Category Archives: Champagnes and sparkling wines

Did I do something wrong?

I thought I’d fix up a couple of Prince of Wales cocktails tonight, a fizzy drink for a fizzy evening. I followed Wondrich’s recipe to the letter, using bonded Rittenhouse for the rye. My pineapple was a couple squares of thawed frozen pineapple from Whole Foods. Maybe it’s the pineapple, but…

I don’t get it. This drink just doesn’t hit it for me.

If we all liked the same things, it would be a very boring world.

Happy New Year!

Soixante Seize

I don’t know how many variants there are on the French 75, but they all seem to take a name that involves fiddling with the number: French 75, French 74, French 76, et cetera. This weekend’s drink is no exception.

I started with the beautiful bottle of St-Germain elderflower liqueur that Jen bought me on Friday. Because we commemorate our Friday wedding every week with a tradition we call Fizzy Friday, I wanted a drink with champagne. Luckily, a French 77 was among the drinks listed in the cute little booklet that hangs from the neck of the St-Germain bottle.

French 77? 78?Created by Simon Difford, brand consultant for St-Germain and well-known drinks scribbler, the French 77 calls for a shot of St-Germain and a quarter shot of lemon juice poured into a chilled glass and topped with champagne. (Image at right by Jennifer Hess.)

This wasn’t quite what I had in mind, though, mainly because I wanted some gin. I also didn’t want to chill the glassware. Although I’ve no problem chucking cocktail glasses into the freezer, my champagne flutes are a little fragile and I’m more than a little clumsy. Filling glasses with ice water never quite gets them cold enough for my tastes.

So I decided to shake everything but the champagne. Had I just won the Super Bowl or the Mega Millions jackpot, I’d have been happy to shake the fizzy and spray it around the backyard, but such was not the case. After shaking the gin, lemon juice, and St-Germain, I lifted a sample out with a bar spoon and realized two things:

  1. This would be a tasty drink on its own.
  2. And, oh yeah, it already is a tasty drink on its own.

(Even having read Anita and Cameron’s post earlier Friday, I didn’t connect the dots until sampling the pre-fizzy form of our drink.)

Soixante Seize

  • 2 oz. gin (I used Plymouth)
  • 1 oz. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • ½ oz. St-Germain liqueur

Technique: Shake over cracked ice and fine-strain into a champagne flute. Top with champagne.

In this formulation, the St-Germain is perhaps too subtle. I mixed again with a bit more of the liqueur but didn’t take note of the proportions. Equal amounts of lemon and liqueur would work best for this, I think, especially since the lemon and elderflower meld so well.

Be sure to read Anita and Cameron’s post on Le Bourget to see their thoughts on the lemon/elderflower marriage. Also, if you’ve not seen the lovely St-Germain bottle, check their photoset for this drink.

MxMo Quatorze: Champagne

mxmo14-champagneFor this month’s Mixology Monday, I decided to try something new–the Plum Royale.

I came to this with a melange of inspiration:

  • Anita’s post on the Rosemary Five got me thinking about pairing fruit and spice in a champagne drink.
  • A day after I read her post, I had a Gin Royale at brunch and decided to riff on that.
  • Finally, Jen brought home some beautiful black plums.

Plum Royale

photograph by Jennifer Hess

So with three ingredients already in mind–gin, champagne, and plum–I had to find my spice.

In Googling around to find inspiration, I came across an article about Plymouth gin that discussed, among other things, the botanicals in Plymouth–angelica root, cardamom pods, coriander seeds, lemon peel, orange peel, orris root, and juniper berries. Hm, cardamom. Turns out that cardamom and plums are a popular pairing, so I chose to go that way.

I made up a variation on this Cardamom Lime Syrup, sans lime this time. I also made a plum puree. The puree, gin, and syrup formed the basis for the drink, which I topped with champagne.

Delicious.

Plum Royale (a.k.a. the Eve Plum)

makes two drinks

  • 4 oz. Plymouth gin
  • 2 oz. plum puree
  • 1 oz. cardamom syrup
  • Mint sprig, for garnish

Technique: Shake over ice and divide between two champagne flutes. Top with champagne and garnish with a sprig of mint. (The mint is more for presentation than for flavor, so feel free to leave it out.)

Flatiron Lounge: Red Hook Fizz

Flatiron Wedding-Melee AftermathThe day we got married, Jen and I corralled our wedding party and celebrated with drinks at Flatiron Lounge. Six months later, it’s time to celebrate, so my bride and I convened Friday evening at Flatiron for after-work drinks.

Because I leave work at 4:15 each day, I find it fun to arrive at a good bar like Flatiron or Pegu early so that I can sit grab a stool and talk to the bartender before he or she gets weeded with the after-work crowd. We’ve been back to Flatiron twice now since the wedding, and both times bartender Katie has provided our drinks service. She’s friendly, professional, and easy to talk to, so it’s fun to go in and chat a little about drinks.

I knew already that I wanted to start with a rum-based drink. I’m still learning rums. Too many experiences with badly mixed Captain Morgan drinks have turned me off the taste, I’m afraid, but I know it’s important that I rectify that if I’m to be serious about this hobby. So it’s time to develop my palate.

Luckily, Flatiron had mai-tais on its guest-mixologist menu; a classic drink for all the right reasons, a well-mixed mai tai is balanced and tasty. I know I’ve had them before, with cheap rum, poured to the point of overpowerment. Sad. But Flatiron does them right, of course, so I asked Katie what rum she used for it, and she showed me the bottle of Appleton Estate. This sparked a good conversation about rum brands, distilling methods, cane syrup vs. molasses, and so on.

I had nearly finished the mai tai when Jen arrived. I let her sample some of the remainders, and she liked it too. It’s one for the repertoire.

Jen and I worked through the menu. My second was a Singapore Sling, while Jen ordered a Gin Shagler for her first–muddled cucumber and mint, mixed with gin and topped off with Champagne. Quite tasty.

I then ordered a Negroni, but Jen stumbled her way into something interesting. I blogged earlier about going to Dressler and getting served an impromptu Seelbach. We’ve experimented a bit with the recipe at home, and Jen wanted to see how Katie would make one.

But when Jen asked, Katie said she’d never heard of it. We described the drink, but by this point, I couldn’t remember the proportions, just the ingredients. (And not even those, really–I forgot the triple sec.) So she thought for a moment and said, “Do you mind if I offer you my take on that?”

When she came back, she sat down my Negroni and a fluted drink for Jen, who took a sip and was pleased. Katie said, “That’s a Red Hook, but topped with Champagne.” Paul’s got more on the Red Hook at Cocktail Chronicles, but it’s basically a variation on the Brooklyn cocktail. Made with rye, Punt y Mes, and maraschino, the Red Hook is hard-bitten and ribald, and the champagne smooths it out without sacrificing its character. Think James Woods in a tux.

Jen liked it enough to have two.

MxMo: Apéritif

MxMo AperitifStimulate your palate with some fun apéritifs, courtesy of the fourth Mixology Monday (hosted this go-around by Jimmy Patrick of jimmy’s cocktail hour).

Jen and I wanted to try something a little different this time. Since we so often get apéritifs along with appetizers when we’re out a good restaurant, we talked about doing some food pairings. We talked for a couple of weeks about what we’d have and what we’d pair. I knew, for example, that I wanted to try Cynar (having previously only had it in Audrey Saunders’ Little Italy cocktail at Pegu Club), so we took our cues either from what I wanted to mix with or from what she was eager to cook.

I would then write up the boozy stuff for this site and MxMo, and she’d blog the foodie bits over at the food blog Gastronome. So there you go.

Now on to the pairings. (All photography by Jennifer Hess. You can view full-sized versions of these pictures, and others, in Jen’s photostream at Flickr, or you can read her writeup of the foodie stuff at Gastronome.)

First up, the Adonis cocktail with figs, stuffed with blue cheese, wrapped in serrano ham, and roasted in the toaster oven. Jen requested sherry, since it’s a classic pairing with figs and blue cheese, so I consulted my oracles to find a good sherry-based quaff. Difford’s Guide to Cocktails provided several options, and from them I chose the Adonis, a simple mix of sherry, vermouth, and orange bitters.

MxMo AperitifAdonis

  • 2 oz. dry sherry (Difford calls for Fino; we used Manzanilla)
  • 1 oz. sweet vermouth
  • 3 dashes orange bitters (I used Fee)
  • Orange twist, for garnish

Stir over ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish with an orange twist.

cynar and chokesThat’s a good drink. I was surprised by its smokiness, though. Sherry never strikes me as being smoky on its own, but somehow with the vermouth and orange bitters, the drink was smoky, like a scotch cocktail. Strange, but a nice example of the alchemy that occurs in a cocktail glass.

Our second pairing was artichoke-a-riffic: artichoke hearts topped with crabmeat and roasted in the toaster oven. The pairing for that was simple: Cynar on the rocks with a slice of lemon. We both found the Cynar a little sweet on its own, so perhaps we’ll shake it into a drink next time.

Our final pairing was another cocktail, but it requires explanation. …

The night after our cocktail party, we went to Dressler, a new restaurant in South Williamsburg, Brooklyn. We’d been to Dressler once before–on its opening night, we sat at the bar, and ate while talking drinks and barmanship with the friendly bartender. On our second visit, we had a different bartender, but he was every bit as personable as the first guy had been.

So we sat at Jim’s bar and ordered drinks and food. After pouring us each a couple of fine drinks, he started prepping something interesting. I saw bourbon and bitters and something else I didn’t quite make out. Then he did something strange. He strained that in a flute and topped it with champagne! And as Jen and I looked at each other and remarked on how intriguing that was, he set it down in front of Jen! “Try this, on the house. It’s a Seelbach, I think you’ll enjoy it.”

Jim’s a mensch, and a damn good bartender. We did indeed enjoy it, and when Jen requested it to pair with duck rillettes, I knew yet again how smart my wife really is. The smoky bourbon and the champagne cut right through the fattiness of the duck. (The rillettes, by the way, were my concoction, from duck confit that I made in early spring.)

Seelbach cocktailSeelbach Cocktail

  • 7 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 7 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
  • 1 oz. bourbon
  • ½ oz. triple sec
  • 5 oz. chilled champagne

Technique: Rinse champagne flute with both kinds of bitters. Pour out most of the bitters, leaving a small amount in the bottom of the glass. Shake bourbon and triple sec over ice, and strain into flute. Top with champagne.

(The recipes I’ve seen for this call for shaking the bitters with the bourbon and triple sec. But Jim at Dressler rinsed the glass with them, and after mixing this once at home, I see why: the bitters overwhelm the cocktail if they remain fully in the drink. Either rinse the glass or shake the bitters, but cut back on the quantity.)

Oh, and in case you were wondering, these were indeed apéritifs. Even with all that food, we still managed to eat grass-fed tenderloins and a salad for dinner, with a nice Chianti Classico.

Ap. 7: Fizzy Friday

Ganked from the Spirit World is tonight’s fizzy Friday libation:

Junipero 102

from Tempo – Brooklyn, NY

  • 2 oz Junipero gin
  • 1 oz fresh lime juice
  • 1½ tsp simple syrup
  • 2 oz chilled Moscato d’Asti

Shake first three ingredients over ice. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Top with Moscato and garnish with lime twist.

This is so appropriate: Jen loves fizzy Friday because it’s a weekly commemoration of our wedding day. What better way to celebrate than with Junipero, the gin introduced to us by the lovely Mimseys. Plus, it’s a cocktail with Brooklyn origins, and of course, it’s fizzy.

I’ll letcha know how it goes.

Meanwhile, Brenda from Spirit World mentioned in her post that Food and Wine’s Cocktails 2006 was ready for preorder. I saw it tonight at Hudson News, so we’ll have to pick up a copy soon.