• Bonus Cocktail: The Fourth Degree

    fourth10How do you know when you have officially become a cocktail geek? (Besides, you know…blogging about them.) Well, there are a few signs; multiple bottles of bitters, obsession with vintage glassware, too much gin and very little vodka, rum from at least 6 different Caribbean countries and the obligatory bottle(s) of absinthe are all reliable signs. Throw in some Falernum and Fernet and it is pretty clear that you, my friend, are a cocktail geek.

    fourthBut there is another major sign that you have gone over to the dark side (and, let’s face it, some of us enjoy it over here). Vermouth. If you have multiple bottles of vermouth and they are (hopefully) in the fridge, then you are probably a cocktail geek. And if you actually mix, match and test different recipes with different vermouth, then you are definitely a cocktail geek. Welcome.

    fourth2But even if you aren’t a cocktail geek (yet) we do suggest that all educated drinkers keep a good bottle each of sweet and dry vermouth. Keep them in the fridge, and use them often. Each brand has its charms and we suggest you experiment. And beyond the basic Martini and Manhattan, there are many experiments worth trying. We suggest the Fourth Degree be one of your first experiments.

    fourth8We will forgo some of the history (the drink, with differing recipes, is found in the Savoy and Imbibe!), but the Fourth Degree is a classic from the “golden age” of pre-prohibition cocktails. It lands somewhere between the Martinez (the proto-Martini) and the classic “wet” Martini. Not surprisingly, it uses gin and vermouth. But in this case, equal amounts of gin and both sweet and dry vermouth- along with a dash of absinthe and a lemon twist.

    fourth4Now you may say “meh”, but we suggest you try the Fourth Degree before you judge it. The drink is a bit sweet, but the flavors are deep, multi-layered and complex. You will get herbal and anise notes, but also surprising hints of fruit, chocolate and almond. The aroma of herbs and lemon peel is just as delightful. And, due to the large proportion of vermouth, the drink isn’t too strong. Go ahead and have another…

    fourth9The Fourth Degree is also a recipe that welcomes experimentation. Many have made the drink dryer with a larger proportion of gin, and that is very good. You can also play with the vermouth. Changing the sweet vermouth from M&R to Carpano Antica to Dolin to Vya will make for a substantially different drink. As will changes with the dry vermouth (we like Dolin and Vya here). But, of course, to truly experiment you need to collect a bunch of vermouth….hmmm….see what we mean?

    The Fourth Degree Cocktail:

    Ingredients:

    • 3/4 oz. dry gin
    • 3/4 oz. dry vermouth
    • 3/4 oz. sweet vermouth
    • 4 dashes (1 tsp.) absinthe
    • Lemon twist

    Assemble:

    1. Add all the liquid ingredients to a cocktail glass with ice and stir until well-chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass or coupé. Garnish with the lemon twist. Serve.
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  • Weekly Cocktail # 54: The Putney Farm Negroni

    negroni

    The Putney Farm Negroni.

    We have heard that the real-world definition of stupidity is to fail at something and then repeat the same action over and over. And yet, here we are again, trying to find a variation of the Negroni that we enjoy. Stupid? Maybe. But the key word here is “variation”, we keep trying new formulas, gins and sweet vermouth with the hope we can break through. And finally we broke through. We found a Negroni recipe we truly love. So were we stupid to keep trying? No…..Tipsy? Maybe.

    negroni7negroni5Why all the effort? The Negroni is a classic cocktail loved by many aficionados that we respect. If they love the drink so much, maybe we can find a version we like. And the formula makes perfect sense, herbal gin, sweet vermouth, bitter and fruity Campari and that beautiful color. Depth, complexity, beauty- what’s not to like?  Well, for us, the problem has been flavor. Too bitter, too ashy and yet too sweet at the same time. There is alchemy in a good Negroni (or any great cocktail), but we were not finding it.

    negroni6negroni4We played with different gins, but be it Tanq or Plymouth or Bluecoat, they didn’t seem to be the problem. As for the Campari- we can play with the ratios, but you need Campari for a real Negroni (although you can sub for it and get a great cocktail). So the last variable was the sweet vermouth, and this was where we have spent much of our time. We love the Carpano Antica, but it was too strongly flavored and brought out the ashy notes of the Campari. Dolin and M&R just seemed sweet and lost to the Campari. But then we got some Cocchi Americano Rosa and we found our answer.

    negroni3And even this may be a bit of a hack. Cocchi Americano Rosa is technically an Americano, a type of quinquina (aperitif wine with chinchona / quinine), but it is an easy substitute for sweet vermouth. What makes the Cocchi work better for us is its combination of bright fruit flavors and bitterness from the quinine. Think very good sangria, with slight bitter notes. The Rosa is lovely to drink on its own with some ice, but in cocktails that call for sweet vermouth, it brings lighter and brighter flavors. A fun ingredient to play with.negroni9

    When we tried the Negroni with the Cocchi Americano Rosa, it was very good, and the bitter flavors of the Cocchi and the Campari were surprisingly complimentary. But we did want to capture more of the fruity notes of the Cocchi, so we took out a bit of the Campari. As for the gin, a very clean and bright gin like Bluecoat or Plymouth are our favorite here, and we put in a bit more to boost the herbal notes (and because we always like more gin). As for garnish, the traditional orange peel works well. Continue reading

  • Bonus Cocktail: Scott’s Manhattan

    Scott’s Manhattan.

    One of the best parts of enjoying cocktails with friends is that they share their favorites and personal creations with you. And sometimes, after a few drinks and/or a visit to the fruit stand, you can build and enjoy “new” drinks. We say “new” but as this cocktail is a variant of the Manhattan, one of the most tweaked cocktails in the world, someone has probably made this before. But a quick search of Cocktail DB didn’t come up with a name, so we will call this one “Scott’s Manhattan”, after our friend Scott who made this cocktail for us during our visit to Long Island.

    A few more ingredients than a regular Manhattan.

    If you read our blog regularly, you will note that we sometimes avoid “brown drinks” like Manhattans, particularly in summer. But Scott is an avowed, and knowledgeable, fan of the Manhattan and made us a version that works in any season. His version includes two ounces of rye, one ounce of sweet vermouth, muddled cherries, a touch of lemon juice and orange bitters to create a bright and “summery” Manhattan. While anyone who likes Manhattans will recognize the whiskey and vermouth, Scott’s additions brighten the flavors and add a clean finish that works very well in warm weather. We all liked this drink and enjoyed quite a few in the last week. Usually whiskey stays near the back of our summer bar, but this drink changed our minds.

    Traditionally, a Manhattan is 2 parts bourbon or rye and one part sweet vermouth. Most recipes include bitters, usually Angostura, and often a cherry as garnish. A classic drink, but very sweet to our tastes, particularly if using bourbon. Scott’s version adds more spice by using rye and citrus notes from the orange bitters. The cherries add both sweetness and tang, and really amp up the color. The first sip of this cocktail is sweet and spicy, but then the citrus and cherries kick in for a lighter, fruitier finish than any traditional Manhattan. Purists may cringe, but we are all for seasonal experimentation and variation with our cocktails- it’s fun, and cocktails are all about fun.

    As for making the drink, it is pretty straightforward, with just a few extra steps. Place two fresh, pitted cherries, a lemon twist and a few drops of lemon juice to a cocktail shaker and muddle to extract the juice from the cherries and oil from the lemon peel. Add the rye, sweet vermouth, orange bitters (we use Regan’s for this version) and ice to the shaker. Shake until chilled and strain into a cocktail glass. For the rye, we like Bulleit and High West for cocktails, but most good rye will do. If using bourbon, the drink will usually be sweeter, so an extra drop of lemon or a touch less vermouth may help balance the drink. As for the sweet vermouth, we use Noilly Prat or Dolin, but we suggest you experiment with the sweet vermouth you prefer (and you do keep your vermouth in the fridge, right?). With the extra red color from the cherries and aroma from the lemon, we don’t think a garnish is necessary, but perhaps an orange twist will add extra dimension…. Again, feel free to experiment. Scott experimented, and we got a great drink….

    Scott’s Manhattan:

    Ingredients:

    • 2 oz. rye or bourbon
    • 1 oz. sweet vermouth
    • 2 sweet cherries, pitted
    • 1 lemon twist / peel (about the size of a quarter).
    • 2-3 drops lemon juice
    • 3 dashes orange bitters (Regan’s)

    Assemble:

    1. Place cherries, lemon peel and juice into a cocktail shaker and muddle to extract juice and oil.
    2. Add rye, sweet vermouth , bitters and ice to the shaker. Shake thoroughly and strain into a chilled cocktail glass or coupe’. Serve.