Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Cask: Round 7

Well, I've gone and done it. Because of certain life circumstances (and an overall lack of confidence on how the aging wine was turning out), I let the Sauvignon Blanc sit in the barrel way too long. What began as a whimsical and haphazard experiment slowly morphed into an exercise in morbid curiosity. Well, it ends today.

If you'll recall, I poured a bit of the New Zealand Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc into my small barrel to see if would age poorly. It turned out to age quite poorly. The slight initial sweetness of the wine was overtaken by sourness. Much like how I slowly saw the aged apple brandy turn disgusting and then back again to great, I thought the same might happen to the wine. I was wrong.

I evacuated the wine and found that about 40% had been given to the angels (because of the long aging time... the longest so far in this series). The remaining mixture had a brown tint almost as dark as whiskey. The smell, as expected, was a confusing mixture of light white wine and heavy oak. The flavor was similar to the smell, but with an overpowering vinegary sourness that seems to cut the tongue. The overall experience is not unlike a dry vermouth, but with much more age and acid in it. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with this stuff yet.

I'm going to give the barrel a rest, especially considering that its wood is soaked in sour wine. I'm going to be leaving the bung removed so that the inside can thoroughly dry as it sits. Once that's accomplished, I'll consider refilling it.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Easy Christmas Bitters Made at Home

Here is your chance to easily make your first bitters at home, if you haven't already.

Several times now I've written about making your own home-made bitters. The jist of the process is soaking a variety of herbs, spices, roots, etc. in alcohol to create a strong and bitter concoction which tastes delicious when added to spirits a dash at a time.

Well, I just realized a really easy way to make them: mulling spices. I'm talking about the packets of spices that you can find anywhere in supermarkets at this time of year. Occasionally you'll find a dissolvable powder that claims to be mulling spices, but I'm talking about the roughly chopped stuff that resembles (and can be used as) potpourri. The mix usually contains cinnamon, orange zest, cloves, allspice, and occasionally nutmeg.

What you have here is a pre-fabricated mix of a variety of spices begging to be soaked in alcohol. Simply pour the spices into a bottle or jar of vodka/grain alcohol. As we've learned, one wants to let the source soak in the booze for as long as possible... a week or two should suffice. When it's done, one only need strain the mixture through cheesecloth or coffee filter.

This soak will yield you a very potent tincture. All you need is to add some sort of bittering agent to your mulling spices in order to turn your resulting tincture into bitters. Derek Brown gives a short list of bittering agents here. You can also browse this list compiled by Darcy O'Neil to find a few more bittering options.

I added a few pieces of star anise to my mulling spices, along with some wormwood. Ten days later, I have my Christmas(y) bitters. A dash or two of the stuff to any drink gives it a nice merry touch. It's great in a rye Manhattan, and even better in a brandy Old Fashioned.

If you've never made bitters at home before, here is your golden chance to start. You can probably find some mulling spices on your way home. Look at the lists I provided to find a bittering agent you can procure. If you start now, you could have your easy Christmas bitters before Christmas.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Go to PKNY

In the first visit to New York City of my adult life, I of course all but bee-lined it to PKNY, what people are already call one of the best tiki bars in the world.

The Shirt (myself) and the Skirt moseyed into the joint in the early evening of a Sunday night. We found that we were the only customers, and so we mused about all things tiki and otherwise with the bar's head bartender Valentin Gonzalez and a quickly-advancing minion of his, Kigan, who, I declare right now, will one day have a big name within tiki circles.

Considering the lack of thought needed to decide for myself that PKNY was on top of the list of places to visit in NYC, I found that it took a similar amount of thought to decide that my first drink would be a 1935 Zombie. PKNY serves several versions of the Zombie, with each one attempting to duplicate the minor recipe variations that came about through the years since its creation. The Skirt ordered PKNY's famous Pina Colada, which has been meticulously developed to be the highest quality Pina Colada that anyone's probably ever had. (Pictured below.)

We ordered other drinks, of course. They made a few off-the-cuff creations and were even able to work around my peculiar food allergies. We found ourselves the only patrons in the place for a good two hours, and so we simply drank and were merry with our tropical hosts. At the end of it, on the way out, the Skirt took a photo of me in front of the inconspicuous entrance... a photo I swear I can't even remember being taken. That's the danger when high proof booze is so freaking interesting to drink.

Go to PKNY. The breadth of their menu is the most impressive I've seen in a bar. They buy as few products as possible for their inventory, and they hand-craft the rest. Their recipes are more authentic than any bar I've been to. Their staff is knowledgeable and enthusiastic about their work. Their rum selection impresses even the well-educated rum enthusiast. Their decor is authentic, right down to their tiki mugs and the long straws meant for the communal Scorpion Bowls. Their drinks are incredible, and are a lesson in tiki drinks, and in cocktails in general.

Go to PKNY.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Infusion #6: A Food Network Monstrosity

I love television. A great deal of my time watching TV is centered on the Food Network. I love the cuisine and personalities on the Food Network, but I’ve learned to disrespect most of the alcoholic beverage recipes that I see on the channel. Most of them contain some sort of soft drink (Sandra Lee is running out of ways to mix vodka and lemon-lime soda) and the rest are usually sweetened beyond balance and into the realm of mass commercial appeal.

But a few weeks ago I found my face even more contorted in astonishment than usual while I was watching Claire Robinson’s “5 Ingredient Fix”. Her show is a pretty good one: each prepared dish contains only five ingredients, and I’m generally pleased by her recipes, though I feel she dumbs her techniques down a bit.

Anyway, Ms. Robinson was infusing vodka. Normally I wouldn’t pay much notice, but this time she was infusing with squash. The recipe is for “Spicy Pumpkin Vodka”. I decided that it was so crazy that I had to do it myself.

The recipe is simple: one infuses 3 cups of vodka with 2 cups of pumpkin or kabocha squash, 2 vanilla beans, a stick of (cassia) cinnamon, and 3 pieces of candied ginger.

To prepare the squash, you lightly roast it in order to purge a bit of moisture and to get the flesh sweet, then cut it into small chunks in order to increase the surface area for the infusion. I used pumpkin, as I could not find any kabocha squash.

This infusion calls for an infusing time of 3 days.

At the end of the infusion, I was quite surprised with the result. I thought that the thick, dense flesh of the pumpkin would impart very little flavor to the vodka, but I was very wrong.

While the nose of the stuff is vanilla and alcohol only, the sip offers something more intriguing. The warmness of the cinnamon and the sweetness of the pumpkin combine immediately with sharp spiciness of the ginger to create a flavor very much like gingerbread, a flavor I’ve seldom come across in the spirit world. The cinnamon comes back mid-palate with the vanilla rounding it out. The swallow brings vegetal pumpkin and ginger notes that border on maltiness as it goes down.

Ms. Robinson insists that you chill this vodka and consume as a shot, but I found that doing so dulls all of the flavor into mediocrity. Sipping this at room temperature is quite enjoyable, and I bet it'd be great if you put a half ounce or so into a Manhattan.

This is a good little recipe, but it's not cheap to make. Depending on how cheap you can find your pumpkin or your ginger, and especially using 2 whole vanilla beans for 3 cups of vodka, the end product's value isn't high. Also, the yielded infusion is even less liquid than you’d think, since the pumpkin does a good job of soaking quite a bit up. But it’s a fun experiment nonetheless. Go out and make some now, just in time for Thanksgiving and Christmas parties. You can still find pumpkins and kabocha in the markets – I promise.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Egotistical cocktails, Part 1

If the Old Fashioned was the spark of life that would eventually become the modern cocktail, then the Improved Cocktail was the amoeba. Jerry Thomas himself first documented it as more exotic ingredients become more readily available for use in mixing drinks in the late 19th Century.

The Old Fashioned cocktail, as we've said, is a way to season your spirit and to make it a bit more palatable. The Improved Cocktail builds upon that recipe to enhance the complexity just a bit. This time around, all you need to add to your Old Fashioned to make it Improved is a bit of Absinthe and Maraschino liqueur.

Improved Cocktail

2 oz spirit
1 dash simple syrup
1 dash aromatic bitters
1 dash Maraschino
1 dash absinthe

Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with lemon twist.

It doesn't sound like much, but Thomas knew what he was doing when he codified this thing into the printing press. I'll reiterate that I'm not fanboy of Maraschino or absinthe either, for that matter, and yet the Improved Cocktail impresses me every time I make it.

Much like the Old Fashioned, you can swap the spirit for whatever you like (and the bitters and garnish, accordingly) and it will usually work. My favorite Improved Cocktail is made with my beloved Cruzan Black Strap rum. There's something about the pungency of the rum's molasses flavors that stand up to the strong absinthe and Maraschino like no other spirit I've had so far(except for maybe Scotch whisky). I also tend to like my Improved Cocktails on the rocks.

I wrote about humility a while back, and why I wasn't giving my own name to a cocktail that I thought didn't deserve one. Since then, I've gotten encouragement to shed humility by going ahead and naming cocktails that I've made, even if doing so seemed a bit exorbitant.

So technically you could call this an Improved Black Strap Cocktail on the rocks, but instead it will be...



1.5-2 oz Cruzan Black Strap rum
heavy dash simple syrup
heavy dash aromatic bitters
heavy dash Maraschino
heavy dash absinthe

Build over ice in small tumbler. Garnish with orange twist.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Dick Farm Dunn

For the last while I've been very interested in fruity wine varietals like Sauvignon Blanc and Zinfandel. One of the thing that keeps me coming back to Zinfandels is their fiery dry character that's in addition to their fruitiness. I've spent quite a bit of time trying to come up with a drink that helps highlight both the fruit and the spicy dryness of the wine, and I think I've finally got it.

Without going too much into it, I think this drink, which is lively and sweet but also brash and a bit biting in dryness, perfectly fits the man which it honors, if I understand everything correctly. If you don't have a real grenadine made from pomegranates, just use simple syrup.


Dick Farm Dunn

3oz Zinfandel
2 dashes grenadine
2 dashes triple sec
6 dashes aromatic bitters

Build in a wine goblet with cracked ice and stir.

RIP Ryan Dunn

Monday, August 22, 2011

Infusion #5: Umeshu, Part I

A small project I’ve been meaning to tackle for years now is the ability to make one’s own plum wine at home… more specifically, umeshu. Technically, umeshu isn’t a wine at all (though it’s called so), but in fact a liqueur.

Umeshu might be the simplest infusion yet done on this site, though its simplicity in preparation demands patience for the infusing. Umeshu is created by soaking whole green plums in soju.

Green plums aren't just unripe plums (though they can be). Because this is an east Asian recipe, what can be assumed required is one of several varieties of Korean plum, most of which ripen to a light green color. Their taste is sweet, though perhaps not as sweet as some of the darker species that you can find. I myself don't have direct access to unripe Asian plums, but what I did find recently in my local store was less-than-ripe green pluots. I know that they're not nearly the same as for what traditional umeshu calls, but I'm going for it.

Soju is a Korean spirit that you'll find more and more nowadays, if you make an effort. It's a mid-proof mostly neutral spirit that is traditionally made from rice, though modern versions can be made from grain and sweet potatoes as well. Most soju also has just a bit of sugar added at the end of production, so the result is a slightly sweet liquor that is about 40 proof (on average) and very subtle in flavor. By the way, soju is not to be confused (which it commonly is), with shochu or baijiu, their Japanese and Chinese counterparts which tend to be more commonly made from rice only and are also higher proof.

The method of infusion couldn't be simpler: wash the fruits and soak them whole in soju for at least a few months. This method concerns me a bit. From my limited experience with infusing whole fruits in liquor, I find that the flesh of the fruits, shielded from the alcohol directly by their in-tact skin, tend to decompose a bit from the inside out. Similar experiments of mine have resulted in ammoniated aromas from the mixtures. But every description I've read of umeshu insists that it's smooth and inviting, so perhaps my fears are unfounded.

I'm making a small batch divided into two jars. Traditional recipes have you include sugar to soak in the liquor with the plums, but I'll just add simple syrup to the final infused product, as I often do.

If any of you know why this experiment will fail or what I'm doing wrong, feel free to tell me. See you in a few months!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Malibu Old Fashioned, If I Must...

Just a little while ago I wrote about the not-so-prolific ways in which you could get creative with making your own custom Old Fashioned cockails. I had been preaching this strategy long before I wrote about it, and one of my more wiley past suggestions has unfortunately reared its ugly head.

Dagreb, a fellow blogger, dug up an old suggestion of mine and foolishly decided to bring it to life. He claims that I suggested the idea of making an Old Fashioned out of Malibu rum. As I defended myself in the comments of his post about it, I told him that I either was very drunk (up to you to decide how likely) or that I suggested only adding bitters to the rum, since the sweet liqueur-like Malibu needed no additional sugar. Intoxicated (literally?) by the idea of coconut and pineapple combined, Dagreb whipped up a Malibu Old Fashioned anyway with pineapple syrup and aromatic bitters. The results were, not surprisingly, too sweet and undrinkable.

Allow me to provide a solution!

Malibu has recently released a new product: Malibu Black. This is far from the first "Black" titled version of a spirit to be released, but it's approach is a bit different. While Malibu is an unaged rum at low proof that's sweet like a liqueur, Malibu Black is almost a full proof, less sweet rum which uses aged rum as a base. Malibu black still has the candy-like coconut flavor (love it or hate it), but is a lot more sophisticated, and versatile, might I add. I essentially see no reason to ever buy normal Malibu again. Black's lesser sweetness makes it finally possible to mix it with cola without overly saccharine results, as Malibu suggests. If you haven't had coconut cola yet, you're really missing out.

I thought this the golden opportunity to make a Malibu Old Fashioned that didn't suck. I still treated Malibu Black like Malibu, in terms of its sweetness and heft, but the end result is that it's not undrinkable.

Malibu Black Old Fashioned

2oz Malibu Black
2-3 dashes lime bitters (substitute lemon or orange bitters)

Build on ice and garnish with a lime twist (substitute lemon or orange twist).

Saturday, July 9, 2011

MxMo LIX: Wahine Censor

Frederic at the Cocktail Virgin Slut is hosting Mixology Monday again, and this time he's chosen one of the more challenging types of cocktails: beer cocktails. I've once again lucked out by having a subject already in mind for such a post.

Shandy, in its most general sense, is beer mixed with some sort of sweet beverage. Depending on where you are in the world, that beverage can be fruit juice, sparkling lemonade, ginger ale/beer, or even hard cider.

I can't find any firm information on how shandy came about. I can see several reasons how it could have: to make beer sweeter and more palatable, to lower its alcohol content, to stretch out the beer and make it last longer, or to make it more refreshing (especially when fresh water wasn't always safe to add to the drink).

Regardless, shandy is delicious. You should really try it some time. It's especially good on a hot summer day. Light lagers are usually used, and along with carbonated beverages. The norm for shandy in the United States is ginger ale or ginger beer.

There's a certain unorthodox shandy recipe that's been my go-to for a few years now. I found it on the Tiki Central forums, which I've posted about several times before. This shandy is a bit harder, with a shot of gin and some lime juice. Rattiki, the creator of this brew, likens it to a combination of shandy and the Gimlet cocktail. (Though, we all know that real Gimlets are made with and only with Rose's Lime Cordial... right?)

A beer that Rattiki suggest for this mix is Negra Modelo, a dark and creamy Mexican lager which is not only a fairly untraditional beer choice for a shandy, but is also one of my favorites.

I've adapted Rattiki's original recipe for a single serving, though I recommend Rattiki's method of making a large bucket of the stuff (and also placing naked women behind it). I've taken a bit of poetic license with the garnish as well. Rattiki didn't really issue a name for it, and he never got back to me when I told him I was going to write about it, so I'll go ahead and give it a modest yet fitting name.

Wahine Censor

5oz Negra Modelo (substitute smooth wheat beer)
5oz ginger ale/beer
1.5oz gin
.75oz lime juice
.25oz grenadine
1 dash orange bitters

Build over the tallest glass you have, filled with ice. Float Cherry Heering. Garnish with a Maraschino cherry speared through a spent lime shell.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Old Fashioned: Your Syrup Need Not Be Simple

I talk a lot about Old Fashioned cocktails on this site. It's because I really enjoy spirit-forward stiff drinks, and the Old Fashioned is the grandfather of them all. I won't talk about how, though, because Robert Hess does it best below. (Skip to the 4-minute mark.) Long story short: the word "cocktail" originally meant "Old Fashioned" (or vice versa).

What used to be an old-timey way to make a spirit more drinkable is still a way to make a spirit more drinkable. To make an Old Fashioned cocktail (hereafter OF) is simple: you begin with about 2 ounces of your favorite spirit, you add a dash or two of cocktail bitters, and a heavy dash of sugar syrup. The peel of a citrus fruit is often added. You stir with ice, and you drink.

The OF is way to celebrate a spirit; its bitters and sugar (and sometimes citrus peel) are a way of seasoning a spirit without masking it, much like you'd do with food.

For example, roasted chicken may be delicious, but few would argue that roasted chicken can't be elevated with just a bit of garlic and herbs; steak benefits from a bit of salt and maybe even pepper; many types of fish benefit from a squeeze of lemon; cooked broccoli benefits from a bit of melted butter. Many spirits benefit from a simple seasoning as well.

Traditional OFs are made with brown spirits along with Angostura aromatic bitters. When it comes to lighter spirits, there are plenty of bitters options as well, like the next two most popular types, orange bitters and Peychaud's bitters(which is a deep red bitters and tastes of muted anise). Other types include lemon, grapefruit, cherry, peach, rhubarb, celery, chocolate... and then there are interesting blends such as whiskey barrel, tiki, creole, and the list goes on. Yours truly has created his own coffee bitters and floral bitters, even. Cocktail Kingdom remains one of the authorities on purchasing bitters on the web.

The Kaiser Penguin humorously held a small contest to see which booze bloggers had the most types of bitters in their possession... be sure to check the comments in the post to see the tally.

The fun part begins when you start creating combinations for your OF. Which bitters should or could go with which spirits? A few examples: chocolate bitters with brandy; grapefruit bitters with tequila; celery bitters with gin; tiki bitters with aged rum; orange bitters with white rum; lemon bitters with pisco.


Your bitters is not the only dimension with which you can be creative for your OF. There are tons of different types of syrups that you can buy and even more that you can make on your own. Using a flavored syrup is a way to add another layer of complexity to your drink.

Below are examples of syrups which can be found in your local grocery store, in the coffee and pancake sections. While you may chuckle at the idea of using such syrups in a cocktail, realize that a syrup is a syrup, so long as it uses high quality and natural ingredients. A little research on the internet reveals great places to buy syrups with a wide selection of flavors.

But be warned: the more complex your spirit's flavor is, the fewer layers of flavor it needs on top of it. It may be a fine idea, for example, to make a Famous Grouse Scotch OF with Whiskey Barrel bitters and clove flavored syrup, but your glass of Balvenie 12 may not need such a distracting mask over its face.

Don't be hypocritical here. If you have no problem with the layering of flavors in your bitters (there are over 40 in Angostura alone), then how could you be against adding another flavor via syrup, if you knew it was of good quality? If it was perfectly acceptable to add a flavored bitters to your spirits, then why would a flavored syrup be too much?

Be open minded when thinking about syrups for possible OFs. On a whim one day I picked up a bottle of Margie's banana syrup from my local grocery store. It's opaque and pulpy... almost like a cross between banana syrup and banana purée. My new favorite way to drink rum is mixed with this stuff, and it makes a killer OF.

I also picked up some cola syrup from a local Williams Sonoma. Its intended use is to be mixed with seltzer to make your own cola, but I mix it with spirits with great results. Even a syrup as powerful as my passionfruit syrup can be mixed into an OF. You can also make a syrup out of a favorite spice or tea by boiling (or simply soaking) it in water and mixing it with sugar.

Dave of the Sugar House Blog gives us a fine example of a good combination: mezcal, Peychaud's bitters, and cucumber syrup. Dr. Bamboo tweets his surprise on how well his ginger-mint syrup works in a whiskey OF... well I'm certainly not surprised! The combinations are endless, and you have the ability build your favorite flavors all into one cocktail.

OFs usually have a peel of citrus fruit for a garnish. If you really start getting wild with your OF flavor combinations, you may find that citrus peel isn't always welcome. When you have an unorthodox OF, you can have an unorthodox garnish as well. Here, I made an apple brandy OF with a cinnamon stick garnish, because I felt that citrus wouldn't go well with it.. You can always forgo the garnish as well.

Here are some of the wilder OFs I've made recently. I hope these inspire you to deviate from normal simple syrup and aromatic bitters, and explore the blank canvass that is the OF.

Rum & Cola Old Fashioned

aged rum
Sonoma Cola Syrup
Fee's Whiskey Barrel bitters
lime peel

(As I've said before, lime twists/peels are best acquired from a hard lime if you can manage to choose one along with the soft ones that you pick out at the store for juicing.)

Gin Old Fashioned

Red Zinger Syrup
lemon bitters
lemon peel

Light Rum Old Fashioned

light rum
Margie's Banana Syrup
Angostura bitters
lime peel

Jack Rose Old Fashioned

apple brandy
lemon bitters
lemon peel

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Two Years and Counting

I'm not going to spend too much time on blog anniversary talk, because I don't really think people care about that kind of ceremonial stuff.

Two years ago today, Spirited Remix shoved off with the first post of the Cask series, where I poured some un-aged Wasmund's rye spirit into my small aging barrel, thereby starting the still largely undocumented activity of personal at-home spirit aging. I still write about my adventures with my cask, along with other rants and musings that, apparently, a few people find interesting.

I'd like to thank anyone who's returned to the Spirited Remix because they read something they liked one time. I'm humbled, and I plan for my site's content to only get better and better from here on out.

Perhaps this milestone can be marked with my entrance into the mainstream media. I've been quoted in an article about flavored whiskeys in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette written by Bill Toland. While I'm certainly not an expert on the topic, I do feel that I take the subject of flavored spirits (and other newfangled things) a bit more seriously than your average booze blogger, and also you'll find that I've been getting pretty cozy with reviewing American honey whiskey liqueurs. (The review for the new Jack Daniel's Tennessee Honey liqueur is coming soon, btw.) I was happy to provide a few thoughts to Bill, and I thank him for the opportunity.

Thanks again, everyone. If you stick around, you'll find posts in the coming weeks about the Old Fashioned cocktail and how to make it work harder for you, more revelations in making homemade bitters, how to get a little crazy in making variations of Limoncello, and some reviews of both spirits and cocktails that you probably won't find many other places on the interwebs.

And now I leave you with a song.

Monday, May 9, 2011

MxMo LVII: Floral Bitters

The month of May's Mixology Monday host is Dave from The Barman Cometh. His theme is "floral cocktails" and he says:

"As the sun starts becoming more frequent and the temptation to play hooky mid-week gets stronger, nothing brightens the day better this time of year than the fresh blossoms hanging from the trees on the street and popping up in your neighborhood gardens. Goodbye cabin fever, hello springtime!"

Dave must not suffer from any sort of botanical allergy, but otherwise, I couldn't agree more. Despite that all the blossoms are here and green is everywhere to be seen, Washington, DC's long winter still lingers with temperatures that have barely broken the 70's (F) and constant rain. Looks like we'll need some liquid persuasion in order to change the mood...

I'm going to be "that guy" and make my post about a floral ingredient instead of a cocktail. Sorry, Dave. I've been waiting to post about my floral bitters for a while now, and surely you can understand how I wouldn't pass up this convenient and serendipitous MxMo opportunity.

As I detailed earlier in my homemade coffee bitters post, I make bitters using a conservative method; I make individual tinctures and combine them in various proportions until I find something that works. This is a method that surely showed its merits in the process of making these floral bitters, because it took me months of combining and testing to arrive at a first decent iteration. If I had done it via single compound infusions, I'd only be on my 2nd or 3rd try. I'd estimate that these floral bitters were made on the 30th or 40th try.

The star and major component of these bitters is pomelo. The pomelo is a cousin of the grapefruit. It's much larger, its peel is green, and its flavor is similar to the grapefruit, except that it's milder, sweeter, and less bitter. But I'm interested in the pomelo's peel, whose flavor can vary a bit... but I've found that especially among the smooth-skinned Israeli variety of pomelo which is available in the winter, the peel's flavor is mostly floral with just a bit of grassiness as well as grapefruit tones.

I made the pomelo tincture just like any other: by soaking its peel and pith in high proof alcohol. On the subject of citrus infusions, most people will advise you to remove the fruit's bitter pith from the peel, but in making bitters, it goes without saying that I'm perfectly ok with having plenty of pith. And pomelos are infamous for having a huge amount of pith between their peel and fruit.

To support the pomelo with a more straightforward floral note is simple rose water. Rose water is a distillation of a mixture of water and rose petals. The result is a strong solution that smells like perfume. Rose water is very common in cuisine (especially desserts) all across the world.

Once again, I'm using a tincture of wormwood as my primary bittering agent. It also has some sour herbal tones to it that I felt would be useful.

The final ingredient is one that I tinkered with for quite a while. I tried tinctures of black tea, green tea, jasmine green tea, hibiscus, and even of green bean and bell pepper. In the end, I went with a lime tincture. I didn't want to add much fruitiness to these bitters, but I feel that the bitter side of the lime really adds to this mix.

In the end, these bitters are less complex than I originally wanted, but I'm satisfied with them as a first version... a Floral Bitters #1, if you will. The pomelo mostly acts a bass while the rose water tends to sing the high notes. The lime and wormwood both add a bit of sourness while the lime also provides a dark vegetal "green" tone.

I essentially made these bitters for gin. I've had great luck with gin Old Fashioneds, Martinis, and Gin & Tonics. I'm still working on how these bitters go with other white spirits like light rum or pisco.

A week or two after I finished these bitters, I learned that the bartenders at The Gibson in DC have concocted a similar brew called "Angel Bitters", which uses chamomile and also rose water. I told them to make me a Martini with them, just for good measure. They taste very much like mine, except that they seemed a bit peppery. Overall, it was a great drink.

Thanks again to Dave for hosting this fun theme.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Cask: Round 6

Having taken a bit longer than I thought, my gin is finally ready to be removed from my little barrel. If you'll recall, almost 2 months ago I put some Gordon's gin into my barrel that was still dripping wet from its occupant before that, apple brandy. I was hoping to make an apple-kissed aged gin, like the Seagram company does, and my experiment was a huge success.

My apple-brandied gin arrived having left the angels very unsatisfied; adding a bit of high proof grain alcohol has yet again proven itself as a surefire method to prevent liquid loss via evaporation. Even though this aging session was short, the gin loss less than I thought it would. I extracted over 1.5 liters this time around, which is pleasing indeed.

The Review
Apple-brandied gin, at-home aged

In the Glass

The color of the stuff is a light gold... darker than light rum, but lighter than a gold rum or whiskey... it's more like the pallor of genever. It swirls cleanly just like a young spirit should.


The smells come to me in stages: juniper, alcohol, and wood... in that order. Inhaling deeply gets more alcohol and the faintest aroma of apples.


Immediately I realize that this tastes less of gin than it did before its time in the barrel. The wood has again imparted a sweetness that's very much like all its previous occupants. After the now muted botanicals die down, the flavor of apples arises, and much more strongly than I anticipated. The swallow ends in a bit of dryness from the wood.

Ice Cube

The addition of water to this gin increases its sweetness and dulls its flavor. I could barely taste any of the flavors that I had before.


This apple-brandied gin performs in gin cocktails with style. It's great in a 1:3 Martini, but the vermouth in a "fifty fifty" Martini tends to overpower this tame gin. It also does fine in a gin and tonic, but the amounts of gin and tonic need to be about equal. The drink in which this stuff performed best was my previously-posted unnamed drink, where the gin's dryness and flavor of apples added exactly what the drink seemed to be needing.


This round is really a perfect demonstration in liquor production. The concept of aging spirits was born in order to tame and mellow spirits whose flavor were a little too wily and aggressive. Whether its the grassy pungency of rum, the cereal-like corn of bourbon, the peppery assault of tequila, or the pungent peat and smoke of Scotch... all of these sometimes overbearing flavors can be mellowed and sophisticated during aging. It's no surprise to me that the well-balanced herbs and spices in my beginning gin are barely there in the final aged product. It was simply bound to happen.

As for kissing the gin with apple brandy, I really didn't expect so much of the apple flavor to come through in this final mix. I had previously drained the barrel of apple brandy before pouring in the gin, and so what remained was only perhaps a few drops of brandy, and what brandy that was present in the soaked wood. In the end, this aged brandy claims apples as one of its prominent flavors, and so I'm happy to say that I was completely successful in mimicking Seagram's Apple Twisted Gin product.

What's next?

I'd like to convey an interesting detail I found on the internets. Here you can find the website of small distiller in the state of Washington called Woodinville Whiskey Co. Among their products they offer an Age Your Own Whiskey Kit, not unlike the one I've been using to drive this Cask series. (Should you want to be like me, pick one up and have at it! A reminder that I'm using a barrel from Wasmund's Copper Fox Distillery of Sperryville, Virginia.)

An interesting note on Woodinville's site says that the small aging barrel can be "refilled and reused 5+ times." Well, I'm about to put my 6th passenger into this little barrel. I wonder if Woodinville knows something I don't about the lifespan of at-home aging vessels. Perhaps mine is on its last legs and I don't know it? It's certainly not showing me any signs of such. ONWARD, THEN!

Next up for the barrel is something about which I'm even less confident than I was about the gin: wine. White wine, to be more specific. I'm using a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand called Nobilo. I've enjoyed this product for quite a while now... its crisp and sour bite is paired with an extreme fruitiness... depending on the day, I can detect hints of grapefruit and pineapple, and sometimes even lime.

I'm going to spike the 1.5L of wine with about 100 mL of grain alcohol, just to punch up the proof, since we know the proof will lessen.

I have no clue how this is going to work. I don't know if anything about a barrel needs to be changed when going from spirits to wine. I hope the wine's sugar doesn't gum up the barrel into a sticky mess. I don't know how well this Sauvignon Blanc takes to aging. I hope the bright fruity flavors don't become disgusting when aged. I have no clue how long this should age. If you have any predictions about any of this, feel free to lay them on me.

With fingers crossed, I bid you farewell until next time.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Cocktails

Easter means brunch and brunch means drinking before noon. Count me in.

A friend of mine hosted a merry Easter Brunch and egg hunt (we're young at heart) for about a dozen people. I arrived with a load of ingredients and set up a makeshift bar, prepared to mix a small menu of drinks. Aside from the mandatory and exceptional Mimosa, I was offering a few additional stiffer options. Overall, it was a great success.

Chambord & Tonic

1.5 oz Chambord vodka
3 oz tonic water
3 dashes rhubarb bitters

Build in a tall glass on ice.

Chambord vodka is one of the classier flavored vodkas you'll find, and bearing the name Chambord certainly adds to its pedigree. The slightly sweet vodka went great with the bitterness of the tonic water and the added sourness from the bitters. This is a great refreshing drink for a hot day.

Rum Alexander

1.5 oz gold rum
.5 oz coffee syrup
1 oz cream

Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

I'm at it with the Alexander again, which is a great drink for parties due to its simplicity and crowd-pleasing character... a cream and coffee cocktail just seemed like it belonged at a brunch. The coffee wasn't as prominent in the cocktail as I'd have liked, but instead the light coffee flavor only slightly accented the great Flor de Caña Gold that we used.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Mixology Monday LVI Round-Up: Your Best

It was a long haul, but we now have all 20 drinks posted. Some of you sneaky west coasters thought you could foil me by submitting your posts after I went to bed. Well, if you think I won't drink in the morning to try your recipes, you're very, very wrong.

The house DJ's finally in and is ready to spin this phat mix. Big thanks to all you other DJs who contributed your own tracks to help make this giant boss remix. I wasn't able to quite make and try all the mixes myself, but I got damn close. Let's drink.

I'm going to start the medley by drumming up the bass and establishing a melody with an original remix of my own. This one has indeed been in the works for many years, but I believe it's finally reached its evolutionary dead-end. It uses the heavy molasses notes of Cruzan Black Strap rum and brightens it up with a cornucopia of citrus fruits. If you have the ingredients to make this, I highly recommend you do. Let's get this party started. (Even my bear knows how to party.)

Jubilee at Sundown

1 oz Cruzan Black Strap rum
.5 oz white rum
.5 oz lime juice
.5 oz grapefruit juice
.5 oz orange juice
.5 oz simple syrup

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with lime wheel.

Dagreb starts us off with some lite fare that would act equally well as an apéritif or digestif. Originally created as a stomach settler, Dagreb's Fizz, Orzata Buck? uses Angostura bitters as its primary alcoholic component. Luckily, I have my 10oz bottle of Angostura to help me deal out the dozen+ dashes needed to make the drink.

My thoughts: Much like a white countertop, I feel like the Angostura is staining my insides brown. It's rare that you come across a drink whose bulk of ingredients are supporting a bitters as a main flavor. As such, I'm tasting notes in the Angostura that I've never tasted before. The hero of the day in this drink is the lime juice... it manages to keep the spice at bay. Well done, Dagreb. I'll take one of these after dinner while sitting on the back porch, once the weather gets warm again. I used Trader Tiki orgeat and Goya ginger beer, the picture above is my own.

Our second track is from Evan McGinnis of the young Ginger Beer Blog. His mix is basically an elongated blood orange rum Old Fashioned. It's a simple idea, but a pretty interesting take. He doesn't even give it a name... you're killin' me, Evan! Evan is free to comment on this round-up post and let us all know what the name is. :) He also overachieves by providing us with a second mix of his, which is his take on the Dark 'N Stormy. Be careful what you call "Dark 'N Stormy", Evan... the drink's trademark is fiercely defended by Gosling's armada of lawyers.

My thoughts: This is quite a nice drink. If a full bodied rum is used and you make sure to use a fairly sophisticated orange soda beverage, the drink isn't too sweet and it really shows you how an Old Fashioned can be light and refreshing. I used Screech rum and Polar Orange Dry.

Next up is Rowen of the Fogged In Lounge. After a full month of remixing the Bronx cocktail, he decided he needed some rum in him, and I totally know the feeling. He puts on his tiki hat as he presents his long-time libation the Lava-Lava. Like a Mai Tai, the Lava-Lava combines aged rum from both the islands of Jamaica and Martinique.

My thoughts: This drink isn't quite what I was expecting. I was hoping that the rums would be more pronounced, but I need to remember that this is a fairly long drink, what with the 3oz of mango nectar. As I was mixing this drink, I had the sudden realization that apricot liqueur was BORN to go with mango. Leave it to Rowen to figure it out before me. The texture of this drink is fabulous. I could down them at a dangerous rate. It's strange... whenever I'm not sipping this thing, I feel the urge to pick it up and keep sipping. This can't be good for my liver. Rowen, it may have been my mango nectar choice which prevented the rums from singing, I don't know. I used Del Frutal nectar, and my rums were Coruba and La Favorite Vieux.

Caught off guard, Alex from the Malty Puppy went to work to create an original remix precisely for this MxMo event, and he delivered. ...And what's this? He calls for coffee bitters in his drink? Well, I'm glad I had made some, then. He suspiciously combines Fernet Branca and vanilla vodka, among other things, into a drink he calls the Herbalist's Coffee. He offers two variations of the drink as well.

My thoughts: Damn! This might be the sleeper of this MxMo. I nabbed some vanilla vodka, and believe it or not, I had a mini of espresso vodka on hand for one of his variations. The Herbalist's Coffee is fantastic. The nose of the drink is dominated by the Fernet, but the flavor is not. It was sweet and inviting, with the Fernet offering a great herbal note that wasn't too bitter. While I was afraid that vanilla vodka would be too sweet, it wasn't, and I'm even getting notes of chocolate in here. Alex's cream variation of the drink was almost as equally good as the original. His egg white variation, I found, was a bit too sweet for me. For the record, Alex, I added .5oz (15 mL) of gin to it, and it turned out great.

As requested, Ed of the Wordsmithing Pantagruel dug into his mixologic annals and dug up one of his old favorites. His Lumber Jill is a unique brew that combines the flavors of maple, Chartreuse, and ginger. Add navy rum to it and it's a drink I can't ignore.

My thoughts: This one's pretty interesting. I'm not getting as much maple as I'd like, but the Chartreuse and ginger beer is a fascinating combination that borders on savory. I think the lemon and orange were fantastic additions to the drink, as well. It's unique yet easy-going, like a self-confident nerd or goth in high school. I used Cracker Barrel pure maple syrup and George Bowman aged small batch rum (from my home state of Virginia, no less!), which I feel is a suitable substitute for the funk of Smith & Cross.

Keith of theSpeakista has one of the more curious concoctions of the event. And with my beloved Black Strap rum? I'm sold. Keith combines overproof bourbon, Cruzan's Black Strap rum, apple brandy, creme de cacao, and a coffee-infused sweet vermouth to make the Final Five cocktail. It looks like I'm going to have to flash- infuse some Antica with coffee and get at it. Sorry Keith, I don't have any Calvados in my cupboards right now.

My thoughts: This one is quite satisfying to me. The rum adds a depth and sweetness to the already deep and sweet bourbon. The coffee comes through with the vermouth, which struggles to show its flavor against the other powerful ingredients. This thing makes me want to sit in a big leather chair surrounded by old books on shelves. I used everything Keith called for except that I used Captain Applejack instead of Calvados.

The blogless Sam submitted a drink to me, and I gave it its own place on my blog. When's the last time you've seen apple cider combined with tequila? Sam's Si Se Puede Ponche combines those two along with hibiscus tea (jamaica) and mezcal to make one of the most unorthodox drinks here on this list. He originally made the the drink to cheer up his overworked friend who was in the middle of defending his thesis for school. I can't think of a better friend to have than Sam, and I can't think of a more wonderful story for this MxMo.

The folks at Understanding Cocktails did it the right way: coming up with a great premise and varying it every which-way until they realized that simplicity was best. In the end they finally have the Flightless Cocktail. Oddly enough, after trying every spirit they could, they realized that it was vodka, of all things, that was best in the Flightless. This is a good example of how vodka can be used a vehicle to showcase other ingredients in a drink.

My thoughts: As they said, this cocktail is very tart. The taste is crisp and clean. The passionfruit and lime provide a great fruitiness that makes you think the drink isn't mostly vodka. The amaretto provides the sweetness and the slightest earthy undertone. I used Gordon's vodka. I also used passionfruit syrup as a substitute.

Felicia's Speakeasy is taking advantage of spring's accost by looking toward her garden for inspiration. An old favorite of hers is the Tomato Zinger, which combines freshly-muddled tomatoes with honey syrup, gin, and lemon juice. I'm not sure how Felicia can act so festive and springy in upstate New York at this cold time of April, but as I've learned as a dude who wears tropical shirts too often, attitude is everything.

My thoughts: I've never had a drink with muddled tomato before. I thought this drink would taste savory, but I was wrong. The tomato sings as the fruit that it truly is. I had some honey syrup lying around from my latest experiments with making mead, and both the syrup and the lemon help this fruity drink chirp like a cheerful bluebird on a beautiful spring morning. Bravo. I used Gordon's gin.

The ever-posting Frederic of Cocktail Virgin Slut has delved into his repertoire for an old drink that he created before he even began blogging. The remarkable part of this is that after almost 1,000 posts later, with his palate inevitably maturing, he still finds his old drink the Frigate Bird to be still as good as it ever was. The drink uses the traditional tiki ingredient Batavia Arrack, an exotic spirit even as tiki ingredients go.

My thoughts: I don't have any arrack, so I used a caney cachaca instead, Cachaca 51... I used homemade grenadine and Trader Tiki falernum. It turned out sweeter than I thought. The Heering and the grenadine combine to make a sort of berry flavor that's very pleasing, with the spiciness of the falernum occasionally coming through. The grassiness of the cachaca played with the tannins in the grenadine that lended almost a savory tomato flavor.

Inspired Imbibing's Adam has long been tinkering with the Calm Seas. Adam says that the soul of the drink was inspired by the Jasmine cocktail. He's used lime juice in this one, and has added a bit of elderflower liqueur for aromatic purposes. He also manages to make a beautiful lime twist, which isn't easy. (I've learned a tip for making lime twists: lime peel is much thinner than most citrus peel and so isn't ideal when trying to cut it off... the solution is when you're at the store trying to find soft limes for juicing, go ahead and also buy the hardest lime you can find... the firm limes tend to have a thick rind which is great for peeling.)

My thoughts: I used Gordon's gin and I didn't have any St. Germain, so I used, believe it or not, Bacardi Solera, which I've always thought had elderflower notes to it. The gin in the drink is the vehicle that delivers the backbone of the Campari and the tartness of the lime, but it's tempered by the orange liqueur's sweetness... and I can taste the elderflower note in there as well! This is a very nice sour that would serve well as an aperitif.

The legendary Tiare atop her Mountain of Crushed Ice serves up the Pineapple Delight, a concoction that goes quite well with the theme of her blog. Her remix uses muddled pineapple, rhum agricole and honey cream mix, which contains just a bit of butter. She also uses Ting, an ingredient with which I have a love/hate relationship, and it's all due to both Tiare and Rick at Kaiser Penguin.

My thoughts: Believe it or not, I actually had a bottle of Ting on hand. I didn't have any rhum agricole, so I used Leblon cachaca. The fresh pineapple in this is really great. Along with the lime juice and honey syrup, the pineapple joins in to create an almost floral flavor. I made the honey mix complete with the butter, and the butter really added an enjoyable element to the drink.

Doug Winship of the Pegu Blog takes a break from his lime juice and Angostura bitters and has graced us with a gin creation of his own. He's not making it easy for me: his Blue Beetle #2 calls for blueberry syrup, which I must make myself. I'll be sure to break out the good gin for this one, Doug.

My thoughts: I'm not a big fan of blueberries, but this drink doesn't really taste like blueberry. The blueberry syrup, gin, and lemon juice combine to form a spicy and floral mix that's somehow greater than the some of its parts. I wish I could convey the gorgeous magenta hue that this drink took on for me. I took pictures, but couldn't do it justice. I broke out my George Bowman gin for this one, Doug. This is a drink I'll make again on my own time.

Good Spirits News has given us a curious concoction called the Scotch Lassie. Not many places do you see Scotch whisky and lime juice paired. Along with those, this drink, which is based off of the Mamie Taylor, uses Domaine de Canton and sparkling wine.

My thoughts: This is a nice, dry, and fizzy. The bite of the scotch along with the ginger give a nice spicy spine that flows through the drink. My tongue keeps expecting lemon here, but the lime contrasts and keeps my taste buds awake. This is quite an easy sipper, not too sweet. I used Bench 5 Scotch and I didn't have any ginger liqueur, so I used half ginger syrup and half Cognac instead.

Dan Chadwick posted his drink at Kindred Cocktails. Not only has Dan come up with best the MxMo moniker ever... a "cocktail nerd smackdown", but his drink's name is also quite formidable: the Arrack Attack. Once again, Batavia Arrack rears its wonky head as it takes the lead in this drink. Dan also uses the Italian oddball Cynar, an artichoke liqueur. Like I asked, Dan said that he's been working on this drink for quite a while, and has given it to several guests, cocktail nerds or not, to a spirited response. Thanks a lot for submitting, Dan.

The ever humorous SeanMike of the Scofflaw's Den throws a loud and obnoxious guffaw at my "post early" advice as he posts in the final hour of Mixology Monday, Eastern Daylight Time. Joke's on you, Sean, because I won't be able to make your drink because of short notice. But curiously, I think I might have actually made the Derek back in 2009 and I remember it being great. Sean made the drink in honor of the great bartender Derek Brown here in DC. This is a light drink that makes you want to drink a ton of them.

Wow, I did not expect Jacob Grier to ever submit anything to the humble Spirited Remix. Jacob takes a unique tack on how he views his original drinks: "I find that my drinks are like children: Delightful when I first make them, but once they’re a couple years old I’m embarrassed to be seen with them. I mean, uh, I love them all equally and they’re all precious in their own way." Jacob's drink the Lazy Bear was created to honor the marriage of two of his friends at their wedding. The couple is still married and still makes the drink. What's more, the Lazy Bear is now on the menu of a restaurant in Portland. I'd certainly say this drink is a fine candidate for this MxMo.

My thoughts: Holy hell! The Whiskey Barrel bitters and the lime juice are combining to lend an overall bitterness to the drink that's enchanting. The funky rum is perfect for the drink, and the rye whiskey keeps it in check. The honey combats the sourness in the most perfect of ways. I don't mean to gush over the drink too much, but I can see why this is now served in a professional bar/restaurant. I used Sazerac rye and George Bowman rum which, again, I feel closely matches Smith & Cross.

The godfather of Mixology Monday himself, Paul Clarke, has decided to not miss another round. Paul has dug up an old combination of ingredients that he remembers enjoying but never codified them. In honor of his last-minute posting style, his west coast timezone notwithstanding, he's named the drink the 11:59. Paul complains that there aren't enough spirit-forward rum drinks, and by god, I can't disagree. The 11:59 combines aged rum with Punt e Mes, chocolate liqueur, and Chartreuse. Visit his post if you'd like to learn what the great Paul Clarke normally likes to drink in lieu of making his own concoctions.

My thoughts: This drink is really sophisticated. While I didn't have the Angostura rum, I thought my substitute suitably reproduced the vanilla flavor that Paul was going for. My vermouth substitute didn't really work, though... I feel it needs to be more bitter. With that said, I thought the chocolate would be overpowering, but it wasn't. All the ingredients here lie calm to meld with each other. Really effing nice. Instead of Angostura I used a combination of Zaya 12 and Margaritaville dark Jamaican rum (it's actually really good) and instead of Punt e Mes, I used Carpano Antica, Dolin rouge, and a dash of aromatic bitters.

Last up is Marc of A Drinker's Peace. He muses on how most of his creations are variations on the sacrosanct classics, and his house-named drink A Drinker's Peace Cocktail isn't far off from this formula. I find I have a lot in common with Marc. He's very long winded about how he made the drink and which products to not use in it, and then he even offers a secondary recipe for those who wish to make the drink without all the fancy ingredients (for people like me). His drink is flagshipped by aged rum, with a bit of vermouth, apricot brandy, and absinthe to complement. Count me in.

My thoughts: Marc called for an aged rum on the subtle side, so I used a combination of Mount Gay Extra Old and Cruzan rum that I aged myself in my own small barrel. I didn't have a remarkable apricot brandy, and so as he asked, I added it lightly. The result is very warming, and probably sweeter than his, because I used Carpano Antica vermouth. The apricot and the absinthe go really nicely together, and the unobtrusive rum acts as a vehicle for the accenting ingredients as opposed to dominating the drink. Very classy, Marc.

I can't thank everyone enough for participating in this month's MxMo. I think the list we have here is certainly one to take note of. If you see a drink here that looks good, you should probably whip it up and give it a try, because you can rest assured in knowing that it's someone's best.