Category Archives: Mixology Monday

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.

MxMo: Brown, Bitter, and Stirred

Welcome to Mixology … uh, Wednesday? Okay, I’m well behind this time, but what the hell, right? The theme this month is Brown, Bitter, and Stirred, and it’s hosted by Lindsay Johnson of Lush Life Productions. Lindsay, it turns out, has a standing order she uses when walking into a bar; it’s this month’s theme, and I think it speaks for itself.

The first thing that came to mind when I thought of this was the Boulevardier, the Negroni variant starring bourbon in gin’s place. I freakin’ love this drink. I went with Bulleit for the bourbon, Carpano Antica for the sweet vermouth, and to really be an iconoclast, Campari for the Campari. (I wasn’t the first to post about it, alas, but hey. Kevin’s a decent type of fellow; he won’t mind.)

The Boulevardier

photo by Jennifer Hess

Equal parts, in my case 1-1/2 ounces apiece because I’m a lush. Brown, bitter, stirred. That Lindsay’s pretty smart.

mXmO: Bedlam and Squalor

Nothing like a challenge, right? A week or so ago, I noticed that the May Mixology Monday theme was Tom Waits. The concept’s interesting but the thing I noticed was that there was no date for it, no deadline. This is new for MxMo, so I took to Twitter:

Next Mixology Monday is apparently about Tom Waits, but when the hell is it? Just some random Monday in May?

Just three minutes later, the father of Mixology Monday, Paul Clarke, replied:

Dude, hard liquor and Tom Waits are for EVERY Monday in May.

Now that’s a helluva challenge. I just feel bad that poor May 3 got left out of this challenge, but hey, who likes 5/3 anyway?

For tonight, I’m thinking a clip from Fernwood Tonight, a very odd program from 1977–Martin Mull, Fred Willard. Great clip, but forgive the laugh track.

Now, as it turns out, the official date is May 24, but hey. In for a penny, in for a bottle in front of me.

Here’s a bonus video, of Tom on the Mike Douglas show.

Mike Douglas: Tom, you project a very strange image. How would you describe what you do?

Tom Waits: Perhaps a little bit of a curator, a curator…. I’m an unemployed service-station attendant.

MxMo: Tom waits for no one

Here are some true damn Tom Waits facts for you:

  • Every weekday morning, too damn early, we wake up to “New Coat of Paint,” off of Heart of Saturday Night.
  • Which, by the way, was the first damn Waits album I ever owned. Bought it before some of my readers could legally drink.
  • Some nights, when it’s very late and the wife’s asleep and I’m feeling glum, I’ll grab a bottle of whiskey. I’ll pour a shot, slug it, and listen to “Martha,” off of Closing Time. Then I’ll pour another shot and do the same damn thing. I might do that now, even though I’m not glum.
  • Speaking of Closing Time, here’s something funny. Waits did a song called “Ice Cream Man.” Van Halen did a song called “Ice Cream Man.” Same damn song. Lyrically, I mean. Ever notice that?
  • When I was in grad school, I was in a coffee shop one night. Studying with the girl I was seeing; we were regulars, so the staff was familiar. The shop was playing Mule Variations, and the song “Hold On” came on. Our favorite damn barista was singing along, and when he got to, “You don’t meet nice girls in coffee shops,” he sang it to us and we all laughed. Couple weeks later, she broke up with me.
  • I know a girl with Maxwell House eyes, marmalade thighs, and scrambled yellow hair. She ain’t no damn waitress, though.

Royal Pain in the MxMo

Welcome to the latest edition of Mixology Monday. I skipped a couple of months, busy with other stuff, but I had to return for this edition–it’s the fourth anniversary of MxMo! Having been a part of this online cocktail party from the very beginning, I feel I must participate tonight–it’s a moral imperative. (Of the original MxMo gangsters–the MxMafia, if you will–it’s fun to see who else was in it from the beginning: Paul Clarke, Rick Stutz, and Darcy O’Neil.)

Tonight’s theme promises to be a toot: pain-in-the-ass drinks, hosted by Seattle bartender Mike McSorley at the blog McSology. I’m cheating a little. I’m not doing a pain-in-the-ass drink. I’m doing a DIY garnish, the humble cocktail onion. Something I wanted to do at the restaurant bar was pickle onions for our cocktails, but life happened, and I’m doing it at home instead.

My wife, Jennifer, has played a lot with pickled things at home, but I had never tried it, so I thought this was the time. Jen and I bantied about a bunch of ideas as to how to pickle our onions, but in the end I chose to go with a basic template from the Jan/Feb 2010 issue of Imbibe.

In a pickle

The first PITA was simply finding the mofo onions. Just over a week ago, when I first started thinking about this, our local grocery had fresh pearl onions. This week, none. (Yes, I could buy frozen, pre-peeled pearls, but where’s the PITA of that? Also, where’s the goddamn flavor of that?) So we simply bought the smallest onions we could find–larger than a pearl but still perfect at the bottom of a cocktail glass.

Next, PITA: peeling the mofo onions. Jen’s initial idea was that I should blanch them, so the skins would just slip right off, but then she saw a comment in Imbibe that overcooking the onions will take away their crunch. We decided to peel them the hard way.

My adaptation of Imbibe‘s recipe is as follows:

Pickled Cocktail Onions

  • 12 ounces peeled onions
  • 1/2 tsp. coriander seed
  • 1/2 tsp. juniper berries (with these onions destined for a Gibson, that just made sense)
  • 1/2 tsp. white peppercorns
  • pinch of saffron
  • zest of one medium lemon
  • 1 quart vinegar (I used a mix of white-wine vinegar and simple white vinegar, as it’s what I had on hand)
  • 3/4 quart water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. kosher salt

Assemble coriander seed, juniper berries, white peppercorns, saffron, and lemon zest into a cheesecloth sachet. Combine water, vinegar, sugar, and salt in a saucepan over low heat. Stir until salt and sugar dissolve, about five minutes. Let cool to room temperature. Add spice sachet and onions and return to heat. Bring to a boil; allow to boil for just one minute, and remove from heat. Cool to room temperature and remove onions and pickling liquid to jar(s), discarding sachet. Leave at room temperature overnight, and refrigerate (for up to two months) in the morning.

photograph © Jennifer Hess

Now, after doing all of that, I had some pickling liquid left over and didn’t want to waste it, so I also pickled some ramps. For that, prior to discarding the sachet, I cleaned the ramps, added them to the remaining pickling liquid (with the sachet in), and brought it to a boil. I then immediately turned off the heat.

Now, Imbibe‘s recipe comes from Todd Thrasher of PX in Virginia, and he seems to be going for a sweet-and-sour variety of pickle. Having tasted the results, we’re not crazy about it. Neither of us are fans of the sweet-and-sour pickle; we prefer the classic sour. What we do absolutely love about this technique, though, is the texture of the onions. Very crisp and crunchy.

Next time around, I want to lower the sugar content, increase the oomph-factor of the spices, and play with different vinegars or vinegar blends.

MxMo XLV Tea!

mxmologoXLV, XLV, hm. How does this work again? Subtract 32, divide by 9, multiply by … uh, wait, that’s not right. Oh, oh, I see. It’s 45. 45?! Geez, whodathunk. The theme this month, chosen by the boffins at Cocktail Virgin, is tea (tisanes included). Pip pip!

With a month or so to go before Cook & Brown opens, I’ve been thinking a lot about the cocktail menu. So when I’m mixing drinks at home, I often have an eye out for drinks that might play well on the menu, both immediately upon opening and also months down the road. To reiterate, the remit at Cook & Brown will be to source our ingredients locally when possible and to cook (and mix) with a seasonal focus. So if I’m going to play with tea, it should be local tea. That in mind, I returned to a farmers market vendor I’ve mentioned here before, Farmacy Herbs. A couple of their teas had promise, but for my purposes I chose the Unwind Your Mind blend, of chamomile, catnip, and lemon balm. One purpose of a good cocktail is to relieve stress and banish the worries of the day, and I thought a relaxing tea might help.

Relax and float downstream

I figured I’d add a little local honey and because they’re available right now, Meyer lemons. I shook it and topped it off with a little Q Tonic to make a refreshing twist on the ol’ Gin and Tonic. Not seasonal to dead of winter, sure, but should be lovely in the hotter months. Gotta think ahead, y’know. For the actual C&B menu, I’ll probably use the tonic from a local soda brand, Yacht Club, instead of Q. And eventually, I’d like to play with a house-made tonic.

Blackstone G & T

  • 2 oz tea-infused gin
  • 3/4 oz. Meyer lemon juice (will probably use regular lemon in summer)
  • 3/4 oz. honey syrup (equal parts honey and water heated on the stove)

Shake over ice, strain into ice-filled chimney glass. Top with tonic water.

DISCLAIMER: I am no longer a part of Cook and Brown.

MxMo XLII: You Make Me Dizzy, Miss Lizzie

mxmologoHey! It’s another edition of Mixology Monday, and having sat out August’s entry on vodka cocktails, I decided to get back in the game this month with September’s theme, Dizzy Dairy. Led by group manager Chris Amirault (who this very evening is leading a cocktail class at Providence’s La Laiterie–go Chris!), the eGullet team chose a dairy theme, interpreted broadly as anything you’d find in the dairy section of your local supermarket–milk, cream, eggs, soy milk, cheese, whey, curds, whatever.

Now, I’ve had a bottle of Kahlua Coffee Cream sitting around for a few weeks now–a sample bottle that I received for review purposes. Kahlua Coffee Cream is a limited-edition product that will soon be released for the holidays.  The bottle describes it as Kahlua’s coffee liqueur blended with cream. I could have simply built a cocktail on that cream component, but I decided that would be cheating and planned to add my own dairy-case ingredient. More on that in a bit.

So starting with the Kahlua Coffee Cream, I figured I’d be going for a dessert drink. I’m sure that wasn’t necessary, but one thing I’ve never done around here is blog about dessert cocktails. The BarSmarts guys are pretty strong in advocating that bartenders have well-made dessert beverages to serve to restaurant patrons, and who’m I to argue with those gentlemen?

Micky Ficky Flip

My final inspiration here was Papa Clarke’s article in this weekend’s Chronicle about chocolate in cocktails. The very point of his piece runs contrary to what I’m doing, I’m afraid. His object was to show that chocolate need not be ghettoized as a sweet ingredient, and of course that’s just where I’ve relegated it. Chocolate in cocktails is more new territory for me, and so I’d rather blend for sweet than savory on my first go-around.

So it goes.

A couple of ingredient notes. I decided to make this drink a flip, in part to sort of approximate the flavors of ice cream, and in part because I don’t make many flips. So of course my other dairy-case component is a whole egg. Also, I pulled this together very much at the last minute today. I wasn’t even sure what I was building until I started building it. So while the Bittermens Xocolatl Mole Bitters might have been a logical choice for this drink, I still haven’t picked up a bottle.

Micky Ficky Flip

  • 2 oz. amber rum (I used Mount Gay Eclipse)
  • 1 oz. Kahlua Coffee Cream
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon syrup
  • 2 dashes whiskey barrel bitters
  • 1 tsp. cocoa powder
  • 1 whole egg
  • ground red chipotle, for rimming the glass

Add rum, Kahlua Coffee Cream, cinnamon syrup, bitters, cocoa powder, and egg to shaker. Dry-shake without ice to blend all ingredients. Add ice to shaker and shake again. Coat half the rim of a cocktail glass with chipotle. Strain cocktail into glass.

Cinnamon Syrup

  • 1 stick canela Mexican cinnamon
  • 2/3 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup water

MxMo Ginger Is In Progress

mxmologoOnce again, it’s time for Mixology Monday. This month, Matt “Rumdood” Robold is hosting, and although the man doesn’t know dilly-oh about an Old Fashioned, he’s a helluva guy with a helluva theme: ginger. Great theme, but a bit of a problem for me.

I love ginger, but I’m a little too comfortable with it. I use Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur a lot, and I use ginger beer/ale quite often, too. I’ve even made my own ginger beer. I wanted to do something new this time, but I was stymied. Knowing my dilemma, Jen got to brainstorming — thinking about not just ginger but also what’s in season right now. “Strawberries! Why not ginger and strawberries!”

I liked it, so I Googled. I found a Persian syrup called sekanjabin (also, sekanjubin or sekanjamin). Apparently, it was originally just a sugared vinegar, but then took on mint. In its basic form, it’s a sweet-and-sour syrup with mint. Interesting that such a simple search introduced me to something new. (Given that no search on this term turns up a cocktail blog or recipe anywhere, I seem to have stumbled on to something, in my own shambling fashion.)

It’s a versatile thing: you can serve the syrup as a salad dressing. Add bread to your salad for a light meal. Or make what’s apparently a typical Persian soft drink by taking the syrup, mixing in still or sparkling water, and stirring.

Hm. Sugar, water, vinegar. Cocktail geeks have been working with shrubs and gastriques for some time, which entail fruit, sugar, water, and vinegar. Let me introduce a new member of the family, the sekanjabin. If you will, a shrub with mint.

Sort of. The sekanjabin doesn’t require fruit.  Writing in The Complete Middle East Cookbook, Tess Mallos lays out a simple recipe for sekanjabin: sugar, water, white vinegar, lemon juice, and mint.

Ginger! Where’s the ginger?!

Sekanjabin ingredients

I found an interesting variant on the basic sekanjabin, with strawberry, ginger, and mint. Inspired by that, but limited by the ingredients on hand, I made my own variation. But unfortunately, it won’t be ready until tomorrow, hence the “…Is In Progress” in the title.

I started with the All Recipes base recipe, but brought in some of Tess Mallos’s ideas and also went my own way in some spots. Again, this is versatile. I want to serve it diluted with soda from the syphon as a non-alcohol drink. I want to serve it with champagne. I want to mix it into cocktails as I would a shrub. I want to pour it on your… wait, I’m getting carried away.

Note, I’m not convinced the overnight maceration is necessary, because it tastes damn fine already. Also, although the final prep calls for straining off the fruit, Jen thinks that if you leave it in, and mix the syrup with wine, you’d have a damn good sangria. See? Versatile!

Strawberry-Ginger Sekanjabin

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup turbinado sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 6 ounces chopped strawberries
  • 1/4 cup chopped mint
  • 3 ounces sliced ginger
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sherry vinegar

In a pan, boil sugars and water over high heat until sugars are dissolved. Stir in strawberries, mint, ginger, and lemon zest and juice. Return to a boil, and then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

Remove from heat, stir in vinegars, and let cool. Store overnight at room temperature.

Strain solids from syrup using a fine strainer. Bottle it and store in the refrigerator.

MxMo: Amaro

mxmologoIt’s that time of the month again, dear readers–Mixology Monday! Our host this month is Charming Chuck Taggart, and he’s chosen the theme amaro. Now, as you might recall, I’ve covered the topic of amari before. To sum up, though, amari are bitter, herbal liqueurs, consumed primarily over ice, either before or after dinner. Jen and I first encounted this class of spirit with Campari, probably, when we first tried the classic drink, the Negroni. We’ve since branched out and tried many other amari–Cynar, Aperol, Fernet Branca, Ramazzotti, I could go on. You can say we enjoy these drinks, both alone and mixed into cocktails.

Since we like amari so well, we try to seek out new ones when we can afford them. (Some weeks, we can barely afford wine or gin, let alone esoteric liqueurs.) We happened to be in the Italian section of Providence, Federal Hill, on Saturday, and stopped in at Gasbarro’s Wines and Spirits. The boys at Gasbarro’s had several amari we haven’t yet tried, including Fernet Branca’s minty sibling, Fernet Branca Menta.

I selected a slender and elegant bottle of Inga Amaro Mio. I haven’t found a lot of information about this product, so I’ll just share with you my impression. I’d say this is a pretty good gateway amaro. First, the price is right–Gasbarro’s wanted $12.99 for a 375-ml bottle. Trust me, a little of this stuff lasts a long time, so a smaller bottle is a great place to start. Second, it’s tasty. It’s not as bitter as many amari, so it’s not as challenging at first sip. It’s still not freaking Mtn. Dew, but it’s no Campari, either. Third, the bottle is gently curvy; it would make a sexy addition to your bar, and let’s face it–we all want our home bars to look sophisticated.

One more thing before I get to the recipe. Now that we’re entering into peak produce season, I’m challenging myself to really use our farmers’ markets as a resource for making cocktails. And I want to go beyond the basics of berries, stone fruit, and tomatoes that you might automatically think of when you consider fresh produce in drinks. So this weekend, we stopped by the table of Farmacy Herbs. Mary, the herbalist, always has a collection of dried herbs and tinctures (which I want to eventually tinker with for bitters), but on this particular morning, she also had two fresh herbs–lemon balm and anise hyssop. For this drink, I wanted the delicate flavors of the lemon balm.

Bitter Wood Cocktail

This cocktail is adapted from one version of the Blackthorn cocktail–in this case, gin, sloe gin, and vermouth. (There are at least two other drinks with this name, both of which are somewhat different formulations, but that’s a topic for another post.) I kept the gin and the sloe, but ditched the vermouth. I dub this drink the Bitter Wood, to play off the Blackthorn name and to celebrate the pungency of the amaro.

Bitter Wood Cocktail

  • 1 oz. Bluecoat gin
  • 1 oz. Plymouth sloe gin
  • 1/2 oz. Amaro Mio
  • 1 sprig lemon balm, for muddling
  • 1 leaf lemon balm, for garnish if desired

Technique: Measure liquid ingredients into mixing glass. Add lemon balm sprig. Muddle gently. (Lemon balm is in the mint family, and as with mint, if you over-muddle it, you’ll release unpleasant compounds into your cocktail.) Add ice and stir. Strain into a cocktail glass and add garnish, if using.