Ginger Pilot

mxmologoSpring Break is the theme of this month’s Mixology Monday challenge (wrap-up post), hosted by Southern Ash. I’ve been thinking more about tiki-style drinks lately, and this seemed like a good excuse for some experimentation. Also a good excuse to pick up some falernum. I should really have gotten some of this ages ago; add seltzer and it’s basically instant ginger beer. Which means I don’t have to stock ginger beer to have a Dark and Stormy. Which is dangerous.

Ginger PilotFor this challenge, I took inspiration from the Jet Pilot cocktail, which is a personal favorite of mine, though I usually don’t make things quite that complicated at home. Rather than adjust the spices too much, I decided to play with the mix of spirits at the center and bring in some other warm-weather favorites. I used a mix of golden Cachaça and silver mezcal alongside the usual 151 and I must say that it turned out very well!

1 oz    gold cachaça (Diva)
0.75 oz silver mezcal (Mina Real)
0.75 oz 151° rum (Cruzan)
0.5 oz  lime juice
0.5 oz  grapefruit juice
0.5 oz  cinnamon syrup
0.5 oz  falernum syrup (BG Reynolds)
6 dash  orange bittters (Scrappy's)
Shake well and strain over (crushed) ice
Garnish with grapefruit peel

This came together really, really well, if I do say so myself. The combination of boozy, citrusy, sweet, and spicy was remarkably balanced. This one goes down very easily, so while I garnished with a straw for the photo, I don’t recommend consuming it that way unless you actually use crushed ice. The ginger bite from the falernum is still clear even with all the other ingredients involved, so be careful not to have too heavy a hand there. The mezcal I used isn’t particularly smoky, so didn’t shift the character as much as some others would, but definitely added to the overall complexity. I considered adding a few drops of Pernod, as in a standard Jet Pilot, but couldn’t really imagine anise helping things here, so didn’t actually do so—if any of you try it, let me know how it goes!

Tiki Log Cabin

Tiki Log CabinMy housemate has a lot of tea. One of our first purchases was an electric kettle with enough temperature selection buttons to support our respective oolong drinking habits. I had decided to make us drinks on this frigid-for-SoCal Thanksgiving Eve, and so I was rummaging through the box of tea for inspiration. I found one that smelled like fancy cinnamon-apple granola, and a star was born.

When asked to devise a name for the drink, my housemate spoke of log cabins and flannel. We talked about gender identity and cocktails. Is this a [insert mysogyny here] martini variant, or a humble tiki aspirant? Is flannel for treehuggers, lumberjacks, or lesbians? Is this log cabin in Portland, OR or Portland, ME? Do we live for the briny sea or the greenest of trees?

This drink is alarmingly smooth. The nose is inviting; the flavors are complex. Each sip warms and bolsters. (It ought to make a good toddy if one subs the fresh lime for a splash of Grand Marnier.) To get a sense of where this vodka infusion gets its tiki aspirations, consider that the tisane is labelled “for almond lovers” (evoking orgeat), and also contains cinnamon.

/Makes 2 drinks/
 1.5 tsp David's Tea Forever Nuts
 0.5 tsp black tea (David's Tea English Breakfast)
 4 oz vodka
 1 oz maple syrup
 1 oz fresh lime juice

Infuse the teas in the vodka, stirring occasionally, while preparing other ingredients in a shaker. Ten minutes is plenty. Combine, shake with ice, and strain.

Guest Post: Greedy

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This was inspired by the lovely gift, from Matt, of a book devoted to crazy Negroni variants. I wanted a Negroni. But I also wanted something fruity and complex. So I got greedy and tried to do too many things at once. But the Negroni forgives. The Negroni says, “Listen child, it’s okay to be ambitious, to express nuanced opinions on hot topics, to describe dreams of the future that don’t make any sense yet. But when you’ve gone overboard, you gotta learn how to fix it.”

1.25 oz gin
1.25 oz Campari
0.75 oz sweet vermouth
0.25 oz orange liqueur (Cointreau)
0.25 oz blackberry liqueur
0.5     lime (juice it, then drop in as garnish)
4 drops Jerry Thomas Decanter Bitters (Bitter Truth)

Shake with ice
Adjust the proportions til you don't feel the imbalance of greed
Stir with more ice

This drink started off with only 1 ounce each of gin & Campari. That might have worked with better ingredients (especially the blackberry and the sweet vermouth), but I found the result too medicinal. So, I’d say: go nuts with adding wacky tasty things—get all greedy—and then fix it with small portions of 1:1 gin and Campari (or use the standard 1:1:1 ratio if you like your sweet vermouth).

I like the bitterness that develops from dropping in the used half-lime rind, as if it’s a Moscow mule. Meanwhile, the colors remind me of Raspberry Lime Rickeys on Boston’s hot summer days. Though, I suspect the blackberry flavor is complicit in that memory as well.

Fernet’s Last Theorem

Fernet's Last Theorem, flanked by previous attempts at theorems

My friend Ash came up with a bad math pun involving Fernet and Fermat. A drink had to be made and a Last Word variant seemed like a good choice. Finally after months of talking about the bad idea over drinks, we got down to actually mixing up some possibilities. We considered replacing the gin with bourbon and even cachaça, replacing the lime with lemon, and even excluding the Chartreuse altogether. On our 5th try, we settled on something close to the original, but worthy of the name.

0.75 oz  Fernet (Branca)
0.75 oz  gin (New Amsterdam)
0.75 oz  Maraschino
0.75 oz  lime Juice
0.375 oz Green Chartreuse

One thing that became clear in testing is that the Chartreuse was necessary to tame the bite of the Fernet a bit and get it to play well with the rest of the drink. The lime juice also helped settle it, the bite from the lemon juice and the bite from the Fernet were too much and fought one another—in your mouth. The lime and Chartreuse combo work with the Fernet and not against it. The New Amsterdam is nicely inoffensive and mixes well, but the bourbon and cachaça masked the Fernet.

The drink starts off bright and then mellows with some sweetness and then ends with a lime/mint aftertaste that is not overpowering. It’s refreshing and sour, but surprisingly balanced. Also, it doesn’t come off at all medicinal (save a bit in the aftertaste), which is surprising given the amount of herbal here. A Last Word variant I’ll definitely make again!

Ultima Palabra

Ultima Palabra

I am a big fan of herbal cocktails and sours, so it’s not a big surprise that I enjoy the Last Word (equal parts gin, Chartreuse, Maraschino, and lime juice). Happily, its simple formula is quite amenable to variations. My favorite of these is the Ultima Palabra, which swaps out the gin for a smoky mezcal.

0.75 oz mezcal (Vida)
0.75 oz Green Chartreuse
0.75 oz Maraschino
0.75 oz lime juice

Shake and strain

This drink really covers a lot of bases. It starts off sour, moves through sweet, and ends with bitter that lingers. It’s satisfying enough to drink slowly, but the sour pucker makes me want to keep drinking—am impressive feat given its potency. It’s not the sort of cocktail that I’d normally refer to as “balanced” (it’s certainly not smooth), but the assertive parts all play off one another so well that a balance is achieved.

Guest Post: Combining the Margarita and the Negroni

My 2 favorite classic drinks are margaritas and negronis. They’re what I order when I wish to avoid disappointment, and they’re what I make when I’m feeling lazy.

Now that I’m far from my beloved bar at Something Completely Different, I can’t make my preferred negroni—Chef Elizabeth Faulkner’s extra bitter version, which swaps Punt e Mes for sweet vermouth—ideally with lime-infused gin. Seriously, my life will change when I get a bottle of Punt e Mes; I’ll drink a lot less beer. In the meantime, I’ve made a lot of margaritas.

1.5  oz blanco tequila (tres agaves)
0.33 oz orange liqueur (cointreau)
0.5  oz campari
0.5  oz fresh lime juice
a glug of honey (1 barsp--1 tsp, to taste)

shake with ice.

I was playing with a margarita tonight, and managed to create a drink that would satisfy my (doctored) negroni cravings! I subbed Campari for some of the orange liqueur. And, recalling the unbelievable synergy of honey notes with the campari + fresh lime system[1], I threw in a half-hearted glug of honey. Yeah, it’s a great grapefruity margarita, with some extra earthiness from the Campari. But it reminds me of the best parts of my preferred negroni: intense lime-grapefruit bitterness, with a clear, summery base spirit[2]. The honey (I’m using Trader Joe’s Mesquite) is warm and spicy, with the “grade-B” attitude of Punt e Mes. I stirred it in with my finger[3], so it’s isn’t well-dissolved enough to contribute too much sugar; rather, it adds the vividness I was looking for. And, at the risk of sounding silly, I’ll say that the limes matter!

The limes I get here are deeply bitter, almost acrid in the cleaning-product sense. Compare that to the floral sparkle of a wedge that you get with a bowl of phở in Boston’s Chinatown; turns out that much of what I love in a collins or a daquiri is that miraculous lime oil. But the juice of these limes carries the earthy bitterness of the aged, lime-zest-infused gins that I like in negronis. So it’s a different facet of lime that’s shining here.

When I do find a damned bottle of Punt e Mes, I will make a negroni that tastes like my favorite margarita[4].

[1] See the beginning of the article at http://bostonapothecary.com/an-amazing-mead-based-shrub-cheater/. Obviously that’s mead, not honey, and they’re talking about how acid from the lime elevates the mead to a thing of beauty. But the point is that honey is a flavor, not just an overbearing sweetener that isn’t always appropriate.

[2] That’s the blanco talking. Of course, negronis are supposed to be more complex… so a reposado would also do well, inasmuch as it mimics the warm wintry/spicy aspects of the vermouth/amaro. Relatedly, I could see swirling in 0.33–0.5 oz quina-quina to replace the same amount of tequila.

[3] Oh, I do have a shaker. I’m just laaaaaaazy, and I need to leave the ice in since I have to be up in 7 hours.

[4] Which uses lapsang-infused reposado. Or a bad-ass smoky mezcal.

Gin & Tonic

Gin & Tonic

A warm weather classic and one of the safest things to order a wedding reception (experts* agree that the Jack and Coke is perhaps the most durable choice at the wedding, hotel, or airplane). That said, it’s kind of annoying to keep tonic water at home unless you’re having a party or drinking it every day. You could keep small bottles of tonic on hand, but unless they’re precisely the amount you want, there’s still like 2 oz of left over tonic water—that’s the sort of thing that makes me twitchier than it really useful.

Thus, it was revolutionary for me when I discovered tonic syrup. Tonic is just a soda and, like all soda, is easiest to store and tastiest to drink when the syrup and the soda water is kept separately and combined à la minute. Sure the contents of a seltzer bottle don’t always line up with my cocktail needs, but I’m much happier to just drink the rest by itself or use it for some other warm-weather cocktail. I’ve tried both Tomr’s and Jack Rudy and would happily recommend both.

2 oz gin (New Amsterdam)
1 oz tonic syrup (Jack Rudy)
4 oz seltzer

Stir gin, syrup, and ice in a collins glass
Add seltzer to cover and stir gently to combine
Garnish with a lime wheel (or wedge)

* my drinking companions last time this subject came up