September 22, 2014

The Unknown - Gimlet

Chris of the ABarAbove blog is this month's MxMo taskmaster and he has set us a really hard task: He wants us to try something we have never tried before. Or to quote from his announcement post:

Basically 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.

I have chosen Rose's Lime cordial - an ingredient I have never mixed with, and I can't really say I been daydreaming about it either.

However the lime cordial is part of the history of the Gimlet and so I secured a bottle of the light green stuff.

And then I chose Raymond Chandler to be my guide and use the ratio he heralds in The Long Goodbye: We sat in a corner of the bar at Victor's and drank gimlets. "They don't know how to make them here," he said. "What they call a gimlet is just some lime or lemon juice and gin with a dash of sugar and bitters. A real gimlet is half gin and half Rose's Lime Juice and nothing else. It beats martinis hollow."

I believe many would suggest mixing with Plymouth Gin for the cocktails connection to the British Navy and the curative mix of lime and gin that kept the sailors from getting scurvy. I chose a Sipsmith VJOP in stead for the generous amount of both juniper and alcohol - thinking that might even be a more authentic gin taste from way back when the mix of lime and gin did not have a fancy name and was not written up in cocktail books.

But I'm not sure if it is the 1:1 ratio or the choice of gin that let's this particular drink down - it's just not a nice taste. The decidedly synthetic taste from the lime cordial catches on the strong juniper flavor of the gin and leaves you with a taste of cough syrup and unwashed underwear.

So I think it's safe to say - I've bought my first and my last bottle of Rose's Lime.



September 6, 2014

Green Tea Martini


Sometimes the internet will take you places you didn't know you wanted to go to. Like to a page where a Green Tea Martini is mentioned, and then that idea gets stuck in your brain and won't leave.

That is what happened to me today, and fortunately I had - or thought I had - the right ingredients for the cocktail.

A while ago I picked up a bottle of small batch vodka in a newly opened store in Copenhagen. The guy running the store had distilled it and he has chosen the name The Clumsy Bear for his vodka.

I thought this would be a good cocktail to test the vodka on.

The original recipe calls for a traditional japanese syrup called Kuromitsu made from black sugar. I have no access to that, but I figured instead I would use barley malt syrup for a flavorful sweetener. Also it ties in with the barley malt used in the vodka.

And then I was absolutely sure I had some small packets of powdered green tea - and sure enough at the back of my cupboard I found a stack of packets. Since I have no recollection of ever making green tea from them, I do not know if the powder have become too old and changed color or just are of a different kind than the type Takumi Watanabe uses.

In any event my Green Tea Martini was more of a bog swamp color than the bright green color in the pictured with the original recipe.

Taste wise I like it a lot - it has a dry quality to it which is a bit surprising with 3 cl creme de cacao in it. So maybe I should look for some bright green green tea powder and add it to my repertoire.
  • 6 cl vodka
  • 3 cl white creme de cacao - I used Bols
  • teaspoon powdered green tea
  • 1 cl barley malt syrup
I started by stirring the tea into the vodka and then added the other two ingredients, then filled my shaker with ice and gave it a good shake. Owing to the fact that the vodka bottle had a wax seal that had floated a few bits into the bottle I double strained the cocktail.

August 24, 2014

The Leaky Coconut

I know better than to name my contribution to this month's MxMo Coco Tai: I want to live a long and full life, shortened by neither the Tiki-Gods nor their followers. So I chose a better name....

I don't remember ever having to work as hard or thinks as long when it comes to a MxMo theme. But ever since JFL of the brilliant blog Rated R Cocktails published the theme of coconut I have been struggling.
His reasons for choosing the theme did not help me at all:
Ah the Coconut, so round, so firm, so fully packed… with flavor… Coconut is versatile, coconut is magical, not only is it edible but it can be made into scores of products. However, this month you need only concern yourself with the liquid variety as I unveil MxMo Coconut. Yes friends, it is my sincere belief the coconut does not get the love, nay the respect it so richly deserves. Because this easy going tropical seed had its heyday in the Tiki era, it’s happily associated with the same fun loving drinks… Despite all the great Tiki drinks coconut appear in most people are down on the humble seed because of the Piña Colada. Friends, this need not be so; I say we take this delicious ingredient and show it can yield a tasty, well balanced cocktail. It doesn’t have to be tropical necessarily. I’d really love to see some of my friends more classically minded come up with a cocktail more befitting a pre-Prohibition mindset.
Because you see - I don't like coconut - as in could live happily ever after, if I never tasted it again.

Consider this: I live in Denmark on the 55th parallel. What ever coconut I've come into contact with have been old, stale and in some instances rancid. Or on most other occasions....fake.

But I'm not one to turn my back on a challenge. So I persevered. I really did think long and hard how coconut could find it's place in a pre-prohibition gin cocktail but I could not come up with an answer.

Instead I kept returning to a trusted friend - the Mai Tai. And I thought what if I replace the orgeat with a coconut syrup made the same way? Switch lime juice with rose hip juice and the curaçao with limoncello?

  • 1 oz Jamaican Rum - I used Appelton V/X
  • 1 oz Demerera Rum - I used El Dorado 8 yo
  • 1 oz rose hip juice (I cooked about 15 ripe rose hips with seeds and all in 2 dl of water for about 2 minutes and strained it)
  • 1/2 oz of coconut syrup (I used this recipe for orgeat - substitution organic coconut flakes for almonds, coconut sugar for the regular sugar, coconut water for regular water and added rose tincture at the end)
  • 1/4 oz limoncello

Shake all ingredients with crushed ice, pour into hollowed out coconut, garnish with a piece of fresh coconut and a rose hip.

And the name....guess who's coconut leaked......?

August 10, 2014

Flutterby Lassi

Recently a journalist asked me to explain, what makes a cocktail a classic.

The best comparison I could come up with was literature. A book becomes a classic when it newer leave the curriculum of everyday readers - when it stands the test of time. Same with a cocktail - if people keeps drinking it, it's a classic.

I do not however have any idea over what period of time this is measured - not with books, not with cocktails.

But we do talk about modern or almost instant classics like Audrey Saunder's Old Cuban and Sam Ross' Penicillin - Tom Walker's Maid in Cuba an absinthe/cucumber cocktail in it's own right have been described as a modern classic too.

Perhaps the Flutterby Lassi from the bar of one of London's smartest Indian Restaurants - Gymkhana - will become a classic.

If not I find it fits nicely the other two dairy based cocktails I have mixed this year: The Snowball and the Buttermilk Margarita. The later being much better than the first.

For the Flutterby I followed this recipe from the Guardian pretty close:
  • 2 cm of cucumber
  • 3 sprigs of fresh dill
  • 3,5 cl of Absinthe - I used Blanche de Fougerolles 74
  • 5 cl of yogurt - not the firm Greek style yogurt but a more runny kind
  • 2 cl of gomme syrup
  • 2 cl of lime juice - which is twice the amount of the recipe, but it tasted too sweet with just 1 cl
Start by cutting the peel of the cucumber - you need it for the garnish so using a peeler cut one long peel around the stump of cucumber.

Muddle the cucumber with 2 sprigs of dill, the lime juice and the gomme - this was where I decided to up the lime juice. Add absinthe and yogurt to shaker and shake well with ice.

Double strain into glass and then roll the last sprig of dill inside the cucumber peel and use that as a garnish.


July 22, 2014

Lemon Cherry Cachaca Smash

Leaving New Orleans was not easy this year. Even after one whole day of rain that city grows on you and Tales of The Cocktails is an amazing reason to visit.

Not even a long and bothersome journey home involving not one but two reroutings and a seven hour wait in Amsterdam could wipe smile off my face.

I even managed a friendly grimace while queuing to report my luggage missing. It still haven't turned up and it contains quite a few treasures and most of my summer wardrobe.

But I still have my little black note book with ideas, stories, interesting facts and overall impressions from four brilliant days of seminars, tastings and networking.

At the same time I came home to the Danish weather is outdoing itself with high temperatures and lots of sun.

While this place will never be the tropics tonight it is time for a tropical drink and as we are less than a week from Mixology Monday and the theme of The Smash I figured I would put a theory to the test that I developed on Friday in a ballroom at the Royal Sonesta Hotel while listening to Jared Brown and Anistatia Miller talking about the journey from garden, field and forrest to bottle and glass.

The two of them were advising against adding sugar to a bottle of booze with fruit when you want to make a liqueur. The reson being that natures aim for osmotic balance would push the sugar from outside into the fruit instead of drawing the sugar from the fruit into the booze.

In other words by disregarding their advice you can make sour fruits sweet.

So today about an hour before mixing my drink I peeled an lemon and broke it into bits in a bowl and the covered it with a lavender simple syrup.

Then I took the cue from a drink mixed by the guys from Duck and Cover Bar in Copenhagen they call Frederiksdal Fizz where a cachaca aged in cherry wood is mixed with cherry liqueur and seltzers and married it with my idea of sweet lemons:
  • 6 cl of cachaca aged in brazilian cherry wood - I used Germana's Caetano's cacha
  • 2 and a half slices of lavender syrup infused fresh lemon
  • 2 cl cherry liqueur - I used Frederiksdal New Nordic
  • Lemon soda - I used Pellegrino Lemonata
  • sprig of lavender 
  • Maraschino cherries - I used my own.
Muddle the lemon, the lavender flower petals and the cachaca in a shaker tin. Fill a tall glass halfway with crushed ice and add the content of the shaker, add more ice and the as much lemon soda as you want, top drink off with yet more ice and drizzle the cherry liqueur on top. (Boozy sno ball anyone?)

Add straws and garnish with a couple of marashino cherries.
 

July 6, 2014

Red Lady

I don't much like woodlands much - I live on the edge og a couple but always choose the open area with a horizon and a low landscape of heather between them.

It may be a childhood trauma - I was lost one evening in a pretty big and dark pine forest. Probably for at least 15 minutes. Enough to put me off pine trees for good.

So it's a testament to my love of gin that I walked into a pretty thick overgrown piece of pine woodland today in search of juniper mapped out in the center of the woodland.

I found exactly one tablespoonfull of ripe juniper berries. It took me at least 20 minutes and the puncture of every one of fingers to secure them Need I add that I did all this at noon on a very warm day? One saying needs to be altered: Only mad dogs and gin crazy women stay out in the noon day sun.

The whole area has the delightful name; Russia.  It's protected and in the center is a museum in honor of a quite famous Danish artist named Rudolph Tegner. Dotted around the landscape are some of his sculptures. All in all a quite magical places.

Especially when I came across two wild cherry trees with quite a few ripe berries on them - all begging to be picked.

Once home the junipers were smashed a bit and set to steep in vodka (yes I'm making gin tasting vodka) and the cherries were pitted and turned into cherry shrub - well actually just cooked with a bit of sugar, lemon juice and cherry vinegar until I was satisfied with the taste. Until I get Michael Dietsch's book on shrubs I don't know if I'm doing it right, as I never make huge batches meant to be preserved for any lenght of time.

I decided to look to the White Lady for a red version - and the only fitting name was Red Lady as the cherries were picked in Russia:
  • 3 cl cherry chrub
  • 3 cl Marashino
  • 5 cl gin - I used Tarquin's
  • egg white 
Add all ingredients to shaker and shake for 15 seconds without ice, then add ice and shake for another 15 seconds. Strain into cocktail coupe. 

I am pretty sure that most of my expert readers can tell from the picture I did not use enough egg white. The drink should have a strong, even white head. On top I intended to garnish with a tiny amount of black, Icelandic, carbon salt. But because I used too little (the rest was necessary for dinner and I only had one egg left) it sank to the bottom of the cocktail.

July 3, 2014

Buttermilk Margarita - and a cheeseball

Frankly I thought I had mixed my last cocktail with fresh milk back in April, when the Snow Ball seperated in front of my eyes and left me with a glass of violet colored minty curds. But then last night a gentleman I hold in high esteem blogged about a buttermilk margarita and I was hooked again.

Jörg Meyer owns the best bar I have ever had the pleasure of visiting: Le Lion in Hamburg. When my friend and I visited a couple of years ago we fell madly in admiration of bartender Mario Kappes. And it seems that Mr. Meyer have found another amazing bartender in Bettina Kupsa who is the creator of the Buttermilk Margarita.

This cocktail is everything the Snow Ball was not: Well balanced, pretty, surprising and a wholly new way to appreciate both tequila and the mighty Margarita.

The first sip reminded me of my first sip of a milk punch: Milk adds something to the taste of a drink that is so right yet so unidentifiable. And the sour note of the buttermilk picks up the lemon and lime perfectly in this cocktail. Well done.

I much followed the recipe as written except I only had silver tequila:
  • 6 cl tequila - I used Patron Silver
  • 3 cl buttermilk - I used organic non-homogenized and it did not split at any point
  • 2 cl lemon juice
  • 1 cl lime juice
  • 2 cl agave syrup (I probably used a good deal less mine was very thick)
  • 1 bar spoon quince jelly
All ingredients measured into a shaker and shaken with ice. Strain into a coupe.

And as a snack I made a pineapple cheeseball. A while ago I noticed a picture from Elena of Stir and Strain on Pinterest - it was a full sized pineapple molded out of cream cheese. I never know something like a cheese ball even existed so I explored further and found a large edition of the one I made today.

I used fresh cheese and goats cheese and probably ended up with a cheese ball not solid enough as the fresh pineapple I used added liquid too, but it turned out ok and would make a fun party snack.

June 21, 2014

Copenhagen Stick

The moment I saw that pineapple was the theme for this edition of Mixology Monday I knew I wanted to work with a childhood summer treat: Københavnerstang. (Literally meaning: Copenhagen Stick)

Bartending Notes challenges us with the mighty pineapple and even made us a sweet little pineapple MxMo-logo:



The idea is to: "...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!"

Since sometimes in the 50's the major ice cream company in Denmark have produced an ice cream lolly with a center of vanilla ice cream center and then a thin layer of pineapple sorbet on the outside. The wrapper is decorated with drawing from Copenhagen and Tivoli - the amusementpark in the city center all befitting the name Københavnerstang.

There is nothing gourmet or New Nordic about it - it's most likely made from margarine, fake vanilla and artificial pineapple, but I've always liked it.

In other to recreate it in a glass I had to decide on a base spirit. I do believe Danish bars since back in the 80'ies have made one with vodka and overly sweet pineapple juice. But that's not what I wanted.

So I decided to go with Del Maguey's Crème de Mezcal, it has a little smoke from the mezcal and added sweetness, the vanilla I introduced by way of Galliano and then I mixed a little lemon juice into the pineapple juice to balance out all the sweetess. It workes well and would make a lovely summer dessert cocktail.
  • 4,5 cl Creme de Mezcal
  • 6 cl pineapple juice (I just put chunks of a pineapple in food processor and strained the juice of)
  • 2 cl Galliano
  • 1,5 cl lemon juice
Measure everything into a shaker, add ice and shake well. The pineapple juice will give you cocktail a lovely head of white foam.

And then since I couldn't find a place close by selling the original ice cream lolly (it's mostly enjoyed by old folks like me) I crochet one as a garnish. (jump past photo for instructions:)


Round 1: Using yellow cotton yarn sc 6 in magic ring (6)
Round 2: 2 scs in each st around (12)
Round 3 : * sc in next st , 2 scs in next st *. Repeat from * around (18)
Round 4: * sc in next 2 sts , 2 scs in next st * . Repeat from * around (24)
Round 5-Round 8: sc  in each st around
Round 9-Round 10: sc in each st around using off white cotton yarn

June 6, 2014

Rhubarb Negroni - Negroni Week 2014


Discussing Negroni Week with a coworker yesterday quickly saw us googling and stumbling across a rhubarb Negroni. Since I love all things rhubarb and especially the bright red stalks I can pull out of my own garden the name alone had me decided.

Then it turned out, that the cocktail contains Zucca an Italian Rhubarb Amaro not in my home bar end a trip to an Italian shop in an obscure part of the Copenhagen harbor was planned for today after work.

I will not try to portrait my self as any kind of connoisseur but to me Supermarco appears to be a perfect slice of Italy quite a few degrees North. It's a pretty basic shop but every where you look, there a things you want to smell, taste, touch and buy.

Several shelves are dedicated to amari and stronger stuff in the large wine department. So not only did I buy Zucca, I also bought amaretto, Strega and a new bottle of Maraschino.

I promptly tasted my new purchase - that is the Zucca - and decided it indeed deserved to be mixed with good gin and red vermouth. It's an even darker reddish brown than the vermouth and it has a very complex earthy flavor. Quite far from the original Negroni ingredient of Campari with it's medicinal flavor.

So to mixing - I simply used the measurements from this blogpost:
  • 4 cl gin - I used Tanqueray
  • 3 cl red vermouth - I used Martini Rosso
  • 2 cl Zucca
I measured the ingredients over a big ice cube in a low ball glass and stirred until properly chilled and then simply garnish with a twist of lemon.

It's a very satisfying and appetite inducing cocktail - leaning towards liquid Marmite or stock cubes.


June 1, 2014

Idiosyncratic Certitudes And a McKittrick Old Fashioned


Until this morning I never knew there was a term as delicious as idiosyncratic certitudes (there is nothing like it in Danish).

But then I started reading Robert Simonson's book The Old-Fashioned and came across the term when the author discusses a particular description of making an old-fashioned cocktail from The New York Sun in 1890.

The journalist from the Sun states, that only a pestle made of white cedar should be used to gently crush a sugar cube soaked in bitters. It is this certainty that Simonson calls idiosyncratic - and as he points out characteristic of drinkers and drink makers alike.

That's when I knew I really loved the book. I had an inkling when I ordered it, but being a Ginhound a whole book about one whiskey based drink would perhaps not be the most obvious choice. Simonson makes it a very easy and fun choice - the book is a joy from cover to cover and made me long to go to my bar cart to mix a drink, but more about that later.

I tried to rank my five favorite cocktail books last september. The moment I did that, I knew I had made a mistake. Much like when newspapers runs articles about the death of the worlds oldest person. Even before the article is published - it's incorrect and old news. Someone else has filled the slot. The king is dead, long live the king.

So I'm not going to rank Simonson's book into that system - I'm just going to include it here, when I write a little about four other books about booze I've read lately.

I wasn't sure that I would really like Kayleigh Kulp's Booze for Babes - mainly because I myself really don't like to be lumped into a segregated group of drinkers based on something I can't change.

On the other hand what I observe when talking about my passion for cocktails with co-workers are that many women have very set ideas about what they don't like and are quite unwilling to challenge these ideas. Some of the ideas seem to be rooted in what they consider feminine.

Which makes it hard when they say: I wish I could make cocktails like you, but I don't know where to start. I want to say: Start by not restricting yourself, but I know it won't go down well.

Booze for Babes is a much better start, with some sound advice and it really covers a lot of ground.

And personally I've taken the "do not restrict yourself" to heart. I thought I didn't like punch - tried some last summer liked it - and have enjoyed David Wondrich's book on the subject.

Punch is the kind of book that makes you feel more and more clever as you turn each page. Wondrich dazzles with his scholarship and manages to pass his knowledge on with effortless style. Even the part of the book that lists punches to make and try is a good read, because the author shares his own tricks and tips to working with these very old recipes in a world several hundred years removed from when they were written.

I find quite a bit of the same scholarship in Beachbum Berry's Potions of the Caribbean. Where he admits that he had been swimming in the wrong ocean at the start of his fascination with all things Tiki.

It can not have been an easy book to write. The history of rum is not nearly as nice as a Mai Tai made right. Slavery, genocide and every grisly injustice know to man is mixed in there.

Berry runs the risk of horrifying the reader with too many details or casting himself as heartless if he does not include enough. He walks that tightrope just right.

On top of Berry's excellent writing this is also a really pretty book with lot's of interesting illustrations from everything from the old masters to tourist brochures.

The fourth book I will mention is actually the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh. Schiller's Liquor Bar Cocktail Collection* is a handy collection of four books: One is a quick guide to bartending, one covers some of the Classic Cocktails, one Artisanal Updates and one covers Seasonal Drinks. I like the whole look and feel of the little set - they are almost pocket guides - and the guide is very well illustrated with easy to follow instructions.

However as a reader the Artisanal Updates is a pretty baffling read - I suspect unless you have visited the bar - with a little too many martinis and not too many drinks that grab this readers attention.

And I wonder why you would sort drinks into a book titled Seasonal Drinks and then not clearly mark the seasons to help the reader figure out which to serve at what time of year.

And dare I say - a classic collection without an old-fashioned but including a Moscow Mule is a bit of a surprise to me. I do realize packing the whole library of classics onto less than 100 small pages including photos involves heavy editing, but still. Not least because there is room for another five martinis.

So if I can't find an old-fashioned in the Schiller's Liquor Bar Cocktail Collection, I can make one myself.

Reading through the recipe section of Robert Simonson's book I noticed a McKittrick Old-Fashioned. And that particular drink have to things going for it: One it's named in honor of the play Sleep No More that I was fortunate enough to see two years ago in New York during a reunion with members of a family who were my host family when I was an exchange student in the US in 1977-78.

And the other plus was that the cocktail contains no lump of sugar to be muddled. I would hate to run afoul of Simonson's own idiosyncratic certainty when he advises that a hand-crafted Pug-muddler from New York State is the best there is.

I only have two cheep liquor company souvenirs and a horrible mix of steel and lime green plastic.

So on with the McKittrick:
  • 6 cl bourbon - I used WL Weller 12 yo
  • 1,5 cl sherry - I used Amontillado
  • bitters - I used Peychaud's - mainly because I'm out of Mole
  • 2 brandied cherries - I used home made
I put the bourbon and the sherry in a whiskey glass with a big cube of ice and stirred 50 times, then added the bitters and garnished with the cherries.

Lovely


* Disclosure: This box set was sent to me by the publishers.