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Archive for the ‘Books’ 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.

Cooper’s Cocktail

Finally a delicious use for one of the world’s strangest bitter substances.

I read recently in the Atlantic that of all of the Fernet Branca sold in the US, 25% of it is sold in San Francisco! For a drink that makes so many people gag on their first sample, it is pretty remarkable that so much could be sold in one place. For anyone not experienced with Fernet, it is a super bitter amaro that is made from a bewilderingly large number of spices and herbs including myrrh, chamomile, and saffron, and it tastes a bit like a mixture of toothpaste and cough syrup. Generally speaking most bartenders I know enjoy it. My guess is that dealing with an increasingly cocktail-aware audience of bar patrons, bartenders have to like something pretty weird to stay ahead of the curve. Either way, count me in – I love Fernet. I enjoy pretty much all bitters and amari, but there is always a special place for Fernet with me.

Though try as I might I could never find a cocktail that it would work in. At one point I was feeling like I was homing in with an unnamed combination of honey, fernet and rye but it just wasn’t perfect… the fernet is just so shouty and overpowering nothing else could compete with it. But then one evening while flipping through the 2008 Food & Wine Cocktails book and came across one of what is presumably Jamie Beaudreau’s concoctions called the Cooper’s Cocktail. It is a blend of Fernet, Rye and St Germain, and the St Germain and orange twist really do their job to balance out the Fernet.

Cooper’s Cocktail

  • 2 Oz Rye
  • 3/4 Oz St Germain
  • 1/4 Oz Frenet Branca
  • Orange Peel

Directions
Stir all ingredients except orange peel with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Twist orange peel over the glass and then drop it into the drink.

Raspberry Shrub

The classic colonial cooler quenches quickly.

One of the more neglected liquid flavors is vinegar, most people think of it and their mouth puckers up. But while white wine vinegar is quite tart, it also brings out the sweetness in its surrounding flavors, which makes it a very interesting replacement for citrus in cocktails. It just so happens that people figured this out quite some time ago, making a concoction called the Shrub in American Colonial times. It was an excellent way to preserve fruit for long time without refrigeration and it turned out that the mixture of vinegar, fruit and sugar tasted incredible.

Eric Felten’s incredible book “How’s Your Drink?” covers a lot of the background on the drink and has the recipe for both the shrub syrup and the rum shrub cocktail:

Raspberry Shrub
  • 1 cup Water
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 2 pints Raspberries
  • 2 cups White Wine Vinegar

Directions
Bring water to a boil and stir in sugar. Reduce the heat and add the raspberries stirring for 10 minutes. Add Vinegar and bring to a boil for 2 minutes. Let cool and strain into a bottle, and keep refrigerated.

Rum Shrub
  • 2 oz Dark Rum
  • 1 oz Raspberry Shrub
  • 3 oz Ginger Beer

Directions
Shake the rum and shrub over ice and strain into an ice filled glass. Add ginger ale and lightly stir to mix.

Bourbon at its Best

Just finished up


Just finished up this weekend and it is is great. A fantastic overview of bourbon in Kentucky, that has interviews with most of the master distillers at each of the only 10 or so remaining distilleries (many of the master distillers are descended from the family of jim beam). It also has a pretty good guide in the back of many of the available bourbons on the market today. A good initiation into bourbon but still interesting enough to someone that is knowledgeable.

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