Monday, August 24, 2015

MxMo C: An Entreaty

I am one of those mentioned by Fred who trembled in the face of possibly hosting Mixology Monday #100.  Luckily, I narrowly missed that mandate to act so seriously, thank god, and will instead be hosting next month's event.  But for this occasion, I can't think of a better host or theme to celebrate Mixology Monday.

MxMo patron-saint Frederic Yarm is thankfully hosting this 100th such event.  The theme he's chosen is "Cocktail Chronicles", the eminent booze blog of Paul Clarke, which played a vital role in the revival of craft cocktail culture last decade and acted as the flagship in the first wave of the cocktail blogosphere, a later wave of which included yours truly.  It goes without saying that Paul Clarke is one of the resources that inspired me to join the party.

Fred accurately deems that the Cocktail Chronicles theme might be distilled(!) to simply "that which is timeless and elegant through simplicity".  Further explanation can be found here.

This leaves me little choice but to choose what might be my favorite cocktail: the Gimlet.

While past posts of mine on the Gimlet have ended up self-righteous and bloviating, this post will be earnestly different.

Like many cocktails, the Gimlet's genesis is in question, though very likely it came from the British Royal Navy.  In the 18th and 19th Centuries, while British sailors and crewman fought off scurvy with grog using rum from the West Indies and New England, their officers several decks above were likely fighting it with Gimlets using gin from London.  (Fun fact: the symptoms of scurvy include "spots on the skin, spongy gums, and bleeding from the mucous membranes".)

The Gimlet is simply a mixture of gin and lime juice, but what kind of lime juice is a controversy.  Though certainly the first Gimlets were made with real lime juice, in 1868 a man named Lauchlan Rose began producing en masse a bottled lime juice cordial, which kept well at sea.  Many a seaman and landlubber began using Rose's Lime Juice for their Gimlets and still do today (though Paul Clarke might not be one of them, alas).

Certain minds (and increasingly more since the craft cocktail revival) reject the use of Rose's cordial in favor of more natural ingredients like fresh-squeezed lime and sugar.  My purpose today is not to issue you an opinion on the matter, but rather a request: give Rose's one more chance.

There aren't many foods I do not like, but for those that I do not, I often try them again every year or two and I find myself surprised at my changes in taste.  We owe foods a second chance.  I encourage this method with food, but also drink.

Do not think of Rose's as a lime juice simulator, because at that it fails.  Think of it as its own product with its own unique characteristics.  One of my favorite bloggers, Doug Ford of Cold Glass, writes, "In addition to lime juice and sugar, Rose's presents additional flavors that would be right at home in tropical or tiki recipes - pineapple and coconut are the ones I can taste mostly easily.  It has a mystery funkiness, a Gimlet analog of the 'hogo' that many consider the main attraction in some Jamaican rums."

If flavor cannot sway you for another try, look toward tradition; cocktail tomes indicate that Rose's dominated among Gimlets in the 20th Century.  Further, quite a few cocktail authorities opine that the modern Gimlet was most probably created to use Rose's.

And so this is all I ask: drop a bit of money on bottle of Rose's Lime Juice and give it another go.  Find the ingredient proportions that intrigue you, if you must, online recipes be damned.  You might too find it more timeless than you once thought.

Viva la Mixology Monday, and thanks to Paul Clarke for everything.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

MxMo: Manhattans

This month's Mixology Monday is being hosted by the overall MxMo maestro Fred Yarm over at Cocktail Virgin Slut.  It's times like these with his by-default torch-bearing that makes us appreciate him.  The theme this time around is Manhattans, or thereabouts.

This topic is bittersweet, because while the Manhattan may be the most perfect cocktail ever made, it's highly overdone, and even its myriad variations can begin to lose their edge.

Luckily, I have an old recipe that I (ostensibly) created on a whim a few years back and occasionally whip up when the mood strikes me.

The taste of Manhattans for me always invokes cold weather; on the other hand, the taste of tequila for me always invokes summer.  This drink tries to bridge the gap, perhaps perfect for those last days of summer when the first chilly breezes blow away what's left of the heat.

I went heavy on the Angostura to bring out a bit more of the black pepper from the anejo.

I suppose you could technically call this an equal-parts tequila Manhattan, heavy on the bitters.  Instead I'll call it...

Original Remix


1.5 oz anejo tequila
1.5 oz sweet vermouth
6-8 dashes Angostura bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.  No garnish.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Mixology Monday XC

This month's Mixology Monday is being hosted by Joel of Southern Ash. The last MxMo of Joel's that I joined was Highballs, my entry for which can be found here and the roundup can be found here.  Thanks for hosting again, Joel!  His theme this time around is "Perfect Symmetry" cocktails, which use (binarily) opposed ingredients in the same recipe.

As I've mentioned before on this site, my trial-by-fire entry into the world of cocktails was through tiki drinks, which is not something you'll hear very often.  The force that originally bridged my gap from tiki to classic cocktails is Robert Hess, a mixological champion who, if not a founding father of the modern cocktail movement, was at least in the first wave of its cavalry.

Robert Hess' main vehicle of evangelism is his website DrinkBoy, which is where I began my own adventure years ago, and luckily for us all, the site, while simple, remains just about the same today as it ever was(more on that later).  Hess also has a video series called The Cocktail Spirit, the episodes of which are linked to individual cocktail recipes on, thereby intertwining the two resources.  Be glad!

Hess more often celebrates the artistry and nuance of established recipes than creating his own, but when he decides to flex his creative brawn, his aptitude always shows.  A recipe of Hess' that I've been making for years now is the Jolly Roger.  Leave it to the personality who pulled my attention from tiki to hold my attention with a classic-tiki style hybrid, which is most certainly my favorite drink of his.

The Jolly Roger uses both light and dark rum, a classic tiki drink trope.  However, I could swear that the recipe used to use all dark rum instead of the mix, and that Hess changed the recipe a few years ago.  Fortunately, the wonders of the internet responded to this nagging feeling of mine. is a website that creates frequent automatic backup "images" of many websites so that you can view how they looked in the past.  Looking back to at January 1, 2007, shows that I'm correct, pictured below.

And so, the original Jolly Roger contained only dark rum, while the modern one has a mix of light and dark.  I'm not inclined to forget the original, as I think I actually preferred it to the newest recipe.  However, I believe the new version is interesting in a different way, and with its light-and-dark rum mixture, I wouldn't hesitate to call it a Perfect cocktail.

A note about the ingredients.  Hess seemingly changed the rums in the Jolly Roger recipe to understandably accommodate the assertive character of (my beloved) Cruzan Black Strap Rum, which he later began using for the recipe.  Astonishingly, today I will not be using Black Strap.

I will first be using the new Captain Morgan White rum (un-spiced), which deserves your attention, despite what you may think.  It's a properly good rum at its price point; notes of its vanilla and raspberry are so strong that they remain detectable while mixed in simple cocktails.

My second rum is Captain Morgan Deluxe, which is also un-spiced and unfortunately not available in the United States.  Any non-Jamaican dark rum will do.

This recipe uses falernum, the fruity and spicy syrup/liqueur used in tiki drinks.  Instead of searching out obscure bottles of the stuff or soaking spices in rum for a month, I suggest that you make your own rich falernum syrup using a recipe by Kaiser Penguin, which only takes mere minutes, but doesn't taste like it.

Perfect Jolly Roger

1oz light rum
1oz dark rum
1oz orange juice
.25 oz falernum
1 dash aromatic bitters

Shake ingredients in a shaker and strain into rocks glass over ice.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Review: Arctic Chill Slow Melting Ice Spheres

Among the various trends and techniques that one can find in serious cocktail bars as of the past few years is the use of ice balls.  As opposed to having ice cubes in one's drink, a single large sphere of ice behaves much differently.  The geometric shape of the sphere offers the least amount of surface area for any given object's mass, thereby limiting an ice ball's ability to melt much more than cubed ice.

Dilution is, of course, necessary in almost all cocktails to mellow and marry constituent flavors, and limiting this dilution is not always welcome in drinks that call for ice in the glass.  Because of this, the ice ball isn't appropriate for all drinks, but most clever folks would tell you that ice balls are most useful in strong, spirituous drinks, the easiest example of which is the Old Fashioned.  They are also good for slowly diluting hard spirits while sipping them in the glass.

Having such ice spheres for use in your home bar used to be quite difficult.  I've seen various ways to fashion them manually; here is a post by Erik Ellestad showing video of how one can whittle a large cube of ice into a sphere.  As an aside, his post was a response to the public outcry (mine included) to his cocktail video in which he demonstrates his terrifying technique of slapping cubes of ice with a chef's knife in his bare hand.

Some of the first contraptions available to make round ice at home were devices that ingeniously melted large ice cubes into spheres.  But since then, simpler and cheaper designs have become available.

Arctic Chill is a new company making barware, and they've asked me to review their Slow Melting Ice Spheres molds.  Luckily, I am also the owner of a competing product from Tovolo, and so I feel I can offer a fair review.

Arctic Chill's product is simple and easy to use.  With the set, you get 4 food safe silicon molds, which break into two pieces, and they have a flat heavy bottom for stability in the freezer.  Filling the mold is as easy as securing the two pieces of the mold together and pouring water through the hole in the top until it's full.

The aforementioned minimal surface area of the spherical molds(along with how silicon is an excellent insulator) mean that the ice inside takes a long time to freeze, upwards of 6 hours.  Once it's frozen, one simply need separate the flexible mold to remove the ice.  Be sure to place the ice in the glass before your pour your drink over it, otherwise you'll be splashed by booze, as I have been several times.  What drink did I use it in, picture below? An Improved Gin Cocktail, of course.

Do I have any complaints?

Yes.  The uber-simple construction of this product's design is such that it doesn't take much force to separate the mold.  In this case, the expansion of water into ice is strong enough to separate it.  The result is that some of the water can seep out of the mold's seam as it freezes, and you're left with a raised "belt" around your ice ball.  This is not a major complaint, as it's easy to knock off the raised ice to make the ball completely round.

How does Arctic Chill compare to a competitor?

The other ice ball molds that I own are from Tovolo.  It is a similar, but more complex, design.  Namely, its mold is more secure, and it remains sound during the freezing process so that your ice ball comes out perfect every time.

Arctic Chill's pricing is just a bit cheaper than Tovolo.  It's hard for me to recommend one over the other, but if you enjoy minimalist product design or like things that take up minimal space when stored, Arctic Chill is the product for you.

Additionally, as I type this, Amazon has Arctic Chill on sale for $17 per set.  That kind of value can't be beaten.  Overall, Arctic Chill should be lauded for this product.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Mixology Monday: Highballs

Picture this: You're meeting up with a friend in an area with which you're unfamiliar.  Maybe you're visiting from out of town or simply on a different side of the tracks, but the important part of the story is that your friend takes you to a bar of their choosing, not yours.

You sit down and realize that this joint isn't exactly embracing the craft of mixing its drinks.  Its half-empty bottles of vermouth sit proudly on the back of the bar unrefrigerated with the spirits, the soda gun is overworked, and there's not a bottle of bitters or a fresh piece of citrus in sight.

You're terrified of what the bartender might give you if you order any kind of serious cocktail, but you still want something a little more bright and lively than a glass of whiskey or a pint of something on tap.

This month's Mixology Monday is hosted by Southern Ash, themed Highballs.  Highball drinks are exactly what you need in the scenario above, but let's pretend you're a bit bored with rum & Coke or gin & tonic.  I have a few go-to's for when I'm in these dire situations, and I thank Mr. DiPappa for giving me the opportunity to share them.

As always, those posted below are a bit unorthodox and are designed to give you something a bit different, should you be in the mood.  Your tastes may vary with highball ratios, but I tend to stick with 1:3 or 1:4 ratio of spirit to mixer if I'm making them at home.

Keep these in mind the next time you find yourself cynical in an unknown bar.

Citrus Vodka & Tonic

This combo smacks of gin & tonic, but offers up something a bit different.  Less complex, but more fresh and fruity, you'll find yourself surprised at how well this one works.

Tequila & Coke

Be honest: the reason you like rum & Coke is because the rum disappears in the Coke.  With a few exceptions, most well-priced rums at the bar cannot compete with cola's strong character.  Enter tequila.  Tequila still makes itself known while dipped in Coke, and I daresay is complimented by it.  The spices and citrus oils with which tequila would otherwise pair well are present all at once here.  I've made this drink for a few tequila-fan friends of mine, and the reactions have been revelatory.

Bourbon & Pepsi

Damn, did you manage to find one of the few bars or restaurants that serves Pepsi products over Coke products?  Worry not.  I occasionally find that Pepsi is better for certain things than Coke, and swimming with bourbon is one of them.  First off, the whiskey is better aided by Pepsi's added sweetness, along with a trait of Pepsi's which I might call gaminess or funk.  And in the end, the two ingredients bring out some of the baking spice flavors that they have in common, especially cinnamon.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

MxMo LXXV: Bolaños

Thanks to Frederic of the Cocktail Virgin Slut for extending the submission deadline a bit for this month's Mixology Monday.  Last minute MxMo posts are fetishized in the community; my mind recalls a defiant submission by cocktail blogger godfather Paul Clarke to my very own MxMo event with a cocktail called the "11:59", to signify the last minute on a Mixology Monday that one could possibly submit a post.

This month's theme is "Flip Flop!", which celebrates making thoughtful substitutions in drinks to change its character but to perhaps keep its spirit, if you'll pardon the pun.  Like many ingenious MxMo themes, this one provokes me to finally tackle a recipe or subject that I've been meaning to, but never did.

The project in question was simply to make a thematic swap to the Bombay cocktail. (Fun fact: As a holder of a degree in Geography, I always recall my favorite professor asserting that the city of Bombay, now called Mumbai, will be the largest city in the world before too long.)  I've always wanted to apply a latin theme to the drink for some reason, and so I submit the below for everyone's approval.  This swap in particular used Patrón Citrónge, which is a tequila-based orange liqueur.  While not exactly the most versatile ingredient out there, Citrónge is really enjoyable, especially to the purist who wants more tequila in any drink they make.

I tinkered with the original ingredients' ratios, because the recipe is simply too vermouth-heavy.  I recently found out that Doug of Cold Glass also prefers to dial down the vermouth, even when using the original Cognac.


1.5 oz añejo tequila
.25 oz sweet vermouth
.25 oz dry vermouth
.25 oz  Patrón Citrónge (substitute Triple Sec)
2-3 dashes absinthe

Stir with ice and strain into cocktail glass.  No garnish.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Mixology Monday LXXII: Drink Your Vegetables

This month's Mixology Monday is hosted by Rowen of the Fogged In Lounge, who is perhaps my favorite blogger who still posts regularly.  I expected a good theme, and Rowen didn't let me down, though I should probably not be surprised that it's a hard one: Drink Your Vegetables.

Instead of taking a safe route for this post, I'll instead expand upon a simple rule that I've discovered over the years: that the Martini is a bulletproof recipient of almost any flavor you throw at it.  Now look, I'm not going to wax poetic about how perfect the Martini is, and I'm also not going to suggest that putting weak bullshit like curacao or Angostura bitters in your Martini is exciting and new at this point.  Anyone who knows my blog knows that I post some unorthodox shit.  I don't intend to disappoint.

I'm here to suggest that you try to get a bit crazy when it comes to adding things to your Martini, and you might be surprised at how well it works, in the end.  If you're in a floral mood one day, I might suggest adding a few heavy dashes of rhubarb bitters to your Martini; I've also even been known to put a drop of rosewater in the mixing glass before stirring.  If you can tolerate a shaken Martini, your options widen.  For a fruity mood, try adding a few pieces of citrus peel into the shaker and let the ice pulverize it.  Try that with chunks of pineapple, pear, or ginger.  For an herbal mood, try shaking with basil leaves.  A savory mood is my favorite...  shake the Martini with a sprig of rosemary.  Or add a dash of mezcal or Islay Scotch.

Today I'm taking you to two extremes of savory and herbal Martinis, respectively.  The former is a way to drink your vegetables, and the latter is simply a bonus.  I decided to end up naming them due to cocktail ego, but I won't be giving them the Original Remix tag.  I ended up calling them the Chef's and Gardener's Martinis.

Martini au Chef de Cuisine

1.75 oz gin
.5 oz dry vermouth
1 drop (not dash) celery bitters (optional)
1 half thin slice of red onion

Shake all ingredients with ice.  Double strain into a cocktail glass.  Olive or cocktail onion garnish.

The onion doesn't taste like you think it will.  It adds a sweetness to the drink and perfumes it in a way that's not very much like onion.  This is a great choice if you want an extra savory Martini before a big meal.

Martini au Jardinier

2 oz gin
.5 oz dry vermouth
.25 oz absithe
1 sprig parsley
2 sprigs cilantro

Chop herbs with 2 or 3 cuts, and shake all ingredients with ice.  Double strain into a cocktail glass.  Half lemon wedge garnish.

If you never muddle mint in your Juleps and are afraid of bitter chlorophyll, this isn't the drink for you.