; no other liquor soothes you so in melancholy days. Sip it and say there is no solace for the soul, no tonic for the body like Old Bourbon whiskey.

Great Gimlet Controversy, Redux

I promised to follow up on my Gimlet post from a while back. I was happy to see it garner so much commentary, so I wanted to address everyone’s thoughts.

First, the majority of you rightly shun and abhor Rose’s Lime Cordial. I’m sure that at some point, before the addition of HFCS, preservatives, and artificial colorings and flavorings, it was a quality product. No more.

Second, there’s far less agreement on whether a drink of gin, lime juice, and simple syrup deserves the moniker “Gimlet.” I believe that it does not. A Gin Sour is a fabulous drink, one I’ve enjoyed in the past and will enjoy again in the future. It is not, however, a Gimlet.

So, what’s a drunk to do?

I side with those of you who either use the Employee’s Only cordial or who make their own. I have yet to actually tackle that project, although I keep meaning to. It’s a worthy endeavor. I even have a bottle of Rose’s in the fridge that I intend to use as a control. If I get around to it while computers still exist and while blogs such as this are still a viable means of communication, perhaps I’ll even post about it.

Gojee Go

The food website Gojee launched its new Drinks site last week, featuring content from a slew of drinks bloggers. For those unfamiliar with Gojee, it offers a unique take on recipe searches. The first thing you notice when you hit the site is the large-scale photography. The site displays a slideshow of yummy looking food and beverages; the recipes are provided by individual food or drink bloggers. If the picture appeals to you, click the screen and a box pops up showing a list of the major ingredients. Click a link in the box, and you’ll be directed to a full recipe on the site of the contributing blogger. You can also search the recipes according to what you have on hand, in your pantry, fridge, or home bar.

I was fortunate enough to be asked to contribute, so you’ll find several of my recipes there, along with drinks by RumDood, Cocktail Chronicles, Cocktail Buzz, and Jacob Grier, among other esteemed collaborators. For teetotalers, drinks aren’t limited to only the alcohol-bearing; Gojee Drinks also contains a number of NA recipes as well. The following images should provide the basic idea behind Gojee’s interface. We’ll start, immodestly, with one of my recipes. Then you’ll see a cocktail from 12 Bottle Bar, and a non-alcoholic limeade from Winnie Abramson.

oudeplein

[Links: Larger image on Flickr | Recipe on Gojee Drinks | Original recipe on my site]

fourthdegree

 [Links: Larger image on Flickr | Recipe on Gojee Drinks | Original recipe on 12 Bottle Bar]

 

limeade

[Links: Larger image on Flickr | Recipe on Gojee Drinks | Original recipe on Healthy Green Kitchen]

Nolet’s Garden to Glass

Back in June, I received a lovely package from Nolet’s gin. The company was starting a promotional program they call Garden to Cocktail. The idea is to pair their Silver Dry Gin with a different ingredient each month and use the special ingredient to create new and interesting cocktails.

The first ingredient they sent me was feijoa (along with a promotional bottle of the gin, of course), and I must admit, I was stumped. I had never heard of feijoa prior to this.

Gin 'n' ... feijoa?

So I bumped around online for a bit to see what I could find out. I asked Twitter, I inquired on Facebook. I even foodpickled.  I got great answers from people about what feijoa is and what it tastes like, but I was still stumped. (Some bloggers received a recipe card from Nolet, featuring a drink using the gin and feijoa; not only was the recipe card missing from my box, but I generally don’t like simply republishing cocktail recipes sent me in promotional materials, so I would have asked around anyway.)

And then I tried the fruit itself. Um … I think the best I can say is, it’s not for me. I didn’t care for either the flavor or the texture, and I was even less sure how to make a cocktail from it.

But the gin! Oh, the gin is a different story.

the gin!

Nolet’s Silver Dry Gin is a fairly new product on the market, so you might not be familiar with it. Made by the Dutch Nolet family, it’s the latest recipe from a family who have pursued a 300-year legacy of distilling — first in genever and then, most famously, in vodka. The Nolet family’s Ketel One is perhaps one of the most famous vodka brands in the world, and the family has been able to capitalize on that success by investing resources back into gin.

Now, Nolet’s gin is an example of what some people call a new-style gin. That means it’s less reliant on gin’s traditional juniper flavors, pushing the pine qualities of juniper into the background.

I have mixed reactions to these newer types of gin. Some brands do this style very well, and others decidedly less so. In thinking about which brands succeed in this style, I’ve decided to pay attention to what flavors they emphasize instead of juniper. Some brands, the ones I like least, do very little instead of juniper. In other words, they don’t really emphasize anything. At best, they have a watered-down gin, and at worst, they have a mislabeled vodka.

Nolet takes a different approach, luckily. The family has crafted a gin with a soft, floral, and somewhat fruity flavor profile–the botanical blend includes such unlikely ingredients as rose, peach, and raspberry.

mmmmmartini

I was intrigued by the flavor on its own, so I tried it in a couple of different types of martini. First, I mixed my version of a “dry” martini: 5 parts gin to 1 part vermouth. (It’s hard to use the word “dry” anymore without someone misunderstanding you, so I always clarify what I mean by “dry.” Some people say a dry martini contains only a scornful glance at a vermouth bottle, whereas other tipplers say it’s anything drier than a 50-50 mix of gin and vermouth.)

In my 5:1 ratio, I found the Nolet to make a delicious martini. Sure, not as juniper-forward as a Tanqueray or Beefeater version, but I’ll be honest: I don’t always want that. The Nolet is round and creamy, and at 95.2 proof, it carries its flavors handsomely into marriage with vermouth.

I then tried it mixed “wetter,” at 2 parts gin to 1 part vermouth. I didn’t care for this at all. The gin lost its own character into the vermouth and I felt like I was drinking little of substance. A week later, I tried it again at 5:1 and again loved the martini.

what’s next, or, a very lychee dietschy

So having felt that the feijoa was a dud, but loving the Nolet martini, I was eager to see what awaited me in my second shipment. When this arrived, I opened it to find several lychees. This time, I did get the recipe card that Nolet sent, but again, I didn’t want to just reproduce that cocktail; I wanted to try something different.

Also, my wife is nine month’s pregnant and, for that reason, abstaining from booze. Whenever I mix up a fruity cocktail for myself, I like to make her a dry version when I can.

So I dug around online and found a Serious Eats post from earlier this year, describing a Lychee Soda at the Modern Bar Room in New York. (Disclaimer: I write for Serious Eats.) That sounded very crisp and refreshing, and I knew it would make Jen a lovely NA drink.

So I pureed the lychee, mixed it with some Lavender-Lemon Simple Syrup, from Royal Rose Syrups in Brooklyn (disclaimer: Royal Rose sent me several syrup samples.) Jen’s got topped with seltzer water, whereas mine first got a hit of Nolet’s and then a seltzer blast.

photo © Jennifer Hess. All rights reserved.

Okay, yum. My only complaint is that I’m out of lychees.

A Very Hoppy MxMo

MxMo HopsWow, I don’t even want to think about how long it’s been since I’ve participated in a Mixology Monday. All sorts of things–lazyness, apathy, antipathy, psychopathy–have gotten in the way. But I’m back, dammit, at least for this one. I love this month’s theme–beer cocktails–so I’m happy to play along. Ta muchly to Cocktail Virgin Slut for hosting!

I’ve decided to update a cocktail I submitted to a Food52 competition, in the long-ago days of October 2009. I didn’t win or place or even show, unfortunately, but I love the drink I made, so I’m hoping this time it meets with more enthusiasm. Here’s my writeup from Food52:

The Seelbock is a variant of the classic Seelbach cocktail, from the Seelbach Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky–bourbon, Cointreau, and generous amounts of both Peychaud’s and Angostura bitters, topped off with a big pour of champagne. For this version, I used a 100-proof rye whiskey in place of bourbon and I tinkered with the bitters. And most importantly, I used a weisse beer, a wheat beer, in place of the champagne. Wheat beers are light, effervescent, and yeasty, just like champagne. For this, I chose the Schneider & Brooklyner Hopfen Weisse, a collaboration between Schneider Weissbier and Brooklyn Brewery. If you can’t find this brew, substitute any good quality wheat beer. If you can’t find lemon bitters, you can muddle lemon peel into the mixing glass before you add the other ingredients.

Some things I didn’t tell the Food52 crowd (I like to keep my headnotes there short):

  • I swapped rye for bourbon because I thought it would provide a stronger backbone for a beer cocktail.
  • I ditched the Peychaud’s because, frankly, I didn’t like it at all in this drink. I found it clashed with the beer. So instead I used lemon bitters (The Bitter Truth’s version), and that was a great choice because it highlights the natural citrus notes in the beer.

photo © Jennifer Hess; all rights reserved

Now, as I said, the July 2011 version of the Seelbock is an update, and here are the changes I’ve made:

First, although it makes a lot of sense to choose a Weisse beer that somewhat resembles champagne (light, effervescent, and yeasty), I’m not sure it makes a lot of sense to name a drink -bock when you’re using a Weisse. And, since I wasn’t sure I’d find the Schneider & Brooklyner Hopfen Weisse again (since it was a limited-edition brew), I thought, well, hell, Dietsch, just get a goddamn bock this time.

So I got a goddamn bock this time, but I kept it in the G. Schneider und Sohn family, choosing their Aventinus doppelbock. It’s wheaty, of course, like their Brooklyn Brewery collab, but it’s a lot darker and richer. I wanted to play with it in this cocktail, to see what a darker brew would add.

The only other change I made to the original recipe was here: “1 ounce rye whiskey”. Let me be honest: I did that for Food52, concocting a less-potent cocktail than I normally drink, in hopes that civilians would try it. I don’t need to do that here.

Between the oils from the lemon twist, the lemon bitters, and the Cointreau, this is a brightly citrusy cocktail, which makes it all the more refreshing for a hot July day. I think I’m happier with this version than I was the Food52 edition.

Seelbock

  • 1 1/2 oz. rye whiskey (I used Rittenhouse, as I did in the original)
  • 1/2 oz. Cointreau (I don’t know why I preferred Grand Marnier originally; perhaps it was all I had at the moment)
  • 1/4 oz. lemon bitters (measure!)
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 4-5 oz. Aventinus doppelbock
  • lemon twist, for garnish
  1. In a mixing glass filled with ice, stir rye, Cointreau, and both bitters.
  2. Strain into champagne flute and top with beer.
  3. Add garnish.
  4. Burp and be happy.

Drink of the Week/Month/Year/Whatever: XYZ

Near the end of his Savoy project, Erik Ellestad featured the XYZ cocktail, a daisy/daiquiri/sidecar variant using rum. The drink sounded great to me, and while browsing through the comments, I saw that someone suggested using Banks 5 Island rum as the base.

The original, from the Savoy, calls for lemon juice, Cointreau, and Bacardi. Erik used Clement Creole Shrub in place of the Cointreau. The same person who suggested the Banks, though, also thought that maybe Cointreau or Combier might pair better with Banks because he found the cocktail a little dry.

I happened to have a bottle of Banks 5 Island, provided to me as a free product sample, and I wanted to try it in this cocktail. I love Banks. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a white rum, but it certainly doesn’t taste like one. It has a funky taste you normally expect from a rhum agricole. Banks is actually a blend of rums from five islands: Trinidad, Jamaica, Guyana, Barbados, and Indonesia.

Wait. That’s a little misleading. Banks is actually a blend of rums from four islands: Trinidad, Jamaica, Guyana, and Barbados. The Indonesian component is not a rum at all: it’s Batavia arrack, a pot-still distillate made of sugarcane. It’s similar to rum but it’s much funkier. It brings a unique character to Banks 5 Island that you can’t find in other white rums.

I find that Banks is great in cocktails. It blends exceptionally well with other ingredients without losing its own character. Unlike most white rums, though, it’s also wonderful sipped on ice or stirred into an old-fashioned.

I wanted to try it in the XYZ, though. I mixed it twice, over successive nights. The first time, I tried it with Creole Shrubb. Like Erik’s commenter Sam, though, I found it a little dry that way. So the next night, I mixed it with Combier and — oh my! — that was lovely.