Thursday, June 26, 2008

Drink Du Jour- The Morinaga Cocktail

I was in Anzen Japanese Market the other day, and I spotted something I haven't seen before, sparkling sake. Sepcifically, it was Gekkeikan Zipang sparkling sake, and while I am not usually one to create a drink around sake, I've been wanting to play with more asian ingredients recently. I decided to use create a new drink using the Champagne Cocktail as a base, but I wanted to give it my own twist (of course).
With a traditional Champagne Cocktail, you use a bitters soaked sugar cube and champagne, nice and simple. I decided that I did want to use bitters, but I needed something to work with the flavor profile of the sake. I chose Fee Brothers Peach Bitters, which ended up being a great choice.
I also didn't want to just add sugar into the cocktail. I wanted to create something that would deliver the sugar, but also create complexity and depth in the drink. I found just the thing in my refrigerator, a half drunk bottle of Barnard Griffin Rose of Sangiovese. I figured the bottle would go south soon, so I took a cup and a half of the rose, put it in a saucepan with a cup of granulated sugar, kicked up the heat on the burners a bit and made a nice Sangiovese simple syrup. I love this stuff, its full of ripe strawberry flavors, and adds a nice deep pink color to whatever you use it in. I love drinking the Barnard Griffin rose during the warm summer months (its perfect with bbq'ed chicken), and now, I have a use for unfinished bottles.
Next, I felt like the drink would benefit from some regular sake to give it a bit more solidness. I have exactly one bottle of sake in the house, Momokawa's G Sake. I'm not a big sake fan, but its local Oregon product, so its in the old liquor cabinet. The flavor profile worked really well with the sparkling sake, so its more luck than anything as I wouldn't have a clue which sake to use if this one hadn't worked out. To be honest, I would have abandoned the drink as a failure.
So here is the drink. Simple proportions, simple ingredients, and yet, as Raena said, "Thats damn tasty". Its a nice switch from more traditional sparkling options and a nice libation for a warm summer evening.

The Morinaga Cocktail
1 oz G Sake
1 oz Barnard Griffin Rose of Sangiovese simple syrup
2 dashes Fee Bros Peach Bitters
Gekkeikan Sparkling Sake to fill

Build in a champagne flute (note that I said flute not coupe on this one), and top with sparkling sake. No garnish needed.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Drink Du Jour- Nuevo Chi Chi

Yeah, yeah, I know, a Chi Chi is a vodka Pina Colada, but I hate that drink and wanted to rethink how its made. Recently, and in spite of my usual predelictions, I've been playing with vodka a lot recently. In fact, I rather like 42 Below vodka, and I've just received some interesting samples of Three Olives vodka's newest flavors (root beer, tomato, and triple espresso). I've also recently discovered coconut water, which in addition to being tasty, is incredibly healthy as well. So here is my loose interpretation of what the Chi Chi should be.

Nuevo Chi Chi

2 oz 42 Below Vodka
4 oz One Coconut Water
3 dashes Angostura Orange Bitters

Build over ice in a double rocks glass, stir to incorporate and enjoy.

Monday, June 16, 2008

So I'm not much of a photographer

I don't have a great camera. Our house camera at Casa De Mayhew is a Sony Cybershot thats about 2 years old. While I love the compact size of that camera, its really more of a snapshot camera rather than something to take serious pictures with. And recently, I decided to experiment with taking all pics on this blog with my iPhone, a decision I'm starting to regret. You see, my iPhone spends the better part of the day in my front pocket, where it picks up lint and dust, and, forgetful me, I always forget to clean the lens before I take a shot. Plus, it is a camera phone and it just lacks the features necessary to get good clean shots with it. So its back to the Sony Cybershot for now. I'll be back behind the bar soon, so maybe acquiring a decent digital SLR will become more of a priority for me. I'll never be as good a photographer as Boudreau, Morgenthaler or Ludwig, but at least I can commit to making my pics on here as clear as possible. Thanks for your patience in the meantime.

How to Make Sangria

Summertime is a great time for outdoor barbecues, family reunions, graduations, weddings and any other social gathering that you can dream up. Being a bartender, I frequently get asked to provide libations for whatever events I'm invited to, and during the warm summer months, that usually means that I'm making a batch of sangria. This is a really versatile recipe, feel free to tweak it however you like to your tastes, but I think this recipe provides a great starting point, and is so easy even the most novice bartender should be able to get rave reviews on their creation. I have one rule of thumb when making sangria, thats use cheap wine and good liquor for the best possible sangria. A $20 bottle of wine will be ruined in this mixture, but cheap brandy or knock off Grand Marnier will ruin it just as quickly. Lastly, remember to keep this one refrigerated at least overnight to let the flavors get to know each other.

4 bottles cheap red wine (please find an actual varietal, not Carlos Rossi Hearty Burgundy. I like to use Charles Shaw Shiraz at Trader Joes)
6 oz Grand Marnier
2 oz VSOP level brandy or cognac ( I like Martell)
4 valencia oranges sliced thin (don't sub navels)
2 granny smith apples sliced thin
2 cinnamon sticks, broken in 1/2
9 cloves, studded onto 1 slice of apple
1 cup granulated sugar

Combine all ingredients in a large apothecary jar or punch bowl, stir to incorporate sugar into the mix, cover, refriegerate overnight before serving.

Can be cut with sparkling water 50/50 for a lighter option for guests.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Mixology Monday- The Screen Door Cocktail

I know that I've been MIA for the last couple of MixMo's. My schedule has been completely crazy recently, with my consulting for a restaurant that just opened, helping to open another one due mid-July, my day job, etc etc. I could make excuses all day, but when I saw that the fine gentlemen at Scofflaw’s Den had chosen to host Mix Mo with a Bourbon theme, well, count me in. I'm probably missing some other deadlines somewhere, but I had to be a part of this.
Recently, I've been experimenting with a lot of Jerry Thomas' old drink recipes, especially a number of the ones featured in David Wondrich's great book, "Imbibe! From the Absinthe Cocktail to Whiskey Smash..". I've been interested in incorporating modern ingredients or styles into classic recipes. If you look past the unusual preparations on some of these ingredients, you'll see that this is simply a Fancy Whiskey Cocktail, nothing more, nothing less.
I also need to add a caveat to this cocktail. I'm using a bacon bourbon for this cocktail, and, while I would like to take credit for bacon bourbon, I actually saw Jim Meehan and Don Lee do this at the Grand Marnier Mixology Summit in Vail this year. I had been experimenting with fat washing before, and I am bacon obsessed, so when I tasted their bacon bourbon, I knew I had to attempt some of my own. For this batch, I used Bulleit bourbon as I felt both the flavor profile and the price point lent themselves to fat washing, and I'm very happy with the result.
In order to make your own Bacon Bourbon, the process is really pretty simple. Get some good bacon (I bought a pound of bacon at Whole Foods), cook it off, reserving the bacon fat, let the fat cool (but do not let it solidify), add to a fifth of bourbon, cover and keep in a cool dry place for 2 weeks. After 2 weeks, place the container of fat/bourbon in the fridge overnight, then strain the bacon fat out from the bourbon using a coffee filter lined chinois. Voila! You've got bacon bourbon, and thats the basic idea behind any fat washed liquor.
I was inspired to create this cocktail after a visit to the Screen Door, a wonderful restaurant here in Portland that makes a praline bacon with brown sugar and pecans that is to die for. Its one of the greatest bacons that I've ever eaten, and I wanted to take some of the qualities from this bacon (sweet, smoky, pecan) and translate this into a drink.I already had the bacon bourbon, so I had to find a way to get some smokiness into the cocktail. While a classic Fancy Whiskey Cocktail uses plain gum syrup, I decided to smoke some brown sugar, turn it into a simple syrup (1-1) and cold infuse it with toasted pecans to try to achieve the flavors that I want to create. Hot smoking the brown sugar isn't the easiest thing to do, but after 3 hours of hickory smoke, I had a large, rock hard cake of brown sugar with a heady barbecue aroma of hickory smoke. I shaved the cake of sugar back down into granules and made a 1 to 1 simple syrup to which I added some toasted pecans, and then did a 2 week cold infusion in my refriegerator in order to extract as much flavor as possible from the pecans. I will add one caveat to anyone attempting to recreate this simple syrup. However many pecans you decide to toast, double it. You'll thank me, as the cold infusion takes a lot of toasted pecans (I used 1 c pecans to 1 1/2 c simple) for the flavor to pull through.
Lets get to the recipe shall we?

The Screen Door Cocktail
2 oz Bacon infused Bulleit Bourbon
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
1/2 tsp Citronege
1 tsp Hickory Smoked Pecan Simple Syrup

garnish with a lemon peel over the top of this cocktail

I felt like this cocktail achieved what I was setting out to do. I didn't end up with a cocktail that was sickly sweet, instead, its a balanced cocktail with depth from the smoke and pecans. The lemon oil really seems to brighten some of the background flavors. Overall, I'm really happy with this one. I drink this and imagine myself sitting outside on the porch, somewhere on a humid, August night in Mississippi (I lived there once), watching fireflies dance in the air and listening to the symphony of cicadas as the sun slowly sets. Some drinks are just evocative of a time or a place, and for me, the Screen Door Cocktail has done just that.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

What I'm currently reading

If you haven't picked this book up, run out and buy it soon. This is the first time I've read Amis, and he's incredibly funny, usually knowledgable, but sometimes stunningly wrong. A fun read that I've been savoring, chapter by chapter.

Monday, June 2, 2008

This is what a legend looks like behind the bar

Sorry for the crappy photo, but its hard to get Morgenthaler to sit still for a minute when he's behind the bar. If you enjoy reading (my favorite cocktail blog), you owe it to yourself to see the man in action behind the bar at Bel Ami in Eugene Oregon. I'm rarely blown away when I watch someone behind the bar, but Jeff is one of the best bartenders that I've ever seen. I can't wait to get back down to Eugene for another one of his cocktails.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Tooting my own horn some more

When it rains it pours right? I'm posting this for two reasons. One, I can't believe that I'm in the company of bartenders like Jon Santer (SF) and Charles Joly (Chicago). Almost everyone in this article was someone that I was in awe of, and they all turned out to be a really cool group of individuals during the shoot.

And two, this was written by one of my favorite spirits writers, Camper English. If you haven't checked out Camper's blog at get over there now. He's on my must read list of blogs, and I always enjoy whatever he writes.

So here is the latest press...

Apparently, we are all supposed to be on the cover too. Maybe I'll scan that in and post it if my ego needs more massaging soon.