Monday, October 20, 2014

Mixology Monday XC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perfect Jolly Roger

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

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

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Review: Arctic Chill Slow Melting Ice Spheres

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do I have any complaints?

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

How does Arctic Chill compare to a competitor?

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

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

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

Monday, January 20, 2014

Mixology Monday: Highballs

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

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

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

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

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

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

Citrus Vodka & Tonic

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

Tequila & Coke

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

Bourbon & Pepsi

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