• Weekly Cocktail #61: The Putney Farm Mint Julep

    julep7Well, it has been a while since our last weekly cocktail post. But the weeks keep coming, so we may as well get things restarted. After all, spring is the season of renewal. And we have just the drink to re-kick things off, our own version of a true classic, the Mint Julep.

    julepSadly (and frankly) way too many Mint Juleps suck. Yes, we said it, and we mean it. S.U.C.K. And those are strong words here at the farm, but all too true for this drink. Most Juleps are just fussy, boozy and minty. Some use bad bourbon or even fake mint (ack!). Or worse, feature flecks of mint all over the drink…and in your teeth. And many hide a bad drink in silly frosted silver cups with crushed ice and a straw. Ugh.

    julep2But, very happily, a return to the basics is all the Julep needs to return to greatness. The key step is to look at history and realize that the Julep is simply a forerunner of the basic cocktail. The first cocktail was just spirits, bitters, sugar (unrefined, but we will get to that later) and water. A good Julep is almost the same recipe, but with mint substituting for the bitters…..Hmmm….

    julep3So let’s start with the Bourbon. We recently fell in love with Four Roses Yellow Label for cocktails (and their premium Bourbons for sipping) and suggest you use it for an excellent Julep. First, the Yellow Label has a mash bill with a good slug of rye, so you get the expected oak and toffee notes, but with some real spice and a very clean finish. Good stuff. Second, the Yellow Label is about $20, one of the best values on the shelf.

    julep4On to sugar. This is easy. When the Julep was invented there was no such thing as refined sugar. We use a rich simple syrup of turbinado or muscovado sugar. These “raw” sugars add deep, smooth molasses notes to the drink that take the heat from the alcohol. Much better than plain white sugar.

    julep5 Continue reading

  • Mixology Monday LXXXIII Cocktail: Winter’s Last Gasp

    winter2It’s time for another Mixology Monday! Well, actually we are a week early. But it is St. Patrick’s Day, so may as well do a cocktail post. To be honest, we are not big fans of “drinking holidays” (we don’t need excuses to enjoy a fine cocktail). But when in Rome…uh…or Dublin…hmm…whatever. In any event, here is the theme from Craig at the excellent “A World of Drinks” blog (and thanks for Fred at Cocktail Virgin Slut for keeping the party going):

    mxmologoFor this month’s challenge I would like to take us back to the humble beginnings of the cocktail bar, the days when bartenders didn’t have the luxury of daily deliveries of ingredients from around the world. In these times bartenders would have been uncertain when they would again have the privilege to work with special ingredients so would naturally try to make the most of them… Such methods of preservation such as syrups and preserves have been staple ingredients behind the bar ever since, while others such as shrubs and sherbets were relatively short lived. The aim of the challenge is to go back to the days of the preserve, pick an ingredient, seasonal or not and treat it as if you won’t be seeing it again for quite some time. Syrups, sorbets, jam, shrubs and the like are all fair game, anything that will preserve the integral character of your favourite ingredient.

    winter5Seeing as how we are here on our “farm” and we make our own jams and preserves, this is a theme right up our alley. Right now we have apricot, strawberry and fig preserves from last year to work with. All are tasty and would mix well, but it was another project that guided us.

    winter3winter4Over the holidays, we got a small barrel for aging spirits and cocktails. The instructions said to start with “aging you own bourbon to season the barrel”, which really means aging some “white dog” (moonshine or un-aged corn whiskey) for a couple of months. So it has been a couple of months and what we have is something “bourbon-like”, with a light brown color and some vanilla and caramel notes, but lacking in any integration, sweetness or spice. Fun, but not necessarily good.

    winter6winter7But our immediate thought was if we added some sweet fig jam to our “bourbon” we might be onto something. And we were right, the overt sweetness, spice and slightly oxidized notes of the figs really smoothed out the edges. After that we played with bitters and decided to use the “Bitter Frost” Basement Bitters from Tuthilltown, the suppliers of our aging barrel. These bitters use aged rye whiskey as a base along with sarsaparilla, maple and spices. This added some needed depth of flavor and complexity. Better. Continue reading

  • Mixology Monday LXXXII: The Hanalei Sour

    sour5Mixology Monday time again! And not a moment too soon. We were getting a bit one-dimensional with our cocktails here at the farm (playing with Old Fashioned variants mostly), so it is always good to get the creative juices flowing (pouring?). Here is the theme from the excellent Ginhound Blog (they took the name before we could):

    mxmologoSome of the most iconic cocktails are Sours… There is a reason for this: A perfectly balanced sour is a work of art. What has happened to the Margarita shows exactly what is at stake when mixes replace bartender skill. For this month’s MxMo I suggest that we test the sour to the limit: Are there citrus besides lemon, lime and grapefruit that works in a Sour? Is citrus the only possible souring ingredient? Could vinegar or other tart fruits or vegetables be used? Let’s also include the Daisies and the Fizzes – that widens the playing field with eggs and whatever makes you fizz to play with. Let’s play with the garnish – or just take Jerry Thomas’s advice from The Bon Vivant’s Companion: In mixing sours be careful and put the lemon skin in the glass.

    Ah, sours, one of our favorite types of cocktail. And just like last month’s theme of Highballs, it is a good reminder that there are only a few “families” of basic cocktails and that most creations are just riffs on a common core. So with this in mind, we got to work.

    sourThe cool thing about a sour is the basic construct is so easy: spirits, sour and sweet. The hard thing is making them all play nice together. Too much of any ingredient can make a sour into a mess. And while we are not big fans of the term “balanced”, it is the right term for a good sour. The sour brightens your palate, the spirits give some kick and the sweet smooths the flavor. Alchemy.

    sour1sour8Now we just needed some inspiration. In our case, since some of the crew are in Kauai (with a much smaller bar to work with), we chose to use local ingredients as our core. And in Hawaii that means sugar and pineapple, at one time both were the primary crops of the islands. We also have a bounty of local citrus (Tahitian and Calamondin limes) and local rum, Koloa from here in Kauai (good stuff). We also got some local coconut flavored sugar…hmmm. Time to make a local daiquiri variant….that may delve into the realm of tiki. But both daiquiris and tiki drinks tend to be sours, so when in Kauai……

    sour3The Hanalei Sour combines fresh muddled pineapple, lime juice, coconut sugar (or just superfine sugar), Koloa Gold Rum and Tiki Bitters (Angostura in a pinch). We also garnish with fresh pineapple, lime, rim the glass with the coconut sugar (vanilla sugar would also do well here) and add some bitters to the foam on top of the drink. Is this really a sour? Or more tiki? Not sure. But we are sure it tastes good.

    sour4 Continue reading

  • Mixology Monday LXXXI Cocktail: The Other Anejo Highball

    anejoMixology Monday is back again. And not a moment to soon. We have some resolutions that need breaking….(who are we kidding, they are long gone). Anyway, here is the theme from the excellent food, booze and cigar blog Southern Ash:

    mxmologoHighball – n. 1. a long iced drink consisting of a spirit base with water, soda water, etc. -Collins English Dictionary Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition…  For this month’s theme, I thought we could strip away the complexities of cocktails and relax with a nice highball… Most cocktails are at least three ingredients with the highball relegated to emergency or last resort status, but in those highballs we will seek refuge. The end of the day is sometimes better served by a simple liquor plus mixer combination than an artfully measured Corpse Reviver No. 2 This month, tell us what you’ll do with a liquor and a mixer (with maybe a wee bit of garnish) to ease into the new year.

    anejo3Ah, highballs. Not only are highballs easy to make (a good thing after all the holiday festivities), but they are a favorite here at the farm. The Florodora is a favorite (our house punch is a variation), the Diablo is another welcome sip and we have a love affair with Gin and Tonics. This was going to be fun, and we knew just where to go- a Buck.

    anejo4Bucks are a variety of highball using spirits and ginger ale or ginger beer as the mixer, you can add juices, sweeteners, liqueurs and/or bitters as well. My sister Tina introduced us to Gin Bucks years ago and we have played with Bucks ever since (the Folordora and Diablo are Buck variants). Might as well keep playing…

    anejo2After a little research we found Dale DeGroff’s famous Anejo Highball, a combination of anejo (aged) rum, Curaçao, lime juice, ginger beer and bitters with a citrus garnish. Good stuff, but it got us thinking that we should use the “other” anejo, tequila. Tequila plays well with ginger, so this wasn’t much of a stretch. And after a few trials, we got something we like.

    anejo1The Other Anejo Highball combines anejo tequila, lime juice, agave nectar, ginger ale and orange bitters garnished with lime and orange wheels. We went with ginger ale for cleaner flavor. And let’s face it- ginger beer gets funky sometimes, great with a vodka-based Moscow Mule, not so great with aged tequila. We also went to orange bitters and agave to keep the tequila from fighting with heavier Curaçao.

    What did we get? Basically, the Other Anejo Highball tastes like a sparking ginger margarita made with really good tequila. That works for us, plus it’s easy to make. And while we usually save anejo tequila for sipping, the extra depth and richness of the anejo does shine though. Worth a try, and certainly worth the effort. Continue reading

  • Mixology Monday LXXX Cocktail: The Royal Sazerac

    The Royal Sazerac cocktail.

    The Royal Sazerac cocktail.

    Yes, it’s Tuesday. But it was Mixology Monday, and we did make a cocktail. Let’s hope Nick at the Straight Up blog (worth a regular visit, btw) will show some Christmas spirit and let us in late. As it is, here is the summary for this month’s theme, Anise:

    mxmologoWhile I had a few ideas I’ve been kicking around for this months theme, including some more holidayesque thoughts, I ultimately decided on one of my favorite flavors: anise. Although great any time of year, there is something about colder weather and the holidays that really sets my anise fetish into overdrive. While past MxMos have seen a few specific sources of anise, such as pastis and absinthe, I wanted to open things up to anything anise flavored, the more unique the better. Most folks have something with anise notes laying around, whether it’s absinthe or pastis, ouzo, Genepe, even Green Chartreuse, Peychaud’s, Raki, etc. Maybe get creative and make something tasty with some star anise, like a syrup, infusion or tincture.  Show us that riff on a Sazerac or Improved Holland Gin Cocktail that you love, or create something entirely new.

    Cool theme, and one we were quite happy to play with. As it turns out, there are plenty of ways to use anise flavor in cocktails. As a lead element, anise means licorice and herbal flavors. But as many home bartenders know, an extra dash of anise flavor is often used to supply that “I know not what” of extra complexity and depth to many famous drinks. From pre-prohibition cocktails to tiki drinks, you will find anise (usually in the form of absinthe or pastis) in dozens of drinks where you might not expect it.

    saz2saz3We started this MxMo with the intent of experimenting and putting anise in the lead of a new cocktail. And we did have a nice gin, lime, fennel, tarragon, Chartreuse, absinthe and sugar thing going. That drink will eventually make the blog, but we got sidetracked.

    saz4 Continue reading

  • A Gift Guide For The Home Cocktail Enthusiast

    danger9So let’s say you have a friend or family member who is into mixing cocktails. And let’s go a bit further and say they are worthy of a gift. What should you get them? Well, we guess you could get them a bottle of their favorite booze. But since it is their favorite booze they probably have it already. And, truth be told, making drinks doesn’t require much fancy gear.

    Nope, what we suggest here at the Farm is a bit of creative thinking and perhaps giving cocktail gifts that will last. Cocktail gifts that inspire. Cocktail gifts with some “legs”. Gifts that might lead to better drinks…and perhaps even a few more of them. Yup, that’s what we’re talking about. And here are a few suggestions:

    Really Good Vermouth:

    What? Vermouth? The stuff that’s been sitting on the shelf for years for when aunt Edna comes by and wants a Manhattan? Or the bottle you glance at while making a dry Martini? Yes, that stuff. But it can be so much better.

    It turns out that there is some delicious vermouth out there. Vermouth you can happily drink on its own, but also makes for delightful cocktails. (And, by the way, you need to keep vermouth in the fridge after you open it- that’s why that old stuff tastes so bad). Try a few classic cocktails with good, fresh vermouth and you will stop asking for super-dry Martinis and you may rediscover the glory of a good Manhattan.

    So what to buy? There are a lot of choices, but for sweet vermouth we suggest a bottle of Carpano Antica. This is the “grandaddy” of sweet vermouth and it packs a lot of big flavors. Carpano ain’t cheap, but it is good. It also comes in half bottles that are less expensive and fit better in the fridge. The bottle is quite beautiful and will “wow” anyone who is lucky enough to get Carpano as a gift.

    Carpano Antica Bottle-Low-ResOther good sweet vermouth include Cocchi Vermouth di Torino and Dolin. If we got either as gifts we would be very happy.

    vermouth-dolin-dryWhat about dry vermouth? There are a number of good, affordable options, but we suggest a bottle of Dolin Dry vermouth. This stuff simply rocks. Dolin will make for a great Martini, but also adds herbal depth and bittersweet notes to classics like the Scofflaw. And Dolin also happens to come in nifty half bottles. Heck, you could even give a combo pack of Carpano Antica and Dolin Dry to that special someone. Excellent.

    Continue reading