• The Cask-Strength Bourbon Old Fashioned

    ofA funny thing often happens when you “go deep” into a subject, you often find yourself back at the beginning. And that is certainly true when you get into cocktails. You may play with tiki, sours, endless Martini and Manhattan variants, molecular mixology, shims, cobblers, smashes, etc. But in the end, you will most likely find yourself a fan of the original cocktail; spirits, sugar, bitters and water. These days, most people call that drink an Old Fashioned.

    of3of4And even at its most basic, you can still play around with Old Fashioneds. They work with different spirits (beyond whiskey, aged rum or brandy Old Fashioneds are a delight), sweeteners and bitters, and experimentation will yield very tasty results. But the one area we suggest is going back even more to the source, and try using high-proof, “cask-strength” spirits. And we don’t mean “bonded” spirits at 100 proof (although they are great in cocktails) we mean the hard stuff, 110 proof -140 proof. Yup, serious booze.

    of5Now you may say, “whoa, that will be way to strong”. But part of the magic of cocktails is dilution with water; not enough- the drink is too hot, too much- the drink is watery and bland. But if you get it just right, the drink sings. And with cask-strength spirits, the drink not only sings, but changes in the glass as you slowly sip at your cocktail (and we do recommend a slow pace).

    of6of7of8Now purists may say that we should use rye instead of bourbon and that you shouldn’t add anything other than water to quality, cask-strength bourbon. And while we understand these arguments, we can say that we prefer bourbon (and there are more cask-strength options available) and that you need to try the Cask-Strength Bourbon Old-Fashioned before you judge it. This drink is true alchemy, always changing over time, but with deep caramel, wood, spice and balanced sweetness throughout. Just try it… Continue reading

  • Mixology Monday XCVI Cocktail: The Five Dollar Milkshake

    bailey4

    Well, we are back…just in time for Mixology Monday. Seeing as how it is 4/20 we might have expected that the theme would be “herbal”….  In any event, Whitney of the Tipicular Fixin’s blog came up with the excellent theme of “Drink of Shame”. So here is the breakdown:mxmologo

    So, you’re a certified, mixologist, craft-tender, bar chef, or fine spirit enthusiast…now. But, there was a time when you only ordered Long Island Iced Tea. Or, maybe you always made the Jello shots for your frat? Perhaps you’re the reason that your local had an Island Oasis machine for so long? Rye & Ginger? Vodka Seven? Someone was ordering these things. Your street cred would be ruined if you ordered or (gasp) served one now, but don’t you miss it, just a little? Wouldn’t you love to have one more Jolly Rancher? A chance to drink a mudslide without shame? We all made questionable drink choices in our past, the popular drinks from 1970 to the year 2000 were a cheap, sugary mess. Now is the time to resurrect your favourite drink from the time before modern Mixology. Give a new life to the drink… maybe you need to use fresh ingredients, or you can try elevating the spirits. Make everything from scratch or remove an offending ingredient. Do whatever you can to bring back and legitimize a drink you used to love.

    Oh my, but that theme does dredge up some interesting memories. And since we started our drinking “endeavors” (careers?) in the 1980’s we have plenty of truly shameful drinks to consider. Along with the aforementioned Mudslides and Long Island Iced Teas we have Woo-woo’s, Sex-on-Beaches, Kamikazes, 501-9s (don’t ask), Jager shots and “Gin Rickeys” that may have had gin…or Everclear….umm, whatever. And these are just a few of the rogues gallery of our wayward youth we could consider.

    bailey

    Before

    But it didn’t take long to find a truly shameful drink to reinvent. You see, I had a serious sweet tooth in my college days. And one of my favorite drinks was Bailey’s, Kahlua and Bourbon (any bourbon, whatever swill was in the well) on the rocks. At the time I loved it- not only was it super-sweet, but boozy and fattening as well (perhaps a harbinger of overindulgence to come).

    bailey1

    After

    We recently tried my old favorite for reference and it was horrific pretty bad. The only flavor was overwhelming, yet bland, sweetness. No coffee flavor came through and the only redeeming quality was that it resembled a boozy milkshake. At least that is a decent place to start…who doesn’t like booze in a milkshake? (What? You have never tried booze in a milkshake? We suggest you correct this oversight.)

    bailey2Happily, we could easily improve on my old favorite and add some real flavor. We kept the Baileys, used St. Georges’ NOLA coffee liqueur for real coffee flavor and used decent bourbon- and more of it. Then we added spice with Allspice Dram and Amargo Chuncho (Peruvian bitters that add spice, herbal and extra coffee notes). What did we get? A very tasty, boozy “milkshake”, with clear bourbon, cream and coffee notes, along with spice and even a hint of chocolate flavor. It is still a ridiculously fattening, sugary and strong drink…but at least it’s good.

    bailey3As for the name, it is a riff on a great scene from the movie “Pulp Fiction”. Yes Vincent Vega, this is truly a “Five Dollar Milkshake”. Continue reading

  • Mixology Monday XCII Cocktail: Persephone

    perp5Wow, its been a while since our last post. And we have some good reasons for that…we will fill everyone in over the next few months. Let’s just say that our interest in cocktails is going to a whole new level, and a larger audience than our ever-patient family and friends.

    mxmologoRegardless, we never tire of experimenting with cocktails, so it is good to get back into the swing with Mixology Monday. We are big fans of this month’s theme of “apples” from Fred Yarm of the grandaddy of all cocktail blogs, Cocktail Virgin Slut. (Fred, it looks like we are following in your footsteps a bit). So here is the breakdown of the theme:

    Apples have been an American booze staple with Johnny Appleseed as its symbolic hero. John Chapman became that legend by planting apple tree nurseries across the northern Appalachia and the Midwest. He did not choose grafting techniques to reproduce sweet edible ones, but bred them to make sour apples perfect for cider and applejack. Michael Pollan inThe Botany of Desire proclaimed, “Really, what Johnny Appleseed was doing and the reason he was welcome in every cabin in Ohio and Indiana was he was bringing the gift of alcohol to the frontier. He was our American Dionysus.” Apple products began to enter into the mixed drink literature in the 19th century with the Stone Fence appearing in Jerry Thomas’ Bartender Guide and got quite refined by the end of the century such as the Widow’s Kiss in George Kappeler’s Modern American Drinks. Indeed, apples have found their way into modern cocktails via Calvados, applejack, sparkling and still cider, apple butter, and muddled apple.

    perpGreat theme, and we immediately knew that we would be doing an applejack cocktail. Applejack (American apple brandy) was once a staple booze in American mixology and is one of our favorite classic cocktail ingredients. Laird’s Bonded is always in our bar and the basis for our favorite riff on the Old Fashioned (applejack, rye, sugar, tiki bitters or allspice dram). But since this is Mixology Monday, we looked for something new to try.

    perp2We immediately went to the PDT Cocktail Book, as it features a number of applejack cocktails, and quickly found the Persephone. Besides our enjoyment of the mythological name (we are geeks for mythology here at the Farm), the Persephone cocktail uses vermouth along with the basic ingredients of a sour. One of our all-time favorite cocktails, the Scofflaw, uses this construct (albeit with dry, rather than sweet vermouth)- so we decided to give Persephone a try.perp1

    perp3Persephone didn’t disappoint. A combination of applejack, sloe gin, sweet vermouth, lemon and simple syrup, Persephone had a dry start from the applejack before you get to the sweet sloe gin, lemon and sugar, but finishes with a delightful herbal and almost sarsaparilla note from the vermouth. The original recipe suggests Dolin vermouth, but we used Carpano Antica for extra depth and that “rooty” flavor. We have since tried this cocktail with the Dolin- it is smoother and a bit sweeter, but also excellent. Your choice, we think you will be happy either way. Continue reading

  • Mixology Monday XC Cocktail: The Barrel-Aged Vieux Carre’

    carre6Wow, time flies. Between a delightful trip back east and going to Giants playoff games, it has been a month since our last post (yes, we are slacking). Giants baseball seems to do this to us every even year. And while we are a bit tired of ballpark food and beer, we are ecstatic about the games themselves. Our boys were at the game when Travis Ishikawa hit a walk-off home run to win the pennant. A memory we can all share for the rest of our lives. Simply Awesome!

    mxmologoMeanwhile, we are happy that Mixology Monday is getting us back to the blog. This month we are hosted by Joel of the Southern Ash blog. We are fans of Southern Ash, and the theme of “Balance” doesn’t disappoint. Here are the details:

    Perfect symmetry is your theme this month!  A “perfect” drink splits the liquor or liqueur evenly between two related ingredients.  The most common “perfect” drink is a Perfect Manhattan where the vermouth is split between sweet and dry to create an altogether different experience.  A perfect Old Fashioned splits the bourbon and rye are both used to create a singularly distinct experience. When done well, splitting the liquor lets each of the unique flavors and components of the shine through.  Because they share a background, they don’t war with each other but instead you get both the mellow sweetness of the bourbon with the spicy backbone of the rye in that Old Fashioned… Why make a choice when you can have it all?! Your challenge is to create a new cocktail or explore an existing cocktail that splits the liquor or liqueur evenly in a “perfect” manner…  Can you challenge yourself with gin and vodka in a light summer appropriate beverage?  Perhaps you’ll delve deep into splitting Sambuca and ouzo in an anise-flavored digestive? Getting bored with tequila, maybe a perfect margarita with the backbone of mezcal will reawaken your appreciation? Campari too assertive for you?  Maybe make a Perfect Negroni with Aperol lightening the weight. Let you imagination run wild!

    carreNow, normally, we aren’t fans of the term “balance” when discussing cocktails (and wine). All too often it just means “what I like”. But in this case, the idea of balanced ingredients and ratios is excellent. It also happens that we already had a very “balanced” cocktail in the works, the Vieux Carre’….even better, a barrel-aged Vieux Carre’ (that’s why we were already working on it).

    carre1carre2For those of you unfamiliar with the Vieux Carre’ it’s essentially New Orleans’ version of the Manhattan. But like many riffs on the Manhattan, this is might be better than the original. The Vieux Carre’ includes equal parts Cognac (or Armagnac, if you are cheap like us), rye whiskey and sweet vermouth along with equal parts of Angostura and Peychaud’s bitters, a welcome splash of Benedictine and a lemon twist. What you get is something that tastes like a Manhattan but with much more spice from the rye, vermouth and bitters yet smoother flavor from the brandy and Benedictine. And smooth is the word here. When you hear New Orleans called “The Big Easy”, we think that description fits the Vieux Carre’ even more than the Sazerac. Continue reading

  • Mixology Monday LXXXIX Cocktail: The Improved Stinger

    stinger4It seems like the equinox is a very good time for Mixology Monday. Why? Not really sure, but new seasons are a time of transition and always prod us to try new things. And, with ever-so-perfect-timing, our host Chris of the Bar Above blog chose this month’s theme, “The Unknown”. Here is the rundown:

    mxmologoBasically the idea is to try something new, an ingredient or technique that you’ve never had experience with before and create a cocktail around it… Use a spirit that you’ve never used before. It could be a base spirit, modifier or that Belgian Ale that rings in at 15% alcohol. Use an ingredient that has always captured your imagination in the supermarket. Maybe that weird looking fruit that you always walk by at Whole Foods, or that unusual looking vegetable that you can’t even pronounce. [or] Use a new technique that you’ve never tried, but have always wanted to. Have you been dying to make your own vermouth, amaro, or martini glass made completely out of flavored sugar.

    Ah, cool theme- and we had just the right ingredient to work with, Branca Menta. What is Branca Menta? It is an amaro / digestif, that as it’s name suggests, has a clear mint note (along with a bittersweet herbal base). The lesser-known cousin of Fernet Branca (a Bay Area favorite), the Menta has a big kick of sweet mint with a clean, bitter and pleasantly medicinal finish. Yes, that may not sound great, but like most amaro, the Menta is an acquired taste. But once you try it, you do seem to keep coming back.

    stingerSo what to make with the Menta? That was also easy. We have to admit that neither of us have ever had a Stinger, the classic combo of Cognac and Creme de Menthe. And there is a reason for that- it sounds totally nasty (and like a waste of good Cognac). But we figured the Menta would make for a better version of the Stinger. And after a little research, we found a good recipe for an “Improved” Stinger using the Menta from the blog Caskstrength. Excellent.

    stinger1The only other issue was the Cognac. No way were we using either Cognac, or even Armagnac, in this drink (you could, and it would be surprisingly good). But we did have a very smooth, tasty and affordable Spanish brandy to use, and it was a perfect fit with the Menta, letting its mint flavor lead the drink. The only other ingredient is a little rich simple syrup to add sweetness that Creme de Menthe would traditionally supply.

    stinger2So how does the Improved Stinger taste? You get a minty nose followed by pleasant kick of the brandy and then a long middle of herbs and mint with a surprisingly clean finish. Sweet, but not at all cloying. Would we drink this every day? No. But as a nice autumn or winter sipper, we can see ourselves enjoying the Improved Stinger. And now we have another way to enjoy the Branca Menta. Continue reading

  • Monthly Cocktail #2: The Case For A True Mai-Tai

    MaiTaiThe Putney Farm crew recently returned from a delightful trip to Kauai. All good, nothing to complain about…but, maybe…um…there was one little thing. And it has to do with the classic Tiki drink, the Mai Tai.

    maitai2You see, the problem was that while we were served a number of “Mai-Tais” on the trip, the only real Mai Tai we had was at home (of course we stocked a decent bar in Kauai!). Not to say there was anything wrong with the many fruity-dark rum floater-bamboo cup-multiple garnish catastrophes “creations” we drank. Hey, its rum, lime, pineapple and a bunch of other stuff- how bad can it be? And usually it isn’t all that bad. However…maitai8

    maitai3A real Mai Tai, made with the right ingredients and in the right way, is just so much better. There is a reason everyone thinks “tiki” when they hear the word Mai Tai, it is a damn fine drink. Sweet, tart, funky with a nutty “I-know-not-what” at the finish, the Mai Tai is a perfect example of what makes cocktails so special. It is way more than the sum of its parts.

    maitai4So what about those “parts”? The other good thing about the Mai Tai is that the only truly esoteric ingredient is Orgeat (pronounced or-zhay) syrup, basically almond (and sometime apricot kernels) flavored syrup with some orange flower water. You can find Orgeat in many liquor stores or make your own. We have done both. Here is a well-known recipe to make it yourself. Small Hands makes a natural version that is very tasty, but the artificially (gasp!) flavored versions from Trader Vic and Fees taste just fine.

    maitai5Otherwise you need just a few other ingredients; fresh lime juice, triple sec, sugar syrup, a light grassy rum (rhum agricole is good), a dark funky rum, a sprig of mint and some crushed ice…..and a few extra minutes to make the drink.

    As for the rum, experts like Beachbum Berry and Rumdood all suggest an equal combination of Appleton 12 year (for the dark, funky notes) and Rhum Clement VSOP (aged, but still bright and a bit grassy) as the “standard”. And we agree. But we also like to play around and find other dark rums like El Dorado 8, 12 and 15 are all good (inexpensive) subs for the Appleton 12. We also think you can sub rhum Barbancourt (3 or 5 star) for the Clement, if the Clement is hard to find.

    maitai6Triple sec? We like Cointreau, but many suggest Clement Creole Shrub. Use what you like. Crushed ice? Trust us, it looks better and dilutes the drink properly. Mint Spring? Adds a bright note to the aroma of the drink, and it looks good. So does the lime shell. Got it? Good!

    Finally, one note on the history of the Mai Tai. While cocktail geeks historians quibble about the details, Trader Vic Bergeron made this version of the drink famous (even if Don the beachcomber made something else with the same name earlier). And Vic was a Bay Area guy, so we will stick with our man and tip our caps to Vic for this delightful sip. Now go make one before the summer is over!

    maitai1The Mai Tai:

    Ingredients:

    • 1 oz. dark(er), funky rum (Appleton 12 or El Dorado 8, 12, 15)
    • 1 oz. light(er) rum (Clement VSOP, rhum Barbancourt)
    • 3/4 oz. lime juice
    • 1/2 oz. orgeat syrup
    • 1/2 oz. triple sec
    • 1/4 oz. simple syrup
    • Mint sprig, for garnish

    Assemble:

    1. Using a blender, ice crusher or lewis bag, crush a bunch of ice.
    2. Add all the liquid ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice. Reserve the lime shell. Shake until well chilled.
    3. In a lowball glass, add the crushed ice and the lime shell. Stain the cocktail into the glass and garnish with the mint spring. Enjoy. Repeat.