Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Cocktail Chat | Recent Repeats

It’s been a crazed couple of weeks and the Dilettante has been a bit remiss about keeping up with the bevy of new bevs we’ve been trying.  But between work, The Partner’s birthday, and a holiday weekend, there’s been precious little time to write.  My goal is to get everything up to date this week.

In the meantime, I thought I’d share some recent repeats we’ve enjoyed on the social scene and on the roof now that the weather in the Old Northwest is finally looking less like the weather of the New Northwest.
I’m here to report that I’ve living the whole point of this project, not ordering my old Ketel and instead have settled into Manhattans when I go out.  It’s tasty and one any bartender can make.  Back in March, Betz commented on the Manhattan post that a bartender once recommended that she try a dash of Worcestershire in her Manhattan.  One Kiss Creations then tried it and liked it.  Intrigued, I gave it a shot.  It’s wonderful!  When just a dash is added, the sauce doesn’t give any discernable flavor, actually.  Instead it imparts a depth, some dimension.  The foodie in my wants to say it’s umami, the 5th taste the Japanese have identified as “savoriness”.  It’s an enjoyable counterpoint to the sweetness of the rye & vermouth.  So I highly recommend!  Thanks for the suggestion, Betz!

For the Chicagoan followers, head over to Sprout, Dale Levitsky’s place, of Top Chef fame.  He makes his own Worcestershire, crazy man that he is.  Not only are the Manhattans incredibly well made, but if you ask for the homemade stuff they’ll add it to your drink.  (Then be sure to order the Steak course on the tasting menu.  But be warned, it’ll be a tough transition back to Lea & Perrin’s.)

As the weather’s turned warmer here in Chicago, I’ve gone back to the “summer” tag.  Twice now I’ve made the Pegu at home.  I then ordered it out, again at Sprout.  Despite the fact that H & M say it’s making a resurgence, the server had no idea what it was and needed some coaching.  Taking the chance paid off handsomely.  He even asked if I had a preference of bitters.  He then wanted feedback to take back to the bartender.  Impressively, the first try was spot on – pale orange color, citrusy dryness, refreshingly cool.

The other cocktail we’ve had now more than once is the Cuba Libre, both at home and out.  This one too, needs a little coaching if ordered out.  Be on alert, though.  If you find a mixologist who has heard of a CL, be prepared to coach that this is not simply a rum & coke by a hoity toity name, or that’s what you’ll likely get.  I busted this one out for the season inaugural of our roof deck.  While The Partner sipped wine spritzers in the 90 degree sunshine, I went to CL route.  When our friends, C., N. and baby A. dropped in for a surprise visit, C. joined me.  “Wow,” he said, coming up from his first sip.  “This is nice…  I like it!  It’s very refreshing…  I could drink a lot of these, especially on a hot summer day.”  

Not only do I love validation, I also love not drinking alone! The great thing about the Cuba Libre too is that it’s a soothing hair of the dog after a night of over-indulgence.

What’s been very interesting as I venture out with new beverage requests is the responses of the servers and bartenders tasked with stretching filling my order.  They’re expanding their own repertoire and their responses have run the gamut.   Everything from the server at Sprout who wanted feedback for the mixologist and asked my bitters preference, to the bartender who sent out a bottle of Worcestershire sauce with my drink because he was too timid to add the unexpected accent to my drink.   Still another listened to my ingredients list and then consulted a recipe book he had stashed under the bar.  I love that one.  There’s no shame in not knowing if you know where to go to find the info you need. 
So far, taking the chance to ask for a new cocktail when going out and coach it along makes for some great conversation with new and interesting people.  Plus, it’s good to have the only unique cocktail at the table or along the bar.  After all, these are the things of which cocktailing’s all about.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Old Fashioned | 24 down 251 to go

In another nod to the ancestors and not wanting to work too hard for this evening’s cocktail, we went with the Old Fashioned.  This is another one I remember the adults drinking at parties when I was a kid.  The cherry and the orange in the glass always seemed so exotic to me.  And the rich smell of the bourbon mingling with the pipe smoke from my father and grandfather… heady stuff.

This is another super easy one that requires some muddling, which is always fun.  And can I say, wow, right to the brain!  Starting with a real kick, they get sweeter and easier as they goes down.  The combination of bitters and sugar adds that je ne sais quoi dimensionality as they balance and counter each other, just as they do in a Champagne Cocktail.

H&M dispute whether the OF may have been the first American cocktail.  Regardless, it’s indeed and oldie.  They offer two versions of the history of the OF and say they won’t take sides.  I on the other hand will.  My fave of the two is the far more interesting one that traces its origins back to the Whiskey Rebellion of the early 1790’s.  When the new Federal government levied its very first excise tax on whiskey to raise some money to pay down the national debt, folks on the frontier didn’t take it so well.  (Sin taxes?  Deficit spending?  Regionalism?  Tax rebellion?  What exactly has changed in 220 years?)  Westerners found it particularly onerous arguing it hit their pocketbooks harder than Easterners’ since farmers made whiskey from surplus grain left over from the harvest.  Whiskey also operated as an alternate currency since money on the frontier was often scarce.  Poor folks were sometimes paid in whiskey.  So for them it was also an income tax.  When tax officials tried to collect, in many instances the response turned violent.  This was particularly the case in the southwestern counties of Pennsylvania where the rebellion was centered.  In Kentucky, as it turns out, no one was trying to collect the tax.  So some farmers and tavern owners moved their whiskey operations there.  When they went, they took with them their recipe for the Old Fashioned.

As a result of this muddled history (yep, hadda do it!) there’s some disagreement about whether the bev was originally made with bourbon or rye.  Today however, use whichever is your fave and you’ll not only be correct, but you won’t be disappointed either.

Old Fashioned
2 oz. whiskey
2 dashes Angostura bitters
1 t. sugar
Splash of seltzer

In a chilled Old Fashioned glass, muddle sugar, bitters, orange wheel, and a maraschino cherry until the sugar is dissolved.  Add whiskey and ice and seltzer.  Stir.  Optional: garnish with a lemon twist.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Maiden's Prayer or Between the Sheets | 23 down 252 to go

Maiden's Prayer with edible flower garnish
Pussyfoots, Cubanolas, and Bosom Caressers are just some of the cocktails that kept the Maiden’s Prayer & Between the Sheets company during Prohibition.  There’s a lot of interesting info H & M share about cocktails & culture during this era.  I started to include it in this post, but it was going too far afield.  Instead, it can be found at this Cocktail Chat entry instead.

This is a sort of twofer.  When made with gin, it’s the Maiden’s Prayer and an aperitif.  When brandy is the base, it’s a digestif and called Between the Sheets.

It pays to make this one as a true top shelfer.  I mixed Hendrick’s gin, Bacardi light rum, & Cointreau.  If you can find them, use sweeter Meyer lemons for the juice.  Your jaw will hit the floor when you get to the cashier, but for two rounds they’re worth it.  The MP is wonderfully citrusy, light, bright, with just a hint of tartness to give it some dimension.  And simpler it couldn’t be with equal parts of all ingredients.   After we finished the Meyer lemon juice our appetites were primed for dinner and off we went to one of our favorite bistros (the fact that the chef’s Dutch has nothing to do with the love affair, I’m sure :-)

After dinner we came home & decided to give the aperitif a try.  While we had to “settle” for regular lemon juice, we did use Courvoisier for the brandy.  The Between the Sheets had a distinctively different note, obviously, with the brandy.  It had a mellow sweetness, not cloying at all.  The lemon juice and Cointreau maintained the citrusy notes for balance.

“What’s this one called now?” asked The Partner upon draining his glass.
“Between the Sheets,” I replied.
With that devilish smirk of his and a come hither glint in his eye he set down his empty and headed for the boudoir….  
Between the Sheets with lemon twist garnish

Maiden's Prayer/Between the Sheets
Equal parts of each (3/4 oz.)
+gin (Maiden's Prayer)/brandy (Between the Sheets)
+light rum
+lemon juice
Shake with crushed ice, strain & pour into chilled  goblet or cocktail glass.  Garnish with lemon twist or edible flower.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Combustible Edison | 22 down 253 to go

Here in the Windy City the high got all the way to 46 degrees today.  It’s been gray and rainy for the last 72 hours and the wind chill today feels like it’s 36 degrees out.  Really?  It’s May 15th! Friday the temp dropped 20 degrees in about 10 minutes and by Happy Hour,  I must admit, my choice of the daiquiri was an attempt to “springify” the weather a bit.  But today, I just couldn’t fight Ma Nature.  So I mixed a batch of Combustible Edisons to warm things up.  My first (literally anyway) flaming cocktail  :-P

If you have some friends over who appreciate good cocktails and you feel like being a showman, make this one.  Not much tops the drama of ignited brandy and that ethereal blue flame streaming into a cocktail glass.  Prep your friends, though, before the first sip.  Campari and lemon juice make for a bitter first couple sips.  Ditto for the warmth of the bev.  Being used to icy cocktails means this is not unlike an American getting his first beer in England.  But The Partner noted that he thought the warmth worked in the CE’s favor.  Cold with this level of bitterness might be even more challenging. 

As you sip the body and flavor change, becoming a bit syrupy in the mouth and less astringent.  By the bottom of the glass the lemon and brandy together are the predominant notes.

If you’re not feeling brave enough to light your cocktail on fire, shake the brandy along with the other ingredients and call it an Edisonian.  In the name of research, I tried it this way too.  Contrary to The Partner’s prediction, it was good cold as well, though notably different.  Thinner in the mouth, lighter and with bright citrus flavors it goes down a bit easier than the Combustible version.  It’s dryness lasts well past the last sip which leaves a rather pleasant memory as the evening progresses.

Combustible Edison/Edisonian
2 oz. brandy
1 oz. Campari
1 oz. lemon juice

Warm the brandy in a chafing dish.  Shake the Campari & lemon juice with cracked ice and pour into chilled cocktail glass.  Light the brandy and pour into the other ingredients in the cocktail glass.  Garnish with lemon twists.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Daiquiri | 21 down 254 to go

Drink the daiquiri cold, cold, cold!
One of my best and earliest memories of my DC college days was going off campus for the first time with friends.  We went to Georgetown, cruising M St. as most college students do.  It was at a cool little joint called The Daiquiri Factory in the back of CafĂ© Rondo that I had my introduction to what I thought was the daiquiri.  Turns out, they weren’t even close.  Up until now I thought they were big “spirituous Slurpees”, as H & M call them, and came in flavors like strawberry & banana & pineapple with some rum mixed in.  But I was 19 at the time.  I’m all growed up now.

H & M tell us that an American industrialist is credited with inventing the daiquiri while working in Cuba and naming it after a seaside town of the same name.  But odds are good that Cubans had been enjoying this mix long before some gringo capitalist gave it a name.  Apparently, the daiquiri was JFK’s fave, enjoying a couple before dinner.  That tidbit shot the cocktail into the stratosphere of popularity.  (Is anyone else appreciating the historical irony here?)

A true daiquiri, I should think, would be very popular these days with the current tastes for the tart & sour.  The first two sips are a little jarring.  But from the third on, this frosty imbibe is light and refreshing.  With all of 3 ingredients, it couldn’t be easier to mix.  Squeeze the limes fresh for the juice.  Adding a dash more simple syrup and rum makes it a bit less tart.  But use restraint if adding rum.  Too much and it’s just too sharp.  Also, the colder the better on this one, so shake it until the tin is so cold it frosts and your hand burns with cold.  Have a refreshing summer afternoon!

1 1/2 oz. light rum
3/4 oz. lime juice
1/4 oz. simple syrup

Shake with cracked ice; strain into chilled cocktail glass and garnish with lime wheel.

Cocktail Chat | A belated Easter cocktail

Ok, this is way late, I know.  But it must be posted.  

Check out the Easter card my sis-in-law sent.  Thinking of the Dilettante even during the high holy days? Jesus at Cana would be so proud!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Cocktail Chat | An Original Cocktail for Mother's Day

This entry is a Cocktail Chat since it is not a drink out of Cocktail.  However, it is absolutely an inspiration that's resulted from this undertaking.

A couple hours ago, I thought it'd be fun to create a cocktail for Mother's Day.  Since I can't be with my mom today, I thought I'd design something she would enjoy.  So mom, if you're reading this, Happy Mother's Day.  This bev's for you!

Once the weather warms up, mom loves a good white wine spritzer.  So that's where this drink begins.  But since this is a special day and the tipple a part of the Dilettante project, it couldn't be just a spritzer.  The fact that mom isn't big on liquor, finding accents was a bit of a challenge until I thought about the aperitifs she enjoys.  So this will have a citrus note to it.  I'm sure I'll tweak the recipe over time, especially if I get some feedback and ideas from mom herself.  

But in the meantime, I offer the first draft of the Diane Spritzer!  May it refresh on a hot summer day!

The Diane Spritzer
4 1/2 oz. Sauvignon Blanc
2 oz. Cointreau or Grand Marnier
1 oz. gin
1 oz. lemon juice
4 dashes orange bitters
seltzer to taste

Stir with cracked ice; pour into a wine glass filled with ice; garnish with a lemon wheel.  For some added dimension, shake 3 dashes of Angostura bitters on a sugar cube and place in the bottom of the glass.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Blue Devil | 20 down 255 to go

What can we say about the Blue Devil besides "1 dash blue vegetable coloring" is less than a drop?  Not much else, I'm afraid.  There's not much that's memorable about this one, save the startling colors.  And that's not due to over-indulging.  One was enough on this one as well.  Honestly, I can't recall a single note, flavor or aroma that I could use to describe this.  Maybe because it's just so blue?

Although, I suppose peeing green the next morning isn't something one forgets in a hurry.

Blue Devil
2 oz. gin
1/2 oz. maraschino liqueur
1/2 oz lime juice
1 dash blue vegetable coloring

Shake with cracked ice; strain into chilled cocktail glass; garnish with a maraschino cherry.

Bitter | 19 down 256 to go

Bitter: a cocktail to be appreciated if not liked.
Bitter is an amazingly complex cocktail and the name perfectly describes it.  That said, it's not one I'd say we liked so much as appreciated.  A bonus of mixing this bev was finding another opportunity to use an ounce of Chartreuse (the level of which is now half a finger below the neck of the bottle).  

Besides the name, I knew I'd have to sneak this one passed The Partner.  He loathes licorice, so the Pernod would be a challenge.  When he left the room, I quickly scrambled to concoct.  But even at a mere dash, the Pernod was so strong it filled the bar with its dark, syrupy scent.

The Bitter demanded our attention.  We paused TiVo to give it its due.  We drew in the nose, intrigued (scared?).  The first sip was a test to be sure.  But each one following revealed multiple layers of flavor.  The gin provided a sort of liquid canvas accenting the herbal Chartreuse and citrusy lemon.  The Pernod, while contributing a strong licorice aroma to the cocktail, surprisingly enough, was not so much a flavor on the tongue as a dimension or depth.  Kind of an alcoholic umami.  

This is perhaps the strongest proof yet that tastes certainly have changed when it comes to cocktailing.  For the evening one Bitter was enough.  Still, characterizing it as either Make it Again or Once was Enough would be inaccurate.  Perhaps we need a new category that captures a beverage such as this one.  Perhaps something like…"Respected".

1 1/2 oz. gin
1/2 oz. Chartreuse
1/2 oz. lemon juice
1 dash Pernod

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

Friday, May 6, 2011

Fancy-Free | 18 down 257 to go

Cocktail is divided into 3 parts.  Part I is "Mixing Advice from the Alchemist".  Part II is "The Drink Classics Worth Imbibing First" and consists of 63 of the 275 classics.  It's from here that I find most of the history about a bev included in a blog entry.  Then there's Part III: "Drink Recipes".  And that's all they are.  Names and recipes.  It's from here that the Fancy-Free came so there's no official history.

However, as soon as I mixed and decanted this, the nose instantly took me back to my history as that little boy eating sotted cherries.  There's just something about the combination of bourbon & maraschino juice that reminds me especially of my grandparents' generation.  Too, in bourbon drinks maraschinos don't look quite so offensive.  I love how in this one it's almost a shimmering jewel set in the crook of the glass.

The Fancy-Free is so simple to mix, very Manhattanesque, and good.  So good, in fact, The Partner made one of his boldest declarations to date:  "Honey, I think this is the best one you've mixed yet!" 

"Wow!" I said.

"Can't wait to see that in print…" he "protested", practically begging me to include his quip here. 

But I'm a mixologist now.  I serve to please!

2 oz. bourbon
1/2 oz. maraschino juice
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 dash orange bitters

Shake with cracked ice; strain into chilled cocktail glass; garnish with a maraschino

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Petit Zinc | 17 down 258 to go

The grayish tinge should've been a warning!
As mentioned in the previous entry, we were on our way to dinner at J- & M-‘s place.  After 18 years, they’re more family than friends.  So I thought I’d bring the bible along and rustle up a cocktail with them at their place.  It was sort of a Top Chef moment with no idea what they would have in their bar besides their favorite bases of vodka & scotch.  Available mixers included some sweet vermouth & Grand Marnier & orange juice.  So a Petit Zinc it was (substituting Grand Marnier for Cointreau).

If you were starting to worry that we liked everything we made lately with all the “Make it again Sam” tags, fear not.  This was awful.  Figures it would happen at a friend’s  home.  Despite all the other ingredients and what you’d expect to be a glass full of orange, it was like drinking thickened sweet vermouth.  Horrible.  We adjourned to the roof to enjoy a spring evening if not the concoction.  The guys sipped dutifully, eyeing me over the rims of their glasses, telepathically asking each other “How much more of this will we have to drink this before quitting?”  Yet I didn’t want to give up and was heroically striving for the bottom of the glass. 

Finally, M- stands up with a half empty glass.  “If you don’t mind, I’m going to move on to something else.”  As the word “absolutely” was coming out of my mouth, The Partner stands as well.  “Yeah, me to.  I need a vodka.”   Really?  Et tu, Iohannes? 

 I couldn’t blame them.  If it’d been our liquor, I’d’ve been leading the way to the bar for a new bev.

Petit Zinc
2 parts vodka
1 part each: sweet vermouth,
Cointreau, OJ

Shake with cracked ice, strain into chilled cocktail glass, garnish with orange wheel or a maraschino.

Texas Fizz | 16 down 259 to go

Think strawberry Starburst.
It’s been very busy at the Dilettante house this week, so even though numbers 16 & 17 were concocted on Saturday, they are being posted a little late.  Apologies.

Saturday was a busy day.  I needed to spend some time with friends who were helping me out on a project.  That evening we were having dinner and cocktails with J- & M-.  On my way out the door I suggested to The Partner that he select a cocktail from the bible for a pre-dinner warm up.  He protested saying this was my thing.  I insisted.  He protested.  I insisted.  He…you get the drill.  Yet to my pleasant surprise, when I came home, he had picked out the Texas Fizz.

Yes, it looks like liquid baby aspirin with a radioactive maraschino glowing in the bottom.  Yet it wasn’t that bad.  It had an elusive yet familiar flavor that I couldn’t put my finger on until The Partner said, “It tastes like a strawberry Starburst!”  Spot on!  We only had one as we had an evening of cocktailing and dinner ahead of us.  But we’ll be revisiting this one again in the future.  Sante!

Texas Fizz
1 oz. gin
1/2  oz. orange juice
1/4 oz. lemon juice
1/4 oz. grenadine
Soda water

Shake gin, juices & grenadine with cracked ice; strain into chilled wine glass.  Top with soda & garnish with lemon twist & a maraschino cherry.