• Mixology Monday C Cocktail: The Hoffman House

    DSC_0372Wow, 100 Mixology Mondays. In this day and age of instant online popularity and even faster irrelevance, a hundred of anything seems significant. And one hundred global online cocktail parties is even more outstanding….it seems good booze has some real staying power in popular culture. And that’s a good thing, as we cocktail-loving folk are always trying to keep both the grumpy teetotalers and Fireball-drinking, whipped cream vodka chugging heathen at bay…..just kidding (not really).

    mxmologoThe other special thing about Mixology Monday C is that our founder, Paul Clarke of the Cocktail Chronicles blog, and now the truly awesome book, may join us once again. Pretty cool. And we have to thank both Paul and Fred Yarm of Cocktail Virgin Slut for keeping the party going- they truly are key players in the modern cocktail renaissance. Again, pretty cool.

    Seeing as how we have a bit of a milestone MxMo, Fred Yarm is hosting, and he looks to Paul’s new book for inspiration. And we think they found the perfect theme of “elegance”. Here is the summary:

    But what does Mixology Monday “Cocktail Chronicles” mean? I figured that we should look to Paul’s magnum opus and digest the theme of it all — what is timeless (or potentially timeless) and elegant in its simplicity. Paul commented in his interview, “[it]’s wonderful to see that level of creativity but simplicity is going to be the glue that continues to hold interest in the cocktail together. The moment that we make cocktails too difficult or too inaccessible to the average guest, the average consumer, then we start losing people.” Paul does support a minor tweak of a major classic as well as dusting off a lesser known vintage recipe like the Creole Contentment; in addition, proto-classics like the Chartreuse Swizzle and the Penicillin intrigue him for their potential to be remembered twenty years from now. Moreover, he is a big fan of the story when there is one whether about a somewhat novel ingredient like a quinquina, the bartender making it, or the history behind a cocktail or the bar from which it originated. Indeed, I quoted Paul as saying, “If I write about these and manage to make them boring, then I have done an incredible disservice. So I feel an incredible obligation not only to the drinks themselves, but to the bartenders who created them, and also to the heritage oSo for this theme, channel your inner Paul Clarke. Think about simplicity, elegance, and timelessness to the point that you would not feel strange about drinking and writing about this at MxMo M.f cocktail writing to try to elevate it.”

    So for this theme, channel your inner Paul Clarke. Think about simplicity, elegance, and timelessness to the point that you would not feel strange about drinking and writing about this at MxMo M.

    We couldn’t pick a better theme, although this one made us a bit sad. Why? Because we immediately knew exactly what cocktail we would feature, the Hoffman House. If stranded on a desert island with only one cocktail choice, this would be it. Yes, we thought (and perhaps drank) long and hard looking at other choices, but there was never really any doubt. 

    DSC_0349In case you are unfamiliar, the Hoffman House is a classic Martini variant named after one of the best of New York’s cocktail palaces of the late 19th / early 20th centuries. It is truly a simple and elegant creation. 2 parts Plymouth gin, 1 part dry vermouth, 2 dashes orange bitters and a lemon twist. Serve up. Act like Nick and Nora Charles. Repeat. Act like their dog Asta. Repeat….um, well, maybe not.

    DSC_0351Too much vermouth you say? Hogwash. Try it with good, fresh vermouth and you will never go back to “dry” Martinis.  Prefer olives? Nope, with orange bitters you need a lemon twist- and you will be stunned at the brightness of the citrus and herbal flavors.

    DSC_0356The only change we suggest you try is going away from 82-proof Plymouth and to a London Dry gin of 94 proof for a big, clean kick. We like Brokers or Beefeater (USA version) here, but the clean (almost soft) Plymouth is still delightful. And if you make a pitcher of Martinis, the Hoffman House with Plymouth is a true crowd pleaser…just make sure your guests know about Uber, this drink goes down way too easy. 

    Oh, and did we note The Hoffman House is just beautiful to look at? Again, simplicity and elegance often lead to true beauty.

    DSC_0365So thanks again to Paul and Fred for creating and hosting another MxMo. Let’s hope we do see MxMo M….

    The Hoffman House Cocktail:

    Ingredients:

    • 2 oz. Plymouth gin (or a crisp London Dry gin like Brokers or Beefeater)
    • 1 oz. Dry Vermouth (Dolin)
    • 2 dashes orange bitters (Regan’s)
    • Lemon twist

    Assemble:

    1. Place all liquid ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir until very well-chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass or coupé. Give the lemon peel a very good twist over the cocktail and add to the drink. Serve.

    Continue reading

  • Mixology Monday XCIX Cocktail: The Reef Pass

    reefWe had to laugh out loud when we saw this month’s Mixology Monday theme was “Ice” (kindly hosted by our friend the Muse of Doom at the excellent Feu de Vie Blog). You see, as our bar/restaurant Timber & Salt nears its opening in September, we are spending a lot of time on ice. Ice is a key ingredient in cocktails, and there is no substitute- you need the right ice for the right drink. But more on that later, here is the rundown for the 99th (!) Mixology Monday:

    mxmologo

    And in all this time there hasn’t once been a theme dedicated to that undersung-yet-essential part of nearly any cocktail: ICE. The word says it all. Big ice cubes for Old Fashioneds, pellet ice for juleps and cobblers, shaved ice for adult snowcones, crushed ice molded into a cone for a classic Navy Grog. The art of the blender. Tell us why your selected or invented cocktail needs this particular ice usage. Show us how to make perfectly clear ice at home or what you get to work with as a professional drink-slinger. It doesn’t even have to be pure H2O, either. Flavor it up! Teas, juices, liqueurs, bitters, other frozen edible objects serving as ice. Tell us the nuances of a properly-made Il Palio. Show us why a decorative approach takes your recipe to the next level. Whatever tickles your tastebuds and refreshes you this summer.

    reef4Perfect. In this summer alone we compared all commercial ice machines in mind-numbing great detail, made crystal clear ice (using the igloo method, it works very well), made almost-instant ice balls using a Japanese mold (a great show), used long ice sticks for Collins-style drinks (very cool) and experimented with the best way to get crushed ice for summer tiki drinks. And since crushed ice is our latest experiment, that’s what we will use here.

    reef1reef2And while some tiki drink recipes specifically call for blenders (and at the restaurant we may go this way), we usually prefer to use our cheap (about $20) manual ice crusher at home. Ours does both fine (tiki) and coarse (juleps and cobblers) chop, works well enough and is easy to clean. The blade apparatus comes apart occasionally, but it is easy to reassemble and it makes for a rocking tiki drink without fussing with a blender. And you really do need crushed ice for a good tiki drink, that frosted glass (along with a good dose of rum) just seems to make everything better.

    So what drink did we make? It turns out that we have tons of mint and basil in our garden this summer and we tend to freely substitute both in many of our savory preparations, so why not try it in a tiki drink? We already know that a touch of herbal flavor can enhance tiki drinks, so we took the next step.

    reef3The Reef Pass is basically a Mai Tai variant using amaro instead of simple syrup and basil instead of mint. We went with one of our favorite amaro, Santa Maria al Monte, a bittersweet and heavily herbal amaro similar to Fernet Branca, but with less overt mint/menthol notes. We also went for two strong, funky rums (Appleton V/X and El Dorado 15) that have enough flavor to match the amaro.

    How did it turn out? Extremely well. The Reef Pass does make you think Mai Tai, as the rum, lime, orgeat and Curaçao all shine through. But the basil on the nose and the slightly bitter and herbal finish of the amaro make for a very clean refreshing sip. (Surprisingly, the lime and amaro play particularly well together and we will continue to experiment here.) If you think tiki drinks are too sweet or cloying after a few sips, the Reef Pass is a good antidote. This one we are still making and enjoying. And we are always using our perfectly crushed ice…..that frosty glass never gets old. Continue reading

  • 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.