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.

MxMo: Si Se Peude Ponche

A mixologist named Sam wished to participate in the upcoming Mixology Monday event: Your Best. Sam didn't have a blog, but he submitted to me his post nonetheless. I'm posting his drink here for all to see, as it deserves to stand on its own.

Last fall, a friend was in the process of defending his thesis, which dealt with the social dynamics amongst migrant farm workers in the Northeast United States. His life wasn't very pleasant at that moment, and I wanted to offer something as a way to cheer him up. And what better way to lift a friend's spirits than with, well, spirits?

I decided to make a punch, largely because communal culture was a central theme in my friend's thesis, but also because I really like making punch. I had also just then stumbled upon a recipe for homemade apple cider, which I was determined to involve somehow. Then it struck me that migrant farm workers are largely responsible for picking the apples, and what better way to honor them than to use the fruits of their labor, while also paying homage to their native origins?

Because my friend's field work had mostly involved Mexican workers, I chose ingredients commonly found in that part of the world. For a name I initially settled upon Migrant Farmworker Punch, but decided instead to make things more interesting and call it Si Se Puede Ponche. "Si se puede!" being the rallying cry of Cesar Chavez's California farm worker movement. The punch was a big hit and I have since made it a number of times, tweaking quantities and ingredients along the way.

Si Se Puede Ponche

1 part homemade apple cider (though, a quality store bought variety will suffice)
1 part hibiscus tea (I usually squeeze a few dashes of lemon and ginger juice in here to make a it bit more dynamic)
1.5 parts Reposado Tequila (I've used both the highly affordable Pueblo Viejo and Espolon to great effect)
.25 parts Mezcal (Del Maguey Vida employed here)
.25 parts vanilla syrup (homemade)
2 dashes mole bitters (Bittermen's)

My best,


Saturday, April 2, 2011

Announcing MxMo LVI: Your Best

Your house DJ, with legs trembling, has decided to throw his backwards hat into the ring. Spirited Remix will be hosting Mixology Monday... a Remixology Monday, if you will. The date shall be April 11, 2011.

The theme is quite simple: your best. Give me the best drink recipe you've ever created.

No, I'm not really talking about that awesome drink that you made under pressure and on the fly for your friends one evening. I'm not talking about that kickass nightcap that you whipped up using the last bits from those few bottles that you needed to throw away.

I'm talking about that one drink that you've worked on for quite a while. The one that you've carefully tweaked over time until you found that perfect recipe. The one you've made tons of times: sometimes alone in contemplation, sometimes for a guest so that you could get their opinion.

If you don't have a drink that fits the above mold, then perhaps this is your excuse to revisit your old "original remixes", as I call them, and decide or even tweak one to be your best. If you've never made such a drink before, then begin experimenting right now! I want to see what makes your taste buds tick. Use your favorite spirits or flavors. Show me what your "drink of the house" would be.

Maybe you have a blog and you've already posted it before; I don't care. Give it to me again. Let us have this MxMo be a review of greatness, a bass-thumping medley of original remixes. This is a time for pomp over humility. Toot your own horn. Begin by telling me about your drink and then finish by letting the drink do the talking(see point 2b below).

The process is simple:

1) Find or create your best drink recipe.

2) Submit the recipe to me via a comment to this post, or to my email: dj.hawaiianshirt at If you have a blog, post about your recipe and give me the URL by the same methods. This needs to be done by 11:59 PM of April 11, 2011.

2a) Try not to make it a simple variation of another cocktail, if you can help it. I've explored the subject a bit here. Despite the fact that I may call it a remix, I want it to be original.

2b) The earlier you post, the better. So long as I can secure the ingredients (without extreme price or inconvenience), I will make your damn drink and share my thoughts on it. If I'm already wasted by the evening of April 11 from trying other drinks, I may not be able to get to yours.

3) Wait for greatness. I should have the MxMo LVI roundup posted by fairly early the next morning.

Don't disappoint.