Thursday, July 28, 2011

Complex or Muddled: The Hotel Haute-Savoie Cocktail

One of the things that I like about cocktails is dissecting how the different ingredients come together and interact.  To do this you have to be able to discern the various flavors.  This is not, however, always possible.  Take for instance the Long Island Iced Tea.  Though recipes differ, the Long Island usually has 8 ingredients.  I at least cannot differentiate each of the ingredients.  A couple stand out but for the most part it does not taste like eight ingredients, it taste like a Long Island Iced Tea.

This raises the question of the value a drink where the combination is so muddled to the point where some or all of the ingredients no longer stand out.  As mentioned above, I like to see their interactions.  On the other hand, if something taste good (and I'm not saying the Long Island does) its flavor should be able to stand on its own - regardless of its components.  This is the case with a drink that I recently made, the Hotel Haute-Svoie.

2 ounces of rhy
1 ounce of elderflower liqueur
1/2 ounce of dry vermouth
1 teaspoon of absinthe
1 dash of angostura bitters
1 dash of orange bitters

Stir ingredients and pour into a chilled cocktail glass.

As mentioned above, the ingredients really meshed.  I could taste the rhy initially and very faintly in the swallow.  The absinthe primarily showed in the swallow and the aftertaste.  I couldn't pull out the vermouth or bitters at all.  Most surprisingly, I could hardly, if at all, taste the St. Germain.  I was worried that it would overwhelm the drink, both in flavor and sweetness, but this simply was not the case.  The drink came off pretty balanced and very fragrant with the absinthe and the elderflower giving it a very distinct nose.  The bitters, vermouth, and rhy all balanced it out.  The overall flavor is hard to describe without deconstructing, but it worked, and in the end I think that's what matters.  This is a cocktail that I'll no doubt make again.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Adventures with Pimm's: South of Wimbledon Cocktail

This being a remarkably hot stretch in DC, I have found myself (and company) wanting cocktails on the light and refreshing side.  Thus, I have revisited Pimm's.  However, I was looking for something a bit punchier than a standard Pimm's Cup and perhaps a bit more complex.  I have found tequila to work well with herbal/savory drinks so with that in mind I designed the Cocktail, South of Wimbledon.

1 ounce of blanco tequila
1 ounce of Pimm's
.5 ounce of lemon juice
3 ounces of ginger ale


Shake tequila, Pimm's, and lemon juice and strain into a tall glass with ice.  Top with ginger ale and garnish with a cucumber spear and lemon peal.


The South of Wimbledon Cocktail turned out very nice.  Two days after first making one, my wife requested one of her own, always a good sign.  I also gave it to a few guests at a small gathering we had and everyone seemed to enjoy it.  As for the flavor, this is a drink lacking a dominant flavor, though the lemon probably cuts through more than anything else.  The Pimm's adds sweetness but not so much as to overwhelm the other flavors.  I thought that the tequila and the cucumber made for a nice background for the drink.  I think that this is very much a warm weather beverage and a pretty light one at that.  Even though it wasn't too sweet, the sugar in the ginger ale and Pimm's combined with the relatively low alcohol content was such such that I don't think this is a particularly good vehicle towards a serious buzz but rather a way to cool off with something interesting.  It was a fair amount of work to put together with the pealing of a cucumber and the juicing of the lemon, but made in bulk, it was manageable.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

It's All About the Proportions: The Chrysanthemum Cocktail

Some cocktails are like burgers.  A burger is good if it's a little raw or a little overcooked.  It's a forgiving food.  I might put a daiquiri in this boat with respect to sensitivity, though for booze and not heat.  A little too much rum or lime won't kill the drink.  Conversely, other cocktails are like certain seafood, such as scallops, where too little cooking makes it raw and both unpalatable and unsafe.  Too much time on the skillet and it becomes a rubbery mess.  Certain cocktails share this precariousness, chief among them, cocktails with very potent spirits.  The precise amount of absinthe, Chartreuse, or elderflower liqueur will make or break many drinks.  This was the case with the Chrysanthemum Cocktail. This cocktail is a particularly good example because of the wide range of Benedictine, a very potent and sweet liqueur, in it that I saw in various recipes for the drink.

2 ounces of dry vermouth (Dollin)
1 ounce of Benedictine
1 teaspoon of absinthe (Leopold Bros.)

Shake ingredients with ice and garnish with an orange peel.

I almost really liked this drink.  I thought the flavor interplay between the absinthe was interesting and the orange peel cut though it nicely.  However, there was simply too much Benedictine for my taste or for that of my wife who though the cocktail was syrupy to the point of borderline disgusting.  Benedictine, in addition to being sweet, is quite syrupy.  The recipes that I saw ranged from 0.25 to 1.25 ounces of the stuff, with most at the one once mark.  I look forward to trying this again with a bit less, perhaps 0.25.  I'll make note here of my results.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Mixology Monday: The Wind-Up Bird

When I read this month's Mixology Monday, hosted by Frederic at Cocktail Virgin Slut, I was a bit trepidatious.  I've ordered a number of beer cocktails over the years but made scant few.  Most fall into one of two camps.  Some play off the velvet texture and chocolate notes of stouts.  Others center on the citrus elements of wheat beer.  This being summer in D.C., I opted for the latter.  My beer of choice was a Napa Smith Brewery's wheat beer.  I've named the drink the Wind-Up Bird Cocktail.

6 ounces of wheat beer (Napa Smith Brewery)
0.75 ounce of sloe gin (Plymouth)
0.5 ounce of scotch (Chivas Regal)
0.75 ounce of fresh white grapefruit juice 

Strain grapefruit juice into a glass.  Add the sloe gin, scotch, and beer and garnish with a grapefruit peal.

The Wind-Up Bird proved well balanced, featuring no dominant flavor but instead a coherent blend of several.  The taste of the beer comes out first and throughout, but largely yields to the interplay between the sweetness of the sloe gin and the tartness of the grapefruit juice.  The scotch probably shows the least, but the smokey flavor informs the swallow.  I was curious whether the drink would be too sweet or now, but it turned out to be balanced in that department as well.  All in all, this is a very refreshing summer drink and one that I'm eager to make again for myself or guests.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Summer in the City: the Philly Sling Cocktail

On this hot summer evening I wanted to make something a little refreshing - and perhaps a break from the heavy cocktails that I've been making of late.  Reading through a couple of books, I came upon the Philly Sling, created by bartender Derek Brown.  It appeared to have some refreshing qualities as well as a bit of complexity.  As a bonus, I suspected my wife would like it, as it includes applejack and sloe gin.  The one hangup that I briefly considered is that it looks and tastes like a chick drink, though it has a fairly high booze quotient. At home that is no barrier, though at a bar perhaps some people would go for something manlier.

1.5 ounces of applejack
1 ounce of sloe gin
0.75 ounce of lemon juice
0.25 ounce of simple syrup
2 dashes of Angostura bitters

Shake ingredients with ice and pour into a chilled cocktail glass.

Taste (flavor, balance, and clarity): 7.5
This was an interesting drink.  In stark contrast to the Monkey Gland Cocktail, it did not prominently feature a single ingredient.  Rather, it produced a fairly mellow, if a bit sweet swirl of flavors.  The applejack and sloe gin - somewhat similar in my book in terms of strength of alcoholic and flavor and the degree of sweetness paired off, with the lemon and the bitters cutting the sweetness.  I'm not sure if the simple syrup was necessary for balance but perhaps it was good to dampen the drink a bit. All in all, quite pleasant and easy to consume.

Versatility (when and for whom the drink works): 8
I think that the Philly Sling works in a number of settings.  It's complex enough to sip and juicy enough to casually imbibe at a party or crowed bar (though the color indicates a chick drink).  That fact notwithstanding, I think a lot of folks would enjoy it, perhaps excepting those with very little tolerance for cocktails that are a bit on the sweeter side.

Hassle (Cost and Time):6
The Philly Sling is some work to make.  In addition to juicing a lemon, it requires simple syrup, which I had made recently.  As for cost, its moderately expensive, as real sloe gin isn't cheap.

Overall:  7.5
The Philly Sling is a quality cocktail that I will make again, especially for company when they don't want something too daunting.  It had a balanced, if slightly sweet flavor profile and was pretty refreshing.

Possible Modifications
I might omit the simple syrup next time.  I'm not sure if it really accomplished much.  I also might try using lemon bitters instead of angostura. 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Singular Taste: The Monkey Gland Cocktail

To kick off a new bottle of absinthe (Leopold Brothers) I decided to go for a classic cocktail.  I leafed through Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails and came upon an interesting drink called the Monkey Gland Cocktail.  It looked to be a distant cousin of the Bronx Cocktail, both being based on gin and orange juice, but where the Bronx Cocktail uses dry and sweet vermouth, the Monkey Gland employed grenadine and absinthe.

1.5 ounces of gin
1.5 ounces of orange juice
1 teaspoon of grenadine
1 teaspoon of absinthe

Looking at the ingredients, it appears to be a pretty balanced cocktail featuring dueling tastes.  This is not the case, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing.  The absinthe cuts through everything else.  The orange juice and gin provide background and cut the absinthe, while the grenadine adds a bit a sweetness.  The star is certainly the absinthe, though the aftertaste doesn't linger too harshly.  Absinthe, much like Chartreuse, rarely plays a supporting roll and instead presents as the featured flavor.  All in all, this drink was enjoyable - a complex sipper.  How much trouble it is to make depends on whether you use homemade grenadine and orange juice or go for the store-bought.  I'm not sure whether this cocktail would go over well with everyone, but I certainly enjoyed it.