Friday, January 21, 2011

Infusion #3: Winter Rum

I talk quite a bit about infusions on this blog. If you're tired of it, you're welcome to leave, but if you're not, then you're in for a treat, because I'm "turning it up a notch" today.

Over a year ago I decided to see what would happen when I infused fresh cranberries into white rum. The result, obviously, was cranberry rum, and while it achieved a beautiful red hue on the order of Campari, very little flavor was added to the final product except for a nice acidic tartness. I concluded that fresh cranberries would make a great infusion if used along with other ingredients. Today I'm finally running with that idea.

What I'm doing is what you could call a compound infusion, not simply because of how many ingredients I'll be using, but because of how I will be doing it. When I talked about making bitters a while back, I spoke of a conservative method of infusion whereby one infuses alcohols separately and then combines them into a perfect blend via trial and error. Today, I'm using a different technique with the same soul: instead of infusing all the ingredients at once, I will be doing it in stages. With this method, I can halt each infusion handily at the moment when its flavor is perfect, and then continue with the next so as to best balance the combination of tastes in the final product.

I'm going with three infusions this time: dried berries, fresh cranberries, and cinnamon, and I'll be doing it with rum. Why rum again? Because it's what I know best and because it's so versatile. I promise to do a non-rum infusion soon.

I've used Cruzan Estate Light in several infusions, and I'm using Cruzan again this time, but I will be using their Cruzan Estate Dark product. It's really more of a gold rum than a "dark" rum, but its flavor is dry and peppery as opposed to fruity and sweet, which makes it a perfect candidate for the base of a "winter rum".

The first infusion was with the dried berries. I used all natural berries from Stoneridge Orchards, which is a combination of cherries, blueberries, cranberries, and raspberries. Infusing dried fruit into your liquor yields a very different result than fresh; the flavors are dark, earthy, and oxidized as opposed to bright and fruity. It also imparts more sweetness than usual. I put about a dozen berries in the bottle of rum, and less than 24 hours later, I decided it was already done, and strained them out.

Next up is the fresh cranberries. Like last time, I'll point out that you really need to rupture each berry so that the hollow inner surface area of the berry can add to the infusion.

About 15 crushed cranberries went in, and it was done about 36 hours later. Also like last time, the color of the rum has turned a beautiful red (pictured left), and there is now a tartness that balances out the sweetness imparted by the dried berries.

Lastly is the cinnamon (pictured right). Using a whole stick of cinnamon (and not the ground stuff) guarantees the cinnamon's quality and ease of extraction, and trust me when I say that shortly after being put into the rum, the stick unfurls and allows the liquor access to its whole surface area. As you can see, the berries so far have soaked up quite a bit of the rum that we won't get back. So sad!

The cinnamon only needed about 24 hours to impart what I wanted. The Winter Rum is complete (pictured left). The final result is interesting in that all of the infused components can be tasted individually in the rum. It has a very warming characteristic to it, which I suppose was what I was going for. The dried berries give an underlying sweetness, the cranberries lend a tartness that keeps the rum from being too boring, and the cinnamon applies an overall earthiness that really gives the rum its warmth. I'm satisfied with this experiment, though I would have wanted to infuse the dried berries for less time. For any of you trying something similar: go easy on the dried fruit.

You could use something like this in almost any application of spiced rum, or even in the stead of any gold rum to add a decidedly wintry spin on any cocktail. My application will be simpler.

Winter Rum & Ginger

2 oz Winter Rum
2.5 oz ginger ale or ginger beer
1 dash aromatic bitters

Combine ingredients over ice in a tumbler.

Next time you're at a bar where you don't trust the bartender, order a spiced rum and ginger ale; although cola is more traditional, I find that ginger ale better complements spiced rum, whereas I feel cola simply trounces it. Ginger ale is also well mixed with any old decent gold rum. Try it next time when you're out of ideas on what to make to drink.

This rum combines very well with ginger ale. The dried fruit flavors and cinnamon go especially well with the aromatic bitters. The concoction is pictured above in a beautiful gold-rimmed glass (of 4) that I found at an antique shop. The outsides (and insides) of the glasses are curiously adorned with miniature reproductions of pages and ads from old Montgomery Ward magazines.

Friday, January 14, 2011

MxMo: See You on the Flipside

This month's Mixology Monday is hosted by Cocktail Assembly, and its theme is the flip. Flips are a style of drink, just like sours, fizzes, punches, or crustas. The modern flip is defined as a base spirit, a little syrup or liqueur, and 1 whole egg, shaken with ice, strained into a glass, and a little fresh grated nutmeg on top.

Yeah, that's right... a whole egg, yolk and all, shaken into a cocktail. The construction and appearance of flips are very much like the Alexanders that I've been making. Their consistency is creamy, and their weight is heavy. The original flips, which were once created with warm beer, were essentially small meals unto themselves.

Click here to see the final MxMo roundup!

Although I'm a huge fan of food that breaks American norms and taboos, I've never been a fan of flips. It's not really the risk of sickness, but rather the taste of raw eggs... I just don't like it. I like my eggs cooked until they're rubber, and I tell every IHOP server accordingly.

But, Mixology Mondays have driven me to undertake daunting tasks before, and this shall be no exception. I will give the flip another earnest attempt, because even when I dislike something, I've always been known to give it another chance. I can safely say that there's no food or drink that I'll permanently avoid.

Because the formula for the flip is just about as versatile as the Alexander, I have a lot of room for creativity to maximize my chances of success. I figure that a good strategy is simply to create a flip that uses my favorite things... surely I couldn't dislike it then, right?

Well then, I can safely say that my favorite spirit is probably Cruzan Black Strap rum, which is an aged rum mixed with molasses. It tastes of brown sugar and maple syrup. I could sing its praises for hours, but that will be for a later post. Interestingly, I recall coming across quite a few flips on Frederic's blog Cocktail Virgin Slut which use Black Strap rum.

But instead of following one of those recipes, I will be mixing the rum with falernum. Falernum is a dark syrup that is flavored with almonds, ginger, cloves, allspice, and limes, and is primarily used in tiki drinks. One can acquire falernum in several ways. You can buy falernum syrup, the most popular of which is Fee Brothers... there are various websites which will sell and ship it to you. There is also an alcoholic falernum: Velvet Falernum Liqueur. Of the two, I have only tried the Fee Brothers falernum, and while it is ok, I have irritatingly found, as I often do, that making your own is superior to what can be bought in every way.

A small amount of Googling can find you a recipe to make your own falernum. One that stands out is Kaiser Penguin's recipe. Most do-it-yourself falernums involve infusing things in rum(pictured to the right by the Penguin himself), and then adding sugar syrup (thereby creating an alcoholic falernum), a process that takes a lot of time. However, the Kaiser Penguin has also posted a rum-free falernum recipe that can be made in minutes, and quite honestly, is delicious. It's now the only recipe I use.

On the subject or raw eggs, you may have a consideration: did you know there exist pasteurized eggs? They're not easy to find, but I found some at a local Whole Foods, and I bet you could find some at your nearest premium (super)market. Pasteurized eggs contain no chance to get you sick when consumed raw, unlike normal eggs. While that chance was still small, it's nice to know that you could be consuming a 100% safe cocktail.

I'm going to add a dash of aromatic bitters to my flip, because then it will actually be a flip version of the Corn N' Oil cocktail. Here we go!

Corn N' Oil Flip

1.5 oz Cruzan Black Strap rum
.5 oz falernum
1 dash aromatic bitters
1 egg

Shake ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice*. Double-strain** into a cocktail glass. Grate a bit of fresh nutmeg on top.

*You may need to shake the ingredients first without ice, then with ice. Sometimes the cold prevents the egg from properly frothing during shaking.
**One double-strains their cocktail by using the regular cocktail strainer, but also running the liquid through a wire mesh strainer as well. This is usually done to remove small ice shards, but in this case, we want to remove any chalaza that might be in the egg white, which is a small cord of connective tissue that may not disintegrate in the shaking.

I daresay that pasteurized eggs taste less "eggy" in cocktails than their normal counterparts. The egg offers additions in the department of texture and substance, but it really offers no flavor in this iteration. The fattiness of the yolk deadens a lot of the flavor that would be in the cocktail; the Corn N' Oil has a very bold flavor while the Corn N' Oil Flip is quite subtle. The addition of the nutmeg is great, but perhaps offers too much flavor... it shouldn't be as prominent as it is. Overall, I don't dislike this flip, but I just don't love eggs in my cocktail. It's certainly good enough such that I would give flips yet another try some day soon down the road, which I consider a great success.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Alexander Ratio, Remixed

The cold weather can drive one's taste buds to yearn for warm flavors. Well, I don't know of any flavor warmer than cinnamon, and I don't know of a hotter liquor than Goldschlager.

Almost a year and a half ago I wrote of the ironclad Alexander cocktail type. What? You haven't been experimenting with it like I asked? WELL DO IT NOW. I'll wait.

This here is a drink that myself and the adorable DJ HawaiianSkirt have been working on for a while now. It's still not perfect, because even cream can't tame the alcoholy kick of the Goldschlager, but damn if this isn't tasty. The Cognac provides just enough of a counterpoint to the Goldschlager such that it's not simply a "Goldschlager milkshake".


Hugo Bar Cocktail

1 oz table cream
1 oz Goldschlager
1 oz flavorful brandy, or Cognac

Shake ingredients in a shaker full of ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish in some way with your favorite cinnamon candy. (jelly beans pictured here)