• Weekly Cocktail #40: The Bamboo Cocktail

    The Bamboo Cocktail

    The Bamboo Cocktail

    Weekly cocktail time here at the farm, and with another Mixology Monday coming up, we figured we could get a twofer in before the weekend. Firstly, we want to thank Jordan at Chemistry of the Cocktail for hosting this month and Fred Yarm at Cocktail Virgin Slut for keeping the ship afloat. And secondly, here is this month’s theme:

    mxmologoFortified wines began, in large part, as a way to deal with the difficulties of shipping wine long distances in the holds of sailing ships. Without the rigorous sterilization that is possible today, wines would often spoil en route. However, increasing the alcohol concentration to around 20% ABV was enough to keep them from going off… These wines held an important place in.. punch and have continued on in cocktails proper.  [These wines include] sherry, port, and, to a lesser extent, madeira and marsala, all find their way into various mixed drinks… They can play many different roles – from taking the place of vermouths in classic drinks, to providing richness and sweetness in winter tipples, to serving as a base for lighter aperitifs. Whether forgotten classics or new creations, let’s see what you can put together.

    bambooHmmm. Truth be told, we are big fans of port and sherry with food, but have some history of struggling with them in cocktails (we love really good Madeira, but as a treat, and wouldn’t put the really old stuff in cocktails). One of the biggest challenges is the range of fortified wines, styles and producers. Spirits are consistent, fortified wines are most certainly not. Sherry by itself has half a dozen varieties from the bone dry (and almost salty), to the sticky sweet. A cocktail recipe with one type of sherry or port may rock, but be fully gag-inducing with another variety. A high-risk, high-reward ingredient.

    bamboo6bamboo1Happily, the point of this blog is to try new things and we took it as a challenge to come up with a sherry-based cocktail we liked. And since sherry cocktails are in vogue at the moment, there were plenty of new recipes out there to try with dry sherry. We tried a few that used dry Fino and Amontillado sherries (we will leave them unnamed) and, frankly, thought most were pretty bad, with the woody, saline flavors dominating and none of the nutty flavors we enjoy. Ugh.

    bamboo8So when the newfangled fails, we go back to the classics. And there are few more classic cocktails than the Bamboo cocktail. The Bamboo was created in the 1890’s by Louis Eppinger, the bartender of the Grand Hotel in Yokohama. The Bamboo is an even mix of dry sherry and dry vermouth with two dashes of orange bitters and a light dash of Angostura bitters and a lemon twist. This is an easy drink to make, and with its rich amber color, it certainly is pretty.

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  • Weekly Cocktail #28: The Sazerac

    The Sazerac Cocktail.

    As we noted all week, fall is almost here. And for us, fall means we get to break out the “brown” drinks. And we don’t mean to be derisive, but these are darker, heavier, and often sweeter, than most cocktails. Perfect for fall and winter, but perhaps a bit heavy for spring and summer. But as the weather starts to change, we occasionally crave a good brown drink; Old Fashioned, Manhattan, Vieux Carre’ and the Sazerac.

    And if we are drinking a strong whiskey cocktail, it’s very likely the Sazerac, the classic cocktail of New Orléans.  The Sazerac combines rye whiskey (yes we are on a rye kick), sugar, Peychaud’s and Angostura bitters with a touch of ice, served in an absinthe-rinsed glass and a lemon twist. We think of the Sazerac as an old-time Whiskey Cocktail (whiskey, sugar, bitters ice/water) with a few extra touches. Those extra touches include more bitters (some recipes use only Peychaud’s, we like using both), an absinthe rinse for the glass and the lemon twist. It may not sound like much, but these small changes make for a big difference. Nothing tastes quite like a Sazerac. Sweet, spicy and herbal, the Sazerac is a cocktail you can linger over and enjoy.

    In fact, many versions of the Sazerac suggest using little or no ice. And this makes some sense, as the drink comes from New Orleans in the mid 1800’s and ice wasn’t always readily available. And even if the cocktail were chilled, it would get warm fast-best to have a cocktail that tastes good cold or at room temperature. And while the Sazerac will taste good without much chill, we still prefer it cold.

    As for the history of the Sazerac, it was “invented”  at the Merchant’s Exchange Coffee House in the 1800’s. At the time, the spirit was cognac (the name “Sazerac” comes from a brand of cognac), not whiskey, but the phylloxera outbreaks of the 19th century forced the move to whiskey. Some early recipes also use bitters other than Peychaud’s, but Peychaud’s is now standard ingredient (purists will not like the inclusion of Angostura). The absinthe (or herbsaint- a pastis from New Orléans) has been a constant part of the recipe. It is unclear when the lemon twist came into things- but it’s good- and was in the recipe when it was first published in the 1908 cocktail book, “The World’s Drinks and How to Mix Them“.

    Finally, making the Sazerac does require a few extra steps, but they are worth it. You need to muddle a sugar cube (you can use simple syrup, too) and the bitters before adding the ice and Rye. And you need to rinse the serving glass with absinthe. This seems fussy, but it does seem to give you the perfect amount of absinthe- it won’t overpower the other ingredients. And finally you need to do a thorough job with the lemon twist and get all of those tasty oils in the drink. When you’re done, you get a lovely, complex sip. As we said “nothing tastes quite like a Sazerac”, and since there is no place quite like New Orléans, we think that fits.

    The Sazerac:

    • 2 oz. rye whiskey
    • 1 sugar cube (Demerara sugar preferred)
    • 3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
    • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
    • 1 teaspoon absinthe or pastis, for rinse
    • Lemon peel, for garnish


    1. Muddle the sugar cube and bitters in a mixing glass. Add the rye and ice. Stir to chill.
    2. Meanwhile, coat the inside of a lowball or old-fashioned glass with the absinthe. Pour off any excess. Add one large ice cube to the glass and pour in the cocktail. Twist the lemon peel directly over the drink to extract the oils. Discard the used lemon peel. Serve.
  • Bonus Cocktail: The Aviation

    Aviation Cocktail.

    This week’s bonus cocktail is a surprise to us. The drink itself is not a surprise, the Aviation is a classic cocktail. But we are surprised it took us so long to post it. We enjoy Aviations as one of our “go to” cocktails at home, and one of our local bars makes a great one. So I guess familiarity bred a touch of contempt.

    But there is nothing contemptible about the Aviation. One of the true masterpieces of pre-prohibition mixology, the Aviation combines dry gin, lemon juice, maraschino liqueur and (sometimes) Creme de Violette, a violet liqueur. The drink is the creation of Hugo Ensslin, a bartender at the Hotel Wallick in New York. He first published the recipe in 1916 in the book “Recipes for Mixed Drinks”. And the recipe has been published, and tweaked, ever since.

    Aviation cocktail and ingredients.

    The basics of the recipe, dry gin, lemon juice and maraschino have been constant, but the ratios vary. And then there is the issue of the Creme de Violette. Creme de Violette is a violet liqueur that tastes a lot like violet candies. If you remember violet candy, you may also remember that some people love them, and some hate them. “This tastes like soap” being a common refrain for those in the “hate” category. For a while, this was a non-issue as Creme de Violette was almost impossible to find in the US. But our friends at Haus Alpenz, revivers of all forgotten liqueurs brought it back to life with Rothman & Winter Creme de Violette (remember the Allspice Dram in the Ancient Mariner). And this “new” Creme de Violette is good, sweet, floral and depending on your point of view, perhaps a bit “perfumey” or just downright soapy.

    The attraction of using the Creme de Violette is both the flavor and the light blue color it lends to the drink, if you use enough of it. The name of the drink, it is believed, comes from the pale sky-blue color that was so enticing in the early days of aviation. But this is where many mixologists differ.  The Savoy Cocktail book, David Wondrich and Gary Regan go without the Violette, the PDT cocktail book includes it. Paul Clarke suggests you simply make the Creme de Violette optional. As it is, we suggest you use the Creme de Violette very sparingly (just a dash, you will still taste it) or omit it altogether.

    Required summer reading.

    As a practical matter, very few people have access to Creme de Violette and there is no need to run out and buy it (of course, we did- but we are geeky that way). First, try the recipe without the Violette. You will lose the lovely color, but the botanical flavors of the gin, the bright, sour lemon juice and the sweet, earthy maraschino are a great combination on their own. This is a very tasty cocktail that works in any season and for almost any occasion. And most home bars have gin and lemon juice- and you should have Maraschino (Luxardo is fine) in your bar, as it is an ingredient in literally dozens of classic cocktails. So before you get the Violette, make sure you have maraschino liqueur.

    If you do have the Creme de Violette, you can add up to 1/4 ounce to the drink and the color will be quite beautiful. But unless you really like floral and perfumed flavors the drink might be soapy unpalatable. But a dash or two will add some pleasant flavor and aroma, if you like violets. One other note on the booze- the recipe specifically calls for dry gin. If you use a “modern” gin that features floral botanicals, like Nolet’s, the flavors may not play well together. Traditional London dry gin like Tanqueray, Beefeater or Gordon’s are the best choices for this drink.

    Few drinks look better in a cocktail glass than the Aviation.

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