• 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.

     

     

     

  • Mixology Monday LXXXVI Cocktail: The Nuevo Presidente

    pres6Ah, just when we started slowing down on cocktail posts, it’s Mixology Monday again. Just another excuse to keep mixing drinks. Such is life…..and life is good.

    mxmologoThis month, the theme comes from Thiago of the excellent Bartending Notes blog. Here it is:

    Let’s bring the king of fruits back! After being canned, mixed with all sorts of sugary liquids and blended into… some 80s dreadful cocktails, the pineapple needs more respect! Once a symbol of hospitality, the King of Fruits might be know misunderstood. One of the greatest non-citrus souring agents, used for crazy garnish ideas, infusions, old gum syrup flavoring, the pineapple is a fruit to be reckoned. Be in a tiki cocktails, an old school classic like the Algonquin, a crazy flavor pairing or just mixed in a delicious Verdita, get creative and make a cocktail using any part of this delicious, juicy fruit or share you favorite pineapple cocktail with us!

    Pineapple, a perfect choice for some of the longest (and hopefully the laziest) days of the year. And as happy tiki drinkers, we enjoy plenty of pineapple here at the farm (also great in dessert- see here). And we just happened to have a pineapple cocktail we wanted to check out.

    pres1pres2Normally we get a bit “experimental” for Mixology Monday, but we recently read about a pineapple cocktail called the El Presidente and put it on our list of cocktails to try. Funny thing, normally an “El Presidente” refers to a rum-based martini variant, and it is something of a classic. But we also found references to this other “El Presidente”, basically a daiquiri with pineapple juice and grenadine replacing sugar. A decent drink, with a bit more complexity and that nice foamy texture from the pineapple, but one that could be tweaked a bit.

    pres3pres4pres5For the Nuevo Presidente, we chose an aged rum (we used El Dorado 5 Year, but use an aged rum you like) with some funk to add more flavor. Pineapple loves darker rum, so that was an easy fix. The other change we made was replacing the grenadine, which doesn’t do much in the original. We tried different bitters, Chambord and crème de cassis to add some kick and depth. And in the end a few dashes of cassis added to the completed cocktail was the clear winner. The cassis sinks to the bottom of the drink and adds a layer of color, while offering a distinct deep berry bite to the last sip. A nice touch and a very good way to riff on a  daiquiri. This is an easy drink to make and enjoy, and it will appear a few more times this summer at the farm.

    PresSo thanks to Thiago for hosting this month and to Fred Yarm at Cocktail Virgin Slut for keeping the monthly party rolling.

    The Nuevo Presidente:

    Ingredients:

    • 2 oz. aged rum (El Dorado 5 Year Old)
    • 1/2 oz. pineapple juice
    • 1/2 oz. lime juice
    • 3 – 4 dashes  crème de cassis

    Assemble:

    1. Add the rum, pineapple juice and lime juice to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until chilled and double-strain into a chilled cocktail glass, coupé or flute. Add the crème de cassis to the drink and let it settle to the bottom of the glass. Serve.

     

     

     

  • Monthly Cocktail #1: The Midnight Daiquiri

    mid5Happy Tuesday! And we choose to celebrate this auspicious day with something new, the “Monthly” cocktail feature. It was weekly, but we were having a hard time keeping up. So “Monthly” it is…

    In any event, is there any better flavor combination in cocktails than rum, lime and sugar?  So simple, so perfect and yet so flexible. The basic daiquiri is still a classic and one of our “go-to” drinks in any season. But like most classics, one you fully embrace the basic structure, one starts to riff and experiment. And with rum, probably more than any other spirit, the possibilities are endless.

    mid1Rum has more varieties than almost any other spirit. Molasses vs. cane juice, pot vs. column still, country of origin, aging, blending and filtration all come into play. And in the end, every nation, every island, every distiller has it’s own distinct flavor. And unlike whiskies, the range is incredibly broad. Scotch and Bourbon have many flavor profiles, but you know exactly what they are. Meanwhile there are rhum agricoles and cachacas that taste grassy like tequila, white rums so light in flavor that they are closer to vodka, aged rums that sip like whiskey and dark / black rums that are something else altogether….and that is where we have been playing lately.

    mid2While it may have a questionable reputation, (a few too many Meyers ‘n Pineapples in your youth can leave a mark) dark rum is nothing to be afraid of. In fact, the flavors range as widely as rum overall. Most dark rums will have bittersweet molasses core, but they also feature spice, vanilla, funk, chocolate, coffee and even maple syrup notes. And these are all flavors that make for tasty, complex and sometimes memorable cocktails.

    We often wax poetic about Appleton 12-year-old, our favorite rum, and one that may be called “dark”. But recently we started playing with something cheaper and a lot funkier, Cruzan Blackstrap rum. And this is fun stuff to play with. The Cruzan has all the dark molasses flavors along with notes of spice and maple, and with a lighter mouthfeel than you might expect. And at under 20 bucks a bottle, a real deal.

    midSo what did we do with the stuff? Experiment, of course. But after a while we made our own creation, the Midnight Daiquiri. The Midnight Daiquiri uses Cruzan Blackstrap rum (you could sub Gosling’s or Meyer’s), lime juice, falernum syrup, coffee liqueur and bitters. The sip starts with a bittersweet molasses nose and then a sweet, spicy “rum, lime and coke” flavor that ends with a slightly bitter note that cleans the palate. A very easy sipper, more refreshing than you might think and certainly worth a try.

    mid4The inspiration for the Midnight Daiquiri comes from a few excellent cocktails. The falernum (spiced lime syrup) and dark rum are from the Corn ‘n Oil, the coffee liqueur from the Port Antonio and the extra bitter notes from Comal’s Black Daiquiri. In each cocktail the common thread is to embrace the flavors of the dark rum, and not hide them. And in the Midnight Daiquiri you get the full spectrum, spice, coffee, maple and, of course, molasses, all playing well together.

    mid3So the next time you see that bottle of dark rum gathering dust on you shelf, take it down, pull out some limes and get to work. You never know what you might find…

    The Midnight Daiquiri:

    Ingredients:

    • 2 oz. black or dark rum (Cruzan Blackstrap)
    • 1 oz. fresh lime juice
    • 3/4 oz. falernum syrup (you can sub Velvet Falernum in a pinch)
    • 1/4 oz. coffee liqueur
    • 3 dashes Angostura bitters
    • 2 dashes Bittermens Tiki bitters (optional, but good)
    • Lime wheel, for garnish

    Assemble:

    1. Combine the liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until well-chilled. Strain into a chilled coupé or cocktail glass. Garnish with the lime wedge and serve. You can also serve this cocktail on the rocks in a lowball glass.