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On The Menu

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.

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.

Champagne at the Signing of the 21st Amendment

Bubbling Sunshine from Grateful Californians

The very helpful Margie Healy at Korbel sent me this photo today of the very case of champagne that they sent to the White House for the toast of the end of prohibition.

What America Needs Now is a Drink!

Let us soothe our troubles and hoist a drink in celebration of repeal day!

a prescription for alcohol during prohibition

One of the most famous phrases in prohibition lore is certainly the best. On December 5th 1933 at 4:31pm President Franklin D. Roosevelt toasted the end of prohibition – American cocktailiana’s darkest 13 years – with the phrase “What America Needs Now is a Drink”. Bear in mind, that this was in one of the deepest parts of the depression, with millions of people out of jobs and the economy in tatters, Americans needed a drink for so many reasons.

One of the lesser known details of prohibition is what Roosevelt was drinking while toasting the end of the noble experiment. Supposedly he signed the 21st amendment and made his favorite cocktail, the Dirty Martini. I can’t say I am the biggest fan of the dirty martini but in the interest of history here is the recipe.

Roosevelt’s Dirty Martini

  • 2 oz Plymouth gin
  • 1/3 oz dry vermouth
  • a splash of olive brine
  • 1 green olive
  • 1 twist of lemon

Directions
Shake gin, vermouth and olive brine with ice, rim the glass with twist and strain drink into glass. Garnish with olive.

The problem is that there is some debate as to weather or not this actually happened. Most accounts (including by his secretary) say so, but like most cocktail history there is always a bit of haze around this. Another story is that his famous quote was accompanied by a toast with Korbel Sec Champagne. Korbel was one of the few American sparkling wine vineyards to survive prohibition and they sent the first post-prohibition case to the White House for the celebration. They claim on the tour at the winery that he did in fact toast the end with a glass of Korbel Sec. Incidentally, I don’t normally recommend Korbel Champagnes, but the Sec is their original recipe from the 19th century and it is only available at the winery or online. I like it quite a bit, in fact it is the champagne we had at our wedding.

While the Dirty Martini isn’t really my preferred tipple, and I don’t currently have any Korbel Sec available to me without a 2 hour drive, I do have plans to make up a selection of classics as well as some Corpse Reviver #2′s.

Corpse Reviver #2

  • 3/4 oz Plymouth Gin
  • 3/4 oz Lillet
  • 3/4 oz Cointreau
  • 3/4 oz Lemon Juice
  • 1 dash Absinthe

Directions
Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry.

Corpse Reviver 2

And so here we are 75 years later, cocktaildom is only now really recovering from the effects of prohibition, bartenders have finally rediscovered the drinks, ingredients, rituals and mythologies of the golden age of cocktails. There surely are parallels now to that December 5th 75 years ago, an immensely fragile economy, with many people concerned about the future, a charismatic new president fueled by hope. I can think of nothing more appropriate than his toast that so many people were anxiously awaiting… “What America Needs Now is a Drink!”. So make sure on Friday to celebrate Repeal Day, and raise a glass for your constitutional right to 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.

A Lot To Digestif

A little bit of something to look forward to after dinner.

With Thanksgiving and the holidays coming up, there is a lot of eating about to happen. One of the more underrated aspects of drinking is the lost art of the digestif, a slightly sweet drink of herbs steeped in alcohol. Digestifs are considered to help with digestion, something to do with increasing the production of digestive fluids after a large meal. But even if this is just a wives-tale, the ritual of drinking a delicious little something after dinner is a worthwhile process.

Chow recently had one of their great articles on making digestifs. I have made a couple of these before but i liked the idea of making a bunch at once, so I decided to give a few of their recipes a shot.

Basil Digestif
  • 15 Large Basil Leaves
  • 2 cups Everclear 151
  • 1 1/2 cup Simple Syrup

Directions
Place the basil leaves in a 1 quart jar with the Everclear and let it sit for 6 days at room temperature. After 6 days remove the leaves and add the simple syrup and stir. Store in the freezer and serve cold.

Meyer Lemon Digestif
  • 8 Meyer Lemons
  • 2 cups Everclear 151
  • 1 1/2 cup Simple Syrup

Directions
Peel the lemons in wide strips trying to get as little of the white pith as possible. Place the peels and Everclear in a 1 quart jar for 12 days at room temperature. After 12 days remove the peels and add the simple syrup and stir. Store in the freezer and serve cold.

Mandarin Orange Digestif
  • 5 Mandarin Oranges
  • 2 cups Everclear 151
  • 1 1/2 cup Simple Syrup

Directions
Peel the Oranges in wide strips trying to get as little of the white pith as possible. Place the peels and Everclear in a 1 quart jar for 6 days at room temperature. After 6 days remove the peels and add the simple syrup and stir. Store in the freezer and serve cold.

Update:I posted on how they turned out here. One thing I found was that the above recipes were very sweet, sweeter than anyone in my party could enjoy. I reduced the amount of simple syrup from 1.5 cups to 1 cup in the meyer lemon and mandarin and in the case of the basil (since it doesn’t have such a citrusy tang to it) i would reduce it to .75 cups of simple syrup.

The Delicious Pisco Sour

The national drink of Peru.

It seems like I have become obsessed with egg whites in cocktails in the last 6 months, and the Pisco Sour is one of my favorites. For those of you not familiar with Pisco, it is a lightly aged brandy from South America which is a bit like a surprisingly smooth cousin to grappa.

This drink is a sour, which is a type of cocktail that balances sweet and sour (other drinks in this family are the whiskey sour, the margarita and the sidecar). The Pisco Sour is a little more sour than sweet, and the pisco and angostura add a richness to it that is pretty unique if you haven’t had pisco before. My recipe replaces the standard simple syrup with agave nectar to add a little more depth to the drink.

I love this drink, but for a lot of people the egg white freaks them out. There has been a lot of discussion about how to use egg whites, but the generally accepted wisdom is that the only really dangerous part of an egg in terms of salmonella is on the outside of the shell (and perhaps in the yolk) but not in the white. If you are really paranoid you can buy pasteurized egg whites at the store which have the added advantage of not having to deal with cracking and deyolking a bunch of eggs.

Pisco Sour
  • 2 1/4 oz ounces pisco
  • 1 ounce fresh lime juice
  • 3/4 ounce agave nectar
  • 1 Dash Angostura bitters
  • 3/4 ounce egg white

Directions
Add all ingredients to cocktail shaker without ice and shake for 15 seconds. This helps emulsify the egg whites into a foamier texture. open the shaker and add ice and shake some more for another 30 seconds. Double strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Finally, drip 4 drops of angostura bitters on top of the foam and drag a toothpick through the drops to make a pattern.

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.

World’s Best Hawthorne Strainer

A simple and bulletproof cocktail strainer for the price of a beer.

Oxo Steel Strainer

I have spent a lot of time and money over the last couple of years searching for the most fundamental tools like shakers and strainers, but I finally ended my strainer search with the Oxo Steel Cocktail Strainer. It’s not actually all that specialized, but the little things really make it excel, like the finger grip on the back that allows you to keep the strainer firmly inserted in the shaker. The lack of handle also makes it very compact and easy to store, clean and quickly manipulate on the bar. It’s raised lip allows much faster pouring speed and it is extremely well engineered to last quite a long time. Perhaps best of all, like many great bar tools, it is incredibly cheap at around $6. So do yourself a favor and pick one up today.

Trader Vic’s Final Resting Place

The final resting place of one of Tiki’s giants.

I was surprised to find the grave of Trader Vic at mountain view cemetery in Oakland.

There are many things to say about Trader Vic and his contribution to cocktailiana, but one story that has always stuck with me is about his acquaintance with Ernest Lawrence, one of the architects of the atomic bomb. Lawrence was a huge fan of Trader Vic’s in Oakland and spent a good bit of time there, reportedly holding many meetings there regarding the development of the bomb.

Shortly after the war ended, when all of the world knew of the newly created atomic bomb, Lawrence returned to Trader Vic’s as described in this quote from the book “Brotherhood of the Bomb”.

With peace also came the return of familiar customs. On December 7, 1945, Lawrence hosted a cocktail party for the Rad Lab’s returnees at Berkeley’s elegant Claremont Hotel, Followed by a dinner at Trader Vic’s. (Ernest’s favorite restauranteur invented a new drink for the occasion-a lurid, smoking concoction of rum, blue Curacao, and dry ice dubbed the “A-bomb cocktail.” “It was ghastly,” Molly [Lawrence] remembered.)

It’s interesting to think that Vic Bergeron might have been one of the first people to establish the pop cultural obsession with the atomic future, and for the people who created the bomb none-the-less.

 

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