• MxMo XCVII Cocktail: The Perfectly Perfect Manhattan

    perfect4Time again for Mixology Monday! Let’s get right to the booze. This month’s theme is from our fearless leader, Fred Yarm of Cocktail Virgin Slut is “I’ll Take Manhattan”. Thanks again to Fred for hosting…here is the breakdown:

    mxmologoTurning to David Wondrich’s Imbibe! for some historical reference, he bandied back and forth about possible creators and locales for this classic’s creation. Perhaps it was created many places and many times, for sweet vermouth was the new hot ingredient of the 1870s and 1880s as St. Germain was in 2007 and 2008 (and arguably even to today). Wondrich quoted from the anonymously penned 1898 Cocktails: How To Make Them, “The addition of Vermouth was the first move toward the blending of cocktails.” In my mind, the Manhattan takes the Old Fashioned one step further. Not only does it replace the sugar with sweet vermouth, but this sweetener ties its herbal notes to those of the bitters and its spice notes to the barrel-aged whiskey (especially rye whiskey) as well as the bitters again. Furthermore, the addition of a hint of fruit and caramel flavoring is a welcome addition to the mix (I will not directly draw any link to the vermouth’s fruit and the cherry garnish though). While there have been a variety of Manhattan variations through the years such as the Preakness and the Brooklyn, most of the twentieth century saw this drink unchanged, in theory that is… However, the last decade or so has seen a renewal in the drink begin made correctly. Moreover, I would point to New York City cerca 2005 as the re-birth of the Manhattan variation with drinks like the Red Hook being born. For this theme, actuate it any way you’d like as long as the drink resembles a Manhattan. Want to take 19th century Manhattan recipes or variations to the test? …Or perhaps subbing out the whiskey or vermouth for another ingredient or adding in a liqueur or other modifier or so to the mix? Awesome, you’re right on track! There are plenty of Manhattan and Manhattan variations out there in the literature, and theres plenty of room to explore and tinker if that’s your thing, too.

    Great theme. The only bummer for us is that we would easily choose the Brooklyn, one of our favorite cocktails, but also one we have blogged about (one of our most popular posts, in fact) and is already in the announcement post. Happily, the Brooklyn itself is a riff on another classic Manhattan variant, the “Perfect Manhattan”.

    perfectperfect1perfect2So what makes it “perfect”? Basically, the Perfect Manhattan adds dry vermouth along with sweet vermouth of the classic Manhattan. And when you use rye whiskey for your Manhattans (and we do prefer rye), the herbal flavors of the dry vermouth lighten the overall taste of the cocktail and compliment the rye’s “spicy” notes. Adding both a dash of Angostura and Orange bitters gives you citrus notes and a dry edge to the finish. Overall, the Perfect Manhattan is the “right” Manhattan to try if you find the classic version a bit heavy and sweet. (It is much less of a “brown drink” as Carolyn would say.)

    The other “perfect” thing about the Perfect Manhattan is that if you like cocktails at all, the recipe uses ingredients that you should have. Rittenhouse rye, sweet and dry vermouth, Angostura bitters and orange bitters are all staples of a good home cocktail “bar”. So if you don’t have any of these ingredients, now is the time to get them!

    perfect3As for the vermouth, you can go with M&R or Dolin for sweet, but we prefer the bolder flavors of Cocchi Vermouth di Torino or Carpano Antica. As for dry vermouth, we strongly recommend Dolin and its smooth, herbal flavors.

    perfect5Finally, we suggest you garnish with good quality maraschino cherries, either homemade or Luxardo will do nicely. Nothing makes a Perfect Manhattan more perfect than a few cherries…

    The Perfectly Perfect Manhattan:

    Ingredients:

    • 2 oz. rye whiskey (Rittenhouse)
    • 1/2 oz. sweet vermouth (Cocchi)
    • 1/2 oz. dry vermouth (Dolin)
    • Angostura bitters
    • Regan’s Orange Bitters
    • Maraschino cherries, for garnish (Luxardo)

    Assemble:

    1. Place all the liquid ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir until well-chilled and strain into a chilled cocktail glass or coupé. Garnish with 1 or 2 cherries. Serve.

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  • 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 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