• 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 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

  • 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

  • Weekly Cocktail #56: The Sun Crest Peach Smash

    The Sun Crest Peach Smash.

    The Sun Crest Peach Smash.

    Every gardener has his/her “White Whale”. And just like Captain Ahab, we chase this object around with a strong, strange, usually sometimes silly, and always often boring (to others) obsession. For us, the Sun Crest peach is our White Whale (more pink, but whatever…). Ever since we tried the “perfect peach”, we just had to grow our own. Sun Crests are big, blush, beautiful and incredibly juicy with sweet/tart flavor that just never gets old. A true delight and something worthy of obsession.

    smashsmash2Sun Crest peaches are also a serious pain in the fanny to grow, the trees are finicky and the fruit bruises if you look at them the wrong way.  (The Masumoto family has some great writing on the subject of obsession on Sun Crest peaches….sadly, we get it). This year we got a real crop. At last, we are satisfied (temporarily).

    smash1So what to do with the Sun Crests? (Or any great local peach?) Well….eat it! Now. Seriously, eat it right now. But, beyond that, it is good to have a few options. And while we are all for cobblers (and pies, slumps, grunts, crisps, etc.), the best peaches don’t need to be cooked. Raw is best. Sliced peaches with vanilla ice cream or yogurt? Good call. But in a cocktail? Oh, yes. Yes indeed.

    smash3As for the cocktail to mix, this is the easy part. Ripe stone fruits call for a smash. Smashes are one of the great old-time cocktails from way back in the Jerry Thomas era (like 1880). Originally, a mixture of whiskey, lemon, mint and sugar, the basic recipe is easily extended to seasonal fruit, with peaches and nectarines being a particularly good fit. Smashes fell out of fashion a few generations ago, but cocktail historians like David Wondrich helped to bring them back. And not too soon afterwards, expert mixologists like Dale Degroff came up with variations like the Peach Smash, a smash with bourbon, peaches, lemon, mint and a special honey syrup. A good foundation to work from.

    smash10But the Sun Crest isn’t just any peach, we wanted its flavor lead the drink. So we use less-sweet/ more-spicy rye whiskey and basic simple syrup to let the peach shine through. (If you have a good, but not great peach, use bourbon and honey syrup). We also forego double-straining the cocktail. Why? Frankly, we spent all this time and effort growing this damn delightful peach, and we don’t want to waste one ounce of it. Think of it as a Sun Crest peach, lemon and whiskey smoothie. But if you want something a little more traditional, double-strain your smash.

    smash5Either way, you get spicy, sweet and tart flavors with a refreshing backbone of lemon and mint. Hard to beat….really hard to beat. So we suggest you find your best local peaches, treat them well, eat them out of hand and then mix this cocktail. It will make for a very good day. Continue reading

  • Weekly Cocktail #50: The Brooklyn Cocktail

    Pouring a Brooklyn cocktail.

    Pouring a Brooklyn cocktail.

    One of the many things we enjoy about the blog is that we get to “follow the muse”. Yes there are seasons, events and themes to guide us, but in the end we get to do what makes us happy. That’s the point, plus we usually get a few tasty dishes and drinks out of the deal and have excuses to invite friends over. (Have we found the secret to happiness? Maybe.)

    brooklyn1brooklynSo while we could be blogging on Mint Juleps for the Kentucky Derby (we like them, but not all that much), and we owe our friend Viveka a cocktail for winning our quiz (working on it Wivi!), we somehow found ourselves mixing a Brooklyn cocktail. And the Brooklyn cocktail is worth a try, particularly if you are a whiskey fan. And even if you aren’t, this smooth sip may surprise you.

    brooklyn2brooklyn6The Brooklyn combines rye whiskey, dry vermouth, a dash of maraschino liqueur and a dash of Amer Picon. No one seems to have Amer Picon (a French digestif) these days, so most sources suggest amaro like Ramazotti, CioCiaro, Nonino or Montenegro. The recipe is flexible and all of these will work, we went with the Ramazotti, but also liked it with Nonino (we like a lot of stuff with Nonino). You can even just go with a mix of orange and Angostura bitters in a pinch.

    brooklyn3If you notice a pattern with many of our cocktail posts, we tend to like to match rye whiskey with dry, rather than sweet, vermouth. Rye is dryer and spicier than bourbon, and we think you often lose those notes with some sweet vermouths (not always, but sometimes). If we want to enjoy the flavor of the rye, the herbal notes of a good dry vermouth seem like a natural fit. And we do like the combination in drinks like the Scofflaw (and our variant, the Tax Evasion ), so it isn’t that much of a surprise that the “muse” guided us towards the Brooklyn. (Or maybe it was Google….)

    brooklyn7So what do you get with the Brooklyn? Firstly, you get a beautiful looking drink with deep golden hues. Lovely. As for the flavor, you get a smooth and slightly sweet sip, but with the spice of the rye, herbal vemouth and the bitter notes of the amaro keeping the flavor from becoming cloying. The maraschino adds some sweet, floral and nutty flavors. Basically, the Brooklyn is a dryer, smoother riff on a Manhattan. But since Brooklyn is way cooler than Manhattan these days, we think it makes sense that they have the smoother drink. (And speaking of Brooklyn- Hi Tina, Jonathan, Max and William!)

    brooklyn5The Brooklyn Cocktail:

    Ingredients:

    • 2 oz. rye whiskey (Rittenhouse 100)
    • 1 oz. dry vermouth (Dolin)
    • 1/4 oz. maraschino liqueur (Luxardo)
    • 1/2 oz. Amer Picon (sub Ramazotti or other amaro)

    Assemble:

    1. Combine all the ingredients in a cocktail glass with ice. Stir until well chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass or coupé. Serve.