Monday, November 21, 2016

Mixology Monday CXII: Bacon, Eggs, and Booze

Thanks to Gary of Doc Elliot's Mixology for hosting this month's Mixology Monday.  The theme this time around is "brunch drinks", a group of libations with which I have a bone to pick.

Brunch drinks are plenty delicious, so what's the problem?  They're not boozy enough, that's what.  I don't exactly need a Zombie at brunch, but Mimosas don't quite do the trick.  Maybe it's a curse being a heavyweight at brunch.

A "guilty pleasure" of mine as of recent is gin & Champagne.  Try it next time you're at an open bar.  There's something about it that is similar to a gin & tonic.  Can you see where I'm going with this?

This recipe took a lot of tinkering to get the proportions right, but I think I've done it.  If you have a bottle of the cheap sparkling stuff stashed away somewhere, pop it and give me your thoughts!

Breakfast & Tonic
2 oz sparkling white wine
1.5 oz London dry gin
1.5 oz  tonic water

Build in a collins glass, then add ice and citrus peel until it's full.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Review: Wicked Dolphin Silver Rum

As a spirit industry, rum has become more and more prolific over the last 10 years or so.  I recently tasted a new rum on the market that was made from white granulated sugar; distillers are quickly learning that you don't need to own a sugar cane field in the Caribbean in order to produce rum.  And yet, many rum producers outside of the Caribbean still import molasses from the islands.  Others purchase molasses from local cane producers.

Enter Wicked Dolphin, a rum distillery that's only a few years old, located in Florida.  Wicked Dolphin's rums are pot-distilled from the juice of cane cut from fields that are only minutes away from the distillery.  This marks one of the few American rum productions which sources fermentation material locally, in the tradition of more staid American spirit industries like whiskey and apple brandy.  The result is the beginning of an aspect to Wicked Dolphin's products that I wouldn't hesitate to call terroir.  The bottle that I have (batch #13!) was sent to me as a gift for review.


Despite the fact that Wicked Dolphin is distilled from cane juice, you wouldn't be able to tell by the nose.  The first few wafts have a sweetness and buttery-ness that will belie a molasses rum.  Along with butter, there's vanilla, light brown sugar, and gentle wood.  There's a freshness that I can only describe as running water.  A big whiff ends with a slight alcoholic spark that's pleasantly subdued.


The butter continues on the tongue.  The traditional white rum vanilla notes manifest here as butter and butterscotch.  The mouth feel has a noticeable viscosity.  Its sweet state on the tongue will once again make you think this is not cane rum.  It's at this time that the alcohol will remind you it's there on your tongue and the roof of your mouth.  The finish has a freshness that's reminiscent of the chlorophyll of crisp lettuce.  Perhaps that's the sugar cane's grassiness trying to come through?


I find that because rums can vary so widely, so can their mixability.  The bottom of the scale grinds from the drown-it-in-cola stuff all the way up to the don't-you-dare-mix-that nectar of the gods.  My take is that Wicked Dolphin white falls somewhere between fruity drinks and drunk straight.  It plays perfectly in a Daiquiri or a subtle mixer like soda or ginger ale.


I've drunk too many shitty American rums.  The fact that Wicked Dolphin is imminently drinkable combined with its honest American end-to-end production make it quite noteworthy.  Some price checks will have you learn that Wicked Dolphin white will cost between $20-25.  Are there better rums for cheaper?  Absolutely.  But buying Wicked Dolphin will yield a great drink as well as pay American workers, all the while helping develop the southern Florida rum terroir.  I look forward to seeing how the Wicked Dolphin distillery and rums mature going forward.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

MxMo 107: The Best Amaretto Sour in the World

A big round of thanks to Dagreb for once again hosting this month's Mixology Monday!  And this time he has a clever theme, and an even cleverer title!

Overproof spirits is really a theme I can get behind; I've been known to have a few bottles of such things lying around.  And what's more, Dagreb has firmly defined his theme of "overproof" to be at least over 100 proof, so we're not going to be seeing any sissies thinking they're hot with their whiskies bottled in bond.

I'm going to keep up the "shitty drink" theme that I've got going and post another.  This time it comes from one of our booze blogging forefathers Jeffrey Morgenthaler.  He claims that he makes the best Amaretto Sour in the world, and his secret is cask strength bourbon.  How could he not have your attention?

The result is delicious.  The bourbon acts as a force multiplier and isn't even noticeable in the final result.  Check it out.

Morgenthaler's Amaretto Sour

1.5 oz amaretto
.75 oz cask strength bourbon
1 oz lemon juice
1 tsp rich simple syrup*
1/2 oz egg white

Dry shake, then shake with ice.  Double strain into an old fashioned glass filled with ice.  Garnish with lemon peel and cocktail cherry.

*Cheap amaretti are usually sweeter than the expensive stuff.  You may not need need to add the syrup when you make the drink.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Bahama Mama

When I was a wee lad wearing a much smaller Hawaiian shirt, my family took a vacation to the Bahamas.  One of the most memorable moments from the trip was my being heartbroken over Customs telling me that I couldn't bring a coconut on the airplane home.  Oh well.

One of the other things I remember from the trip was that my parents sucked down Bahama Mamas the whole time.  They even gave me a sip on a few nights.  Do I remember the finer tasting notes of the stuff?  No.  But what I do remember is that I tasted coconut and banana, and that its color was a jewel-like dark red.

It turns out that the Bahama Mama is not just one-of-many monikers slapped onto overly sweet Caribbean crap drinks, but it actually is a concoction that, while varying from source to source, is a drink unto itself and will usually contain dark rum, coconut rum, orange juice, pineapple juice, and grenadine.

On this final Leap Day of Tiki Month 2016, I look back to a particularly poignant post from our Tiki Month proprietor Doug Winship, who shared a post by modern tiki maven Humuhumu on what she defines a tiki drink to be.  While I love being nerdy and pedantic, I fall nearer in opinion to what Doug defines as tiki, which is a bit more gentle.

Further, Doug has parroted(see what I did there?) the idea that drinks can also be Tiki Compliant, lifting the central pole of the tiki tent higher to encompass more of what might be discussed as "tiki".

Well, today I'm giving you a drink that's most certainly not a tiki drink, and really not Tiki Compliant either.  What is it?  It's a recipe that I've spent years tinkering with.  My goal was to re-create what I tasted when I was kid in the Bahamas, but also to make a mean of the recipes out there that still captures the spirit of the drink.  Oh, and to ensure it wasn't also a goopy tasteless mess.

But look, we're slumming it today, guys.  You should use a rum that's colored with molasses or caramel.  Your coconut rum and liqueur should come from the middle shelf of your local store, not ordered off a website because it's so high quality and rare.  This recipe requires the cheap stuff.  The only thing you can't skimp on is grenadine... use the real thing.  While proper grenadine will never give it the mesmerizing ruby color, the drink needs it.

The DJ's Bahama Mama

2 oz Jamaican dark rum (Myers or Coruba)
1 oz orange juice
1 oz pineapple juice
.5 oz coconut rum
.5 oz creme de banane
.5 oz grenadine

Shake with ice and strain into a double old fashioned glass filled with crushed ice.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Simple Zombie Cocktail

Happy Tiki Month 2016!

One of the most iconic tiki drinks of all time is the Zombie cocktail by Don the Beachcomber.  Aside from the fact that the drink itself evolved bit by bit during the 20th Century, the notorious secrecy with which the Beachcomber and his competitors operated their bar programs way back when has resulted in a multitude of recipes for the Zombie.  As far as I can tell, the only things that they all have in common are: rum, and being high proof.  Most have grapefruit juice, but not all.

For a few years now I've had one such recipe scrawled on the inside of the back cover of my Grog Log.  I swear that I wrote it down when I saw Beachbum Berry post it years ago, but now I can't find any trace of it on the internet except here.  I know I didn't dream it up.  Can anyone source it?

The recipe is a simplified Zombie, whatever that might mean.  It ignores some of the more nuanced and exotic ingredients and instead sticks to a "skeleton crew" of more commons ones, while still claiming to capture the flavor of the 1934 original.  True or not... Zombie or not... this is a delicious drink, and it's easy to make.  It's my go-to recipe (along with the Reverb Crash) for impressing guests wanting a tiki drink who can handle something bitter and/or complex.

Simple Zombie

1 oz dark Jamaican rum
.5 oz 151-proof rum (any type)
1 oz grapefruit juice
.75 oz lime juice
.5 oz cinnamon syrup

Shake with ice cubes, strain into glass with more ice cubes.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Mixology Monday Orange Juice Roundup

If trying to mix booze with orange juice is a battle, then the legions of Mixology Monday just laid a merciless siege on the House of Citrus.  Peels and pulp everywhere.  I'd have it no other way for a ReMixMo.

I'm thoroughly pleased by both the success and the effort resulting from this endeavor.  Huzzah to everyone.  And now to the booze.

Pete of the Meticulous Mixing blog clearly speaks my mixological language, though our mother tongues may be different.  Though wont to mix his OJ with rum, he resists this time and gives us two original remixes that I'll be needing to mix up posthaste.  As if playing to my style, Pete chooses a few other less-used elements, like honey whiskey, Southern Comfort, and chocolate vodka, ingredients which I've enjoyed mixing myself.  I'll let his rumless post slide, as the rest of it seethes with creativity and pluck.

Thankfully, the siren call of tiki did not go unheeded for this challenge, and our MxMo patron-saint Fred of the Cocktail Virgin Slut is the first to post a remix of old that is simple, but meticulously constructed for balance.  Exactly what the doctor ordered.

Beca of the Drink Shrubs blog wrests my ReMixMo theme and forces it to conform with her own, something which I welcome. In a decidedly tiki-style move, she deliberately chooses her rum by Caribbean island, specifically for its unique character.  She also tops the mix with a bit of sparkling wine, a technique of which I'm a huge fan, and will be writing about soon.

Andrea of the Gin Hound pipes in and informs me of a method I never knew about: using Trader Vic's Eastern Sour as a template, using various base spirits as you fancy.  She whips out her joven mezcal for a truly interesting remix!

For Doc Elliot's Mixology, the Doc holds fast to a fairly tiki theme throughout.  He comes at us with an eyebrow-raising mix of OJ and bourbon, a dessert drink with coffee foam(!), and a tiki standard that I hadn't yet heard of before.

My boy Dagreb claims to recycle more rum bottles than anything else after I remarked my most recycled is gin.  He proves it by posting a rum & OJ drink that I like for several reasons, the first being that it's forgiving with the type of rum and juice used, and second being that it's just fine built and stirred, for when you're too lazy to shake or if (like me) you don't want more dishes to clean.

Leigh of Salt and Bitters goes after my heart by saying first "I had never thought about the fact that orange juice was so rare in cocktails.", and then, "It's because it's really fucking hard to work with."  Eloquent and blunt!  Her answer is an original remix named like an academic paper and, since I too want to put canned chipotle adobo sauce in everything, the drink sits just fine with me!

Joel of the Southern Ash blog stumbles upon how well OJ and tequila mix together... something I've been wanting to experiment with for quite a while now.  And as a resident of the Washington, DC area and a political junkie, how can I not love another drink named after taxes?!

Scott of Shake, Strain, and Sip takes a remix of old and updates it in a breathtaking way.  This is the perfect example of to use new and revived ingredients to make a tired potable notable again.  No, no, no... touché to you, Mr. Scott!

Christa and Shaun, the Booze Nerds choose this month to sing praises to an aforementioned concoction from Trader Vic, the Eastern Sour.  It doesn't get much better than this: a tiki drink that shirks rum and gives you a lesson in sweet-sour balance.  Maybe this MxMo 101 is about lessons in booze after all!!!

JFL of Rated R Cocktails benefits from the OJ's vitamin C as he mixes some diddies and fights off the flu.  I myself like alcohol's numbing effects while sick, but you need to be careful!  JFL pairs the unlikely duo of Demerara and white Haitian rum(which I've never even had) with some heavy spiced and herbal ingredients for a juggernaut that must taste complex as hell.  I'm totally jelly!

Thanks to everyone who participated, you didn't let me or OJ down.  Viva Mixology Monday, as always!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Four Things I Learned Trying to Make My Own Gin

I spent this summer drinking gin.

I always say that rum is my favorite spirit, but I find myself recycling more gin bottles than anything else.  Whether this is because I'm unknowingly a gin fanatic or that gin cocktails are historically more prevalent than those of other spirits, I don't know.

As my palate explored the different styles and brands of gin and their subtle yet complex differences, I found my mind attempting to explore what other flavors could be added to a gin's recipe of botanicals and might still have success.

Wanting to experiment with this, instead of deciding to infuse upon some simple gin brand as a base, I flippantly decided that I would infuse my own gin, which I've seen done on the interwebs.  How hard could it be?  It turned out to be the hardest booze endeavor I've undertaken.  I haven't even dabbled with new flavors yet; I've spent all this time on getting a baseline gin.

Gin, of course, is most basically flavored vodka, in the sense that the base spirit can be of any fermented source, so long as it's distilled enough times to retain little flavor.  Proper gin, however, involves the infusion of herbs and spices either during distillation or before a final post-infusion distillation.

And so, half-assed gin can be made via infusion only.  I'm not one to half-ass things, but I am when it comes to not wanting to distill in my own house.  I realized that whatever gin I would be able to infuse would be not very similar to the real stuff, but I was hoping that I could get it "in the ballpark".  I bought a sensitive digital scale and everything!

After several months, I'm satisfied with my mix, though I still plan to improve it.  Here's what I've learned.

For infusing, there's juniper, and then there's juniper

Of course, juniper is the main flavorant in a gin's recipe across almost all the gin styles.  Dried juniper berries are easy to find.  I have a feeling that fresh berries would better, but I haven't sought to find them, as I imagine it would be difficult.

What surprised me is how different the resulting infusion is depending on whether you crush the berries or leave them whole and intact.  After weeks of confusing results, I realized that I obtained more of the traditional juniper flavor in my gin by leaving the berries whole instead of breaking their skin/shell by crushing.  So does this mean that main ingredient in most gin is actually juniper skin?  I still have no idea!

That traditional juniper hit is hard to achieve

As mentioned above, I didn't initially realize that juniper skin was important for the juniper flavor I was seeking (at least, in my trials).  However, I still haven't managed to achieve a central juniper note reminiscent of commercial gins.  I'm beginning to wonder if distillation is required for it.  Too much crushed juniper yields a bitter flavor that overtakes everything else, and too much whole juniper yields (surprisingly) a sweetness that doesn't jive with the rest of the flavors.  So for now I must settle with an amount of juniper that leaves that distinct flavor underwhelming in magnitude.

Humorously, my solution (for now) is to simulate the coniferous flavor using non-juniper means.  After infusing spruce needles with little success, I found a better alternative: pine needles!  I ordered food-grade pine needles online, and they play a role in my current recipe (alongside the juniper).  It's not quite the same as what I wanted, but it's good.

Angelica root makes a big difference

I'm not saying that angelica is needed in gin, because there are many commercial gins that do not use it.  But for me, angelica adds something that my recipe needed.  Its flavor (when infused) is astringent and bright; it adds a sourness that reminds me of wormwood (minus the bitterness) and a pungent acidity that is not unlike juniper, but perhaps more herbal and grassy.  I expected this root, by its looks, to be heavy and woody.  It turned out to be the opposite.  This makes me want to try to infuse orris root, which is also sometimes used in gin.

Infusion ratio/time is your flexible friend, but also your enemy

Think about all the different ways you could infuse an ingredient into vodka.  Obviously its strength would be dependent on how long the ingredient is soaked.  But, infusing an ingredient for, say, 2 hours is not the same as doubling the amount of ingredient for a 1-hour infusion, or halving it for a 4-hour infusion.  What about heating the vodka and then infusing?  What about infusing the vodka in the freezer?

Different flavor compounds within the same ingredient infuse at different rates and at different temperatures.  Have you heard of the recent craze in cold-brew coffee?  Cold-brew coffee tastes different than iced coffee.  Different flavor compounds brew out of the coffee grounds during a long, cold infusion as opposed to a short, hot one.

We haven't even talked about the difference between infusing ingredients whole, cracked, chopped, or ground.  Surface area matters.  And as with ingredients like the juniper above, since the skin and interior impart different flavors, the difference between infusing it whole and cracked, or cracked and crushed, can vastly change your results.

This freedom and flexibility soon becomes your enemy because of the vast variability that will always have you in trial and error.  Should your infusion take an hour or a week?  The ingredients being whole or ground to a powder/paste?  Which flavors will be compromised by either of these pairs of choices?  How much time and money are you willing to spend on perfecting this balance?

My recipe was designed minimize the amount of time and money it took to experiment.  I infused 8oz of vodka at a time(plus a little more), and I decided to have my infusion last 24 hours.  This allowed me to not go broke, and to make a different infusion every single day, if I so chose.

Here's what I have so far.  But as I said above, this endeavor, to its detriment, is a work in progress.

The DJ's Infused Gin (Homemade Mix)

8oz vodka
4oz vodka

1.5g juniper berries, whole
.75g lemon peel, sliced finely
.75g orange peel, slices finely
.5g pine needles, muddled
.5g canela cinnamon, torn
.4g juniper berries, crushed
.3g angelica root, cracked/crushed

Soak all ingredients in vodka for 24 hours, shaking vessel when able.  Strain, and dilute with 4oz more vodka.

* Cardamom is a tough customer.  It's in many gin recipes, but it's flavor is so strong that it's hard to wield.  I've experimented with whole and ground cardamom, and I still haven't yet found my perfect amount.  Err on the side of too little.