Monday, March 29, 2010

Recipe and Rating: Twelve Mile Limit, take 2

About two months ago, I made a cocktail that Rumdood posted on his site in order to provide my take on it. My take turned out to be misguided, for both the venerable Frederic and the Dood himself made comments on my post, declaring my rum choice inferior.

This goes to show how much variability there is in the "rum" category. I had used Appleton Estate White, a fairly decent light Jamaican rum, but apparently it didn't pack the "punch" that the drink needed. I was advised to use a rum stronger in flavor, and so I've gone overboard in this advice by using Neisson Blanc.

Neisson Blanc is rhum agricole, which is basically a type of rum made in the French West Indies fermented from raw sugar cane juice, instead of molasses. The result is usually a high proof fiery mixture which tastes grassy and rubbery instead of smooth and spicy. What's worse, I'm using a blanc rhum agricole, which is "rested" in barrels for only a few months, while even the lightest white rums are usually aged much longer. The resting is used more so that sulfuric compounds can evaporate from the distillate, not for aging. The product of all this is a harsh spirit which tastes entirely of its source material, and is not favored by spirit novices (if the past rum tasting that I hosted with friends is any indication). So here I go, trying the drink again with this very very different r(h)um.

Twelve Mile Limit

1 oz white rum (used Neisson Blanc)
.5 oz brandy (used Salignac VS cognac)
.5 oz rye whiskey (used Old Overholt)
.5 oz grenadine (used 1-2-3 Cocktails brand... all natural with cane sugar)
.5 oz lemon juice (fresh squeezed)

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

What a difference. When last time I could almost only taste lemon, now I can taste everything. It's as if the lemon juice needed a strong rum to keep it in check, and when done, they both fall to the background. I immediately tasted the cognac, and in the background, the nuttiness of rye. As I said above, rhum agricole is known to be harsh and uninviting, but in this I can only taste its positives; its fire and rubber remain docile as its floral flavors take over. I never thought this one ingredient could change so much, but it did.

Rating: 7/10

Sunday, March 21, 2010

MxMo: Punch

The word "punch" means many things today, and almost none of them grasp the word's original meaning. As a man proudly built from the little juice boxes of his childhood, I still appreciate the high fructose corn syrup- and red #3-laden products on store shelves which call themselves "punch". I don't really care to talk much about the evolution of punch, but I do care to talk about how this month has a punch-themed Mixology Monday, hosted by Hobson's Choice. The theme was inspired by cocktail and spirit legend David Wondrich, who does care to talk about the evolution of punch... in his new book.

I've wound back the clock a bit this time to make a traditional 18th Century British punch, one of the original iterations of the stuff. Word has it (thanks to Wondrich and others) that the concept of punch originated with the British Royal Navy, when Naval Officers' wine stores began to spoil before their voyages had concluded. Thirsty and irritable, they eventually began mixing spirits (which didn't spoil) with other palatable flavors to create potable mixtures which lended the desired effects. They used whatever they had around; as we know, the British Royal Navy covered alot of ground by 1800. Arrack from the Pacific, rum from the caribbean, and citrus fruits from the tropics were usually included. In fact, the first versions of grog could be considered punch, in this sense. Punches generally had the same low proof of wine so as to mimic its easy consumption.

What we're making today isn't the officer's punch, but rather the kind that was probably drunk by the nobles back in England. The punches were indeed prepared in bowls and imbibed communally during social events. The punch that we're aiming for is the sort that was probably drunk at parties during the latter quarter of the 1700s; while the melodies of Johann Sebastian Bach played in the background, stodgy aristocrats and politicians would sip their punch and perhaps complain about names like Washington, Adams, Franklin, and Greene. By this time, rum from Jamaica was imported regularly, as well as various fruits from the tropics, and so we're comfortable with making a punch that uses the familiar ingredients from the Old World, yet also a few of the exotic, the kind to which they would have had a bit of access.

I say "we" because joining me for this venture is my friend Remington, after whose name we shall fittingly name our punch. We researched various old-style punch recipes and settled on our own combination of ingredients that we feel are fairly period, and in a combination that is in the realm of a proper punch. It's not the simplest or quickest drink to make, but we believe its authenticity warrants making a small batch, just once...


Remington Punch

**This recipe can be easily halved. Don't forget to halve both the ingredients and the amounts of water involved.**

4 cups water
24 cloves
8 slices orange
8 slices lemon
12 chunks pineapple

2 cups water
2 bags (or servings of loose leaf) black tea
2 bags (or servings of loose leaf) green tea
5-6 tsp demerara or white sugar (depends on taste)

1 cup dark rum
1 cup brandy
.5 cup scotch

Step 1: Brew the fruit and cloves mixture by adding the orange slices, the lemon slices, and the cloves to a small pot. Add the water (for the brew), and bring to a boil. Let it boil for 2-3 minutes, then turn off the heat. Wait till it cools completely, strain, and put into your punch bowl.

Step 2: Bring the next amount of water (for the tea) to a boil, add tea, and let brew for about 6 minutes. Remove the tea leaves/bags, and dissolve the sugar into the brewed tea. Pour into your punch bowl.

Step 3: Add spirits to your punch bowl.

Serve in small glasses or tea cups, with the optional garnish of an orange and/or lemon slice, and grated nutmeg. Serve at room temperature or warm (not hot).

The flavor of this punch is dry and complex. The strongly-brewed tea adds the underlying body of the drink, lending a bitterness and dryness that defines it. The brewed water adds the slightest bit of fruitiness and clove, which supports the tea, and doesn't overpower it. The brandy gives its acidity and backbone, the dark rum falls to the background with just a bit of smokiness, and the scotch adds a bit more smoke and a pungent kick that perfects every sip. This is a balanced drink, perfect if you'd like to curse some Yankee rebels and eat some scones.

Of similar fare is the old-style milk punch. Milk punch has many iterations, from the whiskey and milk concoctions to the complicated and old school punches that Erik over at the Underhill-Lounge makes, where milk is used as a curdling agent and for its lactic acid! What we have here today is a recipe using mostly European ingredients, and was inspired by this recipe at Saveur, but with a few minor changes.

Milk Punch

1 oz half-and-half
2 oz whole or 2% milk
1.5 oz brandy
1 dash absinthe
1 dash green Chartreuse

Shake all the ingredients except the nutmeg in a shaker, then strain into a punch glass filled with ice. Garnish with nutmeg.

The nutmeg is what makes this drink so good... if you don't have it, don't make it. The acidity and fruitiness of the brandy cuts through the dairy, and the two green spirits play support. This is a really fun drink... great for brunches!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

How to Char a Barrel

This nifty clip comes to us from Camper English at Camper is one of the most prolific booze bloggers around. This time, he's on the west coast of Guatemala seeing how Zacapa produces their exceptional rum... one of the few rums not produced in the Caribbean!

He recorded a few seconds that display how they char the inside of their barrels. Suddenly, I don't feel so bad about not re-charring my own little one....