• Mixology Monday XCVIII Cocktail: Wunderlich Park

    ginYes it’s Tuesday, but we drank this on Monday and we are hosting Mixology Monday this month so we get a little slack. Besides, a good drink is worth waiting for….who needs to be on time? Anyway, here is a quick reminder of the theme:mxmologo

    One of the best recent developments in the world of cocktails and spirits is the reemergence of regional, craft distillers. And we say “reemergence” because 100+ years ago, before the twin scourges of Prohibition and virtual monopolization “industrialization,” distilling was often a truly local endeavor. Not so long ago, if you wanted some booze, it was often made in your neighborhood and for the tastes of the locals. Sadly, for a few generations, that wasn’t the case… But, quite happily, those days are back… There are literally hundreds of local and regional distillers making some seriously tasty spirits… and now is the time for our monthly online cocktail party to send them some love.

    Your quest is simple. Create a new cocktail, or refashion a classic, using your favorite “hometown hooch” (and we can expand the definition of “hooch” to include spirits, liqueurs, aperitifs and beer)… A little local flavor or history on your “hometown hooch” is very welcome.

    Last week we made a cocktail using Venus Spirits Gin Blend No. 1. Venus is a welcome newcomer to the Bay Area’s ever-growing band of craft distillers. But we do have a “grandaddy” of craft distillers here on the Bay Area, St. George Spirits of Alameda. St. George distills all kinds of spirits (all worth trying, particularly the coffee liqueur and their truly unique Rhum Agricole), but we are huge fans of their family of gins.

    gin2And we do mean “family” of gins. St. George has three gins: the “Botanivore” a dry, smooth and (unsurprisingly) botanical gin, the “Dry Rye”, a pot still and rye grain creation that has a fuller, spicier flavor, and then there is the “Terroir”, a truly “hometown hooch”.

    gin3Terroir Gin was designed to truly reflect the land of northern California, and in our opinion, St. George absolutely nails it. The key flavors are Douglas fir, bay laurel and sage. But if you have ever smelled a Redwood forest in the morning, that is how the Terroir Gin tastes, clean, clear notes of pine and forest floor and just a bit of citrus to balance the sip. The Terroir is strongly flavored stuff, the pine almost kicks you in the face, but there is nothing like it (just as there is no place like Northern California).

    As for our cocktail, we wanted to make a Martini variant that highlighted the forest flavor of the Terrior while softening the edges. When we tried vermouth with the Terrior we found the herbal flavors could fight with the pine flavor. The bitter edges of quinquinas didn’t work either. So we tried a few dashes of Pineau de Charentes, a French fortified wine that has sweet, slightly honeyed flavors with a touch of acidity. The Pineau took some edge off the Terroir without muting the overall flavor.

    gin4We also wanted to see if we could expand on the forest / pine flavors of the Terroir and we already had an ingredient in mind, Bittermen’s Hopped Grapefruit bitters. The hoppy bitters have their own earthy notes with a nice kick of grapefruit. The added citrus (along with a big lemon twist) truly balanced the pine and earth flavors of the Terrior and the sweet notes of the Pineau.

    gin5We named the cocktail the Wunderlich Park, after our local park that has a large Redwood forest. If you want to know what a walk through our local park is like, just try a cocktail with the Terroir Gin.

    gin1Thanks again to Fred Yarm at Cocktail Virgin Slut for keeping our monthly cocktail party on track…

    Wunderlich Park:

    Ingredients:

    • 2 oz. St. George Terroir Gin
    • 1/2 oz. white Pineau de Charentes
    • 2 dashes Bittermen’s Hopped Grapefruit Bitters
    • Lemon twist, for garnish

    Assemble:

    1. Place all the liquid ingredients into a cocktail glass with ice. Stir until well-chilled and strain into a chilled coupé. Twist the lemon peel over the glass and add to the drink. Serve.
  • Mixology Monday XCVIII Cocktail: Abeilles et Lavande

    lav5Since we are hosting Mixology Monday (and don’t worry, the due date is 6/15) we thought we should post a few cocktails for our “Hometown Hooch” theme over the next few days- this is our first. Here is the breakdown:

    One of the best recent developments in the world of cocktails and spirits is the reemergence of regional, craft distillers. And we say “reemergence” because 100+ years ago, before the twin scourges of Prohibition and virtual monopolization “industrialization,” distilling was often a truly local endeavor. Not so long ago, if you wanted some booze, it was often made in your neighborhood and for the tastes of the locals. Sadly, for a few generations, that wasn’t the case… But, quite happily, those days are back… There are literally hundreds of local and regional distillers making some seriously tasty spirits… and now is the time for our monthly online cocktail party to send them some love.

    Your quest is simple. Create a new cocktail, or refashion a classic, using your favorite “hometown hooch” (and we can expand the definition of “hooch” to include spirits, liqueurs, aperitifs and beer)… A little local flavor or history on your “hometown hooch” is very welcome.

    We have to admit, we chose this theme because we have a few local distillers in mind; one well-established and nationally recognized, another a new kid on the block. We will start with the new kid on the block, Venus Spirits of Santa Cruz. The brainchild of Sean Venus, Venus Spirits makes a range of booze including whiskeys, aquavit, an excellent tequila (or “agave spirit”, since it is made in the states) and some very tasty gin. Not surprisingly, we really like the gin (the tequila didn’t last long either).

    lavlav1lav2Venus Spirits Gin Blend No. 01 has a cool feature where they show the list of botanicals they use in their gin. In this particular blend, the flavor that truly stands out from the standard juniper and citrus is a delightful touch of lavender. You know the lavender is there but it never dominates or drowns out other flavors. And, most importantly, it doesn’t have any “soapy” flavors you often get with flowers like lavender or violets. With such a unique flavor profile, this is gin worth seeking out.

    lav4As for the cocktail, we decided to use local lavender for inspiration. We have the gin with lavender notes. And as it turns out, Putney Farm honey is mostly lavender and the lavender patch is right by our Meyer lemon tree. From there, we looked at our favorite gin and lemon cocktails and went for a riff on the classic French 75. We sub our lavender honey for sugar syrup, use a local sparking wine instead of champagne and garnish with a lavender flower from the garden. It tastes like a French 75 but with sweet floral aromas and light lavender flavor. A good sip from beginning to end- think lavender lemonade, just better…..way better.

    lav6We call the drink the “Abeilles et Lavande” (translation: Bees and Lavender). This is a serious “hometown hooch” cocktail.  In fact, everything in this drink comes from well within 50 miles….heck, the lemons, honey and lavender come from within 50 yards.

    lav7Abeilles et Lavande:

    Ingredients:

    • 1 1/2 oz. Venus Spirits Gin Blend No. 1*
    • 3/4 oz. fresh lemon juice
    • 3/4 oz. lavender honey syrup (1-1 honey and hot water)
    • 2-3 oz. sparkling wine or champagne
    • Lavender flowers, for garnish

    * Note, if you can’t get Venus gin but want the lavender flavor, we suggest you lightly infuse a lemon/honey mixture with just a touch of lavender, a little goes a long way.

    Assemble:

    1. Put the gin, lemon and honey syrup in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until well-chilled and strain into a chilled flute or coupé. Add the sparkling wine.
    2. Slap the lavender flower in your hand and add to the top of the cocktail as garnish. Serve.
  • Citrus Cordials (Go Make A Gimlet)

    cordial5One of the great, ongoing arguments of cocktail geekery concerns the classic Gimlet. You see, some folks say a Gimlet is just Rose’s Lime Juice (originally Rose’s Lime Cordial) and gin. Other folks say a gimlet can be gin, fresh lime juice and sugar or maybe gin, Rose’s and then some fresh lime juice. Now this may seem somewhat trivial, but this kind of esoterica gives drinkers “cocktailians” an excuse to have more drinks…all in the name of “research”. Nice trick, huh?

    Regardless of the recipe, the Gimlet is a good cocktail that is also very easy to make. And since gin and Rose’s are available (and shelf stable) all over the world, it is nice to have a cocktail you can enjoy almost anytime/anywhere (joining classics like the gin and tonic and Scotch and soda). And even with Rose’s in the US being pretty artificial (corn syrup and plenty of preservatives and colors), the classic Rose’s and gin Gimlet is still served in plenty of good bars.

    cordialBut the Rose’s ingredient list did get us thinking that we could probably make our own lime cordial, and since we have a bunch of lemons we could make lemon cordial as well. So what is a cordial? Basically, a cordial is a mixture of concentrated citrus juice and sugar, usually also flavored by the citrus zest. Lime is the most popular cordial, but lemon and grapefruit cordials are also quite good.

    cordial1What is the difference between a cordial and a citrus syrup (like sour mix or oleo saccharum)? Most cordials are reduced by half using heat, while most syrups are not reduced or are made using “cold” methods. In general, syrups will have fresher, lighter flavors, while cordials will have a stronger more “candyish” flavor. We like both syrups and cordials in cocktails, but find that a combination of cordial and fresh juice adds extra layers of flavor to cocktails and house-made sodas.

    cordial2As for making citrus cordials, it’s easy (we adapted a recipe from Imbibe). Zest and juice some citrus, heat the juice with sugar, let it reduce by half and then cool, add zest and steep, then strain. From there, you can make gimlets (and a very good riff on the Margarita, btw) with your lime cordial and some fresh juice. With the lemon cordial we suggest you make the best whiskey sour of your life.

    cordial4And if you aren’t feeling boozy, the cordials are an easy base for tasty sparkling limeade / lemonade. We suggest 1 part cordial and 1 part juice to 3-4 parts sparkling water. Regardless, once you make some citrus cordial, it doesn’t seem to stick around very long- there are just too many tasty things you can make.

    The Classic Gimlet:

    Ingredients:

    • 2 oz. dry gin
    • 3/4 oz. lime cordial (Rose’s Lime Juice)

    Assemble:

    1. Combine gin and cordial in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until well-chilled and strain into a chilled cocktail glass or coupé, serve.

    —–

    Modern Gimlet:

    Ingredients:

    • 2 oz. dry gin
    • 3/4 oz. lime cordial (homemade, see below)
    • 3/4 oz. fresh lime juice

    Assemble:

    1. Combine gin, cordial and juice in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until well-chilled and strain into a chilled cocktail glass or coupé, serve.

    —–

    Putney Farm Whiskey Sour:

    Ingredients:

    • 2 oz. bourbon
    • 3/4 oz. lemon cordial (homemade, see below)
    • 3/4 oz. fresh lemon juice
    • 1 dash Angostura bitters

    Assemble:

    1. Combine bourbon, cordial, juice and bitters in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until well-chilled and strain into a chilled cocktail glass or coupé, serve.

    —–

    Lime Cordial:

    Ingredients:

    • 12 limes (or enough for 1 1/2 cups of juice)
    • 1 1/2 cup sugar

    Assemble:

    1. Zest the limes, set zest aside.
    2. Juice the limes until you have 1 1/2 cups of juice. Add juice to a saucepan and then add sugar. Bring juice and sugar to a low simmer and reduce by half, stirring occasionally. Once reduced by half, take off heat and cool for 10 minutes.
    3. Add the zest to the pan, stir and let steep for 10 minutes. Strain the cordial, removing all zest, into a sterilized glass container. Will keep for 2 weeks in the fridge.

    —-

    Lemon Cordial:

    Ingredients:

    • 8-10 lemons (or enough for 1 1/2 cups of juice)
    • 1 cup sugar

    Assemble:

    1. Zest the lemons, set zest aside.
    2. Juice the lemons until you have 1 1/2 cups of juice. Add juice to a saucepan and then add sugar. Bring juice and sugar to a low simmer and reduce by half, stirring occasionally. Once reduced by half, take off heat and cool for 10 minutes.
    3. Add the zest to the pan, stir and let steep for 10 minutes. Strain the cordial, removing all zest, into a sterilized glass container. Will keep for 2 weeks in the fridge.
  • Monthly Cocktail #3: The Bramble

    bramble8Here in California our endless summer drought? continues. But elsewhere we assume that fall is coming. With that in mind, we tend to think of “last gasp of summer” types of cocktails, and that usually brings us to the Bramble, a delightful combo of gin, lemon, sugar and blackberry liqueur (Creme de Mure). While most people here in the States haven’t heard of the Bramble, it is one of the most popular cocktails in the UK. And just like the Arctic Monkeys, this is an import from Britain that more Americans should enjoy.

    bramble1bramble2The story of the Bramble is also a good one. The history says that UK bartender Dick Bradsell came up with the Bramble as an answer to the Cosmopolitan. And we can say that while the Bramble shares the attractive looks of the Cosmo, it is a much better cocktail (sorry, it is…). Basically a gin sour enhanced by blackberry liqueur and made into a slow sipper using crushed ice, the Bramble is a warm-weather delight.

    bramble3bramble4Now, you may say “I don’t want to buy that Creme de Mure stuff, how often will I use it?” Well, considering how tasty the Bramble is (and that you can make a bourbon variant called the Black Demure), we think it is worth buying. But, if not, just adjust the recipe and muddle 3 or 4 fresh blackberries and some extra simple syrup. You will still have a tasty sip, even if it doesn’t get the intense blackberry flavor from the liqueur.

    bramble5bramble6 Continue reading