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On The Menu

Archive for the ‘Bars’ Category

Remember the Maine, to Hell with Spain!

Any drink that commemorates an explosion is OK with me!

On February 15th 1898, in the dark of night, a blast ripped through the air in Havana. It was a huge explosion on the USS Maine killing 272 men. The blast was blamed on a mine, supposedly planted by the Spanish, that ignited her forward magazines destroying a third of the ship and putting her at the bottom of the harbor. In an event that foreshadowed the Gulf of Tonkin and the Iraq WMD’s, the sinking was used as a Causus Belli to start the Spanish-American War. The actual event is still shrouded in mystery and confusion as to whether or not it was just a convenient accident or an deliberate act of aggression, but aside from the American acquisition of Cuba, the Philippines, Puerto Rico and Guam, we also got a great cocktail out of the ordeal.

Most popularly chronicled by the cocktail writer and gadabout Charles H. Baker Jr., the Remember the Maine is essentially a tuned up Manhattan with the sweetness of Cherry Heering and the herbal zing of Absinthe. I thought of it recently after a trip to Heaven’s Dog, where they feature this drink and many others immortalized by Baker. When I got home I dusted off my copy of Jigger, Beaker and Glass and tracked down the recipe for the Remember the Maine. But I most preferred the recipe from St. John Frizell featured in this months Imbibe Magazine:

Remember the Maine
  • 2 oz Rye (Sazerac)
  • 3/4 oz Italian Vermouth (Carpano Antica)
  • 2 tsp Cherry Heering
  • .5 tsp Absinthe (St George Absinthe)

Directions
Stir all Ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry, and think of how grateful we are for having Guam.

Heaven’s Dog

San Francisco’s newest all star bar with a comedy name.

Nothing particularly revelatory in this post since I suspect most of you guys have now been to Heaven’s Dog the new so-called all star bar in San Francisco. I made it out last week to check out the new menu and a few of the drinks. I had the Pan American Clipper; a mix of calvados, lemon juice, grenadine, and absinthe, the Bumble Bee; which was rum, lime, honey and egg white, and a Remember the Maine; a combination of rye, sweet vermouth, cherry brandy and absinthe. I particularly enjoyed the Pan American Clipper, though all the drinks I had were fantastic. All of the recipes are adapted from Charles H. Baker’s Book Jigger, Beaker and Glass, which they have many copies of behind the bar.

I was impressed with the super attentive service, for example they even wiped the condensation off of my coaster between drinks. Ladies (and anyone else who carries a bag) will be pleased to know that they have another mark of distinction by having hooks under the bar. I also took note that they have a Kold-Draft ice maker, generally the mark of a bar that knows what it is doing, and that they were also one of the few bars in SF that are using large ice blocks in drinks, something that has been pretty common in New York bars for a while.

If you have even a passing interest in good cocktails make sure you get out to this place, I haven’t had a drink there I didn’t love, and you can’t really go wrong with an off night since all the bartenders are so good.

We like it Spicy!

Mixing up some Indian cocktails for Mixology Monday.

Every month a group of adventurous spirits gathers for an event called Mixology Monday where each participant offers up a blog post featuring a cocktail recipe that fits within the monthly theme. This month’s theme is Spice and it is hosted by Craig at Tiki Drinks and Indigo Firmaments. His basic guidelines were as follows:

Spice should give you plenty of room to play – from the winter warmers of egg nog, wassail and mulled products to the strange and interesting infusions of pepper, ceubub, grains of paradise, nutmeg — what have you! I would like to stretch the traditional meanings of spice (as the bark, seed, nut or flowering part of a plant used for seasoning) to basically anything used for flavoring that isn’t an herb. Salt? Go for it. Paprika? I’d love to see you try. I hear that cardamom is hot right now.

It turns out that this couldn’t really be better timed for me as I have been obsessed with spices in cocktails recently. About a month ago some friends and I planned to go see Slumdog Millionaire, the new Danny Boyle film about an Indian kid who ends up on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, and spends the film reflecting on his past in the slums of Mumbai. We were all getting together before the film and I was asked to come up with some Indian themed cocktails. Well, after a bit of research, it turned out there weren’t really many non-lassi based drinks out there that were Indian themed. This surprised me considering how flavorful indian food is. Scott Beattie had a few recipes that were inspiring in their use of coconut milk and cilantro and pickled hearts of palm but they were all really more southeast asian than Indian, and I wanted something with cumin, and coriander and turmeric.

We only had a short notice to prepare for the party so I took the quick and easy route and made some syrups that would allow me to Indian-up nearly anything with some strong flavors. I made a coriander syrup and a cumin syrup. The cumin syrup turned out amazing and outrageously flavorful and only a small amount was needed to give any drink a hint of the spice route. The coriander syrup was much more subtle but intriguing to mix with as it added a flavor that was at once familiar but mysterious.

The following week though, it was like the Indian-cocktail rosetta stone was recovered. That was when Jonny Raglin introduced his Spice Route cocktail menu at the new southern indian restaurant Dosa in San Francisco. It was like a trip though a new world of cocktail flavors, darjeeling tea cordial, mango gastrique, curry nectar, hell-flower tincture, yogurt. It sounded amazing, and after a visit, I was not disappointed. The next day I took a trip to Berkley bowl, one of the greatest produce markets i have ever been to, and picked up some kaffir lime leaves, curry leaves, celery root, cilantro, sweet limes and fresh tumeric and began experimenting.

Out of that came two drinks that worked pretty well, the first was based loosely on a gimlet recipe using pisco and the coriander syrup. It is called the Dhaniya Nimbu. Dihaniya is Hindi for coriander and nimbu is Hindi for lime. The second drink was inspired very much by the drinks at Dosa, and is called the Cumin Get It, which is admittedly a pretty lame name but I couldn’t avoid such a golden opportunity for a pun.

Dhaniya Nimbu
  • 1.5 oz Pisco
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • 1 oz coriander nectar
  • 1 sprig cilantro

Directions
shake all ingredients except cilantro and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with cilantro sprig.

Coriander Nectar
  • 1 tbsp Coriander seeds
  • 1 cup water
  • .5 cup sugar

Directions
Heat coriander seeds in a hot skillet for a minute or so to release the aromatics. Add the seeds to a sauce pan and crush them with a muddler. Add the water and bring the mixture to a boil. simmer for 5 minutes and add the sugar stirring until it is dissolved. Remove from heat, let cool and strain out the coriander seeds from the mixture, bottle and refrigerate. Mixture should keep for about a week.

Cumin Get It
  • 1.5 oz Gin
  • .75 oz Light coconut milk
  • .75 oz Lime juice
  • .75 oz Cumin syrup
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves

Directions
Place all ingredients except for one of the kaffir lime leaves in a shaker and shake very well as you would a drink with egg white. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with remaining kaffir lime leaf.

Cumin syrup
  • 1 tsp Cumin seeds
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar

Directions
Heat cumin seeds in a hot skillet for a minute or so to release the aromatics. Add the seeds to a sauce pan and add the water and bring the mixture to a boil. simmer for 5 minutes and add the sugar stirring until it is dissolved. Remove from heat, let cool and strain out the cumin seeds from the mixture, bottle and refrigerate. Mixture should keep for about a week.

Spice Route Cocktail Menu at Dosa

A delicious new Indian themed cocktail menu.

I briefly mentioned it in the elsewhere links in the sidebar a while back but Dosa, the southern Indian restaurant in San Francisco has just opened a new place and with it comes a fascinating new cocktail menu. When Camper English over at Alcademics posted the menu, that really got me excited about checking this place out. Jonny Raglin, the bar manager from Absinthe, has created a menu that is very unique and full of crazy spices, herbs and gastriques that don’t normally find their way into cocktails.

We got to try 9 of the 10 cocktails on the menu (they were out of something in the Mood Indigo) and all of them were at the very least conversation worthy and tastebud provoking. Several were total standouts, like the Juhu Palm, the Batsman and the Smoked Cup. The Juhu Palm was the crowd favorite with a blend of Gin, coconut milk, lime juice, Kaffir lime leaf, bird’s eye chili tincture and a spanked curry leaf. The Batsman contains Gin, Darjeeling tea cordial, lemon juice & ginger beer with a sprig of mint. The Smoked Cup was incredibly flavorful with Mezcal, Pimms, black cardamom tincture, ginger beer, cucumber and smoked sea salt.

In addition to being great drinks, they also pair fantastically with the food, one of the drinks, the Laughing Lassi, contains Genever, yogurt, cucumber, grains of paradise, agave nectar and Angostura bitters. The yogurt and cucumber are a great counterpoint to the spicy ingredients in the food.

If you are in the bay area, take the time to check out Dosa. For anyone with even a passing interest in good cocktails, the bar menu here is inventive and exciting, and tasting through the menu is as entertaining as it is delicious.

Now Open: Cask!

Finally, liquor stores are getting the same attention that wine shops have had.

Holy smokes! I made it over to Cask today, the new liquor store opened by the Bourbon & Branch crew, though calling it a liquor store is kind of a misstatement. They have an incredible selection of spirits that is pretty much unmatched in the bay area, including some special bottlings that are only available at Cask. The back half of the store has an excellent collection of barware and tools, which might be one of the most noteworthy aspects of the store, as there really is no one specializing in selling bar tools in the bay area. They also have a pretty wide selection of books, though there isn’t much here that couldn’t be found on amazon for considerably less. I would love to see them have signed copies or something since they know most of the people that wrote the books.

I’ve been eagerly awaiting these guys getting this place of the ground for nearly a year now, and I have to say that I’m not disappointed. I expect that I will be spending a ridiculous amount of money there on a fairly regular basis.

The Gilded Lily at Alembic

A bit showy but complex and delicious nonetheless.

A surprisingly good blend of gin, yellow chartreuse, orange flower water, a splash of champagne with a float of gold leaf. a little showy but it just reminds me of how versatile and complex chartreuse can be.

Flora in Oakland

A new bar in Oakland is setting the tone for great cocktails in the East Bay.

Got around to going to Flora in oakland a month ago or so, and was really satisfied by the cocktail menu as well as the talent of the bartenders. The bar menu was put together by Eric Adkins who also runs the incredible bar at Slanted Door in the city. There were several drinks that were particularly enjoyable (including the one pictured here that i can’t remember the name of), but i most liked the Filibuster. Food and Wine has the recipe:

The Filibuster
  • 1 1/2 ounces rye whiskey
  • 3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 ounce pure maple syrup
  • Dash of Angostura bitters
  • 1 large egg white
  • Ice
  • 1 lemon twist

Directions
Fill a cocktail shaker with the rye, lemon juice, maple syrup, Angostura bitters and egg white and shake well. Add ice and shake again. Strain the drink into a chilled coupe and garnish with the lemon twist.

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