Category Archives: Bourbon

MxMo: Mintology Monday

MxMo MintThe third MixMo challenge concerns mint (many thanks to Rick for hosting), which is lucky for me because it grows in abundance in our backyard garden. But I had to think for a while before deciding what to make. At first, I thought to perhaps do something with crème de menthe, but neither of us really likes it, so that was out.

I wanted to use the opportunity to try something new, or to vary an old recipe, rather than going boring and doing an unaltered stand-by such as a julep or a smash. But then Jen said, “Hey, didja think about doing an infusion?” (I’ve often talked about doing one but never gotten around to it.) With that good suggestion, I hit the ground running.

Backyard mintSo I headed out back and snipped off several mint leaves. I brought them inside, washed and dried them thoroughly, put them into a mason jar, and poured Very Old Barton bourbon over the leaves. I let it steep for three days, sampling it each evening, before finally removing the leaves. I used the minty VOB as the base for a simple, minty old-fashioned: bourbon, sugar, and bitters over ice, garnished with mint. It was nice, but not really that dissimilar from a julep.

Minty Old FashionedAs an unrelated “project,” I hit Google to find some good non-Negroni recipes that called for gin and Campari. I wanted a new (to us) recipe using Campari since although we both like Negronis, we wanted to try something different. In the midst of searching, I came across a Yelp.com review of a California restaurant called Cascal. The comments on the review included this intriguing quote:

Went here last night on a friends recommendation. Started with the La Gitana cocktail (gin, campari, mint, lemon and lime juice) which was good but awfully small for $8.

Those ingredients intrigued me, but I was on my own to determine proportions and preparation techniques. I hit up Google for more information but found nothing. If anyone’s encountered this drink before, please tell me. So one night last week, I experimented. I muddled mint leaves in a mixing glass with sugar and added equal parts gin and Campari, and a half-part each of lemon and lime juices (in other words, the combined citrus juices totaled one part–to balance the gin and Campari). The resulting cocktail was satisfying, but possibly too minty and sweet.

La GitanaSunday night, I tried again. This time, I kept the liquid proportions the same but I reduced the sugar and I didn’t muddle the mint. The mint still released its oils during shaking, thus flavoring the drink, but it was a subtler component of the cocktail. The result is a complex, well-balanced drink. What’s funny about it is that the Campari lays low while you sip, waiting until the finish to really kick your teeth.

La Gitana

  • 1 oz. gin
  • 1 oz. Campari
  • ½ oz. lemon juice
  • ½ oz. lime juice
  • 1 tsp. sugar (I used turbinado)
  • 4 mint leaves

Shake all ingredients over ice, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. You can fine-strain to filter out the bits of mint leaves, or you can keep them in like I did and leave out a garnish. (I think they’re pretty, but they’re not to everyone’s tastes.)

This will sound strange, but I must confess to disliking the name “Gitana.” It’s the Spanish feminine form of “gypsy,” and it’s just a bit, I dunno, kitsch for my tastes, calling to mind gypsy stereotypes. But I don’t know when a drink becomes “yours” enough that you can rename it, so here I’ll just call it Gitana.

I weep for the future

Today’s New York Post describes 25 Things Every New Yorker Should Know, and I certainly can’t argue with most of them. You should know how to swipe a MetroCard, make an egg cream, work a room, or befriend your bodega guy. But item 16…oh my.

Look, just–

Look. Every New Yorker should know how to make a perfect Manhattan. I don’t care if you’re only 10 years old, you should know how to make a Manhattan. Why did mommy and daddy bring you into this world except to stir them up a cold drink? But don’t take your cues from the Post, fergodsake:

16 How to make a perfect Manhattan

One Little West 12’s beverage director Bernie Bernstein says you can make a Manhattan the normal way or the perfect way. “The key difference,” he says, “is the regular uses sweet vermouth and the perfect uses both sweet and dry. To me the perfect is the greatest Manhattan there is; it just makes the bourbon that much smoother.”

Step one: Fill the shaker three-quarters full with ice.

Step two: Pour in 2 ounces bourbon – preferably Woodford Reserve.

Step three: Pour in three-quarters of an ounce of sweet vermouth. Then pour in same amount of dry vermouth.

Step four: Add 3 dashes of bitters, then a dash of maraschino cherry juice.

Step five: Put a pint glass on the top and shake vigorously for 20 seconds or until the shaker is cold with a slight frost.

Step Six: Strain the drink into a martini glass and garnish with a pristine cherry.

So right, and yet still somehow so wrong. Use rye, stir it, and skip the fuckin’ cherry juice. What is this, a Slurpee?

New mag for drinks nerds!

logo for Imbibe magazineHaving seen a number of bloggers discussing the new magazine Imbibe, I dispatched my lovely wife last week to track down a copy, to read during our flight to Alabama. She found the first issue for sale at Borders and brought it home for me. I’m still working my way through it, but so far, I’m really enjoying it.

Imbibe is a drinks magazine, and as such, it covers a range of beverages—coffees, teas, beers, spirits, and wines. (I’d love to see features on specialty colas, root and ginger beers, and other soft drinks.) The first issue contains articles on hotel bars, the drinks culture of Oaxaca, Ted Haigh, Trappist ales, and organic wines. It’s a fun magazine that fills a heretofore open niche.

A lot of magazines have come and gone in the last couple of years—Radar (twice) and Chow are the ones I most lament. This seems to be a hard time to keep a new magazine afloat, but then perhaps it was ever thus. It’s hard to say how long Imbibe will succeed. Nevertheless, I’ve voted with my credit card and purchased a subscription. (Actually, due to incompetent use of a web browser, I seem to have purchased two subscriptions. I’ve been on the web for a decade; I have no excuse.)

As I mentioned earlier, the premiere highlights twelve hotel bars. Among the bars featured is Bistro Moderne in Houston’s Hotel Derek. The write-up discusses a Moderne specialty cocktail, the Texan, providing only the ingredients (Woodford Reserve bourbon, Sauza Conmemorativo tequila, and lime juice) and not the proportions.

I was intrigued but nervous about the bourbon/tequila mix, but since we have both ingredients at home, as well as plenty of limes, I wanted to try it. I had no idea what proportions to use, so I winged it. In a mixing glass, I poured three ounces Very Old Barton bourbon, two ounces Herradura Añejo, and one ounce lime juice (for two cocktails). I sampled just a bit of that and found it a little harsh, so I added half an ounce of simple syrup. I shook that over ice and strained it into two cocktail glasses.

Jen and I both liked it, but we felt it was lacking complexity. The sweetness was fine—any more than half an ounce of simple syrup would have been too sweet. I started thinking about bitters, and since triple sec is a common companion for tequila, I thought about Gary Regan and his orange bitters.

Good thought. Our second batch went as follows, and it was, we felt, a better mix:

The Texan

  • 1½ oz. Very Old Barton bourbon
  • 1 oz. Herradura Añejo tequila
  • ½ oz. lime juice
  • ¼ oz. simple syrup
  • 3 dashes Regan’s Orange Bitters

Shake over ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

I’ll happily entertain suggestions for garnishes. I left the drink naked. Salted rim? Lime twist?

Meanwhile, let’s all raise a toast to Imbibe’s long life.