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.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Mixology Monday CI: Orange Juice

Mixology Monday 100 was an affair as grand as it was modest, its theme of "elegance via simplicity" being a perfect milestone for this monthly cocktail party that has grown in size and scope over the last few years.  As MxMo themes have gotten broader and quirkier over time, this 100th such occasion slowed us down... made us think... returned to fundamentals.  And now with the MxMo pallet cleansed, head cleared, and the throttle reset for a nice cruising speed, it's time for me to do what I often do and throw out a speed bump idea to disorient, bemuse, and perhaps even annoy.

Welcome to Spirited Remix where I, your DJ who usually spins mixes around here, will be asking you to do it instead for Mixology Monday One Hundred One, or as I might affectionately call it, ReMixMo.

It really irritates me when people dismiss an ingredient.  Whether it's too ordinary, or difficult, or inconsistent, or overpowering, I can't help but feel such conclusions are lazy and defeatist.  Your theme this month is "Orange Juice", an ingredient I too often see derided or ignored when it comes to thoughtful mixology.  Surely an assembly of such mixological brawn as MxMo can find or create a delicious way to mix OJ, right?  And before you think this challenge isn't challenging, regard my rules:

1) Whether it's established or your own creation, write about a cocktail that uses orange juice.  Not orange liqueur, or oil, or bitters, or tangerine juice.  Orange juice.
2) Your orange juice can be fresh squeezed, from concentrate, or from a bottle, carton, or can.
3) Your orange juice cannot be buried in the cocktail; it must play at least a noticeably supporting role in the drink.
4) If you must choose one of the simple, already-establish orange juice cocktails (you know the ones), then at least write something thoughtful enough to make me want to mix one up.

Submitting is easy.  If you have a website, feel free to link your post in the comment section of this post.  Otherwise, you may also email it to me at djhawaiianshirt at  Either of these avenues must be taken by 11:59 PM of Monday, September 21, 2015.  Shortly thereafter I will compile the submissions into the ReMixMo Roundup.

It must be noted that back when this little site was only but a thought, our MxMo forefathers were spinning their own remixes on MxMo XVIII, with "orange" simply as the theme.  The event was hosted by Gwen of the now-passed Intoxicated Zodiac blog.  A blurb from that era: "Juice? Triple Sec? Curacao? I’m sure some wag will go for orange bitters  — hell, if you can use an orange twist and make it interesting, then you’ve got no reason not to join in."  Respect, Gwen, but nah, that's way too easy.  My last ReMixMo was for freeing and open themes; this time it's business.

Thanks again to Fred for hosting the fabulous MxMo 100.

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.

EDIT: You can find the MxMo C Roundup here:

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.