Friday, April 29, 2011

Pegu | 15 down 260 to go

Dry & citrusy...the Pegu from colonial Burma
I love it when H & M lead with a short but tantalizing history of a cocktail, especially one as exotic and literary as the Pegu.  This drink was fantastically popular during the 1920’s, 30’s & 40’s, but traces back to Burma of the late 1800’s.  The bev gets its name from The Pegu Club which was 50 miles outside Rangoon and was the regular haunt of British colonial officers.  One officer in particular may be a reason for it’s 20th century popularity.  For several years, George Orwell was famously stationed in Burma and a frequent patron of the club.
For my family back East, a quick Google led me to the club’s namesake in SoHo and purports to be an establishment dedicated to classic cocktailing culture.  How cool is that?  Maybe you could check it out and report back.  Or perhaps a field trip cum family reunion when I’m home next.  For research purposes, of course!  I sense a plan hatching…

H & M claim “the Pegu is more than mildly in resurgence, meaning that this inspiring gin aperitif has been successfully ordered at most bars and dining establishments.”  Now granted, the copyright of the bible is 1998.  But still, has anyone else heard of this tipple before?  I know I haven’t.
The Pegu is a good way, say the authors, for people who don’t like Angostura bitters to acclimate.  They also suggest adding a couple dashes of orange bitters as training wheels for the bitters-averse.  We tried it both with the orange bitters and without.  This is a beautiful, dry, citrusy drink.  Very refreshing.  If you make it with only the Angosturas, you can smell the difference when shaking, but the taste is not terribly different.  Though it does go from dry with the orange to dry, dry, dry with Angosturas alone.  An easy-breezy one to mix and a definite for a summer evening after a day in the sun.  Santé!

3 parts gin
1 part Cointreau
1 part lime juice
2 dashes Angostura bitters
(2 more dashes orange bitters for a bit more citrus and less dryness)

Shake with cracked ice and serve in chilled Martini glasses.  Garnish with a lime twist.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Mint Julep | 14 down 261 to go

Sickness has continued to hang out in the Dilettante household.  This week The Partner came down with the Ick.  So we’ve gone easy again on the bible study.  Thinking about what my father does when he gets sick – like once every 10 years, the lucky son of a gun – I turned to bevs  that might make The poor Partner feel better.  Part of dad’s prescription includes a stiff shot of bourbon.  Since he’s never sick longer than a few days, a bourbon bev seemed a no-brainer.  What could have more powerful medicinal qualities with it’s combination of bourbon and fresh mint but a mint julep?

Turns out he wasn’t too interested in partaking.  But I was a trooper and downed it for him.  Don’t wanna relapse!  This was my second julep ever.  The first was at a Kentucky Derby party hosted by my college chaplain, a  Louisville native.  At the ripe old age of 20 I thought it was pretty disgusting.  I can remember thinking, “There are leaves in my drink!”  After a couple sips I ditched it on the kitchen counter amid other party detritus.  This time the only thing I left on the counter was an empty.  This will definitely be a welcome summer alternative to the trendy and (I’m gonna say it) tired mojito.  The only thing I'll adjust is to dial back on the amount of simple syrup suggested by H & M.  Definitely use shaved or crushed ice.  This one is a classic.  And with my now more grown up tastes, I say with good reason!

Mint Julep
3 oz. bourbon
2-4 T. simple syrup
6 sprigs of fresh mint

Mix 3 oz. of bourbon, 6 sprigs of mint, and 2-4 T. simple syrup in a pint glass.  Add 3 pieces of ice and muddle for about a minute.  Let stand for several minutes.  Strain into glass filled with shaved ice.  Top with seltzer and a mint sprig.

H & M suggest for mintier bevs, skip the ice when muddling and then pour all the muddled mixture into the serving glass followed by the shaved ice.

UPDATE:  Ah, the MJ.  As classic as it is, this one turned out to be equivalent to the bad wine you take out in desperation when the good stuff has run out.  While you think it would be a decent follow-on to the Bourbon Squash, it's a bit of a gear-stripper despite the fact that they're both tall bourbon drinks.  And if you're trying to make a transition via the mint from depleted mojitos or caipirinhas -- oh, please, Gentle Reader, learn from our mistake and don't try it!

On their own, mint juleps are not bad.  And no matter where you're sipping one, you can't help but feel you're in Kentucky watching the horse races.  But coming off another bev, they tend to be heavy and syrupy on the palate.  Not enjoyable at all.  This would be one to start with and then after a round, transition to something brighter if you're in for a long day of tippling.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Milk Punch | 13 down 262 to go

This week at a networking event a conversation turned to cocktailing.  Telling a fellow networker of the blog he noted that he’d been learning more about scotch and asked what cocktails I could recommend.  At that point I realized that I’d only done one.  So I figured I needed to do something about that: Milk Punch.  In the process, I’ve discovered a wonderful new practice.  I’ll call it the “neighbor shaker”.  A friend and neighbor has been working hard and unable to socialize as she’d like.  So I filled a shaker with the tipple, hopped in the elevator and knocked on her door.
She opened the door to find me shaking a tin.  “If Mohammed doesn’t have time to come to the mountain, then the mountain will bring cocktails to Mohammed.  There’s only enough here for one round.  That’s how long your break will last.  Then it’s back to work!”  She laughed and invited me in.

We sipped the first sip and a smile spread across my face.  It was an icy thin eggnog.  I couldn’t help but tell L- about my grandmother who was in charge of the Christmas bev.  She too used bourbon instead of rum.  She was big on tasting.  For balance and quality purposes, of course!  Still, by the time she and the nog emerged from the kitchen she was flush with Holiday spirit…and a might bit silly!  Like Gram’s eggnog, this is not a kiddy cocktail.  It is full on an adult sippin’ beverage.  While tasty, odds are there won’t be a second round of these.  But the good news is with 3 ounces of bourbon and a healthy splash of rum, it’s strong enough to get the job done all by its lonesome.

Milk Punch
3 oz bourbon
3 oz milk
1/2 t. dark rum
1T. simple syrup

Shake liquids with cracked ice. Strain into chilled tumbler or highball glass.  Sprinkle with nutmeg.  Oh, and use whole milk.  Please, no blue gruel with skim!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Bellini | 12 down 263 to go

Definitely not the light pink hue of white peaches.
Dilettante has been a little under the weather this week.  When the nose is stuffy and throat a little sore, cocktailing is not something that feels right.  So we’re taking it easy with “healthy” ingredients, hence the Bellini.  After all, it is made with peach juice.  But here’s a heads-up.  I was not faithful to this recipe so we’ll need to revisit this one along with the Astoria.

1 oz white peach puree
4 oz prosecco

Peel & puree 3-4 very ripe white peaches;
Mix nectar with 1 oz simple syrup.
Strain through course cheesecloth; refrigerate until chilled
Pour 1 oz of nectar into frosted champagne flute; top with prosecco.

April in the Midwest, white peaches aren’t exactly in season, so this weekend I used bottled peach nectar.  Come summer time we’ll mix as H & M suggest and update. 

To accompany our cocktail, The Partner prepared supper by appetizer:  a spread of cheeses, olives, steamed mussels, lamb “popsicles”, garlic shrimp.   The light sweetness of the Bellini was the perfect complement to all the savory saltiness of the menu.  For the first round we mixed the proportions as described above.  Using bottled juice it didn’t yield that much peachiness mixed as such.   Playing with the proportions in subsequent rounds yielded more peach.  The Partner commented that contemporary tastes have changed and that perhaps the proportions in the bible are from a different time with different tastes.  Totally plausible.  But then again, when made with the proper ingredients, these proportions may hold up.  We’ll have to wait and see.

Some cocktailalia: H & M note that the drink was created at Harry’s Bar in Venice – the regular haunt of such notables as Hemingway, Sinclair Lewis & Orson Welles and was apparently inspired by the soft pinks used by Venetian painter Giovanni Bellini.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Jasmine | 11 down 264 to go

The Partner:  I can see it now.

Me: What?

The Partner: The next time we're out with J- and  M- and the waiter comes to take our drink order and this time it'll be "3 vodkas and a Jasmine."

Gentle Reader, do be sure to hear that cocktail name as it was said, by stretching the "a" out for a good long time and giving  the "s" the slightest sibilance:  "three vodkas and a ... Jaaaaaasssmine."

He can be so funny sometimes.

As it turns out, the Jasmine is not an old classic but a relative newcomer, being named after Matt Jasmine, formerly of the world famous Chez Panisse.

We made this one right after the medicinal Drink Without a Name.  And while it looks like the love child of a Cosmopolitan and a Pink Squirrel, it was the perfect next step from DWAN as it tasted exactly like fresh squeezed grapefruit juice.  An unexpected and welcome surprise.  So much so that by the end of our second round, Someone was passing me his empty and nonchalantly asking for another.

Me: Huh….  Looks like the next time we're out with J- and M- it'll be two vodkas and two Jasmines!

The Partner: [Sheepish sideways smirk.]

Me: Don't worry, baby, I'll teach you how to say it like a man.

1 1/2 oz gin
1/4 oz Cointreau
1/4 oz Campari
3/4 oz lemon juice

Shake with cracked ice; strain into chilled cocktail glass and garnish with lemon twist

Drink Without a Name | 10 down 265 to go

To make the Drink Without a Name, I had to purchase Chartreuse and learned several things I never knew before. (Hey, alcohol as a “gateway” drug…to learning!  Ha!)  While it comes in two colors, yellow & green, it’s the green that is traditional.  In fact, the name of the color derived from the liqueur and not the other way around.  Chartreuse has been made exclusively by Carthusian monks for about 270 years and named after their monastery in the Chartreuse Mountains of Grenoble, France.  The recipe is highly guarded, though we know it’s made with 130 herbs and aged in oak barrels.  It’s one of the few liqueurs to continue to improve in the bottle as it ages.
As for its taste, it is exceedingly smooth, very herbal and bitter.  Even medicinal.  It reminded me of a digestif my friend brought me from the Czech Republic, once upon a time, Becherovka.  It is not an inexpensive liqueur and now I know why.   Given that it packs quite a wallop and challenges the contemporary palate, one doesn’t drink it in vast quantities.  Therefore, it will last forever.
I had high hopes for this cocktail.  How could you not with its cool, pale green hue made even more vibrant with the orange garnish.  But at the risk of sounding downright Rumsfeldian, the DWAN tastes like Old Europe in a cocktail glass.  Still, we were troupers and finished our medicine before we moved on to our next Saturday evening refreshment.

Drink Without a Name
2 oz vodka
1/4 oz Cointreau
1/8 oz Chartreuse

Mix over cracked ice, stir to chill and serve in chilled cocktail glass.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Floridita | 9 down 266 to go

Bases, mixers & accents for the Floridita
We’ve been having major wireless router issues for the past few weeks.  After about 8 hours total on the phone & chat with Cisco & HP, I finally decided to hire someone to come in and make a fix on-site.  Unfortunately, he could only come after 7pm on Friday.  Really?  That’s the end of happy hour!

At 7:15, 2 Diablos in, and having just mixed our next bev --  the Floridita -- he knocked on the door.  The Partner let him in, directing him upstairs to my office, which doubles as our entertainment room and wet bar.  As he settled in to troubleshoot, our new cocktails sat waiting.  After some time, I couldn’t take it anymore with these two frosty bevs calling my name.   

“Well, this is our usual happy hour, can I off you a cocktail?”  
He heaved a sigh clearly indicating he’d had a week and said, “Yes, that’d be great.  What do you have?”  

I told him we have anything he could want.  I took a quick opportunity to tell him about the cocktail project.  “I just made a vintage cocktail called a Floridita,"   I said, pointing to the dainty, pink concoction in a small Martini glass.  "I could make another one for you.”  

Graciously he said, “I think I’ll just have a beer.”  His thought bubble: “Yeah…they’re gay.”  

A funny moment.  

Leaving him to do his thing, I took our cocktails downstairs.  Clink.  Sip.  And The Partner’s face collapses into the tip of his nose.  “Do we have to finish it?”  

It’s pretty hard to describe, but it evokes a flavor from childhood.  What, I can't put my finger on.  The crème do cocao gives it a cocoa essence without being chocolaty, but the overall effect is too sweet.
All-in-all, the tech guy’s beer was sounding real good at that moment.

Diablo | 8 down 267 to go

It looks like a pink lemonade, but watch out! 
After writing this entry I’m going to need a new tag in the tag cloud.  Something like “summer” or “steamy weather” or “hot day on the deck”, for that’s the perfect place for sipping the Diablo.  And even though the first round was not the best, on only his second sip The Partner declared, “I could drink a lot of these.”

1 jig tequila
¾ oz crème de cassis
½ ounce lime juice
Ginger ale

Stir the tequila, cassis & lime juice with cracked ice; strain into chilled, iced Collins glasses; top with ginger ale and garnish with lime slice.

Caveats:  We did two rounds of the Diablo.  The first wasn’t as enjoyable with both the nose and slight taste of the bathroom of a girly-girl’s first apartment: all calico, soap & potpourri.  H & M advise using as clear a tequila as possible which we did (and be sure it’s not a smoked variety).  However, in our second round I used Cuervo Especial which was darker than the clear and lighter than a resposado.  Also, I’d recommend not filling the glass with ginger ale.  With the first round I left about a ¼ inch collar.  In the second it was closer to ½ inch.  These two subtle changes made quite a difference.  It was sweeter, but in a refreshing way, and lost all the soapiness of the first round.  A most enjoyable and refreshing cocktail.  Enjoy this summer!