• 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

  • Bonus Cocktail: The Fourth Degree

    fourth10How do you know when you have officially become a cocktail geek? (Besides, you know…blogging about them.) Well, there are a few signs; multiple bottles of bitters, obsession with vintage glassware, too much gin and very little vodka, rum from at least 6 different Caribbean countries and the obligatory bottle(s) of absinthe are all reliable signs. Throw in some Falernum and Fernet and it is pretty clear that you, my friend, are a cocktail geek.

    fourthBut there is another major sign that you have gone over to the dark side (and, let’s face it, some of us enjoy it over here). Vermouth. If you have multiple bottles of vermouth and they are (hopefully) in the fridge, then you are probably a cocktail geek. And if you actually mix, match and test different recipes with different vermouth, then you are definitely a cocktail geek. Welcome.

    fourth2But even if you aren’t a cocktail geek (yet) we do suggest that all educated drinkers keep a good bottle each of sweet and dry vermouth. Keep them in the fridge, and use them often. Each brand has its charms and we suggest you experiment. And beyond the basic Martini and Manhattan, there are many experiments worth trying. We suggest the Fourth Degree be one of your first experiments.

    fourth8We will forgo some of the history (the drink, with differing recipes, is found in the Savoy and Imbibe!), but the Fourth Degree is a classic from the “golden age” of pre-prohibition cocktails. It lands somewhere between the Martinez (the proto-Martini) and the classic “wet” Martini. Not surprisingly, it uses gin and vermouth. But in this case, equal amounts of gin and both sweet and dry vermouth- along with a dash of absinthe and a lemon twist.

    fourth4Now you may say “meh”, but we suggest you try the Fourth Degree before you judge it. The drink is a bit sweet, but the flavors are deep, multi-layered and complex. You will get herbal and anise notes, but also surprising hints of fruit, chocolate and almond. The aroma of herbs and lemon peel is just as delightful. And, due to the large proportion of vermouth, the drink isn’t too strong. Go ahead and have another…

    fourth9The Fourth Degree is also a recipe that welcomes experimentation. Many have made the drink dryer with a larger proportion of gin, and that is very good. You can also play with the vermouth. Changing the sweet vermouth from M&R to Carpano Antica to Dolin to Vya will make for a substantially different drink. As will changes with the dry vermouth (we like Dolin and Vya here). But, of course, to truly experiment you need to collect a bunch of vermouth….hmmm….see what we mean?

    The Fourth Degree Cocktail:

    Ingredients:

    • 3/4 oz. dry gin
    • 3/4 oz. dry vermouth
    • 3/4 oz. sweet vermouth
    • 4 dashes (1 tsp.) absinthe
    • Lemon twist

    Assemble:

    1. Add all the liquid ingredients to a cocktail glass with ice and stir until well-chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass or coupé. Garnish with the lemon twist. Serve.
  • Mixology Monday LXXIX Cocktail: Silver And Green

    silver4It’s Mixology Monday time again. It seems like it just happened, but since we hosted, our mixology “workload” was a bit higher than normal. But just as we thought of slacking, we saw the new theme “resin” from Booze Nerds and just couldn’t resist. Here is the lowdown:

    mxmologoWe thought hard about a theme that would work well for this time of year, and after contemplating the food, booze, and decor we like for the holidays, we settled on “Resin.” From savory rosemary in a stuffing, to a delicious juniper-y gin in a martini, to a fragrant fir ornament or garnish, our friends the evergreens have a lot to offer… The challenge: come up with an ingenious creation using the resin-y ingredient of your choice. Zirbenz, retsina, hoppy IPA, pine-nut puree, even? Sure! Spirit, garnish, aroma, all are fair game.  Whatever resin means to you, we want to hear it.

    silver7silver8Hmm…well the first “resin-y” ingredient we thought of was…well, a herb we don’t grow here at the farm. Ahem. But the next thought was to use a herb we do grow here at the farm, rosemary. Not only was it the first ingredient mentioned in the announcement post, but we grow it here for cooking and as an ornamental. We got plenty o’ rosemary.

    silverAnd, of course, we went to gin. Not just because of the juniper connection, but because we like gin and it works well with pine-y flavors like rosemary. So the next trick was to find a resinous modifier or liqueur. We looked at the bar and we immediately picked out our bottle of Kummel.

    silver1So what is Kummel? It is a sweet Northern European liqueur flavored with caraway, cumin and fennel. Sweet, savory and spicy, Kummel is a challenging ingredient, with both flavors of rye bread and holiday spice cookie. Strange stuff, but fun to play with. And Kummel seems resin-y, and certainly would play well with the gin and rosemary. So now all we needed was a recipe.

    silver2Happily, we noticed the Silver Bullet cocktail in the Savoy Cocktail Book and decided to riff on that. A simple combination of 2 parts gin to 1 part Kummel and 1 part lemon juice, the Silver Bullet is a good drink on its own (basically a play on a White Lady). Juniper, citrus and spice, with a sweet caraway undertone, the cocktail is weird, but tasty. But when we muddled some rosemary, rubbed a bit on the edge of the glass and used some as a garnish, it brought pine, juniper and citrus to the fore, making the Kummel’s spice more of an undertone. An excellent, albeit very funky, sip. We call this new cocktail Silver and Green.

    silver3silver5And while we like the flavor, we will admit to enjoying to look of this drink even more. In the right light, it does glow silver and the green rosemary almost sparkles on its own. Nice. So thanks to the crew at Booze Nerds for another excellent MxMo theme and to Fred Yarm at Cocktail Virgin Slut for keeping the party rollin. Happy Thanksgiving!

    silver6Silver And Green:

    Ingredients:

    • 1 1/2 oz. dry gin
    • 3/4 oz. Kummel
    • 3/4 oz. fresh lemon juice
    • Fresh rosemary

    Assemble:

    1. Place a few pieces of rosemary in a cocktail shaker with the other ingredients. Lightly muddle. Add ice and shake until well-chilled.
    2. Rub a sprig of rosemary lightly and then run it along the edge of a cocktail glass or coupe. Strain the cocktail into the glass and garnish with the rosemary sprig. Serve.
  • Mixology Monday LXXVIII Roundup: Intercontinental

    Time of the Saison cocktail.

    Time of the Saison cocktail.

    Another Mixology Monday has come and gone, so now it is time for the roundup. Our theme was “Intercontinental” and the goal was to mix a cocktail, or cocktails, that have “ingredients” from at least three but up to seven continents. And, as we mentioned, the definition of  “ingredient” was pretty broad, so we hoped to see many cocktails that spanned the globe….including Antarctica.

    mxmologoSo how did everyone do?  Very, very well, IMHO. The cocktails, photos and the stories were great. We actually had many of the ingredients (should we be embarrassed about that?) and mixed a number of the drinks. Very tasty. And just as important, an excuse (motivation?) to try something new. Whenever we feel we may be getting into a slight cocktail “rut”, Mixology Monday snaps us out of it.

    Thanks again to everyone for participating and to Fred Yarm at Cocktail Virgin Slut for keeping MxMo going. Here is the roundup (in no particular order):

    Feu-de-vie, one of our favorite booze blogs, covers six continents with the Giganta, a coffee-pineapple tiki-ish concoction with homemade Coffee-Macadamia Orgeat. Nice. We want some of that…

    Giganta cocktail.

    Giganta cocktail.

    Next we get the Vegan Pisco Sour from Elana at Stir and Strain. She has lovely creations and her photos are some of the best we have seen. For this cocktail, not only do we get four continents, but some cool info on using beer as a substitute for egg whites in “foamy” cocktails. For vegans, good stuff. For us, a tasty drink. Everyone wins.

    Vegan Pisco Sour cocktail.

    Vegan Pisco Sour cocktail.

    Amarula, the “Bailey’s of Africa” makes its first (but not its only) MxMo appearance in Swizzlestick’s Life is Beautiful cocktail. Lychee liqueur made it in as well. A truly global cocktail that hits six continents. Well done.

    Life is Beautiful cocktail.

    Life is Beautiful cocktail.

    The good folks at Booze Nerds take advantage of a good name/story and global ingredients to cover seven continents with the Amundsen (nice historical reference guys!). More importantly we get a very creative drink with spirits, amaro, bitters, spice, a tea reduction / syrup and a port wine float. Gold Star.

    Amundsen cocktail.

    Amundsen cocktail.

    The Straight Up, gives us another drink using Australian port and narrative license to cover seven continents with the ….and Antarctica. Again, we also see some tea and amaro in play for this beautiful aperitif-style cocktail. We certainly are intrigued with the mix of bitter, tannic, smokey and herbal ingredients. Gold Star.

    ...and Antarctica cocktail.

    …and Antarctica cocktail.

    Our Bay Area neighbors and frequent travelers BarFlySF, take us to five continents and then a few layers of hell as a bonus…seriously. They give us Dante’s Divinia and Dante’s Divinia Down Under, riffs on the Dante’s Paradise cocktail they discovered at Longman and Eagle’s in Chicago. And with some Habanero shrub involved- there will be some fire.

    Dante's Divinia.

    Dante’s Divinia cocktail.

    Out in Tennessee, Sass and Gin goes a slightly more traditional route with the Madison’s Revenge. This Manhattan variant shows that you can get to five or six continents quicker than you think. A little tuning of sweetener, spice or garnish and you have a global cocktail. Good work.

    Madison's Revenge cocktail.

    Madison’s Revenge cocktail.

    Our fearless leader Fred Yarm of Cocktail Virgin Slut pulls out a bottle of Van Der Hum, an African tangerine and spice liqueur, for a very spirituous, old-time cocktail the Daiqurbon. We expected to see a bit more Van Der Hum this MxMo, but since we couldn’t find any here in Norcal, we are glad somebody found some.

    Daiqurbon cocktail.

    Daiqurbon cocktail.

    Continue reading

  • Gin, Tonic And Campari

    Gin, Tonic and Campari.

    Gin, Tonic and Campari.

    August. The Dog Days of Summer. It’s hot. Vacation, beach, family. Time for a drink or six. But what to drink? If you want to geek up, then tiki is a good pace to play. Punches are always welcome when you have a crowd and need an easy, tasty drink. But for many of us, summer means beer or a highball (a big, easy drink in a tall glasses with ice). And while there is nothing wrong with an ice-cold beer this time of year, we can’t seem to stay away from the bar for long, and that means highballs. And if we are drinking highballs it’s most likely a gin and tonic. (Although a Florodora is another option worth making, btw.)

    gtcgtc2We do love a gin and tonic, and it is often our default drink when we are traveling and aren’t sure about the quality of drinks we may get. After all, Tanqueray, Canada Dry tonic and a squeeze of lime are available from the Arctic Circle to the Congo (even in Brooklyn). Along with a Scotch and Soda (the other classic highball), you should be able to get a decent GnT almost anywhere on the planet.

    gtc1gtc4But just because we can get one almost anywhere doesn’t means we don’t like to play around with classics, and the GnT is a very open field. You can play with the gin, the tonic, the citrus or even add some “other stuff”. As for gin, there are almost too many options to consider, but we still like Tanq, simply because it is tasty, available and predictable. As for tonic, this is a good place to experiment, but Canada Dry still wins many taste tests with Fentiman’s and Fever Tree also doing well. We like all three, but the sweeter Canada Dry still plays well with the juniper-heavy flavors of Tanqueray. Feel free to play around, almost any combination will be good, but some will truly sing. It is worth finding a combination you like. As for the citrus, just stick with lime, trust us.

    gtc5gtc6But then there is the “other” stuff. And in this case, we mean Campari. At times, we have a love/hate relationship with that bright red, bittersweet booze. But when you put about 1/4 ounce (or a bit more) of the stuff into a Gin and Tonic and add a bit more lime juice, you get something close to perfect carbonated pink lemonade…with booze. We don’t understand the alchemy, since there is no lemon (directly) involved, but who cares? This is a great drink. And the warmer it is, the more refreshing it gets. Perfect for August.

    gtc7So where did we hear about this drink? Frankly, we have no idea. But it must have come from somewhere. We did find a funny article from a few years ago about this cocktail, and it worth a read. But it didn’t add a new name to the drink. It is still just a Gin and Tonic with Campari. But that is good enough for us, and we couldn’t come up with a good name anyway, although we were tempted to call this the “Blushing Preppie”. Maybe with a dash of bitters we can change the name….

    gtc8Gin, Tonic and Campari:

    Ingredients:

    • 2 oz. dry gin (Tanqueray)
    • 1/4 oz. Campari
    • 3-4 oz. tonic water (Canada Dry)
    • 1/2 lime

    Assemble:

    1. Add a bunch of ice to a tall glass. Squeeze the lime juice into the glass and add the spent lime shell into the glass. Add the gin, Campari and tonic. Stir and add a straw, if you like. Serve.
  • Weekly Cocktail # 54: The Putney Farm Negroni

    negroni

    The Putney Farm Negroni.

    We have heard that the real-world definition of stupidity is to fail at something and then repeat the same action over and over. And yet, here we are again, trying to find a variation of the Negroni that we enjoy. Stupid? Maybe. But the key word here is “variation”, we keep trying new formulas, gins and sweet vermouth with the hope we can break through. And finally we broke through. We found a Negroni recipe we truly love. So were we stupid to keep trying? No…..Tipsy? Maybe.

    negroni7negroni5Why all the effort? The Negroni is a classic cocktail loved by many aficionados that we respect. If they love the drink so much, maybe we can find a version we like. And the formula makes perfect sense, herbal gin, sweet vermouth, bitter and fruity Campari and that beautiful color. Depth, complexity, beauty- what’s not to like?  Well, for us, the problem has been flavor. Too bitter, too ashy and yet too sweet at the same time. There is alchemy in a good Negroni (or any great cocktail), but we were not finding it.

    negroni6negroni4We played with different gins, but be it Tanq or Plymouth or Bluecoat, they didn’t seem to be the problem. As for the Campari- we can play with the ratios, but you need Campari for a real Negroni (although you can sub for it and get a great cocktail). So the last variable was the sweet vermouth, and this was where we have spent much of our time. We love the Carpano Antica, but it was too strongly flavored and brought out the ashy notes of the Campari. Dolin and M&R just seemed sweet and lost to the Campari. But then we got some Cocchi Americano Rosa and we found our answer.

    negroni3And even this may be a bit of a hack. Cocchi Americano Rosa is technically an Americano, a type of quinquina (aperitif wine with chinchona / quinine), but it is an easy substitute for sweet vermouth. What makes the Cocchi work better for us is its combination of bright fruit flavors and bitterness from the quinine. Think very good sangria, with slight bitter notes. The Rosa is lovely to drink on its own with some ice, but in cocktails that call for sweet vermouth, it brings lighter and brighter flavors. A fun ingredient to play with.negroni9

    When we tried the Negroni with the Cocchi Americano Rosa, it was very good, and the bitter flavors of the Cocchi and the Campari were surprisingly complimentary. But we did want to capture more of the fruity notes of the Cocchi, so we took out a bit of the Campari. As for the gin, a very clean and bright gin like Bluecoat or Plymouth are our favorite here, and we put in a bit more to boost the herbal notes (and because we always like more gin). As for garnish, the traditional orange peel works well. Continue reading