Category Archives: Cocktail recipes

Mixology Monday: A Simple Twist of Great

mxmologoOkay, kiddos, it’s that time of the month again! Mixology Monday! This month’s theme is a pip, Superior Twists. Our host this month is Tristan Stephenson of the Wild Drink Blog. The remit is simple:

This month’s Mixology Monday is all about twists on classic cocktails, that for one reason or another do an even better job than the drinks upon which they are based.

This could be as simple as a classic Margarita with a dash with a special touch that completes it, or maybe as complicated as a deconstructed Hemingway Daiquiri with a homemade rum foam/caviar/jus/trifle. It might be taking a classic like a Manhattan and using Tequila instead of Bourbon?

In that spirit (ho ho!), I’m offering up the Ruirita, a rhubarby twist on the Margarita. First, lemme give you fools the recipe, and then I’ll tell you how I came up with it and which unsuspecting dolts I thieved my ideas from. So!

Ruirita

  • 2 oz. tequila, blanco (make sure it’s 100% agave; I used Inocente–why? because I had a free sample and the bottle’s sexy, but also because it’s a good tequila)
  • ½ oz. Cynar
  • ½ oz. lime juice
  • ¼ oz. simple syrup
  • 3 dashes Fee’s Rhubarb bitters
  • 2 drops orange flower water, to rinse glass

Shake over ice. Rinse chilled glass with orange flower water. Pour the flower water into the sink, and fill glass with love.

Smile.

Now, I had been thinking about this drink over the weekend, trying to decide what I wanted to do. I remembered the rhubarb bitters Jen bought me a few months ago, and how I hadn’t really used them much. I then started thinking how I’d like to try them with tequila. Off to Google!

I didn’t find many rhubarb/tequila pairings, but the first thing I found was from Jacob Grier, who put up a drink with tequila, port, rhubarb bitters, and Benedictine. That sounded fabulous, JG, but wasn’t the way I was headed. (Jake revisited the tequila/rhubarb bitters idea in his post for this very MxMo, so be sure to check it out on Jacob’s site. Again, we’re headed in different directions, but he’s done a man’s job with his drink.)

However, Jacob did point me in another direction that I wanted to explore–Cynar artichoke bitter liqueur. Yes, artichoke and rhubarb. Jacob’s post mentions a drink that Robert Simonson discussed last year. Robert’s quaff inspired me to try Cynar and rhubarb, but it was my own warped psyche that led to the tequila, rhubarb, and artichoke delight. Jen and I love Cynar, and I don’t think I make enough opportunities to play with it.

The final element that I cribbed from another blogger was the orange flower water. A post on Kaiser Penguin has a drink with a glass rinse of the rhubarb bitters and the flower water. I wanted the orange to hint of the orange liqueur you normally find in a margarita, but orange flower water can quickly overpower a drink, so I chose the rinse. Rinses tend to engage the nose more so than the taste buds, so that seemed the way to go. However, I wanted the rhubarb bitters incorporated into the flavor of the drink, so I didn’t use them in the rinse.

So, I built the Ruirita in a mixing glass, stirring and tasting. I added the tequila, Cynar, lime, and bitters first, not wanting to deviate far from a traditional margarita. But Cynar’s more bitter than a Cointreau or another triple sec, so I needed a bit of sweetness. I didn’t want to add another liqueur–frankly, with tequila, Cynar, rhubarb, lime, and orange, there’s already enough going on with the drink’s flavor. So I added a touch of simple syrup, to provide neutral sweetening.

What resulted was a pretty damn good drink, I thought. Well balanced and complex, but not confused. The flavors melded very well. Jen was surprised, in fact, and wondered what demon had infested my soul to suggest this particular combo of ingredients. (That’s exactly the way she put it, by the way: “Man! What demon haunteth thou so that you blendeth these ingredients in yon tail of the cock! I shalt call upon the church for an exorci— Hey, this is pretty good. Wow.”)

So, try it please, and let me know what the hell you think.

(Photograph by Jennifer Hess.)

Averna Amaro

One thing that’s common in Europe, but relatively uncommon in the United States, is the drinking of straight (or neat) liquors or liqueurs, either before dinner (apéritif/aperitivo) or after (digéstif/digestivo). Sure, there are people here who enjoy a scotch or brandy after a big meal, but it’s not really an everyday part of American drinking. I am here to advocate in favor of this refined and civilized practice. Here I sit, after taking in a rich meal of roasted chicken and bread salad, and I am sipping Averna amaro, gently chilled with a single large ice cube, to cleanse my palate and help me relax a bit before bed.

Amari, if you don’t know, are herbal liqueurs from Italy, typically enjoyed after the meal. The word amari literally means “bitter.” Italy has a host of amari, at varying degrees of bitterness, but today, I’m going to talk about Averna. A bittersweet amaro, Averna is made from a blend of flowers, herbs, dried fruits, and spices, resulting in a complex taste with a lingering finish. A pleasant, satisfying sipper, a little Averna goes a long way as you unwind in the evening. No need to sip it solely as an digestivo, either. Because it cleanses and opens up the palate, it’s equally good as an aperitivo.

Lately, however, bartenders have started mixing it into cocktails. Writing for the San Francisco Chronicle, Gary Regan offers up a couple of recipes mixing Averna with another Italian quaff, Campari. Of the two recipes, we’ve tried La Dura Vita and found it quite yummy.

La Dura Vita

  • 1-1/2 oz. gin (Gary suggests Plymouth; I used Beefeater to good effect)
  • 1 oz. Campari
  • 1/2 oz. Averna amaro
  • lemon twist, for garnish

Technique: Build over ice in an old-fashioned glass. Stir. Add garnish. Smile.

The Dave Initiative

For a couple of years now, I’ve had a subscription to Esquire magazine. I don’t have much use for a lot of the stuff in there. The celebrity profiles are often silly (April’s is by a writer who “prepared” for his Ben Affleck interview by going on a four-day bender in Vegas, trying, I suppose, to out-man’s-man the man’s man he was interviewing). I don’t share Barry Sonnenfeld’s gadget fetish. And who can afford a $9,700 watch, anyway? Probably no one I want to know.

But the one can’t-miss feature every month is Dave Wondrich’s booze column. I usually read that as soon as my issue arrives each month. And the April column’s a beaut. Dave shares with us a formula for creating new cocktails. (It doesn’t seem to be on the Esquire site yet; when I see it, I’ll edit this post and link out to it.) I’ve now mixed up three different drinks with it, and I have to say, it’s a keeper. Here’s the idea: you start with your base spirit: gin, whiskey, rum, tequila, whatever you want. Add fortified wine (port, sherry, vermouth, you name it) and a splash of liqueur. Top with two dashes of the bitters of your choice. Here’s the basic recipe.

The Basic Cocktail

  • 2 oz. spirit
  • 1 oz. fortified wine
  • 1 tsp. liqueur
  • 2 dashes bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

DSC08492As I said, I’ve done three drinks with this already. The first drink I’m not sharing here, not yet anyway. It’s a gin drink, and I want to enter it into competition at the Mixoloseum‘s Beefeater edition of Thursday Drink Night, on March 26. I’ll post the recipe after that evening. The second attempt featured Kilo Kai rum as the base, and I used Wondrich’s exact proportions.

Bitter Regret

Stir and strain. Photo, at right, by Jennifer Hess.

This was a delicious drink. Enough body from the port to match the spice in the rum, and the cherry flavor was really subtle. Tasty, tasty stuff. The next drink, however. Enh.

Not Quite Right

  • 2 oz. Inocente tequila
  • 1 oz. Martini & Rossi bianco vermouth
  • 1 tsp. St.-Germain elderflower liqueur
  • 2 dashes Angostura orange bitters

This drink was too sweet as formulated. I think the bianco’s just too much for the tequila in these proportions. Worse, though, is that the St.-Germain just disappeared in it. I added a touch more tequila, and it balanced out well with the vermouth, but I think I need a drier vermouth for this and perhaps a little more St.-Germain. Still, though, this has potential. I’ll have to work on it further.

Overall, this was a fun experiment with a versatile basic recipe. I’m eager to try more combinations out and report back to you. I already have some ideas in mind for bourbon or rye, and I’d love to play with a smoky scotch in this.

Recipes for Jen’s Dish

For those who heard me on Jen’s Dish, and for those who did not, here are the recipes I talked about on her program.

Whiskey Rebellion

Drink #1 comes from Portland (OR) bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler.  Jeff volunteered this recipe when I asked for bourbon-based drinks involving maple syrup. I tried it at home and loved it. The best thing is, it perfectly bookends the Savoy drink that follows. Jeff demonstrates that you needn’t bury your ass in the past and you needn’t follow the modern trend of infused vodkas to make an excellent drink.

Whiskey Rebellion

  • 2 oz. pecan-infused bourbon (I used Wild Turkey 101)
  • 1/2 oz. maple syrup
  • 3/4 oz. fig jam
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 dashes of bitters

Shake over ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Apple Jack Rabbit

The second cocktail is adapted from the Savoy Cocktail Book, by Harry Craddock. Craddock was an American disgusted by Prohibition; he grabbed the first boat out for England, and settled in to the American Bar at the Savoy Hotel in London.

These proportions are based on Erik Ellestad’s, at Underhill Lounge. Erik’s working his way through the Savoy book, and he’s having a great time with it. Erik found Harry’s proportions to be a little sweet, and I agree, so I’m going with Erik’s recipe.

The one thing to note is that Erik used the Laird’s Bonded Apple Brandy, which I can’t find in Rhode Island. I used Laird’s Applejack, which is a blend of apple brandy and neutral grain spirits. The Bonded Apple Brandy has nothing in it but the brandy. The blended, since it also has grain spirits, is less appley than the bonded. I’d rather have the bonded, but I’ll take the blended when I have to.

Apple Jack Rabbit

  • 1-1/2 oz. Laird’s Applejack
  • 1 oz. fresh-squeezed orange juice
  • 3/4 oz. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz. maple syrup
  • Lemon twist, for garnish

Shake over ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Add garnish.

MxMo XXXVI Hits You Where It Hurts

Happy Mixology Monday, fellow tipplers! The theme this month is Hard Drinks for Hard Times, and the host is the hard man himself, Matthew Rowley. What Matt wants to know is, has the recession affected your drinking, and if so, how? Matt, himself, has already chimed in on this problem, with a story that begins with his own recent job loss.

I understand where he’s coming from.

Y’see, in the last few months, my own working life as a freelance copy editor has dried up to nothing. When Jen and I moved to Providence in April of last year, I was very busy. So busy, in fact, that I was turning projects away and supporting both of us, while Jen searched for work in her field. I was so busy, too, that I didn’t see any reason to seek out other work, or make contingency plans in case things fell apart.

Which, of course, is just what happened. Things fell apart, and at the moment, I’m not working at all.

Fortunately, Jen’s salary is enough to cover our living expenses, so that any money I might bring in goes toward savings, travel, spendier bottles of liquor and wine, and so on.

As my workload has dwindled, our drive to the bottom of the liquor industry’s pricing structure has quickened. We’ve been rocking the Evan Williams since before Dave Wondrich sung its praises in Esquire. (At about $22 for a 1.75-liter bottle, it’s almost stupid not to buy it.) I’m feeling especially lucky in that my personal favorite martini is based on Beefeater, which we can get in 1.75L form for about $30 around here.

We’ve even lately–it is like confessing a murder–brought in boxed wines for our everyday drinking, saving our bottled-wine budget for weekends and holidays.

But enough about this–two more comments, and I’ll move forward with a drink recipe.

What Does This Mean for A Dash of Bitters?

I’m happy to announce that this month marks the third anniversary of this blog, A Dash of Bitters. Despite our recent change of fortunes, I have every desire to push on to year four, and I have plans for the next year that will stun and amaze you! I’ll even ask you to help me out with ideas for my Big Project of 2009! More on that in a week or two.

Is Dietsch Going to Tales of the Cocktail?

Less happily, my current unemployment is forcing me to reconsider my commitment to attending�Tales of the Cocktail this year. This is not an easy decision, but unless my workload rises to at least part-time levels soon, there’s no way we can save the money in the short time between now and July. Further, Jen has a newborn niece and an 88-year-old grandmother; she’s never met her niece and hasn’t seen her grandmother in three years. I have a teenaged nephew I haven’t seen since he was a pre-teen nephew. Our travel priorities for 2009 are for family, I hope you’ll understand.

If things change, I’ll be happy to let everyone know that I or we will be in New Orleans this July, but at this moment, I can’t possibly see it happening.

Onward.

We’ve been living pretty high off the product samples lately, and they’ve really helped us eke our way through some otherwise-dry patches. I thought, for this MxMo, I’d put together a drink based almost entirely on product samples.

Main ingredient, Bulleit bourbon. I love this stuff. The mashbill is such that it apparently has the highest rye content of any bourbon on the market. I love rye, so perhaps that explains why I love Bulleit so much.

Next up, Cherry Heering, followed by B&B. A little Grand Marnier, some fruit juice, and a hit of bitters. Squirt on some charged water, and that’s your thing.

The bourbon, Cherry Heering, and B&B were all product samples. I had the Grand Marnier on hand, alongside bitters and citrus.

What we’ve got here is a Singapore Sling variant, of course. I call it the Recession Special Sling, after the hot dog specials at Gray’s Papaya in New York. We both loved it. Now, finally, the recipe:

Recession Special Sling, using whatever the fuck I had on hand already

2 oz. bourbon
1/2 oz. Cherry Heering
1/4 oz. B&B
1 oz. Grand Marnier
3 oz. lemon juice
1 oz. lime juice
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Shake, strain into a Collins glass, and top with club soda or charged water.�

DSC07791
photograph by Jennifer Hess.

MxMo: New Horizons

Onward, young rangers, to a new horizon! Let us strike out across this great land to explore strange new territories, seek out new life and new ci…

Uh. Oops. Heh.

The theme of the January MxMo is Change. How appropriate, right? New horizons, new ideas, change. Our challenge, from the anonymous Scribe of A Mixed Dram, is appropriate–to simply “Try something new!

Huzzah!

My choice for this challenge features the bitter liqueur Ramazzotti, an Italian tonic that you can sip as an aperitif or a digestif, or even just mix into a cocktail. Now, I’ve had the Ramazzotti on hand for a long time. I bought it in Brooklyn, back before we moved to Rhode Island. My plan was to make a small batch of Jamie Boudreau’s Amer Picon replica. Well, I’ve had the bottle for nearly a year, haven’t made the Amer Picon, and have seen Ramazzotti in local liquor stores. So what’s the point of letting this bottle languish in a box for another year?

I grabbed a copy of Robert Hess’s new book, The Essential Bartenders Guide, at Borders last week. (This is a book that’s screaming, loudly, for an editor. A full review of the book is pending.) Among the recipes in Hess’s book is the Chaplin, a mix of bourbon, sherry, Ramazzotti, Cointreau, and orange bitters. That’s what I chose to mix up tonight. The Chaplin is a good drink, well balanced but on the tart side. It’s not bitter, by any means, but it’s nothing to serve to anyone with a sweet tooth. The nuttiness of the sherry really shines. (I’m starting to really love sherry in cocktails.)

Photograph by Jennifer Hess

Chaplin

  • 3/4 oz. bourbon whiskey
  • 3/4 oz. dry sherry
  • 3/4 oz. Ramazzotti
  • 1/8 oz. Cointreau
  • 2 dashes orange bitters
  • lemon twist, for garnish

Technique: Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Add garnish.

Tawky Tawny

Yesterday morning, Jen was catching up on her blog reading and asked me, “Have you ever heard of the Ruby Rye cocktail?” I said No, and she said one of the food bloggers she reads had a drink by that name at Gramercy Tavern or someplace. All the blogger said was that the drink had port. I googled and found next to nothing. But a drink called Ruby Rye has to also have rye in it, I’d hope, so I decided to wing it.

I have a couple of bottles of Sandeman’s port that I received last month for review. I didn’t mix with them at first because I wanted to sample them on their own. Jen and I always like to have port on hand for Christmas and New Year’s, and so the arrival of the Sandeman’s was very timely.

Anyway, I didn’t get anything together in time for the Sandeman chat at Thursday Drink Night, but I wanted to mix with it, and this was a good excuse. I figured I’d make it easy on myself, because I am at heart a lazy bastard. So I went with a Manhattan variation, swapping out the port for the vermouth. It’s tasty, although I think a spicier rye might be better in it. (I used Old Overholt.)

AnonycocktailIt’s a simple recipe, and although I haven’t named it, I’ll give it to you here anyway.

The Cocktail with No Name

  • 2 oz. rye whiskey (I used Overholt)
  • 1 oz. port (Sandeman Founders Reserve)
  • 2 dashes orange bitters (Angostura)
  • Lemon twist, for garnish (I left that out, but I think it’s the way to go)

Technique: Stir briskly over cracked ice. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Add garnish.

As if it matters, this photo’s actually my own. I figured I’d take a crack at the pretty picture-taking myself for once.

Happy New Year!

As promised/threatened, I made the Ford Cocktail that Ted “Dr. Cocktail” Haigh recommended on NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday. Doc said to Liane Hansen that this is a drink he wants to revive in 2009 and rightfully so. It’s delicious. He describes it as lovely and beautifully balanced, and once again, the doctor’s prescription is right on the money. I’m happy to do my part.

Although the only source Haigh mentions is “an 1895 book,” I was able to uncover it with my fancy Google fu–George J. Kappeler’s Modern American Drinks.

Text not available

Modern American Drinks How to Mix and Serve All Kinds of Cups and Drinks By George J. Kappeler

Haigh modernized the measurements for Hansen as follows:

Ford Cocktail

  • 1 oz. gin
  • 1 oz. dry vermouth
  • 3 dashes Benedictine
  • 3 dashes orange bitters
  • Orange twist, for garnish

Technique: Stir over cracked ice in a mixing glass. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Add garnish.

Notes: Doc didn’t actually mention the garnish to Hansen, but since it’s in Kappeler’s, I’ve added it. You can see from Jen’s photo that I used lemon. You might recall that Jen’s allergic to orange. Finally, to address the perennial question–how much is 3 dashes of Benedictine?–I dashed the orange bitters first into my measuring cup and noted the level. I then carefully measured a roughly equal amount of Benedictine.

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.