Last year for my birthday my brother gave me a copy of Famous New Orleans Drinks & How to Mix ‘Em by Stanley Clisby Arthur. The history of cocktails is inextricably linked to New Orleans, and by most accounts, the very origin of the word “cocktail” comes from the city where A.A. Peychaud first started serving drinks in a double-ended egg-cup called a coquetier. Cocktails like the Sazerac, the Ramos Gin Fizz and the Vieux Carré (to name a few) were all invented in NOLA.
The book was first published in 1937, and this tiny time-machine is packed with recipes, their histories, lots of random anecdotes, and few silly poems about the merits of drinking. There are also several references to Prohibition as “the Great Mistake.”
Looking for inspiration, I stumbled upon Arthur’s recipe for a Jitters Cocktail. Recounting it will not do it justice, so here is a photo of the page:
I couldn’t help but laugh at the description of Anis del Mono since it is made just outside of Barcelona and is simply a brand name of a type of anis, much like Ojen. (Side note: Ojen was originally made in a Southern Spain town by the same name. They shut down production in the 1990s, which apparently made people in New Orleans freak out. The Sazerac Company resurrected the liquor, and it’s now made in Kentucky. More on that here).
Not sure what monkeyshines means? Me neither. I had to look it up, apparently it is “mischievous or playful activity : prank —usually used in plural.”
This cocktail was a pleasant surprise because we’re not generally fans of anis. Its typical anise/licorice flavor is less intense because of the gin and the vermouth, yet its herbal notes complement the botanicals in the gin. Nothing fancy, but super easy and quick to make. Like the Negroni and the Boulevardier, it is a three-ingredient cocktail with equal parts of everything.
I don’t always come up with the best ideas from scratch, but sometimes I’m pretty good with making stuff out of what we already have in the house. This cocktail came around because that was the situation last weekend.
It’s summertime, so watermelons are everywhere, including in our CSA basket. Don’t get me wrong, I love watermelon, but as a drink, I find it needs something more. Enter ginger syrup.
Living here in Barcelona, we have not been able to find ginger ale, so we’ve taken to making it ourselves, which first requires making a ginger syrup. Thus, we had some sitting in the refrigerator. It adds a nice spiciness to pair with the subtle sweetness of the watermelon. Add a little rum, a squeeze of lime and voilà! a tasty, summery and refreshing beverage.
And because it’s summertime, this is a great batch drink to make for a party. Mix everything ahead of time, put in a glass bottle, and keep in the fridge until you’re ready to start the party. Work your ratios off of the size of watermelon you have, and enjoy!
Take 200 grams (7oz) of fresh peeled ginger and cut into slices.
Simmer in 240 ml (2 cups) of water for 40 minutes.
Turn heat off, let rest for another 20 minutes.
Strain ginger water through a fine strainer or coffee filter.
Return back to heat. Dissolve 180 ml (3/4 cup) of sugar into ginger water.
Remove from heat. Keep in sealed container in the refrigerator.
If you don’t know David Lebovitz, now is the time to check him out. He’s a Chez Panisse alumni and his accolades are numerous and impressive (for example: Named Top Five Pastry Chefs in the Bay Area by the San Francisco Chronicle).
He’s written a number of cookbooks, and though his credentials are intimidating, his recipes and style of cooking are not. In his words:
“I use basic, honest ingredients; fresh fruit, good quality chocolate, real vanilla, and pure butter. I don’t believe that baking (or cooking) should be out of reach to people and strive to share recipes that are do-able for a majority of cooks and home bakers.”
In 2006 he packed up and moved to Paris, where he’s been doing his thing and writing yet another cookbook called My Paris Kitchen. As fellow Americans abroad, his observations on life and food are not only insightful, but often witty and hilarious.
Anyway, his blog is also really impressive, and though being a pastry chef, he clearly loves cocktails too, and I was pumped to find this recipe for a Chin Up.
We’re building a distillery here in Barcelona and have been playing with barrel aging our gins, so when I read this recipe, I simply had to try it 🙂
We’ve gone off the deep end with shrubs. I’ve talked about this once already, and now we’ve got about six in the refrigerator, with many more on the way. They really are lovely with just ice and sparkling water, but it’s Friday, and we’d like a little something that’s appropriate for happy hour.
So here we present you with a Shrub Bramble, which lends itself to being called a “Shramble” if you like silly names. This recipe replaces the lemon juice that is normally in a Bramble with a lemon shrub. The shrub we used is mostly lemon with bit of lime and uses white wine vinegar, which is subtle and allows the citrus to shine though. Like any shrub in a cocktail, this lemon adds a depth and complexity to one of the main flavors.
The Bramble has a whole history that goes along with it, that I won’t do justice if I attempt to recount. If you want more info, check out the explanation from the guys at Gin Foundry and Dillford’s Guide. We started with the Dillford’s recipe and adjusted to our taste.
What is a shrub, you ask? Well, there are certainly others who can explain it better than I can, but the basics are this: fruit + sugar + vinegar. Sounds strange, yes, but the roots of this drink go all the way back to the Romans who used it as a way to preserve fresh fruit. It’s a really interesting combination of sweet and sour, and even if you are skeptical, worth a try.
Anyway, a friend made some pomegranate shrub and gave us a small bottle when we were in New Orleans in December. We hadn’t really done much with it until recently when the weather started getting nice.
Shrubs can be used to make both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, which makes them pretty versatile in application, and there are TONS of recipes online about how to make them (our friend referenced this one). Most of these recipes say they are “fantastic additions to cocktails” but don’t really go into the details about what cocktails, what proportions or anything really.
So we started with the most basic recipe. The pomegranate shrub we have is delicious when added to sparkling water, so why hide that amazing flavor with something fancy? This a a simple vodka soda with shrub added. Vodka is the definition of neutral, so try ANY flavor shrub with this recipe.
We love a good Negroni. It’s a classic, and it’s one of those simple recipes that uses equal parts of three ingredients; in this case gin, Campari and vermouth. Add an orange peel as garnish and you’re done. So simple.
Some die-hard Negroni fans feel like any departure from the classic proportions is sacrilege, but that hasn’t stopped an endless number of variations. I’ll be the first to admit that Campari is an acquired taste, and not everyone’s cup of tea. Equal parts of everything usually ends up leading to a Campari-forward cocktail. While many love this bitterness, there are many variations out there that tone it down by dialing back the Campari.
In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I love anything that has been put in a barrel, so when I started seeing barrel-aged Negronis, I had to try them. What can I say, they are also delicious.
My one criticism is that the barrel treats all of the ingredients equally, and depending on your gin, may end up muting some of the botanicals that make it unique. So we ran some tests using oak on the Campari only.
We used toasted wood chips, not a barrel (yet) and a ratio of 1g to 100ml. We tried a light toast and a heavy toast, and four days was plenty to get some of the nice oak characteristics and a hint of sweetness from the caramelized sugars in the wood.
Between the two, we preferred the light toast, but the possibilities are endless, so check your local homebrew store and experiment for yourself to find the combination you like. As a rule of thumb, the more surface area the wood has (chips vs. chunks vs. larger pieces of oak, aka “dominos”), the faster it will impart those oak flavors. It is possible to “over-oak,” so you’ll just have to taste it every day or two.
This recipe is a bit of a happy accident. Last year I was experimenting with cherries to make our own garnishes for cocktails. Someone had left some brandy at our place after a party, and I thought I’d play with this forgotten bottle.
The process was simple: Buy some fresh cherries (the sweet kind, not the bitter/sour kind), remove the stems and the pits, put them in a jar, and fill the jar with brandy so the cherries are completely submerged.
Leave the jar in the refrigerator for some period of time (days, weeks, months), and that’s it. Super easy.
The problem was when I tried the cherries after a few weeks. WAY too strong with brandy and not enjoyable as a garnish for anything. The alcohol in the brandy had also pulled the color out, so they resembled green olives more than cherries. Again, not good for a garnish.
Honestly, then I forgot about them. They lived in the back of the refrigerator for months. It was only recently that I realized what I did have was a nice cherry-infused brandy, which was much more interesting than the cherries themselves.
So, what to make with cherry-infused brandy? How about a Brandy Manhattan? It is sometimes also called a Metropolitan, which causes some confusion. There is another version of a Metropolitan cocktail out there, that is a cousin of the Cosmopolitan and includes vodka, lime juice and cranberry juice. I am not talking about this drink.
As the name would imply, this lovely drink uses the same ratios of a regular Manhattan, but with brandy in the place of Rye.
A couple of weeks ago we went on a green Chartreuse kick, and did some experimenting with a variety of cocktails. One that stood out was the Bijou (“jewel” in French), which combines gin, green Chartreuse, sweet vermouth and a dash of orange bitters.
The original recipe has equal parts of the principal ingredients, but most modern versions have tweaked the ratios. A couple of days later we played with these ratios ourselves and definitely preferred ours more gin-heavy and dialed-back on the Chartreuse. The one we settled on was closer to this version from Imbibe Magazine.
Chartreuse is a lovely and complex liqueur that touts 130 different plants and flowers. In laymen’s terms, this means it will likely overpower an herbal/flowery gin. We used one of our Corpen gins that is more earthy to complement, rather that compete with, the herby flavor of the Chartreuse.
We’re trying something new here. I’ve been working on building a craft distillery here in Barcelona, and in the interest of professional development, we’ve kicked our cocktail game into high gear over the last couple of years.
Here’s the first installment in what will become a recurring theme: Cocktails we love, we are experimenting with, and/or have made up ourselves.
Our first installment in this series is the lovely Boulevardier, which we recently had at Mark’s Bar in London (downstairs in HIX Soho). Upon ordering this, the bartender said “Ah yes, a whiskey negroni.”
Yep, that’s about right, and exactly why we love it.
Right now World of Beer is taking applications for a Beer Internship (called Drink it Intern) and part of the application is a one-minute video about a new beer, a review of a favorite brew, your favorite brewery, or some hidden talent.
So here’s my video! I tell a quick story about our visit to the Pilsner Urquell Brewery, with it’s crazy network of pre-refrigeration tunnels.