July 24, 2014

Seven things I took away from TOTC

I notice that the trend in describing your adventures at Tales of The Cocktail this year is making lists.

Camper English lists eight things he learned and JFL of Rated R Cocktails lists seven tips from a TOTC virgin.

I will list the seven most heavily underscored notes from my notebook in the order I made them:

**Hand squeezed Lime**

The very first seminar I attended was the one I had looked the most forward to: The Floridita: Cradle of the Daiquiri presented by Jeff Berry and David Wondrich. They did not disappoint me.

In Copenhagen some years ago I had attended a seminar by Jörg Meyer about the cantineros of Cuba and the strong union they formed early on demanding 8 hour working days and publishing recipe books. Since then the Cuban bar scene during prohibition has been a subject I've been very interested in.

Delving into the life of one bar and especially it's famous customer Ernest Hemingway and it's - at least for TOTC attendees  - equally famous owner Constantino Ribalaigua Vert was just the thing.

Floridita, Hemingway and Vert can be summed up together in just one word: The Daiquiri. And that's what Berry and Wondrich did. And it was during this part of the presentation I put three solid lines under the words hand squeezed lime.

Jeff Berry explained how Victor Bergeron spent time watching Vert work before opening his Trader Vic bar and carefully noting measures and such. But in spite of this he could not get his Daiquiris to taste as good as the ones Vert mixed until he finally realized something: Vert did not use a Mexican elbow to squeeze the limes for his Daiquiris - he used his hands and that meant more of the essential oils from the fruits ended up in his drinks instead of in the squeezer.

I love this detail and plan to improve my Daiquiris accordingly.
**The Bradford**

Two dapper gents in evening wear at 1 o'clock on a Thursday, where but at TOTC would you meet seminar presenters like that.

Philip Greene and Simon Ford made a grand entry to the 007 theme and showed us a picture of the flying car Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Some of us feared we had gone to the wrong seminar but Bottled in Bond was a tour through both the life of 007 and Ian Fleming and therefor the flying car made sense.

I did not expect anything overly exciting served during this seminar as 007's taste in drinks is pretty bad - except for his taste in Champagne of course - but I did walk away with a new name: A shaken martini is called a Bradford.

**What to take to a desert island**

Derek Brown, J.P. Featherstone and Wayne Curtis gave us a nice introduction to how booze made it’s way across the US and indeed the world in the seminar Jug of Empire.

One of the crucial questions asked and answered was what would you bring to an isolated island? Many types of survival kit was suggested, but a bottle of rum might just be the thing that will not only save you but make for smooth sailing in more than one way.

I also got my first taste of Apple Jack at the seminar but not my last.

**Osmotic Balance**

My favourite seminal at TOTC 2013 was by the Drunken Botanist Amy Stewart and Susan Morrison on growing you own booze.

This year Jared Brown and Anistatia Miller picked up the theme in Garden, Field & Forrest to Bottle and Glass.

Anyone who follows the two on their blog or Twitter knows they grow their own, and Anistatia Miller even declared it’s the last luxury left: To grow you own.

They had many good tips for using what you can pick for your cocktail, but the one I underlined was the one about osmotic Balance:

You need to extract the sugars from fruit before you add sugar when making fruit liqueur. The reason being, that natur aims for osmotic balance and ould push the sugar from outside into the fruit instead of drawing the sugar from the fruit into the booze.

Clever trick that can also be used in reverse to make sour fruit sweet.

**Spoon Cocktail**

In June I received with much anticipation Robert Simonsons book The Old-Fashioned and pretty much read it in one session. His seminar on the iconic cocktail was a given from the moment I saw the list of this years subjects.

It was an amazing interactive seminal where we got to mix our own cocktails - tasting gin, rum and whisky Old-Fashioneds side by side.

Mr. Simonson is a great - dry - presenter and I learned a lot. Not least that just around the corner from my hotel I could walk into SoBu Restaurant and order a spoon cocktail - one of the many modern takes on the oldest of all cocktails.

**Scrambled Eggs**

If Simon Ford and Philip Greene were dapper in the white and black evening jackets the tree gentlemen from The Savoy in London was just dapper period. Never have I seen that much perfect mens wear in New Orleans in such a small room.

The took us through 125 years of excellent service and wonderful bar lore.

My final underscoring was under the lovely tale of the Tom and Jerry cocktail.

Notoriously hard to make as it involves hot liquid and egg the segue to the anecdote was a Tales tasting cup of scrambled eggs.

A guest ordered the Tom Jerry from a junior bartender at the American Bar in the Savoy hotel many years ago. In stead of hanging on the young bartenders shoulder and reminding him to tale care the head bartender let him finish the drink and serve it, and then went by the guest for a look at the finished product.

The guest was struggling with a cup of scrambled eggs, the head bartender gently offered him an spoon and suggested, using it for the complimentary scrambled eggs while he waited for his cocktail.

I loved that story and all the other interesting facts about one of the worlds most famous bars.

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.