September 21, 2013

Gefion Sour - MxMo LXVII

The theme for this month's Mixology Monday is Smoke - which immediately started the cocktalian part of my mind running.

Our gracious host Elena from Stir and Strain explains the theme this way:

Smoke has been everywhere this past year, from liquors to lemonades, to the hills here in Southern California(!); smoke in its many forms has been front page news.

For me, smoke is also a transitional element: it symbolizes the last summer bonfires, sitting around the fire pit making s’mores, and the start of the fragrant crackles from the fireplace announcing that fall is coming.

For September’s theme, I’d like to see how you interpret smoke. With your liquor or ingredients? Your glassware? Will you whip out a chemistry set to transform your cocktail into ghostly vapors? Do you own a home smoker, still in the box, that’s never been used? Well then, you’re welcome. Unpack those ideas and let’s set off a couple smoke alarms this month for MxMo.
I really didn't set out to, but this month's submission brings together quite a lot of the last MxMo themes.

Also Elana challenged me further by announcing on Twitter, that her submission would incorporate locally distilled spirits.

So I thought long and hard and came up with the Gefion Sour - named in honor of a goddess who plowed the island I live on in Denmark out of the middle part of Sweden. The "lost land" is now a lake.

Most of the ingredients in the Gefion Sour are from Sjælland or Lolland an island just south of Sjælland. The lemon however is from far away.

The basis - and where the theme comes in - is a lovely dill aquavit from Shumachers, just a 15 minute drive to the northeast of where I live. The aquavit has a very clear and crisp dill taste - it's made by extracting the fresh herbs in clear spirits - and a tiny bite of white pepper. And it is also certified organic.

I lavender smoked a deciliter using the same technique I described here - that was a cocktail inspired by MxMo LXVI. The lavender was grown right in my own garden.

Next I used the rest of my horse radish sirup from Hot Rod and finally I did a float sink of a completely new product: New Nordic Cherry Liqueur a wonderful alternative to Cherry Heering - thus tying into the cherry theme of MxMo LXIV.
  • 6 cl lavender smoked dill aquavit
  • 3 cl lemon juice
  • 3 cl horse radish simple syrup
  • 1 cl cherry liqueur
Shake the first three ingredients with plenty of ice, strain into an ice filled rocks glass and then gently pour the cherry liqueur on top of the drink over the back of a spoon. In my case the liqueur sank like a rock but the drink still turned out pretty.

My cocktail is obviously a riff on New York Sour - where red wine is floated on the top. I may just not have the right touch - or the difference in the proof of wine and liqueur may be the explanation.

I'm really pleased with this cocktail - the lavender smoke blends so nicely with the dill, the lemon, the cherry and a whisper of horse radish. I'll definitely be making it again.

And since I knew this would be an early afternoon drink and I was baking bagels anyway I had fun baking some miniature bagels to turn into snack with a garlic cream cheese (the garlic grown locally), onion and SMOKED salmon.

September 15, 2013

My 5 best cocktail books

It is a testament to all things digital that I only have one third as many cocktail books as books about Titanic.

Back in the early 90's when I became a serious student of the doomed ocean liner, there were no online resources or e-books. I couldn't even rely on a Danish book store to order the books I wanted so 3-4 trips a year to London and visits to Foyle's and other amazing book temples were necessary.

Along the way I even had the good sense to visit The American Bar at The Savoy  - but not picking up vintage bar books in any of the many used book sellers in Charing Cross Road and the little side streets.

Now some of what I buy are e-books and some are even audio books, but here are the 5 books in my possession I enjoy the most - and unlike Buzzfeed I'm not going to let you suffer through a count down:

1. The Drunken Botanist 
This book has it all: Stories, facts, recipes and just a touch of irreverence. Amy Stewart's book can help you with everything from planning a vegetable garden for maximum cocktail enjoyment to enlighten you about the history of Angostura Bitters.
2. To Have and Have Another 
Right now I'm on my second read through and I still can't wait to turn the next - digital - page because of the flow of Philip Greene's pen and general greatness of his subject. Mr. Hemingway and his favorite drinks deserve a great book like this.

3. The PDT Cocktail Book 
Had this book not existed the Savoy Cocktail Book would occupy this place on my list. But Jim Meehan's book is just a more interesting mix of old favorites and new classics according to my taste buds. 

4. The Hour 
I have this as an audiobook - until I find and can afford a print edition with this piece of cover art. And I still I laughed out loud at Mr. Bernard DeVoto's more outragerous claims like: Remember always the three abominations are: (1) rum, (2) any other sweet drink, and (3) any mixed drink except one made of gin and dry vermouth in the ratio I have given.

5. Lommebogen 
This is treasure - a facsimile of a notebook kept by a Danish bartender in the 1930's - his own personal reference book when the proper proportions of the Sidecar or the Bijoux slipped his mind.

It also holds quite a few Danish cocktails - drinks he either made up himself or drinks that had a short lifespan. Some of the mnamed after Danish actors and popular culture icons. Many of them involving some pretty bad Danish liquors made from raw alcohol and essences.
What about books like The Savoy Bar Book and How to Mix Drinks you may ask. Well, they are great reference books as are my reprints of The Old Waldorf Astoria Bar Book and Bar La Forida Cocktails. But they do not inspire me quite so much to mix stuff on my own or delight me with facts and opinions as the top five do.

What are your favorite bar books?

September 10, 2013

Skinny Middle Manager

Yes, the name is a joke, and no it is not a diet cocktail.

I've been admiring Barbaras Aperol Tequila Swizzle all weekend. A very pretty and tasty sounding drink. My only problem is that I really don't like Aperol.

But the image stayed with me, as I was challenge by a middle manager at work to make him a cocktail with the name Skinny Middle Manager.

So here is how a figured a drink in honor of all those middle managers who put up with someone like me day in and day out should be mixed.

Coffee - can't have management without caffeine, but I couldn't imagine mixing Kaluha and Aperol, so I went with an espresso syrup made from 2 oz espresso cooked with 2 oz sugar.

Aperol - moderne, talked about, very bleeding edge and it tasts really bad too.

Next i wondered what kind of base spirit to use - something macho like bourbon, or something more androgynous. I went with white rum.

Next something healthy - middle managers have to take care of their bodies or they won't become senior managers - I decided on coconut water. And finally it seemed obvious to make the cocktail as a highball with seltzers - as highball is sort of cocktail code for long winded.
  • 6 cl white rum - I used Plantation 3 Star which may explain why I never get a pay raise
  • 3 cl Aperol
  • 3 cl coconut water
  • 2 cl coffee syrup
  • Seltzers
Shake the first four ingredients with ice and then strain the cocktail into a highball glass with plenty of ice - top it of with seltzers and add your most bling cocktail stirrer to impress the boss.

And strangely enough it does not tast half bad - pretty good actually. The coffee taste works wonders on the Aperol.

September 5, 2013

The Prince

I'm in love with my raspberry bush. It has grown and expanded all by itself to cover parts of my really boring fence. And best of all it produces so many wonderful, big berries with a deep and complex taste.

Today I effortlessly picked 500 grams of berries - and there is at least twice as many left for tomorrow and tomorrow and....

There are many uses for the berries - the one most obvious to Danes is this delicacy. But I've already baked those and made cordial so today I decided to make sorbet.

I blended the fresh berries with the juice of one lime and passed the mush through a sieve to get rid of the little seeds. Then I added a simple sirup made from 1 dl sugar and 1 dl water.

The liquid was poured into a square shallow baking tin and placed in the freezer. I scraped through it after 30 minutes and 1 hour to minimize crystals and got a very nice sorbet out of it.

I don't know if I was already subconsciously planning a cocktail but I certainly had a lot of ideas when the thought hit me. I settled on the tried and true mix of raspberry and gin -but since I knew that the sorbet was on the sweet side I added Campari to balance it out:
  • 3 cl Campari
  • 6 cl Gin - I used Old English Gin 
  • 1 dl of raspberry sorbet
Place everything in a shaker and shake until the shaker is well cold and the sorbet integrated into the gin and Campari.

Pour into glass over ice and garnish with raspberry and pretty flower.

September 3, 2013

A letter to the future

When your favorite bar closes....

Dear future cocktail historian,

You have been searching high and low for information about a particular bar that existed for four short years in Copenhagen back in the good old days - back in 2009-2013.

You have read loads of irrelevant dusty old web pages, that almost made your eyes bleed, looked through millions of meaningless so called tweets (what was that about? Why did people impose needless and arbitrary limitations on their communication back then? Wasn't it primitive enough just to use text? Well let some other historian unravel that strange business), you have tried to decipher endless amounts of strange, unfocused, badly colored photos (or Instagrams as they were called - almost as strange as the tweets - why did a whole generation loose the capability to take strong, clear photos with depth and accurate coloring? Again let another historian unravel this mystery).

And what did all your hard work get you, but these meager clues:

Consider this your lucky day - that one needle in the haystack actually connected to the thread that can unravel it.

I wrote both the so called Facebook update (Don't ask it's easier to print a full scale 3D copy of the Great Pyramid of Egypt from cupcake frosting than understanding early 21st century social media) and the tweet.

I did it because I wanted to let the world know, I was there. That I was an eye witness to cocktail history.

And I didn't only watch history - I tasted it (which may explain the not very accurate communication in the Facebook update (back then an unfortunate side effect of cocktails was getting intoxicated something that was eliminated in the 2030's and in my opinion took the fun right out of drinking, but I digress)).

The literal translation is: Last cocktail served from Molktes bar, damn it's bitter sweet Henrik Steen Petersen.

It literally was the last cocktail I ever had mixed by the talented staff from the brilliant Molktes Bar. A place that so dominated the cocktail scene in Copenhagen back then, that it never really felt the same way to me ever again.

You most understand that Moltkes was at the forefront of what was even back then described as the renaissance of the Copenhagen cocktail scene. It was not the first bar to try to reintroduce cocktails to the Danes who had for so many years been lost to first aquavit and mass produced beer and then cheap wine.

But it was the bar most dedicated to only serve the true classics, and the bar with the most precise grip on what hospitality means. A place that never became infected with the dreaded hipster-disease where wearing suspenders meant being too cool to talk to the bar guests or notice when their glasses was empty.

Perhaps you already knew some of this? Perhaps that's why you are trying to dig deeper into the history of this place.

Well, let me give you a lead - concentrate on the man who made this bar. Mr. Henrik Steen Petersen, who also gave Denmark the Copenhagen Spirits and Cocktails event, and who went on to further cocktailian greatness after the bar was closed.

As for the tweet? I'm sure you already know Jeff Bell as one of the worlds best bartenders at the time.

But did you also know, that he with just the help of a bar back single handedly ran Moltkes for more than three hours that night and delighted us with some of his own cocktails, several punches and some cocktails from the famous PDT?

Well, I can prove it. While the bottle of Old Pal, as far as I can remember barely made it through 2013, and I unfortunately had to sell the two signed menus - one by Jeff Bell and one by Henrik Steen Pedersen - a decade ago to finance my new, improved, artificial liver (I got the EO-model) there are images.

And fortunately for you I know exactly where they are on the remnants of what was back then called the internet (before the cloud after arpanet) and once I fired up my antique MacBook Air (very popular but already obsolete when I bought it so called PC) I could get them. You should see them float around this.

I'm sorry that text is the only way I know how to communicate and hope - if you do not know how to read - you have found someone who remembers how.

A very old Ginhound