Sunday, December 14, 2008

Mixology Monday XXXIV: Mace Finds Its Place in This Spiced Cocktail

The red aril of the nutmeg, when ground, makes mace.

Mace is a beauty of a spice. It can enhance the somewhat dull flavor of a doughnut, or add a little extra zing to a pound cake. But in a cocktail, the spice alone is rarely used. Mace tastes a little like nutmeg, and its similarities to nutmeg are easily understood: Mace is the ground aril, or seed coating, that surrounds the nutmeg, its orange to red shiny tentacles putting in mind science fiction images of incubating aliens.

Before committing to mace, do a side-by-side taste test with nutmeg and you’ll experience overall differences in piquancy when it first hits your tongue, and also in the finish as the spices linger. Nutmeg is warmer, mellower, rounder, and marries well with other like spices such as cinnamon and clove. Mace is spikier, a little more pungent, and can be challenging to those tasters and supertasters who prefer less drama on their palates.

The Fascist, so named because it contains spirits from three countries with a history of dictators (we’re not exactly politically correct here), exudes spicy fruit and nut aromas, and tastes like late fall and early winter. The toasty sweet hazelnut from the Frangelico blends well with the mace, and mixed with the bold German Asbach brandy and the sweet Anjou pear puree, makes for a drink that shares the essence of spiced cake or streusel. The Fascist may contain a lot of ingredients, but once you top one off with a dash of otherworldy mace, the sips may turn into gulps.

The Fascist
(created by Paul Zablocki, Cocktail Buzz; named by Joe McCarthy for our Name That Cocktail Contest)

Ingredients
1 ounce pear puree (Anjou suggested, but you can use store-bought if you don’t have a juicer or blender)
1 ounce brandy (Asbach suggested)
3/4 ounce vodka (Smirnoff suggested)
1/2 ounce pear liqueur (American Fruits suggested)
1/4 ounce Frangelico (Italian hazelnut liqueur)
ground mace
pear slice, for garnish

Method
In a blender or juicer, puree a pear, seeded but not peeled (half a pear usually works per cocktail). In a shaker half-filled with ice, add the puree and the spirits. Shake for 30 seconds. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with pear slice, sprinkle with mace (a little goes a long way).

Text by Paul Zablocki

Photo of The Fascist by Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Julie White in New Cocktail Buzz Video: The Bird Nest { paired with deviled quail eggs }

Our friend actress Julie White is a sweetheart. She may not play them all the time (as her Tony-Award-winning turn as Diane, the Manolo-wearing Mephistophelean agent who will stop at nothing to make sure her most promising client rises to the top of the Hollywood food chain will confirm), but in real life, she is a food and champagne cocktail lover who wanted to be in our latest video. (Perhaps you’ve seen her judging the cuisine of Bobby Flay and Mario Batali on “Iron Chef America.” One of the secret ingredients was eggs. Little did she know she would be getting a whole lot more eggs at The Bird Nest—more on that later.)

When Julie returned to Brooklyn after a stint in L.A. (she played a flirty, boozy, politically incorrect business woman on the underrated “Cavemen”), she bought a new penthouse apartment that had three outdoor spaces (unheard of to most New Yorkers). Since she calls her place “The Bird Nest,” we thought a cocktail with that moniker was a no-brainer. But what to make it with? Julie loves light drinks, so champagne would make a perfect base. And adding a little blue curaçao not only adds a beautiful sky-blue hue, its light orange flavor is perfect with champagne. Top with a splash of silver tequila, place a half an orange slice on top, and you’ll be chirping and sipping, sipping and chirping.

But wait, there’s more. Deviled Quail Eggs! Yes, quail eggs. They are petite and perfect for an hors d’oeuvre. Easy to make, and easy for your guests to eat. So click here to watch the lovely and lively Julie White whip up some Deviled Quail Eggs with Steve, and then stir up trouble with some bubbly-laced Bird Nests with Paul, all on on our “Buzzed” page on our Web site, Cocktail Buzz.













photos © Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Two Sublime Tastings: Yamazaki and Flor de Caña

We were very excited to be invited to two special lectures in the past few weeks for two very special spirits: Flor de Caña Rum and Yamazaki Whisky. At both lectures we were treated to tastings of several different spirits in each of the brands’ lines, as well as delicious appetizers created by the hosting establishments. Both put big smiles on our faces.

The ladies at Truth Be Told PR know how much we love Yamazaki whisky, so we were delighted when they invited us to a small sit-down lecture and dinner at the esteemed 21 Club in Midtown Manhattan. The dinner–lecture was held in the Remington Room (the exquisite Western art of Frederic Remington on every wall!), and the waiters brought the few guests profuse amounts of delicious short rib and potato appetizers, as well as mini crab cakes, and more. After chatting with Tanya Thomas form Truth Be Told, the lecture and tasting was conducted by Mike Miyamoto, Master Distiller from the House of Yamazaki in Japan. Mike, a handsome, venerable gentleman, with a wry sense of humor, spoke of the history of Suntory Yamazaki Distillery and the emergence of Japanese Whisky created to suit the discerning Japanese palate. He explained how each of the Yamazaki Single Malt whiskies is distilled and aged, explaining how the wood from each cask and the years required for the aging process give each whisky its distinct color, aroma, and flavor. He also gave us a tour of the Distillery, via a PowerPoint presentation, from obtaining the malt required to start the fermentation process (it’s cheaper to ship the malt from Scotland than it it to obtain it from Japan), through distillation, aging, blending, and finally bottling.


Mike Miyamoto, Yamazaki Master Distiller, with Paul, at 21.

Then the tasting began. Before the nine of us guests were three snifters of 12-year, 18-year, and 1993 Cask Strength (a very rare whisky not available in the U.S.). First we sipped the 12-year, which we are already familiar with having created two cocktails featuring the whisky (click for recipes for the Bank of Japan and the Tokyo Momo). We discovered it’s Mike’s favorite, and no wonder: its gold color, honey-vanilla aroma, and sweet spice finish (from aging in Japanese Oak) make it unique and excellent, mitigating the woody earthiness of most single malts. This whisky can be drunk with dinner, and some sushi and other Japanese appetizers were offered to us as we sipped and sipped. This 12-year is lighter and drier than the second tasting, the 18-year whisky. Sweeter, with a less prominent nose, its full body and flavors of cherry, honey, and toast paired perfectly with the rich chocolate torte that enticed us from the moment we walked into the room. The third tasting, and the pièce de résistence, was the Cask of Yamazaki 1993 “Heavily Peated Malt.” Only 554 bottles of this whisky, aged in American white oak, were produced. Bringing the deceptively light in color whisky to our noses, we instantly smelled the peaty smokiness, akin to the scent of magic marker and aged leather. One sip confirmed the nose; however, we, along with our beautiful and delightful tasting companion, food and drink writer Akiko Katayama, were surprised by its honey-blossom sweetness, which helped balance the leathery smoky flavors that permeated our palates. We all agreed that this was a special moment and were honored to have been a a part of the experience.



A week earlier was Ed Hamilton’s rum lecture, sponsored by USBG and Flor de Caña Rum, held at the Aspen Social Club. If you haven’t been to the Aspen Social Club (or its parent restaurant lounge Aspen), run, don’t walk. Its Colorado-Rockies-Chic interior has to be seen to be believed. Glass walls that allow you to look into seemingly endless rows of trees, a white-antler sculptured ceiling in the back, various seating and socializing areas with their own bars varying degrees of intimacy, it’s a place that makes you feel special. And Ed Hamilton, one of the world’s leading rum authorities, made us feel special. After the waitstaff handed us each a tangy, superb Daiquiri, and we were encouraged to gobble up polenta fries and gourmet quesadillas, we chatted with Ed before his PowerPoint lecture about his love for rum and his quest to find the world’s best rums. You should check out the Web site he curates called Ministry of Rum. It’s a fascinating compilation of lore, brands, profiles, forums, distillation processes—you name it—much of which he discussed during his lecture.

The tasting consisted of five Flor de Caña rums, each with its own distinct flavor, color, and age. First was Limón, a clean, bright 4-year rum blend with natural flavors to create a liqueur perfect for mixing your favorite rum cocktail, such as a Mojito. The second tasting was a personal favorite, the 7-year Gran Reserve Rum, full-bodied, mahogany-colored, and tasting of crème caramel. Its mouthfeel was silky, and it made us want to sip it for the rest of the evening, but we had three more to go. Third was the 4-year Gold Rum, another perfect mixer, with hints of vanilla in the nose, and a medium-bodied overall taste. Its golden hue will add a beautiful shimmer to your tiki drink. Fourth up was the 4-year Extra Dry White Rum, the only aged white rum on the market, that was used in the our meet-and-greet Daiquiri (which we downed a little too quickly, after which we had a Firecracker, made with the 7-year Gran Reserve, triple sec, lime juice, simple syrup, and chunks of watermelon, all shaken with some cayenne pepper for some zing zap kapow). The fifth and final tasting was of the 18-year Centenario Gold, a smooth sipper with hints of nutty maple and caramel. This one makes for a great postprandial quaff.

Tastings are a perfect way to get to know a brand or spirit, especially those that are new to the market, rare, or expensive. We highly recommend both Yamazaki for all you scotch drinkers who want to try something unique, and the Flor de Caña rums, for their smoothness and adaptability. Cheers!

photos © Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz

Monday, November 10, 2008

Mixology Monday XXXIII: Gay Caballero, or Infused with Walnuts


The Jack Twist . . . a sweet, nutty Cowboy drink.

As bartenders, bar chefs, mixologists—call us anything you’d like—we like to tinker. Something deep inside prevents us from ever being satisfied with settling for labeled distilled spirits. So what do we do? We strive to create flavors that excite, challenge, and hopefully satiate our ever-exploring palates by changing a spirit’s flavor profile. Like Byrd searching for the South Pole, we bravely face adversity as we taste-taste and mix old reliable spirits with a dash of this and a pinch of that, wait a few days (or weeks . . . or months), and blammo, we’ve created a liqueur.

Enter walnuts. Walnuts are one of our favorite nuts. They add a perfect complement to chocolate in a Toll House Cookie. Their marriage with bananas are a classic to-die-for component in many breads, desserts, and breakfast fare. Why not go all walnut on some whiskey such as Jack Daniels? After all, Jack is filtered through sugar maple charcoal. Perhaps maple and walnut would do the two-step with some tasty results. Well, after toasting some walnuts in the oven, and then infusing the darkly aromatic bits in some Jack for three days, the whiskey acquired a pleasant viscosity that made for a more pleasurable mouthfeel. Add some walnut liqueur and a little bit o’ dark brown sugar, shake it all up, and strain into a very receptive rocks glass, eager to feel the pulse of your waiting lips. Don’t forget to throw in a tiny twist of lemon, so it’ll kiss you with every sip.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, the drink was named after the character in Brokeback Mountain, as portrayed by the inestimable Jake Gyllenhaal. Add a little bit of advocaat to the mix (about a 1/2 ounce), and you’ve got yourself a Jack Nasty.

Jack Twist
(created by Paul Zablocki, Cocktail Buzz)

Ingredients
2 ounces toasted walnut-infused Jack Daniels*
3/4 ounce walnut liqueur
1/2 tablespoon dark brown sugar
small lemon twist (about 1/2 inch)

Method
Shake vigorously with ice for 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled rocks glass. Garnish with the twist.

* Walnut-infused Jack Daniels
2 cups Jack Daniels whiskey
1/4 cup walnuts

Pour Jack Daniels into an airtight container. Toast walnuts in 350°F oven, or on stove top in skillet, for up to 12 minutes, careful not to burn (shake skillet occasionally). When walnuts have started to brown and you can smell their oils being released, remove from heat and add to Jack Daniels. Cover. Infuse for 4 days, shaking occasionally from day to day. After four days, strain Jack Daniels into a clean container, and discard walnuts.

photo © Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Brunch Cocktails Redefined

Sometimes at brunch, a cocktail is necessary. Your obligations for the rest of the day are insignificant compared to the importance of imbibing with your French Toast or Shirred Eggs. But the thought of tippling one more ho-hum Mimosa and Bloody Mary has got you teetotalling most Sundays. Try one of our new brunch cocktails (you can have them before dinner as well).


The Benedict shares the flavors of the famous egg dish it emulates.

The Benedict is a subtle and savory combination of tarragon, egg cream, clove, and bacon. It will definitely stimulate your appetite for more sweet and savory breakfast treats such as the above-mentioned french toast, or perhaps a stack of pancakes drowned in butter and pure maple syrup.

The Benedict
(created by Paul Zablocki, Cocktail Buzz)

Ingredients
1 ounce cognac
1 ounce tarragon-infused vodka*
1/4 ounce advocaat
bacon-dust rim**
dash of ground clove, as garnish

Method
Rim a chilled coupe with bacon dust (wet the rim first with some cognac). Add first three ingredients to an ice-filled shaker and shake for 30 seconds. Strain into a coupe. Garnish with a dash of ground clove.

* To make the tarragon-infused vodka, infuse about a tablespoon of fresh tarragon leaves with about 2 cups of vodka in an airtight container. If you use a fifth of vodka, you can double the tarragon. (The measurements do not have to be precise.) Let sit for up to four days, shaking occasionally. Taste daily. When the vodkas tastes good and tarragony, strain the vodka into a clean bottle or jar that has a lid.

** To make the bacon-dust rim, microwave a strip or two of bacon on high for about 2 minutes. It should get very dark and crispy. Grind the bacon in a spice or coffee mill and empty onto a saucer. Wet rim of glass with a bit of cognac and dip into the mix so that it sticks to the rim.


❤ ❤ ❤


The Suzette will remind you of the flavors of the crêpe that shares its name.

And speaking of maple syrup, why not try the Suzette, a slightly sweet and boozy blend of the unique and beguiling Hudson Four Grain bourbon, Sortilège maple liqueur, and the amazing triple sec L’Original Combier Liqueur d’Orange. Together, the drink will remind you of the first time you tried a Crêpe Suzette. (The only thing missing is the powdered sugar.)

Suzette
(created by Paul Zablocki, Cocktail Buzz)

Ingredients
1 1/2 ounces Hudson Four Grain bourbon
1/2 ounce Sortilège maple liqueur
1/4 ounce Combier orange liqueur
1 dash Bitter Truth orange bitters
orange peel, as garnish

Method
Stir in mixing glass half filled with ice for 30 seconds. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Add garnish.

If you fancy your drinks on the rocks, the Suzette is quite the accommodating gal. We suggest you bump up the maple and orange liqueurs by a 1/4 oz. each.

Suzette on the Rocks
(created by Paul Zablocki and Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz)

Ingredients
1 1/2 ounces Hudson Four Grain bourbon
3/4 ounce Sortilège maple liqueur
1/2 ounce Combier orange liqueur
1 dash Bitter Truth orange bitters
orange peel, as garnish

Method
Stir in mixing glass half filled with ice for 30 seconds. Strain into ice-filled rocks glass. Add garnish.

❤ ❤ ❤


Up for some Monkey Business? Cognac & banana puree, topped with champagne!

Well, if those two are not getting your taste buds to perk up, then perhaps some Monkey Business will do it for you. It’s essentially a champagne cocktail with lots of very ripe banana mixed with delectable cognac and a hint of Velvet Falernum. You can either strain the chunky bananas through a sieve to make them super smooth, or if you like the chunky texture, just mash it up or use an immersion blender. Just remember to use the ripest of bananas or the drink will not work. Enjoy fueling your inner monkey!

Monkey Business
(created by Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz)

Ingredients
2 ounces cognac or brandy
1/2 ounces Velvet Falernum
1/4 ounce ripe banana puree
3 ounces champagne or prosecco

Method
Shake first 3 ingredients in ice for 30 seconds. Pour into chilled goblet. Top with champagne. Give it a little stir.

photos © Steve Schul and Paul Zablocki, Cocktail Buzz

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Create Your Signature Cocktail: The Pushkar Sunset


The Pushkar Sunset, a bracing mix of bourbon, ginger liqueur, and some fragrant garnishes, was created by Matthew Eubank and Alexis Soloski.

Matthew Eubank and Alexis Soloski, two fellow Brooklynites, and a terrific couple who love a cocktail now and then, won us in a raffle sponsored by the Soho Rep. a few months back. Their prize: to create a signature cocktail. And that they did. Both Matthew and Alexis are fans of whisk(e)y, so we embarked on a journey to create a cocktail that would be made up mostly of a type of whiskey, and some other spirits and such thrown in for good mixing measure.

Steve immediately suggested Old Fitzgerald’s 1849 Kentucky Bourbon, which packs a respectable punch at 90 proof. Like Maker’s Mark, Old Fitzgerald uses wheat as the secondary grain (instead of rye) to make the mash, so its flavor is quite discernibly different from a corn-and-rye bourbon such as Jim Beam. The happy couple took a sip and were delighted not only by the flavor, but by the price. If you can find it, Old Fitzgerald’s 1849 will run you about $16 for a fifth.

Bourbon’s not like gin; mixing it requires the addition of flavors that are going to stand up to the piquancy of the charred-oak barrel notes that make bourbon so tasty, but not disguise it or overpower its deep rich, sweet woodsiness. Ginger was as good as any place to start, so we added a squirt of a Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur to a shot of Fitzgerald, and continued to do so until the ginger was a big presence.


Matthew and Alexis enjoy their new creation, the Pushkar Sunset, with the Manhattan skyline in the background.

Alexis suggested adding some lemon juice to see what that would do, but the tartness of the lemon and the spiciness of the ginger weren’t doing it for us. The flavor just seemed off. So Paul suggested orange on some level, and Matthew opted for some orange bitters. We have some Bitter Truth orange bitters in our arsenal, so a few dashes of that were a perfect foil to the strength of the ginger–bourbon duet. Also, we thought we would add an orange rind using a vegetable peeler, and perform the operation above the glass so that the oils would spray gently over the glass, creating a gentle aroma. After Paul suggested adding a dash of spice, Matthew opted for nutmeg, and the deal was sealed. A cocktail had been born.

But the story does not end there. After Matthew and Alexis waxed fondly over their recent trip to India, they decided the drink should be named the “Pushkar Sunset.” The drink was spicy, like much of the cuisine throughout India, but they wanted to try the cocktail with a different garnish: star anise. Since we didn’t have any on hand, they waited to get home to try out there new cocktail with the spiky, redolent dried pericarp. They wrote to tell us that the drink looked beautiful with the star anise bobbing on top. We could not agree more, but please do add the orange twist. It’s an important flavor component and we’d hate for you not to have the full Pushkar Sunset experience.


Pushkar, at sunset. (photo by Matthew Eubank and Alexis Soloski)

Pushkar Sunset
(created by Matthew Eubank and Alexis Soloski)

Ingredients
1 1/2 ounces bourbon (try Old Fitzgerald’s 1849)
1/2 ounce ginger liqueur (try Domaine de Canton)
2 dahes orange bitters (try Bitter Truth)
orange twist, for garnish
star anise (or dash of nutmeg), for garnish

Method
In a mixing glass, add the first three ingredients. Stir for 30 seconds. Garnish with an orange twist and star anise. If you do not have star anise, a dash of nutmeg will do.



VARIATIONS:

The Pushkar Sunset is a strong drink, boozy and spicy. If you so desire, and want your drink a little gentler, we like to add ice. The Pushkar Sunset blooms when it’s served on the rocks. Add a splash of soda to create a Pushkar Fizz. Take a sip and start planning that trip to India.

photos © Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Mixology Monday XXXII: A Guilty Pleasure Disclosed

Ah, the guilty pleasure. For some it involves French Fries and a Big Mac, purchased at a rest stop after long-distance stomach grumbling. We try justifying our purchase by telling ourselves, “Well it’s either a Big Mac or some pizza that looks like it’s been sitting under that orange light for eight hours, at least the Big Mac is fresher.” For others, only the guilty pleasure of a pint of Häagen-Dazs Rocky Road will do. And at over 1,000 calories, the guilt really slaps you across the face before depositing itself in your butt, thighs, and stomach. If only we could extract the guilt from these pleasures. Why are we so ashamed to let the cat out of the bag when it comes to the stuff we really like? Because people are mean. Plain & simple. “You ate a Slim Jim and washed it down with a rum and Caffeine-Free Diet Coke? What are you, some sort of culinarily challenged rube?” The one thing we don’t do here at Cocktail Buzz is judge you for what you like or dislike. Granted, if you don’t like us, you clearly have no taste. But if you do, then by golly, we like you too.

That said, we like Harvey Wallbangers.

According to absoluteastronomy.com:

“The Harvey Wallbanger is an alcoholic drink or cocktail made with vodka, Galliano, and orange juice. This well known tipple was one of many cocktails invented by renowned and two times world champion mixologist Donato ‘Duke’ Antone. Other notable ‘Duke’ creations are the Rusty Nail, The Godfather and the Flaming Caesar. This is one of many cocktails invented by ‘Duke’ in Los Angeles during the 1950s. According to legend, Harvey was a California surfer. After losing an important contest, he consoled himself in Duke’s Blackwatch bar with one of his ‘special’ screwdriver cocktails.”

Thank you Mr. Antone.

Our parents drank Harvey Wallbangers in the 1970s, and if they were good enough for them, they’re good enough for us. Who can resist the sweet and tangy goodness of fresh-squeezed orange juice. And Galliano? Just envisioning the chartreuse, tapered bottle is enough to send us into paroxysms of liqueur-lust when there are Florida oranges in the fruit bowl waiting to be deflowered. Unscrewing the cap of Galliano and smelling that vanilla-anise whiff is another step on the road to insobriety, and because the Harvey Wallbanger is a terrific brunch drink, you can feel guilty (or not) about drinking before you’ve even thought about what you’re going to make for dinner. Try having two Harvey Wallbangers . . . you’ll stop thinking about dinner altogether. We encourage having several with friends. It makes for such a fun meal. (Click here to read about our Wallbanging escapades with two delightful dining companions.)



Harvey Wallbanger
(adapted by Cocktail Buzz)

Ingredients
1 1/2 ounces vodka (try Sobieski)
3 1/2 ounces fresh-squeezed orange juice
1/2 ounce Galliano
small ice cubes

Method
Stir vodka and orange juice in an ice-filled highball glass for 5 seconds. Float Galliano on top. Add a straw if you so desire. For a twist, try fresh-squeezed tangelo juice.

photos © Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz


Monday, October 6, 2008

Peaches! Peaches! Peaches!


The Smash Daddy, perfect for summer and early fall.

Well, if you haven’t figured it out already, peach season is coming to a close. So we implore you to run to the grocery store or farmers market and pick up some peaches ASAP. Sorry for posting so late in the peach season, but sometimes it takes a while to perfect some cocktail recipes. They’re worth the wait when they taste as delicious as these two rocks drinks.

First up is the Smash Daddy, a simple concoction made with some muddled white peach and one of our favorite new liqueurs, Catdaddy Carolina Moonshine (now called Catdaddy Spiced Moonshine). It’s a vanilla-, cinnamon-, and nutmeg-flavored Moonshine that tastes like someone just dropped a bit of wedding-cake frosting into a vat of virgin whiskey, and added a few other spices like coriander seeds and a sweetener like sorghum. The smell is reminiscent of juicy fruit gum. Confused? Well, trust us, you have to try it to believe it. It got Steve’s lazy ass out of bed when we were at Tales of the Cocktail, and he was happy that Paul played reveille so he could try this beguiling elixir at a morning tasting. Just a splash of soda, a few drops of peach bitters, and you’ve got a sweet sipper that may just turn into a gulper depending on how you take a shine to the Catdaddy. If you’re a fan of sweet tea or, say, and an Old-Fashioned with muddled fruit, think of the Smash Daddy as a Peach Old-Fashioned. If you only have regular yellow peaches, we won’t tell.

Smash Daddy
(created by Paul Zablocki, Cocktail Buzz)

Ingredients
1 1/2 ounce Catdaddy Carolina Moonshine
splash of soda
3 drops peach bitters
quarter of a white peach
peach slice, as garnish

Method
Score half a white peach. Muddle in a rocks glass, skin side up. Fill with ice. Add Catdaddy, then soda. Add bitters. Garnish with peach slice.

P.S. Don’t forget to eat the booze-soaked peaches. This is one drink where you want to eat the garnish after you’ve relished the last drop.

❤ ❤ ❤

Our second cocktail, one of Steve Schul’s creations, is the Tokyo Momo. Momo is Japanese for peach, and this rocks drink uses a muddled white peach shaken with Yamazaki 12-year Whisky to create a deep and complex combo. But that’s not all. Steve also added two unique liqueurs that complement the sweetness of a peach: Cherry Heering and Dumante Verdenoce Italian Pistachio Nut Liqueur. He decided on these two liqueurs for several reasons. First, he realized that the strong scotch-like flavor of the Yamazaki whisky needed a strong counterpoint to balance it, and Cherry Heering is such a liqueur to do the trick. Second, being a pie lover, he knew that bittersweet cherry mixed with peach is a great combination. But what other flavor would add to the complex fruitiness already brewed? That’s where the third element comes in. Nuts. Something nutty, like the refined beauty of the Dumante pistachio liqueur, with its complex nutty sweetness, was a perfect addition. A drop of whiskey bitters brings all the flavors together so that the Tokyo Momo tastes like you made a peach cobbler and let the juices run over the side of the pie crust. One sip and we proclaimed our love for the early days of fall.



Tokyo Momo
(created by Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz)

Ingredients
1 1/2 ounces Yamazaki 12-yr. whisky
1/2 ounce Heering cherry liqueur
1/2 ounce Dumante pistachio liqueur
2 drops Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel Aged Bitters
quarter of a white peach
brandied cherries, or peach slice, as garnish

Method
Score the white peach, flesh side, making sure not to go all the way through the skin. Muddle in a shaker. Add the whisky, liqueurs, and bitters. Fill two-thirds with ice. Shake for 30 seconds. Strain into ice-filled rocks glass. (If you’re having trouble straining, be patient and keep shaking and straining. If you’re not that patient, then strain the mixture all at once through a sieve into a pitcher.) Garnish with brandied cherries on a skewer or a peach slice (or both).

photos © Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz

Monday, September 22, 2008

Suntory Spirits Unite in This Early Fall Cooler


The Bank of Japan is crisp, zingy, and refreshing.

Suntory makes an incredibly smooth whisky, Yamazaki, and we thought we would challenge each other to come up with a drink that showcases its mellow smokiness. The “Bank of Japan” is the name of the first drink (we’ll explore the other at a later date), and the path we took to come up with the name was long forgotten after a few rounds of these coolers that are perfect for late summer–early fall. (Happy Fall, by the way, and we hope you enjoy the lack of humidity wherever you may be.)

Sometimes it’s difficult to mix whiskies (the flavors of most single malts can be slightly overpowering when mixed with liqueurs that cannot hold themselves up to their piquancies). Mulling around the liquor cabinet, Paul thought that the addition of Midori, another Suntory product, might just be the sweetness that this 12-year Yamazaki needed. Midori, as you all know, is a melon liqueur, and a guilty pleasure in the Schul–Zablocki household. It’s also an ingredient in The Universe, which won First Prize in the the 1978 U.S. Bartenders Guild Annual Competition, and was a favorite at the bacchanalian Studio 54.



The addition of Midori did add just the right amount of sweetness, and also a tantalizing fruitiness, to the Yamazaki Whisky, but something was missing. The characteristics of what makes single-malt whisky, whisky, were now suppressed. How to bring them back? Another glance at the liquor cabinet revealed a bright yellow liqueur, recently purchased, and crying out to be used creatively. Strega! Italian for witch, and a brew of spicy, herbal wonder. Just a little bit goes a long way, so after a splash, and a few drops of Peychaud’s Bitters to round out all the flavors, we threw in some ice and garnished with a slice of pear (apple works just as well) to welcome the fall into our home. The color is gorgeous, and changes from a bright yellow, to a glowing chartreuse, depending on the light source (see photos).

Now as we enter the fall, and are sitting outside on our terrace, or back porch, or near an open window, we can sip our Bank of Japans, breath a sigh of relief knowing that in less than half an hour we’ll be ready for another one. Kampai!

Bank of Japan
(created by Paul Zablocki, Cocktail Buzz)

Ingredients
1 1/2 ounces Yamazaki whisky
1/2 ounce Midori melon liqueur
1/4 ounce Strega
2 drops Peychaud’s Bitters
splash of soda

Method
Stir first three ingredients in ice for 30 seconds. Pour into rocks glass. Add ice. then bitters. Top with soda. Add red pear slice (such as Clapp, Red Barlett, or Red Anjou), as garnish.

photos © Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Mixology Monday XXXI: Imbibing Old School with Old Tom

In C. F. Lawlor’s 1855 The Mixicologist, or How To Mix All Kinds of Fancy Drinks, there appears a recipe for The Improved Tom Gin Cocktail. For those of you who are not familiar with Old Tom Gin, or are but have never tried it, we direct your attention to Hayman’s Old Tom Gin, a botanically nuanced, balanced gin that is pleasantly sweet. Old Tom gin is called for in a lot of 19th-century cocktails, and has always been available in England, but in the U.S. it has only been recently made available since departing some time in the 1950s. Imagine taking your favorite London Dry Gin and adding a little simple syrup to it. That’s Old Tom gin in a nutshell. So we thought it would be fun to pick up a bottle and make one of Lawlor’s recipes, and see what happens.

The Improved Tom Gin Cocktail differs from its predecessor, the Tom Gin Cocktail, by requiring Curaçoa [sic] in place of simple syrup. We decided on l’Original Combier Liqueur d’Orange for our Curaçao, a perfect match since Combier touts itself as being the original triple sec (from 1834). It’s also delicious, with intense orange aroma and taste. Add to that a few dashes of The Bitter Truth Orange Bitters, which gives the drink a jolt of sharpness, and you've got on your hands a 19th-century recreation that will pack quite a punch. A few sips of this, and you'll feel like your brain’s taken a mini-vacation (both spirits are 80 proof.) As far as garnishing goes, we had some blueberries left over from a blueberry-stout salsa we had just made, so we threw in a few to give the drink a little color (and it’s always extra nice to bite into a gin-soaked berry once the drink has been imbibed).

So here’s our recipe for this 19th-century spirituous delight, based on C. F. Lawlor’s:

Improved Tom Gin Cocktail
(adapted by Cocktail Buzz)

Ingredients
2 ounces Old Tom gin
1/4 ounces triple sec
3 dashes orange bitters

Method
In a mixing glass filled halfway with ice, stir the ingredients for 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish. Sip. Get carried away.

Further Exploration
We are happy to report that since posting this, a new Old Tom gin, developed with the collaboration of cocktail guru David Wondrich, has hit the market. It’s from Ransom, and it touts itself as being historically accurate, the way gin was made before Prohibition. Its hue is a deep gold, and the smell and taste of the botanicals and slight maltiness will definitely win you over, tempting you to make old school pre-bathtub gin cocktails, like the one above. Seek it out today and start stirring tonight.

photo © Cocktail Buzz

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Gin Stevie and Bruschetta Make a Perfect Pairing


Ah, the Gin Stevie. Watermelon–Sake ice cubes slowly melting in a pool of muddled mint and basil bathed in gin and lime juice.

Watermelon is still in season as we enter late summer. So Steve came up with an amazing cocktail that is perfectly paired with bruschetta topped with heirloom tomatoes and just a hint of red jalapeño. It’s called the Gin Stevie, and you will fall in love by drink’s end. Two drinks and you’re ready to walk down the aisle (sadly for us that is not a reality here in Brooklyn).

Politics aside (though you should be gearing up to vote this November), we are concerned now with the success of your cocktail party. Perhaps you are planning one this coming weekend and want something different, something relatively simple, and of course something delicious. Steve has crafted his Gin Stevie in a highball glass using chilled Hendrick’s gin, fresh lime juice, some watermelon–sake ice cubes (which were inspired by a recipe in Imbibe Magazine), and basil and mint leaves. Top with a little soda, garnish with a sprig of the mint, and bingo! the taste of summer comes sharply into focus.

We pair the Gin Stevie with bruschetta. Why? Because watermelon and tomato know how to get down and boogie-oogie-oogie with each other without stepping on one another’s toes. Balance is key, so we added a bit of red jalapeño to the bruschetta topping to bring out the sweetness in the Gin Stevie. Bruschetta is so easy to make, a real no-brainer, that requires you to grill some sliced baguette, chop up some tomatoes and red jalapeño, and sprinkle on some salt and pepper with a little drizzle of olive oil (oh, and you have to rub a little garlic on the bread once toasted). Simplicity at your grill.


Making a classic tomato bruschetta is easy. Just a few ingredients, and a hot grill are all you need.

Gin Stevie
(created by Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz)

2 ounces gin (we like Hendrick’s for this)
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
5 spearmint leaves
5 basil leaves
1/2 ounce simple syrup
3–4 watermelon–sake ice cubes*
splash of soda
spearmint sprig, as garnish

In a highball glass gently muddle lime juice, simple syrup, and leaves. Add chilled gin, watermelon–sake ice cubes, and soda. Stir. Garnish with sprig. Add a straw.

* Watermelon–sake ice cubes
4-lb. seedless watermelon, cut into cubes
1 ounce fresh lime juice
up to 1 cup sugar (depending on sweetness of watermelon)
180 ml bottle sparkling sake

Add first 3 ingredients to a bowl for at least 15 minutes and up to several days. Transfer contents of bowl to a blender and puree until chunks are broken down. Stir in sake. Pour into ice cube trays and freeze until ready to use.

Makes up to 8 dozen cubes. (It may sound like a lot, but trust us, you’ll be much happier with lots in your freezer.)

❤ ❤ ❤

You can learn how to make a Gin Stevie and bruschetta by watching our new video on our Web site, Cocktail Buzz. We had fun shooting it (although we had to wait every time the helicopters whirled above and planes soared by us), and editing was actually a blast. Hope you like the final products. And let us know when you make the Gin Stevie and bruschetta how every little thing turned out. Cheers and Bottoms Up!

photos © Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Four New Cocktails Inspired by Classics

Well, August is almost over, which means that summer fun is winding down. Is that a chill in the air? Maybe it’s just a cool breeze. Or maybe we’ve been holding our ice-cold cocktails for too long. In any event, we’ve been having fun experimenting with new cocktails and we’d like to share with you our results.


“Cut Flowers,” a tangy blend of tequila, lemon, and white vermouth.

A Birthday Surprise

This birthday cocktail was invented in July for our friend Curt Flowers. Curt used to be our roommate, but now he lives a few floors below us and we see him all the time. Curt is a beer man; not much of a cocktailian. But of course we love to change people’s perceptions of cocktails, and Curt loves our Oriental, as well as our classic Margarita, so we thought we would invent him a new drink that would be in the same flavor profile, both sweet and sour. We named it after him, sans the letter r in his first name, and added some orange flower water and an edible flower to drive the name home. We present to you Cut Flowers.


Curt and Steve enjoy some Cut Flowers, tripping the light fantastic.

Cut Flowers
(created by Steve Schul and Paul Zablocki, Cocktail Buzz)

Ingredients
2 ounces silver tequila
1 ounces bianco (white) vermouth
1/2 ounces agave nectar
1/2 ounces lemon juice
1–2 drops orange flower water
edible flower, as garnish

Method
Shake all ingredients except flower in a shaker filled with ice for 15 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Add flower, such as a pansy or dianthus. Enjoy!

And if you’re wondering, Cut Flowers go really well with chorizo sobres and, of course, guacamole.

Gin Is In

When trying unfamiliar gins, martinis are the way to go. But what if you’re out of olives and the lemons you have resting in a bowl on your counter have softened to the point of disuse? Try another garnish, such as a cocktail onion, and you have a Gibson.

We were given some free samples of DH Krahn gin when we were at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans and thought we would give it a go. What a beautiful fragrance: light juniper with hints of pine. And the taste, equally beguiling.

Our Gibson uses a little less dry vermouth than most recipes, so we balance the flavors by using some orange bitters (which were originally used in early-20th-century Martinis). Plop in the slightly briny cocktail onion and you’ve got yourself a late-summer sipper that’ll pair with a variety of foods, including seafood, eggs, and herbed chicken.

Gibson
(adapted by Cocktail Buzz)

Ingredients
2 ounces gin (try DH Krahn)
1/3 ounce dry vermouth (we used Noilly Prat)
1–2 dashes orange bitters (we used Bitter Truth)
Cocktail onion, as garnish

Method
Stir for 30 seconds in ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Add onion.

Imbibing with Friends


Jack, Jim, Phil, Paul, and Steve at Captain Dusty’s Ice Cream.

August is the perfect month to spend a weekend on the North Shore of Boston. Our friends Jim and Lou own a beautiful estate, Sunset Rock, resting on the cliffs looking out over Cape Ann, resplendent with gardens of heirloom tomatoes, luffa, eggplant, hydrangea, roses. Simply divine.


The pool at Sunset Rock.

We recently spent the weekend with these food-loving gentlemen along with friends Phil and Jack. Jack brought a bottle of Plymouth gin along and wanted to make a variation of a French 75, a classic gin and champagne cocktail. So he and Paul whipped up a quick, potent cocktail using imprecise measurements, turbinado simple syrup, and lemon juice with pulp left in. The result was bestowed the moniker “Sunset Rock,” beginning with a golden cloud of bubbles and tart sweetness, ending with a concentrated gin kick!

Sunset Rock
(created by Jack Gorman)

Ingredients
2 ounces gin (we used Plymouth)
1 ounce lemon juice
1/2 ounce rich simple syrup (we used turbinado)
3–4 ounces champagne
long lemon twist, as garnish

Method
Use chilled champagne and gin. Pour the ingredients one by one into a champagne flute in the order presented above. Dangle the lemon twist over the side into the flute.


Lou tends to dinner, as Henry and Edie wait for something to drop on the floor.

The Marriage of Rum and Absinthe

Remember last month when we told you that Steve was playing with rum and absinthe, and that he invented a yummy mule. Well, here’s the recipe for a Lancaster's Mule:

Lancaster’s Mule
(created by Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz)

Ingredients
2 ounces white rum
1 teaspoon absinthe
4 ounces ginger beer (the spicier, the better; try Reed’s Extra Ginger Brew)

Method
Stir rum and absinthe in ice for 30 seconds. Strain into an ice-filled highball or double rocks glass. Top with chilled ginger beer.

❤ ❤ ❤

Bottoms up, everybody! Take the time to make a cocktail for a friend or loved one. Make a toast. Sip and smile. What are you waiting for? Ahhh, much better.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Mixology Monday XXX: It’s a Brooklyn Thing


The Brooklyn Nonino, perfect for a Brooklyn sunset.

So, what better way to celebrate the place we live than riff on the classic Brooklyn Cocktail, which unfortunately contains the unattainable Amer Picon (and we had no time to create Amer Boudreau . . . but perhaps next time).

Ah, Brooklyn. The borough we love. Our Brooklyn Cocktail variation, which we imbibed tonight while overlooking the Brooklyn (and Manhattan) skyline, is made using another amaro, one of our favorites, Nonino. Bittersweet bliss. And with the addition of a bit of orange rind, the complexity of all of its components reveals itself exposing a bright New World essence that is this great borough. You’ll already have all the other ingredients at home, so go out and get some of that Nonino, stir until cold, and fuhgettaboutit.

Brooklyn Nonino
(created by Cocktail Buzz)

Ingredients
1 1/2 ounces rye (we used Wild Turkey)
1/2 ounce dry vermouth (we used Noilly Prat)
1/4 ounce Amaro Nonino
1/4 ounce maraschino liqueur (we used Luxardo)
orange peel, as garnish

Method
Stir all but garnish in a pint glass 2/3-filled with ice for 30 seconds. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Add garnish.


Greetings from the Buzzed Boyz in Brooklyn.

photos © Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz

Sunday, August 3, 2008

One Wafer-Thin Mint: Temptation on the Road to Per Se by Way of Sobieski Vodka

This is a tale about the breach of integrity and shamelessly jumping at an opportunity presented mysteriously, as if it were a gift from the culinary gods. In literature, we would say, “It’s about the loss of innocence,” or perhaps a “Faust Story.”

So, it all begins Thursday night. Hanna Lee (who we met in New Orleans at Tales of the Cocktail), a PR superwoman from Hanna Lee Communications, invites us to the Sobieski Vodka “Spread the Truth” event where she introduces us to Junior Merino (from one of our favorite restaurants, Rayuela, and the newer Macondo). Junior created some new summer drinks for this vodka (Sobieski is an award-winning Polish grain vodka, very inexpensive, and smooth, with a slightly sweet start, and a slightly peppery finish). Although vodka drinks on the rocks are probably our least-favorite cocktails, we do love the addition of fruit and refreshing liqueurs in summertime, so we placed our orders with Junior and his associate Heidi. One called “Sobieski Truth Serum,” was slightly fruity/slightly tart, made with Sobieski Vodka, Veev Liqueur (made from açaí, a Brazilian berry), Republic of Tea Açaí, simple syrup, lime juice, and currants). Another thirst quencher was the “Sobieski Blues”:

Sobieski Blues
(created by Junior Merino)

Ingredients
1 1/2 ounces Sobieski Vodka
1 ounce St-Germain elderflower liqueur
1/2 ounce bianco vermouth
1/2 ounce lime juice

Method
Shake in ice. As you strain into highball glass [filled with ice], drop in 8–10 blueberries.

❤ ❤ ❤

The techno music was way too loud, so we headed up to the VIP area, a gorgeous terrace overlooking the west. It was a sultry night, but the outdoors beckoned us and we answered its siren call. While gazing out over Manhattan, we ran into the cutest couple in the world, Kelly Samardak of Media Post Communications, and her boyfriend David. Kelly was snapping photos and accumulating dish for her post, Just an Online Minute, and David joined her for the ride. We chatted endlessly about cocktails, living in New York, and cooking. David told us that his roommate used to work in the kitchen at Per Se, but left because the work methods of the powers that be disturbed his gentle, carefree ways. (For those of you who do not know what Per Se is, bless your hearts. At $275 per person, you are served nine courses of drop-dead gorgeously plated and flavored food. Amuse bouches and mignardises are also guaranteed. Service is reportedly impeccably over-the-top efficient. Word is that trainees are subjected to militaristic dressing-downs in order to perfect their craft.) After listening to Kelly and David go on about how David’s roommate had to get out of there because of the putative institutionalized daily scolds, and after imbibing several of Junior’s drinks, we proclaimed in tipsy solidarity, “We will never go to Per Se.”

Well, the lesson learned is “Never Say Never.”

Jump ahead twelve hours. We receive an e-mail from cousin Barbara: “Please join us Saturday Night. 9:30. Per Se! Barbara’s treat.”

Life works in mysterious ways. Sometimes you send something out in the universe, and the message comes back to challenge you. Only, in this instance, no gauntlet was thrown down, no hair-pulling ambiguity. Our proclamation of the night before was cast into the trash can like an emptied plastic cup.

Our immediate response was unequivocally YES!!!!!!

The evening began at the The Bar at The Four Seasons Hotel where we each imbibed a cocktail (at $22 a pop). We chose the “Allure,” a heady mix of champagne, Frangelico, and blackberries. A refreshing way to start any evening. Barbara looked summer ravishing in a short, Holly-Golightly-like turquoise dress, adorned with only a few strands of sparkly chartreuse green around her neck and her hair slightly up. No earrings, no ostentation, perfection.

Onward via cab to Per Se, which is located in the Columbus Circle Time Warner Center. After four escalator flights, we enter and are instantly amazed. The Asian-influenced blue doors do not open for us. Rather, the windows on either side of the door part and we enter, commenting on how someone thought out of the box to come up with that crafty effect. The food surely had to beguile us with the same sleight of hand.

Barbara’s husband, the adorable Jon, was turning 40, and this was the gift. Well, let us tell you something about turning 40 . . . it’s %$@#! awesome! Jon, with his infectious smile, looked handsome as any New York Dapper Dan.

Our waiter, the dashingly casual, let-me-take-care-of-you-while- you-dine-with-us Jonathan guided us through the nine-course menu, complete with amuse bouche, seemingly endless mignardises, and a tour of the immaculate kitchen (which surprised us for its tight quarters and lack of rows of burners). Highlights of the fare included Pan Roasted Maine Sea Scallop served with Sweetbread–Corn Ravioli, Cipollini Onion with Lovage “Mousseline,” and of course Per Se’s famous “Oysters and Pearls,” a “Sabayon” of Pearl Tapioca with Island Creek Oysters and Sterling White Sturgeon Caviar. The wines all equally impressed, and by the time dessert (one of three) rolled around, we were all feeling a little stuffed. But how could we refuse the first dessert that Jonathan (who by now is our best friend on the planet) brings to us via the well-drilled wait staff, a gorgeous Plum Sorbet made with Santa Rosa Plums, accompanied by Ginger Pudding, Plum Consommé, and a Gingerbread Crisp.

Jonathan had surmised by hearing us chat that we were knowledgeable of spirits and liqueurs, so he tempted Paul with a mystery glass of a dark red–amber spirit. He said it was his new favorite and it had bewitched him from the start. Paul put it up to his nose and announced it was an amaro. Jonathan was impressed. After Paul took sip and informed everyone at the table it was Nonino, Jonathan looked a little shocked. “I can’t believe you guessed that.” What Jonathan didn’t know was that Paul loves amaro and all things bitter, and Nonino is one of his faves.

But the story doesn’t end here, dear reader. If you look again to the title of this piece, you need to ask yourself, “What does a wafer-thin mint have to do with an evening at Per Se?”

Poor Steve. He was tempted by the final mignardise that Jonathan brought to the table, one of his favorites, a Passion Fruit White Chocolate. And as the avoirdupois diner at the end of Monty Python’s Meaning of Life is tempted by one wafer-thin mint to end his food orgy, Steve too reaches for the confection and pops it into his mouth.

Ah, yes, ladies and gentlemen. Karma is a funny thing. Perhaps we should not have proclaimed our solidarity with Kelly and David two nights before the blessed Per Se nonathalon. Or perhaps we should have not sacrificed our integrity for one of the best dining experiences in our lives. In any event, we indulged, and are very happy for all the choices we made.

After Jonathan introduced us to the remaining kitchen and front-of-house staff, he handed each couple a bag full of cookies and led us to the sliding window–doors, waving good-bye and we parted into the chilled evening air of the mall. Innocence lost, integrity compromised, experience . . . priceless.

We’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

How Tasty!: Musings on Tastings and Tasters

This article was first published on July 28, 2008, as a part of the 2008 Tales of the Cocktail Blog. It was addressed to the contingency of cocktail bloggers and anyone who cared to read along.

There is no better joy than to see a grown man or woman take a sip of something so utterly breathtaking, words fail to to express the glow of inner peace. Ah, the ineffability of Elysian elixirs. We would love it if they rejuvenated our tired bones and sere skin, or offered us a brief glimpse into the future, but alas, they can only delight, and sometimes intoxicate.

The Tasting Room

Tastings at Tales of the Cocktail were by far the easiest and sometimes most fun method of getting to know a new spirit or being reinvigorated by an old favorite shaken up in a new way. It was also a surefire way to observe firsthand the crazy world of PR, Marketing, and Sales, and meet the people who are their driving force.


Catdaddy: a love affair begins

Our favorites were, in no particular order (but for very particular reasons):

Catdaddy Carolina Moonshine, from Piedmont Distillers, for its sweet kick in the pants (love the way it mixes with the peach-infused Midnight Moon Moonshine and sweet tea); there was even duck confit and crackers for those of us who like a little food with our cocktail;

All the Chartreuses, especially the rare and mind-blowing Elixir Végétal, of which Antoinette Cattani, President of Cattani Imports, touted its curative effects for combating ague. “One dose of this, and a good night’s sleep, and your fever is as good as gone.” We only wish it was available in this country, but the Fed’s won’t allow it because the recipe is secret and the FDA only allows full disclosure of all ingredients that enter this country. Oh well. Next time we’re in France . . . ;


Chesterfield Brown, of Mount Gay

Mount Gay, for the stentorian Chesterfield Brown, the master mixologist who explained to us every step in the distillation and bottling process of each and every rum available at the tasting (we liked the Barbados Sugar Cane Brandy Aged Rum); and

Clément Créole Shrubb Liqueur, for its beguiling orange essence, and that you can sip it all by its lonesome without being disturbed by an alcohol-heavy, or too sweet, aftertaste. As a mixer, it excels.

Tasters, Supertasters, and the Unfortunately Named Nontasters

Darcy S. O’Neill, from Art of Drink, led us on an oral and mental journey of our taste buds in the session titled “Sensory Perception in Mixology/What your taste buds are telling you.” Most of us are Tasters, that is, we have a a certain number of receptors on our tongue (papillae) that tell us if the food we are eating is bitter (our ancestors equated bitter food with poison). Nontasters have fewer taste buds, so they don’t have as strong an aversion to bitter foods and sometimes gravitate towards fatty and sweet foods more easily. Supertasters have a great number of bitter taste-bud receptors on their tongues, and usually hate bitter (and too sweet) foods and drinks. As a result, these people tend to be “picky” or “fussy.” Most children are supertasters, their buds not yet compromised by the effects of a lifetime of challenging their palates.

We put little strips of paper on our tongues that would inform us of our taster status. Supertasters have a huge avesion to the taste of the paper, and want to spit it out immediately, gagging in the process. Tasters scrunch up their faces wrily and complain for the next ten minutes how bad their mouth tastes. Nontasters chew the paper and swallow it as if it were the bitten-off end of a wrapped straw.

What we discovered is that we are not the same . . . which is a good thing! We balance each other: One keeps the other one from over-seasoning food and over-sweetening (or over-bittering) the cocktails. The other encourages more herb and spice play in the kitchen from the first and challenges him to make and shake an occasional cocktail with more zing. We also learned that mood plays an important role in what we are, well, in the mood for when we sit at a bar hoping the bartender will understand without words our very needs. So, offering “flavorful drinks to low-key people” might cheer them up a bit, while perhaps it would be best to avoid too much bitter flavors in a cocktail for a gaggle of “cheerleaders whose team just won the State Championship.”

Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay, So I Make My Own!

Our hats off to Paul Clarke of The Cocktail Chronicles for the “Making Your Own Cocktail Ingredients” session. What a pleasure it was to see all these amazing mixologists relate their tales of the sometimes Hurculean labors it took them to perfect their particular liqueurs, syrups, and bitters. For those of you who were not present, we were treated to Paul’s Falernum #10, a well-balanced blend of rummy spiciness, and Erik Ellestad’s orgeat (Erik, of the Underhill-Lounge in cyberland, was gracious enough to let us take a bottle home with us!), an incredible sweet, almond syrup used in drinks such as the Mai Tai. Jamie Boudreau’s recreation of the unattainable Amer Picon was a bittersweet delight (he calls his “Amer Boudreau,” natch), and we wanted to take some home with us, but the recipe is available on the Web. He was also a hilarious speaker. The 50-50 Manhattan used Jon Derragon’s (of PDT) recreation of the defunct Abbot’s bitters. The flavor bowled us over and made us love the Manhattan all over again (not that we ever fell out of love, but it’s always good to surprise your palate with a new twist on an old classic). And a big surprise which had the whole room abuzz was the Bacon-infused bourbon from PDT. One sip and there was no doubt that infusions had jumped to a new level. Now whether you like it or not is another story. We already have an idea for a cocktail.



We now pose two questions to ourselves:

1. What flavor sensations can we exploit in our own liqueur, syrup, or bitters?; and

2. What will be next year’s new big thing that’ll be on everyone’s tongue (both in spirits and buzz), and will have every mixologist clamoring to play with (and perhaps inspire to recreate)?

Tune in next year, and in the meantime, start steeping, mixing, infusing, and, most important, sipping.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Mixology Monday: Inspired by Our Trip to New Orleans


The Doublemint Julep, a Cocktail Buzz favorite

The Swizzle Stick Bar in New Orleans at Café Adelaide in the Loews Hotel made Paul a Mint Julep that was just the way he likes it: sweet and boozy, mint stroking the side of his nose with every sip. The only thing missing was the veranda.

So, when we got home from Tales of the Cocktail, we were excited to whip up a variation of our beloved mint julep using ingredients from our terrace garden. Normally, when we want to spice up a julep, we make a Doublemint Julep (no, we don’t use gum). Here is the recipe:

Doublemint Julep
(created by Cocktail Buzz)

The addition of peppermint to your julep will add a zing that’ll wake up your palate. Pair with a lamb sausage appetizer or a spicy grilled lamb chop.

Ingredients
3 ounces bourbon (we like Virginia Gentleman these days)
1/2–1 ounces simple syrup (depending on your sweet tooth)
4 large spearmint and 4 large peppermint leaves
spearmint and peppermint sprigs for garnish

Method
In a julep cup, muddle leaves in syrup. Fill with crushed ice and then add the bourbon. Garnish with mint sprigs.

❤ ❤ ❤

Mmmmmmmmm. The peppermint really brings out the bourbon’s characteristics—it’s a bourbon-forward drink, but the balance of mint and sugar is aahmazingly addictive.

Now for the new recipe. Besides spearmint and peppermint, we have a chocolate mint plant and an herb called stevia (which is one of the sweetest known plants on the planet). We created a mint julep using these two herbs using the following recipe:

Chocolate-Mint Julep
(created by Cocktail Buzz)

Ingredients
2 ounces bourbon
8 medium chocolate mint leaves
1–2 medium stevia leaves
chocolate mint sprigs for garnish

Method
In a julep cup, muddle leaves in a little water. Fill with crushed ice and then add the bourbon. Garnish with mint sprig.

❤ ❤ ❤

If you like your mint juleps not too sweet with a hint of chocolate (and we do mean “hint”), then you might like this Chocolate-Mint Julep. But if you like ’em sweet, then perhaps it won't meet your expectations. Regardless, give it a try and maybe you can come up with a way to perfect the recipe.

P.S. Doublemint Juleps pair wonderfully with lamb meatballs. Click here for our video demonstration.

photo © Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Water Spirits, the Elevator Muse, and the Lure of the French Quarter

This article was first published on July 18, 2008, as a part of the 2008 Tales of the Cocktail Blog. It was addressed to the contingency of cocktail bloggers and anyone who cared to read along.


The French Quarter, at Night, and still 90°

Now that we all are gullet-deep in the throes of cocktail passion, we need to take a step back and a deep breath, and share some advice.

1. WATER: Keep drinking it (there’s Fiji aplenty). If you don’t, you will of course dehydrate and become a lump of blathering goo.

2. ELEVATOR: Give yourself five extra minutes before pressing the little button that will take you to your next seminar, tasting, and tryst. Also, remember that you may meet some remarkable people in that little cramped car. Talk to them, engage them, and for Pete’s sake, if they engage you, talk back!

3. BREAK TIME: Like water, you need breaks to survive your time here. Hang by the pool (another great opportunity to meet some new people), walk around the French Quarter (and maybe beyond . . . there is actually life beyond this gorgeous haunted place . . . try a streetcar up the Garden District, you’ll love it!).

4. FOOD: Nibbles at a tasting do not comprise a meal. Take time to try a restaurant that a friend has recommended. Try some beignets and Po’ Boys and coffee with chicory, like at the Café Du Monde.



And speaking of food, our Spirited Dinner at Stella! was a meal blessed by the gods and goddesses of this famed city. Chef Scott Boswell, who we chatted with after the meal, along with Bar Chefs Phil Ward and Joaquin Simo (Brian Miller unfortunately was not present), created a gorgeous meal and cocktails that paired perfectly with every bite. Our favorite pairing was the second course: Lobster Roe Agnolotti with Edamame puree (Chef used edamame from his own garden, right next door to the restaurant!), Louisiana Jumbo Lump Crab and Cognac-Soy Crème, paired with the “Gypsy Woman,” a stirred cocktail made with Don Julio Blanco Tequila, Martini & Rossi Bianco Vermouth, Green Chartreuse, and Bitter Truth Celery Bitters. One word: incredible!

Our table companions, Curt Goldman and Kummi Kim, were a delight and we chatted for three hours about everything under the glowing white moon. Curt is the CEO of Cadre Noir, and he is the importer of the original triple sec called Combier, which he says removes the pith from the orange, creating a smoother more well-rounded liqueur. We can’t wait to try it! Kummi is from New York (just like Curt) and works for La Esquina, a highly touted Mexican Restaurant on the Lower East Side. The time just flew by, and before we knew it, the meal had ended, on such a high note.


The St-Germain Redux (Beefeater Gin, St-Germain Elderflower Liqueur, Club Soda, Champagne, twist of grapefruit)

This morning’s breakfast at Brennan’s, sponsored by U’luvka Vodka and Alana Brennan, was a charming and fun way to start the day. We braved the sultry streets at 9am to get a seat at nicely appointed tables. We met some great folks there and had a meal rich in calories, steeped in New Orleans tradition (Southern Baked Apple with Double Cream, Egg Hussarde/Egg Sardou Split, and Bananas Foster, with a Bloody Mary made with U’luvka vodka). Thank you Ann Tuennerman for all you’ve done!


Egg Hussarde/Egg Sardou Split

The days have been so chock full of events that it’s hard to pick a seminar or tasting since so many overlap. We have enjoyed a seminar called Making Your Own Spirits: A look into modern nano distilling, and countless tastings so far. On schedule for today is one we can’t wait to attend, Sensory Perception in Mixology/What Your Taste Buds Are Telling You.

That’s all for now . . . and don’t forget, H2O is your best friend!

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Buzz About Pairings, Spirited Dinners, and the Apprentice Program

This article was first published on July 12, 2008, as a part of the 2008 Tales of the Cocktail Blog.

Many people ask us how we come up with our cocktail–appetizer pairings. Easy—we love to eat, we love to drink. Things happen when you combine the two; our faces give away the results. (Frowns and other wry facial contortions equal bad—smiles accompanied by oohs and aahs equal good.)

Well, that’s what got us started, but it’s not that simple anymore. Now we taste-test cocktails with appetizers for at least a week, sometimes longer (you actually do get tired of eating pigs in a blanket three days in a row). Our latest duo, El Zete (rhymes with Pete) paired with Chorizo Sobres (little deep-fried envelopes of chorizo, peaches, and scallions) took two weeks of boozy mixology and kitchen antics to achieve a pairing that made us imbibe with gusto.

Cocktail hour is important to us. It’s that magical, crepuscular time of the evening during which the two of us reunite and talk about the day’s adventures. Since we get out of work late (Happy Hour is already over at most watering holes), we started combining appetizers with our cocktails to get a jump-start on dinner, and to assuage the twisted moans of agony emanating from our growling stomachs. Who doesn’t love an appetizer? Heck, sometimes when we go out to dine, that’s all we order.

Some of the food–cocktail pairings on the menus of the Spirited Dinners sound tantalizing as all get-out. [Spirited Dinners is a Tales of the Cocktail event that showcases the talents of New Orleans chefs pairing their cuisine with cocktails created by guest bar chefs.] The one we’ve opted for will be at Stella! with food created by Executive Chef Scott Boswell, and cocktails created by two of our favorite mixologists in the world, Bar Chefs Brian Miller and Phil Ward, both of Death & Company in New York City. The menu, as expected, has some outrageous things on it, like the first course: “Peanut Butter and Jellyfish” (Tempura Chinese Jellyfish (!) with Spicy Red Peanut Chili and Local Summer Melon Kimchee). Wherever and whenever are we going to get to try something like that? And, of course, paired with the Fresa Brava (Herradura Silver Jalapeño-Infused Tequila, Yellow Chartreuse, lemon juice, simple syrup, strawberry), our taste buds have never been more ready for this marriage (which certainly won’t be banned in the French Quarter, thank you very much). Says Ward, “It’ll be neat to see who shows up for this [Spirited Dinner]. I’d never had jellyfish before, but with the peanuts, we knew Tequila would go well with it, and the strawberries complete the peanut-butter-and-jelly element.”


Joaquin Simo making customers happy at Death & Co., NYC

Another of our favorite bar chefs is Death & Company’s Joaquin Simo (known for his food–cocktail pairings in New York City), who will be assisting Phil Ward for the Stella! Spirited Dinner. Simo believes that Miller and Ward have created cocktails that will “challenge conventional notions about pairings.” Although the menu is filled with rich foods, this dynamic duo have opted to create drinks that are, for the most part, “stirred and boozy rather than citrusy.” Simo shares his coworkers’ philosophy regarding pairings. “I don’t always want to use acidity to cut through rich or fatty dishes—I love using big boozy stirred drinks that demand to be sipped where most people would reach for that bottle of big red.” When asked what he’s most excited about, Simo touts a drink called the “Gypsy Woman.” “The peppery, vegetal tequila [in the Gypsy Woman] is getting it’s edges rounded off with the vanilla and oregano notes in Bianco vermouth, and the herbal dimension gets gloriously deep with the addition of green Chartreuse and the Bitter Truth celery bitters. A savory cocktail with a depth no dirty martini could ever hope to compete with, this should be a welcome foil to the gentle sweetness of the crab and the lobster roe pasta.”

Visitors to Tales will be seeing a lot of Simo. He was chosen as one of the eighteen bartenders to participate in the 2008 Tales of the Cocktail’s Cocktail Apprentice Program, founded by Ward and Miller, thus enabling gifted bartenders, like Simo, the opportunity to work alongside influential and high-profile mixologists. The Program sprang from a conversation that Ward and Tales founder Ann Tuennerman had. As Ward said, “We realized Tales was getting bigger every year, and they needed more help. This gives these young bartenders, up-and-comers, the chance to be a part of this event, the Grand Poobah of the industry.” Simo (a native of Quito, Ecuador) cut his teeth at his family’s home in Miami, where his father, a classically trained pastry chef, owned a French bakery, and his mother, who came from a long line of cooks, created elegant meals (“always a salad course”) for all her food-lovin’ sons. After pouring endlessly through the pages of cookbooks and food magazines, and making dishes repeatedly just to perfect them, he got older and, because of his curious culinary mind, began to see how food can combine (and, with more practice, combust) with booze. Years later, we find him standing behind the bar at Death & Company, impeccably groomed, well-mannered, and knowing exactly what you need, even if you think you have no idea what you want. And although he’s learned plenty from legend Gary Regan, it’s Phil Ward and Brian Miller who have been his sherpas, coaches, and spirit guides. “Death & Co has been a remarkable place to work, learn, and play. The bar of professionalism is incredibly high and I’ve never worked at a place where the staff was so ego-free about the job.” While apprenticing, Joaquin Simo is excited to meet fellow bartenders, both new-to-mes, like Josie Packard, and friends of yore, like Tom Waugh and Jim Kearns.

Another fellow bartender that Simo will get to spend plenty of time with is Maxwell Britten, another chosen Apprentice, who will be Simo’s roommate during their stay in New Orleans. Britten is head bartender at Jack the Horse Tavern in Brooklyn Heights, having recently taken over the position from his mentor, Damon Dyer. He met Dyer at a bizarre catering gig at a Russian wedding in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. When Dyer got the job as head bartender at Jack the Horse, Britten serendipitously started as a busboy. Like any eager young man wanting to soak up all that is around him, he would stay late and watch Dyer ply his art, falling in love with the first cocktail Dyer made for him, a Manhattan. Britten learned from him step by step how to run a bar. He quickly moved on up to waiter, continuing his tutelage under Dyer, and when some bartenders weren’t working out, Dyer asked him to join him behind the bar. So when Dyer left to pursue other bartending/mixology opportunities, Britten took over, chopped off his longish hair, and developed a classic bartender “look,” complete with tight, pressed shirt, and a slight templar curl clinging ever-so-slightly to his forehead.


Maxwell Britten serving up libations at Jack the Horse Tavern, Brooklyn

Britten’s story begins in Tucson, Arizona, where his Dad owned a restaurant and was a wine writer for such publications as Wine Spectator. Just as with Simo, living in a foodie house definitely has its pluses, thus his dad was instrumental in steering his son towards a life in the food-and-beverage biz. Another big influence was Britten’s abuela (he has Cuban blood) who was the original Bacardi agent. She introduced his grandfather to none other than Ernest Hemingway, and during several rounds of Daiquiris at La Floridita, would regale him with tales and more tales. Hearing about cocktails and wine and spirits naturally influences a young mind, and Britten’s first attempt at clandestine mixology resulted in what he and his friend would label the “Shitty Idea Punch,” a mixture of a little bit of everything. You can guess the results. So, itching to spread his wings, the young Britten boarded a train and headed to New York City. On his way, he had a ten-hour layover in New Orleans while Tales of the Cocktail was in full throttle, but he didn’t know it. It would take him three more years to make it to New Orleans and he shows his enthusiasm with a great big smile.

Now that he is head of the Jack the Horse bar, his new cocktails comprise at least half the menu, which he likes to make sure shows the diversity of the spirits at Jack the Horse. He works closely with Tim Oltmans, owner and chef of Jack the Horse, who is a big influence, in preparing the cocktail menu. Regarding his “Charleston Riff,” a sweet blend of Plymouth Gin, Kirsch, Dry Vermouth, Punt E Mes, Luxardo Maraschino, and Grand Marnier, David Wondrich noted, “the proportions are perfect.” (1 ounce of gin, and a half ounce of everything else.)

What excites him about the Apprentice Program is the opportunity to meet people. “I work alone at the bar, which sucks. Working alongside the best bartenders of the world will open up a lot of windows for me, allow me to make friends with people I’ve never met before, like Ted Haigh, Robert Hess, Tom Bulleit, Angus Winchester, and Jeff Berry. I’m also excited to meet all the European people I’ve been reading about.”

So if you see some of these young and soon-to-be influential Apprentices at the bar, walking around town, or while sitting next to them at a seminar, let them bend your ear for a spell. You may just learn something.