Wow, 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!
Meanwhile, 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!
Now, 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).
For 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.
So how do you make the Vieux Carre’ even better? Age it for 4-6 weeks in an oak barrel. Now, we know that barrel-aging may seem either affected to some, or passe’ to others (depending on how close you live to Brooklyn, Portland or San Francisco), but aging makes the Vieux Carre’ sing. Add more spice, caramel and wood notes to an already-great cocktail and you get something truly special. Quite simply, if you want to barrel-age a cocktail, there is none better than the Vieux Carre’ (and we have barrel-aged many classic cocktails).
The other benefit to barrel-aging is that you don’t need to use super-expensive booze to make a good cocktail. We made a batch using high-end Cognac and rye, and it was amazing. But you can use decent cognac / armagnac / brandy and a basic rye like Rittenhouse and the results will be nearly as good, at half the cost. The time in the barrel is a great equalizer (or should we say “balancer”?). The one constant that we do suggest is using Dolin sweet vermouth. We find that Carpano Antica or even M&R stand out a bit too much in this smoothest, most “balanced” of sips…..
So thanks to Southern Ash for hosting this month and Fred Yarm at Cocktail
Virgin Slut for keeping the party going.
The Vieux Carre’: (1 serving)
- 3/4 oz. Cognac (or Armagnac)
- 3/4 oz. rye whiskey
- 3/4 oz. sweet vermouth (Dolin)
- 1 barspoon Benedictine
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- 2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
- Lemon twist
- Add all the liquid ingredients to a cocktail glass with ice. Stir until chilled and strain into an ice-filled old-fashioned glass. Garnish with a lemon twist. Serve.
Barrel-Aged Vieux Carre’: (3-liter barrel, and see below for notes on barrel size)
- 24 oz. Cognac (or Armagnac)
- 24 oz. rye whiskey
- 24 oz. sweet vermouth (Dolin)
- 6 oz. Benedictine
- 24 dashes Angostura bitters
- 24 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
- Lemon twists (when serving)
- Add the liquid ingredients to a prepared oak aging barrel (see Tuthilltown Spirits for a barrel and adjust ratios / amounts for the barrel you buy). Mix well and then age for 4-6 weeks, tasting
oftenoccasionally. Bottle the cocktail when you reach the desired flavor.
- When mixing the cocktail, add all the liquid ingredients to a cocktail glass with ice. Stir until chilled and strain into an ice-filled old-fashioned glass. Garnish with a lemon twist. Serve.